§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [22nd November], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
Which Amendment was, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
this House, recognising the importance of coal mining as a basic industry upon which the prosperity of the nation largely depends, is dissatisfied with the policy of amalgamating mining undertakings regardless of the effect upon the life of the local community, and being of opinion that in the national interest, which includes the safety and well-being of mine workers, it is essential that there should be unified control of the whole industry under public ownership, cannot assent to the Second Reading of a Measure which, whilst conceding the principle of public ownership of coal, leaves this national asset to be exploited by private interests for their own gain."—[Mr. Greenwood.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ 4.11. p.m.
§ Mr. Gordan Macdonald
It is seldom I have heard a statement which has created so much consternation among a number of my hon. Friends as the statement made at the opening of his speech last night by the learned Attorney-General. He stated that he thought the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary for Mines had every reason to be satisfied with the course of the Debate. Several of my hon. Friends had taken part in the Debate, and they thought they had mangled and mutilated the Bill. Hearing a statement like that of the Attorney-General created consternation among them. I was sitting here yesterday between my hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) and my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), and I heard one of them say to the other, "Joe, what are we supposed to be doing?" I quite agree that there was room for some satisfaction, but there was a dumbness behind the Minister which I felt was most impressive. At the same time I felt that it was rather indicative. No Government can afford to have a Coal Bill withdrawn on Second Reading on two successive occasions, and I can well understand the supporters of the Government being instructed, "No matter how 1068 much you oppose this Bill, no matter to what extent its provisions are objectionable, it must get a Second Reading, and you must leave your objections to a later stage."
I am inclined to think that the Minister is in danger of consoling himself overmuch if he thinks that the docility and dumbness will continue throughout the Committee stage of the Bill. I well remember a friend of mine, who was here long before I came to this House, telling me—he was an old and skilled Parliamentarian—"You must know that to be a successful Minister of the Crown one of the essential is to have a skin hardened to the texture of a rhinoceros." I felt last night that if the Minister was at all consoled his skin must be getting rather hardened, because the case put from this side was a case which in my opinion gave no satisfaction to the Minister. I agree that he fared better than his predecessor. His predecessor failed to stay the course for half a day. Not only had he to beat a retreat, but a retreat in the utmost disorder and confusion.
As I have hinted already, there are rumours and rumblings in the coal trade, from both sides, inside this House and outside of it, which rather indicate that the Bill is not going to get too easy a passage through this House. I rather think that many of the Bill's features will have changed considerably by the time it reaches the Third Reading. But I would remind the Minister, if that be necessary, that there is another place, and that judging from the "Times" of last Friday there are in that other place landowners and royalty owners and coal-owners who, like ravenous wolves, are waiting to pounce on this child of his. We have had some bitter experience of the other place. We have seen leaving here legislation which, though not too acceptable, had some acceptable features, and we have seen the other place deal rather drastically with the unacceptable features. We should not worry much if the Members in another place were there on their merits, but we know that some of them are there because they are royalty owners and landowners and coal-owners, and we doubt and distrust them in dealing with mines legislation.
Whatever attempts are made in this House by those who sit behind the 1069 Minister or by those in another place to alter the Bill drastically, I hope the Minister will resist them. I notice that the Attorney-General last night, in his usual pleasant way, twitted us because we were changing our attitude. He said that for years we had advocated certain changes in mining matters, that here was a Government bringing forward some of those changes and that on this side we were objecting to the changes which we had advocated. The Attorney-General knows that it is possible to delay a good change for so long that the change has lost much of its effectiveness. Furthermore, he knows that it is never the right policy to support the good if there is a better. Our Amendment is simply an indication of the way we think this problem should be tackled.
The mining industry is a sick industry, and it has been so for a long while. It reached the stage of convalescence a few years back as a result of Labour legislation. We feel that if the treatment outlined in the Bill is administered, this convalescent industry will remain convalescent. What we need in the mining industry is more vigour and buoyancy, and we fail to see that the Bill will give them to it. I admit that there are provisions in the Bill which I and the Mineworkers' Federation of Great Britain welcome whole-heartedly, under private enterprise. We realise that the Government were elected to further, support and continue private enterprise. As long as the electors of the country prefer private enterprise to Socialism we cannot expect the Government to legislate in any other direction than the continuance of private enterprise. Nevertheless we think that certain changes can be made in the mining industry, and that the Bill contains provisions for some of those necessary changes.
I understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to intervene in the Debate, and I am told the reason is that there are financial arrangements in the Bill. We welcome his intervention, but I rather suspect there may be another reason for it. Of late I have been reading the book known as "Coal and Power" and a rather extensive report by Viscount Samuel, then Sir Herbert Samuel. The book and the report contain an outline of the old Liberal policy regarding coal.
1070 The Prime Minister is one of the most astute politicians I have ever known. He realises the need there will be at the next election for all the Liberal support he can get, and that he will not win the next election without it. He realises that he has not yet been elected by the country to be Prime Minister. Quite naturally he hopes he will. What he is doing at the present moment is putting into the Bill the whole of the old Liberal policy, believing that by doing that he will win the sympathy and support of the Liberals of the country. He has also said: "Not only must I put Liberal policy into the Bill, but I must get the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is believed to be still a Liberal, to support it." I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will remember that two other Liberals have already spoken, one, a National Liberal, belonging to his own party, and the other, so far as I could see yesterday, an international Liberal. He will notice that both those Liberals failed to support the Bill, and that it was the Liberal from his own party who was most strenuously opposed to it.
I intend to put a few questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I will take the Bill the opposite way from that which the Minister did yesterday; I will take it in the order Parts I, II and We are not opposed to unification of royalties, which we of this party and the Mineworkers' Federation welcome. We think it is an essential step if ever the industry is to regain prosperity. How can it be otherwise? I notice from certain figures that I got that the royalty owners have received over £50,000,000 in the past to years, and that the coalowners have received less than £19,000,000. It is not for me to plead the cause of the coal-owners, but I would like someone to get up in this House and justify the royalty owners getting £50,000,000 while the coal-owners, who, after all, do invest their money and skill in the industry, got less than £19,000,000.
I would draw the attention of the House to my own personal experience. I worked in the mines for 22 years. During that period I drew in wages less than £2,000. I worked hard, faced great dangers and ran great risks, and I was brought home occasionally brutally injured. Every day I worked in collieries in my own Division. The royalty owner 1071 of the colliery where I worked for 22 years received during the same period over £100,000. He did not work any harder in the colliery than I did, and he did not face any more dangers than I did; he did not run any more risks than I did. Can you expect the miners of this country to support a continuance of paying royalties? In my Division, 5o miners work for what one royalty owner gets. We are opposed to the continuance of the payment of royalties, and welcome these unification proposals, but if that is all we are to do for the industry, it will be a very small step forward, especially now.
Last night, the Attorney-General told us that he was intervening in the middle of the Debate, and as a result we could not expect him to deal with all the questions that might be raised, and that later the Chancellor and the Secretary for Mines would be speaking. Therefore, he might leave some questions unanswered. I am afraid that the Chancellor of the Exchequer may tell us to-day that he is leaving some more questions unanswered, because the Secretary for Mines will be speaking, and that the Secretary of Mines may in his turn say: "There are some questions that I have not answered, but I will deal with them on the committee stage." I hope that all the questions will be answered before the Bill gets to the Statute Book.
As regards unification, I would ask the Government why they accepted the figure given by the Greene Committee? There may be some reason. The Prime Minister was shaking his head when my right hon. Friend made some reference to the question. We were told that the Government had offered a larger figure, previous to appointing the Commission. I see the Prime Minister again shakes his head. Very well, but I want to ask whether the Government, having safeguarded themselves that they were in a position to accept the figures of the Greene Committee, said, when the Greene Committee Report came out: "We will accept the figure without any further inquiry," or whether they themselves looked into the figure given by the Greene Committee. Was there any examination? I hope the Chancellor will be able to tell us whether the Government, his Department or somebody responsible to the Government, 1072 examined the figure given by the Greene Committee. I know there are those on the other side of the House who think the figure is inadequate. On this side we think it is too generous. Let us accept the 15-year basis as reasonable for purposes of calculation. Many of us feel it is questionable whether the nation ought to compensate royalty owners to any degree.
Let us put that aside. If 15 years is a reasonable basis—and I do not quarrel with that figure—many of us feel that those who have received 15 years' royalties in the past are not entitled to any more. We heard an hon. and learned Member saying that we must remember there are widows and children involved in this proposal. I never like to disregard that argument, but I do sometimes think it is misapplied. There may be people who bought royalties at a recent date. I always thought that confiscation was rather brutal as regards that type of person, but when we remember what some royalty owners have received—the figures were given during the Debate—I say that the type of royalty owner who has already received enormous sums from royalties, ought 'to have his property confiscated without any compensation. I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the £76,000,000 is the limit of expenditure to which the Government intend to go? The President of the Board of Trade explained the Bill with the lucidity which we have now learned to expect from him, but he was not lucid to the extent that he might have been. I want to know whether the Government intend the £76,000,000 to cover all? If they do, surely the Chancellor can tell us. If not, against what contingencies do they expect to have to pay again?
We were told by the President of the Board of Trade, who was quite fair with us, that should there be any additional expenditure necessary, he would have to come to the House to get permission. That is something, but not a lot. We want to know more about it. He told us that £10,000,000 was an outside figure, and was more than would be required. Why do the Government not say quite frankly whether they have any intention of paying more for this transaction than the figure which appears in the Bill, and whether they intend to bring forward any more Financial Resolutions for the purpose?
1073 A question was asked by several of my lion. Friends last night, but no reply was made from the Government Benches, and I would ask the question again of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The disposal of the surplus will be a matter for the Commission, and we think that some of the heads under which it will be disposed are reasonable. Nationalisation of royalties is intended to benefit the industry. There is one aspect of the Bill which will affect adversely some people in the industry, and that is in respect of amalgamation, which displaces workers. The present mechanisation in the mines has meant the displacement of elderly men. You need to be a fairly vigorous and agile man to work in the pits to-day, and there is no doubt that mechanisation results in the displacement of the elderly worker. The Chancellor of the Exchequer may think the suggestion fantastic, but what objection have the Government to some of the surplus being used to provide pensions, or the nucleus of a fund for pensions, for these displaced aged miners? There may be objections, and I would like to hear them. I would like the Chancellor to tell us why the Government insist upon limiting the disposal of the surplus to the objects named in the Bill, and whether they are prepared to consider any other objects than those named, or in place of those named, in the Bill?
We of the Mineworkers' Federation are strong advocates of amalgamation. We believe that they are necessary for the industry. I know that they can be distressing and can result in distressing circumstances. In Lancashire there has been a good deal of amalgamation going on for seven or eight years. At the moment, a matter of six undertakings, employing something like three-quarters of the number of miners employed in Lancashire, are concerned, so that we know what amalgamations mean. They have resulted in displacing a number of workers, but I think it is probable that more workers would have been displaced in Lancashire without amalgamations than with them. We are concerned about derelict districts. We have places in my own division which were dependent on small collieries, and they have gone out not only as a result of amalgamation, but often as a result of being unable to fight bigger concerns. There As a communal aspect of this question of amal- 1074 gamation. The local authority is burdened heavily as a result of amalgamation whether voluntary or compulsory. Is it not possible for some arrangement to be made where a local authority would be affected adversely by amalgamation? A local authority has a right to put its claim forward. Is it possible for a local authority to put forward its objection to a proposed amalgamation and, if not, are the Government prepared to put down an Amendment?
We, as the Mineworkers' Federation, do not object to amalgamation as such, but we say that amalgamation can operate adversely for the workers. In addition, you have displaced workers. I agree that in Lancashire we could not have carried on without some amalgamation. Lancashire would have been hard hit without amalgamation, but Lancashire has also been hit with amalgamation. Are not the Government prepared to do something to mitigate the disastrous consequences of amalgamation? If I were asked to decide whether Lancashire had gained more from amalgamations or from marketing and selling schemes, I should have no hesitation in answering that Lancashire has gained more from marketing and selling than from amalgamations. In these, as in other things, what Lancashire does to-day the rest of the country does to-morrow, and we led in selling schemes. If we had not led we should have been dead.
The President of the Board of Trade yesterday, in taking Part III first, told us that he was going to introduce some Amendments as a result, he said, of experience. The Amendments he suggested were of a minor character. We have felt for a long while now that there are Amendments of a major character required. I would like him to consider some of these Amendments. His Department have had now for years a pamphlet from the Mineworkers Federation indicating the direction in which they think Part I of the 1930 Act could be improved. Why have they not included in this Bill some of the suggestions put forward by the Mineworkers Federation? We have had committees of investigation in Lancashire for a number of years, and they have dealt with more cases than all the committees in the country put together. I have never heard anyone complaining anywhere as a result of investigation 1075 that the verdict given was not in accordance with the evidence given. The miners of this country have a regard for the interests of consumers; they themselves are consumers of other commodities, and they know that the consumer has an interest which has got to be safeguarded. But we do not like the idea that because some consumers have come forward with a complaint to the Government that the Government should say, "Very well, we will rearrange the investigation committee machinery to suit your purpose." I want the Minister to fell us frankly from where these complaints come and the nature of the complaints. We have not heard of any in Lancashire, and we have had the most active committee of investigation throughout the country. I hope that the Government have not been influenced by a desire to pacify certain sections of big consumers of coal, gas companies, and so on. I hope that the objections have not come from there.
We support this Amendment simply and solely because we consider that it outlines a policy which would do more good for the Mineworkers Federation than the policy put forward in this Bill. At the same time, we shall do all that we can in Committee to get our Amendments included in the legislation. We shall fight thoroughly and cleanly for these Amendments. We shall fight hard and continuously. If we have to choose between this Bill or no Bill, we are having this Bill. Our industry needs something of this kind, but it needs more. Here is an opportunity of doing something of a drastic character to put our industry on a sound basis, and the Government are not taking it. That is our complaint. We accept anything which will raise the standard of life of the miners of this country, from anyone. At the same time we do not believe that unification of royalties, amalgamation and reorganisation of Part I of the 1930 Act will do for this industry what it needs. Something far more radical is necessary. Until that is secured, the mining industry will remain convalescent; it will never be strong and vigorous.
Why do not the Government give the mineworkers more consideration as regards the direction of the industry? I know that it has been the custom under private enterprise that those who invest their money are the only people who should be 1076 responsible for running it, yet it is possible to invest money without possessing the capacity to run the industry. Throughout the coalfield there are men who have given a long life to mining, and who could be of immense help in running this industry. They are fair-minded, intelligent men. I could bring men to this House who would be far more successful than those who invest their money in the industry. It is not fair that the miner, who has only his labour to invest, should be treated differently from those who invest their capital. There are miners who could help immensely in running this industry, and I deplore the fact that this Bill makes no provision for their capacity to be used.
For half a century the mining industry has received lots of consideration from this House. There are more Acts of Parliament dealing with this industry than with any other, and there have been more committees and investigations. And yet the plight of the miner to-day is very little, if any, better than it was in prewar days. I know it may sound fantastic, but it is true. We have had all this legislation and agitation in the country, and here we are in 1937 with the standard of life of the worker very little, if any, higher than it was in 1913. The risk in the mine and the rate of accidents, fatal and non-fatal, are no less. Is it not time that something of a drastic character were done? A finer body of men could not be found. I have lived my life—every minute of it—among them, and I shall live the rest of my life among them. I shall never leave them; I love them too much. Here is a glorious opportunity to do something. Is it fair to bring forward a niggling Bill? The miner believes in democracy; he supports it in his industrial organisation and politically. He wants democratic government in this country. But let me warn the Government. If democratic government fails much longer to give the miner what he needs, the miner will begin to have doubts about democratic government in this country.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir John Simon)
The hon. Gentleman in his very frank and straightforward speech has certainly clarified the situation as far as the position of himself and his friends is concerned. He began by twitting the Attorney-General very pleasantly on the observation my hon. and learned Friend 1077 made last night when he explained that the first day's Debate indicated that the Government's proposals were receiving a fair and general measure of approval. The hon. Member has told us with the greatest frankness that his view is that the unification of royalties is a good thing. He has told us he is a strong advocate of amalgamation. Indeed, it would be difficult if he were not, because Part II of the Bill is merely improving and strengthening the provisions in Part II of the 1930 Act, which was an Act passed by the last Socialist Government. But while I have listened to him with the greatest attention, as I did, his candid speech leaves me with this impression, that he at any rate, and those who think with him in their heart of hearts, believe that this Bill is aimed at doing a series of good things. But he says that it is never a good plan to support the good if there is a better. I should have thought that when a number of good things are going to be done, while not resting content, at the same time one should recognise how really important they are. I am sure that after the Second Reading is over we shall have a good deal of cooperation from both sides in making this Bill as good as we can.
I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's view that the unification of royalties—this operation which is going to involve something like £70,000,000 of money—is to be described as a small thing and a palliative. The Mineworkers' Federation have made this a matter of the greatest importance for a long time—I do not differ from them about this—and they have made it clear that in the present situation it would not only be in the best interests of the industry but would produce a serious psychological effect. I am not disposed to deny that view; I only ask that we should be willing to recognise that this Bill is not some small and paltry thing, but a really big Measure.
I am not going to spend time on Part II, but I should like to answer a particular question which the hon. Gentleman put. He asked with reference to amalgamations, whether it would be possible under the scheme of the Bill to secure that local authorities who might be adversely affected would be able to have their grievances and difficulties fully presented and considered before anything of the sort was carried through. I am very glad to answer that question at once. So far as voluntary amalgamations 1078 are concerned, the Bill is quite outside what could be done under that head, but compulsory amalgamation under the scheme of the Bill, as we have very carefully drawn it, cannot come about until after there has been brought before this House of Commons the definite proposal that in a particular area amalgamations are desirable. As far as possible the undertakings involved have to prove their case, and it wilt be for the House of Commons to decide. The hon. Gentleman in such an event, speaking for the district he knows so well, will have his opportunity of saying that, while a proposed amalgamation may from some points of view seem desirable, yet, when one considers the consequences that will result to the local authorities, and it may be to others, it is not in fact desirable. Therefore I think I can claim, on this practical and important point, that Clause 40 is so drawn as directly to meet the anxiety which the hon. Gentleman no doubt very sincerely entertains. I want now, without further delay, to turn to the first part of the Bill, which deals with the unification of mining royalties—
§ Mr. E. J. Williams
Would the local authorities have the right to give evidence against a proposed amalgamation before the matter came before this House for ratification or rejection?
§ Mr. A. Jenkins
The matter goes further. While an amalgamation might not involve the closing of any collieries at the time of the amalgamation, it might happen at a later date, and collieries might be closed which otherwise would not have been closed.
§ Sir J. Simon
I see the importance of the point, but I should have thought that in such a case the right thing was to safeguard the position before the approval is given, so that it shall be properly protected in the necessary directions. As I see the Clause, I do not feel any doubt that the local authorities in connection with any such proposal would have their ordinary opportunities of first of all approaching the Departments, and, secondly, what is very valuable, of securing that their case is put here by their representatives fully and publicly. I suggest that we should leave the details to be discussed when we come to that point.
1079 The first, and in the minds of most people the most prominent, part of this very important Measure deals with the unification of royalties—the acquisition of the mineral rights which now belong to some 4,000 owners, so that they may be in the hands of a single public body which will be charged with the duty of controlling and managing the property. I cannot take the view that that is a small or paltry proposal. It is a very serious and far-reaching proposal indeed. As I have said, the Miners' Federation have for many years urged that it should be done, and have pointed out the grave disadvantages which in their opinion arose from leaving these mineral rights in a vast number of private hands. Although the matter is very familiar to many hon. Members, and certainly to those hon. Gentlemen who speak with authority from the other side, the House will perhaps forgive me if I occupy two or three minutes over it.
The boundary between landed properties on the surface is usually to be appreciated by its natural features—a river, a range of hills, a road, or it may be a line of trees. These are the things which on the surface naturally divide one piece of landed property from another, and, when landed property changes hands, the configuration on the surface and the convenience of the estate as a whole must of course be one of the considerations involved. But what have the boundaries on the surface to do with the convenient use of mineral rights? The seam of coal knows nothing of rivers, ranges of hills, or lines of trees. As everyone with practical experience of mining knows, if you have to deal with the multiple ownership of a large number of different individuals whose respective properties are to be regarded as bounded by the boundaries on the surface, it may happen that a single colliery company may have to deal with as many as five different private royalty owners, and so the lay-out of the mine is obstructed, the length of the haulage is increased, the distance that the miners have to go to their work and from their work is quite unnecessarily enlarged, and, because of this separate ownership, there are large parcels or blocks of unworked coal which must be left to mark the barriers between one private property and another, when on all principles of good mining and scientific management they 1080 ought to be cleaned up. Therefore I regard it, not as a small proposal, but as a big proposal, that we should substitute for this multiple ownership the single ownership of a public Commission.
Every tribunal which since the War has inquired into the position has stressed the need for unification. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. C. Davies) was not quite right when he thought that the Sankey Commission contained members who did not agree with this proposition. That is not the case. The members of the Sankey Commission issued a great many reports; they differed from one another on almost every conceivable point, and contradicted one another on a great many; but there was one thing on which all the members of the Sankey Commission agreed unanimously, and that was the necessity of unity of ownership. The same thing happened in the case of the Samuel Commission in 1925, who pointed out at great length how strong is the argument for unification. Therefore I may fairly say that, so far as impartial investigation and skilled inquiry are concerned, the case for ending on proper terms the private ownership of minerals is a very strong one. The great organisation for which some hon. Members opposite speak especially has criticised strongly and condemned the shortcomings of the present system. Therefore I would say with great respect to the hon. Gentleman, whose speech I sincerely admired, that, while it is all very well for him to say that there is something more for which he would like to ask, we must at any rate recognise that this is not some paltry, two-penny-halfpenny transaction, but a very great step indeed.
The hon. Gentleman, in the course of his speech, made one or two observations on the question of compensation, and I should like to say a few words about that. Yesterday I listened to at least two speeches which in very eloquent and moving terms contrasted the hard lot of the miner, earning his livelihood by his daily labour, often in dangerous and difficult conditions, with the comfortable lot of some who may have interests in royalties on coal. I think it was well that that should have been stated, for it explains the psychological effect which the present system is sometimes calculated to bring about. I can well believe that the 1081 miner labouring at his toil is apt to reflect upon and to discuss with his fellows the nature of his own task, and may be led sometimes to institute comparisons between his lot and that of others. I would only say, with great respect to those who use that argument, that it is not by any means confined to the lot of the miner. It is a reflection that may well occur, say, to the poor student who is doing his best to establish himself in the world, when he thinks of others who are more fortunate than himself. I would urge that we recognise that inequalities in human lot, in the personal task, are to be adjusted, as far as the law can adjust them, by good social legislation and by just distribution of taxation, but they are not to be adjusted by doing injustice to the owners of private property.
There are two or three things that we must realise in considering this subject. For instance, these properties have been the subject of purchase and sale, with or without the land, for generations. [An HON. MEMBER: "So were slaves."] Yes, and this House deliberately produced £20,000,000 in order to compensate the owners of the slaves. The income from these properties is the subject of Income Tax and Sur-tax, and, if the owner dies and the property passes into other hands, it produces very substantial sums in Death Duties. Moreover, the House of Commons itself has quite deliberately enacted a special duty called the Mineral Rights Duty, and it would not be a very just proceeding to say to people, when you exact Mineral Rights Duty from them, that you deny that they have any mineral rights. The whole basis on which we proceed is to try to adjust the inequalities by taxation, which makes enormously different claims on different classes of persons, and by the tremendous efforts that we are all making together in this House and in this generation to improve the social services of the country. Therefore, I would lay down this very simple proposition, that, if minerals which have an appreciable market value are taken from the present owners and are vested in the State, there is undoubtedly a valid claim to compensation. The real question is simply, what is the proper way to do it?
I am going to answer the question put to me by the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) as to the £66,000,000. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for 1082 Ashford (Mr. Spens) rightly said yesterday that this is the greatest measure of compulsory expropriation of private property that Parliament has ever been asked to pass in the whole of its history. I do not see, if that is so, how you can describe it as a paltry and unimportant enterprise. I propose, if I may occupy the attention of the House for two minutes, to distinguish between three operations involved. There is the operation between the Commission and the lending public. Probably the House would like me to say one or two words in explanation of that. There is the operation between the Commission and the royalty owners; and finally the operation between the Commission and the coal industry.
As regards the operation between the Commission and the lending public, regulating this sum of £70,000,000,, without anticipating or dictating the precise course to be followed, because that is a duty that the Commission will have to discharge—that is, the responsibility of the Commission in consultation with the Government—I think one may assume that the procedure will be something of this kind: Invitations will be issued to subscribe for a loan, of a suitable length of term, and at a price and with interest which are practicable and are the most favourable that, it is thought, can be obtained, in order that the Commission may thus be put into funds. It will be necessary for the Commission, in addition to providing payment of interest on the loan, to make suitable provision for redemption.
Hon. Members will see that the general effect of that, the reason for the redemption, is to reduce steadily and as rapidly as possible the amount of the principal which is outstanding, by using the redemption money, for example, to purchase some of the loan, for drawings and so on. The point the House of Commons is interested in is that the scheme between the Commission and the lending public will be aimed at reducing the total amount of interest to be paid, because you have reduced the amount of capital; and when the whole operation is concluded, the Commission, in the name of the public, will not only have paid the owners of these mineral rights, but will have discharged its obligation to those who have lent the money necessary for purchase. Take, secondly, the point of 1083 the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince, what is to be the relation between the Commission and the royalty owners?
§ Sir J. Simon
The whole of this is to be carefully planned in relation to other loans which will be raised, and other large financial transactions. Therefore, I should not be justified, nor would it be helpful, to give details at the moment.
Now, I may take the second point, which is the relation between the Commission and the royalty owners. The hon. Member for Ince said, "Why did the Government accept the Greene Report?" It is just as well to remind the House how this matter really stands. Of course, it is an extremely difficult thing to estimate accurately in advance what the purchase price, as fixed by any impartial tribunal, might turn out to be. It is essential that you should choose the most impartial tribunal you can, and I cannot imagine a tribunal which would better deserve the name than Sir Wilfrid Greene and his colleagues. But we were not prepared, as a Government, to promise in advance that, whatever was the figure awarded by the Greene tribunal, we were prepared to pay it. One must appreciate that this is an enormous financial transaction. Suppose we had been faced with an award greater than we were prepared to pay, we should have been considered most reckless if we had entered into such an obligation without knowing what is was to be.
Therefore, an announcement was made in the House of Commons that we had entered into negotiations with the royalty owners, and that they had bound themselves to accept the award if we decided that we were prepared to take it up ourselves. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the body that represented the coalowners, and what legal authority had it to give an undertaking on their behalf"? It was the Mineral Owners' Joint Committee, a negotiating committee which represented overwhelmingly the royalty owners. I am not saying anybody not actually represented by the committee was bound, but the position is that this body was capable of speaking for the royalty owners. We therefore agreed with this committee as to the nature of the inquiry 1084 which should take place. It was they themselves who proposed that a global sum should be ascertained. We thought that that was a good proposal. Those who have studied the Sankey Report will find that Mr. Justice Sankey thought so, too. But we said, "We cannot undertake in advance to pay that global sum, whatever it may be, but we agree that there shall be a tribunal, with Sir Wilfrid Greene, Master of the Rolls, as Chairman, and, if you agree, we will go before it and obtain their opinion as to what they think the figure may be." This is a statement made by the Prime Minister, when Chancellor of the Exchequer on this point:It is agreed that the Mineral Owners' Joint Committee will accept the decision as representing the compensation properly payable to the owners for the property in the event of His Majesty's Government proceeding with their present proposals for its acquisition. But is also agreed that His Majesty's Government shall have the right at any time within six weeks after the delivery of the decision of the Tribunal to give notice to the Mineral Owners' Joint Committee that they are not prepared to accept the decision of the Tribunal…. ''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March, 1937; col. 980, Vol. 321.]I think the hon. Gentleman will, therefore, see that it was quite right to be anxious about the public interest, because, in relation to these very large sums, it is important to see that what we have is a justly balanced measure. I think he will see that we took great precautions. When the award of £66,000,000 was made, it was very carefully examined, with the advantage of the assistance of the Government's chief valuer and others, and we came to the conclusion that that was a fair amount.
Then the hon. Gentleman asked me a question about the extra £10,000,000. There is really no mystery about that. It is contained in the Bill. The £10,000,000 is not an agreed figure of any sort or kind. What has happened is that there are a number of figures which were not, in fact, included in the subject-matter of the award made by the Greene Tribunal. They were never intended to be so included. An important matter, for example, is compensation in respect of subsidiary coal hereditaments, such as iron, stone and so forth. It must go in many cases with the coal. It has got to be the subject of a proper determination. In the same way, there are these other costs stated in the Bill. An important 1085 thing is that, if you raise money in the City and are paying interest on it from that time forward to the lender, you may find you have to use the capital money, which you have borrowed at the beginning, to pay interest which is needed before you have actually got: in the revenue which is going to inure. I do not say for one moment that the figure for these additional requirements will amount to £10,000,000. I hope it will not, naturally. I have not got an estimate which I can give to the House, but the fact that we put down this figure in the Bill as an outside figure is, I think, a pretty strong guarantee that we have no intention of departing widely from the figure stated, and it is true that, if it turned out that the figure was not sufficient, we should have to come back to the House. I hope that that will, to some extent, clear away any doubts there may be on that point.
More generally, the way in which the matter will operate is that the individual royalty owner cannot be finally paid out until the distribution of the agreed global sum between all the owners is settled. That is the main reason why the provision is made that the vesting date should be 1st July, 1942. If anyone imagines that we have postponed that date unnecessarily, they cannot be closely acquainted with the work that has to be done. That date has been fixed after very careful consideration of the nature of the operation involved, which is a very complicated one, and the time that it is bound to take. If hon. Members will refresh their memories from the Third Schedule, Part III, they will see what a very complicated machinery is necessary, in order that this may be carried out in the case of the 3,000 to 4,000 individuals involved.
The method I may briefly explain and summarise. The country will be divided into regions. [An HON. MEMBER: "How many?"] There is no decision as to how many. One may guess, and 20, I think, will not be unreasonable. The Central Valuation Board will allot to each region its proper quota out of the total global sum. That is done for two reasons. It saves time because it enables each region to get on with its work while other regions are working too. The second reason is also a very good one. Of course, it does not really matter to the Commission whether the 1086 valuation that is to be placed on these different properties, one at a time, by the valuers is, in fact, more than is strictly just, or less than is strictly just, because we are concerned only with the proportion between them all, as the sum to be distributed is a global sum. The reason for valuing them one at a time is not to get the precise market value due for every single one, but to get the exact proportions in which the global sum is to be distributed.
In order that justice may be done, it is necessary that the same sort of standard of measure and value should be used in the different districts. Therefore, by dividing the sum in the first instance and giving to each district the appropriate quota, you tend to get, what is fair as between owner and owner, a common level of valuation better than you would if you left these things to be dealt with without any such arrangement. These are the explanations I want to give, subject to one point put by the hon. and learned Member for the University of Wales (Mr. E. Evans). He asked whether there is any provision about payments on account and I would call his attention, on page 65 of the Bill, to paragraph 19 of the Third Schedule.
§ Mr. A. Bevan
Suppose the sum allotted to a division is, to use the illustration of yesterday, £10,000,000 and the actual valuation comes to £9,000,000, who receives the £1,000,000?
§ Sir J. Simon
That was, I understand, the question suggested, but the answer has been given and is a simple one. It is that we are engaged in working out the proportionate sum. All that is necessary is to discover what is the correct proportion applicable to each member of the group, and the amount allotted will be distributed to them.
§ Sir J. Simon
The hon. Member is trying to make rather an impossible point, and I will tell him why. There has been an award of a global sum, and anyone who has looked into it will not have any 1087 doubt but that it has been done with the greatest care and impartiality. The Government have come to the conclusion that they would be justified in accepting that global sum, and the rest is machinery. All that has to be done now is, to distribute that global sum among the different claims in proportion to their respective rights and interests. A very elementary application of the rule of three will show hon. Members of the House that it is perfectly immaterial for this purpose whether particular valuers put upon these rights and interests a value higher than that which some others would have put upon them. I must not delay the House too long, but these explanations are perhaps useful to the House—at least, I hope they are.
§ Mr. David Grenfell
Will the House be informed at any time during the Second Reading as to what are the basic considerations upon which this local sum is determined? Unless we get that we cannot find out the disparity between district and district.
§ Sir J. Simon
There really is no doubt about it, and I will deal briefly with the matter though I agree that it may be discussed in Committee also. The conclusion was arrived at by means of a series of agreements. There was, first of all, the agreement that there should be a global sum. There was, secondly, the agreement as to the reference to the Tribunal, and, thirdly, there was the agreement as to the exact subject matter which was to be assessed, though the Government wanted to see what the figure was before they accepted it. Further than that, there was also the agreement as to the figure that should be taken as the annual value, which would have to be multiplied by an appropriate number of years in order to arrive at the global sum. That annual value was agreed at £4,430,000. The only question that the Greene Tribunal had to decide was what is the appropriate number of years. Upon that a great deal of expert evidence was given, and a very great deal naturally depended upon the view taken as to the character of this particular revenue. After the fullest consideration and evidence had been given on both sides, the period was fixed at 15 years. I think that that is a sufficient explanation of how it was brought about.
1088 The House will forgive me if I say a word about the third thing, which is the relation between the Commission and the industry. That is what the whole thing is for. The rest is all machinery and preliminary. The whole thing is for the purpose of getting a proper relationship between the Commission and the industry, and I hope very much that one or two hon. Members who spoke yesterday will follow what I am now going to say in reply. The process is properly described as "unification." It is a more accurate word than "nationalisation," for this reason. "Unification" is the proper expression to use when your scheme is one by which the savings and profits that are made by the Commission in managing the property all go back into the industry to help the industry, wages or whatever it may be, and do not go to the Exchequer. Nationalisation is a phrase often used in many connections, but, at any rate, the idea of this scheme is not that the Treasury is going to get any benefit at all. If the scheme is a great success, it is not going to result in the Chancellor of the Exchequer announcing on Budget day that he has a windfall from the Coal Commission in the form of so many millions due to the Exchequer. [Interruption.] It has nothing to do with the Exchequer, and the thing is simple. I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that I really have studied this matter, and perhaps he will wait until I have finished. I say that it is properly described as unification arid not nationalisation because the working is different, and if there is relief to be given, it is not to be given to the taxpayer. Everything that accrues as a result of this scheme will go for the benefit of the industry itself. If the hon. Gentleman will follow me for a moment he will see my point.
The main purpose of the Commission is to transfer the benefits of ownership from the 4,000 individual owners to the industry, and that will be progressively for the advantage of the industry. As the lenders are paid off, the sum needed for interest will drop, and there will be more and more coming into the hands of the Commission to help the industry either by reducing royalty rents or charges for wayleaves, or for altering these charges between the districts where they are high and districts where they are low. I invite hon. Members interested in this matter 1089 to look at Clause 21 (2), which states the position clearly. At the bottom of page 21 it says that as the Commission comes into funds they may use their surplus to reduce rents within their control. At the top of the next page the Bill describes the sort of order in which this ought to be done first in respect of underground wayleaves; second, rents payable by particular undertakings which are more than the average of the rents in the district. [Interruption.] It is always in the control of the Commission, and I might say to my fellow Welshman that paragraph (c) says:rents payable by lessees generally working coal in any district or part of a district which are, having regard to all the circumstances more onerous than the average of the rent payable by lessees elsewhere.That answers the question put by the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), who wanted to know whether it would not be possible under the scheme to relieve the burden, which is a very heavy burden, of royalty charges in the district that he knows so well. When it is remembered—and I would ask the attention of hon. Gentlemen opposite—that miners' wages are now fixed by reference to 85 per cent. of the balance that is left after meeting charges such as royalties, it is obvious that, if by this scheme you could progressively get rid of these royalties you would by that very process be increasing the balance in that way. It is with that in mind that we take the view that this scheme is one which should not be dismissed as a small-minded affair, but is, in fact, a very material contribution to a very hard depressed industry. The hon. Member for Ince told us with the greatest frankness that the only remaining reason he had on Second Reading for opposing these proposals was because he wanted something more.
§ Mr. G. Macdonald
I referred, on the question of the disposal of surplus, to a pension fund for miners.
§ Sir J. Simon
I noted the observation, and it is one on which I should like to reflect. The hon. Gentleman does not believe in the good, but believes that by voting against the good he will get something better.
§ Sir J. Simon
I say, quite frankly, that there are some hon. Gentlemen in this House who seem to be obsessed with the idea of rejecting and voting against a proposal for public ownership of royalty rights, but are in favour of complete nationalisation under State control of the whole complicated business of winning, distributing and selling coal in the home market or the export market, whether it be in the hands of a Board or not.
As the House can see, it has taken a very great deal of detailed hard work to work out this scheme in order to present it to the House, and I should very much like to know whether the hon. and learned Gentleman who is going to wind up the Debate for the party opposite is prepared to produce any detailed scheme for the nationalisation of the coal industry? There have been two or three attempts to produce such proposals, and I am going to refer to one of them. The hon. and learned Gentleman will recognise it. It was a proposal introduced into this House by the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) in 1924 during the lifetime of the first Labour Government. It was on a Friday afternoon, but it was a proposal, so I was given to understand—and it was never contradicted—which had been framed with all the art and skill of the Solicitor-General in the Labour Government who was no other than the hon. and learned Gentleman himself.
§ Sir Stafford Cripps indicated dissent.
§ Sir J. Simon
I beg the hon. and learned Gentleman's pardon. It was his predecessor. On that occasion—and some of the older Members of the House will remember it—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) made a very effective and amusing speech in examining this proposal. He turned it completely inside out. I am going to remind the House of two or three of the Clauses that it contained. It contained a proposal that the coal industry generally should be put into the hands of a commission of 20, 10 of whom were to be appointed by the Miners' Federation for five years, and the balance to be Government nominees. It was elicited in the Debate that some would represent the miners who were themselves not represented in the Miners' Federation. The commission was to be empowered to fix wages and prices, to manage the whole 1091 business, to distribute the whole of the coal and then wait to see what was the result. The Bill provided that if there was a loss, it should be made up out of moneys provided by Parliament.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
On a point of Order. May I ask with great respect whether it will be in order for us to reply in the discussion to what the right hon. Gentleman is saying in regard to that Coal Mines Nationalisation Bill?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
It all depends on the extent to which the discussion goes. I have not seen anything out of order in what the right hon. Gentleman is saying.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
The right hon. Gentleman is setting himself to criticise the principles embodied in that Bill. Will it be in order for us to reply to that in this Debate?
§ Sir J. Simon
I think the hon. Member cannot have in mind the terms of the Amendment now on the Order Paper, for which I suppose he is prepared to vote. It would be a good thing to read it before he votes. What the Amendment says is that those who support it:cannot assent to the Second Reading of a Measure which, whilst conceding the principle of public ownership of coal, leaves this national asset to be exploited by private interests for their own gain.In plain English, that means that the party opposite prefer to resist and to vote against the provisions of this Bill, for which they have so long asked, because at the same time they do not get proposals for the nationalisation of the industry. I am making an observation, which I conceive to be quite in order, that it is just as well to realise that it is no good talking in general terms unless you happen to have a scheme, and I am referring to a scheme, which was not only put forward in this House, but on that occasion was supported by the Labour Government of that day. If that is the sort of scheme hon. Members opposite want, we have a pretty good answer to it. It was a ridiculous scheme. You cannot seriously contemplate producing a scheme which is going to take these enormous risks of putting the whole of the 1092 industry in jeopardy, according to its success or failure, when you are dealing with a matter as complicated, as elaborate and as difficult as this business of the coal trade.
The unification of royalties, which will bring under one single control in the interests of the State certain pieces of property which the Commission can then proceed to administer in a way which is most expedient, has no conceivable resemblance, and provides not the slightest conceivable analogy to the proposal that it would be just as easy to nationalise the whole of the coal industry, whether export or home trade. Unfortunately, this obsession, as I call it, or this point of view of hon. Members opposite, has been a very prominent cause why the reform has not been carried out before. In 1919 the Sankey Commission reported. The then Prime Minister, who was at the height of his power, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, sent for the Executive of the Miners' Federation and the representatives of the Trades Union Congress, and said, "I am prepared in the name of my Government to give you an Act of Parliament which will carry out the nationalisation of royalties and to apply some of the money for social benefits for miners, if you will agree." They said: "No, we will not agree." instead, they insisted on going on with their agitation for the nationalisation of the coal industry.
In 1925, when the Samuel Commission reported, Mr. Baldwin was Prime Minister. In the spring of that year he sent for the spokesmen of the two sides and said: "There are things in the Samuel Commission's report with which my Government do not actually agree, but nevertheless they have made a series of proposals which include the nationalisation of royalties, and we are prepared as a Government to accept the whole of those recommendations, and put them into force, if you will agree." Again, those who are now, and have been for years, clamouring for this reform, rejected that offer. When I hear an hon. Member opposite say: "What a pity it is that this thing was not done 20 years ago," I ask, whose fault is that? I most earnestly beg hon. Members to realise that this is a reform which can be carried through on terms which are fair and right for all concerned. It is a reform which 1093 might well have been carried through before to-day. It is a contribution of very great value for the coal industry and to all concerned, and I ask the House to reject without hesitation the proposal that we should refuse to have anything to do with this Bill, which has been worked out very carefully, just because there are still some people who want to pursue the will-o'-the-wisp of the nationalisation of the coal industry.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Seely
I do not propose to follow the Chancellor of the Exchequer in what he said at the end of his speech, when he attacked the Labour party for not accepting nationalisation of royalties before. I am not certain that either of those two offers could have been put through in those days. Even now, as has been admitted, it is a very big Measure to carry out, although people have got to understand more what the royalty question means. Sitting here yesterday and hearing all the things that were said against them, one ought to have been ashamed to have been a royalty owner. I am a royalty owner, and I have also collieries which I own, which are being worked under royalties. Therefore, I do not propose to vote in the Division, but I would point out that all the arguments that are being used, and all the abuse that is being indulged in with regard to royalty owners, is not entirely justified. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Will hon. Members listen to what I have to say? They have stated their case. They have gone back to the clays of Queen Elizabeth and suggested that the royalties started then. My own case is quite clear. They are not inherited royalties. They relate to 10,000 acres which were bought in the sixties at a fair price. If the money spent on buying those royalties then had been invested in something else, I should have had more money now.
In 1890 a borehole was sunk at a cost of between £10,000 and £12,000. That money was sunk, with nothing returned from it. In 1915, when my grandfather died, Death Duties were paid on the royalties, although nothing had been worked then, and there had been no amenities for having owned them. In 1926 my father died and full Death Duties were paid then, although nothing had come in. During the last few years this field has been developed and royal- 1094 ties are coming in to me, on which I pay full taxation in Mineral Rights Duties. Two sets of Death Duties having already being paid, I am not going to get anything like the full value by the purchase money which is provided in this Bill. In this field last summer we began to sink a new pit, with all the risks that are involved in sinking a new colliery, and all the risks of capital. In my case, therefore, I am not ashamed to have been a royalty owner or to be a royalty owner. The compensation I am going to get out of this Bill is nothing compared to the money that has been put in. There are many cases in Nottinghamshire and in other parts of the country where royalty owners are in a similar position. Do not let hon. Members opposite think always of people such as the Marquess of Bute, the Duke of Northumberland and people like that, and suggest that that is the only way that royalties have been obtained. I am, as I have said, a royalty owner and a colliery owner. I am not going to argue whether or not the compensation to the royalty owners is unfair, but I ask hon. Members not to think that there is all the wickedness on the one side as they have tried to get the House to believe.
§ Sir H. Seely
It was bought. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that this proposal in regard to royalties is not nationalisation. We on these benches have always been in favour of nationalisation of royalties. In my opinion this proposal is just as much nationalisation as unification. I am not frightened of it, or boggling in any way about the word. It is a great pity it was not done before. Any scheme of improvement in the coal trade will always be difficult until we have nationalisation of royalties. It is very difficult as a coalowner in a certain district to put one's self in the position of a coalowner in other districts. We in Nottingham do not suffer from anything like the same difficulties that we have heard of again and again with regard to South Wales, where there is undoubtedly one of the greatest burdens on the industry, a burden so great that it is shared by the men. I refer to the enormously high royalties, running up to 1s. 9d., and, as I know, in one case 2s. 1d. These things ought to be remedied.
1095 Once you leave out the royalty owners and they have been bought out, with all the hatred that their existence has brought with it in the past, and all the speeches that have been made against them and, through them at the colliery operators who work the pits, what then? The royalty owners are going to fade away into their £66,000,000. When they are gone, we shall have to deal with the question of what is to happen to the royalties. On that point I am not at all happy. In Clause 21 we do not learn anything like enough, nor has enough information been given to us by the Government as to what is to happen to the people who are making the loudest cry. In these days often the loudest cry gets heard the first, and the loudest cry is about the heavy royalties in Wales. If we are to go in for a system of levelling up the royalties, we may be reducing them in one area and adding to them in others.
One has to be careful in the coal trade, and I would ask for some explanation from the Government. Is it to be their system that the levelling up of royalties will mean putting up the royalties in our district, where we have not suffered under bad landlords and bad royalty owners such as has been the case in Wales? I am not quite happy about this. The Government are making a profit out of it. They are making a profit of about £2,000,000. The question is how they are going to spend it, whether the Commission is tied to that figure, or whether it is to have other moneys; or are they to go into the whole question of royalties which will mean a great deal more than the £2,000,000 the Government have to spare on the deal they have made?
There is one safeguard I should like to have, although it may seem a long way off at the moment. I know the Commission is to sit under the President of the Board of Trade, but the question is what is to be its rights in relation to the Government of the day? Once the Government gets control of the royalties of this country it may be tempted to use them for its own ends. It has happened in other countries. It has happened in this country in connection with the Road Fund. After many assurances that the money would never be used except on the roads, it was taken for other purposes in a time of need. In other countries where the Government own the royalties, they 1096 have put a tax on them, which is indirect taxation that can be passed on to the consumer. In France it has got as high as 2s. 5½d. I think it should be definitely said that in no circumstances will the Government use the power of owning royalties for the general advantage of the Exchequer. The question of the nationalisation of these royalties has been brought to a head largely by the 1930 Act. It has been felt after the Gower Commission report that forced amalgamation, which was the whole point of the 1930 Act, could not be carried through as long as royalties were owned by different people; that really rationalisation and the closing of so-called redundant pits were very largely connected with the question of royalties.
I should like to say a word or two on the question of amalgamation. The Liberal party have always been in favour of amalgamation, but the reason why amalgamation is being suggested now is for totally different reasons from those advocated by the Liberal and Labour parties in 1920. In those days we had Free Trade in this country, coal being produced ad lib, as much as could be got for trade purposes. Now we have tariffs, quotas and restrictions, and these amalgamations are being put through largely to help these restrictions and quotas, and to keep them in being. Amalgamation means restriction, and it means unemployment. In the case of my own colliery, we have gone into the question of amalgamation in the Nottingham area, and besides the advantage we got, it has meant putting more men out of work. That is bound to happen; you cannot get away from it under present conditions. If you can get your quota and tonnage you can close down what you like to call a redundant pit. It is wrong in my view, if you are going forward with this scheme for the nationalisation of royalties and further amalgamations, if you do nothing for the men who are to be put out of work.
It is no good saying this is merely a sentimental point; it is a practical point in coal-mining work. There is this responsibility. If you have a voluntary amalgamation the people who go in to it are, of course, responsible for the men in the various pits who are put out of work. If you get compulsory amalgamation, there is no responsibility on the colliery company to look after the men. They have been forced into something with 1097 which they do not agree; and the men are not looked after under this proposal unless you have some scheme under which the moneys which the Government are to get from royalties shall be used for dealing with the men who are put out of employment by these amalgamations. On the question of amalgamations I know of suggested cases in our own district under the Commission which would have been a complete failure, and yet if they had come to this House with the full authority of the Commission they must have gone through because this House would not know the full facts of the case.
I do not like the system of bringing these cases to this House to agree or disagree with a proposed amalgamation. That is not the proper way to go to work. It is very difficult to oppose these forced amalgamations. I have an instance in my own constituency. It is a colliery called the Scremerston Colliery owned by Greenwich Hospital, and if you are thinking on the lines of amalgamation, it is difficult to imagine keeping that colliery running. It is running now. If you have forced amalgamation I do not suppose that pit would still exist. That is why I say that we should be careful on the question of amalgamation to see that we are on the right road, and are not using amalgamation for the purpose of helping an economic theory of restrictions and quotas in trade, instead of using it for the benefit of the industry.
I do not think that this is the last Bill we are to get in the coal mining industry. It will not help a great deal, but it is a march forward on the question of royalties. Once you have got rid of that, there may be the possibility of other schemes coming up to deal with the coal trade, without all the bitterness we have had up to the present. If we can get rid of the word "coalowners" which has done a great deal of harm in the past, perhaps we may get an industry which can be helped forward for the benefit not only of the few, but for the benefit of every one in it.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Welsh
Many speeches have been made during the course of this Debate, but apart from that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer I have not heard one from the other side of the House which has shown how this Bill will help the one essential factor in the mining industry— 1098 namely, the men. The right hon. Gentleman showed how the royalty owners and the mineowners were dealt with by the Bill and then pointed out that it will also benefit the miners because the saving of the royalties will ultimately come into the industry and affect miners' wages, which are determined by agreement as to 85 per cent. wages and 15 per cent. for all costs, and that therefore the miners would reap some benefit. Our experience has been that whenever anything has been done by Act of Parliament or in any other way to cheapen production, the benefit has not come to the miners at all, and never will come as long as you have private ownership in coal mines. The basic factor in the running of a private industry in coal mines is to win money. When we had a subsidy the miners got no benefit; it was the foreigner who was able to buy British coal cheaper in some European countries than at home.
It is 40 years since I as a small boy used to hear discussions on the question of mining royalties in the village where I lived, and when I went to work in the pit. These were discussions by men who could not write their own names but whose common sense and intelligence was as high as anything I have met with on the back benches of this House. Mining royalties were discussed not with the legal subtleties of the Chancellor of the Exchequer but on the broad basis of their morality. The case put by the hon. Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Sir H. Seely) of royalties which have been bought, might be considered, but royalties in coal or minerals of any other description are absolutely wrong. Now we are going to get a unification of these royalties and I have been asking myself how much is this going to benefit the men, how much is it going to benefit the industry, and particularly how much is it going to benefit the community as a whole. I cannot see, looking at the Bill, where the community is going to receive any benefit. Whatever benefit there will be will go as additional profits to the colliery owners, or in an extension of their markets by being able to sell cheaper coal abroad.
The miner is the one element that ought to be considered. No hon. Member comes into this House as an unbiased person. Since I came into the House, I have never met anyone who was not biased in one 1099 direction or the other, but some have the facility of hiding it more than others. I admit frankly that I am biased. I am the fourth generation of miners in my family, and when I think of the price we have paid, I am compelled to say that if hon. Members who sit on the other side and who talk so glibly about property and profits could have had the same experience, they would show a different attitude towards royalties and towards everything else. I know that at times it is folly to remember, but there are also times when it would be treason to forget. I hope the Members on these benches who have come from the coalfields will never be guilty of that treason and will never forget that the first real interest in mining should be the lives of the men engaged in it.
Coming now to the question of amalgamation, I welcome the principle of the unification of royalties and also the principle of amalgamations; but everything depends upon the way in which amalgamations are approached and the methods by which they are put into operation. I have seen some of the results of amalgamation under private enterprise. I have seen districts made derelict because of those amalgamations, when the collieries have been closed down because it was cheaper to win coal from other shafts. That is all that private ownership does. Even if the amalgamation be voluntary, it does the same damage. The hon. Baronet the Member for Berwick-on-Tweed seemed to draw a distinction, and to say that compulsory amalgamation would cause more hardship than voluntary amalgamation. But I have had experience of voluntary amalgamation, and I have seen whole villages wiped out by it. I have seen the pitiful procession of goods and chattels loaded on carts and taken to other districts by the people who are seeking work. Voluntary amalgamation does not make the hardship one whit less than does compulsory amalgamation. The only thing that is left for such people is public assistance.
I wish to draw the attention of the Secretary for Mines to one factor in this question of amalgamation. A Bill of this nature, if it can be done in Committee, should at least seek to lessen the hardship suffered by these people. It has been stated by certain authorities that all the needs of this country in coal could be 1100 produced from the new area of Yorkshire, Nottingham and the Midlands. The Western side of this island, extending from Ayrshire, through Cumberland, Lancashire and Cheshire down to North Wales embraces the districts which are likely to be left derelict, possibly with the exception of South Wales, which in its anthracite beds has special qualities. In this area there are a quarter of a million men engaged. If this continual fight between the nationals of different countries to win markets should end in the Commission seeking, for the sake of cheapness and the holding of markets or the winning of more markets, to concentrate the production of this country, as possibly could be done, within that area of the Midlands, Yorkshire and Nottingham, what is to happen to the Western side of England? I am referring to this matter not only, as some of my hon. Friends have, in relation to the value of the public services that Have been established there, but because I am concerned about what is to happen to the families there. Is it simply to be a matter of their being left to the public assistance authorities?
One of the reasons for our Amendment is that we maintain that the mines should be nationalised, so that the benefits coming from the nationalisation of royalties and mines could be used to minimise such hardships on the people. The day has arrived when we ought to abolish long hours in coal mines and to employ more men. Indeed, this is one of the things that statemanship will have to look at in the very near future. Rationalisation and competition may go on, but there will be left a social problem in relation to the use of leisure that will baffle statesmanship unless it is tackled in time. I have been studying the writings of such men as William Morris, who regretted the passing of the craftsmanship of old times and how the machine had come to destroy it. I believe that if we were to use the machine as it was meant to be used, as a blessing to mankind and not as a curse, we could get higher culture and greater craftsmanship than ever before. If we did that, we could get a wider extension of culture than we have ever dreamed of.
It is because we believe that, apart from the physical and material side, that we favour nationalisation. It is because we consider the cultural side of life and because we believe that this nation, with 1101 all its past, has a possible future of which all of us can be proud, that we submit our Amendment, hoping that if a Tory Government does not bring about nationalisation, the community will insist upon some other Government coming in to do it. It is not a good thing that the mining industry should become a monopoly under private ownership as it is becoming more and more to-day. Although hon. Members opposite have sought to twit my hon. Friends on the Amendment on the Paper, we cannot see any other way out of the difficulties except along the lines of nationalisation and national ownership. I had not intended to take up so much of the time of the House, because I know that there are many others who wish to speak; but I wanted at least one voice to be raised from Scotland in this Debate. I hope that in the very near future, if the present Government bring forward anything else which seeks an extension of national ownership and national control, regard will be had for the life and blood of the men, for the families and for the interests of the mining communities.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Peake
I am sure the whole House will agree when I say that we have heard two most interesting and moving speeches from the benches opposite. Before I finish my remarks, I hope to deal quite shortly with some of the points to which the hon. Members referred, but in the interests of brevity and of those who wish to follow me in the Debate, I think I had better try to follow the main provisions of the Bill in the sequence in which they appear. I am not a royalty owner. We have heard much abuse of the royalty owner, who has been called a Dick Turpin, a Robin Hood, and a "Hooded Man"—by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood)—and who has also been more politely described as one of the lilies of the field, "they toil not, neither do they spin."
§ Mr. Peake
The royalty owner is a product of the system of private mineral ownership which began in the year 1558 as a result of a decision of the courts. Before that date the coal, as far as we are able to ascertain, belonged to the people, or at any rate the law, in relation to coal, was in a state of chaos, 1102 and anybody who found coal was at liberty to mine it. Coal was mined in this country certainly as early as the 11th and 12th centuries, but by 1558 so little progress had the industry made when the coal belonged to the people that the whole output of the country at that time did not exceed 300,000 tons, which is the output of quite a small single colliery at the present time. It was not until it was decided, in 1558, that minerals belonged to the private landlord and did not belong either to the Crown or to the customary tenants that the industry began to develop. To those who have studied the history of industry, the development of the coal industry in the period of 130 years following the accession of Queen Elizabeth is one of the most remarkable phenomena in the whole of our economic development. During that period the production of coal was multiplied 10 times, and that development in this country had no parallel anywhere in the rest of the world at that time.
Not until the 19th century, with the industrial revolution, do we find any parallel to the development of our coal industry in the 17th century. It is remarkable that at the end of the 17th century the production of coal in this country is estimated to have been six times as great as the production of the whole of the rest of Europe put together. In this country minerals were privately owned from 1558 onwards, and there is not the slightest doubt that the rapid development of the industry in the early days was due to the fact that the man who resided in the place in the coalfields where coal was found had a direct interest in the development of the minerals under his property. In no other country in Europe was that the case. There the coal belonged to the Crown, the Church or some absentee prince. In the coalfields of Europe, no development began until the middle of the 18th century. Far from being an example of the failure of private enterprise, the early history of the coal industry is a most astonishing tribute to the rapid development which private enterprise and private ownership can secure.
I was sorry that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was led away by some rather misleading phrases in the reports of the Sankey and Samuel Commissions into 1103 saying that the system of mineral ownership at the present time was an inconvenient system. It is, in some ways, but not in the ways which the right hon. Gentleman described. He led the House to believe, quite unintentionally I am sure, that it was responsible for the existence of barriers of coal at the subterranean boundaries between the properties of different landlords. Any person who has been down a coal-mine knows, of course, that these barriers are only left there for safety purposes. They are left there in order to preserve intact systems of ventilation and to prevent underground water percolating from one mine to another. If the coal had been owned by the State from the outset there would be just the same number of barriers as there are in the mines to-day under the present system. It is a complete fallacy to suppose that millions of tons of coal have been wasted in useless barriers. Under private ownership the coal has been leased to the colliery company which could work it cheapest, and frequently we colliery owners, if we find that some other company can work the coal which we have in lease more cheaply than we can, are not above taking a profit and handing the coal over to that other company.
The private ownership of minerals led to rapid development in the past and it has been, on the whole, a very convenient system for the colliery proprietors and for the economic working of the coal. At the same time it is difficult to justify the incomes of some of the royalty owners, and indeed I think you can only justify them on the ground that royalties have been a necessary evil—an unfortunate accident attendant upon what has been a beneficial system. But, although it has been a convenient system in the past, to my mind the case of the unification proposed by the Bill is unanswerable at the present time. I propose to state shortly the reasons which have led me to that conclusion. First, you have what my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade referred to as the political or psychological element. That is an important element, in my view, in favour of carrying through this Measure.
If I were a Labour politician, I fancy I should have difficulty in restraining myself from pointing out to the mining population the difference between the in- 1104 come of the royalty owner and the income of the miner. That is a temptation which we should all find it hard to resist—a comparison between "the rich man in his castle and the poor man at his gate" and their incomes makes a very telling point. At the same time, each one of us must agree in his heart of hearts that feelings of envy between one section of the community and another are bad for democratic institutions. If the Bill succeeds in removing all grounds for the temptation I have mentioned, which hon. Members opposite must have felt, and to which some of them have from time to time given way, then I think it will have achieved something substantial.
In the second place—and this is purely an economic argument—the industry today is no longer expanding. It has reached a static condition. The existing coalfields have long lives in seams which have already been proved. Science enables us to-day by means of screening, washing and so forth, to prepare for use coal which we could not have rendered marketable 30 years ago and this has lengthened the life of existing pits to an enormous extent. The result is that it would be a tragedy if, to-day, a new coalfield were discovered, say, in Norfolk or Sussex, even if that coal could be worked more cheaply than some of the coal in Scotland or Lancashire or South Wales. I think it is generally recognised that it would be a tragedy to have new coalfields developed in the country to-day.
The third argument which leads me to believe that this policy is a good one, is the fact that the large estates are being broken up to-day. Building goes on apace all over the country, and just as much in the coalfields as anywhere else. District councils are pulling down the old houses which constituted the colliery villages of the past and buying land for new housing schemes. The result is two fold. Either the ownership of the minerals is becoming separated from the ownership of the surface, or alternatively the number of mineral owners is increasing. Both these results are exceedingly inconvenient from the point of view of those who are working the coal beneath the land. So long as the estates were large, so long as they were controlled by dukes like the Duke of Portland or the Duke of Devonshire, there 1105 was not much trouble in the system of mineral ownership. In fact I think I should have preferred to be a colliery tenant on one of those big estates to being a tenant of the new Coal Commission. But, as I say, the position to-day is that these big estates are progressively breaking up owing to Estate Duties and high taxation.
There is a fourth argument in favour of the policy mentioned by my right hon. Friend in his speech yesterday, and that is the argument concerning minimum rents. I do not propose to waste the time of the House by explaining in great detail what minimum rents are. I need only say that they represent payments which have to be made to each royalty owner whether his coal is worked or not. They are an inseparable part of the system of private ownership, and their object is to ensure that the colliery shall work some portion of each mineral proprietors coal each year. My right hon. Friend, speaking of them yesterday, said:It is a real obstacle to economical working that where a pit is subject to a number of leases, some of which may contain terms for a minimum rent, it is the lease position that has to be considered in regard to which seams you are going to work rather than purely economic considerations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd November, 1937; col. 886, Vol. 329.]If my right hon. Friend instead of saying, "some of which may contain terms for minimum rents" had said "all of which do contain terms for minimum rents," he would have been closer to the truth. I never heard of a lease of minerals which did not contain a term for a minimum rent.
These minimum rents hamper the industry in several ways. In the first place, the obligation to work or to pay for so much of each mineral owners coal each year is an obstacle to the adoption of the best modern methods. Under modern methods one concentrates the workings in a smaller area than was done 20 or 30 years ago. That is one objection to minimum rents as a part of the system of mineral ownership. The second objection is that they are an effective obstacle to voluntary amalgamation. I would like to explain that point because it is rather technical. Amalgamations of collieries mean greater security to the mineral landlords of the collieries concerned. In order to compensate the colliery proprietors for the greater security given to 1106 the landlords, some reduction should be made in the liabilities of the lessees. If the landlord's interest is converted from a speculative one into a gilt-edged one, he ought to take a lower return. That cannot be done where there are several mineral ownerships. It would not be the slightest use trying to get your mineral landlords, who may number 15 or 20, to agree to take lower royalties by promising them that you were going to amalgamate with somebody else. That is the sort of negotiation which cannot be carried through without unified ownership.
The third objection to minimum rents is that they tie down production to the existing seams and the existing mines. Very often you may get some advantage in an amalgamation by drawing more coal out of one pit and less out of another. That may not be an advantage from the miners' point of view but it may be an economic proceeding and the whole object of the amalgamation may be to achieve an economy of that sort. But minimum rents do tie down production to the pits at which coal is being raised at any given moment and in that way they are a further obstacle to voluntary amalgamation. I would impress on my right hon. Friend that the existence of minimum rents in coal-mining leases is a real obstacle in that respect.
Now I come to the Bill. How does the Bill meet these objections to the present system of ownership which I have indicated? It unifies royalties which is all to the good, and which meets some of these objections. But it does nothing to deal with the minimum rents position. It simply takes the leases as they stand at present and the Coal Commission is going to be in the same position as the landlord. It will be able to enforce against the colliery tenant, every provision of the lease including the payment of minimum rents. It is estimated that already the coal industry has paid something like £6,000,000 in minimum rents for coal which it has never got and a great deal of which it is never likely to get. It seems a great pity that this sort of abuse, for such it may well be termed, should be allowed to continue under a system of unified ownership. The only justification for minimum rents is to secure a certain minimum income for a number of separate individuals. Minimum rents have no place whatever in a system of unified control. It does not matter to the 1107 new Coal Commission where the coal is raised, as long as a given tonnage is raised.
My right hon. Friend would doubtless say that my objection is met by Clause II which provides for consolidating the leases of each colliery into a single lease. But when I read that Clause, together with the Fifth Schedule, which sets out how these lease consolidation schemes are to be worked out, I am filled with gloom. In the first place, a colliery having five, eight, or ten different landlords has a corresponding number of different leases at present, and each of those leases probably has a different term of years, a different rate of royalty, different provisions as to compensation for surface damage and so forth, and what we in the coal industry mean by a lease consolidation scheme is a new lease, not an omnibus lease putting in all the provisions of all the old leases as separate covenants and undertakings, but a new lease merging the provisions of the old leases, providing for a single rent, a single rate of royalty, and a single provision as to surface damage and so on. Consolidating leases is a matter of long, skilled, and arduous negotiation. It takes time, and it can only come about if both parties are determined that an agreement shall take place; that is to say, both sides must be convinced that they are getting something out of the new bargain.
My right hon. Friend provides that these lease consolidation schemes can be negotiated during the interim period of four and a-half years, but during those years the only people who are skilled enough to conduct these negotiations and have the knowledge of the coalfields necessary to be able to do so, are the mineral agents, and those agents for the next four and a-half years will be worked off their heads in the matter of the valuations, so that they will have no time whatever to give to these consolidation schemes. It appears to me, on reading the Bill, that if we are to get the greater advantages which will flow to the industry from the abolition of minimum rents, that is to say, freedom to work our pits to the best advantage, freedom to amalgamate one with another, without improving the landlord's security—those advantages will not be derived for many years 1108 if we are to wait for these consolidation schemes to be drawn up in individual cases. I hope I have made my point clear and that my right hon. Friend will look into it between now and the Committee stage.
I will now deal, very shortly, with Part II of the Bill, the provisions for compulsory amalgamation, and I should like to say, at the outset of this part of my remarks, that the whips of my right hon. Friend in 1937 are much to be preferred to the scorpions of Lord Runciman in 1936, and for that reason one is inclined to view this part of the proposals more favourably than I think I should do if I were regarding them de novo. But I agree with a great deal of what was said yesterday from the benches opposite on the question of amalgamations, as to the danger to efficiency, and the danger even more, I think, to the safety of the workers. If you get the management slack and inefficient at the top, and that is accompanied, as it very often is, by a sullen and discontented attitude of mind on the part of the men, you have then got a position of affairs which may lead to very grave danger and it seems to me that a great responsibility will rest upon any body which forces large-scale amalgamations in which those conditions may very well exist. The mineowners have been regarded in the past as being unduly apprehensive about this question of large-scale amalgamations, but I assure the House that they have had some grounds for the fears which they have expressed. The very first public statement of the Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission which was set up as a result of the Act of 1930, which my hon. Friends opposite who are now denouncing amalgamation supported, contained this statement:We contemplate as the ultimate goal of the policy of amalgamation that the country should be divided up into geographical units, in each of which there should be only one colliery undertaking.They then set out, below that statement, six geographical units which were going to form, apparently, the six large combines for mining operations. I think my hon. Friends opposite will agree that if anything of that sort had come to pass, it would have been a disaster of the first magnitude to the coal industry. Two years later the Chairman of that Reorganisation Commission went down to 1109 Cardiff and, addressing the Cardiff Business Club, commended the South Wales coalowners on the degree of amalgamation which they had achieved and suggested that it was a pity that the other districts were not such good boys as the South Wales coalowners. We in the North have pretty strong stomachs, but we really could not stand for that, and I could not help thinking of that statement when I listened to the remarks yesterday of the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and the conditions in the South Wales coal-field which he described.
On this question of amalgamation, I find myself in agreement much more with the findings of the committee which has been described as the Essendon Committee, but which is better known to the coal industry as the Lewis Committee, of 1926. That committee recommended in favour of co-operative marketing of coal, and it went on to say that those central selling or marketing schemes would be easier to operate if there were fewer undertakings in the industry than there were at that time. There have since then been some amalgamations, but there is still a very large number of very small undertakings, arid it seems to me that there are cases which would be benefited by some degree of amalgamation. I personally believe that, given freedom from the difficulties of the private ownership of minerals which I have described, a great many more amalgamations will take place among that sort of colliery, but the proposal in the Bill is compulsion to bring those amalgamations about.
I have pointed out the obstacles which private mineral ownership and the provisions for minimum rents have been so far. It always seems to me to be wise to remove your obstacles before you begin the application of external farce. Certainly my experiences on horseback have always prompted me to give my horse a loose rein before an application of the spurs. The result of a simultaneous application of force at both ends is very often disastrous. One can observe the preliminary effect on the horse and rider in a well-known statue at present in Whitehall. The subsequent effect in real life is more disastrous, because the animal comes over backwards on top of the rider. I hope the coal industry will not come over backwards on top of my right hon. Friend, because that, I feel, may be the result of an attempt to apply compulsion before 1110 the obstacles have been effectively removed, and before the industry has been given an opportunity of carrying through voluntary amalgamations without these obstacles which stand in the way at present. I shall, during the Committee stage, move some Amendments to try and provide that no compulsory powers shall come into force until at those particular collieries leasehold consolidation schemes have been carried out and a fair offer made by the new Coal Commission to the undertakings proposed to be amalgamated of some concession on their royalties in exchange for the better security which the Commission will obtain by virtue of that amalgamation coming about.
Now I turn to Part III, the selling organisations. Part III of the Bill continues the organised marketing and the regulation of output for a further period of five years. There has been some criticism from outside the House—not very vocal inside the House—of the operation of these marketing schemes, but I do not think there is any real opposition at present to the continuation of these schemes. I think it is generally recognised that their continuance is necessary and desirable, but there seems to be some anxiety about the necessary safeguards. My right hon. Friend is extending the safeguards in the future, and I really think that this matter of co-operative marketing and central selling in the coal industry was settled by the report of the Lewis Committee in the year 1926. The Majority Report of the Lewis Committee in favour of central selling and co-operative marketing in the coal industry was signed by a number of the most eminent business men in this country—Sir Frederick Lewis himself, now Lord Essendon, Sir Thomas Catto, now Lord Catto, the late Mr. Vernon Hartshorn, Sir Hugo Hirst, now Lord Hirst, the late Sir Alfred Mond, Sir Harry Peat, the eminent accountant, the late Mr. Frank Varley, and the late Mr. J. A. Warriner. You could not have had a stronger committee of business men than the Lewis Committee of 1926, and they had placed before them the objections to central selling, all the more fully because the objections at that time were presented by the colliery owners themselves. They dealt with these objections in two or three sentences which I beg leave to read to the House. They said: 1111We regard it as unreasonable that the coal mining industry alone, among all the industries of the country, should be regarded as debarred, on grounds of public policy, from organising its marketing. Many of its principal customers are organised; many industries from which it has to purchase are organised, and there is no reason why it should be expected to deny itself of the same advantage.Then, after dealing with possible abuses by putting up prices by a monopoly of that kind, they went on to say:There is surely no reason to doubt that the same prudence would be shown by those who had to direct the operations of a coal marketing organisation, namely, the coal-owners themselves. They would act in the best interests of the industry, which would certainly not lie in killing demand by excessive prices.They added—and this is very significant at the present time:There are worse evils even than a monopoly. There is no need for us to enlarge upon the grave losses and hardships which have been repeatedly inflicted upon the nation and its industries for some years past by the continually recurring disputes and stoppages in the coal-mining industry… We believe that the organisation of its marketing would help the coal-mining industry to regain its stability and would be an important contribution towards the foundations of a lasting peace in the industry. Such a development would more than compensate the home consumer for the risk of paying a little more for his coal.That states much more clearly than I could in my own words the case for organised marketing at the present time.
The facts in regard to prices can be stated very shortly. In 1931, the year of the depression, the pit-head price of coal averaged 14s. In the first six months of this year it was 15s. 6d., and that is an increase of almost exactly 10 per cent., which exactly corresponds to the rise in wholesale prices generally. What has the industry got as a result of this increase of 10 per cent. in the price of coal? The average annual earnings of the miners this year will be £32 per man more than they were in 1931, and to my mind that is a very substantial benefit and one for which the industry could well be grateful; and the consumer should be very pleased to know that the extra money which he has paid has secured such an admirable result. We all know that the industry was making a loss in 1931 and is making a small profit—or a reasonable profit, if you like—of 1s. or 1s. 3d. a ton at the present time. Those are, I think, remarkable results. I believe that this Bill in its 1112 broad lines is calculated still further to improve the position of the industry, to improve its planning, and to give it greater stability than it has had in the past, and I believe that the Bill will promote the welfare and security of all who have to earn their living in the mines.
§ 6.46 p.m.
Mr. W. Joseph Stewart
I am rather surprised at the tone of the House, and especially at the tone of the speeches from the opposite benches in the line taken with regard to safeguarding the interests of royalty owners, but I should like to deal with another aspect of the problem, the side which concerns the men who are engaged in the industry. It has been interesting to me to listen to the royalty owners and the coalowners very quietly but effectively putting their case before the House. Not so long ago a Member who spoke from the Liberal benches was bemoaning the hard lot of the royalty owners, and the vicissitudes which they have to go through, and he said that if this Bill became law in all possibility their position would not be eased to any appreciable extent. I have listened to what has been said about the value of royalties and the tonnage rates charged as royalties, and have wondered whether those who have royalty interests realise the position of the other fellow in the mines to-day. An hon. Member suggested that royalty owners were not getting too much out of royalties in view of the money which they had expended on acquiring them. I worked in the mines for between 40 and 45 years, and during that time I helped to produce thousands of tons of coal at a less rate per ton than some of the royalty owners are getting to-day. With the average wages paid in the mining industry to-day, if a man were to work a thousand years in the industry he would not in some instances get the equivalent of one year's income that the royalty owners are deriving from royalty rents.
I submit that when we consider the whole position and realise the inequalities of the situation we must come to the conclusion that something is wrong. The hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), who spoke as a coalowner, put forward many points. I should like to say, in passing, that neither the mines nor the conditions in mining are what they ought to be to-day, and that is why 1113 we on this side have tabled our Amendment. Last Friday I went North with a colliery agent who talked to me about the conditions prevailing in the group of collieries which he represented. He said, among other things, that they could not get boys into the pits, that boys who were working on the surface and those who were leaving school absolutely refused to go into the pits, and that they were at their wits' end for boy labour. It is not to be wondered at that they cannot get boys to enter the pits at 14 or 15 years of age. With the mechanisation, the rationalisation, the speeding-up, the noisy machinery, the dust, the grinding, the insanitary conditions which prevail in the mines, one cannot be surprised that our boys of 14 to 15 are refusing to go into any work which will entail their enduring such conditions as those which I have outlined.
The condition of our mines to-day makes Dante's Inferno pale by comparison, and I venture to suggest that the coalowners in this country who wish for boy labour and who wish to do anything worth while for the industry must, in the first instance, put their house in order. Then, perhaps, the industry will be in a better condition than it is to-day. There is another side to this problem. Coal-owners, in asking our boys to go into the mines at 14 years of age, have been seeking to get cheap labour. When the boys have reached the age of 15 or 16, or even 18 years of age because they have then merited a higher wage they have been turned on to the streets in order to make room for the younger generation which is coming along. When those things are being done we cannot expect to have our mines manned as they ought to be. There is a great amount of evidence of the unsatisfactory conditions in the industry. Reorganisation has been asked for time and again in the years following the War—by Government inquiries, by political parties, by employers in other industries, by the mineowners and by the miners themselves. Governments have been appealed to for their intervention. Persuasion has been tried with but little success. Compulsion, as exemplified in the Act of 1930, has had some results. It has needed the industrial force of the miners, acting through their trade unions on more than one occasion, as towards the end of 1935, to secure a 1114 promise of co-operative selling arrangements.
The attitude of the owners is still exemplified by their failure to make full use of the home market. There is no doubt that if the whole question of the treatment of coal were tackled in a thoroughgoing manner with the object of providing an alternative source of power to the foreign fuel oil which comes into the country the industry could still hold its own. There is no better test of the industrial relations between employers and employed than are to be found in the conditions prevailing in industries apart from the coal industry; but under such a test applied to the coal industry the coal owners stand condemned. Their idea of meeting the postwar situation has been to increase hours and lower the standard of living of the miners, and the miners have been forced to defend themselves by local and national stoppages. A great deal of mechanisation and rationalisation has been undertaken without much regard for those working in the industry.
A striking feature of later years has been the speeding up of work in the mines. At no time since the Great War have working conditions been so onerous as they are at the moment. Wages are low, and do not to any appreciable extent keep pace with the rise in the cost of living; unemployment is common, and depressed areas are widespread over several coalfields. In 1924 there were 174,756 miners working in the County of Durham, with a wages bill of £21,600,000 and an output of 36,690,000 tons. In 1936 there were 101,000 miners working, with a wages bill of £10,440,000, and an output of 31,148,000 tons. There had been a drop of 5,551,000 tons in output, the wages bill was halved and 73,000 fewer miners were employed. When we are considering the unification of royalties, the amalgamation of collieries to cut out uneconomic pits and the speeding up in the industry as a whole, this other aspect of affairs should be placed before the public in order to let them know exactly how the people are suffering in this process of amalgamation and speeding up. Something must be done to raise the industry on to a higher plane, something more than is contained in this Bill.
Mining is recognised as a most dangerous occupation. From 1920 to 1115 1936 there were 2,399,492 persons injured and 16,723 persons killed. This chapter of accidents, fatal and non-fatal, ought to make every hon. Member of this House feel and realise that something must be done to prevent this awful toll in life and limb in our mines to-day. The proportion of persons injured in coal mining is much higher than in other industries, being eight times as high as in shipping, twice as high as among dock workers, and over five times higher than in other industries.
We recognise, as I said before, that wages are too low and that the conditions under which our people live in our mining villages are a disgrace to twentieth century Britain. I remember that as a member of Durham County Council after the passing of the Local Government Act, 1929, it was my duty, along with some of my colleagues, to go round the county when we were dealing with the question of the reorganisation of county districts. I went into some mining villages in Durham where the streets were not made up, where there were open channels with cesspools at the end and privies with the doors hanging askew, and within a stone's throw of the miners' cottages there was a mine where, through years of toil, hundreds of thousands of pounds have been wrested in profit through the blood and sweat of the very people who were living under such appalling conditions. And I ask, as a newcomer to this House, taking the mining situation as a whole, taking the conditions which prevail—not the conditions that affect the coalowner or the royalty owner, but the conditions of those who are engaged in the industry—can we say as a House of Commons that we are satisfied that everything has been done that could be done on behalf of those people who are giving of their best day in and day out? When I think of those things and listen to the plaintive cries of coalowners and royalty owners in this House in regard to what they may have to suffer if this Bill becomes law, as an ordinary back-bencher it gives me a feeling of nausea; and I wonder whether at any time we are going to seek to mete out to our people, who cannot help themselves to any appreciable extent, that measure of justice and equity which is their due.
To-night we have before us a Bill dealing with the nationalisation of royalties. 1116 It is an idea in the minds of some people that if this Bill becomes law and royalties are nationalised everything will be right as far as the coal industry is concerned. The main part of the problem to my mind remains untouched. The reason for that statement is simplicity itself. The royalty taker has in the past signed away his right to interfere in the management of the pit which paid the royalty. This point was made clear by a nineteenth century Lord Chancellor, Lord Cairns, and his words are these:Although we speak of a mineral lease, or a lease of mines, the contract is not in reality a lease at all in the sense in which we speak of an agricultural lease. There is no fruit—that is to say, there is no increase; there is no sowing or reaping in the ordinary sense of the term, and there are no periodical harvests. What we call a mineral lease is really, when properly considered, a sale out-and-out of a portion of the land. It is liberty given to a particular individual, for a specific length of time, to go into and under the land, and to get certain things there, if he can find them, and to take them away just as if he had bought so much of the soil.Quite clearly, therefore, the substitution of the State for a private royalty taker will not give the State the power which must be vested in it if the handling of the coal problem is to be dealt with on truly national lines. What then must be done? The answer was given in another place by Lord Sankey when he declared that there must be nationalisation of the mines as well as nationalisation of the mineral royalties.
In Clause 21 the question of the use to be made of the annual surplus if it exceeds a certain amount is mentioned, and the Commissioners have power to reduce rent charges within their control. My submission to the House is this. Instead of reducing rent charges, any surplus that might accrue ought to be used to provide a pension scheme for those who are engaged in the industry and also to pay compensation to those who may be displaced by amalgamation. In paragraph 9 (b) of the First Schedule mention is made of salaries and allowances to be paid to the secretary and other servants of the Commissionand, on the retirement or death of any of them, to them or their personal representatives or to their dependants such pensions and gratuities, as the Commission may determine.While realising that such pensions and gratuities are right, and ought to be given to these people or their dependants when 1117 the Commission gets under way, I want to point out that if it is imperative in the interests of these people that out of the proceeds of the industry gratuities and pensions should be granted, it should not be wrong to allocate a certain amount of the proceeds towards a fund that will bring into being a pensions scheme which will give our people a measure of security in their old age. In other walks of life, the police, civil servants, teachers, local government officials and persons in other branches of service have been granted pensions, but up to now there has been nothing said about the miners. In the mining industry to-day there are between 60,000 and 65,000 people over 60 years of age, and I submit that during the 45 or 50 years of their mining life they have given their best to the industry and have proved that they have been a valuable asset to the country. In justice to them, and in gratitude for work well done, it should surely not be impossible, when the surpluses are about to accrue after the passing of this Bill, to inaugurate a scheme which will make it possible for these old veterans of industry to lay aside their tools and make room for the younger men. I suggest that if a levy of 3d. per ton of coal royalties—that would, I think, be sufficient—were set aside, an adequate pension would be provided to meet the needs of these people; and if the older men were thus taken out of the industry it would certainly help to provide work for large numbers of our unemployed miners, who have no chance whatever of getting work unless something is done along the lines which I am suggesting.
§ 7.13 p.m.
Colonel Sir George Courthepe
There are two matters raised by this Bill, one of broad principle and one of important detail, about which I wish to say a few words. In the first place, I cannot support my right hon. Friends in the Second Reading of this Bill, and I welcome an opportunity to say briefly why, lest I be suspected of yielding to the allurements of the Opposition Amendment. The wholesale, compulsory nationalisation of property is as obnoxious to my Conservative mind as it is precious to the ideals of right hon. Members and hon. Members opposite, and I feel that such an obnoxious principle should not be applied to a vast block of property save under dire necessity, or 1118 in conditions which promise very great national advantage. In the absence of the cordial acceptance of the Bill and of the co-operation of all concerned in the industry, which hon. Members opposite have made it clear that we are not to get, I cannot see how there can be great national advantage in this case. Nothing which I have read in the many reports of Committees and Commissions, nothing that I have heard in speeches in this Debate or elsewhere has convinced me that a Coal Commission is any more likely to be able to deal satisfactorily with the extremely difficult problems of this industry than is the present system of private ownership. I believe that coordination, amalgamation, and so on, could take place just as well under the system of private ownership of the minerals as under the compulsory amalgamation order of what would practically be a Government Department. In these circumstances I feel obliged to oppose the Second Reading of the Bill. I will not go into any greater detail, because I should be wasting the time of the Houses the arguments are well known to every-one.
The second point which I want to make is this: I think there is a very grave and important omission from the Bill, in that provision is not made on any adequate scale, if at all, for the loss of the professional services of the mining agents, surveyors, and so on, whose present employment will he brought to an end by this Bill when it reaches the Statute Book. It is no answer to say that for three and a half years they will be so busy that they will be able to earn enormous fees. It is no answer to say that some of them will, no doubt, enter the service of the Coal Commission. That possibility may quite properly be taken into account in arriving at the scale of compensation due to them, if compensation is provided.
I would point out that the Treasury and the Mines Department agreed that the annual value for those services about which I am speaking was £242,000. It is service mostly by specialists who have no other alternative employment. It is true that some of the work is done in the North of England by firms of solicitors, but it is mostly by specialists. That figure has been capitalised and deducted from the amount which it is proposed to 1119 pay for the mineral royalties. It is inconceivably dishonest to insist upon taking credit to the tune of £3,650,000, or thereabouts, in respect of professional services, and then to bring those services to an abrupt end by Statute, without any kind of compensation. I have the greatest possible sympathy with the desire which has been expressed by hon. Members opposite that provision should be made for miners who will lose their employment under the amalgamation scheme of the Bill. I hope that they will have equal sympathy for the professional classes whose services are essential to the industry, and whose livelihood will be abruptly cut off without any compensation, unless some suitable Amendment is made. I hope that my right hon. Friend will deal sympathetically with this matter when he makes his reply.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Bevan
The Bill seems to be one that can be better dealt with in Committee than by means of a general discussion upon the Second Reading. The three Parts of the Bill, relating to amalgamation, selling schemes and unification of mining royalties, are not organically related, and it would have been a much greater service to intelligent discussion in this House if they had been brought in as separate Bills. The discussion has wandered over all three, and it is difficult to find any common principle which unites them, except the mere fact that they all relate to the same Ministry. I hope that this point will be borne in mind when we reach the Committee stage, so that a further opportunity may be given to have a general discussion on the principles of each section and each proposal. I believe that a discussion of that kind would be much more useful than the one which we have been able to have by roaming over the whole field of the Bill.
I do not propose to discuss the propriety of giving compensation to royalty owners. This party has committed itself to the principle of paying compensation. We have done so reluctantly, but nevertheless we have done so. It would be a waste of time for me to discuss that aspect of the matter. Nor shall I discuss the manner in which the value of the royalties is to be arrived at, although I confess that I have never heard a less businesslike proposal put before the 1120 House. I am sure that there are much more interested advocates of the claims of royalty owners than I am likely to prove. I am sure that before the end of the discussion on the Bill, they will make themselves articulate. I shall address myself to the manner in which the compensation is to be paid.
Here you have an example of the sort of way in which compensation will be paid for private property when it is purchased by the State, and the proposal seems vicious in the extreme. We have a number of people with a legal title to certain property. The title seems quite as good as the legal title to many other forms of property. I am unable to subscribe to the view that a royalty owner is not more justified to take profit on production than many forms of debenture, or to the view that a royalty is a more unjustifiable burden than many underwriters or company promoters who are taking large revenues from industry at the present time. None of them are justified, but I shall not argue that the title to a royalty is more slender than the title to other forms of property. They all rest on the law of the land, and as long as we admit their existence I suppose we shall have to deal with them.
We have never agreed to pay compensation because we think the owner of the property had any moral claim to it. We should pay compensation because of political expediency. It is easier to get things done in that way. Also, if you are going to leave private property in some hands, it is inequitable to take property from others without compensation. That brings me to the point which I want to make, that the people who ought to pay compensation for the property which is taken over are the rest of the property owners. We do not recognise any inequity in confiscation as between property owners, between those who retain their property and those who are having their property taken over; it is therefore just and proper that those who are still left in the enjoyment of their property should pay compensation to those who are having property taken out of their hands. It is from that point of view that I want to examine the proposal now before the House.
We had an example of this sort of legislation in the Tithe Act, where you had a conversion of ordinary property 1121 into fixed-interest bearing securities, or into gilt-edged stock, thereby, of course, effecting the concealment of the real burden which agriculture will still have to hear. I have a very small plot: of land, and I received a bill recently, after the pasing of the Tithe Act, for is. 7d. tithe. I suppose if I had to pay that money in the old way my soul would be wrung with anguish at this unjustifiable taxation, but now that I pay to the national Commission for tithe annuities, I am perfectly satisfied, and my conscience is appeased. That is probably what hon. Members mean when they say that the nationalisation of mining royalties has a greater psychological value than any other. In the future the miner will know that the benefits will be paid to a statutory body, which will then disperse the money clandestinely, and nobody will notice what has happened.
The Bill seems to have a further effect. The conversion of ordinary property into fixed-interest bearing security is economically disadvantageous. At a time of falling prices and of trade depression, the holders of those securities exact an increasing proportion of the revenues of society. At a time when other property is falling in value, unemployment is becoming rife and budget difficulties increase, the owners of fixed-interest bearing securities have a larger proportion of the national wealth. There have been economists who have said that trade depressions are made much steeper and much longer to-day as a consequence of the huge holdings of fixed-interest bearing securities. It is, therefore, a most undesirable development from any point of view to convert any of your property rights into fixed-interest bearing securities of this kind. The rise in insurance companies, the increase in the values of trustee stock, the growth in the volume of debenture stock and the increase in the total volume of fixed-interest bearing stocks are having a most disadvantageous effect upon the economic structure. No Government really desiring to iron out a depression, to avoid one or to minimise the effects of one, would convert large masses of property of this kind in that way.
Another side of the argument appeals to me. I believe that it was the finance Minister of Catherine de Medici of France—I do not remember it in detail enough 1122 to recall his name—who converted the revenues of many landlords of France into pensions. Many of the landlords of France at that time had neglected their estates. They spent most of their time in Paris and failed to discharge their old traditional obligations as landlords to their tenantry. Catherine de Medici made them into pensioners, taking the revenues of their estates in order to pay the pensions. In other words, their property had become functionless and no longer of service to the State. That lack of function attaching to the property was recognised by giving the landlords pensions. Exactly the same sort of thing has happened today, except that instead of making the property holders pensioners of the King, we are making them holders of annuities to the State in the form of fixed-interest bearing stock. They are pensioners of the mining industry.
I do not see any reason why the coal-owners should not pay rents to the royalty owners. The miners of Great Britain would have a negligible advantage if the mining industry were relieved of this burden. The coalowners will pocket the difference. I am not going to argue that mineowners ought to be exempt from this charge, and I leave it to the mineowners themselves to do that if they like. I am not a spokesman for the mineowners; they have very effective spokesmen on the other side. You have in this case well-recognised symptoms of a system of society which is reaching its end. When you are converting large forms of property into absentee landlordism of this sort it is an admission that these people no longer have any economic function to discharge.
I wish to make a proposal. I say for the reasons which I have advanced that it is undesirable to convert these royalty claims into fixed interest-bearing stock, but nevertheless we are reluctantly committed to the principle of compensation. How, therefore, ought this compensation to be paid? If the Minister for Mines will give me his attention I suggest, instead of the Commission issuing stock and using the money obtained thereby to pay off the royalty owners, that all this could be done easily and simply through the medium of the annual Budget. Why should not the Treasury collect the royalties and rents from the mining industry and make their annual payment to the royalty owners? This would then 1123 appear as an annual item on the Budget, and we could then see how much is owed. In time of economic and financial difficulty the royalty owners' claims would enter into proper competition with the claims of the unemployed and old age pensioners, whereas now when there is a financial crisis in the country a tax is laid upon the social services, and these people are left in enjoyment of their annuities. That is the time when unemployment will be increasing, and when the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be tempted to make a reduction in social services for the advantage of property owners.
It seems, therefore, to be a perfectly proper proposal that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had that in his Budget, we could say "No, we do not think you should cut unemployment assistance benefit, but you ought to cut annuities to the royalty owners and tithe owners, thereby putting these property claims in their proper relation and perspective." I am not suggesting for a moment that that is going to be done, but nevertheless I suggest that is a more equitable way of dealing with this matter, that it meets the principle of compensation, and at the same time I am bound to confess its attraction now consists of the fact that it exposes these people to the right sort of political pressure at the right time. When I listened to the speech of an hon. Member this afternoon I regretted that he conveyed the implication that the Miners' Federation of Great Britain are in love with this proposal. The fact is that this was imposed upon the Socialist Government in 1929, and that is one of the prices the Labour Government had to pay. On this matter of amalgamations I used these words in the discussion on the Coal Mines Bill, on 27th February, 1930:No one suggests that it is a desirable thing to have very large amalgamations, say, of collieries producing 10,000,000 or 12,000,000 tons annually. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) pointed out that it was not a good thing to have too large administrative units. We agree with him, and the administrative units to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen has directed our attention on the continent are much smaller than existing units of amalgamation in this country to-day.We have colliery combines in the South Wales coalfield producing 6,000,000, 7,000,000, 8,000,000 tons annually, a much larger production than on the continent, and yet within 1124 those amalgamations you find all the difficulties that exist throughout the coal industry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1930; col. 2464, Vol. 235.]At that time I opposed the principle of amalgamation, because it seemed to be economically, financially and administratively unsound. Hon. Members do not sufficiently recognise that the mining industry lends itself admirably to small units of administration. The coal shaft is itself a splendid unit of administration. No administrative advantages are obtained by adding a greater number of shafts. Such advantages as can be obtained by the centralised purchase of raw materials can be achieved by other methods, but administratively it has now been recognised that the optimum units of business administration is much smaller than was supposed. In the South Wales coalfield we have examples of this argument in a case where compressed air was carried 10 or 12 miles up to the coal face at about 3 per cent. efficiency. The industry was then in the hands of financiers, and from the point of view of the financiers it was thought that the bigger the unit the better, and the result was that these generalisations were applied throughout these industries, and very serious consequences followed. Machinery was introduced into the coal face and then taken out again. The methods of working were fundamentally changed. By-product plants were put up and had to be taken down. All this was a consequence of this kind of uncritical attitude. Sir Ernest Gowers recognised that when dealing with the mining industry one is dealing with an industry in which, however small the unit of administration, it can never be smaller than the pit itself; and very often, the smaller the unit of administration, the greater is the administrative efficiency.
The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) will probably ask how I support the Amendment in face of what I have just said. The answer is perfectly simple—that administrative deficiency and a unity administrative deficiency are not necessarily the same thing as a unit of ownership. It would be possible, if all the collieries of Great Britain were in one ownership, to have administrative organisations on far smaller scales than the ones existing. The fact is that we desire functional administration, and not ownership administration. I will explain what I mean, because I 1125 believe that that is the substance of the proposal that we are making for the nationalisation of this industry. There is no use in sneering at the suggestion that this industry should be in public ownership, because it will have to come about ultimately. A long battle has been fought in this connection since 1920.
My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Jenkins) and my late hon. Friend, Mr. Frank Varley, made a tour of the Ruhr coalfields in 1927 and presented a report pointing out that our control of the export market was diminishing as a result of the fact that we had no responsible voice in the coal trade. We were throwing away millions of pounds every year, selling coal in Berlin at 4s. 5d. per ton—a most wasteful extravagance in the industry. In Germany there was one coal organisation speaking for all the mines. So far as our coal industry was concerned, it was handicapped by crass inefficiency and lack of business sense. I am not saying we have not got individual coalowners who are efficient, but the coalowners dare not develop any organisation between themselves. For that reason we have to bend to this state of affairs. This House has had to pass legislation to restrain larceny among the owners. The Ministry of Mines said that such was the lack of business scruple among the owners that it was difficult to prevent them from robbing one another. The statement was made to the effect that they were pilfering from each other. If conditions are better to-day it is not because of a growth of business morality but because the penalties are now harsher.
The position is, that the coal industry admirably lends itself to the kind of reorganisation which could be accomplished by national ownership. You cannot make a lump of coal anything other than a lump of coal. In other industries, such as the textile industry, the nature of the market makes it necessary flat there should he an intimate and reciprocal relationship between the production and the marketing of the product. However, you cannot make a lump of coal anything other than a lump of coal, and there is no technical connection between mining coal and selling coal. There ought to be one administrative organisation for the mining of coal, and its administration ought to stop at that point. From that point onwards there ought to be an administrative organisation for the manufacture of 1126 by-products from coal, or for the distribution of coal internally.
If you had organisations of that sort, you would isolate the function of marketing coal, which ought to be in one administrative unit in this country at the present time, and you would have specialists studying the export markets, as they have in other countries. Here they cannot concentrate on that business, because they are mixed up with marketing, by-products, power stations and so on right through to mining engineering itself—all functions not organically or technically connected. It ought, I should imagine, to be a principle of efficient business administration that the unit of administration should not extend beyond its own organic functions and should not be connected with any other functions. Under nationalisation that could be done, but it cannot be done now. Every single evil which still exists in the mining industry of this country exists as a direct consequence of private ownership.
It seems to me that the President of the Board of Trade, in making his statement yesterday, could not have been very careful in weighing his words. I shall have to weigh my words very carefully in this matter, because I know I am now on very thin ice. It is perfectly correct that the Miners' Federation of Great Britain have asked for marketing schemes and selling schemes, but they never were in love with them; they always asked for those schemes as a worse alternative to nationalisation of the coal industry. But the President of the Board of Trade said that it was part of their proposal that, if we made these preparations in times of comparative prosperity, the coal industry would hold coal prices up at a time of approaching collapse. I wonder whether he has seriously considered the effect of what he said. Does he seriously suggest to the House that one of the contributions which the Government propose to make towards either the prevention or the mitigation of a trade decline is to hold up raw material prices against every other industry? That is what the right hon. Gentleman suggested.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Oliver Stanley)
Will the hon. Member quote the words?
§ Mr. Bevan
These are the words that the right hon. Gentleman used: 1127I regard these schemes, even if they are not effective in times of rising prices such as we have seen in the past few months, as a real and valuable insurance against a time which may well come again."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd November, 1937; col. 875, Vol. 329.]What does that mean if it does not mean that, at a time when prices are collapsing all round, the statutory powers given to the coalowners under this Bill will enable them to maintain prices at such a time? If it does not mean that, it does not mean anything.
§ Mr. Stanley
I can tell the hon. Member exactly what it means. It means exactly what the then President of the Board of Trade, Mr. William Graham, meant in the Act of 1930, which was supported by hon. Gentlemen opposite, namely, that, even in times of falling prices, internecine competition within the industry forced prices to go lower than was really justified by the general economic conditions.
§ Mr. Bevan
The right hon. Gentleman is pushing against an open door if he is trying to convince us that we ought not to return to conditions of unchecked competition. That is common ground in all parts of the House. Amalgamations, if they are desirable, would have occurred in the mining industry long ago if inefficient mine owners had not been able to unload the consequences of their inefficiency on their poor miner employés by reducing wages and prices indefinitely. [An HON. MEMBER: "Are there no inefficient miners?"] If there are any inefficient miners, you will see them at the Employment Exchange, and not in the pits. It is perfectly correct, and we have always subscribed to it, that, as things were, an artificial bottom had to be put into the coal market. We agreed to that. But we have never yet subscribed to the point of view that a valuable raw material like coal should be put into the hands of those who have no public control whatsoever over it. I do not subscribe, and I am sure most other Members of the House do not subscribe, to the point of view that, when a trade crisis is pending, the price of steel, the price of coal, the cost of railway transport, and other fixed charges of that sort, should be kept up where there is a general reduction in all other prices. It can, of course, be done for a time, and, as a matter of fact, the last trade crisis that 1128 we had was extended and steepened because many monopolies and cartels were able to do it, and therefore introduced a new element of disequilibrium into our whole economic system.
Some hon. Members may say to me that, if that is done, if prices are kept up, the miners will benefit. No such thing. The miners will not benefit. They may be said to benefit superficially because the price of coal will be up and they will be sharing the swag with the mineowners, but if the price of coal is kept up, and the prices of steel and allied articles are kept up, other industries will find their costs of production rising so high that they will have to close down, the demand for coal will fall off, and the miners will be unemployed, so that they will not benefit at all. In this kind of legislation, in which statutory powers to fix prices artificially are handed over to private persons without effective State control, you are having the worst of both worlds. You are neither having the advantages that would flow from nationalisation of the coal mines nor the advantages which might conceivably flow from private enterprise in the coal mines, and we on these benches protest against the kind of legislation which has now become very common in this country, and which mobilises producers into cartels and monopolies and gives them artificial control over prices.
When the hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) points to the increased wages which the miners have had, I would remind him that, if we get an increase in wages following an increase in coal prices, that increase in wages is at once cancelled. I am not arguing against the original increase, because the price was uneconomically low, but if from that point onwards you increase coal prices, and the miners have an increase—a small increase—in their wages as a consequence, ultimately the increase in the price of an important raw material like coal or steel must be passed on to the consumers of that raw material, and the result is a general increase in prices which cancels the increase in wages that the miners have had. That is precisely what has happened in the last year. The hon Member for North Leeds says that we have had £30 a year more, but I would remind him of the wages that we have at the present time. We have an average of 10s. 11.74d. per shift.
1129 Does the hon. Member seriously suggest that this legislation is being passed in order to assist the miners? We are a decoy; we pull the chestnuts out of the fire for the coalowners; and for that we get an average wage, including all colliery managers and all managerial staff, of £3 a week. [An HON. MEMBER: "When you earn it!"] When we earn it. In Durham it is much less. But the increase in wages that we have had under these proposals of the Government has already been cancelled by the increase in the cost of living. The miners of Great Britain are no better off to-day than they were two years ago. You can go round the coalfields of this country, and the wives of the miners will tell you that they have had an increase of 6d. a day, or even is. a day in some cases, but it has gone as soon as they had it, because this method of increasing wages results in a cancellation of the increase.
In conclusion, I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that he has gravely misrepresented the position. He says that the Millers' Federation and the miners are supporters of this Bill, but we regard the nationalisation of mining royalties as largely irrelevant, and we regard amalgamation schemes as stupid, though I do not think we need worry about them, because there will be no amalgamation schemes under the Bill, and that is the reason why some coalowners are not very articulate in this discussion. They have already been satisfied. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Gowers Commission had done nothing to justify its existence except bring about amalgamation schemes. Now he says it is to have other functions in connection with the nationalisation of royalties, and that is quite true. Having got these other functions, and therefore some justification for its existence, it will forget all about amalgamations. There will be no difficulty in that direction. There may be some voluntary amalgamations, but of compulsory amalgamations there will be none. The Bill is a vast facade, behind which there is nothing but a vacancy. It makes no contribution at all to any of the major problems of the milling industry; it leaves the coalminers exactly where they were; but it leaves the nation in the position of having handed over to an irresponsible and unbusinesslike set of men the control over the primary raw material of this country.
§ 7.59 P.m.
§ Sir Reginald Clarry
I purpose to confine my remarks to Part III of the Bill, and in some respects shall follow the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan). I desire to present the viewpoint of that large body of persons who maintain the coal industry, namely, the coal consumers, large and small, industrial and domestic, in the home market. It is a curious comment that in the Amendment itself there is no reference, and the Mover of the Amendment yesterday made no reference, to the coal consumers and their interests, but I was grateful to notice that the President of the Board of Trade did deal with the coal consumers' side of this vexed question. My complaint to him, however, and the purport of my remarks tonight, is that he did not go far enough, and did not touch the basic points of the trouble. The consumer, even with the safeguards in this present Bill, is left to the mercy of the coalowners, with their selling schemes, who have been granted a monopoly of what is virtually the lifeblood of industry and of our very existence in this country to-day.
We all know—we have heard it many times—that coal is our only basic fuel, and enters into our daily lives in every aspect from shipbuilding to human bodybuilding. The upward price of coal, if it is maintained and continued, will have, and already is having in some respects, a cumulative effect on the cost of living. Nearly every item of expenditure by the housewife is bearing some proportion of the increased cost of coal. I do not want to let it be thought that I disagree in the slightest with a reasonable increase in the price of coal. It is a vital necessity for the country that the coal industry should be on a self-supporting and reasonably prosperous basis. To that end, powers were given by the Government to prevent in the industry inter-colliery and inter-district competition, and powers to establish a sales monopoly with a view to raising prices to an economic level.
Up to that point, I have no complaint. My complaint is one that was voiced in some questions last week by the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell); namely, the great disparity between retail prices and pithead prices. The hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) gave figures to show that the only increase in the cost of coal was 1s. 6d.: from 14s. to 15s. 6d. If that was all, 1131 there would be no complaint from the consumers. The complaint of consumers, and it has grown very strongly, is one I had made to me this evening by a large consumer in the industry, who uses 50,000 tons a year. He told me that last year he was paying for wash duff at pit, 12s. 6d. a ton; to-day, he is paying 15s. a ton. He has no complaint about that; but the quotation asked for next year's supply is 23s. a ton. That is the quotation from the same colliery for the same quantity of the same material to the same works. That is what is alarming industry to-day, and alarming consumers. They have no objection to a reasonable increase in cost that will put the industry on a self-supporting basis; but they do object to these terrible increases. I do not want to label all coal-owners as unenlightened and greedy.
§ Mr. Grenfell
Does the hon. Member blame the colliery owner who sells his own coal, or the coal factor?
§ Sir R. Clarry
In this case I understand it is both—a large factor who is also a coalowner. I may say that the complaint comes from South Wales. The Government having, very properly, granted monopolistic powers to schemes and to the industry to raise its level of prices to an economic level, I think it is vital that any committee or board to protect the interests of the consumer should be endowed with wide and overriding powers. The Government rely on the protection of the consumer by the committee of investigation. Last week, the Secretary for Mines, in reply to a question, said that the committee of investigation exists for the protection of the consumer. The committee of investigation is very little more than its name denotes. It is to investigate. It has no executive authority at all. Discussion of prices is virtually ruled out, and such cases as have been brought to the committee up to now have been almost farcical. Consumers have been reluctant to undertake the trouble, the futile trouble, of taking their cases to it for investigation.
I do not blame the Government; but it seems to consumers in general that the committee is merely a smoke-screen, behind which the scheme can operate and manipulate prices to its own requirements.
1132 Why coal, of all commodities, should be given a State monopoly, without any reasonable safeguards to the consumers which would protect their interest, it is difficult to see. At present, the situation in regard to the sale of coal through schemes is that they are in a position to dictate price, quantity, and where it comes from; and the consumer can take it or leave it. There is no redress. They are given complete authority, a complete monopoly; and they are able to discriminate between one class of consumer and another, or even between consumers of the same class.
I think this matter can be remedied—I will not say easily—and it should be remedied, before we get to a situation which will arise, it may be next year, it may be at the end of this year, when prices are out of hand and the selling schemes have authority to do what they like without adequate safeguards. I think there is room for it in this Bill, and I beg the Minister to consider the case as presented to him just now. I think it would be possible for the schemes to be given statutory powers to fix prices, with their limits, up or down, on the basis of fair wages and a fair return, and, of course, access to particulars, the same as every other industry, such as the railways and the gas and electricity industries, has to do. In those industries, there are no secrets. It is more important than ever in regard to coal. On top of that, I suggest that some form of advisory body should be also appointed, having, purely and solely, the public interest at heart: something on the lines of the Import Duties Advisory Committee for the steel industry; and they should report from time to time on the effect on the trade of the country of the operation of the selling schemes, and particularly the effect on the cost of living. The Board of Trade can then take what action they think proper, by orders and so on.
As to the abnormal increase in prices, I heard the President of the Board of Trade yesterday give what he regarded as some form of explanation, that the excessive increases to-day were due very largely to the ordinary laws of supply and demand, and that the selling schemes must not be blamed. That is paraphrasing what he said; I have the words here. I cannot accept that explanation. The 1133 ordinary laws of supply and demand denote a freedom to sell and to buy. There is no freedom to sell in this case. The whole thing is artificial, and any increase is not due to the law of supply and demand, but to the direct and definite action of the selling schemes, and the coal-owners who have fixed the price quoted. It is not a competition price in any sense. I do not believe the Government appreciate the very strong feeling that exists in the country. The hon. Member for North Leeds made that point. He said that it is not very vocal in the House of Commons, but that there is a strong feeling in the country. That feeling is likely to grow enormously. You will get many cases such as that I quoted, with an 8s. advance.
§ Mr. Fleming
With regard to those quotations, which will, of course, affect big cities like Manchester, what is to prevent buying bodies getting tenders from abroad?
§ Sir R. Clarry
I do not think there is anything to prevent that, but that is not helping our own coal industry. However strongly we may feel, we do not want to injure our own country. The bulk of our coalowners and those associated with the industry are desirous of adjusting this matter on friendly lines, but it is from those who are abusing their autocracy that it is necessary further protection should be provided. There are some who will not even meet or correspond, or have anything to do with any suggestion ether than their own autocratic suggestions. Cases have been brought to my notice where alternative quotations have been sought, and the buyers have gone back to the original quotations and found that the prices have gone up a further 2s. 6d., as a punishment for their impertinence in going elsewhere. I hope the Minister will deal with this matter on further stages of the Bill, when a great deal of pressure will be put on, so that there shall not remain an unrestricted monopoly in the coal industry.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Dunn
I have been listening throughout the whole of the Debate on this Bill, and I think that, with two exceptions, not a single Member from the Opposition Benches has spoken in his capacity as an individual directly interested in the coal trade itself. Personally, I listened with a good deal of interest 1134 to the hon. Member for North Berwick (Sir H. Seely), who attempted to make it quite clear that, while he was speaking as a coalowner, he was also speaking as a royalty owner. If I may say so, the impression created on my mind was that he appeared to be far more concerned about the royalties of the country than about his interest in the ownership of the mines.
I am sure all of us listened with a good deal of interest to the hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) and, from my point of view, and I think from the point of view of the House, I was somewhat surprised to hear him make a statement which I should like the Secretary for Mines, when he replies to-night, to clear up if he possibly can. That is the statement that the wages of miners have increased for the last year by £32 per man employed in the industry. The statement made by the Member for North Leeds came as a very great surprise to me as I have been attempting to look at the figures of the mining industry itself. I was interested also to note that the hon. Member for North Leeds was not good enough to follow that argument along and to state to the House what share of the plunder went to the mining industry. While it is true that the disposable price of coal at the pithead is now only ranging, according to the latest returns, around 15s. 6d. per ton—in the last year it was down to 14s. 7d.—and though it may be true that the miners' wages have increased by £32 in the year, it is very remarkable that the hon. Member for North Leeds did not tell the House that the profits in the mining industry in that year had risen to approximately £10,000,000. If the figures for the first two quarters of this year are maintained—and one should not forget that the wages of the men in the industry at the present time average 10s. 9d—the profits in the mining industry, although the industry needs reorganisation, will be greater than any known profits made by the coal mining industry during the period of the War. That is an interesting position.
I was interested also in one or two statements which were made both yesterday and to-day. One of these statements was made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spells), and it was referred to by the 1135 Chancellor of the Exchequer in opening the Debate to-day. The hon. and learned
Member for Ashford said yesterday:This afternoon I have been listening as an ordinary Conservative back-bencher, who is being asked, in this Bill, to vote in favour of what, in my view, is the greatest measure of compulsory expropriation of private property that Parliament has even been asked to pass in our history.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd November, 1937; cols. 56–7, Vol. 329.]I notice that the Attorney-General could not allow this spicy bit to pass, for when winding up the Debate last night he referred to the statement in the following terms:As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) said it is the biggest Measure of expropriation which has ever been set before the House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd November, 1937; col. 988, Vol. 329.]The Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon called attention to the same thing. I can only conceive that hon. and learned Members of this House who have had special training in the law are capable of using language of that description, but I would like to reinforce what was said by the hon. Member for North Leeds. The legal people in 1558 determined the control of the position with regard to the private property of coal, which is so essential to the life of the nation, and that particular branch of private property in this country was not only well protected then, but it is well protected in this House at the present time. Private property appears to be not only well protected under the Bill, but it is suggested that more than fair compensation should be payable to the owners.
I want to make my position quite clear with regard to the acquisition of royalties. Like many Members on this side of the House, I have, during the whole of my political career, argued upon every platform in favour of the acquisition of the mining royalties of this country, and I am sure that I am stating what is the fact when I say that most hon. Members on this side of the House have been returned to this House at least upon a general statement of a point of view upon the particular aspect referred to in Part I of this Bill. It is not my intention tonight to recant from that particular position at all. In the national interest the royalties of this country should be controlled by some commission such as is proposed to be set up under this Bill.
1136 My quarrel with the proposal is on very simple grounds. I feel that the acquisition of mining royalties which is so essential should not be placed upon the wages ticket of the men for a further half-century. I suggest that that is what the particular Clause really means. The industry itself should not be called upon to be responsible for financing the scheme for the purchase of royalties. That is my quarrel entirely.
I take the view, rightly or wrongly, that if this great national asset is to be acquired—and I believe that it has to be acquired in the public interests and in the interests of the nation—it should be made a national charge, and not a charge upon the industry itself. Making it a charge upon the industry means that an additional 5d. per ton will find its way into the pockets mainly of the coalowners of the country. I do not take the view that all coalowners are in the class that some people suggest. I do not want to use any harsh words in regard to coal-owners. If the people of this country determined in 1558 that coal is the property of the surface owner of the land, and that ownership has gone on until 1937 and is proposed to be carried on until 1942, then the people of this country as a whole—I believe I am speaking for many who have voted for Conservative Members—will think that the royalty owners have been adequately paid right up to the present time.
Very powerful arguments have been used in regard to the question of amalgamations. I should like to quote a set of figures which give the position of the coal mining industry immediately before voluntary amalgamations began, compared with the position now, when approximately 77 per cent. of the coal mining industry has been subject to amalgamations. I will take the year 1925, when the output bears very close resemblance to the approximate output of 1937. In 1925 the output of coal, before amalgamations took place, was 243,176,231 tons, and the men employed in the industry numbered 1,117,788, while the average wages earned were 10s. 6d. per day. When I take the approximate figure up to date for 1937, if the output is maintained during the year, the figure will be 234,821,250 tons of coal produced, and the average working time will be approximately the same, five days per 1137 week. Against the figure of men employed in 1925 before amalgamations took place the figure is now 741,469, or 376,319 fewer men employed in the industry. With regard to wages, it is an amazing thing that although nearly 400,00o men have been thrown out of work, our wages have increased by only 3d. per day.
I came to this House from one of the amalgamated firms in the Yorkshire coalfields. What did we witness as a result of the amalgamations there? At one colliery 1,000 men were at once thrown out of work and hundreds of those men are on the streets at the present time. In another concern of the same amalgamated undertaking, 750 men were thrown out of work. Two collieries out of seven in that particular amalgamated concern have been completely closed down as a result of the amalgamation, and not a single man is working there. My view of the question of amalgamations is that they are working absolutely in the interests of the owners and to the detriment of the men from the standpoint of life, limb and wages. Therefore, on these grounds I take the view that our reasoned Amendment is the right course to pursue.
With regard to the selling schemes, I listened with a good deal of interest to what was said by the hon. Member who preceded me. I admit that the selling schemes have put a bottom into the coal-mining industry. Having regard to that fact, one is entitled to argue that the benefits of the selling scheme, to which the consumers made enormous contributions, should not all go to the owners. I shall not forget the contributions that were made by public utility undertakings and local authorities in the early part of 1936 in order to avoid a struggle in the coalmining industry, and I do not think it is right that the claims of the men employed within the industry should be disregarded. They are entitled to reap some of the benefits which the consumers, the electricity, gas and other public utility undertakings and many domestic users made. The coalowners are not entitled to receive the advantage in the measure that they are doing at the present time.
Let me put the matter in another way. The increase in the wages of the men, as shown by the latest returns and compared again with 1925, is represented by an average of 3d. per day, namely, 1138 10s. 9d. per day as against 10s. 6d. in 1925, despite the fact that there are nearly 400,000 fewer men left in the industry. If the result of amalgamations and reorganisations in the coalfield, to which reference has been made to-day, is that the men are not to receive any benefit in increased wages, while thousands are to be thrown out of work, while on the other hand the profits of the people controlling the concerns are to be raised to an amount which can be compared to the known figures when this country was engaged in the War of 1914–18, then I think the people of this country will favour our reasoned Amendment.
When the Secretary for Mines met the Miners' Federation in 1936, at the time when we were arguing the miners' claim for increased wages, towards which the British people voluntarily gave a contribution, we make an application for an increase of 2s. a day in the wages of the men, and I came away from the Mines Department feeling that we had not succeeded in giving increased wages to the men but that we had succeeded in putting is. 8d. to 2s. a ton on the profits of the owners who control the industry. The hon. Member for North Leeds made a statement that the minimum rents paid by leaseholders of royalties was equivalent to an additional amount of £6,000,000. I want to ask what will happen when the leases of coal are consolidated and payments are made within the scheme? Will the Commission have any power to deduct from the global figure in any region the amount of money which has been paid for minimum rents? With regard to way-leaves, some of us have known cases of leases of coal in certain collieries in the county of Yorkshire where it was known that the coal would not be won for at least 30 or 40 years after the time the shaft struck the coal. In some of these cases minimum wayleaves have been paid up to £1,000 a year for approximately 30 years. When the assessment for the coal is made will it be within the power of the Commission to make any adjustment in regard to such wayleaves?
We believe that the Bill is not going to achieve what the country considers is either fair or equitable to the coal industry, and we certainly take the view that it is not fair and equitable to the miners or the community generally. We object to the Bill because it provides com- 1139 pensation for royalty owners and fails to give any protection to the miners. When this Measure is passed with all the criticisms which can be levelled against it, we want to see the miners, having regard to the toll in life and limb they have to make, protected in the same way as the royalty owners, and if the Bill in this way proves to be a good measure bringing prosperity and good feeling into the industry, it will have served a very useful purpose.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Wragg
As I have listened to the Debate it has seemed to be a very bad thing for anyone to own minerals or to be interested in coal mining at all. The owner of minerals is accused of being a receiver of stolen property, of fleecing the general public, and a coalowner, according to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan), is a man who is accustomed to immoral trading and to all sorts of tricks and malpractices. As one who is interested in coal mining as a shareholder and a director and perhaps more largely interested in the consumption of coal, I have been struck by the great number of misstatements which have been made during the Debate. In fact, I have heard from the benches opposite hardly one statement which has been at all correct. Wages have been given incorrectly and profits have been given incorrectly. The hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Dunn) said the wages of the men are 10s. 9d., but he omitted to include those little extra items amounting to 5d.; so that the 10s. 9d. becomes us. 2d. We have heard that the profits made in 1936 are equal to the largest ever made in the mining industry. As a matter of fact, the profits made in 1936, which was a boom year, were considerably less than they were for the year 1913. Where can you find an industry which is so depressed that in a boom year it is not making more profits than in pre-War days?
§ Mr. Wragg
I have figures here and they show that earnings per man per shift were 10s. 9d. and that the allowances per man per shift were 4.52d. If you add these two together you get 11s. 2d. As I say, where can you find 1140 a trade so depressed that its profits even in a boom year are not equal to its profits in pre-war days, especially when you have regard to the fact that in prewar days Income Tax was 1s. in the £and to-day it is 5s.?
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Member asks where he can find another trade. He can find it in Lancashire, in the cotton trade.
§ Mr. Wragg
That is not quite relevant and I have no figures in regard to the cotton trade. But it is contrary to all experience in industry that in times when costs are high, when living is high and Income Tax is high, a trade should be making less profits than it made before the War. In many trades you will find that they are making three times the profit they did before the War, in the same way as many men are making twice and sometimes three times as much as they did before the War. The hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) stated that miners' wages had increased by £32 per annum since 1931. That may not seem very much. I am not saying that the miners are well paid. I say that they should be better paid, but it is no good misstating the case; it is no good hon. Members opposite, who represent the Miners' Federation, misstating their case, or for me, speaking as an ordinary business man and a Member of Parliament for the time being, to misstate my case from the point of view of the capitalist. I try to put a case perfectly fairly and I say that the profits in the coal trade are very reasonable. The hon. Member for the Rother Valley called attention to the fact that more men were employed in 1925 producing coal than are employed to-day. The hon. Member wanted to know what has happened to all the savings that have been made owing to economies and the displacement of men. What has happened has been that the price of coal at the pithead has fallen to a price about 4s. a ton less than it was in 1924–1925.
I think that most hon. Members, and most people outside, will agree that on its merits the unification of mining royalties is to be desired. It will assist the production of coal. I know from my own experience that occasionally there are recalcitrant mineral owners who refuse to lease their coal to one colliery, although it may be close to that colliery, and prefer 1141 to lease it to another colliery a good deal further away. I have come across cases where, in the same area, a mineral owner gets a royalty of 1s. a ton, whereas about five miles away another owner gets 2d. a ton. In Leicestershire the average royalty is 2.83d. per ton. I think that under the Bill the mineral owner is making a very bad bargain, but he asked for it when he accepted a tribunal which was not binding upon the Government except in special circumstances. The sum which the mineral owner will receive will certainly bring him in considerably less income than he has been in the habit of receiving, but it may be argued that it will be more in the nature of a certainty than royalties.
It is a mistake for hon. Members opposite to make such over-statements as were made yesterday when one of them said that it takes a miner 40 years to earn £4,000, which incidentally is wrong on the figures. At the present rate of pay, which I hope will be increased, it would take the miner 30 years to earn £4,000; but to the hon. Members opposite the difference between 30 years and 40 years is neither here nor there—it is only a slight inaccuracy. A better way of stating the matter would be to say that the miners receive out of the industry £100,000,000 a year in wages and that the mineral owners will in future receive £2,000,000. If that were stated to the public, it would appear much better than the statement which was made yesterday from the benches opposite.
As one who is chairman of one colliery, and a director of another, I hope that during the Committee stage of the Bill some alteration will be made regarding the circumstances in which a colliery proprietor can work his own coal. It is very unfair that a colliery owner, having paid for his own coal in the past, should have to pay probably twice as much by way of rent in the future as he has been debiting his accounts with in the past, owing to his having to pay the average for the district and only receiving a sum which, invested at 3 per cent, or 4 per cent., will bring him in less than half of what he has to pay to the Coal Commission. Hon. Members may think that on that point the colliery owners are speaking for themselves, but that is not really so, for they are speaking as much for the workers in the coal trade. [Interruption.] It is easy to laugh, but anybody who knows any- 1142 thing about the coal trade knows that 85 per cent. of any saving that is effected goes to the employés by way of an increase in wages and 15 per cent. to the owners. Therefore, anything that can be saved must redound eventually to the benefit of the workers in the industry.
I do not like amalgamations, and last year I was prepared to vote against the Bill on the question of amalgamations; but I am glad to notice that in this Bill there are more safeguards. However, I sympathise to a considerable extent with that part of the Opposition's Amendment which calls for some help for the miners who are displaced by amalgamations. In my own constituency I have seen villages which have become almost derelict owing to the local pit having been closed down, and there has been no compensation for the miners who have been displaced. I hope that some of the saving which may be made in the matter of royalties will go towards helping the men who are displaced through no fault of their own. As has been said by the hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), when there is compulsory amalgamation one will not find that the colliery owner has any real sympathy with the men who are displaced, owing to the fact that they are displaced compulsorily by the State, and not by him. At the present time, in the case of voluntary amalgamations, the coalowners try to do something for the men.
I think the hon. Member for Newport (Sir R. Clarry) rather overstressed the difficulties, as they appeared to him, with regard to the selling price of coal. I do not imagine that anybody would pay 8s. a ton more for a particular class of coal. We all know that, according to the figures, the selling price of coal has gone up by 1s. 6d. a ton. Hon. Members opposite frequently ask where the difference between 15s. 6d., the pithead price, and 45s. the London price goes. It is obvious that the pithead price includes all classes of coal, not only the sort that is burnt in a household grate, but "smut" that is supplied to electricity works at 6s., 7d. or 8s. pithead. I always felt that the provisions for the control of the selling price needed strengthening, and as far as I can see, those provisions are strengthened by this Bill.
In conclusion, I wish to say that I object to hon. Members opposite continually damning the coal trade as being 1143 inefficient. It does them no good, it does the miners no good, it does the managers no good, and it does the owners no good. The coal trade in this country is the most efficient in Europe and it pays the highest wages in Europe. It pays higher wages than any country in which the coal industry is nationalised. Let hon. Members opposite go to Russia and find out what are the wages paid there. We know that in Holland there is a slightly lower death-rate among miners, but the figures are not comparable, since in the case of Holland the output of coal is only one-twentieth of what it is in this country. I again state that the coal trade in this country is the most efficient in Europe and pays the highest wages in Europe, but that does not mean that it cannot become more efficient or that it will not become more efficient. It would certainly not become more efficient if it were operated under the dead hand of nationalisation and used simply for political purposes.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor
I desire to support the Amendment, and to offer one or two criticisms of the Bill. I begin by referring to the speech delivered this afternoon by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman used some very picturesque language about the ease with which it was possible to trace lines of demarcation above ground. He described how one could follow a boundary, along streams and by orchards, and how it was always possible to find the line merely by perambulating round the countryside. But then, the right hon. Gentleman went on to say, all that was lost when we went downstairs and tried to define boundaries underground. There is much to be said for that view, and I mention it only to draw attention to the picturesque quality of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He went on to speak in an equally picturesque way about the miners. He said he could understand the feelings of the miner, working in the depths of the mine, in gloomy surroundings, with a visibility far from perfect, if not exactly nil, in bad air and with a height of ceiling just about the same as the distance between where the Secretary for Mines happens to be sitting at the moment and the top of the bench behind him.
The right hon. Gentleman described the miner working away in those conditions, and said it was quite natural for that 1144 miner to have certain reflections about the man who was drawing the royalty rents. But, he said, that kind of comparison was applicable in all walks of life, and he referred to the position of the student, and all that sort of thing. I can imagine a briefless barrister envying the position of the right hon. Gentleman at the Bar, but there is no comparison between the two cases. When the right hon. Gentleman was at the Bar he was drawing the emoluments of his profession, because he had qualified himself by hard work to attain that position. But can anybody say that the Dukes of Northumberland ever qualified themselves for the thousands and millions of pounds which they have drawn out of the ground in the form of royalty rents? I was astonished that a man of the right hon. Gentleman's legal standing should have employed such an analogy.
The average royalty in North-umberland is about 6¼d. A man came to me the other day on the bowling-green and showed me the payment sheet of a local colliery. On that payment sheet there were 958 tons, and after off-takes and stoppages had been deducted, the men had 10s. 9d. a shift. There were 12 of these men and each of them, working under the conditions which I have just mentioned, was making a contribution to the royalty owner of 6s. 3d. for each day's work. When they drew their pay they had 10s. 3d. for themselves. Can anyone wonder that the miners draw their own conclusions about the immorality of a system under which people who neither toil nor spin are drawing such sums of money out of the industry? Personally, I do not believe the royalty owners ought to have one penny. I am the most generous of men, but I believe these people have had as much out of the industry as they ought to have. There may be exceptions. I would make that qualification. There may be cases, for instance, where a man has made approaches. But even allowing for such cases, I doubt whether the present royalty owners are entitled to anything.
In law one of the most difficult problems is that of dealing with the receiver. If it were possible to get at the receiver of stolen goods a direct blow would be struck at juvenile crime and many other forms of crime. According to the newspapers some men got into a house in London the other day and stole £20,000 worth of jewellery. Those men would 1145 not have done that unless they had been sure that a receiver would take the stolen jewels off their hands. Therefore, while it is said that these people have bought the royalties, the fact is that they have bought what nobody had any right to sell, namely, the property of the nation, and it is undoubtedly legal robbery. A speaker earlier mentioned that these rights had been obtained in the courts in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Someone else has said that it was a fluke that these rights were granted. All I can say is that it is a pity that the people concerned got away with the fluke. Sometimes, when fishing at the seaside for flat fish one may land a fish which is not a very good one, and it is called a fluke. If the creation of the mining royalties was due to a fluke, it should have been appealed against at the time. Why was it not appealed against? Because in the seats of Government here at the time were the very people who were going to benefit from these royalties.
I leave that aspect of the matter, and I come to that part of the Bill which deals with the trust fund and the reduction of royalty rents in districts where they are excessively high. I think I can understand how the machinery will work. But what intrigues me is that there is to be a trust fund, and that the sire of the trust fund is to be in the discretion of the Commission, before they begin to reduce rents in any district. I wonder what proportion of the income the trust fund is to bear. I cannot help making this comparison. The Unemployment Insurance Fund is expected to have a surplus of about £60,000,000 this year. We would like to see the standard of benefit for the unemployed raised. There are one or two small suggestions, such as that the waiting period should be reduced to one day from three days, and other small changes of that kind made, but we do not want that—it is all nonsense. We are told, however, that in connection with the surplus in that fund regard must be had to the possibility of a slump. It is just possible, having regard to the reserve fund that will be built up, that the Coal Commission will always have at the back of their mind the possibility of a slump in the coal trade.
I can imagine then, that it will be a long time before exceptionally high rents in any district are lowered to a level more or less uniform with the rest. If the rent 1146 in one part of a district is higher than the rent in another part, they may reduce the higher rent to bring about uniformity in that district. Having done that, they may try to get uniformity in a whole coalfield and when they judge the reserve to be sufficient they may continue that work with the object of bringing these rents down to a still lower level all round. I am following up these things, but to tell the truth I do not think for a moment that it makes the slightest bit of difference to the miners. It cannot make any difference to our miners in wages, because to deal with the selling of coal is the thing that will affect our miners, and until you deal with that you will not make any difference.
We have been making some improvements in Northumberland, and there have been some slight increases. They are very welcome, but it must be remembered that we have been dealing with wages that were fixed at the levels obtaining in 1879, and in 1937 we have brought them up from that basis. It is said that "the mills of God grind slowly," and that means that they move very slowly and the grist is "exceedingly small," but so do the coalowners move slowly. During the process of these negotiations we have wiped out a deficiency of £6,000,000, which has not been dead loss to the coal industry. It was wiped out because they knew they would never get it, and therefore they wiped it out—a most generous action on the part of the coalowners. During that time we have paid in royalty rents in Northumberland £3,091,000, so that if there had not been a penny of royalty rents in Northumberland during that time, we should have wiped off £3,000,000 deficiency instead of £6,000,000, so I do not think we are going to get any financial benefit there.
I welcome the unification, or rather let me call it the nationalisation, of royalties, for this reason. On the borders of Northumberland we have got men in the mines who were drowned as a result of the bog going in. We have had men drowned by an inrush of water that I believe would never have occurred had the royalties been nationalised and had there been the unified working that there ought to have been. If there is any benefit at all, it will benefit the coalowners, because they have the management of the industry in their hands at the moment, and we have no say in it at all. There 1147 fore, there is what I regard as a great omission from the Bill, and what would have been a great gesture to the miners would have been if you had made provision in the Bill, under the coal-selling agencies, for putting some miners on these committees on the central committee and on the district committees. I will tell the House why. The hon. Member for Newport (Sir R. Clarry) was broken-hearted about the rise in the price of coal, but did hon. Members notice that it was industrial coal that he was weeping about? Did they notice that he was not weeping about the price of domestic coal? Did they notice that none of the tears that he shed were for the poor people in this country who have to go out with a pail and buy a pailful of domestic coal—the old age pensioner who can hardly live on account of the rise in the cost of living? He was not shedding tears for them; he was shedding his tears on account of the rise in the price of industrial coal.
One of the main causes for keeping us down, in Northumberland at least, has been the gas and the electrical monopolies. They have been making any amount of money, and under private enterprise they are entitled to make some, but they ought not to make the fabulous profits which they are making at the expense of the coal trade, because that in fact means that they are making them out of the miners. The story of the Northumberland miners and the wages that they have been earning since 1926, and particularly since 1927, when we had our 40 per cent. reduction, has been a tragic story. Are we benefiting very much now? We, the miners, have been asking for an investigation in Northumberland on account of the high prices not coming down to the coal trade, and what I am worried about is that it is going to be the miners again who will be the scapegoats in this business. The nation responded wonderfully well to our appeal for higher wages, when we came out for 2s. a day for men and 1s. for lads. We in Northumberland got 6d. for men and 3d. for boys. That is what we got out of that lot, but the public believed that what they were giving was for miners' wages. Now there is the reaction and the public are complaining about the high price of coal, and it will be the miners again who will get the blame for it. The miners are now getting the blame. The Secretary for Mines 1148 knows the figures and he ought to be able to state that it is not the miners who are getting the benefit at all. We are expecting in Northumberland that it will come some day.
Personally, I do not think the selling schemes in Northumberland have made any difference at all, and I have the authority of probably one of the most competent men in Northumberland for stating that. Prices have risen coincidentally with the selling schemes coming in, but the test for those selling schemes will come when markets are going down, and I have not a great lot of faith in the coalowners. The hon. Member who spoke last talked about what a character they have. Well, they have never got as bad a character as they have deserved. When we accepted our 40 per cent. reduction in Northumberland in 1927, within six weeks the managers told me they were worse off than before, that it had all been passed on. If you take the wages in Northumberland since 1927 and the increased output per man employed, you will find that our wages were steadily decreasing because the owners were giving the stuff away regardless of price. There ought to be men on those boards to represent the miners. The miners can represent consumers better than the consumers can represent themselves. We are consumers very often, and what we worry about is our people who cannot afford to buy coal, and we would defend them and look after them. All we want is that the proceeds of the sale of coal shall come into the industry in a way in which they are not at the present time.
Let me give these figures and I have finished. In 1936 the wage in Northumberland, including perquisites was 9s. 5.25d. In the second quarter of 1937 the wage was 9s. 11d. In round figures that is an increase of 6d. a shift. The credits for the whole of 1936 amounted to 6.37d., and for the first and second quarters of 1937 work out at an average of 1s. 2d. Hon. Members can work that out. Our wages have gone up 6d. and credits have gone up 8d. since 1936, so I still think that the owners are getting the best of the bargain. Those are my criticisms, though I should like to say that I could have been satisfied, to some extent, if provision had been made for the miners to be represented in the coal-selling schemes.
§ 9.17 p.m.
Lieut.-Colonel H. Guest
In the very short time that I shall detain the House I should like to say one or two words on the points which have been raised by the Mining Association of Great Britain. During the Debate it has been said that the colliery owners have not expressed much of a view with regard to this Bill. Personally, I have been very much struck during the whole of this Debate by the extraordinary unanimity there is in support of the unification of royalties. I have heard few speeches against it, though many speeches have been based on different premises. Personally I think the unification of royalties was long overdue. In the old days many of us, when fighting by-elections, advocated this step, and I am glad to see that at last it is coming about. It will remove a long-standing political grievance which undoubtedly should be removed. I am not going into the price which the royalty owners are getting in exchange for their royalty rights. At any rate the royalty owners seem to have come to an arrangement with the Government satisfactory to themselves, and I cannot help thinking that they were wise to do so, when they look at the possibilities of electricity and oil developments in the future.
From the point of view of the Mining Association of Great Britain the effect of the transference of royalties from the individual to the State will undoubtedly be to make considerable differences in the administration of the mines. The colliery owners feel that in the old days they had a sympathetic partner in all questions connected with surface rights or surface liabilities. They doubt whether in the future, now that the land has been divorced from the coal, they will get the same possibility of an arrangement with the owner of the royalty, which will be in the hands of the Commission, as they did in the old days when it was in the hands of a private individual who was royalty owner as well as landowner. They take the view that it may be very difficult to reconcile these interests in the future, and for that reason they are hostile in principle to Part I of the Bill. Personally I hope that when the Committee stage is reached we shall be able to find some method whereby the relation between the colliery owner and the surface owner can be reconciled, and I think it is too early to take a standpoint against 1150 the Bill until we see what can be done in this respect in Committee.
They also feel that certain working arrangements will be necessary in connection with the underground access to coal and overhead wayleaves. These also will require amendment in Committee to meet the views of the colliery owners. They are somewhat alarmed at the Clause which deals with the handing over of the control and management of their premises acquired under the terms of the transference of the royalties. I think it might be enough if they could be assured that they would be allowed to manage their own affairs subject to any matter which is of really vital national interest. I think they would be satisfied to some extent with an assurance from the Government on that point. There is also the question of the renewal of leases. Under the Bill the Commission will have full power with regard to the renewing of leases. Many colliery owners have spent considerable sums in laying out the methods whereby they mean to work the coal in their collieries. When a lease comes up for renewal they would very much wish to feel that they had some security that it would be renewed in their favour, and that if it was not renewed they would have access to a tribunal which they could use as a court of appeal in the matter.
I must agree with the hon. Members opposite who say that there is not much for the miners in this Bill, but may I emphasise a point made by an hon. Friend sitting behind me, who said that if we can refrain from putting additional costs on colliery companies by any transference of the mineral rights from the private owner to the State we shall to that extent help the miner; and when it comes to the reserve fund, which may be dealt with in time to come to reduce the royalties in the coalfield, there again the miner will find he has a direct interest in this legislation. In fact, the colliery owner and the miner are really working hand in hand in this matter to see that additional costs are not placed on the industry by means of the transference of the rights from private individuals to the State.
I said earlier that I had noted the unanimity for transference of the rights from the individual to the State. I am also struck by the curious unanimity there seems to be in this House in the dislike of, or at least very lukewarm affection for, compulsory amalgamation. Hon. 1151 Members on the other side of the House look at it from one point of view and the colliery owners from another, but both sides are opposed to compulsory amalgamation. The hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), who spoke last night, referred to 1,300 pits that had been closed since 1924. I do not think that has been on the whole for the good of the industry. If more pits had been closed under compulsory amalgamation the position we should have been in in 1936 and 1937, when the revival of the demand for coal came, might have been very serious for the country; and indeed it is true that 77 per cent. of the total output of coal in this country is now administered under about 120 undertakings. I believe that the colliery owners and the colliery industry as a whole know best where and how to carry out amalgamation. I do not rely on the wisdom and the knowledge and judgment of a Commission, which will be composed of persons who are themselves not associated with the industry, in recommending compulsory amalgamations to Parliament. The colliery owners feel that in the powers they at present possess they can refer any proposal for amalgamation to the Railway and Canal Commission and they feel that that is sufficient for their purpose.
Therefore, though perhaps from a different point of view, I look upon compulsory amalgamation with the same lukewarm feelings, possibly also the same dislike, as hon. Members sitting opposite. A statement was made last night in regard to compulsory amalgamation by the Attorney-General, that the Commission would not put these compulsory amalgamations into effect simply for the sake of making compulsory amalgamations, but even that, I think, is rather a weak assurance that the colliery companies will not have compulsory amalgamations imposed upon them. I hope the House will pass the Second Reading of this Bill, because I think the private ownership of royalties has been a psychological and political grievance for many years past. But equally I do not sympathise with the views of the Government on compulsory amalgamations in the industry.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Richards
It is perhaps invidious for one who is only remotely connected with the colliery industry to take part 1152 in the Debate when there are so many experts on both sides of the House ready and willing to speak. I think that the Debate of the last two days has revealed a fundamental difference between the Government and the Opposition points of view, and that fundamental difference is, I think, very clearly brought out in the terms of the Amendment. We regard industry, and particularly the coal industry, primarily from the human point of view. We all realise that industries have to be carried on, and are carried on at the present time, merely from the point of view of profit, and our criticism of industry generally is that it never really loses sight of profit, and it is always losing sight of every amenity which may be connected with any particular industry. We can conceive of the coal industry as a great human undertaking, not run exclusively for profit, because that very often means the destruction of certain qualities, both social and human, that we on this side of the House regard as fundamental.
I do not know for what industry exists if it does not exist for two purposes: first, it provides a service for the community and, as we have heard again and again, the service in this case is perfectly clear: it is the basic industry of modern industrial England and of other countries too. Modern civilization has been built up, as we all know, upon coal, so that the first duty of an industry is to provide that very essential service for the community. But we want to combine with that the idea of recognising the human qualities of the men who are engaged in this industry, and, looking at its chequered history, the coal industry is one in which human values are always subordinated to the mere pounds, shillings and pence of profit, and our quarrel on that score is fundamental.
I think that the House has been very much impressed by the fact that on both sides of the House we have had so many hon. Members whose schooling has very largely been the rough life of the mines, that we have had so many hon. Members who not only are able to put the human point of view, but, to my surprise and delight, have thought deeply of the matter from the purely technical point of view as well. That combination of extraordinary technical knowledge and the sense of human values in industry has been one of the most remarkable things 1153 in this Debate. And the result has been that these hon. Friends of ours have been able to point out quite clearly that the industry could be run more efficiently on more humanitarian lines, and that is the essence, I think, of the Opposition Amendment.
To come to the terms of the Bill, the Bill divides itself into three Parts. I cannot find any enthusiasm for either Part II or Part III. I believe that Part II is so arranged as to make it impossible to work it. It is impossible really to understand the statement made by the Minister yesterday with regard to the process of working it. I find generally in the House very little enthusiasm for amalgamation, and under the terms of the Bill there is practically no certainty that amalgamations will be brought about as the result of it. The same kind of uncertainty hangs around Part III of the Bill. So we are really left with a Bill which only aims at getting rid of royalties—nationalising the royalties. Of course, the term "nationalisation" is not used in the Bill—the term is "unification"; but everybody understands why a Conservative Prime Minister should be very chary of using the term "nationalisation," and it is extraordinarily interesting to recall that it is under a Conservative Prime Minister, the son of a Radical Member for Birmingham, who more than anybody else attacked the royalty owners when he was a Member of this House, that this Bill is introduced. We are glad to think that the Prime Minister has not completely forgotten the Radicalism which was the distinguishing feature of his very distinguished father. I can well imagine, when he is getting his well-earned rest in another place and ruminates there alongside Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, that he will regard this Measure as the greatest achievement of his political career.
Yesterday, the Attorney-General entered a caveat against going into the realms of history. I do not want to enter those realms either, but I want to make one or two remarks. I do not think it is true to say that royalties began in 1558, but it is true that the case—and it is notorious—in those early days was fought by Northumberland versus the Crown. It is an ominous name in the history of the coal industry. In those days the judges decided in favour of the Crown, one dissenting. As a matter of fact, it was the Parliament of 1688 that 1154 really began the practice of saying that the mines were no longer the possession of the Crown. It is very significant that the Parliament of 1688 consisted very largely of the landowners of this country. The historian of that Parliament points out that by the Act of 1688, when royalties were first paid to the landowners, Parliament made a gift to the landowners of this country of a considerable slice of public property.
I find an interesting reference in the Bill to the Forest of Dean. In the earlier period mining was carried on by the miners themselves, and they w ere incorporated under a charter. That is true, for example, of the miners of the Forest of Dean and of Derbyshire, and I have found evidence that the same thing was true of the early lead miners of Flintshire. They occupied a very honourable position in the community in those days, and I am not surprised that the miners still feel that their position should be one of honour and respect on the part of the community. They were treated then as free men, just as the free men of the boroughs were treated, and they had their charter rights. It is interesting that the reference in the Bill to the Forest of Dean is a survival of some of those rights. The Bill will transfer once more to the State the property in royalties that ought never to have been taken away from the State.
§ 9.39 P.m.
§ Mr. Michael Beaumont
There was once an hon. Member of this House who, having to make an important speech, found himself so much in agreement with the Prime Minister of the day that he simply said: "I say ditto to Mr. Pitt." There are only three aspects of this Measure with which I desire to deal, and on the first of them I will just sum up my remarks by saying that I say ditto to the right hon. and gallant Member for the Rye Division (Sir G. Courthope). I cannot assent to Part I of the Bill. That will not be a great surprise to hon. Members who have done me the honour of listening to my poor observations in this House. I do not believe in the nationalisation of the means of production, and I never have believed in it. It is a well-known theory, and I do not propose to waste the time of the House now by stating the arguments for and against. It is frequently and most ably advocated from the benches opposite, and it has been frequently and 1155 mostly ably repudiated—I think even more ably—by most of the supporters of this Measure. I do not propose to go over the whole ground again. This is a nationalisation Measure; it is neither more nor less. As a lifelong opponent of nationalisation, who has resisted it in every election and on every platform, I feel bound to vote against the Bill, not, as I have already said, because I have any particular attraction towards the Socialist Amendment—[Interruption.] I am coming to hon. Members' arguments in a moment—but because it is the only means in my power of registering my opposition to a principle which I detest.
The second thing I want to say is to protest against this nonsense about unification. The hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Acland) described it during the Debate on the Address as—I think I have the right quotation—a nurse who covers up the ears of her charge least it should hear a naughty word. That is exactly the attitude of the Government when they talk about unification. You can call it unification if you like. It is unification, in the sense that any Measure to get the whole control of one particular industry under one head is unification; but it is nationalisation inasmuch as it is vesting in the State the ownership of the minerals. I cannot for the life of me understand, if the Government, who are supporters of private property, believe in nationalisation, why have they not the courage to say so.
We have been told, if not from that Box, in the columns of the Press, that Members who supported the Government at the last election support the Bill because unification was in the last election programme. Having some experience of Governments, I very carefully always put in my election addresses a reservation to oppose any Measure, whether in the programme or not, that I did not think was in the public interest. When I put that particular paragraph into this address I had that phrase, "unification of royalties," in mind, because I foresaw that this was exactly what was going to happen. Other Members are now being caught in the trap that I thought was going to be set. "Unification"—a lovely word; but it is nationalisation, naked and unashamed, that is presented.
1156 A great deal has been said to-day, with which I am bound to agree, as to the necessity for control of royalty rents. I do not dispute it. We had an admirable speech by my hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), but everything he said, everything he wanted and everything that half of the Members opposite want, could perfectly well be gained without any nationalisation whatever. There are dozens of ways of unification. There is compulsory amalgamation, which might be applied to royalty-owning with exactly the same results as in the Bill. There are holding companies and dozens of ways in which it could be done, if the Government really mean unification; but they do not. They mean nationalisation. A proof of it has been the speech that we have had from the right hon. Gentleman and from hon. Members opposite.
A word about the framing of the Amendment. It is not an Amendment designed to defeat the Government or to attract those hon. Members on this side who have a lingering desire to make their votes in this House coincide with their professions on the platform. It is meant to repel as many supporters of the Government as may be. It is carefully framed to see that it fulfils the duty of the Opposition to oppose, but that there shall be no danger to a Measure which embodies one of the principal demands that the Socialist party have made at every election for the last 20 years. I can well understand the jubilation of hon. Members, because it is a victory for them. In my submission, it gives away the whole case when you get nationalisation of royalties. No wonder hon. Members cheer. You are going to get such complications and such extravagance, that the ownership of the surface is bound to follow, and one thing leads to another. I am one of those people who do not believe in that kind of thing, and that is why I am opposing the Measure.
The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade does not surprise me. He is one of those—and among them have been some of our finest statesmen past and present—who have only to embrace one side of politics immediately to see the attractions of the policy put forward by the other side. He, of course, calls it seeing both sides. Some of us call it something else. I must confess, having listened to the charming speeches of the 1157 right hon. Member, that I hope for the day when he may be converted to the Socialist party, because were that to occur I do believe we might get some Tory legislation, so far as his Department is concerned. If he has an excuse, what of his colleagues? It would be unkind to record in detail a speech on the question of oil in which was foreseen the coming of this Measure. I will not twit my Noble Friend any more than I will twit the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer with anything so vulgar as being an old Liberal dog returning to its vomit. I shall not be unduly worried if I find that indisposition keeps him away on more than one occasion. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Leicester (Captain Waterhouse) as one of the Government Whips will be hounding unwilling supporters of the Government into the Lobby in support of this Measure.
Finally, with regard to the Secretary for Mines; when I first came into the House he was my mentor. He seemed to be the representative of everything in which I had been brought up to believe. He was a staunch individualist, a strong Parliamentarian and a good Tory; that was a man one should support. But the octopus claws of ministerial office drew him into their unpleasant grasp. His first act on achieving office was to put before this House a Measure bringing down from the Standing Committee an offensive Bill, which was being rightly held up there, and put it through on the Floor of the House with the of the Whips. Now we find him a champion of the Measure of nationalisation. "How are the mighty fallen!" Indeed the First Commissioner of Works must have made that front bench extremely comfortable if the seat is really worth such wholesale tergiversation.
I must advert to one other matter and that is the question of the actual machinery of Part I of this Bill. Neither after my speech nor at any other time can I be accused of being indifferent to the rights of property, but I would place on record my view, having taken some trouble to study the subject and find out what has gone on. I cannot assent to the complaint that the royalty owners have been unreasonably and unfairly treated. I think they have got no justifiable cause for complaint. There were three points in a matter of this sort 1158 which had to be decided as between purchaser and seller: questions of price, date of transfer and the method of distribution. With regard to the question of purchase price, the only thing was to have independent arbitration. The Government asked for independent arbitration by a tribunal. I think I hear a voice say they did not want it, but with the greatest respect I was present at the Mineral Royalties Commission which asked for it. I do not know if the hon. Member wanted it, but it is what the Mineral Royalties Committee asked for, and that is what they were given. It does not matter now whether the tribunal was a good or bad one; it was an agreed one, and as such there can be no justifiable complaint, although among some people there may be some justifiable regret as to its findings.
With regard to the method of distribution there has been no dispute. With regard to the point as to date and time of the passing of the transfer, I think the only fair method was adopted, namely, that the property passed straight away, thus leaving the royalty owners ignorant as to whether they were to get capital or income, how much and when. It was unreasonable to ask the Government to leave them with a free hand. Therefore, to safeguard the property, while giving them time for the apportionment of the price, was fair and reasonable. I feel it right to say that, in view of some of the statements which have been made outside. I am opposed bitterly to the principle underlying Part I of the Measure, and it will be my duty to use what poor and feeble efforts I possess to oppose the passage of this Bill into law now and at every succeeding stage.
§ 9.55 p.m
§ Sir S. Cripps
I was requested by one of the Government Whips not to get up, in order that there might be time for the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont) to make a short speech. I am very glad to have had the opportunity of giving the Government the chance of getting another supporter of their Bill to speak. My only regret about the hon. Member is that he is not as sensible as he is honest. He speaks with an intimate knowledge of those with whom he is closely associated, and we are sorry that he did not have time to give us a few 1159 more vignettes of the Front Bench opposite. However, no doubt the country will know that, with that intimate knowledge, he has had the opportunity of forming a very just opinion.
He has spoken about "this unification nonsense." He says he cannot understand why people have not the courage to say what they think. He ought to know his own friends by this time. They delight in facing both ways. We have always condemned the Government and their spokesmen for adopting this duplicity in their public utterances, not only as regards the unification of royalties, but as regards foreign policy and many other matters. This is but a typical instance of the duplicity, so well discovered and disclosed by the hon. Member, which they delight to use towards the electorate and others. If I may express a private hope, it is that he will start, with his energy and enterprise, a society to try to convert the Government to more honest ways. Anything we can do to assist him in that matter we shall be delighted to do.
The speech made from the Government benches shortly before that of the hon. Member for Aylesbury by the hon. and gallant Member for Drake (Lieut.-Colonel H. Guest) was a record of "His Master's Voice," the Mining Association of Great Britain. At the beginning of his speech he announced, with that honesty which naturally would mark any statement of his, that he was speaking for the Mining Association—not, be it understood, for the electors of the Drake Division of Plymouth—and he made two or three statements which some of those who are now in the House may not have been fortunate enough to hear. His first statement was that one of the grave criticisms of this Bill by the coalowners was that it divorced the land on the surface from the coal beneath, and thereby greatly increased their difficulties. May I suggest to the coalowners a somewhat simple way in which they can get over that difficulty? This Bill is to put the coal in the possession of the nation. Their difficulty would be got over by putting the land in the possession of the nation. I hope that that difficulty will eventually be overcome, and we shall be glad to help them in overcoming it.
The most important thing that the hon. and gallant Member said was that, in the 1160 view of the Mining Association, and they surely ought to know, there was not much in this Bill for the miners. That is a statement which has been made time and again from these benches during the course of this Debate. It has been contradicted from the Front Bench opposite, but, quite frankly, on a matter of this kind I prefer the authority of the Mining Association to that of the Front Treasury Bench. They have a more intimate knowledge of the way in which money is stopped from getting to the miner even than the Front Treasury Bench. We can, I think, take it that what the hon. and gallant Member for Drake has said is a true view as regards the general effects of this Bill. As regards the Debate generally, the remarkable thing is that there has been practically no speech, except from the Front Treasury Bench, which has wholly commended the Bill. Indeed, there has been from the Government side a series of veiled mutterings, "Be careful when we come to the Committee stage." and we shall find that this apparent calm, which has been so carefully engineered by the Government on the Second Reading of the Bill, will be superseded by a mass of Amendments in the Committee stage, when all those interests which for the moment have been kept quiet will break out and insist upon their various desires.
I was interested particularly by the terms in which the President of the Board of Trade introduced the Measure to the House. He told us that this was the first slump prevention Bill. This is the first contribution of His Majesty's Government to the slump which the Prime Minister tells us is not coming. I am afraid the Prime Minister's arguments will have to be modified in the country after the statement of the President of the Board of Trade. He shakes his head. It is true enough that we are accustomed to contradictions between Members of the Government, but his speeches will no longer carry conviction after his colleague has announced in the most formal manner from the Front Treasury Bench, when introducing the Bill, that this is the first Measure that the Government have brought forward to meet the impending slump. All I can say is that I hope the next one will be rather better, because I cannot see that this Bill will in any way assist the country in that slump which indubitably is coming sooner or later.
1161 The first matter with which I should like to deal on the Bill itself is the extraordinary contradiction which it discloses in the economic system under which we are attempting at the present time to operate industry in this country. We are not only continually occupying the time of Parliament with trying to curtail production of every kind, or to limit imports—which is the same thing—by tariffs and quotas and all sorts of restrictive measures, but now we are forced to try to devise some new system or method of patching up an economic system for coal production, which, admittedly, is unable to take care of itself under our existing system. This is not new history. It has now been going on certainly for 50 years, if not longer. The coal industry has always been occupying the attention of Royal Commissions, or committees of investigation, or the House itself, because it has been perpetually an invalid among the industries of the country.
I would ask the House to consider for a moment what this Bill is seeking to achieve, in the light of all that we have been told in the past from the benches opposite about the desirable conditions under which capitalist industry should operate. If there is one principle more deeply engrained in the capitalist system than any other, it is the extreme sanctity of private property. Indeed, so sacred is private property that it is considered generally to be identified with the nation, and, when hon. Members opposite talk about national interests or the nation, they are talking about property interests or the property in the nation. Indeed, it connotes to their minds, as we can see from the speeches that have been made on this Bill and from the Bill itself, the interests of the property owners of the country. And yet the very first proposal of this Bill is to expropriate one form of property, and the hon. Member for Aylesbury said perfectly rightly that it is an absolute contradiction in the capitalist system that capitalism should propose a measure of expropriation of private property—for what purpose? In order to preserve private property, in the means of producing the coal, in the hands of the capitalists.
If we take the real body politic of this country, which consists of the mass of producers, by brain or hand, that body is to-day, and has been for centuries, infested with the parasites of private owner- 1162 ship—private ownership in the means of production, in the form of mineowners and others. But they, in their turn, have found themselves infested by the parasites of the royalty owners. There used to be an old rhyme some of us remember about:Big fleas have little fleasUpon their backs to bite 'em,And little ones have lesser ones,And so, ad infinitum.This is an attempt of the big flea to get rid of the lesser flea; the attempt of the mine-owner to get rid, to some extent at least, of the royalty owner.
It is symptomatic of the power of industrialists in this country, and of the control of the Conservative party, that a Conservative Government should bring such a Bill before this House to-day. It marks the culminating point in the change of control of that body, a change which is also apparent if one analyses the competition of the other place at the end of the passage. But I am afraid that, from the Government's point of view, the change is not yet quite so complete as to allow them to rely on that other place leaving this Bill untouched when it gets there. It seems to me that this change in the control of the Government is not one that is likely to benefit the workers. To substitute control by industrialists for the old control by the land-owning class may benefit the industrialists, but is not likely to benefit the workers of this country. That is why, fundamentally, this Bill is not going to benefit the workers of this country. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why do you recommend it then?"), I do not recommend it now, and the hon. Member will see why in a few minutes, if he will wait. Members have heard the old story, that the increased benefits will filter down to the workers. That is one of the excellent theoretical points made on every occasion by those who are giving assistance, as this Government has been for five years, to capitalist industry; but experience shows that those benefits never do filter down, in fact; and, after all, if it is desired that they should, it is perfectly simple to put a provision in the Bill. That, this Government has uniformly refused to do, not only in this Bill, but in every similar Bill as regards reorganisation of industry which they have brought before this House.
I would like to refer to another contradiction in this Bill. We have been 1163 told, until we are tired of hearing it, that the virtue and strength of capitalist industry depend on competition, and that if you eliminate competition industry will die. Yet, here we find provisions for the compulsory amalgamation of mines, provisions for doing away with that very motive power which, according to the theory of capitalism, is that which gives vitality to industry. I should like the Minister, when he comes to reply, to explain whether he, a capitalist economist as he is, now believes that capitalism is bad for industry, and, if so, whether he is going to adopt that for the future. If he is, the best way of getting rid of competition is not compulsory amalgamation under capitalism, but nationalisation under the State. That is far more effective, if that is his objective.
We are told that the unification of royalties is something which will greatly increase the efficiency of the industry. I agree that that unification will probably have some advantage, but will the Minister tell us why, if that be true of the mining industry, it is not also true of the farming industry. Why is it that, if unification is desirable in the mining industry, it is not equally desirable to unify ownership of the land, so that farmers, who hold under lease, will have the same benefit as mineowners who hold under lease. The incidence of private ownership in land shows its results in awkward boundaries, roads in the wrong places and buildings in the wrong places, making uneconomic farming units. Every single argument that has been put forward by the Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon in favour of unification of mining royalties applies equally to unification of landlordism on the land. I should like to know if the Government will follow up this unification with the greater unification.
It is not realised, at least by some people, that, once the Government are forced to interfere with property in industry, they shoulder a responsibility not merely to the class with whose property they interfere, but to the entire community with regard to dealings with that property. Here, one of our gravest objections to the Bill is that it does not deal with all the community that is concerned in the mining industry: the consumers, mine workers, mine owners and 1164 royalty owners; but only with the mine-owners and royalty owners. It neglects completely the responsibilities which the Government must accept, once they start to interfere in an industry of this kind. Even the hon. Member for Newport (Sir R. Clarry), as a capitalist consumer, complained as regards this Bill, because it does not protect the capitalist consumers' rights. I was interested, when the hon. Member for Newport was speaking, to hear the hon. and learned Member for Withington (Mr. Fleming), a good Conservative, get up and make the suggestion that the proper cure for the consumers was to buy their coal abroad.
§ Mr. Fleming
I never used the term "proper cure" at all. I asked whether it was possible to buy it from abroad.
§ Sir S. Cripps
When the hon. Member for Newport was complaining of the price, the hon. and learned Member said: "Could not you buy it from abroad?" If that is not a suggestion, I do not know what a suggestion is. So far as the mineworkers are concerned—I am sorry for the consumers—they are left entirely to the tender mercies of the mineowners. Long years of experience show, by the tragic tale of death and suffering, what the mercy of the mineowners is worth. We oppose this Bill, not because we disagree with nationalisation as a theory or as a practice in given circumstances, or because we disagree with amalgamation as a theory or as a practice in given circumstances. What we do protest and why we oppose this Bill is that both nationalisation and amalgamation are being carried through in the interests of a class of property owners and not in the interests of the consumers and the workers in that industry. Indeed, this is, we believe, the right and proper opportunity for stressing these fundamental and grave defects which are being put before the House to-day.
Coal is a national asset. It is the basis of the great industrial life of our country. It is more vital than water even to our national prosperity. It is something in which all the community share and over which all the community should take the charge and the responsibility, and we believe that the true efficiency of the coal industry is as vital to this nation as any other great national service that we possess or which we control. There is 1165 no excuse for stopping short of the nationalisation of the whole industry and merely stopping short at the nationalisation of royalties.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he spoke to-day, tried to launch rather an ineffective gibe at my capabilities, as a draftsman of a Bill which I have never seen, owing to his great ignorance of the current history of our country. He made a great point about the absurdities of Parliament finding funds for losses in a nationalised coal industry which seemed to be, as far as I could make out, his main objection to nationalisation. How ridiculous and how monstrous, he suggested, that Parliament should find these funds. I am sorry that he is not here. I know why he cannot be. He has told me and I make no complaint; but I should like to tell him quite plainly, that it is far less ridiculous for a country to make up the losses of an industry that it owns and controls, in its own interests, than doing what this Government are daily doing, making up the loss of private enterprise which they do not own and do not control. For agriculture and tramp shipping we pour out millions of pounds and we never get any nearer either to control or to ownership. It would be far more sensible, if we are to pour out millions for the losses of an industry, at least to own that industry before we do it.
There is not an hon. Member in this House who, in his private life, would adopt this charitable attitude of paying all the losses of the industry of someone else without ever owning or controlling it himself. He said that it was the business of the House, and I think that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer looks at this a little more closely and with a little more common sense instead of with stupid prejudice, he will realise that the suggestion that losses should be paid, if there are any, on a nationalised industry, is a far saner proposition than the present financial methods of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that we could not formulate a Bill for nationalising the coal industry. I have no doubt of the capacity of any Government to do that, with the very able assistance of the British Civil Service. It is not fair or common sense to gibe, as he did, at a Private Member's Bill, introduced on a Friday afternoon, and say: "This shows that you cannot draft 1166 a proper Bill for the nationalisation of the coal industry." If that is the Chancellor of the Exchequer's best effort at criticising the nationalisation of the industry, I suggest that he should try again or else give up his criticism.
One final word upon the question of nationalisation, which is implied in the Amendment that we have put forward. We always get, as we have had this afternoon, arguments based on the difficulty of doing it and on the inefficiency of nationalisation as a method of carrying on the industry. I think the last 60 years have shown that private enterprise can hardly be beaten in inefficiency and muddle by anything even in nationalised industry. But there is one complete answer to that argument as regards inefficiency and I should like in a few words to put it before the House. At times of grave crisis, when it is essential that business efficiency should be at the maximum for the salvation of the inhabitants of the country, every capitalist country has always nationalised industry. On 4th August, 1914, the railways were taken over overnight. Why? Because at times of war the maximum efficiency was required and nationalisation was necessary.
§ Sir S. Cripps
In times of war no one will trust the greedy capitalist. Hence the necessity for nationalising industry in times of war because of the greater efficiency produced at the moment when efficiency is critical. Nobody can argue that nationalisation does not produce efficiency, when at the most critical times in every country nationalisation is always applied because of the muddle and dangers of capitalist industry itself.
I will now deal with Part I of the Bill. We object to Part I on a number of grounds. Fundamentally, we object because we say that the royalty owners have already been adequately remunerated for the royalties that they possess, and that there is no reason why they should receive further remuneration for that for which they have already been overpaid by the mine workers of this country. To-day, practically no excuse has been put up for these royalty payments except that they have gone on for a very long time. If something, that is wrong has gone on for a very long 1167 time, that does not seem to be any very good argument for paying a very heavy price for stopping it. I should have thought that it was an argument for stopping it without payment of any price at all.
The bias of Part I has not been sufficiently emphasised in the Debate. There are a number of reasons why the whole structure of that part of the Bill is, in our view, wrong—in the first place because the amount to be paid is grossly excessive. Secondly, Part I, if it operates, will leave in the hands of the Commission a surplus each year from the beginning of somewhere between £,1,000,000 and 1,500,000. That is to be utilised for the benefit of the mineowners in order to give them reductions in the payments they are to make. The whole theory is that this benefit will filter down. We think it should go direct to the miner, and not be left to filter through the pockets of the mineowners, through pockets which it is difficult for it to filter through. A number of purposes have been suggested to which most usefully this money might be devoted, miners' pensions, compensation for displaced workers and other such suggestions, and this part of the Bill would show a much better approach to the whole problem if something of that kind had been included in it. But that would never come from the Front Bench opposite, because their whole approach to this problem is fundamentally different from ours. They approach it from the point of view of property, and pounds, shillings and pence; we approach it from the point of view of the lives and standards of the miners of the country, and the consumers as well.
I do not know whether the House has noticed the perfectly extraordinary provisions in the Bill as regards compensation for subsidiary rights. Why these subsidiary rights could not have been included at the beginning I do not know. They simply offer an opportunity for blackmail of the Commission by people who think they have not got enough. The £10,000,000 to be provided may prove insufficient, and there is no control of this House as regards that matter. The amount of compensation is to be arrived at by the regional boards. How are these regional boards composed? They are composed almost entirely of mining 1168 agents, the very people who are interested in getting the maximum compensation for subsidiary rights. And to whom is the appeal to be? It is to be to a referee who will be another mining agent, again the very person, not directly interested in the case, but interested in a case of a similar kind, the very person directly interested in getting the maximum compensation for these subsidiary rights. That sum has to be paid by the Commission. Never has there been such a wicked method of putting into the hands of the people who are to get compensation the power to fix the compensation they are to get, and with no limit. All these subsidiary rights have to be paid for if they come to £50,000,000. We still have to pay because we are pledged to do so in the Bill. The £10,000,000 is merely an estimate. I believe this has been put in—it can be the only reason—as a sop to those people who think that the £66,500,000 is not enough for them. I cannot imagine any other reason for devising such an unprecedented method of arriving at compensation.
Then there is the question of the four years—which the Attorney-General said was in accordance with precedent. It is nothing of the sort. Every Bill in regard to the acquisition of land always had a provision that you can enter the moment you give notice to treat, provided there are safeguards as regards bonds for the purchase money which is necessary in the case of people who may not be financially sound. It has always been a provision, and in thousands of cases it is done. People do not wait until the arbitration has taken place, it may be two years later, but they give notice to treat, and then give notice of entry and start work. Why on earth can that not be done here? Why cannot exactly the same procedure as has always been adopted be adopted here? There is no need to wait for four years in order to get what benefits there are in this unification. Those benefits can start at once, and the money can be paid as and when it is ascertained. For the interim period, until it is paid, people can either receive sums by way of interest in anticipation or they can receive the royalties, or part of them, while they are waiting. But the net effect of this four and a-half years' delay is to give the royalty owners about £7,000,000 more than they would get otherwise. It is giving them the difference between 1169 £2,500,000 and £4,000,000 for a period of four and a-half years; that is to say, roughly £7,000,000 extra—another sum to be added to the £66,500,000. First, there is £10,000,000, and then £7,000,000, making £17,000,000 to be added to the £66,500,000. This Bill is becoming a very expensive one, and not a cheap one, for acquiring the royalties.
I will now deal for a few minutes with Part II. We believe that amalgamation, if it is to take place, whether voluntary or compulsory, should certainly be under control conditions, but as amalgamation is never considered by the Government or by its supporters except from the point of view of property owners and pounds, shillings and pence, they naturally do not think of putting in conditions to control the hardships of that amalgamation. They put in provisions by which any property excluded from earning power by amalgamation gets a benefit, but there is no provision by which labour excluded from earning power gets any compensation whatsoever. I never could understand the argument by which property which suffers by amalgamation gets compensation, but labour which suffers does not get compensation. There cannot possibly be any argument of justice which could lay down such a principle, Indeed, as regards railways, electricity undertakings and other things, it was accepted long ago by this House that labour should be compensated under such circumstances. In this Bill there is not a word of that. The whole Bill entirely evades the question of the effect of the Bill, Part I or Part II, upon the mineworkers of the country. It concerns itself only with the class which is represented by the National Government themselves.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us this afternoon that if we had objections with regard to the local authorities or the miners, we could bring them up when these schemes come before Parliament. The Chancellor of the Exchequer knows as well as I do that that is a completely illusory protection. What happens? The Commission formulates a scheme, that scheme goes to the Board of Trade, which approves it and brings it before Parliament. It cannot be amended; it has to be passed or rejected. The Government put the Whips on, because if the scheme is rejected, they are defeated. The result is that when it comes to this 1170 House, it has to go through automatically. It has also to go through the other place, but I do not think the other place is likely to put in any protection either for the mine workers or for the local authorities; they are more likely, if given the opportunity, to put in further protection for the property owners. Therefore, to say that we get protection because the scheme can come to the House of Commons is to say something which is contrary to all our experience of the last few years, when we have had milk marketing schemes and similar things brought up and have always been unable to get any amendment to protect the workers in respect of the operation of those schemes.
The question is one of great importance to the community, and not only to the local authorities. Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been expended very often in building social conveniences of all kinds, churches, schools, hospitals, houses and so on. Then suddenly, by the act of either the Commission or the owners who desire to economise in production, which only means to make the production of coal more profitable to the individual—they do not consider the cost to the State—the use of these social conveniences is completely wiped out. Merthyr Tydvil and places of that kind are created and left derelict. All the expenditure of the local authorities and the State is thrown away just because it happens to pay a particular combine to get its coal at some other pit and to close down the pit which it has been using. Such a scheme cannot be efficient if looked at from the point of view of the community. It is only because the Government look at it entirely from the point of view of the profit of the individual enterprise that they claim efficiency for it.
That is our grave objection to the whole idea under which amalgamation is here put forward. It may be that this Bill will eventually give the mineowners some small advantage in the reduction of rents. It may be that some infinitesimal amount of that advantage will filter through to the workers. It may be rather easier for the mineowners to strike a bargain with the Coal Commission than it has been for them to bargain with the royalty owners. But will the Minister answer me on this point? If it is easier and more efficient for the mineowners to deal with a single body instead of the various royalty owners, why is it not more efficient and 1171 convenient for them to deal with a single body representing the workers? Why is is not better and more efficient to have a single negotiating body between the mine-owners and the workers? Why not make it a condition of giving these advantages, as they are called, as regards unification of royalties, that unification of wage agreements and negotiations should be brought about at the same time?
It may be that this unification of royalties will give some slight advantage, but the fundamental difficulties of the industry are not touched. The criterion of profit, and not the criterion of the need and use of coal, will still determine production and hundreds of poverty-stricken people in my constituency in Bristol will have to go without coal after this Bill, just as they have had to go without coal before it. You will never cure the problem of the coal industry until those people can become customers for the coal mines. That, to-day, is one of the great needs, and this Bill, because it does not touch the price side, or the production side, fails entirely to deal with the matter. The miners' lot, as the hon. and gallant Member for the Drake division of Plymouth said, will remain substantially unaltered. Rationalisation may, in some degree, be expedited with all the evils that attend rationalisation under a profit-owning system.
We have heard lots about that in this Debate. But in the end, with all that has been said or that can be said in favour of this Bill, it remains nothing but a tin patch on the side of the sinking ship of a capitalist coal industry. The time will come, before, I hope, the hon. and learned Gentleman leaves us either for another place or for another world, when we shall have to construct a new and a better and a stronger ship to carry this vital productive industry of our country. In the scramble between the rival sections of the capitalist class, the mineowners and the royalty owners, one will get a little more and the other a little less as a result of this Bill. But the workers, as always, will remain carrying the whole burden of exploitation. They have been patient under that burden, I believe, all too long. I hope that this new futility which is being produced by the National Government will help to convince them that the time has come for them to act, for them to give up their passive attitude and give 1172 the community the charge of their own industry, in the interests of their own standards—[An HON. MEMBER: "And make you dictator!"]—and of their own safety, and for the benefit of their own nation, and not of a limited wealthy class.
§ 10.40 p.m.
§ The Secretary for Mines (Captain Crookshank)
My first words will be to congratulate the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) on his return to the Front Bench. He has certainly brought to it, from the heights over there, some very refreshing breezes. I think that hon. Members on this side of the House may also congratulate ourselves on his being there, because some of his obiter dicta will certainly tend to postpone considerably the time when he is likely to be able to carry out some of his ideas. We have had two long days of Debate, during which I have listened to practically every speech delivered and during which I have been asked a great number of questions, and I will try my best to deal with the more important ones, but I must say that it is obvious that this is a very comprehensive Bill. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) complained that it was one Bill and not three Bills, because he thought it would be easier to discuss these matters in different parts. But if we had introduced three Bills, he would at once have said, "Why not have one Bill?" just as during our Service Debates we always have a difficulty in discussing the problem as a whole because it comes in three different forms before the House.
This Bill deals with the very wide aspects of the general organisation, and the improvements which may be effected in it, of the coal industry. We have had also during the Debate, if I may deal with the part connected with royalties, a great number of economic theories advanced, especially in the speech which we have just heard, a great number of statistics on all sorts of topics, and the rather surprising conclusion of the hon. and learned Member that the Bill evades all questions of interest to the workers. There are many grounds on which we differ, but I should have thought it was common ground that the best and most efficient industry is the one in which the worker is likely to be more happily placed than if he is in one which, for one reason or another, has not reached the optimum of good organisation.
1173 More than once during the Debate hon. Members opposite have complained about the price at which this transaction is to be carried out, and they have even said rather rude things about the owners of coal royalties, but I want to put this question to them: Does not that mean—all this talk about the unfairness of the figure—that they do not think it a fair and proper procedure that when you cannot successfully negotiate the price for purchase, you should put it to arbitration and stand by the result of that arbitration? As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has pointed out, there were negotiations for a considerable period, and afterwards it was found impossible to come to any agreement as a result of the negotiations. After that an agreed tribunal was set up, agreed terms of reference were put to it, and the very expert body which heard witnesses on the subject came to this conclusion, and we have accepted this conclusion. Does all this talk about the unfair price which many hon. Members opposite have used in this Debate mean that that is an unfair procedure? We did not set the price.
As to the method of dealing with the problem, my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont) said there might have been other ways of effecting the unification scheme which we have proposed, and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. C. Davies) yesterday brought forward a scheme of his own, and no one else's, so far as I know. The defect of that scheme is that if you are going to tackle this problem at all it is better to buy out the existing owners than to give them, as he suggests, shares in the colliery undertakings, and so continue the grievance of their being there at all, because they would then be there in another form. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale thought they would still be there in another form, but he must have misunderstood the whole financial proposals of the Bill. They will not be there at all, because the money to be raised by the Commission is to be paid out in cash, after valuing the individual properties, to the existing owners, and they will be out of the picture altogether.
The hon. Member for the Welsh University (Mr. E. Evans) said yesterday that we were carrying out this policy of unifying royalties through sheer economic necessity. Could a better foundation be 1174 imagined? We should not want to do it for purely theoretical reasons. Some people might, but I am sure that he would not. We have had some hon. Members, and noticeably the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald), in his opening speech this afternoon, saying that he for his part welcomed this policy of unification.
May I answer here one or two of the questions on smaller points which have been put to me? The hon. Baronet the Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Sir H. Seely) asked whether it was intended that the Commission should level upwards royalty rates in the future, saying that if they did so it might hinder the district from which he came. In the Bill as it is presented to the House what they may do with the surplus after they have paid their charges is definitely laid down and described as levelling downwards. Nothing is said about powers for pushing up royalty rates. There is one point which is of some importance, because the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol has repeated it. It concerns the anxiety of himself and other hon. Members about what they call "the extra £10,000,000," and their fears that the subsidiary hereditaments may run up to very large figures. The Chancellor of the Exchequer explained what that £10,000,000 was as clearly as it could be put, I thought. It represents the maximum borrowing powers over and above the borrowing powers for the £66,430,000, which is the cost of the property as given by the arbitration, and in the Financial Memorandum in front of the Bill it is explained that this extra borrowing power is taken partly because we conceive it right that all the costs of registering and valuing the properties to be acquired and the ascertainment and distribution of compensation should be paid by the Commission and not by the recipients of the compensation. When you are buying out a property of this kind it is only right that those who are purchasing should pay the expense. That is why that figure is in the Bill.
As the Chancellor explained, there is also the question of interest on whatever part of the loan may be raised before it can be paid out. The item as regards subsidiary coal hereditaments will fall to be discussed in greater detail on the Committee stage. It is only a very small affair. It is dealt with in Subsections (3) and (4) of Clause 4, where 1175 we are talking about those minerals which are at the valuation date comprised in an existing lease, and, in fact, they are such minerals as are by the lease worked in conjunction with the coal, such minerals as clay, ganister and the like, and the whole lot, so far as we can judge, could not amount to any very great sum anyhow. There is also the provision in that Sub-section that the Commission may by direction exclude these from the operation of paragraph 4. The Commission does not necessarily have to take them over. It is really a question of convenience in regard to the existing leases. We can discuss it further later on, but I only want to make it clear that there is no question at all, so far as I can see, of £10,000,000 going for this purpose. But if we should be entirely wrong in this, then of course the Commission could not deal with it unless Parliament increased its borrowing powers.
§ Sir S. Cripps
But the debt would be due under the Bill to the owner of the subsidiary rights whether the Commission had the money or not.
§ Captain Crookshank
If you are going to purchase them, of course you have to pay for them, and they are outside the global figure because, as was explained in March, they are outside what was covered in the case which was put to arbitration. The hon. and learned Gentleman just now said that if you are going to unify royalties in this kind of way, why does it not follow that exactly the same measure should be meted out to land? Those who have knowledge of the difficulties of working coal and those who are acquainted with the agricultural problem would not say that there was very much similarity in the problems that they have to deal with.
But let me remind the House that the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman is the old argument that we have heard, not perhaps from such distinguished opponents as himself, but from many who occupy more humble places in the ranks of his party, the old Socialist theory, the same remedy for every disease—Socialism. Does he use the same pill for every disease from which he may suffer?
I want to call the attention of hon. Members who may not have heard the opening part of the hon. and learned 1176 Gentleman's speech, that he said that in his view it was wrong to make this further payment. Further payment indeed! It is a payment for the purchase of property which, as several hon. Members quite rightly pointed out, is property which has been transferable in the past, on which taxes have been raised, Income Tax has been raised, and indeed a special tax of its own. In spite of all this he says that royalty owners have already been adequately paid for their property, and he saw no reason for not stopping it now without any payment. What is that but confiscation?
I pass to the next group of problems dealing with amalgamation, and here I want first to deal with the criticisms which have been made, not so much in this House, though they were voiced towards the end of the Debate by the hon. and gallant Member for the Drake Division (Colonel Guest). But I dare say hon. Gentlemen have received this document from the Mining Association of Great Britain which I hold in my hand. I just want to deal with what they have o to say, because after all they are an important part of the mining industry. [Interruption.] An important part—no one could deny that. In this document they suggest that Part I and Part II of the Bill are to them undesirable, and indeed I think they go so far as to say that they had better be withdrawn, and they stress the fact that the record of the industry's efficiency from year to year, as shown by this and that, reveals no justification for singling out the coal industry for compulsory amalgamation. That is not true. I would not say otherwise than that in many technical matters the industry of this country leads the world. It may be true, and I think it is, that a great many of these undertakings are just as efficient as any that you can find anywhere, but I cannot accept the bland statement that the efficiency of the industry as a whole is such that there is nothing more to be done in the direction in which we are seeking to do it in this part of the Bill.
Hon. Members opposite, speaking for the miners, certainly have not made out that, as it is to-day, the mining industry is as efficient as it could be. Nor do other industrialists, who naturally watch the coal industry, as we all do, forget, any more than I forget, the very unprecedented action which the coalowners had 1177 to take, and which indeed is a reason for a part of this Bill, in the autumn of 1935, when they were faced with a demand for increased wages. What they had to do—or at any rate what they did—was that they went round inviting subscriptions to their own wage fund from people who were under contract to receive coal at a certain price, and the subscriptions were forthcoming. It does not sound like efficiency when you have to go round and say "Please put a penny in the old man's hat."
The reply may be of course: "Oh yes, we admit that the selling arrangements are inefficient," but inefficiency on one ground may, I suggest, be either the father or the child of inefficiency somewhere else. In this part of the Bill we are only doing this: Part of the Act of 1930 is on the Statute Book but it is largely inoperative. We are not by our policy adding anything to it or taking anything away. We are making it effective to the best of our ability. An hon. Member said just now that he did not think that what we wanted to do could be achieved by this form of words. We shall deal with that criticism later. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) says that the economical and efficient working of coal is not the final criterion and that other considerations must come in besides efficiency and economy. Well, of course, we agree that there are other factors which are bound to come in, such as have been raised in the Debate and such as the question of the various areas of the country which may be troubled as a result of amalgamation, but surely one criterion is that economy and efficiency in the working of coal must be frightfully important. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman means to imply the converse, namely, that he would prefer uneconomical inefficiency.
On the question of compulsory amalgamation, in a number of speeches we have had the point: "Oh, yes, but if you have compulsory amalgamation you must deal with the problem of work-people who may be displaced as a result of that amalgamation." That is not a new point, because substantially it is one which came up during the Debates on the 1930 Bill. At that time it was resisted by the Government, who put the Government Whips on against the Amendment. We are not doing anything for which we 1178 have not ample precedent in this particular field. There is a larger difficulty even than that 'underlying the point, and it is that voluntary amalgamations have been taking place. Pits have been shut up, perhaps because of the bankruptcy of the concern or because the coal in the area is worked out. Do hon. Members opposite say that because a particular amalgamation takes place as a result of this Bill compensation should be awarded, whereas in point of fact it does not occur in other cases? Would not that be the most fantastic inequality of treatment in that area? I can imagine a pit voluntarily amalgamating, and another group which had compulsorily to come into the provisions of this Bill. Some people would get compensation, and others would not. What is the difference between them? [An HON. MEMBER: "They all get it."] The representative of the Communist party is the only one who says that. When we say that one must consider the effect of any scheme of amalgamation on the local community, I say that when it happens voluntarily they may or may not consider the local community. However, we are not dealing with that. All we are here concerned with are the provisions that come into force, supposing compulsion is applied. Generally speaking, what this part of the Bill seeks to do is to make the existing law effective. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Wandsworth (Colonel Nathan) was the only Member of the House who saw the weakness of the Act during the Debate in 1930.
I pass rather hurriedly to the next group of questions, which deal with the complaints made on behalf of the consumers with regard to the selling schemes. We had only two specific speeches on the subject, one from the hon. Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Ross Taylor) and the other from the hon. Member for Newport (Sir R. Clarry). Complaints have come from every quarter, and with these expressions of opinion which have been made to me there have been various suggestions as to what ought to be done; but what is in the Bill is not the suggestion of anybody in particular, but is put there on the responsibility of the Government, who think it is the best way of safeguarding these particular interests. The hon. Member for Woodbridge did suggest yesterday that the committees of investigation had no executive powers and could 1179 do nothing to give effect to their recommendations. If he was referring to the committee's lack of power to fix prices, he is right. If the hon. Member for Newport means that those members of the committee ought to be given price-fixing powers, all I can say is that I cannot imagine any body less suitable to fix prices of coal than a body of that kind. I am not suggesting that there is another body which would be equally as good, because I do not think you can deal with those problems in that way, but if you did, you would not choose a committee of that kind, consisting of a coalowner, a coal miner and two representatives of consumers to carry out the business.
§ Captain Crookshank
They are there to investigate the complaints that are put before them. There have not been so very many complaints. It is said by some that that is because people have no confidence in them, but it seems to be very extraordinary, if you have a complaint, not to complain to the body which is authorised to deal with the problem. These committees have turned down, I believe, every single complaint that has been put before them excepting one. [Interruption.] It may well be that the consumer in many instances had not a good case. When I hear, for example, complaints about gas undertakings having experienced a rise in the price of coal, I remember that no gas undertaking has taken a complaint to a committee at all. What is more, I also recollect that we have heard within the last few weeks that the gas undertakings have been able to raise the wages of their employés. More power to their elbow, but do not let them complain at the same time that the price of coal has gone up so that the coal owners may be able to increase the wages of their employés.
I am sorry to have been diverted from the question of the hon. Member for Woodbridge. The decisions of these investigation committees can be enforced, because Section 5 (8) of the Act of 1930, as amended, provides that the persons having functions under the scheme shall exercise their functions in accordance with the representations of these committees of investigation. Over and above that, we are setting up an appeal tribunal, whose decisions are to be final and bind- 1180 ing. No doubt this Clause will be further discussed, but what I want to make clear is that we stand by the continuation for another period of the Act of 1930, which is the statutory basis for the selling schemes in the industry to-day. But we recognise that in these circumstances we must provide the best possible safeguards for all consumers of coal, and by strengthening, as I hope we are in the Bill, the committees before which they put their complaints, we are doing what we can to safeguard that position.
I have only a few more actual questions to answer. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Rye (Sir G. Courthope) and another hon. Member raised the question of compensation for mineral agents, surveyors, and other professional persons who might lose their employment as a result of the Bill. These persons are mostly paid by fees, very few of them are whole-time salaried employés, and it is quite clear, in view of their very expert knowledge, which no one else has, that in the long run the Commission itself will require their services, or the services of many of them, and will take them on as soon as it takes over the property and control. Obviously the Commission will need a considerable staff of mining engineers and surveyors, but beyond that these persons will be employed on whatever work they are now employed on until the property passes in 1942, and therefore to that extent they will be continued in their employment. Over and above that, those who have studied the valuation machinery in the Bill will recognise that, in the years between now and the passing of the property, these persons will be the persons concerned with the work which will have to be done on registering and valuation, and they will be in a position to make a very considerably enhanced income as a result of the Bill. That is the position as I see it, and that is the reason why there are no provisions in the Bill specifying any particular form of compensation for them, more especially as Parliament itself had to deal very recently with a somewhat similar problem in relation to the collectors of tithe. That is as we are leaving the matter here;"
There is just one other question, which several Socialist Members asked, as to why miners could not be put on the Central Council and on the executive board. I am sure they will not be sur- 1181 prised if I again remind them that that was the effect of the Amendment they moved in 1930 and the explanation given then was that it was not possible to make this concession. The precedent remains. The reason is the same as was given by Mr. William Graham, that if the composition of the executive board was forced on the colliery owners they would not put up any schemes, and it was necessary that they should put them up.
I hope I have covered the more important issues raised in the Debate. Many of the other points, notably two which the hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) made, will require our careful consideration when detailed consideration is given to the Bill. That is true of points made by others, including the Noble Lord the hon. and gallant Member for Newark (Marquess of Titchfield). There are a number of premises which I would recapitulate. The first is that the coal industry and its prosperity are of vital interest to the nation. No one doubts that. The second is that the multiplicity of the owners of the coal measures has not led to the best development of the coalfields. The third premise is that the coal industry has not yet reached the best possible level of productional organisation. That is agreed. The fourth premise is that the unorganised selling of coal, and the consequent fratricidal struggle, has left the industry without funds to pay a proper return, either on capital or labour. I think that is beyond a peradventure; at least, it certainly was in 1935. The fifth premise is that the consumer is prepared to pay a proper price for coal, provided that the industry is properly organised. I put it that the only way to deal with the fifth premise is to take action on the second and third. If the House supports me on that, I would ask them to support the Bill.
Labour critics, I think, imply that we are doing the right thing in the wrong way; whereas some of my friends on this side feel that we are doing 'le wrong thing, but that we are doing it in the right way. The Government feel that they are doing the right thing, in the right way, for the right purpose. This matter was very little discussed during the Debate on the Address. It was referred to, however, by the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith), who said:We are now told that mining royalties are to be nationalised, and we agree with that 1182 sentence in the King's Speech; but do not let it be understood that the National Government are going to nationalise mining royalties because they believe in State ownership. They do not. They are going to nationalise mining royalties because experience has shown that the private ownership of royalties has prevented the proper economic planning of the mining industry.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th October, 1937; cols. 341–42, Vol. 328.]In other words, although this is a very good horse and is expected to win the race, because it comes out of the wrong stable he is not going to say anything in favour of it. But surely, if the policy underlying the nationalising of royalties or nationalising of the coal industry, which is talked about so much, is desired for the better planning of the industry, it seems to me that that is a measure for the better economic planning of industry which we are all concerned in this House to achieve, wherever we sit. If we are satisfied that it is not the best organised for the purposes which it might achieve, then it is up to us to see what we can do to help remedy the situation and establish one universal ground landlord which, after all, will go a very long way towards dealing with these difficulties. To some of my hon. Friends here I would say what I would say to those outside the House, that some of them, including the hon. Member for Aylesbury, seem to think that all this kind of thing is not wanted and that it is all wrong for us to do this, that this is the thin end of some wedge or other—I am not sure what end or what wedge, but it is just that. It is said that because the coal measures are being compulsorily acquired, not at an arbitrary figure, but at an arbitrated figure, it follows that the same thing will come to other forms of property, and that we are overstepping our mandate.
As the President of the Board of Trade made clear, as far as the Government programme is concerned, this was in our Election Manifesto and it has been in the King's Speeches since. Therefore, we are not overstepping anything with which we said we were going to deal. But it is upon deductions from that with which I want to deal. This is not the beginning of the end on the direct road to nationalise coal or any other industry. I put it to them that that does not follow. Let them remember that in France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Holland, Poland—take European countries alone—in all these countries the coal measures are under 1183 public control, but it has not led either to the nationalisation of the coal industry or to any other industry. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Russia?"] Before the War Russia was one of the countries where the coal measures were in private hands. What has happened in Russia—ell, whether that is post hoc or propter hoc I am not prepared to say to-night.
As regards the possibility of using compulsory powers for amalgamations, that has been the law of the land since 1930. There is nothing in the Bill which either adds to or detracts from that. All we are doing is to make the Act operative. It is no use having on the Statute Book an Act which does not work, particularly if its purposes are considered on the whole useful. The crisis of 1935 has already been mentioned. We were very near to time. The colliery owners could devise a stoppage with regard to coal at that no other means—I do not know that anyone could, so far as that goes—of advancing along the road to better wages than by statutory arrangements for the sale of coal, which, the House recollects, have since been approved by Parliament.
We claim on behalf of the nation that Parliament, having given these great powers—and they are great powers—of organising their sales to the colliery owners, the nation must be satisfied that the mining industry is properly planned on the production side. That does not seem an outrageous proposition. That is my answer to the circular of the Mining Association, who are quite prepared to accept all the benefits which may accrue to them and to the industry as a whole as a result of organised selling plans, but who are not prepared to concede the need, according to their published document, for organisation which may come from unifying royalties.
I listened, as we all did, with pleasure to the hon. Member for Aylesbury, and several of us felt the strength of the observations which he made. I can speak
§ for myself, and I have no sort of doubt that this Measure is absolutely necessary. The delay that has taken place is not due to vacillation in purpose on the part of the Government, but to the complex nature of the problems with which they had to deal before they could present the Bill to the House. Hon. Members on this side will, of course, wish to defeat the Labour Amendment. If there is to be a Division on the Second Reading, I would urge my Conservative friends to follow us whole-heartedly into the Lobby. They may not all like the Bill or all its provisions, but it is the boast of our party that as Conservatives—[HON. MEMBERS: "You are a National Government."]—I am replying to a speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury. It is a National Government, and its supporters recognise that it is quite in order for a Conservative Minister to whom certain questions have been put by one of its supporters, and who has been almost attacked by one of its supporters, to say something in reply. What I say to my hon. Friend and to any others if they feel as he did—if I may still be his mentor—is that Conservatives look at things as they are. We are not driven by ancient shibboleths or by the repeating of incantations based upon pure political theories. We try to meet things in a commonsense sort of way.
§ It is to deal with an urgent problem, the better organisation of the coal industry, that we bring the Bill before the House and invite the House to give it a Second Reading. By boldly tackling the all-important question of reorganisation in its widest aspect and boldly removing the obstacles, both practical and psychological, in the way, we can take practical steps which will lead to the better development of the coal industry.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 301; Noes, 139.1187
|Division No. 20.]||AYES.||[11.23 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Beauchamp, Sir B. C.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Aske, Sir R. W.||Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Beechman, N. A.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Beit, Sir A. L.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Bennett, Sir E. N.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Bernays, R. H.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Baxter, A. Beverley||Birchall, Sir J. D.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Bird, Sir R. B.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Furness, S. N.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)|
|Blaker, Sir R.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Ganzoni, Sir J.||Mitcheson, Sir C. G.|
|Bossom, A. C.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.|
|Boulton, W. W.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||Moreing, A. C.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Gluckstein, L. H.||Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)|
|Brass, Sir W.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Goldie, N. B.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hoxham)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Brawn, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Munro, P.|
|Bull, B. B.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Nall, Sir J.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)|
|Burghley, Lord||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Grimston, R. V.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Butler, R. A.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Owen, Major G.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Hannah, I. C.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Peake, O.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Harbord, A.||Peat, C. U.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Harris, Sir P. A.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Harvey, Sir G.||Peters, Dr. S. J.|
|Gazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Petherick, M.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Channon, H.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Ponsonhy, Col. C. E.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan||Radford, E. A.|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Hepworth, J.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey)||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Higgs, W. F.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Holdsworth, H.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Holmes, J. S.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S, G'gs)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Rickards, G. W. (Skiptan)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Roberts, W (Cumberland, N.)|
|Cox, H. B. Trevor||Hulbert, N. J.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Crooke, J. S.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Hunter, T.||Rowlands, G.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Hutchinson, G. C.||Royds, Admiral P. M. R.|
|Cross, R. H.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Crossley, A. C.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Joel, D. J. B.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Salt, E. W.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Kimball, L.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Sandys, E. O.|
|De Chair, S. S.||Latham, Sir P.|
|De la Bère, R.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Savery, Sir Servington|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Lees-Jones, J.||Scott, Lord William|
|Dodd, J. S.||Lewis, O.||Selley, H. R.|
|Donner, P. W.||Lindsay, K. M.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.||Little, Sir E. Graham||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Drewe, C.||Llewallin, Lieut.-Cot. J. J.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Loftus, P. C.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Lovat-Fraser, J.A.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Duggan, H. J.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st)|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Dunglass, Lord||M'Connell, Sir J.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Eckersley, P. T.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Somerset, T.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||McKie, J. H.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Spens, W. P.|
|Emery, J. F.||Macquisten, F. A.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Magnay, T.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Emery-Evans. P. V.||Maitland, A.||Storey, S.|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Errington, E.||Mander, G. le M.||Strauss, H. C. (Norwich)|
|Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Manningharn-Buller, Sir M.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Fildes, Sir H.||Markham, S. F.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Marsden, Commander A.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Fleming, E. L.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Han. G. K. M.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Foot, D. M.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S,)|
|Thomas, J. P. L.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Thomson, Sir J. D. W.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Train, Sir J.||Ward. Irene M. B. (Wallsend)||Wragg, H.|
|Tree, A. R. L. F.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.||Warrender, Sir V.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Turton, R, H.||Wells, S. R.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Wakefield, W. W.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)||Captain Hope and Lieut.-Colone|
|Walker-Smith, Sir J.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord||Kerr.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Paling, W.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Parker, J.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Hardie, Agnes||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Hayday, A.||Price, M. P.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Bonfield, J. W.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Ridley, G.|
|Barnes, A. J. Batey, J.||Hicks, E. G.||Riley, B.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Ritson, J.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Hollins, A.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Hopkin, D.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Benson, G.||Jagger, J.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)|
|Bevan, A.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Sexton. T. M.|
|Broad, F. A.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Shinwell, E.|
|Bromfield, W.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Short, A.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Silkin, L.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Burke, W. A.||Kirby, B. V.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Cape, T.||Kirkwood, D.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Chater, D.||Lathan, G.||Smith, Rt. Han. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lawson, J. J.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Leach, W.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Leonard, W.||Stephen, C.|
|Cove, W. G.||Leslie, J. R.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Logan, D. G.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Lunn, W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Daggar, G.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Thurtle, E.|
|Dalton, H.||McEntee, V. La T.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||McGhee, H. G.||Viant, S. P.|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||MacLaren, A.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Day, H.||Maclean, N.||Walker, J.|
|Dobbie, W.||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Dunn, E. (Bother Valley)||MacNeill, Weir, L.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Ede, J. C.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Marklew, E.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Marshall, F.||Westwood, J.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Mothers, G.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Frankel, D.||Maxton, J.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Gallocher, W.||Milner, Major J.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Wilson, G. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Muff, G.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Noel-Baker, P. J||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Groves and Mr. John.|
Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Thursday.—[Captain Margesson.]