§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Whiteley.]
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)
We on this side of the House have suggested for today's Debate the Ministry of Fuel and Power with special reference to dirty coal—the many complaints that are being received by hon. Members on all sides about the prevalence of dirty coal—and also the question of supplies of oil to the public. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, it was thought that it would be more convenient if we discussed coal in the early part of the Debate and oil later. Therefore, if you agree, I propose to devote my remarks to coal and leave it to the right hon. Gentleman who will wind up the Debate for us, to deal with oil.
Before I discuss dirty coal, may I say that one of the problems facing this or subsequent Parliaments will be how we are to deal with the nationalised industries. It has been suggested already, and I think agreed by the Government, that a certain number of days out of their time should be devoted to each of the nationalised industries. But the question arises of how Debates are to take place on those days and what we shall get out of those Debates.
One of the difficulties which faces the nation as a whole, and this House in particular, is how we are to control these nationalised industries in any detail. Where today does effective control lie? How can criticism be made effective? It seems to me that there is a tendency today for these industries to become responsible to nobody. Eventually we must decide where effective sanction lies and how effective sanction is to be applied. I take the National Coal Board as an illustration. Before the industry was nationalised, and when it was under 408 private enterprise, the managers of the pits were, broadly speaking, responsible. The manager of any pit which consistently sent out dirty coal eventually found himself in trouble with his directors. Probably, he either mended his ways or he got the sack.
But now what happens under the present set-up? The individual who receives dirty coal complains; but he gets no effective redress. Under private enterprise, whatever drawbacks there may have been, the customer who got dirty coal changed his merchant. Today the customer can change his merchant once a year, but in the majority of cases he finds that he has merely jumped out of the frying pan into the fire—or rather into the grate. Under private enterprise, the merchant who consistently received dirty coal was able to change the source of his supply and buy from another pit. Today he is deprived of that recourse. All he can do is to accept the coal. He has to take what is sent.
If a consumer writes to his Member of Parliament, the Member usually gets a long and, I am bound to say, a courteous reply from the Ministry, but it gets him no further forward. If we as an Opposition raise the matter in Debate and if our arguments are answered at all, which is not always the case, we are provided with a series of official excuses. We go to a Division, we are defeated by the Government, and necessarily the effect in the industry among the managers and so forth, is for them to say, "The Government have got away with it. It does not matter if we continue to supply dirty coal." That is the position today.
One of the supplementary difficulties is that of bringing home these cases to the Government. I do not accuse the Coal Board of victimisation, but there is undoubtedly a widespread feeling among merchants that if they complain and allow their names to be put forward either in Debate or in a Member's letter to the Ministry, the Coal Board may take steps to victimise them. I do not say that I have got any evidence of that. I am not saying that I have got the evidence for that, or evidence of actual victimisation by the National Coal Board. I am saying that there is widespread fear, which makes the task of bringing concrete cases before the House extremely difficult.
409 We have had numbers of cases brought to our notice, and, in practically every single one, there is a paragraph which says "We hope you will not quote our names." [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh, yes, plenty. I have a certain reluctance in putting forward cases in this House unless I am in a position to give the full facts and unless I have personally checked them. I do not propose to weary the House with a large number of cases, though I have two which I propose to quote. In these cases, in fact, the writer has definitely stated that we may quote his name. It is perfectly true also to say that he told us, when he gave us that permission, that he would probably get into serious trouble for doing so. These two cases happen to come from the constituency of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller).
The first is that of a man whose case has been brought to the notice of the Department; there is a letter from the Parliamentary Secretary in the file, so that it is not a case of which the Department is ignorant. This is a letter from a customer who says:Reading in last night's paper, the 'Northampton Chronicle and Echo,' that Mr. Noel-Baker would like details of the coal shortage, perhaps this would help. At Hackleton and Piddington (Northants), there are residents who had their last coal delivery six weeks ago (two and three cwts.), and have had no coal, slate or stone, etc., to burn for the last fortnight. One local firm had delivered between 1st November, 1949, and 11th February, 1950, 47 tons 19 cwts., against an allocation of 90 tons for that period. Can Mr. Noel-Baker find the missing 42 tons 1 cwt.?A local coal merchant in the same area happens to be in a Co-operative Society, which no doubt will strike a chord of sympathy in the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite. The manager writes on 21st March:At the time of writing, there is not a vestige of coal at this depot.That applies not only in his case, but to two other merchants as well. He goes on:During the summer, supplies were not available for householders to stock up, and consequently the position is serious in the extreme.In answer to an earlier letter from the Parliamentary Secretary, who said that people could always get coal in case of 410 illness or emergency, this Co-operative Society manager says:We cannot even supply coal against a priority certificate.The Parliamentary Secretary suggested that, if there was a shortage of deep-mined coal, the merchants should be able to make good with opencast, but this Co-operative Society tried, and the reply was that there had been such a demand in Warwickshire for opencast coal that the merchants were completely overwhelmed, with the result that none was to be obtained.
In case the Minister should think that this is an isolated case in a small rural station in Northamptonshire, when the assistant house coal officer of the House Coal Distribution (Emergency) Scheme at Nottingham was appealed to, he said:We note the tonnage you have received ex Warwickshire, and from the figures you give it would appear that your receipts have been in line with the general level of Warwickshire receipts.Clearly, this state of affairs does not apply to one isolated area, but to the country as a whole, and I have no doubt that other hon. Members could quote similar cases.
The only other case which I want to quote is that of one of my own constituents. Here, I asked the leader of the Borough Council to make personal inquiries into conditions at Southport, and he says:I went into this matter rather closely and it is no exaggeration to say that the Department is kept occupied for about half its time in dealing with complaints about quality.He goes on to say:The cases which have been personally investigated of poor quality coal show that 20 per cent. of the supplies as an average are bass or stone.These are two cases for which we can definitely vouch, because we have the details, and I should like to know what answer the Minister is going to give. I hope that we shall not be given the old excuse about pre-war failure or the shortage of adequate washeries, because it is not true. [An HON. MEMBER: "Of course, it is."] As hon. Members will see in a moment, it certainly is not, and it certainly does not cover all the cases. If the hon. Gentleman will take the trouble to look up one of his own Government's publications, Command Paper 411 7548, the Statistical Digest, he will find in Table 45 this interesting statement:Before the war, in 1938, the output of cleaned coal amounted to 103 million tons.The Department has not published any figures since 1947, and perhaps it would be of value if the right hon. Gentleman would see that his Department brought the figures up-to-date. The latest figure which we have, which is 1947, is only 90 million tons of coal which were clean, so that he will see that, although the percentage of washed coal before the war was slightly smaller than it is now, the actual amount, which is what matters, was really greater in pre-war days than it is now. I therefore hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not put forward that excuse, and that he will not repeat the fatuous excuse given on Monday week that the improved position before the war was due, relatively, to unemployment. There can rarely have been a more fatuous answer given by the Government than that.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not pretend either that the fall was due, or was largely due, to the increased amount of coal which was mechanically mined, because, again, if he will look at his own statistics, he will find that coal was got mechanically before the war. He will discover that 58 or 59 per cent. of the coal was mechanically mined before the war, and that the percentage today is between 75 and 78. The difference between the amount of dirt in coal today and before the war is very much greater than the difference in the percentage of coal mechanically mined before the war and now. I therefore hope that we shall not have that excuse put forward.
Indeed, if the Minister had thought of making that excuse, it might be well for him to remember what his predecessor but one, the present Minister of Defence, said in the course of the passage of the Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill. If he will look at HANSARD for 14th May, 1946, when we were discussing an Amendment put forward from this side of the House to improve the position of the consumer in regard to quality, he will find that his right hon. Friend, then Minister of Fuel and Power, said this:The hon. Gentleman, who is not without intelligence and who has had long experience, knows full well that the situation today is quite different from what it was before the 412 war, and in the course of, perhaps twelve months or less, certainly no longer than twelve months, we shall have corrected the position and we shall be able to adopt screening methods.… I hope, after that, they will no longer require to discriminate between the normal coal supplies and the inferior coal supplies which the hon. Gentleman has described."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th May, 1946; Vol. 422, c. 1699.]That was 1946, when the present Minister of Defence held out the confident hope that the position concerning dirty coal would have been cleaned up inside 12 months. Of course, the fact is that today all grades of coal being sold by the National Coal Board, with the exception of the small minority which are washed—and that applies particularly to the large coal which used to be efficiently handpicked before the war—are badly cleaned.
There is no question at all about the reason for this, and the National Coal Board themselves know it perfectly well. I do not know whether they have told the right hon. Gentleman; perhaps it is not fair to expect him to know it as he has been in office such a short time. However, they make no bones about admitting it privately to customers who complain. They say that up to now, at all events, they have failed to get the same conscientious care in cleaning the coal and in picking off the dirt as the coal goes over the belt as used to be got before the war.
Far from improving the position with regard to large coal, I am told that it is being allowed to go from bad to worse. That position is having a bad effect, not only on the domestic consumer in this country, but also on our export trade, about which I shall have a word to say later. Not only does the housewife complain, but the railways complain—the right hon. Gentleman has probably read the evidence given before the Railways Rates Tribunal—and the electricity companies are complaining.
I was told only last week that, on average, supplies of coal coming by rail and sea to electricity generating stations in London often contain as much as 25 per cent. of stone and dirt compared with a maximum of 14 per cent. before the war. Imagine the waste involved. One truck in every four coming to London for generating stations carries nothing but dirt, and one ship out of every four which we see from the Terrace of this House 413 passing up the Thames contains nothing but dirt. That is a shocking state of affairs, and we should be glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman what effective steps he proposes to take to deal with that matter.
One member of the Government—I think it was the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, but I am not certain, and I do not wish to do him an injustice—said that, under present conditions, it was up to the merchant to clean the coal. But the merchant never had to do it before the war; he got reasonably clean coal then. Today the merchant is faced with two difficulties. Anyone can look at merchants' yards in many parts of the country today and see the amount of dirt they are picking out from the consignments they receive. But why should this task be inflicted upon the merchants? They have to pay for all that dirt, and cannot recover its value from the National Coal Board.
I hope that when he replies on that point the right hon. Gentleman is not going to say, "Oh, but there is an established procedure whereby merchants can recover the cost from the National Coal Board in cases where the consignment is unsatisfactory or contains too much dirt." It is perfectly true that a scheme of this kind does exist, but it is not effective, because it only applies to cases where the whole truckload contains an undue proportion of dirt. Think of the position of the merchant who gets one truck of coal delivered to him at a small country station in the winter. Can we seriously contemplate his putting that truck on one side and waiting for three or four days before the representative of the Coal Board can come down to confirm that it is unfit to be sent out to consumers? What is going to happen to all the unfortunate consumers while the merchant is waiting for its replacement? In theory there may be a means of getting compensation from the National Coal Board, but, in fact, except in the very rare cases, it does not work.
In addition to that, merchants today are compelled to take a proportion of opencast coal to eke out the insufficient supplies of deep-mined coal, and, further, they are forced to take as domestic coal, fuel which before the war would have been classed as industrial. What I would like the right hon. Gentleman to explain 414 is how the unfortunate dealer is to dispose of this low grade coal and at the same time give his customers a fair deal and retain their goodwill. I think the right hon. Gentleman would have difficulty in doing that if he were the unfortunate merchant.
I should also like him to explain the meaning of the word "allocation," which he and his Parliamentary Secretary are so fond of using. The ordinary consumer thinks that it is a ration to which he is entitled. Not a bit of it; it merely means a maximum which he would be allowed to buy if supplies were available, which, of course, they never are. Neither this summer nor last winter, nor the winter and summer before that, were supplies sufficient to meet the allocations. We only got through these last two winters because they were mild winters. Had either of them been really cold, we should have been faced with a fuel crisis similar to that which overtook the country in 1947.
Again, I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman replies he will not use the stock answer that consumers could have got over the difficulty this winter by stocking up in the summer. Quite apart from the fact that there are a great number of people living in flats, for instance, who cannot stock up in the summer, had everybody bought the amount of coal to which they thought they were entitled, there would not have been sufficient to go round. The only reason why supplies were adequate was because great numbers of people were physically unable to lay in a stock. The fact is, of course, that the output today from the mines, particularly of deep-mined coal, is woefully insufficient to meet all the needs of the country.
Despite misleading propaganda, after three years of nationalisation the Government of hon. Members opposite, especially those who sit for mining constituencies, have failed to bring home to the industry the real situation which confronts the country, and also the magnitude of the opportunity open to it to make a lasting contribution to our recovery. Miserable targets have been set every year, and unjustified praise has been lavished on the industry by the responsible Ministers. Not only have the Government tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the people of this country concerning the amount of coal produced 415 and their efforts to get adequate supplies to meet our needs, but what is more serious in my view is that they have extended this to their relations with, and it their reports to, O.E.E.C. and E.C.A.
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has seen the memorandum submitted to O.E.E.C. for 1950–51–52 on operations under the agreement between ourselves and the United States covering the fourth quarter of 1949, but in case he would like to look at them I will now hand him a couple of copies. Perhaps he would not mind looking at them because I am going to deal with them in detail, and they are almost impossible to follow anyway. The first thing to which I want to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman and of the House is the statement on page 28 that output per man-shift is the best general measure of efficiency. We have heard that story for a very long time but it just does not wash. The effective measure is the output per man-year and not the output per man-shift. If the right hon. Gentleman will turn to the previous page—page 27, paragraph 105—he will find that—
§ The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)
My copy has only 21 pages.
§ Mr. Hudson
Perhaps the Minister will take the copy I gave him, which has the right number of pages. If he will look on page 27 he will see that in the case of all other industries the Memorandum agrees with us by saying that the proper test is output per man-year. It is very odd that when the National Coal Board take the trouble to publish a document called "Coal Figures" it contains every kind of statistics about the industry—wastage of men, exports, percentage of absenteeism and so on—but the one figure the Board do not publish is the output per man-year. Why do they not publish that? It is clearly because that figure would show the hollowness of their pretentions. The output per man-year last year was 281 tons compared with an output pre-war of 304 tons and an output in 1941 of 295 tons. If the right hon. Gentleman had put that figure in it would have put a very different shade on the whole story. The result of not publishing this figure is to conceal the effect of absenteeism upon the total output of the mines.
416 Now I turn to another figure. It this case it is in Command Paper 7890, on page 6. There it makes particular note of the overall increase of 4.7 per cent. per man-shift over 1948. Very peculiarly, when dealing with this the Government do not give the figure of output per man-shift at the face. In order to find that we have to turn to the Economic Survey published yesterday, which shows an increased output per man-shift at the face of 3.4 per cent., which is substantially less than the figure the Government are quoting to the Americans.
Another interesting figure, which one notices in comparing various industries, is the figure relating to future productivity. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at Command Paper 7862 he will see that in paragraph 105 the increase in industrial productivity is expected to exceed 5 to 6 per cent. whereas the increase it) productivity for coal is less than 5 per cent. One has to search these two documents to obtain a comparison before one realises that the increased productivity of coal is very much less than the increased productivity of other industries in the country. This is brought out even more if one looks at the forecast in paragraph 109 of Command Paper 7862. There one will find that an increase of only 5 per cent. in coal production is suggested for the next two years, whereas if one looks at the Economic Survey it will be seen that an increase of productivity of 6 per cent. for one year only is forecast for other industries. So we have, on the Government's own admission, an increase for one year alone for other industries of 6 per cent., whereas for coal there is going to be an increase of only 5 per cent. for two years. That is a pretty fair admission of failure by the Government, and this is concealed by the fact that one has to search through these three separate papers in order to correlate these separate figures.
The Government state that the output of deep-mined coal in 1949 was 202.7 million tons and that the productive target was reached, but the Sixth Report did not tell the ordinary simple American Congressman and Senator that the target of 202.7 million was the lowest of the published targets for that year. This document did not say that Lord Hyndley himself said, in January, 1949, that the deep-mined target should be between 210 million and 215 million tons—a very 417 different figure from 202.7 million—and it also did not say that in 1947 we told the United States that under the Marshall Plan we anticipated having a production in 1949 of 210 million tons. So far from achieving that target or any decent target, we failed both to achieve the target Lord Hyndley set and the target promised to the Americans under the Marshall Plan. This document did not say a word about that. Nor did it say that under the Marshall Plan, as stated in the Coal Board Report, 1947, Great Britain was committed to produce 210 million tons of deep-mined coal. Neither did it say that the figure of 202.7 million tons included coal of much lower calorific value than pre-war.
As to the target for 1950, are we going to get the 225 million tons of deep-mined coal promised in the report to O.E.E.C.? It is very noticeable that in the Economic Survey published yesterday the target is given as only 218 million to 223 million tons.
§ Mr. Hudson
If it does, then it makes the position even worse. We are talking about deep-mined coal.
§ Mr. Hudson
If the right hon. Gentleman really wants to get himself bogged down he had better read these three documents together and try and find which figures include opencast and which do not, and which refer to metric tons and which to long tons. That is again evidence of a desire on the part of the Government not to make matters as clear as we think they ought to be.
It is an interesting speculation to see what could have been produced by the industry. We have had various forecasts and estimates. I remember that Sir Charles Reid estimated that with the then existing number of men it should be possible to reach a target of 230 million tons, and the T.U.C. as well said that 220 million tons would be a fair target.
I have taken out the figures for the "bull" weeks; I take it that the right hon. Gentleman knows what the "bull" weeks are. They show a very interesting state of affairs. The average weekly production in the "bull" weeks in 1948 418 was just over four million tons. The average throughout the year was only 3.777 million tons. The average weekly production in the "bull" weeks in 1949 was 4.341 million tons as compared with the weekly average for the year of 4.137 million tons. Comparing like with like, including provision for holidays and everything of that kind, if production at the "bull" week rate had been continued throughout the year, last year we should have got an additional 25 million tons of deep-mined coal, and we should in fact have more than achieved the promise we made to the Marshall Aid countries.
What is most interesting is this. I said that by only giving the output per man-shift figures and not the figures for the output per man-year, the Government have succeeded in obscuring the effect of absenteeism on the year's output. These figures for the "bull" weeks are very suggestive indeed. I will not give the figures for both years—they are approximately the same—in order to avoid giving too many figures. They are these: In 1949 in the week ending 5th November, voluntary absenteeism was 4.8 per cent. These are successive weeks: 5.0, 4.9, 4.7, 4.5, 4.2, and in the week ending 17th December 3.3. That is voluntary absenteeism, showing what can be done. Those figures compare with an average absenteeism figure over the whole year of 12.34.
Involuntary absenteeism for the same weeks in 1949 were 6.6, 6.6, 6.5, 6.4, 6.2, 5.8, and in the week ending 17th December 5.3. The weeks beginning in December are not normally the weeks in which illness is at its minimum, to say the least; and yet during those "bull" weeks we saw a steady decrease in the rate of absenteeism, not only voluntary absenteeism but, what is more remarkable, involuntary absenteeism. I think we are entitled to conclude from that fact that it is within the capacity of the industry not necessarily to get the extra 25 million tons but to do appreciably better than the 202 million tons. I will leave it at that.
I have one general observation to make on these two documents. I hope I have shown that they are dishonest. They are certainly calculated to give a dishonest impression of the actual achievements over the year. Not only are they dishonest, 419 but, much worse, they are stupid, because when dealing with the Americans the one thing a person should do is to put his cards on the table and give honest and open facts. I personally have had a great deal to do with negotiations with Americans, and especially with American business men who were temporary civil servants.
I was at our Embassy in Washington and had to deal with them during the first war. I remember Mr. Vance McCormick, who was Chairman of the National Democratic Committee and was also more or less the corresponding figure to Mr.:Hoffman today. I had to go and see him about a case in which the War Office here were trying to put a "fast one" over the Americans in the matter of wool, and he said to me, "Look here, Hudson. You try and make your people at home understand that if Great Britain is going to deal successfully with the United States there is only one possible way to do it. That is by putting all your cards on the table and being absolutely frank, and not trying to put a fast one over us. If you once try to put fast ones over us, in the long run you will be defeated."
Nothing could be more stupid than the Government's action in issuing these documents. It does not require any great concentration to check them up and see that they are dishonest or that they present a dishonest picture. It is because of things like that that today Americans on these various bodies, as I am informed, are beginning completely to mistrust the figures which the British Government put forward. It is a shocking state of affairs, and one which I hope will be stopped at once.
§ Mr. Hudson
With regard to exports of coal, I imagine that no one in this House under-estimates the value to this country and indeed to the world of the British export trade in coal—least of all, I hope, the right hon. Gentleman with his long acquaintance with foreign affairs, and equally the Parliamentary Secretary who, in many letters of his, has explained to Members the importance of our exports in order to get the resources with which to pay for necessary 420 imports of food and raw materials into this country. Nevertheless, the story of the post-war years is a pretty sorry one. As far as Europe is concerned, I think it is not unfair to say that the coal-mining industry was the only industry in this country which of itself in the years immediately after the war could make a really notable contribution towards the quick recovery of Europe.
Think what a difference it would have made during the last five or even two years if this country had had a disposable export surplus of 30 million or even 20 million tons of coal. Every ton of coal would have carried with it a message of good will from Great Britain to the Continent, and would have promoted faith in the future of this country and in our real capacity to help The psychological value of that would have been far greater than the particular effort involved. But the effort was not made by the coal industry, very largely, I believe, because there was no one in the Government or in the industry with the imagination or power to put the true facts over to the workers in the industry.
It is no use crying over spilt milk now. We have to face the present and the future. Under the Marshall Plan Great Britain was to export in 1949 23 million tons and we exported only 19½ million tons. In 1950 we were to export 33 million tons, and in 1951 we promised to export 41 million tons. Do the Government still think these targets are attainable? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us when he replies. Certainly, judging from the figures on page 23 of the Economic Survey published yesterday, the Government have abandoned all hope and are going to be content with very little more than half the figure which we promised to Marshall Aid.
Do they anticipate even being able to maintain the figure in the Economic Survey? Do they anticipate being able this year to export 19 million tons? I hope we shall be told by the Minister. Judging by reports that I have seen in the Press, and received from elsewhere, it seems that difficulties are being experienced today in fulfilling contracts that we have already entered into, let alone going out for more to increase the target. Is this so? Perhaps the Minister will tell 421 us. If so, what are the chances of exceeding the figure or getting near to the figure we promised to Marshall Aid?
It seems from information I have received that the trouble is not only one of output. Now that supplies from other sources are becoming available, old overseas markets of ours are objecting to the steep increase in price which the National Coal Board has forced on them, and, even more important, they are objecting to the deterioration in quality and cleanliness of the supplies that we actually manage to send.
I am told that the Saar is today producing an exportable surplus, small, it is true, at present but likely to rise. That surplus is certainly proving welcome to former customers of ours because the coal is both cleaner and of better quality and, above all, is cheaper. I am told that the Saar output is being sold for many months ahead. Coal is being sent today from South Africa not only to Pakistan but also to Australia, old markets of ours, and above all to Denmark. The Scandinavian countries are welcoming all these new alternative sources of supplies as providing them with a second string to their bow when they come to negotiate further supplies from us.
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Food got into trouble with the Argentine the other day for talking about blackmail, but there is a considerable danger that these foreign consumers of ours will begin to use the same language about the action of the National Coal Board. At the moment, of course, every ton of coal that can be exported can be sold, but that is not a state of affairs which will continue for very long. It will not last for ever or even for very much longer. I am told that if they wanted the Poles could sell coal overseas at prices which would not cover even our British cost of production, let alone any profit, and as their output and means of transport to the seaboard, to the ports, improves, no doubt they will be tempted to do so.
In their Report for 1948 the National Coal Board talked about the need to cut costs and spoke with pride of the fact that the rising curve of costs was beginning to flatten out. We on these benches say that that is far from being enough. 422 If the export trade is to survive they will have to reduce costs. Let us not only reduce the cost of coal but let us get cleaner coal. Again, the National Coal Board professes privately to customers, who complain, that they have as yet failed to get coal properly cleaned and handpicked. The same situation is true of the export trade as that which I described earlier about domestic coal. Unless the Coal Board succeed in getting cleaner and cheaper coal the foreigner who, unlike the British housewife, has got or will soon have alternative sources of supply, will not continue to buy British and the results to this country, as I am sure hon. Members on all sides of the House appreciate, are bound to be disastrous.
I hope that in his reply the new Minister will not follow the usual prescription of the speeches we heard in the last Parliament. I hope he will not give a long rehash of pre-war grievances followed by a long account of what excellent work the Labour Party has done for the miners. That sort of speech might have been all right in the past.
§ Mr. Hudson
May be it is true. All I am saying is that we have heard it until we are tired and it does not answer the question. It may have been all right in the first year or the second year, but the House and the country must remember that the National Coal Board have now been in the saddle for three years. In their Annual Report two years ago the Board said that they hadalready increased wages and made many other improvements for their employees in anticipation of a future increase in productivity.They went on to say that the money has been paid but the bulk of the return has yet to come. The right hon. Gentleman will find that on page 121 of their Report.
In addition, of course, very large sums have already been spent on machinery and other improvements to the pits and the Economic Survey tells us of further substantial sums to be spent under those heads this year. We believe that the returns so far appear to be pretty meagre. Industrialists at home have to put up with coal of inferior calorific value at immensely increased prices, our exports are running at figures well below what we 423 promised the Americans and the housewife is fobbed off with so-called coal in quantity well below pre-war, in quality definitely inferior and at prices multiplied several times.
Judging by the information in the Economic Survey the returns in 1950 will be but little better and it looks as though the housewife is once again going to find herself at the end of the queue. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why? "] If we have a very small increase of total production amounting to only 5 per cent. over two years, and if we anticipate increased industrial productivity of 6 per cent. in a single year, and if we are to try to get our exports up to anything like the figure which we promised under Marshall Aid, then it is quite clear that there will be much less for the housewife. There will not be enough extra production of coal to take care of the increased demand and, therefore, the poor unfortunate housewife will get it in the neck again. I do not understand why hon. Members opposite seem to dislike the housewife. At any rate, they treat her with contempt. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury said that officials in Whitehall know how to buy much better than she does and the Noble Lord, speaking on behalf of the Government in another place, said one could not trust housewives to be good statisticians and to know how to spend their money.
§ Mr. Hudson
There was no complaint about dirty coal in those days. What we expect the Minister to tell us today is what effective steps he proposes to take to see that these returns to which the National Coal Board referred two years ago start to come in. Or is he going to tell us that he will be content in 1950 with production at a rate as set forth in the Economic Survey, well below the rate confidently expected of industries working under private enterprise?
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)
The right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) opened his speech by asking rhetorical questions; what are we going to get out of Parliamentary Debates about the 424 nationalised industries; where is the control going to lie; can anything be done by Parliamentary Debate to rectify grievances like that about dirty coal? Dirty coal is a very important subject, and I hope today to say something about it which even the right hon. Gentleman will think constructive. I hope that Parliamentary discussions on the subject may lead to a real result. But before 1946 there were things much worse than dirty coal which were wrong with the coal industry and Parliament had no powers to put them right.
The right hon. Gentleman accused the Government of giving a dishonest impression about our results. I am not a man to use harsh language, but if I may reply in kind I should say that I thought his speech dishonest from beginning to end. He painted a picture of general failure relieved only by some specific sharp complaints. Of course, in the present situation the right hon. Gentleman wants to forget the past. The Conservative Party always want us to forget the past, especially about coal, but if the right hon. Gentleman wants to judge coal in 1950 he has to remember coal as it was in 1946. Has he really forgotten it? The long decline from 1926; output at 174 million tons; the damning facts and figures of the Reid Report? Over the period from 1927 to 1939 there was an increase in output per man-shift in this country of 11 per cent., in Poland 54 per cent., in the Ruhr 85 per cent., in Holland 118 per cent.; one haulage worker for every 50 tons in the United States, one for every 20 in Holland and one for every five in Britain; thousands of miles of pit railways and haulage systems in utter chaos or in a lamentable condition; most of the collieries uneconomic units; large reserves of good coal sterilised as barriers between private firms; the industry in perpetual financial embarrassment and, in the very temperate words of the Reid Report of 1945:… the men in no mood for willing co-operation with their employers.That is the picture which the right hon. Gentleman forgets, and that was why "The Times" said in 1947 that the Government were taking over a "dilapidated estate" which it would take them some time to put right. That was why the President of the Miners' Union said in 1947 that it might be a decade before 425 the industry was prosperous and producing the coal we needed. The immediate outlook, he said, was critical. Of course, things were bad when the Coal Board took over; and, of course, they were getting worse. The right hon. Gentleman will not dispute the authority of Lord McGowan, the chairman of I.C.I.—
§ Mr. Noel Baker
—who, late in 1948, said that if the Conservative Party had been elected at the General Election of 1945, and coal had not been nationalised.I believe,he said,we should have been getting a million tons less per week than we are at present.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
A million tons a week; 52 million tons a year. What would have happened to British recovery if he had been right? It is against the background of those facts that the policy of nationalisation, the work of the Coal Board, and the present situation must be judged. I know as well as anyone that we are by no means past the difficulties that we have to face. Nobody in my Ministry would claim that everything that has been done has been right. I will examine all the questions raised by the right hon. Gentleman or by any hon. Member on their merits, but I shall examine them, as he should, with the historical background in mind. That background is particularly important in connection with his first complaint—about dirty coal. I know there is more dirt in the coal today than there was before the war. I know it is a genuine grievance among the women in the homes. I know the irritation and the trouble it causes. But why is dirt in coal a greater problem than it used to be? There are two basic reasons. The first is that for some time before the industry was nationalised the good seams were being exhausted. Thinner—and dirtier—seams were being used. The Coal Board had to go on working those thinner and dirtier seams. They had no option. We had to have the coal. More dirt came out.
In the second place, the owners—the private owners—had put in machinery for 426 cutting coal but fell behind in providing the machinery for washing and cleaning which was indispensably required. Cutting machines, power loaders, of course send up more dirt, and the picking belt is a very costly way of cleaning; it is extravagant in manpower. Mechanical plant for cleaning and washing is required. But in 1946, while 74 per cent. of the output of coal was being cut mechanically, only 47½ per cent. was being washed mechanically. These facts explain the very great difficulty which the Coal Board had to face.
People sometimes talk as though there was never any dirty coal before the industry was nationalised. It was never so bad as in 1945 and 1946. People talk—the right hon. Gentleman talked—as though the Coal Board sent on the coal without trying to take out the dirt. Let us consider these figures. In 1938, 234 million tons were extracted from the mines, raised and weighed; 7 million tons of dirt were taken out. In 1949, 220 million tons were taken from the mines, raised and weighed—14 million tons less—but 18.3 million tons of dirt were taken out; instead of 7 million, 18.3 million.
That is because the Board have made a genuine effort. They have started up plants which were idle. They have extended and repaired others that had broken down. They have improved the lighting of the picking belts. They have brought a lot of new washeries into operation—38 since vesting day—of a much higher capacity, and 61 are on order and under construction now. One of them cleans 800 tons an hour as against the average of 80 tons of the pre-war plants. These new plants will clean 18 million or 19 million tons a year. Other measures taken by the Board with the existing plants have cleaned 8 million more. The Board have made a genuine effort—
§ Mr. Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Heeley)
Could the right hon. Gentleman give us the figures of the dirt extracted? It would be interesting to know where he has got the figures from. I mean, at what point were the weights taken?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
It is the stuff that comes up from the mines and is washed and weighed before it goes out.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Yes. The Board have made a genuine effort. They have increased the percentage of coal which is washed from 45.8 in 1944 to 51 today. When they reach 70 per cent. of mechanically cleaned, they will have done the job—or very nearly. Either the rest will be cleaned by hand, or some of it can be used without cleaning But, of course, they will need time to get to 70 per cent.
As I said at Question Time the other day—and I repeat it now—I am not satisfied with the situation as it is today. I have, therefore, taken the matter up with the Coal Board, as I said I would. I have asked them to regard it as urgent and important. The Board have agreed to do everything they can to ensure that the quality of large coal shall be immediately improved. They have given instructions to every division that there shall be a redoubled drive at the pits for cleaner filling, better lighting and better manning of the picking belts, and better supervision of the picking. They have decided to meet representatives of the coal distributive trade, as they did two years ago, in order to discuss with them the classes of coal about which merchants get complaints, and they hope, and I hope, that they will get some effective action from that meeting.
I am going to take the matter up with the merchants myself. The right hon. Gentleman said that the merchants never did anything about cleaning before nationalisation. Of course, they did. They did a very great deal before the war. They shared the responsibility for getting clean coal to the customers who wanted it, and I hope that some way can be devised—I know the difficulties of the merchants—but I hope some way can be devised by which that healthy principle can be restored.
I hope that the Coal Board will make the fullest possible use of the colliery consultative committees in this redoubled drive which they are starting. Everybody in the whole industry should give his help in a great, concerted effort to restore the industry's good name, because it is by clean household coal that the industry will inevitably be judged by the public at large.
The right hon. Gentleman raised another point in connection with household coal—the point of cost.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson
I do not want to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but he has not replied to either of the points I made about dirty coal; first, that the amount of coal cleaned was much greater before the war than it is now, and second,. the confession of the National Coal Board, that they had failed to get the men to do as conscientious a job in the cleaning and picking of coal as they had done before.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
No, Sir. I have explained that the difficulties are now far greater, and that they are, in fact, taking, out a far greater quantity of dirt than was taken out before the war; and I said they are making a start with a new drive to increase the amount of dirt taken out to clean up the coal. The right hon. Gentleman pays no attention whatever, to the arguments I have put to him about the great difficulties with which the Board were faced in 1947.
The second point which he raised about household coal was that of opencast, know that many of the merchants dislike the opencast which they receive. In fact, the proportion of opencast that they get is only 5 per cent. overall of their total supplies. It varies in quality; some of it is good, some less good; but we take great trouble to ensure that it shall be, delivered clean. In the contract made with those who dig it, we only pay for clean coal. We have special Ministry supervisors to ensure that the dirt is kept out. I am going into that matter again, and I shall be glad to consider any suggestions which any hon. Member of any party cares to put forward.
Hon. Members who follow in the Debate will, no doubt, ask the question:, Why use any opencast coal for household, use at all? For the same reason, that we cannot give the household user the quantity he wants. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to imply that we had disguised that fact. We have never disguised it. It is on every circular that deals with the matter. We cannot give the householder the quantity he wants; we have to export coal; and we have to, export the kind of coal the foreigner wants. The right hon. Gentleman urged that we should think of that as one of the highest priorities. We have to export coal just as we have to export pottery and motor cars, although people in this country would like to buy them. We could sell more exports now.
429 I would like to reassure the right hon. Gentleman about the long-term prospect. If things develop as they are, he need not be alarmed about our long-term markets. I would, in answer to him, say again that I am going to take up the question of the quantity of household coal which merchants receive for their clients. I am not at all satisfied, and I am not certain that I can get more. We cannot cut the exports in any significant way. Last year, exports earned for us £50 million, most of it in valuable foreign exchange, and £7½ million in dollars and hard currency, apart from freights and insurance on the cargoes. Of course, as the right hon. Gentleman said, we are under an obligation to export. I ask the House to remember one other thing: the total home demand for coal has increased by 17 million tons since 1938, for industrial purposes, power stations and the rest. If there had not been that great increase in industrial demand, we should have been able to give the householders what they want. But I am going to see if something can be done about that.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
The right hon. Gentleman said that he would inquire into the amount of coal available to householders. Will he be so good as to look also into the question of the distribution of what is available? I have received complaints that people in East Fife are not getting anything like a fair allocation compared with others.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I have already looked into a good many complaints of that kind, and I shall be glad to look into the hon. Gentleman's complaint.
I now turn to what the right hon. Gentleman said about absenteeism and manpower. It is true that the numbers of workers overall are somewhat down. Many men who came into the industry and who were really quite unsuited to the mines have been dismissed and have gone to other work. When the ring fence was removed, some miners left; but some ex-miners are coming back. The overall numbers are somewhat down, but it is not the overall shortage that is the major problem.
The major problem is the shortage of skilled manpower in some areas and the surplus in others. There is a shortage in the new rich coalfield of Fife; a surplus in the old, exhausted, or nearly exhausted, 430 coalfield of Lanark. There may be a surplus of manpower—splendid skilled miners, the finest in the world—in parts of Durham, Northumberland and elsewhere. The problem is to encourage these skilled miners to move to where the nation needs them most. Transfer is a very complex social operation; it involves difficulties of every kind. Housing is one of them, but there are many other human difficulties as well. One large-scale transfer has in fact been carried through. Five thousand miners and their families have moved from Lanark to the newer coalfields of Scotland. More transfers may be required, and if they could be made today we should get more coal.
I must add that the whole manpower problem is in fact being changed by the new machines. In the last two years, experiments have been made with the Gloster getter, the Sampson stripper and the so-called "plough," and the experiments promise very well. The potential saving of manpower that these new machines may give is very great.
As the underground haulage system is improved—and it is being improved—as screening and washing plant is improved, so we shall get more coal with fewer men; but there is the problem, with which the right hon. Gentleman dealt at length, of absenteeism. I am going to be very frank. I begin by saying that there is a great deal of unfair talk against the miners. People forget that in some coalfields before the war mining was a semi-casual employment, and they forget that in almost all the coalfields miners had long periods of under-employment, a few shifts a week, or total unemployment for years on end. It is very hard for men who have suffered in that way to settle down to a regular, every-day, all-round-the-year attendance.
I do not admit of any comparison between the rate of total absenteeism before the war and the total rate today. Before the war, miners who were sick or slightly injured often went back to work before they were well enough to do so, because they had to have the money. Today, with better wages and adequate Health Insurance, they do not do that. And I do not admit of any comparison between miners and workers in other industries.
§ Mr. Hudson
I said nothing about prewar absenteeism. The comparison I made was involuntary and voluntary absenteeism in "bull" week with the average for the year. I know the difficulty of a comparison with pre-war and I deliberately did not mention it.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Other hon. Members have done so in earlier Debates, and it is very frequently done outside this House. In dealing with absenteeism, I think it right to answer that point. I do not admit of any comparison between the rate before the war and the rate now. I do not admit of any comparison between the miners and workers in other trades. We do not know the degree of absenteeism in other trades. In the last Parliament, there was perhaps a good deal of absenteeism even among hon. Members.
Having said that, I do not disguise that the present rate of absenteeism is disappointing. There are many reasons, good and bad, why a particular man does not go to work on a particular day; but the fact remains that more absenteeism means less output. If we had more output we could satisfy, or nearly satisfy, the householder consumer, and we should make absolutely sure of our long-term foreign markets, which, if they were lost, might be very difficult to get back again. I hope that the miners will remember that regular attendance now, however great the change in their habits, may help to safeguard full employment in the future for themselves and their comrades in other trades. I hope that they will remember the central, crucial fact of which their own leaders have often spoken, that if absenteeism could be reduced by one per cent., it would mean two million tons more coal a year.
I believe that more and more miners, with the better conditions they now enjoy will form the habit of regular attendance at their work. But the key to that will lie, in my firm conviction, in the longterm improvement in labour relations. There is still a good deal to do in improving labour relations in the coal industry. The work of generations cannot be undone in the twinkling of an eye; but by 432 their new wage agreements, their colliery consultative committees, their pithead baths, canteens, health services, training schemes, educational work and their "ladder" plan, the Board have made a start.
The real test of labour relations is the number of man-days lost in trade disputes. The right hon. Gentleman has not raised the matter today. He did so in the last Debate, and he did not like it at all when my hon. Friend compared the last three years after the Second World War with the three years after the First World War: 1919–21, 97 million man-days lost; 1946–48, 1.7 million man-days lost. The right hon. Gentleman said that was not fair; that it was going back too far, and so on. Let me give him, if I may, a comparison which I think is fair, and which I believe he will agree is fair. The average number of days lost per year for 20 years under private enterprise between the wars was over 13 million; the average number of days lost for three years of nationalisation, with all the strains and stresses of a new system, has been 710,000. If the right hon. Gentleman still has any doubts about labour relations, or about the feeling of the miners towards the new set-up, perhaps he will consider the results of the General Election in the mining areas.
Now I turn to output per man-shift, output per man-year, and costs—what the right hon. Gentleman might perhaps call the business results of nationalisation. He does not like us to talk about output per man-shift; he prefers output per man-year. Well, in fact, output per man-shift has always been regarded as the test of business efficiency in the mines, of good management and of the real effort which industry is making. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Hon. Members will find it all over the Reid Report. There they will never find a single mention of output per man-year I shall deal with both—
§ Colonel Clarke (East Grinstead)
If the right hon. Gentleman will look at the First Report of the Committee on Industrial Productivity, on page nine, under "Definition of Productivity," he will find this:In the present circumstances it is desirable not only to accelerate improvements in output per man-hour, but also to secure that they are fully reflected in an increase in output per man-year. We have used the term 'productivity' in this latter sense.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
That does not at all invalidate what I say. I shall talk about both, but if I may, I will start with output per man-shift. As I have said already, the Reid Report showed that over a period 12 years before the war we had increased only 11 per cent., while others had done much more. The figures for recent years are as follows: 1945, 1.00 tons; 1949, 1.15 tons; 1950, the first 10 weeks, 1.20 tons—a steady unbroken curve of increase amounting to 20 per cent. In 1938 the corresponding figure was 1.14 tons. So that already, as compared with pre-war days we have an improvement of nearly 6 per cent., and, as I said, the curve continues to go up. "But," says the right hon. Gentleman, "you really must look at output per man-year." He said that we were trying to hide the figures. Well, he will find them if he looks at the Statistical Digest, in Table 3; it is all there, in output per man-years.
Of course, when one is short of coal, output per man-year is extremely important. I do not deny it. But consider the figures of output per man-year in recent times, remembering the background with which I started. In 1938—that is the representative year we always take—output per man-year was 290 tons; 1945, 246 tons; 1947, 263 tons; 1948, 273 tons; and in 1949, 283 tons—nearly 40 tons increase since 1945; over 16 per cent. in four years, in spite of the immense difficulties with which the Board were faced; 10 tons a year increase for each of the last two years. I venture no firm prediction, but I shall be very much surprised if the man-year tonnage for 1950 does not beat that for 1938; and 1950 will be only the fourth year of nationalisation; and the process of nationalised recovery started from a very low point, as I have shown.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be able to speak later, and my hon. Friend will reply to him.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about costs. It is true, of course, that costs have gone up since vesting date. The figures are very familiar: 8s. 6½d. of which by far the greater part was for better wages for the miners. The right 434 hon. Gentleman will not have forgotten the figure my hon. Friend gave him in the last Debate—namely, that between 1938 and 1946 costs have gone up, not by 8s. 6½d. but by 19s. 9d Let me consider this business from another angle. The Board of Trade publishes the index figures of wholesale prices for various commodities and industries. Between 1938 and 1946 the index for the wholesale price of coal rose by 98 per cent. That was more than any of the other main commodity groups, except cotton alone. Since 1946, under nationalisation the wholesale price index for coal has risen by only 25 per cent., which compares favourably with the average increase of all groups of 37 per cent.
I think I have dealt with most of the specific points which the right hon. Gentleman made. His main contention, of course, the thing that he really wants the House and the country to believe, is that nationalisation has been a failure; that the mines today are doing less well than they used to do under private enterprise, or than they would have done if private enterprise had been left in charge. Unless his speech meant that, it meant nothing.
We have always believed that nationalisation had certain inherent advantages—advantages which would help us to carry out the recommendations of the Reid Report and remove the grave defects which it revealed. We believed that with nationalisation we should get a new degree, and in due course a new kind, of co-operation from the men; we believed that for the first time in many years the industry would have adequate finance, adequate capital resources; we believed that the "parcelisation" of the industry would be ended if it were organised in economic units; we believed that the knowledge and experience of the best engineers and scientists could be spread over a much wider territory; that the field for experiment would be widened, that research would be extended, that new knowledge would be pooled, and that the standardisation of plant and equipment would increase its efficiency and reduce its costs.
Well, all those advantages are proving in practice to be real. But all of them, without exception, must take time to show their full results. Who seriously 435 believes that under any system the industry could properly have recovered in three years from the condition in which it was in 1946? Yet in three years—
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
It was much better in 12 months. As I was saying, in three years we have got real results. My predecessor in my present office made an admirable survey of the position in November last. I sum it up as follows. There is a new spirit among the men—much to do, but a genuine change of feeling has taken place. Mining has become one of the best-paid instead of one of the worst-paid employments in the country. Earnings now bear some relation to the toil and risk involved. Output has gone up from 174 million tons, in 1945, to 202 million tons, in 1949—a steady 3 per cent. increase per annum since vesting date, higher I believe than could be shown in the industry before. The export targets have been attained. The miners have helped to close our trading gap. Mistakes have been made—of course they have—and where defects or rigidities have appeared some, at least, have been corrected. The organisation has been changed already, and it will be changed again if experience shows that it is needed.
I shall listen gladly to any Member of any party who makes proposals about how things can be improved. This is the greatest experiment in the industrial history of our land. For two centuries British power and British progress have been built on coal. Britain's greatness, Britain's reconstruction and Britain's leadership for peace and freedom today depend on coal. For far too long Britain's miners have been harshly treated by the nation whom they serve. Today, they have a brighter future. We are resolved that with their help this venture shall succeed.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Raikes (Liverpool, Garston)
I am glad to follow the right hon. Gentleman who has made his first speech in his new office. We shall be in agreement on this if not on much else, and that is in offering our best wishes, to the right hon. Gentleman in the task he has taken on. One 436 thing is certain, and that is that vigour is needed if the coal industry is to recover and get back to the production and export figures of pre-war years. Having said that, I am now going to advance into the realms of controversy. I shall confine myself almost entirely to the right hon. Gentleman's speech, instead of making the sort of set speech to which we have become all too familiar in this House.
I detected a note of complacency in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He looked back to the past—and I shall say a word or two about the past—and told us that we are really doing awfully well although a good deal remains to be done. I want to check up with the right hon. Gentleman on whether we are doing as well as he has indicated, and to take up certain suggestions that may be made later in the Debate. I know that the right hon. Gentleman is new to his post. To descend from Commonwealth Relations to the Ministry of Fuel and Power means taking on something completely different. There is not much in common between Seretse Khama and the Coal industry except that both are black. Apart from that, of course, Seretse is the more inflammable material from what I have seen recently of modern coal.
The right hon. Gentleman emphasised the point that he made during Questions last Monday week, that the Coal Board inherited a terrible problem. He referred to the terrible state of the industry, to a lack of washing facilities and to good seams being exhausted. I do not know whether it occurred to Members opposite, but it certainly occurred to us, that if conditions were so deplorable before the Coal Board took over, how was it that the Government were so optimistic three years ago when they laid down their Marshall Aid Programme for coal for the next three years.
When my right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) referred to the Marshall Aid Programme, the Minister showed that he was somewhat new to his job by saying incorrectly that the figures given by my right hon. Friend applied both to opencast and deep-mined coal. This is what the Government imagined they could do when they took over the coal industry, with this terrible picture of the past in their minds. For 1948, they estimated, under the 437 Marshall Aid programme, 200 million tons of deep-mined coal and 11 million tons of opencast coal. They were not so much down that year, because, as Members will recollect, the figures were 196,500,000 tons of deep-mined coal and 11.7 million tons of opencast coal. Since then, however, the gap has widened every year.
The estimate for 1949 was 210 million tons of deep-mined coal, and the performance was 202.6 million tons. For 1950 it was 220 million tons of deep-mined coal, and the National Coal Board expect to reach only between 205 million tons and 210 million tons. Finally, for 1951 it was 230 million tons of deep-mined coal. At the present rate of advance, we shall be lucky to get somewhere near 208 million tons by 1951. Why are we falling so far short of what the Government expected when they took over? It is no good talking about the mines being worked out and about the old days. They knew what the position was, and they made their forecast; but since then they have fallen back and back.
The Minister seemed very anxious to talk about the production in 1945 and 1946. It is the case that in every other Statistical Digest issued by the Government production is compared with 10 years ago rather than with three or four yeas ago. They do not like comparing production in 1948 or 1949 with production in 1938 or 1939 when private enterprise was actively working without outside control. It is much better to take the figures at the end of the war when many men had left the pits for the Army, when the Government had had financial control for four or five years and everyone was tired—they make lovely figures.
Let us go back for a moment to those terrible days to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. He indicated that we managed to meet our coal commitments only because of mass employment. What was the position? Let us take 1939. In 1939 we produced 231 million tons of more or less clean deep-mined coal. If I recollect correctly, in 1939 we actually provided as much deep-mined coal for industry and for the domestic consumer as the right hon. Gentleman has allocated for 1949. In fact, it was half a million tons more. During that period there was the full blast of foreign 438 competition, which the right hon. Gentleman has not yet met, but in those days we were exporting no 19 million tons of coal abroad as now but over 40 million tons.
If things were deplorable in 1939—and there were many things which large numbers on both sides of the House did not approve—today 10 years later from the point of view of the consumer, industrial or domestic, and also of export, the position is not deplorable; it is disgraceful. We are producing 202½ million tons of coal and that is far less in reality since much of it is unburnable slate.
§ Mr. Raikes
I am glad the Parliamentary Secretary has interrupted me. He says that there are somewhere about 9 per cent. fewer men in the industry today than in 1939, but it must be remembered there is 16 per cent. more machinery than in 1939. We have heard a lot about the Reid Report today, and Sir Charles Reid has told us that the increased amount of machinery plus the present number of men in the pits ought to give us 230 million tons of deep mined coal in the year.
§ Mr. Robens
When the necessary technical developments in the pits have been carried out, but these will take time.
§ Mr. Raikes
As the Parliamentary Secretary knows quite well, Sir Charles Reid is a far greater mining engineer than either the Parliamentary Secretary or myself. He made that statement on the assumption that under the conditions of 1948 it should be possible, if the Coal Board were working efficiently, to reach that target. That is what Sir Charles has said, and, though the Parliamentary Secretary may possibly know better what he means, I prefer to rely on the spoken word.
The quality of coal has deteriorated a great deal during the last 10 years. Reasons for it have been given this afternoon by the right hon. Gentleman. He has referred to the question of the lack of washing facilities. I understand that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Fylde, South (Colonel Lancaster) will be speaking in this Debate later on. He is a greater expert on coal-washing facilities than the right hon. Gentleman or 439 myself, but I should like to ask one question in regard to the wet and dry cleaning plants, which perhaps may be answered later in the Debate—what are the number of wet and dry cleaning plants at present in the coal industry under the Coal Board? The figure in 1947 was 548 pits had wet and dry cleaning plants, but no figures have been given since then.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I believe that the figure is 685, including 38 which the Coal Board have constructed since vesting date.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson
Is there any reason why we should have been deprived of these figures and should have to extract them like teeth from a jaw? Why should they not be published? The last figure published was for 1947, and we are now in 1950.
§ Mr. Raikes
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman as his answer assists us to realise one thing, which was a little obscure. We have heard a great deal about the lack of washing and cleaning facilities provided under private ownership when nationalisation took over. However, it is interesting to know that we have now more pits fitted with wet and dry cleaning plants than there were in 1938, which is an additional reason for being a little puzzled why the coal is as dirty as, in fact, it is.
There has been talk about over mechanisation. There is some point, of course, in mechanisation making it more difficult to separate the coal as it is cut, but as my right hon. Friend pointed out in his admirable speech, in 1938 there were somewhere about 136 million tons of coal cut by mechanical means in the pits. It was an admirable speech by my right hon. Friend, and it is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to call it dishonest. If the right hon. Gentleman is as adequate in his Department, as my right hon. Friend was honest in his speech he will make a great success of his job—greater than I expect.
As I have already said, in 1938 about 136 million tons of coal were cut in the pits by mechanical means. Today the figure is about 147 million tons. That ratio of 147 to 136 in no way accounts for what, in fact, has happened in regard to coal. I like to be specific, and I jotted down some figures that were given to me two or three days ago by an official of 440 the Liverpool Corporation Public Baths Department in regard to the use and quality of coal used now for the baths as compared with pre-war. I would commend these figures to the House because I did not know at first what they were. I was startled by them. I received them from the manager of the public baths in Liverpool, and he is no politician and there are no politics in it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Why should not an official in a public Department give information which may be of value to the House whatever his political complexion may be, and may that always continue.
The figures are worth presenting. Prewar the calorific value of the coal which was used in the public baths of Liverpool was roughly 12,500 to 13,000 British thermal units per lb. I am not going into the price, because I do not want to make a point which may appear to be political. All I want to do is deal with this point—at the present time the calorific value is 10,000 British thermal units per lb.—a very big decline. It means of every 100 tons being used at the present time, about 25 to 30 tons are either an unburnable substance which is deposited into the boilers or else merely ash. It really means that if the Liverpool Baths were getting coal of pre-war quality, instead of the 212 tons a week which they are using now they would only require 162 tons. That would be a saving not only to the Coal Board but at present prices of somewhere about £150 to the ratepayers.
I am only quoting that example because it is so easy to talk vaguely over differences in regard to the industrial use of coal, but here are precise figures of the difference between now and pre-war. If that state of affairs prevails in other parts of the country, it makes absolute nonsense of the figure of 202½ million tons of deep-mined coal produced by the Coal Board because that total must include that sort of unburnable slate.
I urge the right hon. Gentleman not to be complacent. We have not only to increase production but to raise the quality of coal. If we do not do that, we shall endanger—we have already endangered—the export markets that we held before the war. I doubt whether we shall get them back at all, certainly not unless we produce more coal and get our coal clean 441 to the degree and to the extent that it was clean in the so-called bad days of 10 years ago. On this side of the House we are anxious to concentrate upon matters which are of vital importance. We know that this industry has been nationalised and we want to make it work. After all, the great industries of the country are more dependent upon coal which is the raw material of industry, than upon anything else. If we drift along as we have been drifting during the past two years, with bad coal and short coal, and high prices, our failure is going to cripple every heavy industry in the land.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Mr. P. Bartley (Chester-le-Street)
In this, my first, speech in this House, may I claim the indulgence of hon. Members and also thank Members for the courtesy and kindness which they have shown to me, and which have been a great encouragement, during the four weeks that I have been a Member of this House? I choose to speak on this subject of dirty coal because, like most other hon. Members, I am concerned with sustaining the success of nationalisation in the coal mining industry. I appreciate very much indeed the success which has been achieved in the industry and I realise that sustained successes will depend very much upon the extent to which the industry can supply coal, not only at a just price, but also of a quality required by the customers.
I also speak as one of those Members, at least on this side of the House, who have not only had experience in the digging and getting of the coal about which we complain from time to time but also held an official position at the divisional level in recent years, both during the war, when the industry was controlled by the Ministry of Fuel and Power and in the last three years, under nationalisation of the industry when more successful control and management have been the result.
The question of dirty coal—I do not intend to be provocative, as I appreciate the indulgence extended to me by right hon. and hon. Members—is not a new one. It has worried the mining community, particularly in connection with free and concessionary coal, for many years. As a miners' trade union official and as a workman receiving that coal I have regularly complained, like many others in the mining community during 442 those years, about the quality of the coal which was being supplied to myself and to my fellow workmen. We have been concerned about the inferior quality of coal for a number of years. In addition to the inconvenience we suffered in the burning of such coal, we had to suffer the fines and other deductions from wages inflicted upon the men who were held to be responsible for filling such bad quality of coal. Therefore, this is no new question. It did not begin with nationalisation or with the Labour Government. It has concerned us all for a number of years.
The question has naturally been given much more prominence in recent years. We are equally, if not more, concerned about tackling the problem of dirty coal than are many right hon. and hon. Members on the opposite side of the House. Our livelihood, our very lives and the lives of members of our families, have been invested in the industry for many years. We are very much concerned and very anxious that this problem should be tackled by the responsible persons as effectively and as quickly as possible.
In recent years there has been reduced manpower. Let us not underestimate the effect of the reduction of manpower. My right hon. Friend has compared output now with output in 1938. As he says, we have lost not 50,000 men but nearly 80,000 men since that time. Even by the use of machinery we cannot make up for that loss of manpower and output. Reduced manpower has meant reduced output, and that has lead to a much lower degree of selectivity in the quality and grade of coal which can be chosen. In recent years, and before nationalisation, there has been a big demand for coal, coupled with a reduced supply, and, therefore, inferior qualities have had to be provided and put upon the market to meet the demand.
The National Coal Board and the Government, being particularly concerned with the success of nationalisation, are anxious to find a solution to the problem of dirty coal. If the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) had read more fully the report of the National Coal Board for 1947 I think he would not have stated that the Board talked of less conscientious care being taken by people in the industry in connection with the cleaning of coal. That report 443 enumerated quite a number of causes for the inferior quality of coal, and it is not fair to allege that the Board are content to say that less conscientious care has been taken in the cleaning of coal. The Board enumerated the causes at that time and gave figures showing the reasons. They went on to show the efforts that had been made to deal with this very aggravating question of dirty coal.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport was inclined to treat rather lightly the fact that the industry is working thinner seams than 20 years ago, but hon. Gentlemen may be interested to know that over the last 20 years—which is not a long period in the life of an industry—the proportion of the total output produced from seams five feet or over was reduced from 27 per cent. to 20 per cent. Those of us who have been in the mining industry and have had experience of different pits can see that that tendency will continue in modern coal mining. Probably, deterioration as a result of thinner seams—such seams are naturally generally dirtier—can be counteracted by scientific research, alteration of the design of machinery for cutting and loading underground and general changes in mining methods, but all these methods are matters of long-term policy and cannot be put into operation in a matter of three, four or five years. It will take much longer to instal machinery and change methods in order to reap the results of scientific research and eventually achieve a better quality and cleaner type of coal.
It is claimed that if there is difficulty in cleaning coal underground, it ought to be cleaned on the surface. That may be done by degrees, for cleaning plant cannot be installed immediately. My right hon. Friend has indicated the extent to which the National Coal Board has been increasing the number of cleaning plants at the collieries. There are still many collieries experiencing difficulty in cleaning coal due to the increased amount of dirt in the coal. The report of the National Coal Board for its first year showed that the Board had to re-open cleaning plants which were idle at some collieries. Others which were working below full capacity were brought into full capacity by being linked with neighbour- 444 ing collieries from which coal was brought for cleaning to this centralised cleaning plant.
My right hon. Friend mentioned, in a general way, the rate at which the installation of mechanical cleaning plant has lagged behind the installation of mechanical cutters and power loaders underground. Let us again take a period of 20 years. For the 20 years almost immediately before nationalisation machinery increased in advance of mechanical cleaners. The quantity of mechanically cut coal increased from 31 per cent. to 74 per cent. and mechanically conveyed coal from 17 per cent. to 73 per cent., whereas the rate of the increased installation of mechanical cleaning plant was only from 30 per cent. to 47 per cent. It was, therefore, substantially behind, and everyone agrees that mechanically cut and filled coal is naturally dirtier and more difficult to deal with than hand-hewn and handfilled coal. Also, in recent years prominence has been given to the problem because of the increase in the selling price of coal. It is natural to expect better quality coal if a higher price is paid.
One does not wish to under-estimate the urgent necessity of dealing with this problem, not only for the sake of the home market but also for the sake of foreign markets which are becoming more and more important to the sustained success of the industry. The National Coal Board, the Government and many hon. Members on this side of the House are concerned about the matter. Much has been done during the three years of nationalisation to bring idle plant into operation and all plant into full capacity. Surveys have been taken of coal cleaning plant. Standard designs for cleaning plant have been considered, but that does not overcome the problem because some pits have difficulties peculiar to themselves which standardisation would not solve.
The efforts made during the last three years to deal with this problem have met with some success. Much useful information can be obtained from the report which is now issued not only to the Government but also to the public by the nationalised industry year by year. That report shows that as a result of an increased number of mechanical cleaning 445 plants the proportion of larger coal has been increased from 62 to 66 per cent. At the other end of the scale the proportion of uncleaned or untreated "smalls" has been reduced from 16½ per cent. to 14½ per cent. of the total output.
The problem cannot be tackled as a short-term matter; it requires long-term policy. It can be tackled. If we follow some of the suggestions of the Opposition there will not only be greatly increased cost to the industry because of our having to deal with an inadequate number of mechanical cleaning plants to deal with the increased amount of dirty coal, but there will also be a considerable loss of output which the country and the world cannot afford at present. There must be a long-term policy. I emphasise that we are as much concerned with this question as any right hon. or hon. Member opposite. As one of the public I have been buying coal for the last seven or eight years. At times I have had to complain, but I am satisfied that taking this as part of the situation which has developed in recent years in the industry, the public would much prefer to have this one thing to complain about than the many complaints and grievances of pre-nationalisation days.
As I have said, I do not wish to be provocative in this speech, but I cannot help thinking that the subject under discussion is not the purpose of the Debate. In this case the purpose has been more to discredit the nationalisation of the industry than to deal with this problem. Having had some little experience of the industry, not only as a workman, but from a higher level, I am certain that no matter from what aspect we judge the industry—whether from the point of view of output, of profits, of the standard of wages, the conditions of employment, the increased welfare facilities, the increased training facilities, the increased standards of safety compared with pre-war days—we are bound to conclude that this industry under nationalisation is showing success compared with the days of bankruptcy—financial, human, moral, and soon.
One thing I am sure my hon. Friends on this side of the House appreciate, the standard of human dignity now enjoyed in the industry compared with pre-nationalisation days. There is a standard of respect and human relations are much better now 446 than ever before. As one who represents a mining constituency in the midst of other mining constituencies, I suggest that the attitude of the electorate during the weeks of the election campaign, when most of us increased our majorities, was because of the dignity now enjoyed by the people in the industry, including the officials, compared with pre-war years. There is freedom and an appreciation of the higher standards of security and dignity now enjoyed, and people know that it is the result of nationalisation.
There is no lack of care and conscientiousness in the industry among the miners and the trade unions, as has been suggested. In respect of the problem of dirty coal in Durham County and other parts of the Northern Division, during the time I was holding an official position for that Division we had weekend meetings of workmen and managements and area trade unions, at which this question was discussed. They were, and are, concerned with trying to find means of improving the quality of the coal because they realise that our standard of living now depends on the success of the nationalised mining industry. We should bear that in mind and pay some tribute to the earnest endeavours that the industry is making to deal with the problem in our pits.
I hope the House will not make use of this Debate to indicate despair as to the success of the nationalised coal mining industry. As I have said, seeing it from within, and knowing the reactions and the relationships which exist now compared with pre-nationalisation and pre-war years, this industry is becoming a success and this question, along with many others, is being dealt with earnestly and conscientiously by the responsible people in the industry.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Colonel Lancaster (Fylde, South)
It is my pleasure to congratulate the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Bartley). He succeeds a right hon. Member who for many years had the affection and esteem of hon. Members of all sides of this House, and I can say quite fairly that the hon. Member himself made a reasoned and sensible speech. He did something which always attracts the attention of the House—he spoke with experience on a complicated subject and showed that over a number of years he 447 had paid great attention to the details of this great industry. As my right hon. Friend rightly said, these Debates tend to become more remote as the years go on. Hon. Members who may have played some part in management now have little or no practical contact with the industry, and hon. Members on the Labour benches who in their various capacities were connected with this industry, of necessity now in great measure speak second-hand.
I am sorry that the Minister is not in his place. I can only say that we listened this afternoon to a speech, not unnaturally prepared for him by his Department, and that he launched forth on a series of generalities which really do not bear looking into closely. We do not condemn him at this early stage on that score, but in the course of a short speech I shall make an attempt to point out, if not to the Minister, to his Parliamentary Secretary, where the right hon. Gentleman fell in error in regard to clean coal. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary when he winds up to resist, if he can, telling me that I know nothing about this subject. I was for a great many years a member of the Coal Utilisation Council and I assure him that I do know something about it.
The matter of clean or unclean coal has caused, not only in this House but up and down the country, a great deal of confusion. All sorts of reasons have been given why coal is dirty, and most people are getting rather confused about both the cause and the remedy. As an example of that, I saw an article in the "Evening News" on 14th March which I commend to the Parliamentary Secretary. I read it and rang up the newspaper on the following morning and asked, "Where on earth did your correspondent get his facts and figures?" I was told, "Oh, he went down to Kent and was accompanied by a member of the National Coal Board." I assure the Parliamentary Secretary that, when he comes to read that article, he will find practically every fact incorrect and, as a result, every conclusion incorrect as well. And we have listened today to a good many facts which were not correct and to a good many conclusions which were not correct either.
What is the reason for clean or dirty coal? It is due to two factors and to 448 two factors only: how it is got at the face and the manner of its preparation on the surface. Nothing else matters. It is no good bringing in statistics about underground transport and the rest. They have nothing to do with it. It is a question of how the coal is won at the face and how it is prepared on the surface. There are today three underlying causes for dirty coal. One, as we have heard, is that householders have to take a certain proportion of opencast coal. Secondly, because of our export needs and for other purposes, householders are taking a certain amount of coal which before the war was not classed as household coal. Thirdly, they are taking a proportion of what is, and always was, considered to be household coal, but unfortunately that coal is no longer clean.
Two reasons have been advanced today why coal is dirtier now than formerly. The first of these reasons is that we are working thinner and dirtier seams. But we have been doing that, not merely for 20 years, but for 40 years, and I do not believe that the progress of working dirtier and thinner seams has been any sharper in the last three years than during the course of that 40 years.
The next misconception is that mechanisation as such means dirty coal. What is meant by mechanisation, presumably, is the means by which the coal is extracted from the face either by a coal cutter or by a pneumatic pick. These machines do not in themselves make dirt. All that their use means is that more coal with such slate and dirt as is inevitable is confined to a smaller space, and therefore it is more necessary to take greater care that that dirt is not brought to the surface. If more dirt is now being brought to the surface it is because less care is being taken at this point. After all, there has not been such a very considerable rise in the degree of mechanisation with coal cutters and pneumatic picks—it is only about 10 per cent.; yet the proportion of dirt has gone up very sharply.
For the purposes of what I am about to say, I shall divide coal into two categories: household coal, by which I mean coal which is burnt in the ordinary fire grate and in the kitchen; and industrial coal, with which I shall include household coal burnt in a boiler or stokehole. 449 A good deal of misconception about household coal has been brought into our past Debates by the present Minister of Defence and the late Minister of Fuel and Power, who always became confused between washeries and screening plants, picking belts and the rest. On this occasion we might just as well try to get the matter clear.
Over and above cobble size, household coal does not normally go through a washer or cleaning plant; it is dealt with on the picking belt. If it is dirty, that is not due, as the new Minister of Fuel and Power has said, to the dilapidated condition of the screening plant and picking belts. What does the screening plant do? It merely divides the coal into different sizes, whilst the picking belt merely takes it along from one point to another. If the plant is to operate efficiently, it must be kept in a reasonable condition of maintenance. If dirty coal finds its way into the railway wagon, the fault is due to bad picking and nothing else. Human error comes in at both points: at the stage of getting it, and then at the point of picking it.
Admittedly, the great mass of industrial coal has of necessity to be dealt with by a cleaning plant, either a dry cleaning plant or a washery. It is quite absurd to suggest that there was no installation of washeries on a large scale before, and even during, the recent war. Indeed, the Minister of Defence, in answer to a Question, once said that no washery plants had been installed during the war—of course they were. I installed two myself. Yesterday I telephoned two of the biggest makers of washery plants, from whom I obtained the number of these plants which had been installed over a number of years. Proportionately, of course, a few less were installed during the war, but the principle has been continued all the time.
These manufacturers to whom I have spoken resent very strongly the suggestion that before the war, or indeed up to the date of nationalisation, those washery plants were inefficient. They were not. On the whole, they were doing their job very effectively. Indeed, before the war all industrial coal was sold, as my hon. Friend the Member for Garston (Mr. Raikes) has said, on a calorific value; and if the necessary level of cleanliness 450 was not maintained, of course there was trouble. In those days the most meticulous washing had to be carried out, and today it should be exactly the same. Industrial coal has to go through washeries. If they are good washeries, and are taken care of, then the coal will be a good product. If, however, too much dirt comes up with the coal and the washeries are overburdened with a degree of slate, the coal inevitably is of a less good quality.
It has been suggested today that the washeries are necessarily the best way of dealing economically with large coal. That is not necessarily so, although very often their use serves a very good purpose. There is, moreover, greater breakage involved with their use, and the two aspects have to be balanced one against the other. It may be of interest to the Parliamentary Secretary to know that two of the newest surface schemes which are shortly coming into operation will include a number of rotary picking belts in preference to washeries to deal with large-sized coal. It is wrong to assume, therefore, that the future lies in passing all large coal through washeries—it does not.
As I have already said, there are a greater number of washeries in operation today than before the war and on the whole they are, no doubt, slightly better. But what has been the result? There has been a drop in calorific value all the time, and a drop in thermal efficiency for every industrial user. Can that be regarded as efficiency, and is it the result of meticulous care at the surface? Of course not. It would be far better if the Government and the National Coal Board faced up to the fact that things are wrong. It is no good saying that everything was wrong in the past but that everything is right today. Lots of things were not right in the past, but on the whole coal was produced very cleanly. It had to be, for we were living in a highly competitive world; but today coal is being produced in an extremely dirty fashion, and we are likely to get nowhere by going back to the turgid stories of what happened 20 or 40 years ago.
Let us face up to the reason why coal today is dirty. It is dirty for the two reasons which I have given: not enough care is taken at the point of extraction, and not enough care is being taken on 451 the picking belts or at the washeries These are the sole reasons for the present-day dirty coal.
§ Mr. Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
I have been following very closely the argument of the hon. and gallant Member. Is it his view that before the war there was a certain amount of cleaning and screening at the distribution point—for instance, at railway depots—which does not now take place?
§ Colonel Lancaster
I am not familiar with that. It may have occurred in certain circumstances, although it was not a normal procedure. Before the war, of course, we could never ask a merchant to do our screening for us—he simply would not have done it. I think it is fair to say that what was done before the war in the way of screening had to be done before the coal was tipped into the wagon. It would be far better at this stage to face up to the fact that coal is much dirtier today. Until this fault is remedied, it will be a blot on the record of the N.C.B. In saying that, I am in no way attacking nationalisation. There is a clear recognition that something is wrong and that it wants putting right.
I do not believe that any reasonable person can feel satisfied at the progress of this nationalised industry. We are not getting the tonnages which we might reasonably have expected, and there is not one responsible production officer in the National Coal Board who would say otherwise. My opinion, as I have expressed it on previous occasions, is that the administration and organisation of the industry are wrong. During the recent General Election the late Minister of Fuel and Power described remarks of this nature as the views of an embittered doctrinaire. I will leave judgment on that point to the industry. Whether they are the views of an embittered doctrinaire or not, we must get better results than we are achieving at present. Dirty coal is symptomatic of bad mining practice, and bad mining practice is symptomatic of bad organisation and bad administration. Until these deficiencies are put right and overhauled, we shall continue to get complaints from the householder, the industrial user, the export market, and from wherever our 452 coal is sold, and they will play their inevitable and insidious part in undermining the economic recovery of the nation.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald W. Wade (Huddersfield, West)
I crave the indulgence of the House for two reasons, in the first place because I have not addressed hon. Members on a previous occasion, and secondly, because I cannot pretend to have the technical knowledge which other hon. Members have shown during this Debate. I have listened to a number of speeches by new Members and I have been impressed by the courtesy and generosity that have been shown. I must ask for that same indulgence today.
I have only one reason for speaking on this subject, and it is that I am a consumer. One advantage, not the only advantage, of becoming a Member of this honourable House is that the number of occasions on which I carry the coals, clean the grates and light the fires is reduced to one day a week; but I have performed that domestic duty sufficiently often to be able to distinguish between decent coal and dirty, poor quality coal and I know of many who are exasperated by the quality of the coal which is supplied, particularly having regard to the price they have to pay for it. The quality and cost of coal affect the domestic consumer and every branch of industry one way or another. It is, therefore, a matter which concerns us all.
I do not propose to discuss the past. I have a great deal of sympathy with those who have spoken about the past in the mining industry. It is perfectly true—let us admit it—that the miners in days gone by had a very harsh time. If there had been more concern on the part of owners for the welfare of the miner and more joint consultation and if there had been profit-sharing in days gone by, there might never have been a demand for nationalisation. There were some experiments in co-partnership away back in the last century. I know of one in the middle of the last century in Yorkshire. Unfortunately, however, owners regarded profit-sharing as an alternative to trade unionism and the result was that the belief grew up—I think it most unfortunate—that co-partnership and profit sharing was a threat to the trade union movement. That was one reason why it failed. But, had 453 development been on those lines, the whole situation in the coal industry might have been altered. It might also have been altered if, in 1924, the Liberal proposals, not only for nationalising the royalities, but for introducing and developing co-partnership in the coal industry, had been carried out. I believe a great deal of bitterness and strife would have been avoided. But the opportunity was missed and the industry was eventually nationalised.
I have never believed, and those on the Liberal benches never believed, that the mere transfer of ownership would bring that new spirit into the industry which was hoped for by Socialists nor, of itself, would it provide the increased production of coal that is required. But the problem today is not whether nationalisation was good or bad, but where we go from now and whether the present set-up is satisfactory.
In a maiden speech, I am not expected to be more controversial than I can help, and therefore I will put one or two questions. The first one about which Liberals have been very concerned and have spoken on other occasions—not only on the nationalisation of coal—is whether there is a sufficient degree of responsibility to Parliament. Is there not a tendency for democratically-elected bodies to pass over their powers to the Executive and thence to boards, to whom the powers are delegated, whilst gradually losing democratic control? It is not necessary for me to quote from the Statute, but the point I wish to make is illustrated in the remarks of the Minister of State for Economic Affairs, who was then the Minister of Fuel and Power. He said, in the Debate on the Annual Report of the National Coal Board, on 10th November, 1949:In the case of public boards, Parliament has conferred on them by statute, powers and duties for the discharge of which the Minister is not responsible.He quotes other examples and goes on to say:I think we would all agree that power and responsibility must march together. If the Minister has the power, then he is answerable. If he has not got the power, he cannot reasonably be called to account.He mentions the point of viewthat Parliament should impose upon itself a self-denying ordinance limiting its power and that of the Minister to intervene because this will give the best results for the nation.454 The purpose of my question is to ask whether it does bring the best results to the nation. It is true that we can raise points and put forward criticisms. On this the Minister said:I have no doubt that all the constructive criticism and suggestions made by hon. Members will in any case be carefully noted and taken into account by the Board, even if we on our side are not able to reply to everything that is said."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1949; Vol. 469, c. 1415–18.]I am pointing out that that is not adequate, and that we are concerned with the set-up and the gradual loss of democratic control over nationalised bodies. It would not matter so much if the concern were not a powerful over-centralised monopoly, if there were a greater degree of decentralisation, or if—and I do not rule this out as a possibility for the future—there were groups of mines run almost as autonomous bodies with a degree of competition between them, with the right of choice on the part of the consumer to choose between the products of one group and another and between one type of coal or another. If that existed, the loss of democratic control would perhaps not matter quite so much. The danger lies in having this great centralised monopoly without adequate democratic control.
Another question is whether we have gone as far as we might in decentralising. I believe we have not. In the Second Reading Debate on the Coal Industry (Nationalisation) Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) said:The one guarantee of success will be effective and immediate decentralisation of functions by the National Coal Board.… I hope there will be a series of units with a high degree of economy able to make prompt decision … let there be as great a facility as possible for the exercise of initiative by the regional units."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th January, 1946; Vol. 418, c. 897–9.]I ask whether that has been done? I fear it has not, and we have not had the decentralisation we hoped for. My next question is this: Can we honestly say we have the efficiency that is required in a great concern such as this? I will not express my own views. Reference has been made to Sir Charles Reid. I will quote, not from the Report, but from an address he gave last summer to the Liberal Summer School:The initiative of the Divisional Boards is constantly stultified by the necessity to consult 455 London about matters on which they should make their own decisions. It is little short of a tragedy that the best mining engineers in the country, now occupying the position of Divisional Production Directors, should be spending their time in the hopeless task of trying to guide the mining technique of collieries producing in total 30 or 40 million tons of coal per year and attempting to examine the monthly costs of 150 collieries, with no authority to give an order and no personal responsibility for either output or costs.… Why should the shareholders of a great national business be content with a lower standard of management than free enterprise finds necessary?I agree that some profit has been shown, but that is not evidence of efficiency, particularly having regard to the peculiar and probably temporary circumstances of our sale of coal overseas.
Fourthly, I ask whether we can honestly say that there has not been wasteful expenditure in administration. My hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth was asking me today why it was that what he called "inferior English coal" was sent to consumers in Wales who are close to the great mines of Wales? Why was there that wastage in transport? I am not in a position to answer. Perhaps hon. Members representing English constituencies will kindly explain why what my hon. Friend calls "inferior English coal" is sent to Wales.
Again, I put it in the form of a question: Are we satisfied that there is not wasteful expenditure on administration? There are so many cases that are quoted. Perhaps I might tell one story which I do not put forward in any way as evidence. I ought to tell it in Yorkshire dialect, being Yorkshire born and bred, but unfortunately my mother, for whom I have a very deep regard and affection, is a South Country woman and, therefore, spoiled my ability to talk with a Yorkshire accent. My story concerns a miner who, unlike the majority of miners, whom we recognise were in favour of nationalisation, was always opposed to it. His pals used to chivvy him by pointing out the colliery manager's car and saying, "Sithee, lad, see that car? That is bought out o' the profits and it comes out o' thy wages." The years passed, and recently there were six new cars in the colliery yard. This miner was waiting for his pals to arrive and pointing out to them, "Sithee, lad, there are six on 'em 456 there and they come out o' t' profits and out o' thy wages." There is some point in that, although, as I say, I do not put it forward as evidence.
Fifthly, are we satisfied, are hon. Gentlemen satisfied, that joint consultation at the colliery level, at the pithead, is as good as it might be? I ask that because I have spoken to many miners—I do not pretend to be a miner or to have expert knowledge on the subject—and they tell me that the machinery is there but it does not work satisfactorily, except—I am told—in Durham. They say that matters which could and should be decided on the spot are referred to the divisional board and so on and so on, and that the joint consultation on the spot which we should like has not been attained. We Liberals are deeply concerned about this. We want to introduce into private industry various forms of co-partnership and we wish to see something similar in the nationalised industries. I do not wish to use flowery language but we feel the need for a new democratic charter for the miners. We do not feel satisfied that there is real joint consultation at the pit level.
I come to my final question. I realise the tremendous work which is done by the trade unions, but I find the question raised whether the trade unions are becoming too closely bound up with what is called "the new boss," alas that it should be called so. I quote one example which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) mentioned to me yesterday as having occurred in his constituency. A miner died and the question arose whether it was the result of an accident in the mine. His own doctor certified that it was. When the matter came before the divisional board, their medical board, after looking into the man's history, decided that it was not. That decision might have been right or wrong, but the communication to the family of the man who died came from the trade union member of the divisional board, not in his capacity as a trade unionist, but as a member of the divisional board. It is not surprising that the man's family felt that the situation had changed and that the trade unions were now too closely tied up with what they refer to as "the new boss." I ask this question because I feel that this sort 457 of thing is harmful to the efforts to create that new relationship which we desire in the coal mining industry.
I believe these to be some of the causes of the failure of the industry to be as efficient and highly productive as it should be. That is the point—is it satisfactory, are we satisfied? I feel quite honestly and sincerely that it is not satisfactory and that the complaints about dirty coal are just one aspect of a larger problem.
Before I conclude, may I be permitted to make a comment on the question of voting? I do not know whether it will arise on this occasion, and if it does not, I hope I shall be forgiven for mentioning it, but it may arise on future occasions. I make this comment very humbly and respectfully because I realise that I am a new Member, and it is, perhaps, not quite fitting for me to talk on matters of high policy. It seems to me that occasions will arise—whether or not tonight I do not know, but at all events from time to time and, perhaps, often—when this little band of Liberal Members will have to consider how to vote. There are all kinds of possible considerations and reasons which might guide us one way or another. After all, we differ from both the other parties—it is not an easy situation—and we cannot alter our views, I certainly do not intend to alter mine, because it is inconvenient.
There are all kinds of tactical reasons why we might vote one way or another, but I am absolutely convinced—and my hon. Friends agree—that there must only be one test on every occasion, that is the merits or demerits of the particular issue on which we are asked to vote. Nearly every issue in life is a moral issue. It is not always a choice between black and white but is generally one between grey and grey or between grey and not so grey. On all these occasions I believe that we shall have to decide solely on the particular issue, having regard to our views and our pledges, as to what is the right way to vote, whatever the consequences.
The conclusion we have reached on this occasion is that if there is a vote on this issue of fuel and power—I do not know whether there will be one—we must vote against the Government. Whatever the result may be, one thing at all events is true: the coal industry is one of the great basic industries affecting not only the welfare and comfort of all consumers but of 458 industry as a whole and our whole economic future.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ Mr. T. J. Brooks (Normanton)
This is the first time on which I have had the honour of congratulating a new Member on his maiden speech. I am sure the whole House will agree that the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) made a forthright speech. I am sure that he will get an answer to all his questions as time goes on. We shall all agree in according him all the praise we can for the excellent speech he has made, and I am sure that we shall hear many contributions from him in future.
We have heard a great deal this afternoon about dirty coal and about output. On the question of output, I have not heard any hon. Member opposite mention anything about the new pits which should have been sunk during the last, say, 20 years. How can we continue increasing the output if we have only the old pits to work from? We must remember that as the pits are extended, the cost increases. It is a remarkable thing to me that these strong points are made about the question of dirty coal. I happen to be an old collier and I know something about it. We must give a little time for the washeries to be erected at the pit top, and then we shall not be asking for a host of people to be appointed to pick the dirt out. Some hon. Members do not seem to realise that it is dark down in the pits, and that the miners have to work with lamps. It is very difficult to take out the smaller coal when there is as much shot-firing as there is today.
But I do not want to go into that side of the question. I wish to deal with the conservation of coal. The hon. Member for Huddersfield, West, said something about the miners' charter, and the position of the miners before the war was expressed very well by the Minister. It really needs no explanation from anybody. There is the question of wages. I worked at the coal face for 25 years and I know something of that. The miners now have a charter and we should feel very proud about it.
A good deal has been said about incentives. If we want men to come back to the pits, we must give them some incentive, and that is being done. They now have the five-day working week and 459 an increase in wages and overtime rates; a scheme for supplementary compensation payments and statutory holiday payments. I can remember when a number of our people were forced to bring up their families on the Poor Law. I could quote tragic stories of people who were brought up on the Poor Law. I can recall the case of one man who lost both his legs and for whom we were unable to provide artificial ones; but we bought him a motor car. His children were brought up on the Poor Law.
There are now compensation payments; improved welfare facilities including the maintenance of pit head bath, and improved medical services. No one would wish to deny those things to these men who work at such a hazardous occupation and whose working day is fraught with danger every moment. There are also improved training facilities at the present time, and that is one of the marvellous incentives given to our young people. A great deal is being done in regard to education. Two hundred students are needed every year to qualify for the position of engineers and surveyors and for managerial posts. Every year we want about 2,000 craftsmen. I think that the N.C.B. and the Miners' Federation are to be congratulated on providing the future technicians and craftsmen from the industry itself. This is real progress from the men themselves and not from university students.
Up-to-date machinery also is being provided and they are actually sinking new pits. A number of the old pits are not suitable for the installation of machinery because of the inadequacy of the haulage roads to convey the output from the coal face. The sinking of new pits, the training of new entrants, the provision of new medical and welfare services are all efforts in the right direction.
The economic position of the country depends largely on coal, and there is still room for improvement in the wages and conditions of the clerical staff. A great deal of overtime is imposed on them and more consideration must be given to these workmen if we are to win recruits for this section of the industry. After the experience of three-and-a-quarter years, I think we can say that the nationalisa- 460 tion of the mines was right. We are becoming more efficient, nobody can deny that; and I am sure that this educational ladder plan will present many opportunities for our young miners who are seeking a future career. But how much are we doing to conserve our coal? Coal does not grow like cabbages. I wish to talk about the ancillary side and the need for conserving coal, which is our richest asset. It provides power for our industries, railways and factories. It generates our electricity. It can be transformed into a thousand by-products, from dyes to plastics. It is the lifeblood that courses through the veins of all our industrial life.
How long shall we continue to waste this valuable product? It is a national disgrace that we have allowed this precious mineral to be wasted for so many years. It has been won from the earth with great skill on the part of both management and men; and at a great loss of life and limb, which means a serious wastage of manpower. Past Governments and coal owners and their managements have been very remiss in allowing this wastage to go on by using coal as a ready-made fuel, rather than as a raw material. It may be information to many hon. Members that 80 per cent. to 85 per cent. of our total output of coal is burnt in its raw state. It is very clear that coal owners and the powers that be have wasted the nation's wealth. If arrangements were made to process most of our coal, much of this enormous waste could be stopped There would also be a great saving in the health and prosperity of the nation.
It is estimated that 3¼ million tons of smoke is emitted annually from the railways and from industry, but 35 million tons of coal used for domestic purposes provides the main source of this smoke menace. I understand from local government officials that this is the worse menace with which we are faced. Think of the damage to crops and the loss of yield; the increase of rickets and respiratory diseases; the loss of daylight and ultra-violet light, and the loss of visibility; the deterioration of buildings and materials. None of this can be denied. There is the extra amount of cleansing and laundry work, and the extra labour needed in the home. Who can gauge the illness and disease which may follow from the pollution of the air, or whether 461 we shall be compelled to build and staff hospitals to deal with the effects of a cause which we could and must remedy? We are really submerged in our own filth.
I took this cutting from the "Manchester Guardian" at the end of 1948:Once again Manchester and many other industrial towns have been enfolded in a stifling shroud of smoke-laden vapour. Once again the evidence of our persistent folly is brought home to us—literally deposited on our doorsteps and forced down our throats. For it is not the vapour itself but the dirt suspended in it that makes fog such a dangerous and costly feature of our urban winters, and it is by our own deliberate act or wilful neglect that the dirt is present in the atmosphere. As we pay the price for such visitations in premature deaths from lung diseases, in corroded buildings, stunted vegetation, laundry bills … we may reflect that there would be no fuel shortage now if we had taken the trouble to turn all this tarry soot into useful heat. We may also reflect that power stations, whose waste steam could profitably take the place of thousands of smoke-producing grates are even now being designed and built.…Local Government could do a great deal towards ending the evils of air pollution. Waste steam and heat from our industries could be harnessed and supplied to many of the new housing estates and blocks of flats as central heating and hot water, day and night. I remember in Committee upstairs considering a General Powers Bill for the London County Council to take the waste heat and hot water from the Battersea power station which was to be harnessed and piped under the Thames into a hot-water tower in order to supply one of the biggest housing schemes in London. It is all very well to talk about the housewife. If we do work of that kind for her, we help her to avoid this muck and drudgery with which she has to deal today. That scheme also extended to the Dolphin Square flats which are nearby. A great economy can be achieved by this kind of work.
Many of our industries could supply waste heat which could be harnessed and used by the housewife who, instead, burns coal in the open grate. For years the sanitary inspectors and medical officers of local authorities and the smoke abatement officials have been agitating for this reform in the interests of the health of the people. Over every town one can see a pall of smoke which people have to breathe, to the great detriment of their health. We cannot really estimate the consequences of air pollution.
462 Many derivatives of coal can be used in industry. Half a dozen different industries want plastics for engineering, aeroplanes, motor cars, refrigerators, radio sets and shop fittings. Synthetic rubber is another commodity made from the derivatives of coal. Many of these derivatives could be used in the home in such a way as to eliminate the drudgery and work of our womenfolk, particularly in the industrial areas. We can also get benzoic, road tar, pitch, creosote, disinfectants, paints, varnishes, dyes, perfumes, drugs and explosives from the same source. I understand that chemists have made from coal tar more than 1,000 substances which they can sell over the counter and which have an unlimited number of uses. Why should we continue to waste this valuable material? We could still supply the necessary motive power to industry in the shape of gas and electricity.
I put these points forward for consideration. Now that we have a new ownership, can we be told what improvements are being made? How many coke ovens and plants have been taken over? How many are still in private hands? Are we contemplating building new plants? Is there any programme today? We need a great deal more coke for our iron and steel works, which are crying out for it. If we process our coal, the cake will be available and we shall eliminate a great deal of waste.
The great oil companies are making rapid strides in their research stations and they are building new refineries and so on. We must give these people every encouragement. Also, we must have early legislation in regard to colliery subsidence. In my constituency, there are two urban districts where it is most difficult to find land for building purposes because of colliery subsidence. We have to build on concrete rafters. I hope that we shall have early legislation to deal with this problem. We ought to have a new Mines Act for the safety of our men. The Act of 1911 is obsolete. I hope that new regulations will be brought forward before very long to ensure a higher standard of safety for our men.
We welcome the new Minister, and we give him all the encouragement and help that we can in this great industry. I am sure that he will respond. We wish him every success.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Nabarro (Kidderminister)
I approach my task this evening with some trepidation and I trust that hon. Members of this House will accord to me the same kindly courtesy and indulgence which they have shown to former maiden speakers. Perhaps I have one regret that my maiden speech should be made on this occasion. It is that it gives me little opportunity to reply in the controversial fashion in which I should like to reply to the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Fuel and Power. I find myself profoundly in disagreement with him upon a large number of issues. But this evening I intend to confine my comments largely to the one or two points on which I was in general agreement with him. So far, a great deal of attention has been paid to the question of dirty and unsatisfactory household coal, but very little attention has been shown to the inadequacy of the supply of domestic solid fuel and the fact that so many householders in all parts of the country are manifestly unable to obtain the stringent rations which should be available.
The household coal ration, in what is styled by the Ministry of Fuel and Power as the north of England, is 50 cwts. per annum, and in what is styled the south of England it is 34 cwts. per annum. When I have inquired upon previous occasions where the dividing line is between the North of England and the South, I have been told that it is an arbitrary line drawn from the Severn to the Wash, and that very little consideration is given to the special claims of any householder who may be two miles on the right side or two miles on the wrong side of that arbitrary line.
It is important at present to draw attention to the widespread dissatisfaction with the allocation of fuel against the household ration. I asked a Parliamentary Question on the 20th of this month drawing attention to the position in the area covered by my constituency. That happened to coincide with half a dozen other Questions from Members from various parts of the country, notifying similar difficulties. Evidently the consensus of opinion is that only about 70 per cent. of the allocation due to householders has, in fact, been reaching them during the last few months. 464 In all conscience, the amount of that household allocation is small enough. I believe that, so far, insufficient attention has been focused upon the comparison between what the household consumer is given in this year of grace 1950 and what he had in 1938. The statistics are illuminating, though nobody has referred to them today. They ought to be brought out. In 1938, the total consumption of household solid fuel was 45,800,000 tons, of which 1,600,000 tons comprised anthracite and 44,200,000 tons comprised ordinary solid fuel—ordinary coal.
In 1949, which is the last full year, the amount of household fuel allotted against householders' allocations was only 30,800,000, comprising 28,600,000 tons of ordinary coal and 2,200,000 tons of anthracite. The comparison is between 45,800,000 in 1938 and 30,800,000 in 1949, a direct reduction of 15,000,000 tons. That represents, approximately, a cut of 33 per cent. and takes no account of the increase in population during the intervening years. But what is equally important, statistically, and to which I would draw the attention of the Minister in particular, is the comparison between the sum total of household coal allocated and the total national production. In 1938, there were 45,800,000 tons of household coal used out of a total national production of 227 million tons. That represented 19¾ per cent. of the total coal mined and going for household purposes.
Today, there are 30,800,000 tons used for household purposes in relation to a total national production of 214,500,000 tons of coal, and that represents only 14½ per cent. In 1938 the percentage was 19½, and today it is only 14¾, and that represents perhaps a more marked illustration than the 33 per cent. reduction in the quantity allocated to household users. I believe that the domestic consumer today is entitled to something more than the parlous pittance which he has been receiving in the last few winter months.
I would also like to make reference to what might be regarded as a thorny issue with hon. Members opposite who represent mining constituencies, and that is concessionary coal for miners. I would say, at the outset, that I strongly support the free issue of coal to miners. I believe 465 in concessionary or preferential treatment in the supply of the products of any industry to the workers engaged in it. But hon. Gentlemen opposite are keen supporters of the policy of "fair shares," and I believe that the Minister would do well to compare the allocation of household fuel at present derived on a concessionary basis by miners with the allocation of household fuel derived by heavy workers engaged in other industries. I refer particularly to the heavy chemical worker, the heavy steel worker and to the agricultural worker. In 1938, 4,600,000 tons of household coal was given as concessionary coal to 782,000 miners. In 1949, 4,900,000 tons of concessionary coal, an increase of 300,000 tons, were given to 719,500 miners. In other words, in spite of a reduction of some 60,000 in the effective mining strength of the country, the allocation on the concessionary basis of 300,000 tons more household coal was given to those engaged in the industry.
I believe that we ought to take 1938, statistically, as a base and give it 100 units. If we do so the increase in the concessionary coal for miners is one of 17 per cent., and that means that they are now receiving 117 units compared with 100 in 1938, whereas the ordinary domestic consumer, which includes the heavy steel and chemical workers, receives only 67 units. I believe that the comparison between the 67 units for the ordinary domestic consumer and the 117 units for the miner is proportionately too great for any hon. Members of this House who claim to support a policy of "fair shares."
May I now pass to what I believe is a widespread and vexed problem confronting the National Coal Board today? In 1947, when they commenced their duties upon a national scale, it was necessary for them to keep in operation quite a large number of small pits in remote areas. They were found from the north of Scotland to Penzance, some of them employing two dozen men and some about 100, but all of them operating on a very small basis. Of course, the National Coal Board organisation found them very difficult to administer. Therefore, the National Coal Board, rightly, began its policy of granting licences for private operation. Unfortunately, many of these pits, although they requested licences on a long-term basis for five, 466 eight or 10 years, have been given licences only on a year-to-year basis. They asked for long-term licences in order that they should have some security of tenure to justify the considerable capital equipment which was involved in their development. I refer particularly to a pit in my own constituency, Bayton, about which I questioned the Minister on the 20th of this month. The right hon. Gentleman replied by giving his reason for the closure:I always regret inconvenience to householders, and still more what might be hardship to miners, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that no pit is closed unless there are overwhelming reasons in favour of doing so."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1950; Vol. 472, c. 1532.]In pursuit of my inquiries, in connection with the closing of this pit I have been at pains to discuss the matter with members of the National Union of Mineworkers, local officials of the National Coal Board, consumers in the area and colliers, and this is what has transpired. I particularly ask the Minister to check these facts for himself.
In 1947, a licence was given to the Bayton Colliery Company for one year only. The Bayton Colliery Company said that they wanted a licence for 10 years because of the considerable capital expenditure that would be needed at the pit if they were to keep it in operation, and they pointed out that a one-year licence would not enable them to keep the pit going. After a few months' operation they again applied for a 10-year licence, and when the one-year licence expired, they were given another, again only for a period of one year. They again pressed for a 10-year licence, which was refused by the Coal Board, so that, at the end of the second year's operation, they were reluctantly obliged to tell the Coal Board that unless they could have long-term security it would not be a practical proposition to keep the pit in operation. The National Coal Board therefore took over on 1st January, 1949.
While that pit was being worked under licence a royalty of 5s. per ton was paid to the Board, and I suggest that the Board could have no grouse on that score because the royalty was a very generous one. It was precisely 20 times the royalty paid in the days of the private owners and before the Coal Board came into operation, for they got only 467 3d. per ton. This royalty of 5s. was paid on the coal mined, and the output of the pit, although not large—I am not pleading bigness for this case—supplied many remote villages without any railway connections in the western part of Worcestershire. In spite of these circumstances, the Coal Board decided to take it over and they operated the pit for a period of nine months, when, having lost 11s. per ton on the coal mined, at the end of 1949 they arbitrarily decided to close the pit.
I believe that there are thousands of similar cases up and down the country. We are all interested in seeing that there is the maximum production of high quality coal, which was the type of coal produced by the Bayton pit. What conceivable reason can there be for refusing to allow small pits in remote areas to continue to operate under licence, so long as they pay a good royalty to the National Coal Board and are producing a reasonable yield to swell the common pool?
Now I wish to say a word on the question of opencast coal mining, particularly as I am delighted to see in his place the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture. It seems to me to be a contentious issue between the Ministries of Fuel and Power and Agriculture as to what can be considered to be good agricultural land for growing food, and what can be considered as fair meat for the Minister of Fuel and Power upon which to engage his opencast coal mining operations. In fact, the conflict of policy between these two Departments is, I believe, much the same as that which has existed, and still exists, between the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Agriculture.
I believe that the poorest of poor coal today is that derived from the opencast areas. I have been at great pains to examine the facts of the operations myself, in South Shropshire, and I am certain that the areas devastated by opencast coal mining will be irrecoverable for food production purposes for the remainder of my natural life at any rate, or for any other purpose. The replacement of the topsoil has been carried out in such a slipshod manner that that land has been ruined for all foreseeable time ahead.
468 We may have been obliged, during the last two or three years, to resort to opencast coal mining, and I concede to the right hon. Gentleman that there was something in his argument about the comparison between rates of absenteeism in 1938 and rates of absenteeism in 1949. But, while making that concession to him, I feel it proper to point out that 6.4 per cent.—the total rate of voluntary and involuntary absenteeism in 1938—cannot, by the causes that he has attributed to this problem, be converted into a rate of absenteeism of 12.34 per cent. in 1949. I want to stress this particular point in relation to opencast coal mining because I believe it is of special importance.
The output of opencast coal in 1945—that is, the last full year—was in the region of 12 million tons. The loss was £14 million. The amount of that loss, therefore, is equal to £1 2s. 6d. per ton of opencast coal. If that rate of overall absenteeism applicable to coal mining were reduced to even the 1938 level—and that is possible—the 6 per cent. saving in absenteeism, applicable to the coal production of 202,500,000 tons of deep-mined coal in the full year 1949, would itself yield 12.12 million tons of coal, which is within.22 of one million tons of coal, equal to the entire opencast coal mining output of last year. That is not a happy coincidence.
I believe that Ministerial policy should be directed more vigorously to the reduction of absenteeism in coal mining than to the extension of opencast mining activities, and I regret to see it stated on page 23 of the Economic Survey for 1950 that opencast production, which amounted to 12 million tons, approximately, in 1949, is to be increased, in 1950, to 13 million tons. That addition of 8 per cent., approximately, in opencast mining activities will, I am sure, be conducted at the expense, very largely, of food production in sound agricultural areas.
My appeal to the Minister, therefore, is fourfold. First, to give the household consumer a square deal in his coal supplies; second, to retain in operation, under licence from the National Coal Board, the maximum number of small collieries, notably the Bayton pit, provided they are prepared to pay reasonable royalties and show a yield of good coal to the common pool; third, to stop opencast coal mining activities, especially on 469 agricultural land; fourth, and what I believe is possibly the most important of all, to take active and vigorous steps to prevent the mountainous losses now taking place owing to the distribution of millions of tons of unburnable muck which is facetiously referred to as coal.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Hubbard (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
I consider myself extremely fortunate, Mr. Speaker, in having caught your eye at this moment. I am indeed privileged in paying tribute to the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), who has just delivered his maiden speech. The whole House will agree that we have seldom heard a maiden speech delivered with such confidence, and I am sure that we look forward to hearing him again on a future occasion when we can, perhaps, join with him in the battle of debate. I envy him because, even after six years in this House, I never stand up to deliver my contributions with the confidence which he has shown.
I will now revert to the opening speech in this Debate. It was the first time that I had heard the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) deal with coal. No doubt he has dealt with it on many occasions before. I always listen with great interest when he is dealing with matters of agriculture. He strikes me as being very well informed on that subject, but now that he has left the subject of beef not without bone, to deal with coal not without stone, I do not think he is so well-informed, and I was not so much impressed.
It seems to me that the whole tenor of the speeches of right hon. and hon. Members opposite today has been to blame all our difficulties on the miner. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, the right hon. Member for Southport and other hon. Members opposite have conceded that the National Coal Board have given as an explanation for dirty coal the miserable failure of those who pick coal from the tables. That has been stated more than once today. Indeed, it has been inferred that if any further blame is to be apportioned, apart from that saddled on the miners and also those who work above ground, it is that all the troubles now lie with the nationalisation of the coal industry.
I wish to begin, as did the right hon. Gentleman, by asking a question. Are 470 right hon. and hon. Members opposite prepared to say now, in the light of their experience and the speeches they have made, that had they been returned to power, they would have denationalised the coal mines? Would they have reverted to the system which operated before 1947? May we have an answer to that? No, of course they would not. Under no circumstances must we mention anything that happened prior to the war. Of course, there is dirty coal, and everyone must deplore it, but I do not think that any contribution has been made today by hon. Members opposite which will give any encouragement in getting over this question.
We must get to the root cause of it. As one who has had practical experience underground, I hope to make an objective approach to the question, and to strike a note of realism. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned that we had undercut coal, and still had to be won That is quite true, but it was simply undercut coal, and had still to be won from the coalface by the miners. There has been a big change in mining since that time, because the modern machine not only undercuts the coal, but rips it from the coal face. There is less manhandling of coal today, and the machine removes much of the uncongenial work previously done by miners.
The machine is quite unable to recognise the difference between coal and stone—that is the trouble. If someone were to invent a machine that would win the coal from the coalface, put it into a conveyor and, at the same time, sort the coal from the stone, much of our problem would be solved. More stone is reaching the surface today than before the war for that reason. Whereas there has been a tremendous increase in the Modernisation of underground machinery, the pithead has not kept pace with it. We are still dealing with antiquated machinery there. In spite of that, more stone is being removed from coal at the pithead than was being removed before the war. No one can deny that.
There seems to have been some confusion among hon. and right hon. Members as to what "inleek" is. When the coal reaches the surface it is weighed, then it is screen-washed and otherwise processed and weighed again before it 471 leaves the colliery. All foreign material having been removed, the final weight is less than the first and the difference between those two weights is known as the "inleek." At the last colliery at which I worked we had to provide 27 cwt. to the ton to allow for the "inleek."
If our problems are to be solved, our administrators must pay some attention to those who work at the coalface. I understand the operational side of it. It is quite wrong always to blame the troubles on those who are responsible for mining the coal. We must get rid of dirty coal as quickly as we can. I remind the House that in 1933 it was quite easy to get a team of workers to remove the stone from the coal as it proceeded along the conveyors to the wagon. Pay was 6s. 2d. a shift. That included 1s. a day subsidy, so that the real wage was 5s. 2d.
There is a shortage of coal today. There is always a shortage of a commodity that is being used. That is what is happening with coal today, because, unlike pre-war days, industry is working full time. The moment industry slackens off and we use less coal industrially, there will be an abundance available for household and other uses. I hope that day is long distant, but we should not lose sight of that fact.
It is not easy to measure the individual productivity of a miner. It is not the same as measuring the productive capacity of an engineer or a bricklayer. Seams vary so much in height and in type of coal, and there are so many reasons for differences in productivity that it is impossible to say that a miner should be able to do something in Fife, because he is able to do it in Wales. People who discuss coal should go underground to see some of the difficulties. We who have worked underground understand those difficulties better than those who have merely read about the administration of coal mines.
There are complaints that coal is too dear today. It is true that it is very much dearer than it used to be. I hope we are never going to revert to cheap coal at the expense of miners' wages. There was a method of increasing productivity in the mines under private owners. I remember very well there was a method of fixing ton rates when a new seam was opened. We got the ton rate we asked for, but before long, as soon as we began 472 reaching a reasonable wage, the ton rate was cut down. The miner always tried his level best to increase productivity. That method did not pay big dividends because it was responsible for a high rate of accidents and death in coalmining, and in the final analysis it was responsible for wastage of labour in the coal mines.
However much one speaks academic language about coal production figures, there will always be a shortage of coal as long as more men are not attracted to the mines. Something must also be done to increase or modernise underground transport. The coal is getting further away from the shaft in most pits. Something must be done to speed up methods of conveying that coal from the face to the pithead. Those methods are inadequate at present. Insufficient attention was given to the roads when they were first made because the aim was to keep down the cost of mining the coal. This has created endless difficulties today, and I ask the Minister to have some regard for the modernisation of methods of conveyance from the coal face.
While incentives for the miners who work at the coalface are very necessary, some consideration ought to be given to incentives for those who work for day wages. The speed at which they are able to convey coal from face to bottom and return for refilling is finally reflected in the productivity of that day. The time has arrived when consideration ought to be given to methods of paying bonuses to workers other than those employed on the face. We ought to encourage a co-operative system of payment to all those employed round the coal mines so as to increase the rate of productivity.
I make this appeal. Do not let us attack the miners. Do not let us attack those whose job it is to remove the stone from the coal. When running up against difficulties, do not let us be critical of those who alone are capable of removing those difficulties.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson
Surely no one of us has accused—certainly I do not accuse—the miners. I was accusing the National Coal Board. I was quoting what the National Coal Board have said, and saying that our opinion is that the National Coal Board have not succeeded in their task of influencing the men and putting their case over to them.
§ Mr. Hubbard
Perhaps when we have had the opportunity of reading HANSARD, we may be able to confirm that the right hon. Gentleman stated he had been in touch with members of the Coal Board who frankly admitted that those whose task it was to remove stone and dirt from coal had failed in so doing. It was an allegation of failure on the part of those whose job it was to clean out the stone and dirt.
§ Mr. Hudson
It was not an allegation made by me. It was a quotation of an allegation made by the Coal Board—[Laughter]—yes, and I took the trouble to say that members of the Coal Board admitted privately to customers who complained, that that was the reason for the dirtiness of the coal. I myself have not made the allegation; the allegation was made by the Coal Board.
§ Mr. Hubbard
The right hon. Gentleman was quoting from some letters which he had in front of him, and he was submitting that we would get rid of dirty coal if those whose job it was to remove the dirt or stone, carried out their task. I was interested in a speech which was made a few moments ago. It would appear that everything has gone wrong with the working of the coal mines—
§ Mr. Hubbard
The only people who are away from the industry today and who were previously in it, are the mine owners and the shareholders. We still have the same managers as we had before. In fact, if there are any shortcomings in the industry, we should remember that we have added to the number of "clean faces" rather than decreased them, and the people such as agents, etc., who were running the industry are still there. Surely, they are now drawing their money under false pretences and are not doing their jobs properly. If any hon. Member cares to submit evidence of that sort to my right hon. Friend, I am sure he will see that the man in question is removed and that a more suitable person is put in his place.
The job confronting this Government and everybody, is to do all we can to encourage willing co-operation with the coalminers in this country. We must not forget that 19 out of 20 industries in this country depend on coal. There is no 474 increased productivity without it; there are no increased exports without it. By 1952 we must be able to stand on our own feet. We can only bring in raw materials in accordance with the amount of goods we are able to export, including coal, and now is the time for the extension of this willing co-operation with those engaged in and around the coal mines. I notice in the Press today that there is some worry about the overproduction of coal. We should pay strict heed to those who represent the industry in this country. They are seeking a conference with all countries interested in the production of coal. Those people should be encouraged to meet and discuss the problem. Never let us enter into that cut-throat competition which made coal so cheap in days gone by and which was responsible for so much unemployment.
Finally, I should like to pay a tribute to the present-day leaders of the miners' union. We differ politically from many of them. I know that in Scotland many of them are members of the Communist Party. But they were not elected as Communists; they were elected because of their great knowledge of the industry; and in spite of the difficulties in which they may find themselves from the political point of view, we should remember that they have done a good job of work. Sir William Lawther, the President of the Mineworkers' Union, is a worthy successor of those who went before him. If this Debate is to have any useful result, there must be more willing co-operation; everyone's back must be to the wheel, and we must not be too critical of people who are doing a job which many of us who used to do it can no longer do and which many of the present-day critics were at no time capable of doing.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Leather (Somerset, North)
I rise to speak in this Debate for two reasons; first, because I represent a coalfield on behalf of which no voice has been heard in this House for a long time. Indeed, we consider ourselves the Cinderella of the National Coal Board. My second reason is that I should like to take a leaf from the speech of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Hubbard), and put two points to the Minister with a view to securing the better co-operation of the miners.
475 The one theme which has so often run through speeches from these benches is decentralisation. In North Somerset we are a very small coalfield and we are completely over-shadowed by the massive coalfield across the Bristol Channel, which is administered from Cardiff. We are a classic example of how over-centralisation loses co-operation and causes bad morale; indeed, it is causing a very real grievance in our coalfield. I know very well that Cardiff and South Wales are much bigger and more important than we are, but the fact is that we can do virtually nothing in our coalfield without reference to Cardiff.
Really bad feeling among the men is experienced over the question of promotion. I have gone into this question very carefully in my constituency, and it is fair to say that because of the greater power in Cardiff, nine times out of 10 when there is a promotion going, instead of a local man getting it, a "new boy" arrives from Cardiff. I do not want to be misunderstood. I have many friends in Cardiff, and I am not trying to start a race war between Somerset and South Wales, but inevitably when outsiders come in to take plum jobs and the men on the spot are not promoted it causes hard feelings. It puts the outsiders in a difficult position. It makes their position embarrassing, and it causes widespread grumbling and discontent throughout the coalfield. I ask the Minister to give that problem his attention.
As a small coalfield we have very little power. As I say, we are the Cinderella of the Coal Board. Discontent is inevitable among our miners until this problem is solved. This is particularly the case in regard to what we call the comp." men—men who are on compensation because they have been disabled. We have a large number of "comp." men who have been injured in the past and who have been taken off because they are unfit to work at the coal face. Yet many of them are capable of doing surface jobs. They feel hurt when other people are given surface jobs, and they themselves are not given the opportunity. Many of those men feel that they are the lost souls of the industry. The industry has no place for them, although they have given their health to it.
476 I now come to a most important point. I implore the Minister to give his personal attention to the necessity for reviewing the Coal Board's attitude towards an annual examination for silicosis. I do not pretend to be a miner, although I have been down nearly all the pits in my own division, but I am certain that every Member on the other side of the House would agree that this problem of dust is becoming, and for good reason, an absolute mania with many men. It is a constant cause of worry. The moment a man feels the slightest shortness of breath, it may be from drinking too much beer or from eating indigestible sausages, the first thing he thinks of is dust and he rushes to the doctor. In the last four or five years particularly, the doctors have made great strides in dealing with this disease. The silicosis board which has been set up has done a wonderful job in making more foolproof the diagnosis of this disease.
As the Minister knows, we still have not, unfortunately, reached a position of discussing treatment. At the moment the problem is one of diagnosis. The doctors have made great strides, but at present the miners are not getting the benefit of that increased knowledge because the vast majority of cases never reach the doctors until it is far too late, until the disease has gone too far and the men, instead of going to the surface and carrying on fairly normal, healthy, active lives, are completely disabled or their health is so badly damaged that they cannot earn a reasonable living. I am sure that the Medical Research Council can give the Minister all the facts and details about this matter.
I do not know why the Coal Board have not made what I and the miners believe is a vital reform. Can the Minister tell us? It may be said that it is because of the shortage of doctors and we all know that the country is short of doctors, but I cannot believe that the Minister or the officials of the Coal Board can simply sit down and say, "Dear, dear; we are short of doctors so we can do nothing about it." During the war the Services had thousands of laymen, medical sergeants and even corporals, trained to read an X-ray, and that is what we want now. It is only in the difficult, problem cases where the expert doctors have to be called in. A 477 layman could be trained very quickly and mobile X-ray units could be set up which. I believe, could cover the field annually, or even every other year if it is too much to suggest that the examination should be done annually. We should get a quick diagnosis and we should not have the position which obtains at the moment, in which men do not find out about the disease until it is far too late.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
I am obliged to the hon. Member for permitting me to intervene. I should like to ask him whether he has taken advice on this interesting subject? He suggests that it would be possible to have laymen making a diagnosis of pneumoconiosis, silicosis or silicotuberculosis. I want to tell him—and I speak with some experience as a medical man—that in my view it is not even reasonable to ask the average practitioner to read these photographs and to give opinions with any degree of certainty or fairness. I believe that the hon. Member will get the same advice from any specialist source from which he cares to seek information.
§ Mr. Leather
I can tell the hon. Member that I have taken expert advice from two very senior doctors who are specialists. They also warned me, frankly, that many people would be horrified by this suggestion, but I am quite prepared to face that. As the hon. Member knows it is a question of studying the X-ray; if it is normal it simply goes back into the files. It is only the case which is abnormal which has to be referred to the specialist. I do not believe that it is impossible to train people to read X-rays, and I would point out to the Minister that it was done with great success and on many occasions in all the Armed Forces during the war. I believe that with proper training it can be done.
Hon. Members opposite may differ from me on this point, but at any rate if that cannot be done can the Minister offer a better alternative? I put my suggestion forward only as second best, but surely it is far better to have a second best and to make some attempt to solve the problem than merely to sit down and say, "We are sorry but we cannot do it." I do not believe that that is the correct attitude.
Last, I wish to put forward one further specific point, and it is one which hon. 478 Members opposite cannot say has anything to do with the shortage of doctors. It is the real hardship which is being caused at the present time to "comp" men—silicosis and pneumoconiosis cases—who left the industry before the Industrial Insurance Act came into force. I believe I am correct in saying, and no doubt I shall be corrected if I am wrong, that as the law stands at the moment men can claim compensation under that Act only if they claim within five years of having left the industry. Because this disease is progressive, and, on many occasions, takes such a long time to progress, I submit to the Minister that that is a harsh and unreasonable provision.
I have in my hand a letter from a constituent, which I received this morning and which I shall be very glad to show to the Minister if he would like to see it. It is typical of many other similar cases. It concerns a man who left the industry 18 years ago and whose diagnosis at that time was bronchial catarrh. That was the name by which medical science knew it at that time. It was only a few months ago, after the man had been gradually getting worse, that he was diagnosed by an expert as suffering from silicosis, yet because he left the industry more than five years ago he is not entitled to any compensation at all and can get no assistance.
There are many other cases, some of men who left the industry from six to seven years ago either through partial disablement or perhaps through a completely different cause, such as a broken leg or an accident like that, and who, because of this five-year provision, can get no compensation whatever although they have now been diagnosed as silicosis cases. I ask the Minister to look into this personally and to see if some provision cannot be made so as to give these men the compensation which, in my opinion, they so richly deserve.
That is a detailed point, however, and I should like the Minister to give the subject generally his attention. I acknowledge, as hon. Members opposite suggest, that it is difficult, but I believe it is a vital reform and I think it would be far more important for the National Coal Board to spend money on such a scheme than to spend it on beauty contests, canteens, boxing shows and all the rest of it, 479 even though they are all very pleasant in themselves. Such a scheme would be a great step forward to help morale and to assist in the appeal for more co-operation from the miners, and it would cut down the tragic number of additional "comp" men who are being added to the list every year.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)
Like all new Members I rise on this first occasion in a mood of sober apprehension and I crave the indulgence of the House for my maiden speech. I want to begin by thanking all older hon. Members for their kindness during this past month. I only hope that I shall be as courteous if I am here after the next election, in 1955.
I have gathered that in a maiden speech one can be parochial and even personal, so may I begin by mentioning that I have the honour to represent the constituency of Rugby in which we have a famous school whose alumni adorn the benches on both sides of the House? We have also given the country, I think, a worthy game, a perversion of which has even conquered North America. Perhaps I may also mention the British Thomson Houston works, where the workers are showing very fine output figures in their production of radar equipment. Further, they lowered the rate of production of independent Members of Parliament at the last election.
I have a simple tale to tell and I enter this Debate with temerity. I am the son of a miner. The coalmining industry today is in better heart and fettle than has ever been the case and this could never have taken place but for nationalisation. When I was a schoolboy in the 20's the only careers, if I may call them that, which were open to the sons of miners were those of teaching and professional football and those who wished to leave the North-East coalfields, just as in South Wales and many other coalfields, had to choose either of those professions.
I should like to say this about the climate today, after hearing the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) speak earlier about victimisation. Of course, we knew victimisation in the old days before the war but today, believe me, there is a much sweeter 480 atmosphere altogether and the joint consultative committees are functioning very happily indeed. Where they do not function in a non-controversial manner it is perhaps because we have a number of the old guard still in positions as managers and in other offices who were, perhaps, born about the time of the Boer War, who framed their mental habits then and who have not changed them very much since. For those gentlemen, the term "industrial democracy" is not included in their vocabulary. If we are to make nationalisation function in the fullest sense, we shall need many more people in the industry who believe in socialisation—I mention that word particularly as opposed to nationalisation—people who wish to make public ownership work in the coalfields.
Let me mention just a few statistics. I have been looking at the Monthly Digest, and the figure that particularly pleased me was that of the number of juveniles entering the industry. Before the war almost every mother would have her son take almost any job other than that of going down the pit. Now I should like to remind hon. Members of these figures. In 1948, 10,990 juveniles under the age of 18 entered the pits. In 1949 something like 14,186 went down the mines. In the first month of 1950 something like 2,100 went down the pits. Let us say that that is 10 per cent. It means that, with good fortune, we can expect about 20,000 young men with guts, to make mining their career this year, and to go down below to work. That is a most heartening sign, because believe me, between the wars people were leaving the pits in tens of thousands. Let me go back—without going too far back, as hon. Members do not like to go too far back—to 1913. Then, we had something like 1,250,000 men in the pits. Today, we have 700,000. Half a million men have left the mines in the last three decades. If we can get our youngsters to go back, and to go back because their mothers think it is a good thing to go back, we shall alter the course of our economic history.
For the first time in our economic history the miner is being paid a living wage. Other Members have talked about the dignity and the status of the miner. In the old days he was, perhaps, termed a "hand"—and that "hand," you know, 481 Mr. Speaker, meant merely a living tool. We have gone a long way beyond those days; today, the miner has a changed status; he has a human dignity. Believe me, in the mining industry we look upon ourselves now, if I may say so, as Stakhanovites. Without coal mining there is no basis for the future economic life of this country. We shall never attain the standard of living that we all desire for our wives and families unless our national economic life is healthy. We cannot have a healthy national economic life unless coal mining, which is the basis of the pyramid of our economic structure, is in a sound condition and is in healthy heart. These figures, of course, mean something to me, who was born the son of a miner, and who left the coalfields, but who goes back there to see his friends.
The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) talked about opencast workings. There are opencast workings quite near me. I have been over them. The opencast pits have made it possible for us to export something like 16 million tons of coal, without which we could not have had quite so many dollars as we have at the moment. Even more important than that is this: I went over those opencast workings with a member of the national executive of the Farmers' Union, and he was as delighted as I was at the way in which the engineer, who was more than a mere technician, who believed in more than just nuts and bolts, had put the land back into first-class heart. He had put back the top soil, he had sown seed, and he had bullocks fattening on the land, in less than two years. If that can be done in Warwickshire, it can be done elsewhere. I would advise the hon. Member for Kidderminster to look at it in that way—that opencast workings are essential for our national economic health, and that given such competent—more than competent, idealistic—engineers, who will look beyond their immediate jobs, we can expect the land to be rehabilitated for agriculture.
I listened carefully to the talk about dirty coal. We always had dirty coal, even in those days when we picked, by hand, the slate off the belts by means of serf labour for a few shillings a week—in the old days, in the '20s and '30s. Connected with the question of dirty coal is the question which occurs in all walks 482 of economic life—labour. Without being too controversial I should be much happier about our labour position in the pits if the sons of the classes of hon. Members opposite went down the mines in the same way as the sons of the miners are expected to go down them, and have gone down them, for the last 50 or more years. This is a question of national economy. It is a national question. As, in war-time, we all made sacrifices, so in peace-time, in the same way, we should all pull our weight.
We are installing expensive machinery for cleaning the coal. Let me quote from the report of the Industrial Coal Consumers' Council about the preparation of coal. It says:In this connection, the Board have reported to us that in 1948 23 coal cleaning plants with a capacity of about 5,250,000 tons per annum were brought into operation. In addition, four flotation plants with a total cleaning capacity of 112,000 tons a year were installed to deal with some of the smaller sizes that cannot be effectively dealt with by ordinary cleaning plants. These new plants contributed to the reduction in the proportion to total output of uncleaned smalls from 16.23 per cent. in 1947 to 14.6 in 1948. Some 2,000,000 more tons of dirt were removed from coal in 1948 than in 1947.So we are getting on with these improvements—and it is an improvement; and I would say, if I may, to hon. Members opposite that they should have patience and tolerance in this business of getting machinery installed in our pits to get our coal cleaner.
I should like to emphasise once more that the economic life of our country depends upon the health of our coal mining. I look forward, under nationalisation, to a much greater output. I look forward to many more of our sons entering the pits. I look forward, in the '50s, to an overall annual production of something like 240 or 250 million tons of coal. If the country can get that, plus exports of 40 million or 50 million tons, I shall have no fears when Marshall Aid is finished.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Heeley)
It is my pleasant duty to congratulate the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) on his maiden speech. I thought it was a most clear and sincere speech. In it he said that, in the past, sometimes the young men of the mining districts had left the mining industry. Well, I would say 483 that in the case of the hon. Member the loss of the pits has been the gain of the Socialist Party at Rugby. I am sure we shall look forward to hearing from him again the clear reasoning we have heard from him tonight in his maiden speech.
I should like also to congratulate the Minister on his new appointment. I think we can look forward now to having courteous replies, for he has always been renowned for his courtesy; and I am certain that at the end of the Debate we shall have from him, or from the Parliamentary Secretary, replies to the questions we have been putting—in contrast. I am afraid, to our experience when we have put questions on other subjects, particularly housing, and the Ministerial spokesmen have not answered our questions at all.
If I may sum up my opinion of this Debate so far as it has gone, it seems to me that the Minister, in ending his speech, pointed out the advantages which he has seen from nationalisation in the last three years and we on this side have put some of the disadvantages. I hope that I shall carry the House with me when I say that from the results of the recent election, and some of the statements hon. Members opposite have made, I think that it is clear that at the moment, at any rate, the mining districts seem to approve of nationalisation. I cannot say what will happen in the future. Therefore, I think that the arguments which hon. Members opposite have addressed to that point are at the moment accepted by the majority of the people in the country.
I would, however, point out to the Minister that that is only half his task. He may be able to satisfy the production side of the industry, but he has also to satisfy the consumer side. The whole point of the Debate this afternoon is that, whereas possibly one side may be satisfied, it is now the duty of the Minister to show that he intends to satisfy the consumer side. We have had in this Debate evidence that in the domestic market all is not well. We had in a very cogent maiden speech from below the Gangway, the argument that the falling off on the domestic side had, to some extent, been compensated by the increased use of electricity and gas. I think that is a point which the Minister should bear in mind. We have heard from the industrial side that in certain cases the in- 484 dustrial users are not getting the same B.T.U. value as in the past. One has only to look at the Report of the Transport Commission, page 61, in which there is complaint of the unsuitable qualities of coal—and I am sure that they put it as mildly as they can—to confirm that.
I think there is evidence before the Minister that all is not well on the consumer side at the moment. He has put forward arguments with regard to the cleaning apparatus in the industry and has gone back to the past records. I do not know whether he listened to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Fylde, South (Colonel Lancaster)—and if he was not in the House, I hope that he will read it in HANSARD—who showed him that his answers were, at any rate, not 100 per cent. the answers to this problem. They may account for some of the causes, but there are other causes. It is the other causes that I want to put to the Minister, because he very courteously said that he would listen carefully to any constructive suggestions put to him from whatever side of the House they might come.
There are two contributory causes to this question of unclean coal. The first is possibly the fault of quite a number of us on both sides of the House in that during the last three years we have overemphasised the need for production figures. In all these Debates, and even in the Debate this afternoon, it has all been a question of tons and targets of output. Of course, that is important, but it seems to me that this publicity produces in the minds of those responsible for production the idea that the main thing must be the target, irrespective of what coal is put through and what stuff comes into it, so long as the stuff coming out of the pit can be weighed. We hear much about flags on the top of pitheads, and so on, but the whole basis of publicity at the moment, in judging whether the Coal Board are doing well or badly, seems to be centred on production.
I agree that that is important, but I think that over-emphasis of that point is leading to this other evil that we are now finding, that in increasing production it does not matter whether moisture, ash or dirt are included so long as production increases. It has been said by hon. Members from mining constituencies that we are attacking the miner in this matter. 485 I put it quite clearly that I do not do that. The hon. Member for Fylde, South, showed that it was not the way that we get coal from the seams but the way that it is prepared that matters. When one remembers that the miner is paid to a large extent for the amount of coal which he sends out, it is not unlikely that if he can increase his output by putting in something that possibly he might have left down in the "gob," he may be inclined to do so.
I am not in any way challenging the miner on that point. I am challenging the attitude of the manager of the pit or of the area or even of the division, because it is this production mania that is getting into the minds of these people which is responsible. It is not a question of whether the miner shall cut in the dirt band or below it. He is told to do that by the manager. I have evidence from one or two pits—and I believe that it is happening fairly generally—that the coal cutter is told to go below the band of dirt because that will increase the output.
I have found instructions that when the men are called up at the end of the shift, they are told to go to the job and fill up with dirt or with anything that they can to make up tons. In how many cases is the practice of wetting the coal on the conveyor belts been introduced into pits? It is a good practice because it keeps down the dust. It means, however, that a great deal of water is being taken down the pit and put on the coal which comes up and is weighed. I believe that there are allowances for the amount of water produced in that way, but I understand that some of these allowances are not quite satisfactory and do not quite compensate. I wish to put to the Parliamentary Secretary and to the Minister that there are many ways in which the manager who is keen and is pressed by the production side to increase his output figures can do so without producing legitimate coal. Therefore, I say that I would much rather see the Minister instruct the Coal Board to pay more attention to the service which the Board render to the consumer than to the attainment of targets, when it is done by unorthodox methods.
This leads me to a conclusion which I hope is a constructive one and which is part of my first point, that there seems to be a lack of control by the sales side of 486 the organisation, not only in the division but also in the area. In the old days, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) said, if a consumer had bad coal in his grate he would go to the coal merchant and say "Where does this come from?" He would be told that it came from X, Y or Z colliery. The consumer would say "I do not want any more of that; I will have some coal from other collieries." The sales manager watching out for that, if he found the sales dropping off, would go to the managing director or to the board and say, "We must change our sales policy."
At the present time, when a consumer makes a complaint to the coal merchant, it is doubtful whether the coal merchant knows where the coal comes from, and there is no possibility of his complaint going back to the sales manager who is really responsible for sending out the coal. I know that the Minister will say that there is a consumers' council. Does he think that some of the people living in the back streets of my Division are going to the consumers' councils because they have bad coal in their grates? They are not going to do so. They must rely on the sales organisation of the National Coal Board. That organisation has not the live contact with the consumers which used to exist in the old days, and that is having a bad effect on the sales managing organisation.
My second point is that when the Coal Board production staffs were originally selected, the main points of control were given to what I would call the mining engineers—the actual people who produce the coal. The area managers and even the colliery managers were all production men. We have evidence, which I will give to the Minister if he wishes, that when one of these production men, whose job is to get coal, sees his sales representative come in, he says, "Get out of my office; I do not want to see you for another week. I am not bothered about your side." If that is true—and, as I say, I have evidence that it is true, and is happening generally—we then see some of the reasons why there is not a proper service to the consumer. In other words, we come back to the overweighting of the production side of the National Coal Board organisation.
487 As I see it, the final responsibility lies directly with the divisional chairmen. They are responsible for seeing that there is proper co-ordination between the production side and the sales side. I believe that in a large number of cases the chairmen, many of whom have come from different walks of life, are faced with a very strong production side but a very weak sales side, and they are not doing their duty properly. In the old days the colliery companies used, in their boardroom, to keep a proper control between the production side and the sales side. Today, it is the production man who says that he will get certain coal because it is easy to get, or because the seam is near the pithead. In the old days the salesman would say: "You cannot go into that seam because the coal has bad coking qualities," or "it is bad household coal."
If the Minister is asking for constructive suggestions in trying to suit the consumer—because that is his task—I would say that one of the main difficulties is that—and I put it no higher—in the National Coal Board the scales are heavily weighted on the side of production. I suggest that the divisional chairmen are not pulling their weight properly in supporting the sales side. If the Minister were to give instructions along the lines I suggest, and if the chairmen were given power to see that the production people were told to follow a policy compatible with the sales policy, then a great deal of these troubles would disappear.
I sum up the three remedies which I put to the Minister, as follows. First, in publicity—and there is a large publicity department in the Coal Board—we should now begin a drive, not so much for the attaining of target outputs as for producing good coal which satisfies the consumer. I should like to see posters of happy housewives poking good red fires, rather than merely the flying of blue flags at the pitheads because so many tons of coal, water and dirt have been raised up the pitshaft.
Secondly, I should like to see a great deal more freedom of choice to the consumer so that, if a particular pit is persistently sending out bad coal, then because the consumer will tend not to order coal from that pit it will be brought 488 directly home to the manager of the pit that he is losing his sales because he is not giving proper service. I believe that it is the job of the consumer to say whether he is satisfied by saying whether he will have coal from one pit or another pit within an area. I allow that it would be uneconomical for a consumer living in Yorkshire to say that he must have coal from Durham; but there are many pits in Yorkshire from which he should have the right to choose if he wishes to do so.
Thirdly, I say that the Minister should instruct the organisation of the Coal Board, and particularly the chairmen of the divisional boards, that they should give much more support to their sales organisation when they find that the production organisation is trying to do something merely because it is easy to get the coal, although it may be detrimental to the good name of the Coal Board.
I end on this note. We on this side have been asked to state our position towards nationalisation. We have stated it clearly enough. At this time we think it is the duty of this party to make this nationalised industry as efficient as possible. Although on the mining and production side, the Minister may have brought satisfaction to those in the industry, he has a long way to go on the consumer side. Until he does satisfy the consumer, he cannot say that nationalisation is a success; and, in point of fact, it must remain a failure.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Slater (Sedgefield)
As a new Member I, as many others have done, claim the indulgence of the House on the occasion of my maiden speech. Before the General Election I was working at the coal face. I have been in the mines for over 30 years, not only dealing with many forms of production, but also trying to look after the interests of our people in the industry, both when the industry was under private enterprise and since the change over to nationalisation. Because of the advent of nationalisation there is now a new temper coming into the industry. Today, the individuality of our people is greatly recognised; the opinion of the miner is considered, by means of consultation, in the running of the industry; be is able to air his views on production. In the old days, if a miner endeavoured to air 489 his views on the subject of increased production, or on the running of the industry, he was immediately told by those in charge that he was there to produce the raw commodity, not to think. That was the temper of the industry under private enterprise. Today, the views of the miner are respected, and even acted upon; and that is how it ought to be.
I was carried away when I heard the Minister's eloquent address on this subject; it gave one the impression that he had more or less lived with the subject from nationalisation. I have listened to the many questions that have been put to the Minister. The problem of dirty coal is no new problem to those in the industry. We have had it for a generation. This question has not only been considered by managements, agents, and consumers; we have been faced with it ever since coal mining was introduced in this country. As one engaged in the industry, I have encountered this question of dirt or foreign matter being brought to the surface and sold to the consumer with the coal, and I say, most sincerely, that the Minister ought not to be entirely saddled with the responsibility for answering questions on production, or on dirty coal. Nor do I think it ought to be left entirely to the National Coal Board. Much of this difficulty is attributable to the operations under private enterprise of bygone days, and to those who were responsible for running the industry then.
Let me give the reason why I say that about private enterprise. One cannot live in an industry for over 30 years and know nothing about it. Under private enterprise, many of the best classes of coal seams, ranging up to 4 ft. 6 in. of clean coal, were extracted at the expense of other seams which ought to have been developed first. I have in mind a seam of coal in my county where the management have endeavoured to make advancements at five different points. The position is that hundreds of thousands of tons of coal will never be brought to the surface because of bad management under private enterprise. It means that those responsible for running the industry today cannot make the progress that is necessary.
I am not claiming that there is no justification for the complaints about dirty coal, but that it is a problem which 490 has always been with us. It is no use Members opposite speaking about washery plants. I wish I could take hon. Members to my part of the country, where they would see coal being transported not only by rail but even by road to the washery plant for the extraction of debris. Until we are able to get the necessary plant, we shall not be able to remedy the situation.
Much has been said about young people coming into the industry. Young people used to work on the screens and beds extracting the stone and dirt from the coal. Today, they are not coming into the industry because of the experience of their parents under private enterprise. Those who make these complaints about dirty coal should go to the pits and see the conditions under which our people are working. If they did that, I am sure they would not make these criticisms about the miners. I spent 18 years as a hand hewer and then went on the conveyor. We found that where people are working on single units of 100 yards or even on double units, they have little control over the coal content once the cycle of operation has been completed.
I say that the blame cannot be laid on the miner at the coal face for lack of observation. When we remember that our people are having to work in seams ranging from 20 inches to two to three feet in depth, it will be realised that the conditions are not very good for the miner. We know that many changes have been made in the industry. We are very grateful for these changes, but there is still much to be done. The men in the industry have faced up to their responsibilities, and they will continue to do so so long as they are taken into the confidence of those responsible for the running of the industry. During the war, when the appeal went out for increased production, the miners gave of their best. Many of them would have liked to have gone into the Armed Forces, but they were inside the ring fence and could not get out. The same position applies today. The miners are trying to give of their best on behalf of the country.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Erroll (Altrincham and Sale)
It is my happy task to congratulate the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Slater) on his maiden speech. It can be said truthfully that we have all been impressed by what 491 he has told us in such a frank and engaging style. I hope that we shall have the benefit of his remarks on many occasions in the future, and that he will not confine himself exclusively to the subject of mining.
We rarely have an opportunity to debate both coal and oil on the same day, both of which are watched over by the same Minister. In coal we have the old fuel, and in oil the new. There is a lot we can learn from the development of the new fuel that might be applied to the further development of the old. I am not one of those who suggests that oil can hope to replace coal as the staple fuel of this country, but we have to look ahead and envisage a much closer partnership between the two. When we survey the position, we can take some comfort from the fact that although there has been a reduction in coal exports since before the war, the sterling oil industry has expanded so much and is today making a valuable contribution to our balance of payments problem. What we have lost in coal we have more than gained in oil.
I hope that the Minister, when he has time to study the affairs of the oil industry, will consider its working methods and see whether he cannot apply them with benefit to the nationalised coal industry. We are going to see, as the oil industry of this country develops, a balance which must be drawn sooner or later between coal and fuel oil. We shall see an increasing quantity of fuel oil becoming available. It will be the price and calorific value of fuel oil that will ultimately set the ceiling for the price of coal. Coal will always be used much more in this country than oil, but there will soon be an opportunity afforded to the consumer to change over to fuel oil if he wishes, and this will ultimately decide the maximum price the Coal Board will be able to charge for coal of given calorific values.
I know that at present we have to import a good deal of fuel oil, but that position is changing. In the course of the next year or two we may expect to see large quantities of fuel oil, as a residue from the new British oil refineries, which must be disposed of inside this country. Therefore, sterling fuel oil will be available to those who 492 wish to use it. It will be the presence of that marginal amount of fuel oil that will exercise an important influence on the prices of coal in the future.
I am sure we are all glad to see the immense development in British oil refineries since the war. I am also glad to observe that, according to the Economic Survey for 1950, the Government are prepared to approve a further important stage in the expansion of the British oil refinery programme. It is worth while remembering that this oil refinery programme is entirely handled by private enterprise. We have heard some very hard things said during the earlier part of today's Debate about the alleged failures of private enterprise before the war. Here is a world in which private enterprise is being very successful to all—to employees, to consumers and to shareholders. It is an expanding virile industry, which is well served by the best motives which we, on this side of the House, believe are represented in the phrase "private enterprise."
There is, however, one important matter which needs to be watched properly and that is a sphere for the Government to interest themselves in—the importance of ensuring that the refineries being constructed have a sufficient element of flexibility to be able to meet with the changing demands in the years to come. I know that these things very often can only be achieved by construction on the largest possible scale, and that involves the important element of capital expenditure. Flexibility is essential if we are not to fall behind in the race to produce refined petroleum products.
There is one particular sphere, that of defence, in which this matter is singularly important. In the aircraft industry we are witnessing a revolutionary change in the methods of propulsion. There is the move away from the use of the piston engines employing high quality aviation spirit to the use of jet engines, which employ paraffin or an oil derivative of a similar quality. It is not easy suddenly to produce a large amount of paraffin from an existing refinery, and I should like to get an assurance from the Minister that, in fact, we are going to be able to get all the requirements of jet fuel which can be procured from the British refineries when they are completed.
493 We know, too, that there is an exaggerated demand for paraffin by the farming community, for whom there is a very real advantage in using paraffin as opposed to petrol in their agricultural tractors and machines. I hope that the Minister will approach the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a view to removing an anomaly in that direction on a certain occasion about to take place very shortly. If the tax on petrol for agricultural tractors could be removed, it would eliminate the inducement which at present exists for farmers to use paraffin as fuel for tractors, instead of petrol. Paraffin is in short supply at present, and it is going to be a very great difficulty for the Minister of Fuel and Power when he has to produce ever larger quantities of paraffin fuel not only for jet aircraft for military purposes, but for the jet aircraft which shortly we are going to see in use for civilian flying.
There is one setback in the development of the oil refinery programme, and that is the cessation of American Aid for further refinery construction. I hope the Minister will tell us a little more what that means because, according to the newspaper reports, it would appear that the cessation of further Marshall Aid for this purpose is linked to that unfortunate episode at the beginning of this year, when the correspondence between the former Secretary of State for the Colonies and Kenya was revealed. We seem to have lost a good deal of ground in our otherwise harmonious relations between the American oil interests and the British oil interests through that unfortunate indiscretion on his part. I understand that negotiations are still proceeding, and it may not be possible for the Minister to say as much as he would like. However, I hope he will take the House into his confidence as much as possible, because it would be most unfortunate if our relations with the American oil interests were to deteriorate as a result of that unfortunate indiscretion.
From what the Minister said in answer to Parliamentary Questions and from what his predecessor said in the last Parliament, it is the use of dollars for oil which restricts fuller and freer consumption in this country. It is very proper for us to consider just how one can reduce the dollar element in such oil. It would seem that the most immediate practical way of reducing that element would be 494 to take into our use the great Haifa refinery which at present is lying immobilised because it is receiving no crude oil from Iraq. The loss of Haifa represents, I believe, something of the order of four million tons of petroleum products a year. On previous occasions we have been told that His Majesty's Government are doing everything possible to induce the Arab States to permit the resumption of a flow of crude oil to this refinery, but the Government have not so far resorted to the most effective way of all—to make these countries concerned realise how dependent they are upon us for their present supplies of refined products.
Before the war Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, to a certain extent Saudi Arabia, and perhaps even Irak itself were obtaining their refined products from Haifa. As Haifa is at present closed down, the refined products must come from other countries in the sterling area, or must be paid for in dollars supplied in some cases from the sterling area dollar pool. I suggest in the case of Egypt that she should now be invited to pay in dollars for all her refined petroleum products and not be allowed to get them by the simple process of running down her sterling balances. If it could be brought home to these countries what it means at the present time to prevent a refinery from operating, we should soon succeed in inducing those countries to permit the refinery to start up again.
There is another refinery which should have been operating, and that is the not inconsiderable refinery at Syriam, in Burma, which used to supply not only the needs of Burma but also large areas of India and other adjacent countries. It is a tragedy that that refinery should be closed, and that refined oil products, presumably from the sterling area, should have to go into Burma instead of there being oil exports from that country.
If we could have Haifa, we could reduce very considerably the dollar element in petroleum products. I would still like to have from the Minister a clear statement as to what the dollar element in petrol really is at the present time. I accept in general terms the soundness of his argument, but we are very rarely given any accurate figures of what that element represents in terms of gallons of fuel in this country. It would also be interesting to learn what the extra dollar 495 cost would be of doubling the domestic petrol ration. Let us know what is the cost of a particular concession and not just be given some over-all, omnibus figures which, though valuable in themselves, still leave us very much in the dark as to the cost of extra concessions or the saving of additional refinery capacity.
I mentioned rationing briefly, but I want, in my concluding remarks, to turn to it, as I believe it to be a matter of great importance in Britain today. I was sorry that the Minister said that he could not remove diesel fuel oil from rationing, for the very flimsy reason that it would not be fair to the users of petrol vehicles. That seems to be a most extraordinary argument—the sort of argument that his predecessor used during the fuel crisis, that it was not fair to have an electric light on in Fort William if you could not have an electric light on in London, despite the fact that the light in Fort William was provided by hydro-electric power. If there is enough diesel oil, why should not the diesel lorries have it and why should it not be taken off the ration as soon as possible? Would it lead to an increased use of diesel vehicles? That is hardly likely.
There is little evidence to show that there is a shortage of red petrol for commercial vehicles. One never hears any complaint about commercial vehicles not being able to get what petrol they require. If they should run short, they send a note round to the Ministry of Fuel's regional office and they get some more. Maybe that is right, but my point is that there is no shortage of petrol for commercial vehicles. I think it is a sound policy, but if it is true, why continue with the rationing of diesel fuel? Coupled with that is the query: why is it necessary to continue the rationing of red petrol at all?
There is one considerable administrative difficulty. It is that if there were no control over red petrol, even more red petrol would find its way into the tanks of private vehicles than does so at present. Members of Parliament on all sides feel that the red petrol rationing scheme has been a success and that the black market has been stamped out, but I am sure that if a further Vick Committee were to investigate the present position they would find it very nearly as unsatisfactory 496 as the old. There may not be the same gallonage of illicit transactions, but all these transactions are far more lucrative now because the risk is so much higher.
I ventured to mention this subject in a Debate in the House on 8th November last, when I drew particular attention to the temptation which was put in the way of employees of petrol distributing companies. By just failing to put the red dye into a particular consignment of petrol, they could automatically increase its value three or four times and thus be able to obtain the extra money from one of the distributors. I was sorry that hon. Members opposite disliked my remarks so much. I put them forward in all good faith and with some knowledge of the facts. I was also sorry particularly that the junior Minister should have said what he did. I will quote him. He said:The hon. Member has made some very dangerous allegations against the honesty of a body of very hardworking men. He was quite unjustified."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1949; Vol. 469, c. 1159.]Only six weeks later the Ministry of Fuel and Power were running a full-scale prosecution in the Number 1 Criminal Court in Birmingham in which a number of petroleum distributing employees were convicted. The Minister must have known perfectly well on 8th November that investigations were in hand by his Department, because the prosecution referred to investigations which had been going on for months. He did me less than justice when he regarded my remarks as unjustified and when he asked me to present evidence. The evidence was there, and it was in his own Department.
§ Mr. Robens
What I objected to at the time, and what I still object to, was that the honesty of thousands of decent working men should be impugned merely because one or two were blacklegs and backsliders. If the hon. Gentleman will read the Debate to which he has now referred, he will see that he went farther and said:It is disturbing the trade unions and workers' organisations concerned that dishonesty should be spreading as a result.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1949, Vol. 469; c. 1156.]We have no evidence of that at all. I ask him to produce evidence now.
§ Mr. Erroll
It was undoubtedly spreading at the time I made my remarks. I 497 was referring, in particular, to the temptations to which all of these men were being subjected. Of course, I agree that the majority are honest and are likely to remain so. My point is that they are being unnecessarily subjected to a temptation which is a severe strain on them all. That is a very real disadvantage in the present system of rationing by colouring petrol for commercial use.
One can argue the pros and cons of red and white indefinitely, for the very good reason that the Minister has never revealed the figures which we regard as vital to a proper assessment of the case. How does a rationing scheme fall out of use? One can remember quite well how it happened in the case of bread and clothes. Supplies became sufficiently abundant for it to be unnecessary to use coupons in order to obtain supplies. Perhaps the Minister will tell us to what extent the red coupons are not fully taken up and to what extent coupons for white petrol are not fully used? If there is evidence that a large number of red petrol coupons are not being used, the supply which those coupons represent could quite properly be applied to increasing the ration for the private motorist. In that way we might well find that the private motorist was able to get all that he required even with the present scale of imports.
We might also find that it would be worth trying—by importing a little more petrol for a short period—to find out just what the maximum post-war demand for private motorists' petrol is likely to be. Then we could ascertain the additional dollar cost. We might well find that the extra cost was sufficiently small to justify our dismantling the whole apparatus of rationing. Maybe it is not possible, but I suggest to hon. Members that it would be well worth trying. We might thereby succeed in eliminating the rationing system which, even though it may possibly be necessary, remains extremely irksome.
Finally, I ask the Minister to take a look at other countries in this matter and he will see that they have been able to remove rationing and not necessarily to increase consumption. He should take a chance on derationing by realising the great progress that is being made with the British refinery programme so that very soon we shall have all the sterling petrol we require.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Mr. N. H. Lever (Manchester, Cheetham)
The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) invites the Minister to take a look at the Continent of Europe to see how Governments there have abolished rationing. When any commodity in public use suddenly reaches an excessive price, it is very common that there should be a widespread outcry about the high price at which that commodity is being sold, and the damage to the economy of the country is readily pointed out by many people. But, unfortunately, when there is a case, which I submit is the fact today so far as petrol is concerned, of a commodity in widespread use which is being sold at too low a price, it is difficult and somewhat unpopular to maintain an argument that it is causing damage to the public interest to continue the sale of that commodity at that excessively low price.
The abolition of petrol rationing on the Continent has depended, of course, upon a sharply increased price compared with, that at which petrol fuel sells in this country. I do not wish to weary the House with details, but the price varies to upwards of double the price of petrol in this country. I know that the last time I raised this matter in the House with the Minister, he raised his hands in horror and talked about rationing petrol by the purse. His horror and indignation did more credit to his warm heart than to the thought he had given to the matter.
It is high time that the petrol rationing system was wound up, certainly so far as it applies to private motor cars. Before anyone on this side of the House, at least, waxes indignant because that must necessarily involve petrol ceasing to be sold at the present low price which obtains in this country, compared with other countries, before anyone raises his hands in horror equal to that of the Minister, I would remind the House that tobacco is rationed by the purse at present. So is almost every industrial commodity in this country and so are the greater part of our foodstuffs. Anyone who wants to treat the rationing of petrol as something to be compared with the rationing of butter, who really thinks that petrol, at any rate for the private motorist, deserves an elaborate and costly rationing system to preserve an artificially low price at 499 present; anyone who thinks that private petrol should be treated on a par with butter and wheat for example, to preserve its price, is, economically speaking, living in a strange world.
I wish to ask the House if it is satisfied that petrol should continue to be sold at the present low price when, if the price were sharply increased, to about double, possibly less, the effect would be to bring the consumption of petrol by private cars roughly into line with demand, set up a free market and produce a substantial sum in profit to the Ministry of Fuel and Power? It would be a welcome thing to find this large accession to public funds and, at the same time, achieve a permanent public economy, as a result of winding up the rationing system. It is argued that the present system sees fair play, but that argument will not stand up to any examination.
There are about 2 million separate applications made at present in respect of motor cars, and the Ministry of Fuel and Power, this year, about five years after the end of the war, still maintains the solemn and expensive pretence that it is sitting on judgment upon 2 million separate claims and assessing their relative social merit and importance. That is complete poppycock. It might have a paper validity, but it has no relation to real life. In truth and in fact, it is not possible, in peace-time, to assess the relative social merits of 2 million separate claims from motorists. There would be far less injustice if the much despised rationing by the purse were brought into operation for motor fuel for private motor cars than there is under the present system.
The present system attempts to make neat categories which, dropped through the proper slot, produce authority for the appropriate number of gallons at this artificially low price. If one is a commercial traveller one has the same maximum as another commercial traveller—as if two commercial travellers have the same real need, as if anything but the most rough and unfair assessment of needs results. Far from it being a matter of justice that the demand for petrol should be kept at its present low price and this strange system of rationing maintained five years after the war, one asks why, in a country where we acknowledge that rationing by 500 the purse must be used to bring the supply and demand of tobacco, for example, into line, and where it is used in the case of almost all foodstuffs except the most essential rationed ones, should it not apply to motorists who want their petrol for private motoring? We are certainly rationed by the purse if we wish to buy a motor car today. No one would suggest that motor vehicles are allocated in order of social priority. Why should not the people who out-bid everyone else to get a motor car, be allowed to bid among themselves to buy petrol, with considerable advantage to the Exchequer?
Although this may not be a popular idea at first sight I urge that it be given a little consideration. It works tolerably well on the Continent of Europe. If we feel any sense of outrage that a rich man should be able to motor a longer distance and in a more comfortable car as a result, we might at least take into consideration that we accept a system of life where rich men have many advantages over their fellows. They can do many things besides motor greater distances—[An HON. MEMBER: "We are trying to change that."] The hon. Gentleman says that we are trying to change that. I have been in this House for the last five years, and I have found that far from changing the system of rationing by the purse, we have actually added to it so far as tobacco is concerned. We have raised the price of tobacco to an unprecedented level while keeping petrol, used by the wealthier section of the community, down to an uneconomic price by the maintenance, five years after the war, of a fairly large and expensive rationing system.
If any hardship were imposed on the small motorist who could not afford too much petrol at the higher market price that would result, the Minister could make an adjustment by removing the tax on horse power, or the annual tax on the car and so give the small motorist an equivalent, so to speak, of a number of gallons at the old price. It should not be difficult to work out a device of that kind, as this increase in price is not intended as a tax to raise revenue so much as a tax to bring into being a free market for petrol, and to end the illogical rationing of petrol. It should not be difficult by means of that kind for the Minister 501 to pay back to the community the money which he raises by a petrol tax.
§ Dr. Morgan (Warrington)
My hon. Friend is advancing a most extraordinary argument. I hope he realises that some people who have to use petrol, such as doctors, for example, will have their costs immediately doubled. He then goes on to ask for certain discrimination to be indulged in between one person and another. I wish that he would think this over again, because it is an extraordinary doctrine to be coming from these benches.
§ Mr. Lever
I am sorry if my hon. Friend finds the doctrine repugnant to him. The last time I raised the matter the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor), who is not among the most poverty-stricken hon. Members, said indignantly, "Call that Socialism?"—because the people he supports were the beneficiaries of this system. I am not advocating that we should make a distinction between different members of the community. But if we wish to enable the little man to go on motoring and having a certain amount of cheaper petrol, the need to pay an annual licence fee should be taken away. If doctors had to pay a little more for petrol it would not hurt them. In any case, it would not be difficult, under the National Health Scheme, to make a slight adjustment to allow for their increased expense. It should not be difficult, and it is silly to keep a complete rationing system in force because of that.
When is the rationing system to end? Hon. Members must surely be asking when it is to end. There was some justification for it in war-time, but there is no justification for a rationing system for petrol as a permanent or semipermanent feature of our national life. I have raised this matter on previous occasions. I have mentioned it on more than one occasion outside the House as well as inside. The last time I raised it here, I was forced to the conclusion that if it is really the case that the motoring public want this maintained for their protection—against the rich outbidding the poor for the petrol—then the motoring public were like the women in one of Meredith's novels—their conception of freedom was to learn to love their chains. If the motorists really love the chains of ration- 502 ing, as it now operates, merely because it saves a shilling or two a gallon, it is up to the Minister to see that in the public interest the price of motor fuel for private motor cars is increased.
In any case, a good deal of the supposition that motoring in private cars is a basic essential, is unnecessary, too. The truth of the matter is that most private car motoring is a great convenience. Those who have the convenience should be prepared to pay a little more to enjoy the convenience. In some cases it is a pleasure. Those who are unfortunate enough to smoke heavily, ungrudgingly and uncomplainingly continue to pay a tremendous toll to the National Exchequer of something like £600 million a year.-Those who have the good fortune to have the convenience of a motor car should not be afraid—the Minister should not worry unduly if some are—to contribute some £30 million, £40 million or £50 million to the National Exchequer in order to save the bother and waste of time of petrol rationing as it now exists.
I should like to discuss one other brief point. I submit, also, that red petrol is sold too cheaply. The price of petrol for lorries and motor coaches is far too cheap from the point of view of the public interest. If it continues at its present low level, the railways will have to face the continuous and chronic difficulty of unfair and uneconomic competition from the road. It is high time that we wound up the petrol rationing system completely as it applies to motor cars, and that we considered increasing the price of petrol for all motor vehicles which use our roads.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Sir Ian Fraser (Morecambe and Lonsdale)
My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) and the hon. Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. N. H. Lever) have both, from different points of view, put forward the argument that petrol rationing is unnecessary. My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale thought that if refineries and other arrangements had been provided in good time there could have been more petrol, and the hon. Gentleman opposite said that he would like to see rationing abolished because of its great complications. He said that 503 the law of supply and demand should be allowed to operate. I welcome this view, as expressed from both sides of the House. I hope that it will grow until the majority of hon. Members realise that there are a good many fields in our domestic expenditure in which the good old law of supply and demand would be more equitable and more efficient and would make a very real contribution towards our freedom.
I wish to make two extremely brief pleas to the Minister, but before I do that I should like to say that he and his predecessor should receive credit for the actions of their officials, in so far as I have been able to observe them, in dealing with the personal cases which are put before them. Certainly, the office in Manchester, to which I send my recommendations from time to time, deals with the cases with fairness and good judgment. I think that ought to go on record in a world in which there is so much criticism of our civil servants. I have made a dozen speeches and asked 20 Questions in recent years about petrol supplies for motorists in rural districts, and I make no excuse for returning to the point. In our great towns, and even in the moderate sized towns, there is public transport which is available at a reasonable price and to a considerable degree to case the travelling problem for the ordinary person. In the rural districts, that is not the case. If one cannot afford a motorcar, one relies upon buses and motor coaches; if one can afford a motorcar, one relies either upon the standard ration or upon that standard ration plus any modest increase that may be granted by application to the Ministry.
The longer distances in the countryside and the fact that public transport is not available in the form of regular bus, train or tram services provide a strong case for very special consideration for the people who live in the rural areas. There are villages in my constituency which are five or even 10 miles away from the market town, the shopping town or the town where business is to be done. Sometimes, they are three or four miles away from the nearest petrol station, and the person who has a small car is greatly handicapped by comparison with the person who lives in a moderate sized or large town.
504 There are, no doubt, administrative difficulties in varying the standard ration, but I would urge the Minister to consider it. I do not suppose he could do it this summer, because his printing has to be thought of well in advance, but he could do it a few months hence. I would urge consideration of the principle involved—whether there should be differentiation between town and country. On that point, there is already differentiation in a number of fields. The telephone, electric light and other forms of amenity and supply are provided at prices much less economic in the case of the rural inhabitants than in the case of the town dweller. Even in the field of taxation there is a precedent, for the tax upon cinema seats in rural areas, where the population is less than 2,000, is less than in the big towns. Thus there are precedents for the principle being admitted, and nobody can deny that there is a case in equity for giving persons in remote parts of the country a little more petrol for the same vehicle than is supplied to those in a town. Very often, a person in the country uses a quarter or perhaps half a gallon to go and get the petrol, and, therefore, is so much worse off when he has got it.
The Minister will no doubt reply, as did the junior Minister previously, by telling me that he tries to make up for this in the supplementary allowances. I have no doubt he does, but there are a good many cases where supplementary allowances are not granted or are not appropriate, and there is the further point that the supplementary allowance attracts double taxation in the licence to be paid. Therefore, I do urge that, while there is time to work this out for the next few months, the Minister, instead of giving a spontaneous, negative reply today, will at least say that he will consider the matter and see whether justice can be done in the rural areas.
One other point. On Monday of last week I asked the Minister a Question, to which he replied by saying that the ordinary standard ration for the months of May, June and July would be doubled, as was the case last year. In a supplementary question I asked the right hon. Gentleman if he would consider extending the concession to the month of September, because of its great importance to the seaside and holiday towns. The 505 Minister replied that the double ration can be used for the whole of the summer season, but that he would consider the matter as September approached. I think I have fairly quoted his answer. I beg him to give very serious consideration to this question of extending the period from three to four months.
The special case I wish to make out for extending it to September will only take me a short time to make. The whole economy of our seaside or holiday towns depends upon having the longest possible season. It affects not only the employment of the workers in those towns, which is very vital and important to them and to the economy of the town, but it also affects the earnings of hotels, boarding houses and restaurants, and all the other enterprises which, in a holiday resort, depend for their earnings on extending the season. If the season can be extended by 10 or 20 per cent., it makes an enormous difference to the economy of those towns. Not only that, but it make the holidays of the people who go there much more agreeable because they can spread them over a longer time. They do not all have to crowd into the same cinemas, on the same pier, into the same charabancs or into the same dance halls. By spreading their holidays over four months instead of three it gives greater convenience to hundreds of thousands of people. Therefore, on economic grounds, as well as on human grounds, there is a very strong case for extending the holiday season if it is at all possible.
One way of doing this is by giving this double ration of petrol in September. I ask the Minister not to wait until August before considering this matter, but to do it now. Rather than turn down my request I would prefer him not to give me a reply tonight. What I would like him to say is that he recognises that a case can be made out for this additional ration, and that he will give consideration to the matter and see if he cannot squeeze out that little extra petrol which would have the effect of lengthening the season for seaside and holiday resorts. Those are the only two pleas I wish to make to him tonight. I will not repeat the arguments made by some hon. Members as to whether rationing is desirable or even necessary. I assume that the Government intend to continue it, but I do beg 506 the right hon. Gentleman to consider these two concessions to the rural community and to those who want to enjoy their holiday.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Pryde (Midlothian and Peebles)
I should like at the outset to compliment the Minister upon what I regard as one of the finest speeches to which I have listened since I came to Westminster in 1945. I hope and trust that he will just as firmly reaffirm his attitude in regard to petrol rationing as he did with regard to coal, because I have never listened to a more extraordinary contribution than that which we have just heard from these benches in regard to the abolition of petrol rationing.
However, it is to coal that I wish to turn my attention for a few minutes, and to three speeches in particular. In the voice of the hon. and gallant Member for Fylde, South (Colonel Lancaster) and in the voice of the hon. Member for Heeley (Mr. P. Roberts) I recognise the voice of old King Cole. While the hon. Member for Heeley disclaimed any idea of attacking the miner, at the same time he proceeded to tell us that the miner watered the coal on the conveyor and the machineman undercut the seam in the pavement in order that there might be more weight when it reached the surface. That was deliberately charging the miner with dishonesty.
Let me explain to the House the various reasons why the machineman below ground should undercut the coal below the seam. He may, for instance, have a very thin seam and desire to undercut for height purposes. Again, he may be instructed to undercut the seam in the clay because by that means the management would be able to get a larger type of round coal. On the other hand, he may be required to undercut coal below because of the action of weight on the coal, that is, for roof control. For those reasons, then, the machineman may be required to undercut the coal.
The right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) insistently charged the National Coal Board with failing to reproduce the pre-war figures in regard to output per man-shift. The right hon. Member, who led for the Opposition, very deliberately told the House that we were not getting the results from the 507 coalmining industry. He gave us some figures.
I am going to give figures and I am going to go back a long way. I have here a record of the mining industry since 1210. I am going to take the collieries which are operating under the Charter of 1210 in Scotland, and I am going to prove conclusively that the charges that the men are not putting their backs into it are all nonsense. Since 1946 the men at Lingerwood have increased their annual output by over 30,000 tons without the aid of Mecco-Moore machinery. The light in their houses is so poor that the men have told me they have to get up on to a chair on the table to get near the gas at night in order to read the evening paper. I ask the Coal Board to accede to the men's request for electric light in then houses in that famous mining village of Newton Grange. It will only cost £30,000, and since they have increased their output by over 30,000 tons a year, surely it is a reasonable request to make.
The right hon. Member for Southport quoted figures with regard to output per man-year. I have figures for the year 1920 when the men had not gone from the mines. There were then more men employed in the mines in this country than ever before or since. There were 1,248,224, and the output per man-year was 184 tons, the lowest on record. The House will see that it does not follow automatically that if there is a great number employed in mines, there will be a very large output. In 1922 the coal owners encouraged the men to increase output by cutting the ton rate. In those days there were over 3,000 mines in this country. The National Coal Board took over only 1,500 mines. The coalface has travelled a great distance since those days. Today there are four times the number of men employed in underground transport, compared with 1922. We are asked why coal is dear. That is why it is dear. We in Scotland have always employed machinery. I have here photographs of machines which were in operation as far back as 40 years ago. I have photographs of some of the houses in which the miners were housed then.
While there were 1,250,000 men in the mines in those days, the National Coal Board have only 700,000 men. This is 508 why men were never attracted to the pits and why they were driven away. I have here a photograph of some of the houses in Midlothian. I want the National Coal Board, the Minister and this House to take note of those houses. I should like the Minister to come with me to Loanhead, where, ironically enough, the west end of the town is the slum area, and to Smeaton, where the refuse dump is 200 feet above the colliery houses. It is heartbreaking for a miner's wife to try to keep house. That is why we do not get men into the mines.
Before the election, the Tory Party spent thousands of pounds in Midlothian and Peebles on propaganda, on jamborees, gymkhanas, shooting galleries and coconut shies. One of these was held at Dalhousie Castle. Had they lifted their heads they would have been able to see Butterfield, where there are no sanitary conveniences of any description, and the people have to intrude on the woods of the Earls of Dalhousie in order to perform the ordinary obligations of nature. The woods are being cut down now. No wonder we cannot get the men to go in the mines.
The Minister should do what I suggested years ago in this House. He should see that inducements are offered to the young people. It is all right for the married man, in the pit. The larger the family the better. As long as he gets a house to live in, he can rely upon earning, a good weekly wage before he is subject to Income Tax. But what about the young man and the widower? They have no incentive to work on Saturdays or Sundays. They know perfectly well that they will be subject to the attentions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I ask the Minister to see that representations are made to the Chancellor to allow a little laxity in the application of Income Tax, so that the young people shall have some encouragement to go to the pits, so that they can put something into war savings and provide for the day when they themselves will be householders. By this means we shall keep our young people in the pits.
I now turn to the subject of dirty coal. The obvious intention of hon. Members opposite has been to charge the miner with responsibility for dirty coal. It is true that private enterprise operated the easiest, nearest and best seams first. 509 Evidence of that is to be found today in the minefield of Midlothian. In the Loanhead area, the North Greens seam which had coal of the finest calorific quality is not nowadays in operation, because the best of it was taken away and it would require years of development to get to its far reaches. Then at Whitehill Colliery, Rosewell, today coal is being recovered which was stored in the "gob" or waste, 50 years ago by my own family. It will be seen that it would require a great effort on the part of the National Coal Board both in money and labour in order to get to the new seams. But we are getting to them; output is improving. In Midlothian we are demonstrating that output is improving, and I think hon. Members will agree that the people who are making this effort towards national recovery are the people who should be encouraged. In the Midlothian coalfield we have young men of our own training in the most successful collieries.
I have heard some criticism of certain officials in the National Coal Board. Up to the rank of manager I will not stand for any criticism, because I believe that right up to the rank of manager our people are flinging their weight into the task. If there is anyone who does not possess that animated drive in connection with the Coal Board's recovery programme, I suggest he will be found among the men who were officials under private enterprise. Today, our most successful collieries are managed by young men drawn from the ranks of the miners themselves. Long may they continue.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd (Birmingham, King's Norton)
It is my pleasant duty to congratulate several hon. Members who have made maiden speeches and I should like, in particular, to refer to the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), whose constituency is not very far from my own. His skill may be judged from the fact that he made an exceedingly effective general speech while contriving, at the same time, to ventilate an important grievance in his constituency. If I may, as one who served for many years as a Minister in the Department, I should also like to congratulate the Minister on his new appointment. I know enough about it to realise that he 510 has by no means an easy job, although it is one which also presents some most interesting opportunities. At any rate, we feel that he comes to his new appointment with a fresh mind, and on that assumption it is not my purpose tonight, for it would indeed be unfair, to launch an attack upon him.
My main objective is rather to try to convince him and hon. Members opposite that there is a good deal to be said for the view on petroleum policy which is held by those of us on this side of the House. "The Times" newspaper, which is not always unfriendly to the Government, commenting on a speech by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor last month, said:In spite of Mr. Gaitskell's statement that he has explained the oil position fully, it is still one of the most obscure of present economic topics.I believe that this is correct and that it is very important that we should put it right, first of all because of the great importance of the petroleum position to our general economic situation and, secondly, because motorists in this country have at least a right to the facts. With the indulgence of the House, I propose to make a contribution towards attempting that by setting out some of the main features of the petroleum position. I hope the Government, with all their resources, will take up the task and will give the House certain important figures and, of course, correct my figures and estimates if they find it necessary to do so.
My first point is that the whole petroleum situation must be considered as one. Even if we wish to examine a special product such as kerosene or petrol, we must start by looking at the petroleum position as a whole because, first of all, everything comes from the crude oil and in the operation of the refineries we may switch our processes into a larger or smaller proportion of the particular product according to the way we operate. In the end it must all be transported by tanker so that there is great flexibility in the type of product which can be transported.
We are dealing with an industry which has multiplied its production twenty times over during the present century, which is organised on a world-wide basis and which is dominated by the United States of America. Before the war world production 511 was 270 million tons. It increased by nearly 100 million tons during the war, and it has increased another 100 million tons since. That is a 70 per cent. increase since before the war. Now, the United States produce and consume well over half of this oil—nearly two-thirds. That is, America consumes more petroleum than the whole of the rest of the world put together; but as far as international trade is concerned, in which petroleum is now the most important commodity both by volume and by value, the United States have rather more than a half of the trade and British controlled companies have just under a half.
It is very remarkable that we have such a large share of the international trade in oil, considering that the amount of petroleum found in the British Empire is practically negligible—about one per cent. of the world's resources; and it is a great tribute to the energy and initiative of the Englishmen who searched the world for oil and found it in a big way. We owe them a very great deal, because these oil concessions are now tremendous strategic and commercial assets.
I should like to quote to the House the words of a man from whom I learned most about these matters. I had the very good fortune, in the early part of the war, to have Lord Cadman as honorary oil adviser. Older hon. Members will probably recollect that he was the leading figure in the Petroleum Executive which was called into being to meet the petroleum crisis in the First World War. The organisation he set up was the basis of the planning of military oil supplies by the Committee of Imperial Defence between the wars, and was, in fact, the basis of the war-time organisation in the last war. He was Chairman of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, and, if I may so put it, the elder statesman of the oil industry. One morning late in 1940, in the dark days of the war, he came to my room and placed a memorandum on my desk, and he said these words, "Here is one of the great keys of British recovery after the war. As a nation we shall be poor, and this memorandum shows that the British oil concessions will be the greatest single overseas asset remaining to Britain after the war."
The memorandum explained in detail the remarkable new discoveries of petro- 512 leum reserves that were made in the Middle East just before the war, and, for that reason, were very little known except to experts. They were so large that they shifted the whole balance of the world's oil reserves, and it was quite clear that the Middle East was the coming area. Now it happens that, broadly speaking, the concessions in those rich oil-bearing lands are in the possession as to 50 per cent. of British companies and as to 50 per cent. of American companies—which I, personally, consider to be rather fortunate strategically. During the war production by British companies in this area very greatly increased, and it has continued to increase since. As a result of these increases the world-wide production of British-controlled oil companies has already reached a formidable figure. The estimate this year, I think the Parliamentary Secretary will agree, is about 80 million tons.
I would ask the House to consider what this means from a financial point of view. If we take the figure of £7 a ton—which, I believe, is a fair one, though I should be glad to have the hon. Gentleman's opinion—the value of this oil is between £500 million and £600 million a year. Probably £100 million worth of it comes here which we should otherwise have to buy for dollars if it did not, and the remaining £400 million or £500 million worth is exported to other countries, some of them in the sterling area and some of them outside it.
In any case it is a tremendous figure, but its importance is only fully appreciated when it is realised that this oil ranks as an invisible export in the foreign exchange account of this country. In other words, it is, financially speaking, as if this £400 to £500 million worth of oil were being exported from this country. It brings in great quantities of valuable foreign exchange, including a large sum in dollars. Of course, there are large foreign exchange debits which have to be put against this great credit; payments for labour and local services in the oilfields and royalties. This foreign exchange contains a hard core of dollar expenses. This is principally for specialised oilfield and refinery equipment and for certain gold clauses in the royalty agreements.
I would remind hon. Members that similar debits, although arising in a 513 different way, have to be put against the gross value of nearly all British exports. I refer, of course, to the cost of necessary imported raw materials, many of which cost dollars. If I may take an extreme example, which may amuse the House, the British coal industry, owing to the importation of American coal cutters and big mechanical diggers for opencast mining concerns, provides a dollar element in the price of British coal at the present time, and this, in principle, is exactly similar to that which arises from the production of British controlled oil, although the dollar component there is considerably larger.
I think that we can all agree about the enormous importance of these so-called invisible oil exports which, in value, are much larger than the exports of any single British industry exporting from this country, and which, already, are equal to between one-fourth and one-third of the value of all British visible exports.
What of the future? It is, clearly, very important to expand British oil production as quickly as possible and to the largest practicable extent. I would here emphasise that we have plenty of reserves in the background and, therefore, almost unlimited supplies of crude oil can be made available if necessary. For example, Persia is at present producing at the rate of about 30 million tons and could easily do 50 million tons a year. I think that hon. Members opposite will agree that that is a very moderate figure. Kuwait is also at present producing 20 million tons annually and could easily do 50 million tons, of which our British share is 50 per cent. In general, it is absolutely clear that from the point of view of oil reserves and the availability of crude oil we could certainly double the present British petroleum output, which would bring it up to the figure of about 160 million tons. I am not suggesting that this is immediately practicable. I am only emphasising it to show what are the potentialities for the future.
What it does show is the very great importance of the refinery programme. I am glad that the Government have decided on a huge refinery programme. I know, of course, that there is the question of whether all these refineries should be at home or not. I am not going to discuss that tonight, but there are argu- 514 ments on both sides, and I can understand the reason which has led the Government to put them here. But I must say that we are disappointed with the rate of progress of the refinery programme, considering its great importance to this country and the availability of this great national raw material; and particularly we are disappointed with the progress of the Fawley refinery. This refinery has a capacity of five million tons, or will have, of which two million tons are petrol. Can the Parliamentary Secretary give us the date when the Government were first approached with regard to the increase and expansion of the Fawley refinery, and what is the date when it is now expected to be completed and in operation? It will be, when it occurs, a great easement of our supply position, and will save a very great many dollars.
Again, there is the question of Haifa. Here, of course, we have an existing refinery in perfect order, which we enlarged during the war, and which is worth at least £30 million as a going capital concern. It has a capacity of four million tons of petroleum, of which about 800,000 are petrol. What a wonderful improvement in our supplies and dollar saving the working of this refinery would make. We are losing petroleum worth four million dollars every month it is idle. I am not now going into the details of the foreign relations discussed last night, but I must say that the Foreign Secretary did not seem to show any great appreciation of the tremendous importance of this refinery to our oil position. I believe that it is the Minister's duty continually to press upon the Foreign Secretary the very great importance to our whole petroleum position of the reopening of this magnificent refinery. I think the House will be interested to note that it is capable of producing, on the petrol side alone, more than double the amount of petrol that is at present needed for the ordinary standard ration.
May I also ask the Parliamentary Secretary how much petroleum is at present going to the Argentine, and what the Government propose to do with that supply of petroleum and of petrol if there is a breakdown in the agreement?
I have dealt with the production side, and I now turn to consumption. Consumption in the sterling area at present is running at about 43 million tons. Of 515 this, the United Kingdom consumes 19 million tons. In both cases—the Parliamentary Secretary will correct me if he disagrees—at present about a quarter of this is dollar oil, and three-quarters is sterling oil. I am talking about the current year. Almost all this is for essential industrial fuel, which is on the same basis as raw materials: bunkers for ships, fuel and diesel oil for industry, kerosene for tractors, petrol for public transport and for the use of cars classified as essential under the rationing scheme. Many of these uses are increasing, and we therefore have to face the fact that our petroleum consumption is continually rising.
For example, the consumption in tractors was multiplied five times by us during the war, and it is still increasing. All this uses about 18½ million tons out of the total 19 million tons consumed in the country. There remains an amount of 370,000 tons for the standard ration, plus 100,000 tons for the summer bonus, making 470,000 tons in all. As I calculate it, that is less than 10 per cent. of the United Kingdom petrol consumption, and 2.5 per cent. of British controlled production of petrol.
I ask the Government on what principle they have decided this particular figure of 470,000 tons for this purpose. I suggest it is not enough to plead a general need for dollar saving. They ought to justify the actual allocation, in view of its importance to the public, and in relation to the immense figures of petroleum production and consumption. My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) asked what was the dollar cost of doubling the standard ration, and I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will give an answer.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman, and I will tell him why. He says it is 12 million dollars. My calculation is that it would be 8¾ million dollars if it were done by using American petrol, and only one million dollars if it were done by the use of Persian crude which was refined in a British refinery in this country. It is open to the hon. Member to argue that it may be somewhere between the two figures I have given, but the House will appreciate that 516 this 12 million dollars came very glibly to his lips without any reference whatever to the sources of the oil.
I will continue by saying, and I ask the hon. Member's attention on this, that I estimate that to abolish rationing completely in this country an extra 1½ million tons of petrol would probably be needed, and that to do the same thing in the rest of the Empire another one million tons would perhaps be required, making 2½ million tons in all. These figures may be too high, but I think we are entitled to have the Government's opinion on them. We are entitled to ask them for their own estimates. This whole subject requires to be brought out into the light of day. We are also entitled to ask them what has been the experience in Australia since the abolition of rationing. Before Members make up their minds on these matters, may I ask them to consider one extremely important new factor in the petroleum position? In recent months, the shortage of petroleum which has existed since the war has disappeared, and large surpluses have come into existence. There is a surplus in the United States, and also a surplus of British controlled oil.
The British surplus this year is estimated at just under 4 million tons, including 750,000 tons of petrol. Faced with this surplus, the Government have told American oil companies that this British oil must be substituted for American oil in the markets of the sterling area. Their reason, with which we must have sympathy, is that the American oil will cost us some 70 million dollars and the British oil will cost us only 10 to 15 million dollars—a saving of 50 to 60 million dollars. I do not propose tonight to criticise the methods by which the Government have entered upon these negotiations. I will only note that it has caused great trouble. The American Secretary of State issued a very sharp statement criticising His Majesty's Government, and the United States Government have announced that E.C.A. will not approve any further British refinery projects for Marshall Aid finance until this dispute is settled.
I think the House will agree that this is a serious situation. It is all the worse because actually there is a further surplus of British controlled crude oil which has not been pressed in the negotiations on this question, and the American companies are worried at the prospects of 517 losing their markets and exacerbating their own surplus. In fact, while the British motorist is on a starvation diet, there is being waged across the Atlantic a kind of trade battle of rival petroleum surpluses.
In these circumstances, I will make a suggestion to the Government, and ask them to consider it. It is derived from my six years' experience of working very closely with both the British and American oil companies, and, of course, with the United States Government. During that time I had many opportunities of observing the great ability and resource of these companies in meeting new, difficult situations and of co-operating together under the supervision of the two Governments. I suggest that instead of dealing unilaterally with the American industry, His Majesty's Government should suggest to the United States that the leaders of both the American and British industries should be asked to come together, in proper association with Government representatives, to see whether they can work out, jointly, a solution of the considerable difficulties that face everyone concerned.
It must be remembered that these petroleum problems are very large and highly specialised. It was for this reason that during the war, when petroleum accounted for over half the total tonnage of supplies shipped for the maintenance of the Allied Armies, the oil supply organisation was largely segregated from the ordinary machinery of supply. This was because it undoubtedly worked better that way, although, of course, it was co-ordinated in the general plans. I believe that the same causes would produce similar results in peace, and that the course that I have suggested would be likely to produce constructive remedies for many difficulties, not least those of the suffering British motorist.
I would conclude by giving an answer to the question raised earlier by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade), in a maiden speech. He said that he and his colleagues, if given an opportunity, would vote against the Government's coal policy. I would inform him and the House that for reasons given by my right hon. and hon. Friends today, we are quite unsatisfied and unconvinced by the Minister's speech and, therefore, propose to divide the House.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power (Mr. Robens)
It is my lot to reply to this Debate, and I propose to divide my speech into two parts, one dealing with oil and one with coal. If I spend a little more time on oil than I do on coal, I hope the House will forgive me, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for King's Norton (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd) has raised some very important issues. Judging from his reaction when he received an answer he did not expect, it is also clear that he is confused about the dollar element in oil. I will try my best to simplify this rather difficult problem.
First, I join with him in the congratulations which he has extended to those who have made their maiden speeches today. I hope I may be forgiven if I refer particularly to my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Sedge-field (Mr. Slater), who have intimate knowledge of the coalface, which enabled them to bring good, reasoned arguments in support of their case. I am grateful to them, and I must at the same time express appreciation to my two hon. Friends, the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. J. Brooks) and my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkaldy (Mr. Hubbard), who have had long experience in this House and who in their great contributions dealt with many of the issues raised in this Debate by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
Before I come to the main issue. I should like to deal with a point raised by the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll). He was concerned about fuel for jet-propelled aeroplanes and land-based vehicles. The position is that the requirements are well-known, and he can rest assured that His Majesty's Government and the oil companies are taking steps to make certain that our jet-propelled fighters and civilian aircraft will not be grounded for lack of this very special oil.
We have to be clear in our minds about this dollar element in oil. That is the keynote, as I understand it, and we shall be arriving at a wrong conclusion if we follow the suggestion of the right hon. Member for King's Norton when he played around with the cost of doubling the petrol ration by suggesting that if it 519 were got from one source it would cost so many dollars, but if it were bought from another it would cost a little more, and so on. It is perfectly clear that the oil that is used in the sterling area and sold by the American companies is dollar oil. The oil sold by the British companies, which is sold in the sterling area, has a dollar element, too. Indeed, it is a substantial element, because for all this oil dollars have got to be spent one way or another either in its production or its breaking down in the refineries.
It arises in a number of ways, particularly when there are British companies producing oil as in Venezuela, where the currency is closely linked to the dollar, and local expenditure is, in effect, a dollar outgoing. That is the conclusion which the right hon. Gentleman did not appreciate. There are all the costs of the local labour, and so on. Then we have the cases where dollars have to be provided to the country in which the oil is produced, in respect of royalties and against the acquisition of local currency. It is part of the bargain. While we pay them in sterling for their royalties, they require part of that sterling to be made convertible into dollars. There it is. Then you have the dollar costs—
§ Mr. Robens
I am giving a number of cases in which there is a dollar element in order to show the way in which it enters into sterling oil transactions. There is also the case of the dollar costs of specialised equipment. While a great deal of the equipment is made in the United Kingdom, and there has been in the past two or three years a substantial increase in the amount, it has not been possible to supply here within the time limits all the equipment that has been necessary for the oil expansion programme. We are still having to buy from the United States drilling rigs, drilling tools and things of that kind. The acquisition of them is again a dollar element in sterling oil.
Then we have substantial dollar payments in connection with specialised equipment for catalytic cracking plant. In addition, all the time there is the dollar cost of materials for maintaining Ameri- 520 can equipment and for replacement, and so on, of equipment that was purchased in earlier years. So hon. Members will see that it does not matter whether the sterling oil is produced in a country less dependent upon dollars, or more dependent, like Venezuela. Wherever British oil is produced, there is a dollar element. It will vary—this is the answer to the point made by the right hon. Gentleman—from concession to concession, but the average dollar content of sterling oil is about 30 per cent.
I hope I have made that point clear. Let us now have a look at what we are trying to do in relation to the dollar deficit generally. Do hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite disagree with the policy of His Majesty's Government in endeavouring to close the dollar gap by the time Marshall Aid finishes? They agree with that. How far have we got on that road? In 1947, the gold and dollar deficit of the sterling area was 4,131 million dollars. By 1948, it was reduced to 1,710 million dollars. In 1949 it had been further reduced to 1,531 million dollars. Although that is a substantial reduction, the figure still remains very formidable. It is very important that we should get rid of that dollar gap by the time Marshall Aid finishes. How are we to get rid of it?
There are two ways, and I do not think the House will disagree with them. First, we must export, or increase our exports, as much as we possibly can to dollar markets. Secondly, we must restrict our imports from dollar countries. Those are the two lines of attack upon the dollar gap. The position is not new. We have been switching purchases from dollar countries to sterling countries for some time. If I were to give one illustration, it would be the percentage of imports into this country of food and feeding stuffs from dollar sources. They fell from 34 per cent. in 1947 to 19 per cent. in 1949, and the value dropped from £243 million to £169 million. The principle has been to switch from dollar payments for commodities to sterling countries or to markets where the dollar content is less than the full dollar content of the American market. That has been pursued as a policy, and up to now has been approved by all sides of the House.
That brings me to the problem which has been raised this evening by the right 521 hon. Gentleman of the substitution of sterling for dollar oil. Here I hope that I shall make clear the wrong premise upon which he based his argument in relation to the doubling of the standard ration. We are now agreed, I think, that wherever we have sterling-produced oil there is a fairly large dollar content. American oil has a whole dollar content. It is perfectly clear, therefore, that if we have a surplus of sterling oil, there are two things we can do. We can take the advice of the right hon. Gentleman who wants to set the suffering motorists free and use all that extra production in increased consumption in this country, or—
§ Mr. Robens
If the right hon. Gentleman did not say that, I will apologise, but if he did not say so, nevertheless it has been said. I have not the slightest doubt it was the right hon. Gentleman who advised the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) to make those stupid, silly statements which he made during the election. It is perfectly clear that the right hon. Gentleman is the "nigger in the wood pile" in connection with the irresponsible statements about setting the motorists free made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford in an endeavour to sway all the motorists, to the side of the Tories. They failed because a good many motorists are good patriots as well as motorists.
If I may return to this question of substitution—[Interruption]—common sense is not the particular prerogative of the right hon. Gentleman; it is not as common as he seems to assume it is.
I return to the question of the substitution of sterling oil for dollar oil, and I repeat that this surplus of petrol and oil produced from sterling sources, and which has a smaller dollar element, can be used either to allow motorists generally to have unlimited supplies and use it up or to substitute that sterling oil, with the lowest dollar element, for the 100 per cent. dollar element of American oil. What would hon. Gentlemen do? Are they suggesting that that should not be done. Are they suggesting that in the case of one of the commodities, which as the right hon. Gentleman clearly said is one of our most important from the point of 522 view of size and influence in the world, we should throw away the chance of reducing the dollar gap by an amount of 5 or 10 per cent. of the dollar outgoings on oil involving a sum of between 30 and 60 million dollars?
Are we going to throw away that chance of narrowing the gap for the sake of consuming that extra petrol in the United Kingdom? I suggest that it would not be a sensible policy to do so. I doubt very much whether one could ever really seriously consider it. It is a non-starter so far as we are concerned. That does not mean to say that we shall not look at the general oil situation and from time to time make all easements we can in the light of the economic circumstances of the country. We never have failed to do that.
The very fact that the summer ration has been doubled is surely a question of putting the position of the motorist and holidays—the desire for people to use their cars for their summer holidays, and so on—against what it would cost in dollars. It is perfectly reasonable to say that motorists should make a contribution. People who see films make another contribution and the lowering of the purchase price of softwood, and things of that kind, makes another contribution. We are not saying that the motorist must bear the whole cost of covering the dollar gap; but we are saying that he must make a contribution, because the contribution which can be made by petrol is a substantial one. The right hon. Gentleman has made a proposal which is not entirely new and which is that the matter should come out of the hands of the negotiators and be placed in the hands of the companies to look at.
§ Mr. Robens
I agree; in association with the Government. I can assure the House that there is no motive behind this substitution policy other than that which I have outlined. There is no sinister motive at all or any attempt to push the American oil companies out of the markets which they have shared, except that the economic position of the United Kingdom must be put first. We have, however, suggested a plan to help the American oil companies. Everyone is well aware of how the oil companies 523 throughout the world work together to help one another. They have all sorts of inter-arrangements one with another and we do not want to interfere with that; but under this plan they would be permitted to import into the sterling area more of their own oil than they would under substitution or to sell to third countries against sterling payment by reference to increases in the amount of their sterling expenditure. The details will have to be worked out but we have made the offer to the oil companies, and explained to them our general ideas.
I do not think it is generally realised that the dollar cost of oil in the sterling area as a whole for 1950 is estimated to be 625 million dollars; to the American companies 350 million dollars for 13 million tons sold in the sterling area; to the British companies, 275 million dollars for 80 million tons sold, which is worldwide trade. Those at least are the figures which it would have cost if we had not embarked on this policy of substitution and it represents a substantial saving in one particular commodity. I believe that when the motoring public really grasps this—and I agree that this dollar element is complex and intricate—they will say that it is right that we should use this surplus oil for substitution rather than for increasing the allocation or freeing petrol altogether for the private motorist.
Rationing therefore will have to continue, and I regret very much the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. N. H. Lever) who felt we should free petrol from rationing altogether and let the price element take its place. There may be something in the fact that petrol is probably cheap in comparison with other commodities, but it is really wrong to think that we can just, willy-nilly, take off rationing tomorrow and let the price maximum adjust that. It would be clearly unfair—
§ Mr. Robens
No, I have only a few minutes. I have not said a word about coal yet, and this is the second occasion on which my hon. Friend has raised this matter and he has had a full reply before.
§ Mr. Robens
As I say, the hon. Gentleman has raised this matter in the House before and I replied to him on that occasion. I do not want to go into the matter in too great detail, except to say I am sorry he raised it once again. It is impossible to abolish petrol rationing and to allow consumption to rise, because of the question of substitution.
The point was raised about the abolition of rationing in other countries. That is perfectly true, but the circumstances are not the same. The amount of petrol we use for private motoring in this country is as much as that used in 17 other European countries put together. A 10 per cent. rise in our consumption would be an enormous figure. A 10 per cent. rise in the consumption of any other European country would be nothing like so much, and it would not have the same dollar effect. In any case, in this matter of the dollar gap, with which most of these countries are concerned, it is up to those countries as sovereign countries to decide what methods to adopt to reduce the dollar gap. They realise the importance of economy in relation to petrol. However, that is not a matter in which His Majesty's Government could possibly interfere.
The case has been made from this side of the House that the abolition of rationing in other countries has also sent the price sky high, to something like double our own price. It does not seem to me that we can argue as to whether a Sovereign State should or should not do this or that in its own economy. In the United Kingdom at present we use five million tons of petrol a year. That is a very substantial amount. Any increase in that, in relation to percentages, is a very different fact compared with other countries who do not use as much petrol as we do in bulk.
§ Mr. Robens
The right hon. Member for King's Norton spoke about refinery delays; that was an interesting view 525 coming from him. It is only while there has been a Labour Government in power that we have ever built any refineries in this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] There has not really been undue delay. In a small country like this, when embarking on a very big refinery programme, one simply cannot dump refineries in any old place. There are many considerations to bear in mind. There have to be places with deep water anchorages, and it is important to look at these matters closely.
This point was mentioned by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). When we dig up part of somebody's constituency for open-cast coal, he complains that agricultural land is being ruined, although it is restored; but presumably, according to his hon. Friends, we can go in and take 500 or 800 acres of agricultural land and dump a refinery there without any question at all. That seems to me a nonsensical way of looking at the matter. We must consider agricultural interests. We must bear in mind strategical considerations, and it takes time to decide exactly where a refinery should be placed. There is also the question of the availability of labour for the construction of the refinery and its operation. If it is to be built away from a populated area, there is the question of housing and services, schools and things of that character. These are big installations, and a good deal of thought and consideration must be given to them.
That we have done, and we are going ahead with a big refinery programme. It is much bigger than anything the Tories thought about for this country. As far as Fawley is concerned, the work started on the site in June, 1949. It was originally planned for completion in December, 1952. It is 12 months ahead of schedule and will be finished in December, 1951. That will have an output of 5,500,000 tons. Stanlow was started in April, 1948, and it will be finished in 1951. Shell Haven was started in 1948, and it will be finished in 1951. Llandarcy was started in 1948 and will be completed in the autumn of 1953. Grangemouth was started in January, 1949, and will be completed in mid-1953. There will be a total of refinery capacity of 14.7 million tons in these refineries which I have just enumerated.
526 I do not propose to say much about Haifa, except that—[Laughter.] I do not know that that is very funny; I see nothing funny about it. The countries concerned are both sovereign countries, and they have the right to please themselves in these matters. His Majesty's Government would like Haifa re-opened, and representations have been made from time to time, as the Foreign Secretary has said in this House. Beyond that, there is nothing more to say about Haifa. [Interruption.] Indeed, there is not. We regret very much that it is not re-opened, and we hope that, as the months go by and things reach a more placid state, we shall get Haifa re-opened, but certainly we can do not more than request the Governments concerned to agree to the re-opening of Haifa by allowing the oil to come through the pipeline or by tanker through the Suez Canal.
I apologise to the House for spending so much time on oil, but it really is important that the facts should be given. There is little time left to deal with a good many of the matters in relation to coal which were raised in the Debate. I listened to this Debate with great attention, as I have done to all the other Debates, and I listened once more to the same old story from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) got very confused about the E.C.A. figures for 1947. May I tell him briefly that they were merely the estimates of the importing countries, which grossly over-estimated their requirements, as I should be able to prove to him if I had more time. Therefore, there is no question at all of having to export more in those years. It is not necessary, but it may be of interest to the right hon. Gentleman to know that the Americans, who were due to import 14 million tons this year into Europe, will only import one million tons, so completely and grossly exaggerated were the original estimates.
Great play has been made on the subject of dirty coal, and my right hon. Friend did not deny that dirty coal did exist. At no time have we denied it, nor have the Coal Board denied it, but the fact is that the Coal Board have taken every step that they can, with the physical limitations of material and labour and 527 everything else, to improve this position. It may be that we have got dirt in the coal, but there is one other thing, and that is that we have washed the blood off the coal which, during the time when hon Gentlemen opposite and their friends were running the coal industry, was the usual feature in regard to this industry. What has been done in the building up of welfare and safety has been truly re-
§ markable, and I take great satisfaction myself from the fact that the fatalities last year were only 460 compared with 925 in 1941. That is real progress, for which the National Coal Board ought to have some credit.
§ Question put, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 283; Noes, 257.531
|Division No.6.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m|
|Aitken, W. T.||Drewe, C.||Johnson, H. S. (Kemptown)|
|Amery, J. (Preston, N.)||Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Jones, A. (Hall Green)|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.|
|Arbuthnot, J. S.||Dunglass, Lord||Keeling, E. H.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Duthie, W. S.||Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn W.)||Eccles, D. M.||Lambert, Hon. G.|
|Astor, Hon. M.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Baker, P.||Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Walter||Langford-Holt, J.|
|Baldock, J. M.||Erroll, F. J.||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Fisher, N. T. L.||Lagge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Fort, R.||Lindsay, Martin|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Foster, J. G.||Linstead, H. N.|
|Bell, R. M. (S. Buckinghamshire)||Fraser, Hon. H. C. P. (Stone)||Llewellyn, D.|
|Bennett, Sir P. (Edgbaston)||Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)|
|Bennett, R. F. B. (Gosport)||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Bennett, W. G. (Woodside)||Gage, C. H.||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Bevins, J. R. (Liverpool, Toxteth)||Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||Lockwood, Lt.-Col J. C.|
|Birch, Nigel||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Longden, G. J. M. (Herts, S. W.)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Gammans, L. D.||Low, A. R. W.|
|Black, C. W.||Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh)||Lucas, Major Sir J. (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Gates, Maj. E. E.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)|
|Boothby, R.||George, Lady M. Lloyd||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Glyn, Sir R.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Bowen, R.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||McAdden, S. J.|
|Bower, N.||Gridley, Sir A.||McCallum, Maj. D.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Grimston, Hon. J. (St. Albans)||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.|
|Braine, B.||Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)||Macdonald, A. J. F. (Roxburgh)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Harden, J. R. E.||Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||McKibbin, A.|
|Brooke, H. (Hampstead)||Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Browne, J. N. (Govan)||Harris, R. R. (Heston)||Maclay, Hon. J. S.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Harvey, Air-Codre, A. V. (Macclesfield)||Maclean, F. H. R.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Harvey, I. (Harrow, E.)||MacLeod, I. (Enfield, W.)|
|Bullus, Wing-Commander E. E.||Hay, John||MacLeod, J. (Ross and Cromarty)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Head, Brig. A. H.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.|
|Carr, L. R. (Mitcham)||Heald, L. F.||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)|
|Carson, Hon. E.||Heath, Colonel E. G. R.||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.|
|Channon, H.||Henderson, John (Catheart)||Manningham-Butler, R. E.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Clarke, Col. R. S. (East Grimstead)||Higgs, J. M. C.||Marples, A. E.|
|Clarke, Brig. T. H. (Portsmouth, W.)||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)|
|Colegate, A.||Hill, Dr. C. (Luton)||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Maude, A. E. U. (Ealing, S.)|
|Cooper, A. E. (Ilford, S.)||Hirst, G. A. N.||Maudling, R.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Medlicott, Brigadier F.|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Hollis, M. C.||Mellor, Sir J.|
|Craddock, G. B. (Spelthorne)||Hormes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Hope, Lord J.||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.|
|Cross, Rt. Hon. Sir R.||Hopkinson, H.||Morris, R. Hopkin (Carmarthen)|
|Crosthwaith-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss P.||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)|
|Crouch, R. F.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Crowder, F. P. (Ruislip. N'thwood)||Howard, G. R. (St. Ives)||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.|
|Crowder, Capt. John F. E. (F'chley)||Howard, S. G. (Cambridgeshire)||Nabarro, G.|
|Cundiff, F. W.||Hudson, Sir A. U. M. (Lewisham, N.)||Nicholls, H.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Nicholson, G.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Nield, B. (Chester)|
|Davies, Nigel (Epping)||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.|
|de Chair, S.||Hurd, A. R.||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|De la Bère, R.||Hutchinson, G. (Ilford, N.)||Nutting, Anthony|
|Deedes, W. F.||Hutchinson, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Digby, S. Wingfield||Hyde, H. M.||Odey, G. W.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hylton-Forester, H. B.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord M.||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Jennings, R.||Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare)|
|Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.||Touche, G. C.|
|Perkins, W. R. D.||Smith, E. M. (Grantham)||Turton, R. H.|
|Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Pickthorn, K.||Smithers, Sir W. (Orpington)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Pitman, I. J.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Powell, J. Enoch||Snadden, W. McN.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Prescott, Stanley||Soames, Capt. C.||Wade, D. M.|
|Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)||Spearman, A. C. M.||Wakefield, E. B. (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Wakefield, Sir W. W. (St. Marylebone)|
|Profumo, J. D.||Spens, Sir P. (Kensington, S.)||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Raikes, H. V.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O. (Bristol, W.)||Ward, Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Rayner, Brig. R.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. R. (N. Fylde)||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Redmayne, M.||Stevens, G. P.||Waterhouse, Capt. C.|
|Remnant, Hon. P.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)||Watkinson, H.|
|Renton, D. L. M.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie|
|Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)||Storey, S.||Webbe, Sir H. (London)|
|Roberts, P. G. (Heeley)||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)||White, J. Baker (Canterbury)|
|Robertson, Sir D. (Caithness)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Robinson, J. Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Studholme, H. G.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Robson-Brown, W.||Summers, G. S.||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, E.)|
|Rodgers, J. (Sevenoaks)||Sutcliffe, H.||Wills, G.|
|Roper, Sir H.||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)||Wilson, G. (Truro)|
|Ropner, Col. L.||Teeling, William||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Russell, R. S.||Thompson, K. P. (Waltson)||York, C.|
|Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||Thompson, R. H. M. (Croydon, W.)||Young, Sir A. S. L. (Patriok)|
|Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)|
|Savory, Prof, D. L.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Scott, Donald||Thorp, Brigadier R. A. F.||Brigadier Mackeson and|
|Shepherd, W. S. (Cheadle)||Tilney, J. D.||Major Wheatley.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Darling, G. (Hillsboro')||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Tipton)|
|Adams, Richard||Davies, Edward (Stoke, N.)||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hewitson, Capt. M.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Hobson, C. R.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Holman, P.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Deer, G.||Houghton, Douglas|
|Ayles, W. H.||Delargy, H. J.||Hoy, J.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Diamond, J.||Hubbard, T.|
|Baird, J.||Donnelly, D.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, N.)|
|Balfour, A.||Donovan, T. N.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Driberg, T. E. N.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Bartley, P.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. J. (W. Bromwich)||Hughes, R. M. (Islington, N.)|
|Benson, G.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Beswick, F.||Edelman, M.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Janner, B.|
|Boardman, H.||Ewart, R.||Jay, D. P. T.|
|Booth, A.||Fernyhough, E.||Jeger, G. (Goole)|
|Bowden, H. W.||Finch, H. J.||Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Follick, M.||Jenkins, R. H.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Foot, M. M.||Johnson, J. (Rugby)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Forman, J. C.||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley),|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)|
|Brooks, T. J. (Normanton)||Freeman, J. (Watford)||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Jones, W. E. (Conway)|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||Keenan, W.|
|Burke, W. A.||Gibson, C. W.||Kenyon, C.|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Gilzean, A.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Callaghan, James||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||King, H. M.|
|Carmichael, James||Gooch, E. G.||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Kinley, J.|
|Champion, A. J.||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Rossendale)||Lee, F. (Newton)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Grenfell, D. R.||Lee, Miss. J. (Cannock)|
|Clunie, J.||Grey, C. F.||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Lever, N. H. (Cheetham)|
|Coldrick, W.||Griffiths, W. D. (Exchange)||Lewis, A. W. J. (West Ham, N.)|
|Collick, P.||Haire, John E. (Wycombe)||Lewis, J. (Bolton, W.)|
|Collindridge, F.||Hale, J. (Rochdale)||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Cook, T. F.||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Logan, D. G.|
|Cooper, J. (Deptford)||Hall, J. (Gateshead, W.)||McAllister, G.|
|Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Peckham)||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||MacColl, J. E.|
|Cove, W. G.||Hamilton, W. W.||McGhee, H. G.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hannan, W.||McGovern, J.|
|Crawley, A.||Hardy, E. A.||McKay, J. (Wallsend)|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Hargreaves, A.||Mackay, R. W. G. (Reading, N.)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Harrison, J.||McLeavy, F.|
|Daines, P.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Hayman, F. H.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Proctor, W. T.||Timmons, J.|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Pryde, D. J.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Pursey, Comdr. H.||Tomney, F.|
|Mann, Mrs. J.||Rankin, J.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Manuel, A. C.||Rees, Mrs. D.||Viant, S. P.|
|Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Reeves, J.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Mathers, Rt. Hon. George||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Weitzman, D.|
|Mellish, R. J.||Reid, W. (Camlachie)||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Messer, F.||Robens, A.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Middleton, Mrs. L.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||West D. G.|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John (Edinb'gh, E.)|
|Monslow, W.||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)||White, Mrs. E. (E. Flint)|
|Moody, A. S.||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Royle, C.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Morley, R.||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||Wigg, George|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.|
|Moyle, A.||Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Wilkes, L.|
|Mulley, F. W.||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Murray, J. D.||Simmons, C. J.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Nally, W.||Slater, J.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Neal, H.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|O'Brien, T.||Snow, J. W.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Oliver, G. H.||Sorensen, R. W.||Winterbottom, I. (NOttingham, C.)|
|Orbach, M.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Winterbottom, R. E. (Brightside)|
|Padley, W. E.||Stross, Dr. B.||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Paget, R. T.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Paling, Rt. Hn. Wilfred (Dearne V'lly)||Sylvester, G. O.||Woods, Rev. G. S.|
|Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Pannell, T. C.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Yates, V. F.|
|Parker, J.||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Pearson, A.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Peart, T. F.||Thomas, I. R. (Rhondda, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Porter, G.||Thomas, T. George (Cardiff)||Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Sparks.|
|Price, M. Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Adjourned accordingly at Fourteen Minutes past Ten o'Clock.|