§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD GAINFORD
My Lords, this Bill has been brought in as an altrnative constructive scheme to the policy of the 5 nationalisation of royalties, to which policy His Majesty's Government have committed themselves, and, as I think, unwisely committed themselves. At the same time, the Bill will create a simple and inexpensive machinery which will to a very large extent remove all the existing alleged defects upon which those who are in favour of the nationalisation of the industry have rested their case.
The nationalisation of an industry and the nationalisation of royalties were advocated recently by certain individuals before the Coal Commission to secure economy in working the mines, the more scientific production of the coal, and the conservation of the coal wealth underground in the United Kingdom; to restrain lessors from imposing unnecessary restrictions in the leases which they grant to their lessees, and to provide that the areas underground shall accord scientifically with the geological stratification rather than with the surface boundaries. These objects, I believe, are met adequately and fully in the proposals which I am now placing before your Lordships' House. They are proposals which have been accepted by the whole of the coal trade of the United Kingdom, at any rate so far as the Central Committee of the Mining Association of Great Britain is concerned, and that body represents between 95 and 97 per cent. of the total colliery proprietorsof the country.
But these proposals have not originated with the coal owners. They are the recommendation of independent experts and eminent men who have been appointed to inquire into the subject of coal mining. We have the Report of Mr. Leslie Scott's Committee for the Acquisition of Land for Public Purposes, and this Bill is mainly founded upon the first and third Reports of that Committee. It has been signed by many distinguished experts. I will allude to the names of a few of them—Mr. George Freeman, Sir William Haldane, Sir Adam Nimmo, Mr. William Middlebrook, M.P., Sir Arthur Thring, Sir Thomas RatcliffeEllis, Mr. Ellis Davies, M.P., Sir Harcourt Clare, and others. In the first Report to the then Minister these words appear in the last paragraph of the covering letter—We all, after long discussion, find ourselves in agreement on the present scheme for a new sanctioning authority, and the fact that it has been evolved by a number of members with different views on the land question but with very extensive practical experience is some guarantee that the scheme is practical and well considered.6 I am therefore bringing forward a scheme which many eminent men, after long consideration, have recommended to Parliament.
These provisions avoid all those disastrous consequences and risks which, I believe, will inevitably arise under any system of nationalisation, and they confer powers which can be exercised only where national interests require that they should be exercised, with a view to securing the better production and development of the minerals under the soil. The powers conferred will, I think, deter the very few unreasonable men in the country from impeding development, because, after all, in connection with the coal trade we have found that there are few unreasonable lessors in the country. But the very existence of such provisions on the Statute Book would, in the opinion of the coal trade, deter any unreasonable men from trying to press their selfish interests too far, and possibly even, if this Bill were passed, it would not be necessary to make very great use of the powers which would be conferred upon a sanctioning authority to alter the provisions of any lease or compel an owner to allow his coal to be worked when he was not anxious that it should be worked. The Bill would therefore act as a sort of safety valve, which would allay the suspicion of the men, and it would, I think, be of general advantage to the industry.
I should like briefly to explain to your Lordships the provisions of the Bill. Clause 1, in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee to which I have just referred, creates a Mines Department. The Coal Conservation Committee recommended that, instead of there being a Mines Department of a Government Department, there should be a separate Minister of Mines. I have come to the conclusion that at this time it would be better to transfer all the duties connected with mines to the Board of Trade, the Department more concerned with trade than any other Department, and that it is a matter for Parliament to decide whether it should be the Board of Trade or the Home Office that should be that Department. I prefer the Board of Trade. Bat it is also a matter for Parliament to decide whether it should be a separate Ministry or whether it should be a Mines Department. I am supporting the Mines Department, because I believe that under the recommendation of Mr. Leslie Scott's 7 Committee money would be saved by the State by the creation of a Mines Department rather than by a separate Ministry.
There are a large number of Government Departments which have matters connected with coal in their hands. I need only refer, however, to the Home Office, where most of the information exists, and where a large staff of inspectors has been established, which examines all the collieries throughout the country. All the returns which at present go to the Home Office should, I think, go to the Board of Trade; and the inspectors should be transferred from the Home Office to the Board of Trade. It is suggested that the coal which at present belongs to the Duchy of Lancaster estate, to the Duchy of Cornwall estate, the Crown coal which is now managed by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, and the coal which belongs to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners—that all this coal should remain, as at present, in the hands of those bodies; but that they, like other owners of minerals, should come under the provisions of this Bill and should be subject to the authority of the Sanctioning Authority in connection with the working of coal underground.
Clause 2 is a provision also accepted from the recommendations of Mr. Leslie Scott's Committee, that an advisory body should be created to assist the Minister in connection with the discharge of his new duties. That advisory body would be representative of the royalty owners, of the colliery owners, of the workmen employed, of experts either in the mining world or eminent scientists who will be of assistance to such a Committee, and the consumers of coal should also be represented. My proposal suggests that each of those bodies would send six representatives, so that you would have a body consisting of 24 or 25 experts who would have opportunity to advise the Minister before the compulsory powers were put into operation. Clause 3 accepts the recommendation of Mr. Leslie Scott's Committee that there should be a Sanctioning Authority composed of a Joint Committee appointed by the two Houses of Parliament—not necessarily entirely composed of members of the two Houses, but that it should be a Joint Committee—and that on the advice of the Advisory Committee the Minister would be able to call upon a panel of that Sanctioning Authority (the Joint Committee of the two Houses) to determine whether a case had 8 been made out for the use of the powers which it is suggested should be conferred upon the Sanctioning Authority by the provisions of this Bill. Clause 4 provides for the application of an interested party so that any question arising in connection with the working of coal—whether it is being improperly left underground, or improperly worked—might be raised by a specific application to the Minister and so referred to the Advisory Committee. If necessary it would then be considered by the Sanctioning Authority.
It is very important that the House should realise that Mr. Leslie Scott's Committee have taken every possible precaution to safeguard the interests of Parliament; and if I may I should like to read an extract from page 36 of that Report, because it will explain to your Lordships' House that full Parliamentary control on all questions of policy will be preserved to the Legislature. These are the words—Full control of Parliament over all questions of policy should be preserved for an appeal to Parliament against a decision of the Commissioners on a question of policy (i.e., a real question of principal as distinct from questions of fact or the general merits of the particular scheme) if (a) a responsible Minister of the Department concerned certifies that a question of policy has arisen, or (b) a certificate to that effect is given by the three Chairmen—namely, the Lord Chairman, representing the House of Lords; the Chairman of Ways and Means, representing the House of Commons; and the Chairman representing the Sanctioning Authority.That would prevent the Sanctioning Authority from proceeding with the consideration of a matter owing to its being a question of policy and not a material fact affecting one particular case. The position of the Sanctioning Authority is also described in paragraphs 84, 85, and 86 of the Report, and that position is summarised as—… being in effect a joint sub-Committee of the two Houses of Parliament, with co-opted non-Parliamentary members of suitable general experience of affairs. It will have no executive functions. It will exercise quasi-judicial functions absolutely so far as the facts or intrinsic merits of a scheme arc concerned, but subject to appeal to Parliament on an issue of policy (i.e., a real question of principle). It will have important quasi-legislative duties in sifting schemes, which may involve questions of policy; but it will exercise no legislative functions in the sense of initiating fresh legislation. The control of Parliament over all questions of policy and over the personnel of the Sanctioning Authority will be complete.The draftsman who kindly drafted this Bill was directed by me to follow out those 9 recommendations so that the objects of Mr. Leslie Scott's Committee should be secured by the Bill. In Clause 4 it is suggested that, if there are provisions in any lease which might have to be modified, it would be necessary for the Sanctioning Authority to have the power to modify such provisions, but only in the interests of the nation.
The Title of the Bill alludes to the interests of the nation; the very first line of the Bill alludes to the interests of the nation; and the interests of the nation are prominently put forward in Clauses 4 and 5. To my mind it is in the interests of the nation that the sanctity of contracts and agreements should be preserved where-ever possible; but one can conceive leases—I know of some—which contain provisions that prevent the interests of the nation being promoted, and where coal is lost on account of those provisions. It is suggested that where an overwhelming case is made, out in the national interests for some modification of those provisions, the Sanctioning Authority, under the safeguards to which I have alluded, might then exercise their powers. Clause 5 confers a power on the Sanctioning Authority to issue orders to enable minerals to be worked and developed in the national interests, and imposes conditions. It also provides for the proper assessment of compensation to individuals. The Schedule provides for some modification being made in the Land Clauses Acts in order to secure harmony between Clauses 4 and 5 of this Bill and the provisions of that Act. The other clauses are more or less formal. Clause 6 makes it necessary for all the Inquiries to be public. Clause 7 gives to the Minister special powers to apply direct to the Sanctioning Authority in certain cases. Clause 8 deals with the alterations in returns which must he made in an Amendment of the Coal Mines Act in connection with the collection of data, and provides also for confidential data, which is being ascertained by inspectors in connection with boring for coal, to be respected. Clause 9 deals with regulations. Clauses 10, 11, and 12 are formal clauses dealing with definitions, etc.
Now, from the financial point of view, the economic point of view, the trade point of view, the consumer's point of view, and the miner's point of view, I claim that nothing can be gained by a policy of nationalisation, and that all the 10 legitimate objects which it is sought to secure by the nationalisation of royalties or the nationalisation of the industry will be attained by the passage of this Bill. The case for nationalisation has been summarised in fourteen points under Mr. Leslie Scott's Committee on the defects of the present system. I need trouble your Lordships with only four of the most important of them. There are occasions when owners are unwilling to sell or lease their coal; and there are cases where owners demand exorbitant terms for coal and so prevent the proper working and developing of their coal in the national interest; cases where it is alleged that unnecessary coal has been left with a view to the support of the surface; cases where coal has been unnecessarily left with a view to the provision of barriers between one royalty and an adjacent royalty; and alto cases where unreasonable wayleaves have been exacted both below and above ground which prevent either the working of the coal or the transport of the coal on the surface.
From the financial point of view I should like to call your Lordships' attention to the fact that about £6,000,000 are paid in royalty rents at the present time. I assume that with the Mineral Rights Duty, the Income Tax, Super-Tax, Death Duties, and a contribution to local rates from royalties which exist in Scotland, about £4,000,000 a year out of this amount finds its way into the Public Exchequer or to the assistance of local rates. In the event of the nationalisation of royalties it would be necessary for a prolonged valuation to be made. There would have to be separate and distinct valuations made, of all estates, It is quite conceivable that in a new State the wealth underground might be retained by the State, but where the industry has grown up and rapidly developed under smell a system as has existed now for centuries in this country, it seems to me to be folly to uproot the whole of that system and to try to graft upon it another system which has disastrous consequences attached to it.
The State is not in a financial position to justify at the present moment the expenditure of approximately £100,000,000 in the possible purchase of royalties, and I contend that in the event of a State purchase, the payment of Income Tax on the State interest received on such purchase money will never be equal to that on the royalties which at present is paid over to 11 the State. The very fact that on most estates a large portion of the money which is received from royalty rents is capitalised would indicate the truth of what I am saying; and there is also the fact that where you have easily realisable securities a large portion would not be re-invested, but the money would be spent and lost to the nation. Investment such as has been suggested by the nationalisation of royalties would carry with it no advantages from the point of view of the State, or that of the person using coal, or of the person who pays taxes, or, in Scotland, of the ratepayer. In addition to that the State will have to spend a very substantial sum in managing its mineral properties which at the present time is voluntarily undertaken by all royalty owners. Therefore, on financial grounds these proposals have everything to commend them as contrasted from a policy of nationalisation.
On economic grounds the provisions of this Bill leave untouched all the interest which now stimulates economic and proper production; under nationalisation the proving and developing of coal will to a very large extent in such a risky calling come to an abrupt termination. So far as I know no one has ever advanced the argument that the State is equal in enterprising ability to private individuals or is prepared to take the same risk in a mining enterprise. Experience and evidence refute the case which is often made by the miners, that the royalty owners have done nothing to justify the payment to them of royalty rents for wealth under the soil. As a matter of fact, royalty owners have spent enormous sums of money in this country for the public advantage in developing their coal under their royalties, by creating railways, docks, canals, and often harbours, as in the case of Lord Londonderry at Seaham harbour. The fact also that royalty owners have in many cases purchased their properties with the knowledge that the coal was underground and have paid for it justifies them in securing some interest upon the wealth for which they have paid.
In addition to that the State has imposed upon them, in connection with their properties, the obligation to pay death duties, so that the royalty owner when he gets his royalty is only receiving a bare pittance really for the service which in many cases he has rendered to the State. The State, I suggest to your Lordships, will never be 12 in the same position to make concessions to colliery owners such as royalty owners can make at the present time. It is because of our experience—and I am speaking as a coal owner—it is because of our experience in connection with our leases and our lessors that we believe that the present system in the interests of the trade is far better than it would be if the State became the owner of all the royalties. Whenever circumstances under ground prevent a colliery from being profitable and the lessor can make a concession which will enable the lessee to get his balance on the right side, we always find a ready disposition on the party of the royalty owner to make concessions; but in the event of the State owning the whole of the royalties of the country it is quite obvious that the State could give no preferential treatment. The State would be open to the charge of giving preferential treatment to one individual or the other, and the charge of corruption would at once be suggested in the event of arbitrary concessions being made to one colliery owner and not to another. In fact, there would be no elasticity in the concessions and negotiations between the lessor and the lessee.
Under nationalisation all incentive would cease to expand, to improve and to develop the industry; in fact, the industry, in my judgment, would be crippled. The owner is always keenly alive to his own interests. He is anxious to see the utmost amount of coal worked, and completely worked; and his only motive is to stimulate the development of his property. As a rule owners act under the best skilled advice of mining experts. With a few exceptions, which are becoming more and more rare, we find in the trade that everyone concerned with royalties is personally interested in seeing that as much coal as possible is produced, and I am sure it is inconceivable that the cost of supervision carried out by the State would be anything like so small an amount as the supervision costs to-day under the private owners of royalties.
I come now to some of the difficulties which I do not believe for a moment the members of the Cabinet have understood when they thought it wise to accept the policy of the nationalisation of royalties. To sever the surface from the coal underground is a very complicated and undesirable proceeding. The royalty in many cases pays now for the damage to the 13 surface, and if the surface is owned separately indefinite claims would certainly arise. I should like to refer to the Report of Mr. Parker Rhodes on this particular subject to the Royal Commission in 1892. In his statement he said—Severance of surface and mineral ownerships have caused all sorts of variations in rights of ownership, of support and the like. In many cases some seams are owned by one owner, others by another, and the surface by a third. Large sums have been advanced on security of minerals, exchanges effected of lands reserving minerals, of land for minerals, and in other ways—sales have teen made at one price with right of support at another price without it, or with a qualified right —settlements have been made, and in many ways you cannot touch the present ownership without the certainty that you must injure a number of people who would not be confined to the owners, and the uncertainty as to where the mischief may extend.I suggest, therefore, that questions arising out of the amenities of the surface—the railways, letting them down—give a prospect of an endless series of claims, disputes, and actions at law. The State as owner would invariably believe that it was right, and we should have cases like that of De Kaiser's Hotel, where the State believed it was right, but when the matter came to be fought out in the tribunals the State lost its case.
The greatest danger to my mind in nationalisation seems to be that political pressure would at once be placed on the State which owned the minerals, in the event of the terms it offered to any particular colliery owner not being accepted, to work the coal itself. There are individuals—I believe there are one or two in this House—who believe that the case for nationalisation of royalties is based upon a different principle from the nationalisation of the industry, but if once the State owns the mine it would quickly become tempted, under political pressure, to work its own royalties where the terms it had suggested to the lessees were not accepable.
I object to the State becoming a monopolist of the royalties. I have always objected to monopolies. I believe that they are prejudicial to the interests of the consumer, and history records that wherever monopolies occur prices rise against the public. In the event of the nation purchasing the royalties pressure would be brought to bear on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to place a high 14 royalty upon the coal which he let to the colliery owners. That has been the experience in connection with articles like tobacco, sugar, and other things. The duty steadily rises, and so it would be in connection with coal. The imposition of 5 shillings per ton would be an easy way of raising £50,000,000 to the State, and the poor consumer would have to pay. Our industries, which depend on fuel as one of the main sources of their existence, would suffer. It is because of this more than anything else that I am opposed to the principle of the nationalisation of royalties.
I should like to make my case good, not so much from my own experience and that of those for whom I speak in this House, but from the evidence of those who have inquired into it and who are not interested in coal mining. On the Coal Conservation Committee were many eminent men well known to your Lordships. They reported on January 23, 1918, to the following effect—While we consider it necessary that the proposed Ministry of Mines and Minerals should have adequate powers of intervening to prevent permanent avoidable loss of coal, we think the end in view might, to a large extent, be attained voluntarily, and as the natural result of co-operation among the colliery proprietors of each district.If this co-operation among adjacent colliery proprietors is not obtained voluntarily, as I suggest under the provisions of this Bill, it could be secured by an appeal to the Sanctioning Authority.
There has been a very great deal of exaggeration as to the loss of coal by barriers underground. These barriers are nearly all left for a particular purpose not known to anybody but the experts; very often in order to prevent an inflow of water, for the purposes of ventilation, and saving the coal altogether. I had a case in one of my firm's collieries where representations were made by the workmen that a large body of coal was being unnecessarily left. We had to point out that the main travelling way in the a seam above had to be protected, otherwise the whole of an area of coal in the upper seam would have been lost. That is the sort of allegation which is constantly being made against colliery owners by men who are ignorant of the reason why coal is left underground. On this point the Coal Conservation Committee say—No improvement or no economy could be effected in the matter of barrier by the mere 15 change of ownership, but reduction of barriers in some cases could be secured if some tribunal were set up which should have power in the national interest to say a barrier should be worked out.That would be exactly the provision which I have placed in this Bill. Then the Report of the Coal Conservation Committee also said—We do not find that there is any disposition on the part of the landowners to prevent the working of minerals belonging to them, at any rate in districts where minerals are being worked. As a general rule, the rent and royalties they obtain are sufficient inducement to them to ensure the working of the minerals where it is profitable to do so.Obviously it is to the interests of all concerned not to leave unnecessary coal underground. In connection with collective pumping, another object which nationalisation is supposed to promote, there has been a great deal done already by colliery owners to economise by securing a joint pumping arrangement, and if I may refer to Mr. Charles Rhodes's evidence, I should like to quote a paragraph in which he says—It must occur to the mind of every public man to consider whether it is necessary to go to the expense of buying all the mineral rights in order to effect a possible improvement in colliery working, which have nothing whatever to do with the ownership of minerals.We provide for the creation of a central pumping association if a case is established for such an arrangement and it has not been voluntarily entered into by the colliery owners. I need not point out to your Lordships that strikes would go on just the same under a system of nationalisation as they do at the present time. It is a matter of experience that government control does not diminish strikes, but that apparently they are more popular with Government control of industries than when those industries are left to private enterprise. I would like to remind your Lordships that Mr. Justice Sankey, while he did recommend the nationalisation of royalties, says it "is one of policy, to be determined by Parliament in which all classes, interests and industries are represented." It is because I think that it is a matter which should be determined by this House rather than by a Judge, that I suggest that this Bill should receive its Second Reading to-day.
The Royal Commission on Mining Royalties in 1893—again I am referring to an independent source—said: 16We are of opinion that the system of royalties has not interfered with the general development of the mineral resources of the United Kingdom, or with the export trade in coal with foreign countries.That is signed by Lord Northbrook, as Chairman, and nineteen other distinguished individuals. In connection with the Government proposals it may be suggested to me —I do not know what lines the Government are going to take to-day—that the Government have a scheme of their own, and that your Lordships ought to wait until an opportunity has been given you of hearing what the Government proposals are in connection with the nationalisation of royalties, before you come to a decision on the merits or demerits of the proposals which I am placing before you. To that I would say, at once, that the ex-propriation of property owners, on any grounds which have hitherto been placed before your Lordships, is no justification for the introduction of a Bill raising the policy of nationalisation, and that in connection with that ex-propriation the Government are committed to a policy, as I conceive it to be, of nothing less than confiscation, as a contribution to national housing is to be abstracted out of royalty rents. I do not think that the policy—and the principle has been raised by the policy which has been announced by the Government—can be accepted, and it is for this House to declare whether it approves of the policy of nationalisation on principle, or whether it would rather have such a measure, which has the recommendation not only of the coal trade but of some of the greatest experts, who inquired into the matter under the direction of the Government of the day.
I hope the Government will drop their proposals. I am sure that if they do not they will enter upon a slippery slope. You cannot nationalise royalties without encouraging the nationalisation of land. You cannot nationalise royalties without taking a step towards the nationalisation of industries. Coal might be the first, but cotton would follow, and shipping would probably succeed, and one after another all our industries would be nationalised; and it seems to me that there are overwhelming reasons why we should here and now reject any proposal to acquire compulsorily the royalties which are owned by proprietors in this country. The policy would certainly result in increased cost of working coal. It would decrease the development, 17 impose higher impositions upon coal owners, and add enormous financial burdens to the State, and the poor consumer would have to pay higher prices for his coal. I would ask your Lordships, if the nationalisation of royalties in connection with coal be adopted, why should it not include such things as ironstone, clay, china clay, shale, tin, lead, copper, zinc, limestone, rock salt, sandstone, and all the other substances or materials which equally play a great part in the industries of this country. Nobody has ever put forward any irrefutable argument showing that there are real advantages in the State ownership of land, and in those circumstances I think it would be a retrograde step for us to be prepared to accept a policy of nationalisation of royalties. If the nation gives way on this matter from motives of supposed expediency, what ground will there be for resisting future demands in a similar direction?
The pioneers of nationalisation have been quite open in regard to the objects which they have had at heart. I do not want to weary your Lordships by more than two quotations. Mr. Hodges, the Secretary of the Miners' Federation, speaking in Battersea as recently as February of this year, said—We have ceased to talk revolution. We are prepared to act it. We are going forward with determination, and will not brook defeat.Mr. Robert Williams, secretary of the Transport Workers, writing in The Call, of November last year, after revelling in the tottering of many of the thrones in Europe, went on to say—God speed the day when there shall be a notice 'To Let' outside Buckingham Palace.These may be the utterances of extreme men, but at any rate they are the leaders and mis-guiders of many of the more ignorant young men employed in the collieries of this country. Miners as a whole are most intelligent individuals, and I believe that there is a better way in connection with the future prosperity of this country than in preaching merely class interests. I believe we can all amalgamate and co-operate in order to secure the prosperity of our industries, in the interests not of one class but of every branch in the whole of our society, and thereby promote the happiness and prosperity of our country.
We coal owners admit there are imperfections in the present system. We claim 18 that these proposals will meet the public interest, will deter unreasonable men from acting selfishly, and will powerfully promote amicable arrangements suitable for efficient production. We believe that the reforms suggested in this Bill will remove imperfections, and will avoid an extreme policy which would be disastrous to the industry, to the workers, and to the nation as a whole. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.— (Lard Gainford.)
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (VICOUNT PEEL)
; My Lords, the noble Lord has moved the Second Reading of his Bill entitled "Coal Production," and in moving it he has given us a, very carefully reasoned and elaborate statement on the question of the nationalisation of royalties, and indeed on the nationalisation of other industries. I confess that, having read the Bill, I was rather surprised to find that we had the benefit from the noble Lord of such an interesting disquisition on so wide a subject, because on looking at the provisions of the Bill itself I did net see how it would be possible to connect so far-reaching a speech as the noble Lord has favoured us with on so comparatively small a matter as this Bill. I think the speech of the noble Lord would have been very relevant and very interesting had it been made upon such question as the Resolution against the nationalisation of royalties, or indeed if it had been made in opposition to a Bill brought up in this House by the Government for the nationalisation of royalties, or for the nationalisation of other industries. But this is a far humbler measure in some ways than my noble friend seemed to indicate, because, after all, its intention is to, remove certain difficulties and to smooth the way for the solution of certain problems that have arisen in the getting of coal, and also to secure, so far as can be by the I provisions of this Bill, the better working of the industry in the interests of the nation.
I noticed, however, and I think your Lordships noticed, that the noble Lord dwelt very little upon the provisions of the Bill itself. Perhaps your Lordships who have not studied the Bill will be rather surprised to know that, while the noble. Lord was denouncing the Government for nationalisation and socialisation and other things of that kind, he himself has brought 19 in a Bill which establishes the most amazing socialistic and more than socialistic principles. I am going to deal with the provisions of this Bill, if your Lordships will allow me, and I shall be very much surprised if any member of your Lordships' House—if he professes himself at least to be against socialisation—is going to vote for the astounding interference with the liberty of working the mines which is enclosed in the provisions of this Bill. I appeal also to the Constitutionalists in this House. The noble Lord has been very delicate again on this subject, but he is introducing here provisions for setting up a new body which is going to have great power over private property, which is constituted in a most peculiar manner, and which is responsible to nobody. It is not responsible to the House of Commons, to the Board of Trade, to the Crown, or to anybody else. I do not wonder, therefore, that my noble friend instead of letting your Lordships into the secrets of his particular Bill gave us this very interesting and elaborate discourse on the question of nationalisation.
On these general questions I do not think it is my duty to follow the noble Lord. He dwelt upon a great many subjects, and first of all on the question whether it was worth while buying these royalties and what would be the effect if the State did buy them. Then he touched upon the important and general question of whether monopolies could be safely entrusted to the working of the State, and other matters of that kind—as to whether strikes were less or more frequent or likely to be less or more frequent when the Government undertook the industry. All these are very profound and interesting problems, but I hope your Lordships will excuse me from dealing with them at length, because I want to deal with the matter that is before the House, and that is this Bill. The noble Lord has said that the Bill is really only necessary in a few cases. He told us that it is more of a safeguard than anything else. One is very glad to hear this from him, because he is very familiar with the coal industry. We are glad to hear that the number of owners of collieries who are unreasonable is very small, that this is really in the nature of a protection of the public, and that the Sanctioning Authority that he is going to set up will have very little to do. That may be comforting to your Lordships, for some of you may have to sit upon this body which we are told is really to be used 20 only as a general protection against a few unreasonable persons.
The noble Lord has stated more or less on what the proposals of this Bill are founded, and he has told us that there is a considerable mass of authority in the mining world in favour of his proposals. He told us, too, that the provisions in the Bill are very largely founded upon the recommendations made by the Acquisition and Valuation of Land Committee presided over by Mr. Leslie Scott, a member of another place. He told us also in general terms what are the particular mischiefs or difficulties occasionally to be found under the present system which this Bill is designed to remedy. Such may be summarised in the unwillingness or inability of an owner to grant a lease on reasonable terms, or of an owner of land to grant the necessary surface rights. That is one particular head of difficulty. Another is the question of leaving barriers of coal unworked. Then there is the question of surface owners' rights to support the economical lay-out of mineral fields, or their uneconomical apportionment by different owners, and such questions as the mismanagement of a mine so as to cause loss of minerals to an extent inconsistent with public advantage. These are the general difficulties that the noble Lord wishes to remedy.
Now comes the question of the particular machinery by which he desires to do that. The first thing that strikes one about his machinery is that it is exceedingly elaborate. It sets up a great number of new bodies, and when I read the Bill it seemed to me that the noble Lord must be a disciple of the Abbé Sieyés who loved elaborate Constitutions, and drew up, I think, seventy-seven for France in the Revolution in about seventy-seven minutes. The intricacy of the machinery is certainly one of the features of this particular Bill. The noble Lord does not in the first place set up a new Ministry, or rather he purports not to set up a new Ministry. But he establishes a Department of Mines as a Department of the Board of Trade, and the existing powers of different Departments are concentrated in this Department. Only one new power, I think, is given to the new Department, and that is in connection with the passing on to what is called the "Sanctioning Authority" plans that may be made as to the working of coal by persons interested in the production and the development of any minerals. The noble Lord did not 21 explain that phrase, and it is very difficult to see what that phrase means, because the term "persons who are interested in the production and development of any minerals" is very vague and general and may be applied to almost anybody in this Kingdom.
Anyhow, when that complaint is made it is brought before the Ministry of Mines, and, as far as I understand, alt the power that the Ministry of Mines have is to say whether it is frivolous or not, and if they decide that it is not frivolous they send it to the advisory body. This advisory body has been described by the noble Lord. The advisory body then consider whether it is or is not a case which should be sent on to the Sanctioning Authority. So that all that the Ministry of Mines apparently has to do is, when it has been advised by the advisory body, to send this matter on to the Sanctioning Authority. It has, as a matter of fact one other duty that it might perform, which is to consider whether or not this particular proposal raises a new question of principle. If it raises a new question of principle the matter goes to another body, a third body—showing the great creative energy of the noble Lord in new bodies—which consists of three persons, the Chairmen of Committees in your Lordships' House and in another place, and a new person who is the chairman of the Sanctioning Authority.
§ LORD GAINFORD
It is Mr. Leslie Scott's recommendation. Its origin is not with me, though I accept it.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
Then the credit, if any credit is due, belongs to somebody else, and the noble Lord has been so struck with it that he has adopted it. This body decides whether a question of principle is involved, and if they decide that a question of principle is involved the matter goes before the House as an ordinary Private Bill, and much time, therefore, is not gained. But supposing they decide that no new principle is involved then the matter goes before this sanctioning body and I think I ought to say one word about the peculiar composition of this body. First of all there is to be set up a sort of 22 selecting body in the Legislative Chambers themselves, and they select a body of persons who are to constitute the Sanctioning Authority, who may be composed both of persons in this House and in another House, and also of outside experts whom they decide to select. There are a great many details about the selection which I do not wish to trouble your Lordships with, but this body is by no means a Committee of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, because it is a sort of independent body whose members are selected by members of your Lordships' House and of another place.
This particular body, so selected, has then to deal with the proposal that is brought before it, and its decision apparently is final and may result therefore in all sorts of actions being taken and orders being given to coal owners and others to deal in any particular way with their own property. This body, as I said, so constituted, as far as I understand is responsible to nobody, neither to the Crown (it is not appointed by the Crown) nor to the Board of Trade (it is not appointed by the Board of Trade) nor to the House of Commons or the House of Lords nor to the new Minister of Mines or anybody. And yet they can apparently exercise all these very disturbing and rigorous actions, and give all sorts of orders dealing almost at their will with private property. I must say there is this consolation to be drawn from the Bill that, although I see that its interim orders are to be final and conclusive for all purposes, and shall have the same force and effect as an injunction granted by the High Court—your Lordships know what is the result of a provision of that kind—the curious thing is that the final orders seem to have no sanction at all. So that there this is this consolation to persons who are aggrieved by the orders of this sanctioning body, that, if they defy or refuse to carry out the orders of the sanctioning body, nothing apparently will happen to them.
The noble Lord has told us that he is only going to make his Mines Department a Department of the Board of Trade. But in fact the Mines Department itself, which, as I have said, is almost a ministerial body, seemed to play a very small part in his constitution under this Bill. But when we come to the Sanctioning Authority composed as I have described, we find that it is far more important than the rather 23 humble rôle that my noble friend suggested should be attributed to it. We find under Clause 3 that as regards the Sanctioning Authority—There shall be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament to such officers and servants such salaries or remuneration as the Treasury determine. The travelling and subsistence allowances of members of the Sanctioning Authority, together with all other expenses incidental to carrying out the duties of the Sanctioning Authority under this Act, to such amount as may be determined by the Treasury, shall be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament.As apparently the Sanctioning Authority will have a great many duties to perform you are going to endow it with an office and staff, and so on. Therefore, although my noble friend does not want to set up a new Ministry of Mines, but keeps it as a minor Department, he is really setting up a sort of Ministry of Mines, only under a different name, without a Minister and in an independent position. That seems to me to contravene ordinary constitutional rules. If you are going to have a Ministry which is going to be vested with these extremely drastic powers they should at least be given to a Department responsible to Parliament and which can be criticised in Parliament in the ordinary constitutional manner, and appointed in the ordinary way.
Your Lordships will see that even as regards machinery this Bill has little to commend it. It is extraordinarily intricate. You have, first of all, this Department of Mines as a part of the Board of Trade, you then have the advisory body, you then have this Committee of Chairmen, and then you have the selecting body set up who produce the Sanctioning Authority with the powers that I have described. If what the noble Lord wants to do is only to deal with a limited number of cases where unreasonable action may be taken by the coal owners, is it really necessary that your Lordships should pass a Bill with all this intricate machinery, setting up so many new constitutional principles, in order apparently to effect so very small a result?
I do not wish to go too fully into the machinery of the Bill, but there are one or two larger questions that I should like to deal with. First of all, as the noble Lord has truly said, the Bill proceeds on the basis of continuing the private ownership of the coal royalties. It is rather difficult, I think, to ask the Government to accept a measure of that kind, saddled with all the difficulties and with all the elaborate 24 machinery which I have attempted to describe, when, in the King's Speech itself, there was this statement—In addition to an emergency measure to adjust the financial relations of the collieries … you will be asked to consider proposals for the acquisition of coal royalties by the State, for the improvement of conditions in mining areas, and for the future ordering of the industry in the best interests of the community as a whole.Therefore you are asking the Government to accept this Bill, which is based on private ownership, when they have decided, in the King's Speech, that they have a different policy, and are going to purchase these mining royalties. I do not think I need argue that case very much further because the time will arrive to deal with that when the Bill comes up to your Lordships' House. A great many of these difficulties will then be reached in a far simpler manner than by the intricate efforts which have been so elaborately and gallantly made by the noble Lord. In fact, it is surely unfair to ask the Government to accept a measure of this kind until certain questions relating to coal mines and to the existence and status of a Mining Department are settled. Those matters are now being considered. I should like to say to the noble Lord that he has, of course, raised—though I doubt whether they have been dealt with very satisfactorily in this Bill—certain very important and grave considerations affecting the mining industry; and I am able to assure him that all the matters he has raised and discussed will be very carefully considered by the Government. But I think he will see, from what I have said as to the general attitude of the Government, that it is impossible for them to accept this Bill. I hope, therefore, that when the debate comes to an end he will be prepared not to press his Bill any further and will be content, having discussed the whole question of nationalisation, and so on, to postpone any further activities until the Government's Bill is presented to your Lordships' House.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, I do not propose to follow the noble Viscount who has just sat down in his criticism of certain aspects which the Bill of my noble friend presents. It is another aspect with which I am concerned. Nor do I wish to discuss the question of nationalisation; there will be plenty of opportunities for discussing these great topics in the time 25 that is before us. But my noble friend made what I may call a first-class fighting speech. He attacked the enemy and he drew your Lordships' attention to wild things that had been said by some of the miners' leaders. I have no doubt that they have often said very wild things in the past, and I dare say they will say more wild things in the future.
But it has always been our custom, when we have been threatened with such convulsions as those with which we were threatened not long since in connection with mining affairs, to try and get at which is the real grievance, and, having got at the real grievance, to rely on the good sense and on what I may call the conservative instincts of the majority of the democracy of this country, to come to a settlement. I believe that to be the policy which has saved us from revolution in the past and made us almost the only country in Europe which has been free from revolutions. I believe it to be the traditional policy of this country, and of its Governments, when wise, and I hope it will be followed now. But if my noble friend's Bill were accepted the Government would be adopting a proposition which I can only say would drive the miners wild for reasons to which I am going to draw attention. My noble friend has brought in his Bill upon the footing that nothing else is to be looked to except the production of coal—getting in out of the bowels of the earth; and I have no doubt that some of his propositions would be very useful for that purpose. A Ministry of Mines is an excellent thing for production and, possibly, for other things, if you are careful and know what you are doing. The noble Lord invoked the authority of the Coal Conservation Committee. I myself was chairman of that committee, and we recommended a Ministry of Mines, but with very careful safeguards which have been overlooked by my noble friend. What is the scheme of his Bill? He proposes to set up a Ministry of Mines with an advisory committee—I am not talking of the Sanctioning Authority with which the noble Viscount dealt. The scheme of the Bill is to set up a Ministry of Mines and then to transfer to it all the powers and duties of any Government Department in relation to mines and minerals. The Minister of Mines is, therefore, to be vested with all the powers and duties of every Government Department in relation to mines, where the miners are working, where they spend their lives, and where the conditions are of 26 vast importance to them. Not only questions of production have to be looked after, but there are questions of health, of wages and of hours.
At the present time the matters which relate to mines are distributed, in consequence of the diversity to which I have alluded, among a number of Departments. The bulk of these things—those relating to health and to justice—belong to the Home Office because that is the Department at present in charge of them. The Board of Trade has certain powers of another kind —less important but, nevertheless, important powers—connected with mines. It used to be the Education Office, now it is, I think, the Privy Council, which has to do with the survey question; that is very important because it involves not merely questions of where the mineral is but chemical investigations into its quality, and so on. There are other minor things which other Departments touch. Now, my noble friend proposes to transfer all these, as if it were simply a matter of production, to a Minister of Mines who is to be under the Board of Trade. It is clear that he has in his mind nothing except the getting of the coal out of the earth. What care has he taken in this Bill, what attention has he shown, to the important interests of the miners in regard to their health, in regard to the conditions under which they work? At this moment a vast number of miners are suffering from defective eyesight—what is called miners' mystagma. We know what the reason of that is. The question of the safety lamp has been imperfectly worked out, and disease is the consequence. Great and keen attention is being given to the subject.
Then there are other questions of health into which I need not go but which have been discussed over and over again and which really belong to the Department of Health. The Home Office has control of them now, and they are attended to in the interests of health and really belong to the Ministry of Health. In the long run they will come under that Ministry. At present they are under the Home Office only for convenience. They have nothing in the world to do with the Board of Trade or with production, under which my noble friend would classify them. It does not stop there. What about the miners check-weigher? What about the provisions as to the hours and wages of the miners? These things are primarily connected with 27 justice; and it has been pointed out by a Committee, to which my noble friend paid no attention in the construction of this Bill, that all those interests are represented, and until you see that the proper Ministry has proper powers you will never get a state of things with which your people will be contented. What ought to have been done in this Bill was to have given the Ministry of Mines such powers as were concerned with production only under the Board of Trade and to have taken very great care that the powers required in the interests of the mining population for health, check-weighing, hours, wages, and so on, were in the hands of the proper Department, which is certainly not the Board of Trade, for the purpose of this Bill.
This is aggravated by the way in which the Bill is framed, because when you turn to the next clause you find that an Advisory Committee is set up to advise the Minister of Mines. One would have hoped that in framing this Bill care would have been taken at any rate to put on the Committee people in whose hands the miners might feel their interests in this and other respects were safeguarded. Not at all. There are to be twenty-five members of the Committee. One is to be Chairman; six are to be representatives of the owners of minerals; and six representative of the lessees of minerals. Of the others six are to be persons employed in the mining industry. They may be anybody. They may be butty men, surface men, people who are employed solely in the interests of the employer, so far as anything that herein appears. Then six are to be representative users of minerals, including persons having a technical and scientific knowledge. In other words they have no security that they will have anybody at all on the Advisory Committee. These are to be appointed, I presume, by the Board of Trade. They will be appointed on the responsibility of the Board of Trade and the miners will not have, so far as the Bill is concerned, a word to say in the matter.
It is the disregard in this Bill of these other and vital interests of the mining population of which I have spoken that make me feel that it would be a great misfortune if this Bill were assented to, or even if in this House it received a favourable reception. It will give what will be an utterly wrong impression, the impression that your Lordships are indifferent to 28 those other interests of which I have spoken. It would tend to aggravate that tone of resentment, that class conscientiousness which there is in the mining population because they think their interests are not adequately attended to. For these reasons, as well as for the reasons which were pointed out by the noble Viscount in intimating the Government's opposition to the Bill, I trust that your Lordships will not think of giving this Bill your assent.
THE EARL OF JERSEY
My Lords, I listened with considerable interest and, if I may say so, with some disappointment to the speech of the noble Viscount who replied on behalf of the Government. I had hoped that he would have given some more cordial welcome to the Bill which the noble Lord introduced, and I also hoped (even if I was not sanguine enough to expect) that he would evince some sign of gratitude that a way should have been offered to the Government to deal with the obstructions and objections of the present system which were alleged to exist, without the necessity of incurring the very extravagant expenditure of public money which would be involved in the purchase of the mineral rights of this country. The noble Lord never attempted to conceal the fact—I think it was the first sentence of his speech —that he put forward this Bill as an alternative to the Government proposals to acquire the mineral rights, and it is on those grounds that I personally am going to support the noble Lord's measure.
I also support it because when I ventured to address your Lordships on the subject a few weeks ago I suggested that it might be possible to devise some means by which minerals could be dealt with in the national interest in the same way as the surface is dealt with under existing enactments, and the noble Lord has tried to evolve a method by which this might be brought into effect. I do not pretend that I agree with every detail of this measure. Possibly there are many of your Lordships who may see certain matters which require further consideration at a later stage, but I do trust that your Lordships will see well to give it a Second Reading, because it really is an honest attempt to meet in a business-like way the objections which are alleged to exist under the present system. Personally, I do not believe there is very much substance in those objections, and had it not been for the action of Mr. Justice 29 Sankey's Commission in ignoring the greater part of the most material evidence on those points the probability is that the necessity for this Bill would never have arisen.
The noble Viscount who spoke for the Government said it was a socialistic measure. Well, if it has been necessary to bring forward a measure with very advanced proposals the responsibility lies primarily with the Commission and with the Government, because those recommendations were put forward and the Government have seen fit to adopt them. Therefore, it is really the Government themselves who have forced the issue. That being so, it seems to me that we should do well to face it boldly and to try to find a remedy for these objections. I wish the Government, at any rate, to believe that those of your Lordships who differ from them with regard to these proposals for the acquisition of the minerals are prepared to do all in our power to co-operate with them to find a solution on a reasonable basis.
This Bill attracts me for another reason. We have been trying for some time to find out whether the proposals to acquire the mineral rights are based on any defects in the present system, or whether they are to a very large extent spectacular, and the attitude of the Government towards this Bill may possibly give us some enlightenment on this point. The noble Lord who introduced the Bill has already referred to the various reasons that were put forward for the Government proposal. I do not propose to take up time by reiterating them. Mr. Justice Sankey's reasons, put very briefly, were first of all, delay and expense in acquiring the right to work the mines owing to the multiplicity of owners; (2) the wastage of unworked coal owing to unnecessary barriers; and (3), the abandonment of certain collieries owing to a lack of co-operation in pumping and other methods of working. Those who have gone fully into the subject have pointed out that a change of ownership from the individual to the State would do nothing at all to remedy any of these defects, and the objections, if there is any substance in them, are fully met by the provisions of the present Bill.
But the allegations are so vague and so unsupported by the evidence adduced before the Commission that one is tempted to look elsewhere for the real reason for the proposals of the Government. I think 30 we may as well look the matter fairly in the face. If these recommendations were made by the Commission and adopted by the Government from a desire to concede something in the nature of nationalisation to the extremists, it is perfectly obvious that it is useless to look for any alternative, because we shall know that the Government do not want to be allowed to find any simpler method of dealing with the problem.
When I asked a question on this subject some few weeks ago and I very diffidently suggested that political expediency may possibly be a factor, the noble Viscount who replied for the Government then and who has also replied for the Government to-night, instead of upbraiding me for the very idea—I was quite prepared for him to do so—made this statement. He said that the principles I had laid down were too severe, and that the suggestion that political expediency does not come into this question is not really to deal with affairs as they actually exist. Those were very candid and instructive words, as are all the utterances of the noble Viscount. He then went on to say that I did not define as closely as he could have wished precisely what I meant by "nationalisation." I had already stated that I accepted the Prime Minister's definition, which was that nationalisation is not merely public ownership but public management, and that it entails a great bureaucracy. I do not see how I could define it more precisely. But I quote that paragraph for this reason, that if the noble Viscount will give me an equally precise definition of what he means by "political expediency" I shall be more than satisfied. Does the noble Viscount mean that the Government are going to introduce a measure, which they do not believe to be necessary or desirable in itself, in order to secure the support, or at any rate to temper the hostility, of their political opponents? If that be so, is it right that for no better reason they should ask the country to embark on such an extravagant scheme at a time when economy is so essential and when a better alternative has been afforded them by the Bill of the noble Lord.
There are only two provisions of the Bill itself to which I desire to refer now. I could wish that Clause 5, subsection (1), stopped at the words "national interests," or, at any rate, that it was modified so as not to imperil the sanctity of existing contracts. I was glad to hear the noble Lord 31 say that it was his intention, as far as possible, to preserve the sanctity of these contracts. One would be glad to know that the authorities who are eventually to interpret this measure will do so in the same light. Then in the Schedule, section (2), lines 30 to 33, I should like it to be made clear that there is no intention of benefiting the trade of one person to the detriment of the trade of another. These are small points, and if your Lordships see fit to give the Bill a Second Reading, as I hope you will, they can be considered at a later stage.
There is only one reason why I hesitate to support this Bill, and that is that it is always unpalatable to advocate anything that entails a new Government Department or more officials. Few will dispute that the great need now is to get rid of a large percentage of those which already exist. Few, again, will deny that in private enterprise a man seeks to conclude transactions as rapidly and as simply as possible, and that in official circles there is a tendency to magnify trivialities and anything that savours of haste is viewed with disfavour. But the bureaucracy which would be set up under this Bill is insignificant compared to that which would be entailed by the Government's proposal, and therefore, of the two evils, we should do well to choose the lesser.
The noble Viscount, replying for the Government, referred to the gracious Speech from the Throne and the Government programme therein set out. May I remind him that the noble Earl who leads this House, speaking in a reference to the gracious Speech, said—We all know that at the beginning of a session you put everything in the window, and little by little, as time goes on, commodities have to be withdrawn from that position.I know that the noble Earl made it quite clear that he was speaking generally and not referring to the programme set out for this particular session, but I may be excused if I suggest that the spring is with us and that wares more suitable to the season are displayed on all sides. Those which have not proved popular and found no market are discarded and disappear. I think there could be no more suitable moment to withdraw from that overstocked window the cumbrous and expensive measure which nobody wants, and to substitute and replace it with one less bulky, less costly, no doubt less highly coloured, but at the 32 same time one which, with a little adjustment would, I think, be more generally acceptable.
LORD STUART or WORTLEY
My Lords, the contempt which was poured on this Bill by the noble Viscount who represents the Government made one feel that probably it is not the alleged socialistic proposal that so much disturbed him as the fact that the Government wished to have a monopoly themselves of the socialistic proposals Parliament is to be invited to consider. There is nothing socialistic in this Bill beyond a recognition of the fact that in all contracts between the promiser and the receiver of the promise it is well to have this principle established, that there is a third party, and that this third party is the general public, or the interests of the nation. I am not very much alarmed at the advocacy of such a principle, and I do not see anything in this Bill which goes further than that.
This is merely a Bill—it says so in its long and in its short Title—" to promote the production of coal," and for that purpose it has to interfere to a certain extent with the strict rights of private property. That is a thing we do already by our Private Bill Procedure, and a great deal of this Bill is nothing more than a supersession of certain functions of our Private Bill Procedure. I do not see anything very dreadful in that. In the Advisory Committee which the Bill sets up there may be something complicated, but I somehow seem to remember that I read these provisions in portions of a recent Act for the establishment of the Ministry of Health, with its Advisory Committee; likewise in the Act for the establishment of the Ministry of Transport, with its Advisory Committee, each of them with representatives of Labour on them on the nomination of the Minister and not on election by persons engaged in labour itself. All these have passed both Houses of Parliament without incurring the censure which we are invited to pass on this Bill. It reminds me rather of the old War Office in days past (with which the noble Viscount has lately had some connection) with its suspicion of all civilian assistance and objection to particular proposals of reform coming from private members of either House. That is an objection which is often manifested by Members of the Government.
Let me come now to the attack made on the Bill by the noble Viscount, Lord 33 Haldane. Entirely oblivious of the manifest purpose and objects of this Bill he has treated it entirely as if it were a Bill to supersede the whole of the existing regulations and provisions with regard to mines in the interests of safety and of health and as though it was not limited entirely, as it says, to the question of promoting further better and more scientific production of coal. The noble Viscount says that the Bill if passed will make persons in the mining industry perfectly wild. I do not know with what right he says that. I do not think there is the smallest probability of anything of the kind taking place. The miners are not such foolish people as to be carried away entirely by mistaken notions of the objects of the Bill. Why should they object to this Bill? The noble Viscount says they will be angry because it concentrates all the powers with regard to the regulation of mines in the Board of Trade instead of the Home Office. As long as the work is well done, what does it matter what Department is at the head? The great wisdom of the Bill is that it leaves entirely unaffected the whole of the existing statute law with regard to safety and health, the securing of proper payment according to the weight of material obtained, in the existing Mines Regulations Acts and their administration. It may or may not be a bad thing that it should be done by the President of the Board of Trade, but the point of the Bill is that it should be done by one Department, and that is not a manifestation of indifference. I say it is a manifestation exactly to the contrary—of a desire for higher standards in administration, and that the whole knowledge and experience should be concentrated in the best hands and taken the fullest advantage of. So far as we can judge it certainly aims at an enhancement of those securities for safety, health and good administration of everything concerning mines, which everybody, and certainly not least the miners themselves, would desire.
A great deal of sarcasm was uttered about the reference to three Chairmen, the Chairman of Ways and Means, the Lord Chairman of this House, and the Chairman of the Advisory Committee, but that reflects something which we have seen under the Scottish Private Bill Procedure Act, which has been on the Statute Book and met with acceptance and a large measure of success for many years. Where you have proposals for expropriation—and this is a Bill for a 34 modified expropriation of private rights—under the Scottish Private Bill Procedure Act you have a provision that such Bills shall be considered locally, by local tribunals, but that if they raise so large a question as seems to be too great for local tribunals, then they come to the Chairman of Ways and Means and the Lord Chairman of this House. The great merit of this Bill is that it retains and leaves unimpaired full Parliamentary control to the extent to which it is desired to have that power reserved and continued to be exercised. Remember that under certain modern Statutes you have seen, as we have always contended here, things passed which seemed to imperil Parliamentary control. It does not lie in the mouth of a Government which in various Departments has created so many of these advisory committees to object to the creation of one more, in the interests of good administration in this very important matter.
I shall certainly support this Bill, because if it passes it will accomplish what is, after all, a very modest purpose, though a purpose of great national importance. It is of no use to magnify its purpose. Being of national importance its objects are very modest because they only amount to insuring restraints upon the unreasonable exercise of private rights by mineral owners, and in successfully aiming at effecting that restraint they save the nation from the risk and possible injustice of having to buy out those private rights in circumstances of unexampled financial difficulty, and probably not without the result of producing a great feeling of injustice in the minds of the owners.
§ LORD DYNEVOR
My Lords, as an owner of minerals, I support the principle of this Bill. The Advisory Committee would evidently be selected from a very wide circle of interests, and I am extremely glad to think that the miners will be represented on that Committee. They will, no doubt, also have representation on the Sanction Authority, for it is quite evident that some of the Labour Party, members of the House of Commons who represent the miners, will be selected to sit on that body. I should like to draw the attention of my noble friend who introduced this Bill to Schedule (4), which deals with the question of ecclesiastical land. This Bill, I think, applies to Wales as well as to England, and I would remind the noble Lord that 35 one alteration is called for, because the Church in Wales has been disestablished, and I believe the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have no jurisdiction at all now in Wales. The proper body in Wales as regards ecclesiastical land and minerals would be the Representative Body of the Church in Wales. No doubt my noble friend will bear that in mind and make the necessary Amendment.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
My Lords, I do not know if I misheard Lord Stuart of Wortley, but I gathered that he said that tins Bill retained full Parliamentary control.
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY
Over the existing administration of the Mines Act, and to a great extent over the machinery which is set up here.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I do not think it interferes with Parliamentary control over the administration of the Mines Act, but I think that Parliamentary control will be far less under this Bill than, as my noble friend indicated, it is at present under Private Bill Legislation. I understood my noble friend to say that this in effect was an inversion, or rather supersession, of the ordinary Private Bill Procedure.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
That is a point which I contest entirely. Under the ordinary Private Bill Procedure a Bill goes before a Committee with four or five, and perhaps more, Peers upon it, and you are entitled to revise it on its various stages. Then it goes to the other House, where it passes through First and Second Readings, Committee upstairs, and finally Third Reading. To compare Parliamentary control under those circumstances with the vague and shadowy control to which my noble friend refers, seems to me to be entirely off the point. On what grounds is this Bill presented? I am as much interested and concerned in it as anybody else. Lord Gainford said it was an alternative to the nationalisation of private industry.
§ LORD GAINFORD
I said the nationalisation of royalties, and at the same time to meet some of the grounds upon which the case for the nationalisation of industry is based.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I think Lord Jersey said it was the alternative to the nationalisation of royalties. It is of no use producing alternatives to a scheme with which none of us are yet familiar. The Government scheme has not yet been presented, and I should have thought that the convenient time at which to present an alternative would be when one has the scheme to which one takes objection officially before Parliament. But, quite apart from that, this Bill goes a great deal further. It is an alternative to the nationalisation of royalties, but it never mentions royalties as such except to ensure that about 25 per cent. of the Advisory Board shall be royalty owners. The long and short of it is that it hands over the control of the coal trade to new bodies. The Mines Department, which is set up under Clause 1, will in effect rapidly develop into a new Ministry. I take note of that, and I ask your Lordships to do the same. This is a proposal which means the creation of new Ministers. That may be right or it may be wrong. But you must take note of the exact connotation of what Clause 1 is going to involve.
Then comes this Advisory Committee. It is laid down what the exact composition of this Advisory Committee is going to be. Six have to be owners of minerals, six have to be mineral workers—the lessees—six must be people employed in the mining industry —it may be that the general manager of the biggest mining company in Britain may be appointed, or it may be a girl worker on the pit brow—six have to be employed or receiving a salary or weekly wage; and finally six other people have to be appointed who have technical or scientific knowledge of minerals and mining. It is difficult to say how far that definition might go. It might be very wide; on the other hand it may be very narrow. But what I ask myself is, "Are these twenty-five people going to help the production of coal?" That is what I am interested in—the production of coal. How are they going to help it, and why should they help it? You put a general manager or a check-weighman or the locomotive superintendent of a great railway company (who would be qualified, perhaps, as a large consumer of coal) on to this Advisory Committee. I ask myself, "How is that man going to help the production of coal?" The people who produce the coal and stimulate the production of coal in this country are those who put capital into the pit, those who direct 37 the outlay of the shaft, who settle the direction of the roads, who plan the safe roofs, and who ensure proper haulage, and not the person who may be put on the Committee because he is a well-known check-weighman of a trade union, or because he is general manager of the Great Western Railway, or because he is an eminent chemist who knows all about the byproducts of coal. The people who are going to produce coal are those directly interested in it, those who are directly concerned in the pit shaft or some other part of it over which they have control. I ask myself, therefore, what the Advisory Committee is going to do, and who it is going to help. Lord Gainford has not made that point clear.
We come next to the Sanctioning Body. Again, being myself very much interested in the production of coal, I cannot for the life of me understand how the Sanctioning Body is going to be appointed. The first question I ask myself is why the Chairman of the Sanctioning Authority, upon whom immense powers are going to be conferred should be a Member of Parliament. Why must the Chairman of this body be a member of your Lordships' House, or a member of the House of Commons? Does membership of either of our Houses qualify its to be put in a position to control the coal industry of this country? I cannot understand why he should be a Member of Parliament any more than be a Judge of the High Court, or perhaps a Field-Marshal or a distinguished diplomatist. A member of Parliament need know no more about the development of the coal industry than any ether distinguished or prominent public roan. Again, the Chairman is to sit for the duration of Parliament. That is a great injustice to the coal industry. This Advisory Committee is set up, and every time there is a dissolution of Parliament the Chairman is to be changed.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
But he may not be re-elected, and then he will have to cease to be the Chairman because he is 38 not re-elected to Parliament. At the last Election 65 per cent. of members lost their seats. The Chairman might not be returned, and he would then cease to be qualified for Chairmanship. Why put the coal industry to that possibility? Why impose upon us that disability? Why should not we find our Chairman for ourselves—-a business man who can look after our interests in a business manner—and not be dependent upon the whims or vagaries of a constituency, or upon the many and various other things which will affect his position as a Member of Parliament? As the members of this Committee are to be appointed only for one year, that means of course that the Committee is going to be subject to constant fluctuations of personnel. Fancy our great industry being controlled by a body formed in that manner. I can think of nothing more undesirable, nothing more disturbing to the stability of this body. As regards their responsibility, at least the Sanctioning Authority has what no doubt Lord Gainford thinks the advantage of being responsible neither to Parliament nor to the industry itself nor to the Minister of Mines. It is responsible to nobody as far as I can see but itself; yet its powers are gigantic—certainly, so far as I know, far bigger than the powers which the Government propose in relation to Mr. Justice Sankey's Report. I do not think there is anything in the statement made by the Government to indicate that they desire to do what Lord Gainford is doing in this Bill. Take the Schedule alone. How extended the powers are—powers to disallow costs under the Acquisition of Buildings Act, powers to create new easements, and very big powers in a variety of directions.
There are many other points which I think the coal mining industry considers a hardship, but I do not intend to refer to them at any length except to point out that, so far as I read Clause 7, if after consulting the Advisory Committee the Sanctioning Authority think it right they are entitled to issue a compulsory Order in favour of Tom, Dick, or Harry, if in their opinion he is willing and qualified to work minerals, giving him compulsory powers to do so. That is how I read Clause 7. Just because the Government has accepted not merely Mr. Justice Sankey's view but that of the large majority of his colleagues that mineral rights should be bought by the State, I think it is quite unnecessary to pass Clause 7 of this Bill which Lord 39 Gainford seems to think is necessary in order to obviate the purchase of these minerals by the State. Looking at it from the point of view of one most interested in the production of coal, I am extremely sceptical whether this Bill is not going to inflict very grave injury upon the industry. Lord Jersey did not attempt to reply to Lord Peel or to Lord Haldane. I confess that I think Lord Haldane's objections were very cogent, and if Lord Haldane is correct Lord Jersey is mistaken in thinking that the constitution of the Committees under this Bill, and the transference of powers and duties relating to health and safety, can be transferred from one Department which has exercised them for generations to another Department which has never had anything to do with the subject, without causing a good deal of comment and criticism.
I am not going to trouble your Lordships by dividing against this Bill—that is, on the general question of procedure. It really would be well to await developments before committing yourselves to a scheme so far reaching and, in the opinion of some of us, so inimical to the industry as that presented by Lord Gainford. In other words, before committing ourselves to this Bill we should study the measure for which it is a substitute. It is ridiculous to suppose that the Government, as one noble Lord said, is offended by anybody trying to excel it in the production of Socialistic schemes. Certainly, so far as mining is concerned, I do not believe the Government proposes anything half so Socialistic as Lord Gainford does. But, speaking for myself, I really cannot recommend your Lordships to accept the very large principles involved in this Bill until your Lordships know whether it is worth while doing so, until you have seen and have had an opportunity of studying and, if necessary, of moving direct negatives or amendments to the Coal Mining Royalties Bill, when presented, rather than in advance and without knowledge of what that measure will contain, pledging yourselves to a Bill which seems to me, on the face of it, to have very grave objections and to which the Government, only being pledged to deal with a very much more limited aspect of the case, can naturally promise no help, pending the production of their own measure.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE)
My Lords, 40 before the debate terminates I would ask to be allowed to refer to two points that were mentioned by Lord Gainford and Lord Stuart of Wortley. Lord Gainford explained that the scheme referred to under Clause 4 is the production not of himself but of Mr. Leslie Scott's Committee. I hope that there is not going to grow up a tendency of regarding the output of that Committee—speaking of it with all respect —as an output of very special wisdom as regards Parliamentary procedure. The Papers are before your Lordships on that point. I hold very strongly that, whereas the Committee undoubtedly state their intention of maintaining Parliamentary control, they were not successful in the proposals they made in maintaining it as I believe it should be maintained. Lord Stuart of Wortley stated that the proposals in the Bill really were nothing more than an extension of the Scottish Bill Procedure which had worked now for many years to the great satisfaction of all concerned. It has not worked with great satisfaction to all concerned, and this is one of the points that I regret very much in it, the fact, namely, that the question whether a matter is of so great importance that it ought to be discussed by Parliament is left to two officials and is not left to the House itself. No case has yet arisen in which the Chairman of Ways and Means and the Chairman of Committees in your Lordships' House have disagreed. I think that bringing in a third party would make it much more likely that there would be causes of disagreement, and in case of such disagreement there is no power in the Bill for the House to step in and express its own views, and I think that is a power that the House should never be deprived of. I suggest that therefore to the consideration of the noble Lord if he goes on with the Bill.
I am grateful to Lord Gainford for the Schedule to the Bill. The noble Lord has recognised, as a number of people, and I among them, have been saying for a long time, that there are certain reforms of the Lands Clauses Acts which are very desirable. One is the single arbitrator, the second is the power of the arbitrator over costs. His Majesty's Government met us on the first point in a number of cases in last year's Act which, however, does not deal with all cases. I am very glad of his second point, and I hope that, even if his Bill does not pass, his Schedule will be a precedent for many years to come. I will 41 only add that if the House should divide on the Bill, which I understand is not the intention, I should vote for the. Government.
§ LORD GAINFORD
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Earl the Lord Chairman of Committees for his intervention in this debate. I am very anxious that Parliamentary control in any proposal which I submit to the House should be strictly and duly observed. It seems to me that it would be comparatively easy to introduce words in the Committee stage to meet the points which the noble Earl has made. The two speeches which we have heard from the Government to-night appear to me to have dealt with intricacies of machinery many of which can be far better discussed in Committee. I have inserted that machinery in the Bill, not because every point in it seemed to me to be the best, but because a large number of men who had considered this subject at great length came to the conclusion that that machinery would work. They were united in the view that such a Sanctioning Authority should be created in the best interests of the nation, and it is because of the great principle which is involved that I desire to secure the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.