§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.854
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ (THE EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair.)
§ Clause 1:
§ Establishment of National Coal Board and functions thereof.
§ 1.—(1) There shall be a National Coal Board which shall, on and after the primary vesting date, be charged with the duties of—
- (a) working and getting the coal in Great Britain, to the exclusion (save as in this Act provided) of any other person;
- (b) securing the efficient development of the coal-mining industry; and
- (c) making supplies of coal available, of such qualities and sizes, in such quantities and at such prices, as may seem to them best calculated to further the public interest.
(2) The functions of the National Coal Board (in this Act referred to as "the Board") shall include the carrying on of all such activities as it may appear to the Board to be requisite, advantageous or convenient for them to carry on for or in connection with the discharge of their duties under the preceding subsection, and in particular, but without prejudice to the generality of this section,—
(f) activities conducive to advancing the skill of persons employed or to be employed for the purposes of any of the activities aforesaid, or the efficiency of equipment and methods to be used therefor, including the provision by the Board themselves, and their assisting the provision by others, of facilities for training, education and research.
(4) The policy of the Board shall be directed to securing, consistently with the proper discharge of their duties under subsection (1) of this section,—
(a) the advancement of the safety of persons in their employment and the promotion of their health and welfare;
§ 2.38 p.m.
§ LORD TEYNHAM moved, in sub-section (1) (c), after "available", to insert "for internal industrial and domestic consumption and subject thereto for export". The noble Lord said: During the Second Reading debate on this Bill I ventured to draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that the export section of the industry was not mentioned in the Bill at all. It is a very important branch of the industry, but it has been entirely glossed over in the Bill. Before the war, coal exports, I believe, amounted to nearly 50,000,000 tons per annum, but they are now down to a very low level indeed. I do not suggest that coal can be exported to the detriment of our home requirements, and my Amendment is 855 drawn so that the Coal Board shall be charged with the duty of making available supplies of coal for the export market after due consideration of the requirements of the home market.
§ I should like for a moment to deal with one or two important aspects of the coal export trade. The coal export trade has involved the establishment abroad of a very large number of bunkering stations, wharves and depots, which have proved to be of vital importance to this country during past wars. It must not be forgotten that many of our smaller naval vessels use coal even to-day, and will no doubt have to do so in the future. I refer especially to mine-sweepers and smaller craft such as boom-defence vessels and so on. It is true that many of these bunkering stations are equipped for supplying oil, ships stores and so on, but in very many cases they depend upon coal as a basis for their maintenance. It might prove a very grave matter for this country if we were to lose those hunkering stations by not supplying them with a certain amount of coal to keep them going, and I feel it is essential that we should provide the necessary machinery for that to be efficiently carried out by the Coal Board.
§ In this Bill we are creating a monopoly which far exceeds any monopoly which has ever been granted before—greater than any ever granted to the Crown over 200 years ago. Even in those days, the people of this country resisted that very strongly, and I feel that when the people begin to realize what this Bill really means and how it is going to affect their lives, they may again offer some resistance. Under a monopoly, the home market will be forced to pay high prices for coal, but buyers in the export market will not, of course, accept any price which is quoted. They will not buy coal at dictated prices, and, what is more, they may well go elsewhere for their requirements, or may use an alternative fuel. I respectfully suggest that it will not be sufficient for the noble and learned Lord in charge of this Bill merely to inform your Lordships that the question of exports should be left entirely to the Coal Board, I maintain it is too vital a matter for that, and that the export side of the industry should be included in the Bill.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD JOWITT)
With almost every word that the noble Lord, Lord Teynham has said, I find myself in complete agreement. It is difficult to over-estimate the importance of the export trade to this country, for it is, of course, the means whereby we get from abroad those things which are absolutely essential for our life. I find myself in complete agreement with the noble Lord about the importance of the bunkering trade, affecting, as it has done very largely in the past, our whole pre-eminence in the shipping world. But while I find myself in agreement with the noble Lord's observations, I cannot see in what way his observations are related to his particular Amendment. So far as his Amendment is concerned, one would suppose that he was overlooking the importance of the export trade and was not anxious to do anything in regard to export until every possible requirement of the home trade—even fanciful requirements—was satisfied.
What are the words he proposes to put in? He proposes to put in after the words "making supplies of coal available," the words "for internal industrial and domestic consumption and subject thereto for export." I do not like exports being put "subject thereto" unless you are going to examine very carefully what are the domestic needs you are going to satisfy. Quite obviously there is some question of our supplying sufficient coal to our electrical industries over here about which there was some mention in the newspapers just recently. We must quite obviously do that first, but I do not like the idea of export being relegated to what I might call a back seat, and so far from the Amendment being supported by the noble Lord's speech I would most respectfully suggest to him that the speech would have been better made in opposition to the very Amendment he is making. I do not accept this Amendment because I attach such importance to the export trade that I want it to be considered in its proper place and not merely after all the possible requirements of the home trade have been considered. Therefore I think I can claim I have the noble Lord's support for resisting the Amendment which he has moved.
§ 2.45 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
The Lord Chancellor has resisted the words of this Amendment while wholly accepting the spirit of it, as indeed he was bound to do because no one put the case more strongly for the export trade, if I remember aright, than he did on the Second Reading, My own plea was but a poor shadow of his eloquence. I am sure the noble Lord would not wish to put in anything which suggested that the export trade should take second place, and I am sure he would be perfectly happy to withdraw the words "subject thereto for export" and put in "for internal industrial domestic consumption and export." I really do not think—at least I hope not—that there is much between us on this, because I believe we all do wish to help the export trade forward, and the position is terribly serious. I need not waste time arguing again the importance of it. I think there has grown up, I dare say quite erroneously, an impression about this Bill that the export trade is not mentioned because no export council or coal board is set up, and that what the Government are going to concentrate on is coal for domestic and industrial purposes here. I am not saving that, and I would not give currency to that, but if that is not the intention it is enormously important that that should be understood all over the world as well as in this country.
I think there is something in the propaganda point of view. I am not arguing what the words should be. This Bill is being looked at not only in this country but all over the world; looked at by all our customers, and our most important customers, public utility companies and their Governments, the largest industrial users probably. Apart from its volume, probably no export business we do enters so much into the whole life of the community as does coal. That being so, those who are going to be our competitors in coal and still more our competitors in oil—and I know from my own experience when one has been using British coal one is only too anxious to use British coal again—are saying "Why bother about coal? We will never be able to get it. Here are tankers and storages, and the modern boiler is so easily adaptable."
It is for that reason that I think the Government would be wise to put—I am not going to be particular about words 858 —in terms into this Bill, and into the forefront of it in this clause, some words Which show that they really have the export trade at heart, as I am sure they have. It would be out of order to discuss it now, but later on there are some Amendments down on the Paper which deal with setting up a Coal Export Council. Those are put down, not in a hostile way, but entirely in order—I will not say "to stimulate the interest," because I think the interest is there—to make it plain in this country and to the world at large that we are as keen as ever we were in recovering our business. Although the Lord Chancellor cannot accept these words, I think my noble friend will agree that the words were designed rather to please the Government, and I am glad the Government do not like them for that reason. I wish the Government would consider again whether it is not wise to express our common intention by some words in what is the first and principal clause of this Bill.
§ LORD BARNBY
In the consoling remarks of the Lord Chancellor he reemphasized the importance of the export trade, and I am sure the House generally will agree with him. However, he took the line that this Amendment might very probably relegate export trade to second place. I wonder whether the omission to which my noble friend has drawn attention—namely that export is not adequately mentioned in the Bill—could not be remedied by inserting some such words as "for essential internal and external consumption," omitting some of the words which have just been suggested.
I rise to support my noble friend Lord Teynham. I am in full agreement with the remarks which both he and the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, have made upon this matter. What interested me greatly was to note that the Lord Chancellor entirely approved of the argument presented by Lord Teynham, and agreed that export was a very necessary part of our economic equipment. I for one fail to see why we should not have in words in this Bill—the exact form of words does not matter at all, I think—a definite reference to the fact that not only internal consumption but export trade is most essential and important. Viscount Swinton has said—and I 859 feel the same—that one cannot conceive what the feeling will be abroad if this Bill is passed and there is no reference at all in it to the export trade.
Taking it from another point of view, I would go so far as to say that the National Coal Board will regard this Bill as their Bible, and if they are asked why they are not allowing sufficient coal for export they will be able to point to the Bill and say: "There is no mention of export in the clause which defines the Board's functions". There will be no answer to that. They will be perfectly right. For the life of me, I cannot see why the Government should not agree to accept some form of words that will accomplish what is now desired. Perhaps the Lord Chancellor with his great skill and facility of expression will be able to find what my noble friend has asked for—a form of words which will set out the fact that coal is produced in this country for two objects, one internal consumption and the other external consumption, and that the external consumption does play a very large part in our whole national economy. I hope that the Lord Chancellor will see his way to do this.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Amendments referring to the formation of an Export Council are to come later, and I will not anticipate by referring to that matter now. I do not see any point whatever in adding the words "for internal and external consumption" and so forth. The actual words in the Bill are, in my view, wide enough. They are:making supplies of coal available, of such qualities and sizes, in such quantities and at such prices, as may seem to them best calculated to further the public interest.The public interest is obviously vastly concerned with the re-establishment of our export trade, and let me give notice here and now, if anybody doubts it, that I am certain that the Coal Board will regard the re-establishment of that export trade as one of their most important functions, a function that is vitally important to the whole economy of this country. I do not see that it would add anything at all to put in words like "internal and external" and, therefore, at this stage, I do not feel disposed to make any concessions on this Amendment.
I am very pleased to note that the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, is so much in agreement with us on the question of export in general. I do hope that he will, perhaps at a later stage, see his way to have some suitable words included in this clause. Perhaps on the assurance which he has given we can hope to get such wording. Accordingly, I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 2.57 p.m.
VISCOUNT SWINTON moved, in subsection (1) (c), after "interest" to insert:
without giving any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to or in favour of any particular person or company or any particular class of trade, business, manufacture or industry.
§ The noble Viscount said: This is an Amendment to which many of us attach the very utmost importance. It will provide a safeguard for the consumer—industrial, domestic or whoever he may be—which is at present absent from the Bill, the sort of safeguard which Parliament has always insisted upon giving on every occasion from the earliest times when a monopoly of any substantial kind has been created. The Amendment simply means that the Coal Board in their ordinary transactions shall not discriminate in favour of or against any particular type of consumer or give any consumer an unreasonable, undue or unfair privilege. Parliament has always given the public this protection against discrimination by monopoly. It has given protection in two ways. In the first place it has absolutely forbidden discriminating practices and undue preference. In the second place, it has always given the citizen recourse to the courts, sometimes to a special court, if he is discriminated against. In the earliest times, when the railway monopolies were being created, Parliament was insistent that there should not be undue preference in railway rates, and later on, a special tribunal—the Railway and Canal Commission—was set up, to which cases of alleged undue preference in railway rates or railway practices could always be taken, and were, in fact, constantly taken.
§ This was regarded by the industrialists and traders of this country as an essential protection for themselves against a monopoly, and, indeed, it is obvious that such 861 a protection must be given. Why did Parliament give it? Where a monopoly is created the individual or the trader has to deal with that one monopoly. When a railway company was given great territory it became the only carrier for long distances or heavy haulage, and, therefore, Parliament wisely laid down that it should treat everybody alike, and that anybody who believed he was unfairly treated could have recourse to the courts. Coal is just as important. There will be nobody else to whom we can go for coal.
§ In electricity exactly the same practice has been adopted. Under the Electricity Supply Act, I think it was of 1887, Parliament laid down that when electricity companies were given their franchise over areas—and this applies whether the franchise was given to private undertakings, to the ordinary public companies, or to local authorities—they must treat everybody alike. They must give the same treatment to all their consumers. That does not mean, of course, that a lower rate cannot be quoted to a consumer of a very large amount, just as a special railway rate can be quoted to somebody who takes up the whole or bulk of a train. But it does mean that people who have the same amount of claim, who are asking for the same amount of service, shall all be treated alike.
§ Nor, my Lords, is it any answer to allege, as I think was argued in another place, that this was necessary when you were dealing with wicked companies such as railway companies or electricity companies (the argument begins to stumble a little when you come down to local authorities who number half the light and power undertakers of this country), and that when there is a beneficent Coal Board, under the jurisdiction of the Minister, who has only to intervene on very rare occasions, of course, the public need not trouble. I am not so sure about that. After all, Parliament hitherto has found it very necessary to put in this safeguard in the case of local authorities, who do not work for the wicked profit motive. It may interest your Lordships to know that, so far as I have been able to make researches, under the Electricity Act, which prohibited undue preference being given by an electricity company, I find that five actions have been brought by members of the public against the 862 electricity undertakers. One of those actions was against an ordinary public company, and that action failed; the company justified their case to the Court. The remaining four actions, all of which I think are reported in the Law Reports, were not against wicked companies but against local authorities. And in three of those cases, the Court held that the local authorities were giving undue preference, and ordered the practice to stop, and gave the subject his redress. That, I think, is a tolerably good answer.
§ But this practice of discrimination was carried by local authorities a good deal further, until it was stopped by Parliament. Quite rightly, the local authorities built houses which they let to their tenants; but finding that they were the owners of gas undertakings in the locality, and that other people owned the electricity concerns, the local authorities attempted to force their tenants to use gas instead of electricity. In fact they said, "You shall have a reduction in your rent if you use gas," or they put a clause into the tenancy agreement saying, "You shall use gas," or "You shall not use electricity." This was obviously a most gross interference with the liberty of the subjects, and in private Act after private Act is was found that this practice was growing up, and again and again Private Bill committees which were sitting inserted into local authority Bills, as they came forward, a provision that local authorities were not to engage in this discriminatory practice. Some of your Lordships who sat on Private Bill committees will remember that. In spite of that, those who had not been caught still carried on this practice. Parliament said that it must stop, and the result was that a general Act of Parliament was passed in 1934, the Gas Undertakings Act, which laid down that local authorities were not to put in these discriminatory provisions, and were not to practise this discrimination in dealing with their tenants.
§ I think I have said enough to show that not only is the whole Parliamentary precedent and experience behind this safeguard of the public, but that it has been found, not in theory but in practice, just as necessary—in fact, more necessary—to insert it in the case of local authorities, that is, municipally owned undertakings—as in the case of companies.
§ The only other argument which I have to meet was advanced, I think, by one of 863 the noble Lords who spoke in the last debate. I raised this matter on the Second Reading, because I thought it was so important, and I wanted to give the Government full notice that I should return to it on the Committee stage. It was said—I think by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House—that it would be difficult to deal with this because coal varies so much in quality, in size, and in length of haul. But so do railway rates vary. The noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, should agree with me, because he made a considerable part of his income at the Bar by arguing these railway cases. He will be familiar with the schedules of railway rates, which go into whole volumes and which include different rates for size, for different kinds of traffic, and for the speeds with which the traffic is carried. There are a hundred and one, a thousand and one, differentiations for railway rates. It has been found not only necessary but quite practicable to have these provisions with regard to all these varying railway rates, and it will be perfectly simple to prohibit and to enforce the prohibition of, any undue preference in the case of coal. I do beg the House, I do beg your Lordships, to give to the consumer this elementary right. He has no other remedy.
§ The final argument was that it might be necessary for the Coal Board to give priorities; that there might not be enough coal to go round, and that therefore they must be able to give coal to "A" rather than to "B". That is a pretty gloomy picture of the effects of this Bill—that there is not going to be enough coal to go round. I do sincerely trust that there is going to be enough coal to go round, and enough coal to export; but even assuming that that gloomy forecast is somewhere near the truth, the position is covered by my Amendment, which says that there shall not be undue or unreasonable preference. I would be perfectly prepared to accept an Amendment, if the Government think it desirable, assuming that my Amendment is carried or accepted, by which the Board should have a right, if there is a coal shortage, to give priorities in the delivery of coal where it is most necessary that they should be given in the national interest. It would be perfectly possible—I will not say reasonable, because I hope it will be unnecessary. I think we shall all be prepared to accept grafting exceptions of this kind on this 864 proviso, but it does not preclude us from the plain duty of giving to the consumer this common protection against undue preference or unfair discrimination which has been given in every monopoly with which Parliament has had to deal.
Page 1, line 17, at end insert ("without giving any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to or in favour of any particular person or company or any particular class of trade, business, manufacture or industry.")—(Viscount Swinton.)
§ 3.9 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MAUGHAM
May I say a few words in support of this Amendment. My noble friend Viscount Swinton has amply covered the ground and I confess that I have some curiosity to know what the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, is going to say in support of a refusal to accept it—if he does refuse to accept it. It is exactly 101 years ago since the Railway Clauses Consolidation Act was passed in 1845. The provision which was inserted in that Act for the benefit of the traders of the country has been adopted in seven subsequent Acts of Parliament. In fact, I do not think that anybody, until the advent to power of this Government, has ever thought that it could be right to give to a monopolistic body designed for the production of something absolutely necessary, both for industrial and domestic purposes, the right to discriminate as between the people to whom the goods produced are to be sold. The argument against that is so obvious—and in so far as it has not been obvious it has already been stated by my noble friend—that I do not want to take up the time of the House in arguing it.
I would only observe that we are threatened in these enlightened days with a number of other cases in which there is going to be a similar provision with regard to other means of production. If that prognostication turns out to be right, a long period lies before us in which some of the manufactures of this country are going to be carried on by bodies under the direct control of the Government, and some are going to be, in a sense, private undertakings. It cannot be just or fair that the Board which is established under the present Act should be able to say "We will give coal to bodies which have been nationalized"—under this system with which we are threatened and under which they will be creatures of the 865 Government and have to obey the orders of some Minister or other—that the Board should be able to give priorities to those concerns, and to leave out those carried on as private concerns, in the sense that they are not under the Government, with the natural result of giving those nationalized bodies an advantage which may be so great that it would absolutely destroy the power of some other companies to carry on business at all. It has never been the idea in this country that anything of that sort should be allowed.
The provisions against undue preference have been copied, as I have already said, in seven different Acts of Parliament, and the Acts which have embodied such a provision are not in any way confined to railways and canals. It has to be observed that the Electric Lighting Acts have followed the same example. There the case is much stronger than in this instance. There was no monopoly given to any electric lighting undertakers, and anybody in this country can start an electricity concern. Nevertheless, the bodies that could be formed under the Electric Lighting Act, 1882, which are referred to in Sections 19 and 20, in reference to this matter of undue preference, were prevented from giving the undue preference which apparently the Government desire to give to the Coal Board which is going to be formed under this present Bill.
I strongly urge the Government to think again on this point. I feel very strongly that the public as a whole will be shocked by the notion that the Coal Board will be entitled to discriminate between one body and another. I accept what my noble friend Viscount Swinton has said, that it may be necessary to add some words to his Amendment to prevent the possibility of the Coal Board being put in a difficulty by too sweeping a phrase. Bearing that in mind, I strongly support the present Amendment, and I hope that your Lordships will, if necessary, carry it to a Division.
I should like to add my support to this Amendment. It really is very strange to find an omission in the Bill of anything to prevent discrimination. It is most extraordinary. In the past, as a number of noble Lords have mentioned already, Parliament has always inserted in such Bills a protective clause. In the Coal Mines Act, 866 1930, which was introduced by a Socialist Government, there was a clause with that purpose and there are similar clauses in many other monopoly Bills. The Minister may argue that this Amendment would prevent the National Coal Board from having the same freedom as private enterprise. My answer to that is that the coal industry is now not a monopoly, and buyers can change their suppliers and go elsewhere as they please. But under the Coal Board they will not be able to do that. Under this Bill, of course, there will only be one producer, and quite obviously that monopoly will have the power to discriminate between one consumer and another as to quantity or quality, or difference of delivery or price. We have heard about the railway companies who have to charge the same price to all customers in the same circumstances. I maintain that the same thing should apply in the case of the Coal Board. The purpose of the Amendment is quite clear. It is to insert in the Bill a safeguard against abuse of monopoly power which Parliamentary practice has shown to be advisable in the case of all monopolies, whether public or private. I strongly support this Amendment.
§ LORD WOLVERTON
I should like very strongly to support this Amendment. I well remember serving before the war on a Committee which had to consider a Bill promoted by a certain local authority in the London area which was developing a housing estate. It was also the electricity authority, and the condemning authority which had power to condemn slum property. This authority condemned certain property and the people occupying that property had to go to the new housing estate. It was proposed that this housing estate should be an all-electric estate. Some of the tenants protested against this. They wanted gas. The reply they received was, "Oh, no, you cannot have gas; this is an all-electric estate." There was no freedom of choice at all for the consumer in that case. The case for and against the Bill was argued before committees of both Houses. It took a very long time—I think about seven days in your Lordships' House—and in our Committee, the members of which were drawn from all quarters, we came to the unanimous decision that the tenants should have freedom of choice. I therefore should like very much to support 867 this Amendment. I think it is an extremely important one.
§ 3.19 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
This is a case without precedent. We are setting up for the first time in this country a great public board which is going to deal with a commodity, the prices of which in the past have fluctuated and possibly in the future will fluctuate from day to day and from week to week. It is going to be a public Board. There are going to be certain measures of control which are available to those who deal with a public Board, which, of course, would never be available to those who deal with a private corporation. For instance, in the first place, there is the Consumers' Council, to whom complaints can be brought. In the second place, there is the whole Parliamentary machine and those of us who are in charge of a Department know how pliable that can be, and there is also the Minister. I say at once, in order that there may be no misapprehension, that this Board has got to act in the way best calculated to further the public interest. If there is a case of undue preference being given to one man over another, or one company over another, it is obviously not in the public interest to allow that to go on. If your Lordships would prefer to have some words inserted in the Bill to indicate that that is not in accordance with the public interest I would find myself very ready to consider what I can do between now and the Report stage. That certainly is the position we desire to adopt.
Having said that, may I just point out how to my mind the analogies break down altogether. We have been referred to railways and we have been referred to electricity. I have had something to do with both of them, and they have this in common: although rates are fixed differentiating one thing from another, once a rate is fixed that rate stands and survives; it is not a shifting thing; it is not a thing which is one rate on Monday and another rate on Tuesday. Electricity rates survive for a very long time and so do railway rates, although of course they are most infinite in their varieties. But if the price of electricity constantly fluctuated as the result of market transactions the question whether there was or was not a discrimination would be almost impossible to determine.
868 Many of your Lordships know very much about this industry of coal and I know very little, as I am afraid will become painfully obvious in the course of this discussion, but I feel sure I will be corroborated when I say that the practice of the coal industry before the war was to differentiate according to the use to which the purchaser was going to put his coal. There was and there has been for years one rate for domestic consumers, another rate for railways, another rate if the coal was to be used by the steel industry or according to whether it was to be sent by rail, by road or by ship, coastwise or shipped for export. All those matters have in the past been the practice of the coal industry. I am not saying it is desirable that those practices should go on; that is obviously a matter which the Coal Board themselves ought to determine as a matter of high policy and not as a result of a more or less casual decision by putting words into this clause which sets out their function.
Having regard to the fact that you are dealing here with a commodity which has in the past been subject to a market with fluctuating prices, where a man may buy on a Tuesday the same coal at a higher price or a lower price than he could have bought that coal on a Monday, I do not know whether the Board will be able to introduce stability into internal prices; I should assume that is one of the things they would try to do. They certainly cannot introduce stability, as I see it, into export prices, because, as was rightly pointed out in the discussion on the last Amendment, you can only get for export what your purchaser is willing to pay. Therefore, you are dealing with a fluctuating commodity. Having had some considerable experience of these undue preference cases in the past where you are dealing with a scale which is fixed, I do not believe this machinery would work.
Let me give a case. You might find two people A and B carrying on exactly the same business and buying exactly the same class of coal, buying it in the same quantities—because obviously the size of purchase is one matter that counts—and buying it on the same day. You might find A constantly paying more than B. If so, there is obviously some dirty work somewhere; it may be that the coal officer who is fixing the price is going out with the daughter of the one who gets the favoured price, or there is some corruption. Such 869 a case could come before the Consumers' Council and it could be referred by it to the Minister; or the person suffering in this way could go to a Member of Parliament and the Member of Parliament would bring it to the notice of the Minister. It must be remembered that this is a public body with the whole machinery of Parliamentary control behind it which is not available to a private body. That, in our submission, makes all the difference.
What I have to say to your Lordships is this. I entirely agree that undue or unreasonable preference or advantage is wrong. I attach emphasis to those words, as does the noble Viscount who moved the Amendment; he would also agree that the emphasis is on the words "undue or unreasonable." I believe it to be quite impracticable in regard to a commodity such as this with a fluctuating market price to apply the machinery which has been applied for many years with regard to railway rates and electricity rates. Those rates once fixed stand for a long and indefinite time and can be checked to some extent. I am quite willing to make it plain by appropriate words between now and the Report stage, some such words (I am not attempting to draft them) as "make supplies of coal available of such qualities, sizes and in such quantities and at such prices without making undue or unreasonable preference or advantage as may seem to be best calculated," and so on. But I do not think it is possible to apply to a case of this sort the kind of machinery which is applied to railways and electricity. I think the noble Viscount was wrong in saying that the unfortunate consumer has no other remedy. As I have pointed out, this being a public body he has the remedy of taking his case to the Council, and he has also the Parliamentary protection which our democracy fortunately gives, and which is one of those useful functions of that most useful hour every day in another place, question-time. Therefore, I regret that I cannot accept this Amendment, though I will draft something between now and the Report stage on the lines I have indicated. I am with him entirely in saying that undue, unfair discrimination is wrong, but I cannot accept the suggestion which has been made that there should be the same sort of machinery as for these private monopolies.
§ VISCOUNT MAUGHAM
May I ask a question before the Lord Chancellor finishes his remarks? Are we to understand that in his view it would be quite improper for the Coal Board to give a preference to nationalized industry as against private companies carrying on the same business?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I would not say that on the spur of the moment. I think the Coal Board would be quite wrong if they did, to put it crudely, anything which was dishonest. However, if, as a matter of high policy—I do not myself think it should be done—after looking at all the circumstances, they came to the conclusion that, for instance, steel was more important than greyhound racing, and consequently decided to supply nationalized steel works at a lower price, I am not prepared to say that that would necessarily be wrong. It is certainly something which would need to be justified, and which might well be the subject of complaints to the Consumers' Council and to the Minister.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I am not at all sure that the Lord Chancellor is not accepting this Amendment. As I understood him, he was prepared to take my words, which are, "undue or unreasonable preference." I deliberately selected those words because, quite obviously, every single individual is not going to be charged the same price for a ton of coal. As I understand it, the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, is prepared to take those words as they stand and, indeed to put them where I have put them, at the end of line 17, which would make them into a direction to the Board that that was the way in which they were to do their job—without doing any dirty work. What he objects to is the next Amendment (which I have not yet mentioned, but to which I agree I spoke), which would give a right of action before the Railway and Canal Commission or some other Court to a person who was aggrieved. That is much more open to discussion. But I should have thought he could, here and now, have accepted this Amendment. There is no point in waiting for the Report stage. Even if the words are not those best calculated to suit this purpose, surely it is much better to get them into the Bill now, and on the Report stage, if the Lord Chancellor thinks he can 871 amend them, to do so then. As I understand it, he is prepared to take those words as they are upon the Paper, and put them in where they do go—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I thought I had made it plain that I was not prepared to accept any particular words now. I was suggesting that I might accept some words to come after the word "prices," but not at the end of the clause.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Line 15. Although I naturally want to consult the Parliamentary draftsmen about the precise words, I am suggesting that the words I might accept are the words of the noble Viscount's Amendment down to the word "advantage." I should not be prepared to accept the other words, if only for the reason (as I have already told the noble Viscount, and as no one knows better than he does) that the coal trade has in the past been in the habit of granting preferences to particular kinds of trades. I do not say it is right, but I am not going here and now to say that that should not be done. It is obviously a matter which the Board should consider, and, if they think it right to do so, then, subject to Ministerial and Parliamentary control, they can do so. That is my proposition. I am not prepared to accept anything here and now, but between now and the Report stage I will consider the matter in order that we may have a statement of duty, making it quite plain that unfair or undue discrimination is not to be allowed. I hope I have made it plain now.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
I am sure noble Lords are grateful to the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, but there is one point about which I would like to ask him. While they quite appreciate what he says about the fluctuating character, of the coal market before the war, what I think my noble friends want to protect the consumer against is the same class of coal being sold on the same day at two different prices to the same trade, owing to, let us say, political reasons and in order to help one consumer as against another. If that were done for, as the Lord Chancellor 872 says, motives of high policy, would a man who had suffered thereby have any redress, first in the Consumers' Council and finally in the Courts? Could he obtain a ruling as to whether the Coal Board were or were not interpreting the Act properly, supposing the words the Lord Chancellor has suggested were inserted in the Bill?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Certainly he would have a right to go to the Consumers' Council, and certainly he would have the right (which every one of the lieges has) of getting pressure put on in Parliament. My noble friend will, however, remember that he must say "buying the same class of coal in the same quantities on the same day and for the same purposes," because there have, in the past, been all sorts of discriminations as between different purposes.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
If the consumer could prove that that had been done, then he obviously would have a case to put before the Consumers' Council, who would make representations to the Minister.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I appreciate that the Lord Chancellor has, contingently, gone some little way—not very far—to meet me, but I really do not think I can accept the very limited offer that he has made. He says that this is a case without precedent, and that all the cases I cited are really not relevant. Of course, every case is not exactly the same; otherwise there would be no differentiation between any of God's creatures. But at any rate it is established that up till now there never has been a case where a monopoly has been created and where the subject has not been protected against abuse of that monopoly, and where Parliament has not insisted that there shall not be undue preference. However, if, as he says, it is without precedent, then we are now setting a precedent, and therefore we ought to set a right one. I have no doubt at all that the precedent we ought to lay down (and I submit to your Lordships that we ought to lay it down here and now, because there will be other stages of this Bill at which these particular points can be considered again) 873 is that, in the interests of every consumer of coal in this country, there shall be no undue or unreasonable preference or advantage given by this Board.
I am quite well aware that it has been the practice of the coal trade to charge different prices to different kinds of consumers. It may be that the procedure could be simplified, but, on the whole, I think the practice is probably right. I think it is right to sell coal at one price to, for example, the steel industry (which is itself the raw material of the whole engineering trade), and to the greyhound racing tracks at another price. If we put in these words now, they can be reviewed on the Report stage, but, with great respect to him, I think the point is met by the words, "undue or unreasonable preference." The Lord Chancellor says it is not, and I should be glad to consider it, but I will insist, if your Lordships will support me, on having any variation of this great principle moved as an amendment to a principle which we have laid down in this Bill. I think my words cover the point, but if they do not, then let them be amended on Report, but make it plain that you can give a different price for the steel trade or to the railways from what is given to another trade. This surely is true: that whereas that has been the practice, yet the same price has been charged to different steel works for the same quality of coal under the same conditions, although broad and large the steel trade had a different price. I am not going to impute allegations about this, but we are legislating for all time, and it is not what I say or the Lord Chancellor says that matters, but what goes into this Bill, which is going to become an Act of Parliament. I will challenge the Lord Chancellor to say that if my words, or words like them, do not go in there would be anything at all to stop the Coal Board from selling at one price to a steel undertaking owned by the Government, and at a different price to a steel undertaking owned by the general public. I know he says that the Coal Board will not do that kind of thing, but let us put it perfectly plainly into the Act of Parliament, because that is what Act of Parliament are for: to lay down the principles on which an undertaking is to work. Let us lay down that there is to be fair and equal treatment by the Board for all its customers.
874 Of course, I appreciate there is the Consumers' Council, but I am not to anticipate the discussions we shall have to have on that. There is only one Council for domestic consumers and one for industrial consumers. Is every dispute and every allegation of undue preference—if it is not forbidden—to wait and be brought up before this one Consumers' Council, or has it to be brought before Members of Parliament? It ought not to have to come to Members of Parliament. Nothing is worse than a situation in which people have to go running round to Members of Parliament with every kind of complaint. Nothing, indeed, is going to embarrass Ministers more. I know that one of their complaints—and I have been a Minister for a great number of years, and I sympathize with them—is that the whole of their correspondence is going to increase. I know Ministers have been complaining that they get literally thousands and thousands of letters of complaint every week. We had a beautiful statistical table got out by the new Statistical Branch of the Cabinet, showing how long the different Ministers took to answer a letter. It varied, I think, from the Minister of Food—who justly got promotion because he came out top of the class—who answered a letter in three weeks, to a Minister I will not specify who took over three months. If everybody who has got a complaint about coal has to come round to a member of your Lordships' House or a member of another place, it certainly is not going to make for rapid and efficient administration, nor is it a proper way of doing business, and we ought not to be asked to do business in that manner.
The only way of making sure that undue preferences are not given is to state roundly and squarely in the Bill that undue preferences are not going to be given, and that the Board will be acting under the Act of Parliament. I must ask your Lordships to support me in this Amendment as it stands.
THE EARL OF PERTH
My original intention was to support the Amendment which has been moved because in my view it afforded a safeguard against an undue encroachment by the State on what I may call the inherent right of the individual. That is a good Liberal principle which I fully support. But I do feel, having 875 received the Lord Chancellor's assurance, that I no longer wish to support the Amendment. He has given an assurance that "undue or unreasonable preference or advantage" will be inserted in the Bill, and I do not think that we can ask for any more. The whole difference seems to
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
VISCOUNT SWINTON had given notice to move at the end of subsection (1), to insert:
Provided that any question or difference between the National Coal Board and any consumer arising under paragraph (c) of this subsection shall be determined by the Railway and Canal Commission.
§ The noble Viscount Said: I think the fairest course would be to withdraw this Amendment at this stage, without prejudice to the possibility of putting it down again on the Report Stage. I feel that the House would be better able to consider it after we have discussed Amendments relating to Consumers' Councils. Some of us would also like the opportunity of considering what the Lord Chancellor said about the difficulty the courts would have in construing this. I am not sure 876 be a question of machinery in this case, and therefore I will not support the Amendment.
§ On Question, Whether the proposed words shall be there inserted?
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 54; Not-Contents, 28.875
|Beauchamp, E.||Margesson, V.||Courthope, L.|
|Carlisle, E.||Stonehaven, V.||De L'Isle and Dudley, L.|
|Craven, E.||Swinton, V.||Denham, L. [Teller.]|
|De La Warr, E.||Trenchard, V.||Dorchester, L.|
|Fortescue, E. [Teller.]||Greville, L.|
|Iddesleigh, E.||Altrincham, L.||Harlech, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Amherst of Hackney, L.||Hatherton, L.|
|Munster, E.||Ampthill, L.||Hawke, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Hindlip, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Kenilworth, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Belstead, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Devonport, V.||Broughshane, L.||Monkswell, L.|
|Elibank, V.||Cecil, L. (V. Cranborne.)||O'Hagan, L.|
|Falmouth, V.||Charnwood, L.||Remnant, L.|
|FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Cherwell, L.||Rushcliffe, L.|
|Halisham, V.||Chesham, L.||Soulbury, L.|
|Lambert, V.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Teynham, L.|
|Long, V.||Wolverton, L.|
|Jowitt, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Mersey, V.||Marley, L.|
|St. Davids, V.||Morrison, L.|
|Reading, M.||Wimborne, V.||Nathan, L.|
|Pakenham, L. [Teller.]|
|Drogheda, E.||Ammon, L.||Piercy, L.|
|Perth, E.||Calverley, L.||Quibell, L.|
|Strafford, E.||Chorley, L.||Rochdale, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Addison, V.||Darwen, L.||Westwood, L.|
|Cecil of Chelwood, V.||Faringdon, L.||Winster, L.|
|Esher, V.||Henderson, L.[Teller.]|
§ that I accept that, but as a general principle, no doubt the courts would have to exercise great diligence in dealing with these matters. In any case, however, I am convinced that we should be in a position to consider this more fairly after we have dealt with the matter of the Consumers' Councils. Therefore, with your Lordships' permission, I will not move the Amendment but reserve to myself liberty to restore it if I think that is desirable.
§ 3.57 p.m.
LORD MARLEY moved, in subsection (2) (f), to leave out "and research," and insert:
(g) participating in the conduct of any organisation set up in consultation with or by the Minister for the purpose of promoting and co-ordinating scientific research and development related to the working and getting of coal, the treatment of coal, the manufacture of products and derivatives of coal, the efficient utilisation of coal and coal products, and
the safety and health of persons employed in or about coalmines or in connection with any colliery activities; and the Board may contribute to the expenses of such organisation in any year a sum not exceeding the produce of a levy of sixpence per ton of coal raised during the year or such greater sum as may be specifically approved by the Minister.
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment deals with the encouragement of increased expenditure on research in the coal-mining industry, and it is not inappropriate that at the present moment the Royal Society Empire Scientific Committee is meeting in London and has been dealing with the need for increased research in various industries. An Amendment in substantially the same form was put down in another place, but was not called. It represents the considered opinion of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, of which many of your Lordships are members, and its object is to give the Government an opportunity of making a clear, consolidated statement as to the sort of directions that are going to be given to the Board in connexion with the development of research in the coal mining industry. At the present moment the words "and research" come in, and there is not a great deal more in the Bill dealing with that aspect of it. Yet, we know that research is required in connexion with safety in mines. There are many unnecessary deaths every year, and accidents are of frequent occurrence. In the last year for which statistics are available—that is 1944—there were 175,000 accidents in the coal-mining industry, and, of course, there are diseases which research could modify and eliminate, and so add to the exiguous man-power which is at present available in the industry.
§ Again, the methods of getting coal might appropriately be subjected to considerably more research. The Reid Committee indicated that in the ten years from 1925 or 1926 up to 1936 there had been an increase in the output per man shift in Holland of 118 per cent. Research is very highly developed in Holland. In the Ruhr, in the same period, there has been an increase of 81 per cent. in output per man-shift. In Britain, with an absence of adequate research, the increase in the same period was only 14 per cent. We have recently sent a technical mission to the Ruhr, which reported about a week ago. The mission expressed enthusiasm about the research departments in the German 878 coal-mining industry, and indicated that German technique was well ahead of the technique in Britain.
Then, of course, there is room for research in coal utilization. No aspect of this problem has received greater attention from the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee than this question of more efficient coal utilization. There was a lecture given to the Institute of Fuel two months ago by Mr. Oliver Lyle, in which he suggested that there was very great waste in our use of coal. He pointed out that in 1944 the gas and coke industry used 41,000,000 tons, and had an over-all efficiency of only 38 per cent. He stated that the industrial heating industry used 33,000,000 tons, with an over-all efficiency of only 23 per cent. The domestic and non-industrial consumer used 43,000,000 tons with an over-all efficiency in use of only 17 per cent. Above all, he pointed out that 59,000,000 tons were used in power, with an overall efficiency of only 2.2 per cent. Mr. Lyle pointed out that we could save (to use his own words) "readily something like 80,000,000 tons of coal a year, if full opportunity for research in coal utilization were given". We know that there has been some neglect of research in the past. I noticed that in his Presidential address to the annual meeting of the National Association of Colliery Managers last week, Mr. A. M. Bryan used these words:
It is abundantly clear that until comparatively recently, the fundamental importance of scientific and industrial research was not fully appreciated, with the result that our major industries have in many cases failed to keep pace with those in other countries".
§ I know that a great deal has been done, but with such limited facilities we have not been able to get good value. The Fuel Research Station of D.S.I.R. is doing admirable work, but with inadequate facilities. I was down there a few weeks ago. It is most impressive to see what they are doing, under the able leadership of Dr. Parker, but he has stated quite clearly that there is room for much more fundamental research, and that research of that character should be greatly intensified. Then, of course, we have had B.C.U.R.A., which has also spent considerable amounts and which has planned to spend£2,00,000 a year in future years. Of this sum,£50,000 comes from D.S.I.R. and£100,000 from a levy on coal. B.C.O.R.A. also has done some research 879 work. The initials B.C.U.R.A. and B.C.O.R.A. are very numerous, but fairly simple to follow. They are coal users and colliery owners, and so on. But we can avoid initials in the Gas Research Board, which spent£32,000 on research last year. And in the Gas Industries' Report, issued as a Command Paper last December, the Committee indicated that in their opinion not less than£200,000 a year should be spent by the Gas Research Board. I may say, incidentally, that the Foot Plan for the coal industry also indicated the vital need for research.
§ Finally, let me say that research does mean more scientists. You cannot get research merely by spending money. That is why this is a permissive suggestion. It means that we have got to plan ahead for scientific manpower, and in this connexion we have the Report of the Committee on Scientific Manpower which was issued last May as a White Paper, Cmd. 6824. In that Report they made it clear that we must have better conditions for scientists. That means better salaries, better prospects and better training for future scientists—again all costing money. Incidentally, I personally hope that in selecting scientists for research work, D.S.I.R. will not interfere too much with the selection of the students. This selection must come from the heads of the laboratories, who know the capacity of the students, and who will be able to indicate which are best suited to this work. Accordingly, this Amendment, merely a permissive Amendment, makes possible the expenditure of considerably more money. I hope very much that in principle the reply of the Government Bench will consolidate the various statements in favour of research which have been made in Committee proceedings in another place, and will make it perfectly clear that the Government do intend that directions shall be given to the new Board to give their fullest possible attention to the development and increase of research in the coal mining industry. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 25, leave out "and research" and insert the said new paragraph.—[Lord Marley.]
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ LORD BARNBY
I readily take the opportunity of supporting the noble Lord who has just moved this Amendment. He is an energetic member of the Parliamentary 880 and Scientific Committee, and we appreciate his active co-operation. In this particular matter he has called the attention of the House to what appears to be quite insufficient wording in the Bill. The matter was discussed at considerable length in another place, and the satisfaction attained was certainly not sufficient to allay the anxieties experienced at the moment by those who habitually follow these matters of research. I am sure that there will be widespread appreciation of the noble Lord's action in putting down an Amendment at this stage. In moving his Amendment the noble Lord, I think, covered the ground sufficiently widely to satisfy your Lordships that this is a matter which merits appeal to the Government to write into the Bill something more definite than there is at the present moment. As a matter of fact, research is, I believe, mentioned only once in Clause 1, which clause alone defines the functions of the National Coal Board.
I do not speak with any knowledge of the coal trade, nor do I support this Amendment from the angle of coal in particular. For that reason I ask the indulgence of the House in going a little wider than that, because I feel that, as this is the first item of the major nationalization programme which the Government are putting before Parliament, the opportunity should not be allowed to pass of making sure that there is an obligation written into the Bill to provide adequately for research. It is not necessary to stress to your Lordships at the moment the recognition of the need for research. It is with a view more particularly to ensure adequacy of resources to carry on research that I support the contention which the noble Lord has put down in this Amendment. If I may be forgiven for saying so, I have had recent experience that research is a dry subject and perhaps does not interest Parliament much. I would emphasize resources as the strong point, because without the resources no research work on an adequate scale can be done. Last year I had occasion to appeal to the Government in a private Bill to accord powers for industries to provide resources. The Government rejected my appeal, but I had at least some consolation shortly afterwards when the Government revised their decision, although resisting it in this House, and put it into a Bill which received the sanction of Parliament. It 881 is for that reason that I hope, whatever may be the intention of the Government spokesman on this Amendment, that my noble friend will not be deterred, should he fail to achieve acceptance now, from pressing it at another stage.
In supporting the Amendment, I must ask the indulgence of the House if I give two quotations. In the first place, I should like to quote what the Minister of Fuel and Power said in another place in reply to the movers of two Amendments of a similar character to that which your Lordships are now discussing, which were moved but were resisted by the Government. The Minister of Fuel and Power said that it must be left to the Board and to the Ministry, subject to public opinion on those matters, and to the opinion of those concerned with the industry which must keep the Board and the Ministry up to scratch in this vital matter of research.
The Minister, in his reply, categorized at some length the different kinds of research which might be considered applicable to coal. I specifically have said to your Lordships that I do not associate myself with this Amendment particularly in regard to coal, except so far as the principle upon which I make an appeal to the Government is concerned. But the Minister, as I have made clear, did not define what was, under this Bill, to be the scope in the different classes of research for the National Coal Board and the Ministry. Indeed what the Minister said only added to the anxiety caused by the confusion.
In support of this Amendment, may I, with the indulgence of the House, give your Lordships a further quotation, because it is important in the consideration of this whole question of research. In a recent report by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee it was stated that:The present efficiency of coal utilization is 30 per cent. If this can be improved at the rate of one per cent. per annum, it will reach a level of 45 per cent. in fifteen years. In the first year we shall save one-thirtieth of our expenditure—say£10,000,000, In the second year this will be nearly doubled, until at the fifteenth year we shall be saving at the rate of£100,000,000 a year.Now that is just to bring to your imagination for a moment how grave are the issues which must depend upon research. It is because of the anxiety which followed the suggestion of the Minister of Fuel and Power in another place that the sum of 6d. a ton as a levy, which 882 had been suggested, would be a burden on the industry, and which he insinuated would be too great for the purpose for which it was to be used, that I support the Amendment. I am convinced that the importance of research in all matters is so great—in coal, without knowing the trade, I am convinced it must be great—that I hope that the Lord Chancellor will take the opportunity of having this written into this Bill, as a lead in any intended future nationalizations of industries, and accept the Amendment of my noble friend.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF CIVIL AVIATION (LORD WINSTER)
I am sure your Lordships will agree that in moving this Amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Marley, has called attention to a most important factor in the mining industry. The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee to which my noble friend referred has certainly done most useful work over a long period of years in calling attention to matters connected with research in the mining industry, and more especially, I have always felt, in calling attention to the necessity for securing a greater intake of scientists and research workers, and in proposing various means and methods whereby that could be done.
My noble friend has given us some most interesting facts and figures. I find myself very much in sympathy with what he has said and with what the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, has said. In fact my noble friend may recall that in my speech on the Second Reading of this Bill I particularly called attention to the harm which had been done to the mining industry in the past by the failure to devote proper attention or proper sums of money to research. Because I feel so much sympathy with what he has said, I regret all the more that I cannot accept my noble friend's Amendment which is in any case, if he will allow me to say so, somewhat inappropriate in its form and meaning; but I am happy to say that I can give him the assurance of the Government's intentions in this matter for which he asks. My right honourable friend the Minister of Fuel and Power has made his position in the matter quite clear. He is in full agreement with the necessity for research, and for spending large sums of money on research, and has gone on 883 record as saying that without research it is very doubtful whether the industry can pay its way and prosper, or whether it can promote the right kind of reorganization. Certainly it is the view of the Government that research is required not merely for the purpose of reviving and reorganizing the mining industry, but because the Government have in contemplation the co-ordination of all forms of fuel and power. Nationalization of the coal industry must be considered in relation to the gas and electricity industries and to the promotion of full-scale carbonization.
It is on that account that the Government is determined that research must be pressed on, and that adequate sums of money must be spent on it. The noble Lord, Lord Barnby, will no doubt have noticed the appointment of Sir Charles Ellis to sit on the Coal Board, which in itself is I think good evidence of the Government's intentions in this matter. There will be a Research Department entrusted with the task of gathering up all possible means of research and existing research schemes, and this Department will seek to promote research upon an increasing scale. It is not possible to add very much to what my right honourable friend has said, because there are still some uncertainties as to what will be dealt with directly by the Minister, what will be dealt with by the Fuel Research Board and also what will fall more properly within the purview of the Coal Board. But I can say, in conclusion, that the Government recognize that research, especially as to methods of production and treatment of coal, has been much neglected in the past, and certainly my right honourable friend the Minister of Fuel and Power anticipates a much greater expenditure by the Board on research of all kinds than the relatively small and insufficient sums which have been spent heretofore. In view of those assurances perhaps my noble friend will be able to withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD BARNBY
The noble Lord's remarks might certainly be reassuring, but on the question of adequate amounts which he stressed I must remind him of the words of the Minister of Fuel and Power in another place when he resisted the Amendment. He said: "It is quite impossible for me to accept the proposition, 884 which in effect means that we must ask the Board to expend£3,000,000 annually. It simply cannot be done. I leave that to the judgment of my noble friend the mover of the Amendment, but on the second matter to which my noble friend Lord Winster drew attention, the appointment of Sir Charles Ellis, I would point out that Mr. Shinwell said: "If I did say he would be responsible for a technical research, I must withdraw, because I did not mean that." I personally feel, apart from those points, that the assurances the noble Lord has just given us must show the intentions of the Minister on this matter.
§ LORD MARLEY
I think perhaps I might reply to the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, by reminding him that the Minister's statement in another place was not in connexion with this Amendment but an amendment moved by Colonel Lancaster by which the Board was to be compelled to spend£3,000,000. This is a permissive amendment and, as I pointed out in my remarks, you cannot get results merely by spending money. What is wanted is to have the money available so that it will not be the lack of money or, as the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, said, the lack of resources, which will prevent research being developed to the maximum possible extent at any given moment. So the reply of the Minister was in connexion with a compulsory expenditure of£3,000,000 and not a permissive expenditure as suggested in this Amendment. However, I feel the reply given from the Government Bench is satisfactory. It has drawn attention to the fact that the Ministry are aware of the importance of research, as of course we knew they were, and the noble Lord has consolidated in that statement the scattered statements which have been made in another place by other members of the Government. In these circumstances, I feel with the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, that the reply is very satisfactory and I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH moved, in subsection (4), to leave out paragraph (a), and insert
(a) The safety, health and welfare of persons in their employment.
§ The noble Earl said: This is purely a drafting Amendment. In its present form the clause instructs the Board to direct 885 their policy towards securing the advancement of the safety and the promotion of the health and welfare of their employees. I was unable to distinguish between the two words "advancement" and "promotion"; they appear to me, and to those from whom I sought advice, to mean exactly the same thing. In point of fact, I suggest that both of them are unnecessary. Safety, health and welfare are objects that may very properly be secured if it is possible to do so, and in the form in which I am venturing to ask your Lordships to redraft the clause, we are instructing the Board quite simply to secure these objects.
Page 2, line 40, leave out paragraph (a) and insert—
("(a) The safety, health and welfare of persons in their employment.")—(The Earl of Iddesleigh.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am sure all your Lordships ought to be encouraged in the art of drafting. The noble Earl has definitely contributed an improvement to this Bill. The words which he has set out are shorter, and I think they come to exactly the same thing. Therefore, I have pleasure in accepting his Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD moved, in subsection (4), after paragraph (a), to insert "the recognition of the right of those employed in any mine to be consulted as to its working". The noble Viscount said: My Amendment proposes to add really as a second subsection of subsection (4) these words: "The recognition of the right of those employed in any mine to be consulted as to its working." If those words were inserted it would be the duty of the Coal Board to consider whether something on those lines could be provided in the various mines under their control. The Amendment is intended to raise a point which I think I am justified in saying is very important. The object of the Bill we are considering is to transfer the ownership of the mines to the Government; in other words to substitute the taxpayer for the shareholder. It is hoped that this will improve the conditions of the industry and provide for its re-equipment.
§ But it is not proposed—and that is why I mention this—to make any change in the 886 principles of employment except that the profits are to be transferred to the State which will in future be liable for the payment of the wages of the workers. The management is to belong to the Coal Board, that is to the State, and no right is given to the workers to be consulted about the management or even to be told about its prospects, except so far as they are informed as members of the public. Their position will remain as the sellers of their labour to their employers who will in future be the State and not private individuals, and when they have received their wages the transaction, so far as they are concerned, will be complete. No doubt the Coal Board will be answerable for its conduct of the industry to Parliament, and Parliament will be responsible to the electors. So far as the miners are electors, they will have that satisfaction, but that cannot extend of coure—nobody pretends in all the discussions I have heard on this Bill that it can extend—to what I may call the details of the management in each Bill. Moreover, so far as the control exists—control by the electors that is—it will obviously have to be shared by all the other electors, so that the miners will have no special rights in the matter. I hope it will not be thought that for that reason I am opposed to this Bill, because I am not. Whatever else may be said, I think it is the only thing that can be done, but I do have some doubts—and that is why I have ventured to put down this Amendment—whether by itself it will achieve all that is expected of it.
§ In studying the debate on the Second Reading with reference to my Amendment, I was struck with the unanimity with which practically all speakers state the cause of the present difficulties in the industry. Everyone said in effect that it was the want of goodwill between employers and employed. The Lord Chancellor—if I may quote him—in moving the Second Reading, said, "There is in this industry an appalling absence of goodwill, of the co-operative spirit," and a little later on he said, "Finally, there must be at all costs better labour relations". Lord Lindsay (who made a very interesting speech), speaking from personal knowledge said, "Nothing which I have come across in any other industry approaches the bitterness which you find exemplified in what is said by some of the miners". He did not extend it to all. My noble friend, the Marquess 887 of Londonderry, put it rather differently, but I think said substantially the same thing. Speaking, as we all know, as an example of one of the best coalowners in the country, he declared that it was what he called the "disloyalty and indiscipline" of the miners that was the whole trouble. It is the same point really, put in rather a different way.
§ Perhaps the most striking proof of this point is the statement of Professor Trevelyan that in the coal-mining industry there is a complete barrier between the capitalist employer and the manual worker. That was first quoted by my noble friend, the Marquess of Reading, but it was emphatically endorsed by Lord Ammon, who produced other arguments in support of that position. Moreover, apart altogether from what the experts say, we all know that the central evil in this, as in some other industries, is that employers and employed are organized into two opposing armies. That can only be described, if I may use the expression, as the Russian condition of suspicion of one another, so that anything proposed by either party is immediately rejected by the other one. In such a state of things, the wonder is that the industry has gone on as well as it has gone on. But even so, in the fifty or sixty years—I am sorry I have to put it in that way—of my public life, I cannot remember any prolonged period when unrest in the coalfields was not a matter of anxiety to every Government in turn, and it was not altogether assuaged by the tremendous danger of two world wars. I venture to remind your Lordships of this (and I am only, of course, saying what all of you know quite well) because it seems to me the really urgent problem that we have to solve in this matter.
§ I cannot myself believe that buying out the coalowners, or the creation of a Coal Board and the two Consumers' Councils, will prove a complete remedy. Indeed, it seems to me, if I may say so, that my noble friends on the Government Bench are not quite happy on the subject themselves. They hope that the moral effect of State ownership will put an end to this atmosphere of suspicion, and I hope it may do something in that direction, but I cannot help feeling that the fundamental difficulty is that the miner feels himself powerless to correct evils of which he is 888 the conscious victim, and therefore, not unnaturally, rejects all responsibility for the consequences. If that is the real state of affairs, the remedy is not better equipment, or even higher wages, or improved amenities by themselves; they may all be of some use, but what is really wanted is a change of the whole conception that it is only those who provide the capital, whether they be the State or private individuals, who are entitled to be heard in the management of the business. To my mind, that is a wholly unreasonable position.
§ Labour is at least as essential for the success of any industry as capital, and in my view has at least an equal right to be heard as its management. My noble friend, Lord Teviot, I observed, asked why co-partnership should not be applied to mining, and I should like to repeat his question. It is not a matter of theory only. Perhaps I may be permitted to give your Lordships one instance where this principle has cured conditions not less difficult than those with which we are now dealing. When I was practising at the Parliamentary Bar, it was my fortune to appear on some occasions for the South Metropolitan Gas Company. About seventy years ago that company was in great difficulty owing to continual controversies between it and its workers and at last it was resolved to try the experiment of applying the principle of profit-sharing (which is the first step towards co-partnership), whereby all workers received, in addition to their standard wages, an addition based on the profits of the company. In that way the profits were shared by capital and labour. Indeed, one ought to say that by a special statutory provision applying at any rate to the London gas companies—and I think to all, now—requiring a reduction in the price of gas before any increase in dividends could be made, consumers also shared in the profits of the undertaking.
§ The result of the arrangement was so satisfactory that the principle was extended to management, and out of a Board of nine directors, two were appointed by the manual and one by the clerical workers. Since that time there has never been in that Company, I believe, any serious trouble, and not only that, but various other improvements in the amenities arising from the co-partnership spirit have been made. One incident 889 exemplifies the new spirit. During the early part of the first world war commodity prices rose, as they did in this last war, and the directors decided that the standard wage of the workers should also be raised. In consequence, notices to that effect were from time to time posted in the works. On one occasion the directors received a message from their men saying that they did not think the proposed rise in wages was yet financially justifiable, and accordingly it was postponed for a short time. I do not in the least know whether that was the right view or not, but I think it does exemplify very clearly that the workers had entirely accepted the view that they were part of the industry, that it was to their interest to make it work, and that therefore when they saw an unjustified step being taken, even though it was in their interests, it was for them to enter a protest and to ask for it to be reconsidered.
§ I do not suggest of course that the gas industry is in all respects similar to the coal industry, but this is a matter really of human nature, and human nature is the same in all industries. I believe it is true that with proper modifications co-partnership would succeed in other cases as indeed it has done where it has been fairly and honestly tried. But it must be genuine co-partnership, a share in the profits and in the management. Only in that way can the enmity of capital and labour be cured. My Amendment does not seek to lay down the actual machinery which will be required—that must be left to the Coal Board. It may well be that special conditions in this or that part of the industry will require special arrangements, but it is true that one advantage of the nationalization of all mines will be that sectional prejudices will not prevent the application of this appropriate remedy to all of them. My plea, to put it quite shortly, is this, that everyone engaged in the industry should be given his share of responsibility for its success so that all may recognize that they are not only engaged in mining and making their living out of the mines, but are answerable for a great public work on which the prosperity of the whole country depends. I beg to move.
Page 2 line 41, at end insert ("the recognition of the right of those employed in any mine to be consulted as to its working.").—(Viscount Cecil of Chelwood.)
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I was unwilling to interrupt my noble friend in his speech which I am sure we have all listened to with great interest. I can only say that I wish it had been made on the Second breading when we would have had a better opportunity of endorsing some of his remarks and perhaps replying to others. I would only like to correct one mis-statement, as I would call it—that is rather a broad word—which he used in regard to myself. He quoted me as saying that there was indiscipline and disloyalty practically amongst the whole of the miners throughout the country. I said nothing of the kind. What I did say was this, that there is a dividing line between the propaganda section of the Miners Federation as we used to call it and the men themselves, and that the propaganda which had been issued had been responsible for a certain amount of disloyalty and indiscipline amongst the men. I do not want to labour that point, but I should not like the noble Viscount to be quoted as saying that I said there was indiscipline and disloyalty throughout the coal field, because that is a suggestion which I would strongly repudiate.
The noble Viscount made a very interesting speech, but I think it is apparent to all of us that he has not made a very close personal study of a mining district. I should like to invite him, whilst my jurisdiction may remain, to come and see the collieries over which I have the honour of presiding. He will find there is not this gulf between the owners and the men, that the management are very closely in touch with the men and that no great step would be taken by the management without having exactly the men's point of view on that important step which was going to be taken. That is what goes on. I am afraid the noble Viscount has been susceptible to the propaganda that the whole of the managements are at daggers drawn with the men.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I am sure nothing was further from my mind than to misquote my noble friend in any way, but what he is saying now is only a repetition of what I have said. It is exactly that point, that once you get a real interest in the management of the industry by all those engaged in the industry then you get the right spirit in which the industry is to be carried on.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I am glad to see that the noble Viscount and myself are working on the same lines. The noble Viscount then spoke of co-partnership, which is also very interesting, but I know he will agree with me that there are certain industries which are more susceptible to co-partnership and where co-partnership is more valuable than it would be in others. I do not know if he is aware that eighty-five per cent. of what comes from the coal trade goes to the miners and fifteen per cent. to the owners for the sale of the coal. That was eventually raised during the war. You will find ninety-two and a half per cent. went to wages and the rest went to other parts. I would like to correct the noble Viscount if he thinks that this co-operation does not go on in the coalfield. It does go on and it will go on. I am quite certain that if this Coal Board occupies the position which I sincerely hope it will occupy, of being the directorate of a great organization carrying out those duties which are now going out of practice, that co-operation with the management and all these things which he is so anxious should be brought about, will develop as each year goes by. That is what we have all got to work for.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
What we have to work for is that this business should be conducted on the highest lines of real industrial efficiency.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
I want to support in a sentence or two the Amendment which has just been moved. I am not supporting the noble Viscount when he suggests that the principle of co-partnership which has been so successful in some of the gas companies should be applied to the mines and other industries. But I am increasingly clear that a great deal of the discontent—which is not confined only to the mining industry but applies in other industries also—is not due solely to questions of wages or hours, but also to the feeling of a very large number of the men that they ought to have a larger share in the work to which they are giving their lives. Mechanization no doubt has brought very great advantages to the country, but in a large number of cases it has meant that the 892 worker has lost a great deal of initiative and responsibility. The man who gives his life to any industry is anxious to feel that he has some real active part in it. He does not claim that the men should decide the technical matters. Of course, undoubtedly, as the noble Marquess who has just spoken has told us, in many industries there is at the present moment consultation between the men and the management. If that is so, let us have provision for it in this new Bill. This Bill when it becomes an Act is going to be a model, I imagine, of the kind of terms which will replace other Acts dealing with other industries. Let us have at the very outset what we are told already applies in other industries, a qualification clause recognizing as a right that the men working in a mine or other industry should have the right of being consulted as to its working. It seems to me that that is only reasonable, and it will satisfy a deep desire on the part of a very large number of the men, especially the younger men who are working in the various industries.
I myself believe that in the long run the decision as to whether industry should be worked by the State or should be worked by private capital will depend largely, not on the question of wages or hours, but on the amount of initiative and freedom enjoyed by those engaged in these industries. Therefore let the Government make it quite plain that this consultation is going to be regarded as the principle. There would not be the least difficulty in doing that, as the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, has told us. In private enterprise that is already in force.
I would like very briefly to support what has been said by my noble relative Lord Cecil in the eloquent speech he has just made. I believe with him, as I think most people in all parts of the House believe, that the present difficulties of industry and the present friction which has arisen are largely psychological in nature. There was, as we all know, an old-fashioned conception of the structure of industry under which labour was bought as machinery is bought—and bought in the cheapest market. It seems to me that there is growing more and more (and this applies to members of all Parties alike) a new conception that labour is lent as money is lent; that labour is in fact a form of capital. One man may lend£100, while 893 another may lend his hereditary skill in a particular craft—the mining industry it may be—and whatever the forms these loans may take, they form the basis of a joint enterprise. Under this new conception there ought to be no friction between employer and employed in industry—they are joint partners.
If I may express a personal view, I believe that if there is to be enduring industrial peace there must be more equality of status between what one may call the "manual capitalist" and the "money capitalist" The labourer, if he is unhappy when employed by private individuals, will be equally unhappy if he is employed by a far more remote employer—the State. What he wants is to feel that in some manner he is employing himself, that he is his own employer, that he is getting a fair share of the rewards of his labour and that he knows all that is happening—so far as anyone can know all—in his particular industry. It is obvious—and this has already been pointed out—that the structure of any machinery that may be built up must vary between industries, and even between firms. There can be no absolute standardization—anybody who knows anything at all about industry knows that. But, broadly, the overriding principle which I have tried briefly to define is surely the same for all industries. That principle is inherent in the Amendment which has just been moved by my noble relative, and I hope very much that the Government will give it a sympathetic reception.
§ 4.52 p.m.
My noble friend Viscount Cecil of Chelwood has raised a question that I venture to suggest is of the very first importance, and it is right that it should be raised at this stage of this Bill which, as he said, may be a model for further Bills designed for bringing under public ownership and control other great industries. I venture to say that while I am sure that all on these Benches, and most of all the Government, have every sympathy with the intention behind the Amendment, the wording is most unfortunate. The most reverend Primate, I think, if he will allow me to say so, put his finger on the spot when he said he quite saw the impossibility, or undesirability, or words to that effect, of a man working in this industry being able to interfere in technical matters. I do not think I am misquoting the most 894 reverend Primate. If you talk about the working of a mine to an ordinary pitman he understands you to mean the whole technical business of mining, the opening up of seams, working out new passages to open out fresh areas, and so on. You go right to the very heart of technical work of a highly complicated scientific engineering industry when you talk about "the working".
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I thought I had explained quite clearly that I did not propose to indicate the exact machinery that should be employed, because I do not think it is possible to do that in a But I thought that the right plan was to lay down, broadly, the general principle that the man ought to have a share in and be consulted as to the working of the industry. My suggestion was that we should leave the Coal Board, if is going to be any good, as I sincerely hope it will be, to work out for each particular part of the industry what will be the best way of carrying that into effect. I did not attempt to lay down any definite details, for I know that I am not in a position to do so, and I am no[...] quite sure that my noble friend Lord Strabolgi is in a position to do so either.
The noble Viscount has the advantage of me in that he is a trained lawyer and I am not. He is used to interpreting the wordy of Acts of Parliament, but I venture to suggest that any lawyer reading these words would say they mean what I have suggested—that "working" means the technical working of this highly complex industry. I think I know what is in the noble Viscount's mind, and I entirely support it. We are all anxious to help in attaining his object, and we may give a great deal of help in restoring better relations between management and workers if we arrange for the fullest possible consultation about working conditions. Then we come to the question of the Unions, who, of course, deal with such matters as hours and labour; but when it is a matter of working conditions, the practices of the mines, as I have always understood from the mine-owners and from miner, that is where you can assist the men very much indeed. Indeed that is a very old Saxon principle. In the old Saxon farming communities the serfs, as they were then, 895 were consulted at every stage of the farming operations of the manor. But they did not decide what crops were to be sown. It was as to the way in which they were to be sown that the men were consulted. The case which we are now discussing is whether you can consult the men about so-called conditions of work. If this is done, which I believe to be the intention, I think we may do a great deal to break down, as we all wish to do, the barrier between management and workers as it exists in certain pits.
May I take the example of a ship. One of the few matters on which I can pride myself in my long and misspent life is that during the first world war I happened to be in such a position in the Admiralty that I was able to initiate a very great reform, which has now become part of our practice in the Royal Navy, by the institution of welfare committees at the ports. They had never been heard of or thought of before. We allowed the men to select at the ports certain ratings to represent each branch of the Service, and those men who were selected were consulted eventually by the Admiralty on matters connected with the welfare and general conditions of men on board ship. Now, in every man o' war you have the same principle extended. You have the men's ship committees which have the right to see the executive officer on matters affecting the comfort, conditions of life, conditions of work and that sort of thing. But, you could not have the men interfering in the working of the ship. You could not have the crew interfering with the navigation of the ship. You could not have the crew of an aeroplane interfering with the control and navigation of the aeroplane. In other words, where you have an industry, nationalized or privately owned, you must have that sometimes unpopular word "discipline." If you lay down as a condition that the management in the mines must consult the miners as to the working of the mines, that is on highly technical matters affecting their own and everyone else's safety, then you are suggesting something that may be dangerous and even mischievous. Therefore I say that these words in this Amendment are most unfortunate. What you can do (and this was not mentioned either by the most reverend Primate or the noble Viscount) is this, and I know that it is the intention and 896 hope of my right honourable friend the Minister of Fuel and Power. That is, you can have a wide and easy avenue or ladder of promotion for the miner's well-educated young son to get his technical qualifications and rise to the highest position on his merits in this most important industry. I believe that that will be a way also to restore good relations between managements and the pitmen themselves, which is what we all desire.
§ 5.0 p.m.
I am very sorry to intervene, but I find myself very largely in agreement with the noble Lord who has just sat down. We do not always find ourselves in agreement, but we are to a great extent on this occasion. I, also, am very much concerned about the wording of this Amendment. I think we are generally in agreement in your Lordships' House that the good relationship of employers and workmen in the coal and other industries does depend on close collaboration in the work they are doing, on seeing that the workmen understand what is being done and are enabled to take an interest in what is being done, and that both parties move together as a body sympathetic towards each other and to their work.
But, my Lords, the wording of this Amendment goes far beyond that. I view with considerable alarm an Amendment of that nature being incorporated in the Bill, but I gather, from what the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, said in his speech, that he is not particularly wedded to the exact words which he has put down in his Amendment. All he wishes to achieve, I gather, is what is contained in the spirit of his Amendment, and he would not object to the Amendment being worded in some other way if he could get the same effect as that which he advocates. I eliminate from this the issue of co-partnership. Co-partnership is not contained necessarily in that Amendment, and I do not think that my noble friend intended his Amendment to be used as an instrument for the advocacy of co-partnership. I think this Amendment was meant to be used for the purpose of creating that smooth collaboration between the employer and the men which would promote good working.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I should have thought that the words which my noble friend has just used are a very good description of what co-partnership means.
Yes, that may be so. But the question of co-partnership in the coal mines is a very large issue indeed. The particular industry which my noble friend describes, the gas industry, might be very suitable for co-partnership, but I do not know enough about the coal industry to say that that is also. We know that in some cases, and in some mines, there are losses and not profits. In other mines big profits are made. I can foresee in the coal industry, whether it is nationalized or not nationalized, that there would be great feelings of dissatisfaction if in some parts of the country one found men earning big co-partnership profits and in other parts men earning nothing at all by way of profit. I doubt if the coal industry would be a very good subject for co-partnership.
What I want to suggest to the noble Viscount, and to the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, is that perhaps the Lord Chancellor may be able to find a form of words which would meet what the noble Viscount is asking for. I dislike the form of words now proposed, and the implication of them is so dangerous that I would be prepared to go into the lobby with the Government to vote against them, if the Government will not accept them. I do hope the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, will be able to convince my noble friend, if he feels something of this nature should be adopted, that it is possible to find a form of words which would meet what the noble Viscount wants.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I find myself in complete sympathy with the spirit of this Amendment, and with the various speeches made, particularly those of the most reverend Primate, the Leader of the Opposition, and of my noble friend behind me. They have all stressed the same point of view. May I make a confession, and make it quite plainly. I have never thought, and I have never said, that the passing of this Bill and the setting up of a Coal Board are going to solve our problems. I believe these steps are prerequisite conditions to this problem ever being solved. I believe that without them you could not solve this problem. But it is quite a different thing to say that having set them up you have solved this problem. It depends entirely on the way the problem is tackled.
898 The most important factor in the way it is worked is—I entirely agree with the noble Viscount who moved this Amendment—the relationship between all those concerned in the industry. In the past that relationship has not been at all as it should have been. There have been some areas where it has been very much better than others. My own belief as to the way to get this relationship right is that it does not consist merely of welfare conditions or higher wages but requires an added sense of what I may call the dignity of labour—the realization of the fact that when a man is working he is contributing to a great national effort and is rendering a most important service on which his welfare at home, the welfare of those who are near and dear to him, and of the nation, depend. I believe that the better way to bring about that added sense of dignity is to see that in every possible matter these people are consulted, to see that they are not mere hired slaves but on the other hand are partners. This is the relevance of co-partnership, that they should regard themselves as partners whether they work by hand or by head—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
That is the essence of good management, as the noble Marquess says. When I come to this particular Amendment, I am bound to point out that I do not think enough attention has been paid the existing machinery. We have to be very careful here. We are treading on delicate ground, where trade unions are concerned. Let us consider what the trade union machinery is. At the top, as it is at present, is a National Union of Mineworkers. This is divided into various districts. There are the Durham miners and the South Wales miners, and so on. When you get down to the individual pit—the noble Marquess will correct me if I am wrong—there is a particular lodge which deals with the affairs of that pit. Conditions of work and wages would generally be discussed, in the first instance, with that lodge. Then they would be referred, if necessary, to the higher body, the district body, and if necessary to the top body of all.
But something else has been set up—the pit production committees. They were originally set up, I think, by an Act of 1920, but they did not become effective 899 until the year 1941. Their establishment has been a most hopeful development. They are composed of the miners' nominees, usually, I am told, the local officials of the miners' lodge, and these meet with the nominees of the management. Before these pit production committees, on which all constituents are represented, all matters concerning the working of the pit, the method of working of the pit, are discussed. My right honourable friend the Minister of Fuel and Power used these words in another place, after saying that the administrative reorganization of the industry was based on the pit where the coal is produced:That is the beginning, that is the foundation. That is the basic element in the reorganization of the industry. We must get the pit right, and one means of doing that is to get the right atmosphere in the pit through the medium of efficient and humane pit committees, where management, the officials and workpeople all gather and consider not merely questions relating to health and welfare, but all matters pertaining to reorganization.That was what the Minister said, and that is, I think, the right principle. When I come to consider the actual words I would suggest to the noble Viscount—and I would like his help on this—that I think the appropriate place to deal with this in the Bill would be Clause 43.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am not saying for a moment that we are discussing the words. I am saying that I think Clause 43 is the appropriate place.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
If the noble Viscount will look at Clause 43, I am perfectly prepared to consider, if the words of that clause want some alteration, to give effect to the general principle which we have in common. I am perfectly prepared when we get to that clause to consider whether I could put in more appropriate words to give effect to the point which the noble Viscount 900 has in mind. But I do not think that this is the right place. I do not think the words which he has proposed are very appropriate. It would be quite a wrong thing to pass over the heads of the pit committee or the trades union organization and put the matter before a sort of mass meeting, and that is certainly not what the noble Viscount has in mind at all. I think we had better consider whether the words of Clause 43 are apt or not. I am inclined to think that they are pretty good. In Clause 43 it is stated that it shall be the duty of the Board to enter into consultation with organizations appearing to them to represent substantial proportions of the persons in the employment of the Board, or of any class of such persons, as to the Board concluding with those organizations agreements providing for the establishment and maintenance of joint machinery for consultation on (i) questions relating to the safety, health or welfare of such persons and (ii) other matters of mutual interest to the Board and such persons arising out of the exercise and performance of the Board of their functions. I conceive that we might have more appropriate or more definite words there. I am very ready to look at it to see whether I can do that, but in broad general principle I find myself in agreement with the noble Viscount that getting this thing right, and starting it right as the Minister said, from the pit, is going to be one of the fundamental matters in getting this scheme working. I cannot accept this Amendment, but although I refuse it, we are ready to consider, when we come to Clause 43, if some added words are necessary.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
Before the noble and learned Lord concludes, may I ask whether when we come to the Schedule dealing with repeal of enactments the sections dealing with pit committees and production committees are going to be left and will be binding on the Board?
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I need not say that I am not going to press this Amendment against the views of the Lord Chancellor. My object is to get something done. I quite recognize that if the Government will do something we are more likely to get it through the other 901 House than if we do it by a motion made, for instance, by myself. Therefore I shall certainly not press the Amendment. But at the same time, what I am anxious to do is to make it quite clear that Parliament in passing this Bill has seen to it that adequate provision is made for consulting the men as to the work they are doing. I put it in the most general phrase I possibly can. I am putting it quite generally. I am surprised at the ingenuity of my noble friend, Lord Strabolgi, and of the noble Lord opposite in finding all sorts of hidden meanings which were entirely ignorant to myself. I am not unfamiliar with that Parliamentary device, by which, if you do not want a thing to get through, you say you are entirely in favour of the proposal but the particular principle will not do. I do not know whether that was Lord Strabolgi's view, but if my noble friend the Lord Chancellor will assure me that he will try and find some phrase in Clause 43 or in any other part of the Bill that will really make it clear that what we want is that the actual men who are working should also have a share in saying how that work should be carried on, that is the essential thing.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
May I say to the noble Viscount that I will be glad to give that assurance on condition that the noble Viscount collaborates with me?
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
My collaboration is not worth having, but of course it is entirely at the service of the Lord Chancellor. I will not argue as to the relative merits of Clause 43 or this clause. With that, I am quite content to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 2:
§ Constitution of the Board.
§ (5) The Minister shall appoint one of the members of the Board to act as deputy chairman.
§ (6) There shall be paid to the members of the Board such salaries and allowances as may be determined by the Minister with the approval of the Treasury, and, on the retirement or death of any of them as to whom it may be so determined to make such provision, such pensions and gratuities to them or to others by reference to their service as may be so determined.902
§ The said salaries and allowances, and arty such pensions and gratuities as aforesaid, shall be paid out of the revenues of the Board.
§ (7) The Minister may make regulations with respect to—
- (a) the appointment of, and the tenure and vacation of office by, the members of the Board;
- (b) the quorum, proceedings and meetings of the Board, and determinations of the Board; and
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ LORD TEYNHAM moved, in subsection (5), after "shall", to insert "after consultation with the Board". The noble Lord said: This is a very simple Amendment. It is designed really to establish the normal business practice with a board of directors, that the chairman advises and the board appoint their own deputy chairman. We know that a very eminent gentleman is now holding the position of deputy chairman of the Board. We are, however, not only legislating for the present, but for the future. I understand that the Government is endeavouring to make the Coal Board as much like an ordinary commercial board as possible. I do suggest that the Board should have the right to choose its own chairman and not the Minister. The position of deputy chairman in an organization like the National Coal Board is a very important one, and for that reason alone I do feel that he should have the full confidence of the Board. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 18, after ("shall") insert ("after consultation with the Board").—(Lord Teynham.)
§ LORD WINSTER
The Bill at present reads: "The Minister shall appoint one of the members of the Board to act as deputy chairman." The Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, seeks to provide that the Minister shall only appoint the deputy chairman after consultation with the Beard. I do not feel that the proposal that the deputy chairman should only be appointed after consultation with the Board is a very practical one. The members of the Board have already been designated, and they have been selected upon a functional basis with a particular job in view for each member. The Chairman and deputy chairman designate will however, not be 903 in charge of any separate department. They have been chosen for their ability to take a broad general survey of the general problems of organizing and running the Board's undertakings. From that it follows that the whole balance of the Board would be upset if, as a result of the consultation proposed, someone else were to be appointed to the post of deputy chairman in place of the person the Minister had in mind for the job. In practice, of course, there is sure to be consultation.
It would be quite in order for the Minister to consult with the chairman as to the appointment of the chairman's deputy and I have no doubt that that will be done, because in the working of the Board the deputy chairman will have a very important task to perform, and in certain circumstances he might have to take the chairman's place and deputize for him. On that account it is highly desirable that the deputy chairman, as well as the chairman, should be selected by the Minister. In any case I feel that the words "after consultation with the Board" would not in fact mean very much even if I were to accept the Amendment because even after consultation with the Board the Minister would still be free to select the man whom he felt to be best suited for the post, no matter what advice he might have received in the course of his consultation with the Board. I feel, therefore, that the Amendment is not entirely practical, I feel that it is really unnecessary and would in fact be a handicap to the working of the Board. For those reasons I regret that I am unable to accept it.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I would like to say one word, because the speech which we have just heard has given us a rather different picture of the way this business is going to work than the one we gathered from the structure of the Bill. What the Minister has now said—and of course we take it from him—is that the Minister is going to appoint the chairman. That we all realize. He is then going to appoint the deputy chairman, who is not to be an expert but has to be a person of good general knowledge, selected because he will make a good deputy to the chairman; and the rest of the Board are to be persons appointed for particular functional qualifications, each of whom, as I understand it, will discharge an executive responsibility. There will in fact be six or 904 seven managing directors, or whatever they are, each in charge of his own section of the business. Well, of course, that is one way of doing this, but I defy anybody in reading this Bill, to gather that that is the way in which the business is going to be conducted. It shows how important it is to have these discussions.
Subsection (2) reads as follows:The Board shall consist of a chairman and eight other members.Reading that one obviously thinks there is a chairman and eight other people of equal status. Then, subsection (3) states that "The chairman and other members of the Board"—again the other members of the Board are all lumped together—"shall be appointed." Subsection (5) states:The Minister shall appoint one of the members of the Board to act as deputy chairman.Reading that (and I certainly so read it, and obviously from what my friend has said in moving this Amendment he so read it) I thought that the Minister had collected eight of the ablest people he could find, all of whom were going to be of equal rank as directors, and out of that bunch he was going to select one who was going to be the deputy chairman. That is the way Boards do very often function. You can have a Board which consists of executives; you can have a Board which does not consist of executives at all, or you can have a "mixed grill," partly of whole-time executives and partly of people of great general experience who will not be troubled with the detailed executive job but whose advice is very valuable—just as a Minister without Portfolio with very long experience behind him is of value in a Cabinet. So I hope it will not be said that a man of great and valued experience is never an asset to a Board unless he spends the whole of his time on that Board. I am sure there could not be any greater fallacy than to say that nobody is going to be a director of one of these concerns unless he is going to devote his whole time to it.
Certainly, reading this clause, I understood that the Minister took these directors, all of them, so to speak, of the same kind, and out of the lot selected one. If that was going to be the procedure, quite obviously the right thing to do would be for the Minister to consult with the Board. Now we know that is not the way the thing is 905 going to work at all, but that seven of these gentlemen are going to be whole time executives, each in charge of a section of the business, sitting, it is true, round the council table when they are brought together, but only two of them being people of what I may call the general class, one the chairman and the other the deputy chairman. Now we know that is going to be the structure and the way it is going to work. With all respect: to my noble friend, I would then say the Amendment is unnecessary, although taking the Bill as drawn I should have thought it was a most right and proper one.
I do not propose to press this Amendment, especially in view of what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Winster. But we have learned something new of the way in which the Coal Board is going to be run. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ LORD WOLVERTON moved, in subsection (6), to leave out "and allowances". The noble Lord said: With your permission, I would like to take this Amendment together with the next one standing in my name. I wish to leave out the word "allowances" in the first place, and lower down to substitute the words I have suggested because I think the present words are too wide. We all know that there have to be allowances given for travelling, and so on, but as this is supposed to be a model Bill I think there should be a clearer definition as to exactly what those allowances are to be. That is why I wish to move this Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 21, leave out ("and allowances").—(Lord Wolverton.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Lord will not be surprised to hear that I cannot accept this Amendment. I cannot quite understand why he has moved it. In the words he wants to add in the second of these two Amendments which are taken together, he says:There shall also be paid to the members of the Board such allowances for travelling and other expenses wholly or necessarily incurred in performing the duties of their office as are ordinarily allowable under the Income Tax Acts.…There is no ordinary scale of allowances under the Income Tax Acts. The ques 906 tion of whether a particular allowance has been additional remuneration or not, liable to tax, or a reimbursement of necessary expenses, can only be determined by reference to the facts of the particular case. Many of us have a very lively recollection of all the controversies there have been about that matter. In this case we are following a clear precedent. What we have done in this case is what was done in regard to the London Passenger Transport Board, the Wheat Commission, the Sugar Commission, the Coal Commission under the Coal Act of 1938, the Cotton Industry Board, the Regional Commissioners and the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. In every case I have mentioned the matter has been one for the Treasury to decide, and the Treasury are not easy people to get over on these matters at all. I do not think the noble Lord need he unduly worried in the fact that we are following a precedent—
§ LORD WOLVERTON
That is all the more reason why it should be in the Bill, because you can get a small salary and a large allowance. I think that what the allowances are to be paid for should be stated in the Bill.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I have tried to point out that in all these cases the matter has been dealt with in the way in which we are dealing with it in this Bill, and I have also tried to point out that the words the noble Lord has adopted here, if I may say so with respect, are really meaningless, because to talk about allowances "ordinarily allowable under the Income Tax Acts" simply means nothing at all. There are no such things. Each case has to be decided on its own merits. I have pointed out to the noble Lord that his own words are inapt and the words we have adopted set out a principle which has been universally followed by all Governments, and I hope the noble Lord will not press the Amendment to a Division.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I do not think there is really anything between us on this. I respectfully agree with what the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, said about the Income Tax Acts. An ordinary director of a Company may be an executive receiving, say,£3,000 or£4,000 a year and£500 or£1,000 expenses or allowances. It is entirely a 907 matter for the Inland Revenue authorities to say whether the sum allowed as an expense allowance is a reasonable one. If they decide it is not, he still gets it, because the company has voted it to him, but it is then subject to Income Tax and Sur-tax, at any rate as to part of it. What I think was in my noble friend's mind was that he wanted the same principle to apply to the officers of this public company. The Lord Chancellor said that the Treasury will be pretty strict about this. I think I agree; at any rate, I hope they will. They certainly always have been. But what would the legal position be if the Treasury said that a person was to receive£5,000 salary and£5,000 by way of allowances, if that came before the Inland Revenue authorities and if they, following their ordinary procedure, said: "We think it is quite right that this man should receive£10,000 a year, but in the case of an ordinary business man we should not allow£5,000 by way of expenses; we would have treated£7,500 as salary, which would be liable to tax, and would have allowed only£2,500 as expenses"? Could the Inland Revenue over-rule, so to speak, the Treasury decree which had allowed£5,000 as salary and£5,000 as expenses?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I should have thought they could. I know the Inland Revenue people are always very strict about the returns of the Attorney-General, and when I was Attorney-General I complained to a very distinguished ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer—not a member of my Party—who answered that they were always very strict with him when he was Chancellor, and he thought they did it in order to show their efficiency. I do not know how that may be, but I suppose that theoretically they could over-rule. However, in practice these allowances would not be made unless they were vouched, and it was seen that the expenditure had actually been incurred. The expenditure would then be approved by the Treasury, and although theoretically the Inland Revenue Department which is technically a different department could say, "No; we think we ought to levy tax in respect of a part of those allowances," in practice I should have thought it would not happen.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I was not talking about vouched allowances. If a man 908 has incurred out-of-pocket expenses and puts them in his bill, then whoever is the appropriate vouching authority would vouch them and nobody would question the matter. If I remember rightly, the directors of B.O.A.C. are paid a salary and an allowance—£5,000 salary and£1,500 allowances, or whatever it may be. If the Minister chooses to pay the chairman£5,000 salary and£1,500 allowances, or whatever it may be, does his fiat take that out of the jurisdiction of the Board of Inland Revenue; or can the Board of Inland Revenue say, "We think£1,500 is too much to pay as an allowance, and you must pay tax on part of it?" That is what I mean. If, under this Bill an officer is appointed at, say,£5,000 salary and£2,000 allowances, is the£2,000 allowance subject to the decision of the Board of Inland Revenue as to tax?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Theoretically, I should think the answer is "Yes," but in practice I have no doubt that if the Treasury allowed that as their estimate of a reasonable expenditure the Board of Inland Revenue would not challenge it.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
I do not want to prolong the debate upon this Amendment, but, as I understood it, the intention of my noble friend's Amendment was to see that the practice did not grow up of paying salaries and in addition giving allowances which were not, on the face of it, part of the remuneration of the members of the Board. I think the whole of your Lordships' House will agree that that would be a most undesirable practice. This point, I think, turns upon the question of whether an allowance granted by the Minister would necessarily meet with the approval of the Board of Inland Revenue as an expense "wholly and necessarily incurred"—I think that is the definition. Would it be possible in the accounts of the Board to give publicity to the allowances granted to, and the expenses incurred by, members of the Board? That would be the surest way of seeing that no undesirable practice grew up. Would the Lord Chancellor consider incorporating that at a later stage?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I certainly hope that we shall have the fullest accounts published to the world about this matter, and I think there should be in those accounts a statement about this sort of thing.
§ LORD WOLVERTON
In view of what the Lord Chancellor has said, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY moved, in subsection (7) (b), to leave out "proceedings and meetings of the Board, and determinations." The noble Lord said: beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name. The purposes of this Amendment can be stated very shortly. First of all, it did not seem to me to be a true function of the Minister that he should determine the proceedings and meetings of the Board; it seems to me that those would be matters for the Board to decide themselves. The quorum, yes, but the proceedings and meetings, no. Secondly, I find myself unable to construe the meaning of the word, "determination." I had recourse to the Library of your Lordships' House, and in the shorter Oxford Dictionary I looked up the word "determination," but I found it difficult to find a meaning which could fit into this particular clause. I should like the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, if he is replying to this Amendment, to construe the word. I move this Amendment partly because I think unnecessary powers are given to the Minister, and partly because I should like an explanation of the word in the clause.
Page 3, line 32, leave out from ("quorum") to ("of") in line 33.—[Lord de L'Isle and Dudley.]
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am a little surprised that the noble Lord has difficulty about the word "determination." This Bill bristles with many legal difficulties, but I should not have thought that was one of them. I should have thought that "determination" means that which has been determined—a decision taken. It is riot: an uncommon word. I will look up the Oxford dictionary, and if no such meaning as that is given to the word, the noble Lord and I must write a letter of protest. These are, of course, typically matters which would be normally contained in the memorandum and articles of association—the statutes of a company—but as there is no memorandum and articles of association in this case, we are setting them out here. I think that these matters are of sufficient importance to justify specific 910 provisions by regulations. The sort of matters which would be the subject of regulations are the power of the Board to act notwithstanding a vacancy among its members, that determinations of the Board are to be made by votes of the members present and voting, that the chairman is to have a second or casting vote and that the actions of the Board are to be valid notwithstanding defects in the appointment of a member. Those are the sort of matters we have in mind. Having dealt with those; the noble Lord will see that in subsection (8) the rest of the matters are loft for the Board. I think he will agree that those matters which I have indicated, being matters which normally would come within the articles, ought to be set out.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
Is there any objection to the use of the word "decisions" instead of "determinations," except that it is a syllable or two shorter?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I should have thought that the word "determination" was more common than the word "decision" in this context, but I will gladly look into the matter, and if I find "decisions" is better, then I will use that word.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
I thank the Lord Chancellor for his reply. He has let some light into my darkness upon this matter. He suggests the word "decision" as an alternative and I find that the construction he puts upon it is obviously and clearly the correct one. May I ask him one further question? Will these regulations made by the Minister be laid before Parliament?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 3:
§ Powers of the Minister in relation to the Board.
§ 3.—(1) The Minister may, after consultation with the Board, give to the Board directions of a general character as to the exercise and performance by the Board of their functions in relation to matters appearing to the Minister to affect the national interest, and the Board shall give effect to any such directions.911
§ (2) In framing programmes of reorganisation or development involving substantial outlay on capital account the Board shall act on lines settled from time to time with the approval of the Minister.
§ 5.41 p.m.
VISCOUNT SWINTON moved, at the end of subsection (1), to insert
Provided that the Minister shall lay before each House of Parliament a statement setting out the reasons for the giving of any directions in regard to which notwithstanding such consultation as aforesaid there is any difference or dispute between the Minister and the Board.
§ The noble Viscount said: I hope the Lord Chancellor will give a satisfactory determination upon this Amendment. I think he will agree that it is eminently reasonable. The object of it is that Parliament should be informed of cases in which the Minister over-rules the Board. On the Second Reading we had a very interesting discussion as to what would be the functions of the Board, and I expressed some anxiety that it was not going to be a business Board with the proper discretion that a business Board ought to have, but that the Minister would have power to intervene here, there and everywhere. In fact he would run the thing like a Department.
I am bound to say I got the most explicit undertaking from Lord Ammon that I was entirely wrong in my suspicions, or in my reading of the Bill, because he said as reported in Column 564 of Hansard:
Who will have the direction of the industry? The answer is, the Board. The Minister does not wish to intervene except on the rarest occasions, and on the broadest matters of national interest.
From the point of view of the running of this business, that is an extremely satisfactory assurance, but consider what it means. It means that the Minister is only going to intervene on very grave matters where he is of opinion that the decision of the Board is entirely wrong and contrary to the national interest and that he must over-ride it. The whole business is left at large. This Amendment does not in any way deal with questions which the Minister shall discuss with the Board, and where the Board and the Minister are at one. It only refers to those grave and exceptional questions where the Minister finds it necessary to intervene and where, after discussion with
the Board, he is unable to persuade the Board to his point of view, there is a definite conflict of opinion between the Board and the Minister, and the Minister then over-rules the Board. I agree that the Minister must have this over-riding power in these grave matters; he has to take the responsibility to Parliament. But when he does it on a grave occasion then he should state plainly to Parliament that he has done so.
§ There is no analogy, be it observed, between a Minister and Department. It was made perfectly clear by Lord Ammon on the last ocasion that that was not at all the relationship. Of course a Minister consults his Department officials and either takes their advice or over-rules them. If anybody were to say "What did your Department advise you about this?" quite rightly the Minister would say: "That is no business of yours; the responsibility and the decision are mine." But here is a different relationship. It is not the relationship of Minister and Department, Minister and civil servant; it is the relationship of the Minister with the ultimate and over-riding responsibility to an independent business body who are going to have the whole management of the business. Lord Ammon admitted that very fairly, and he said on the last occasion that there would be nothing to prevent the Board who have to make an annual report, from saying in their annual report that they have had these differences of opinion with the Minister and that these were the occasions on which the Minister had over-ruled them.
§ I do not think that is the right way of presenting that information to Parliament, if I may say so. In the first place it will come too late, because the report is going to be made once a year and admittedly it is going to be some grave, important matter on which the Board has been over-ruled. That is a matter which should be brought to the notice of Parliament when the decision is taken. The worst thing would be that we should get this information in a round-about way. That is not the way in which things ought to be done. I dare say the information would filter through somehow, but that is not the right way of doing it. It is not fair to the Minister and it is not fair to Parliament. I think, too, it is not a fair onus to put upon the Board. They have a duty to express their own opinion and 913 to fight their corner, if I may so put it, if they think they are right. It is putting an unfair handicap upon them, or an unfair onus, if the duty is thrust upon them to say to Parliament that they have had a difference of opinion with the Minister and have been over-ruled. I think it is definitely the Minister's responsibility and, therefore, when the Minister has thought it necessary to over-rule the Board on what must be a grave, important and exceptional matter, then the Minister should take the responsibility of stating plainly to Parliament what this matter was and why he had done it, and should state it in a simple statement as soon as possible after the decision has been taken. I beg to move.
Page 4, line 5, at end insert the said proviso.—(Viscount Swinton.)
§ LORD WOLVERTON
I should like to support this Amendment because I think it is very important that notice should be given to Parliament as early as possible. As Lord Ammon said in the Second Reading debate on the matter, it will be stated in the Report, but that may be eleven months later, and that will be far too late. If there is a difference of opinion, I think the Minister should make a statement as early as possible.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Viscount who moved this Amendment and I have this in common: we are both Parliamentarians and we both agree that Parliament should have general control by having knowledge of all material facts. On the other hand, he and I can both think of occasions in our Ministerial experience where grave decisions have had to be taken and where it would have been most unfortunate to have announced them at the time. For instance, one can imagine the case of the Government of which I think the noble Viscount was a member at the outbreak of the war. The shadow of the war was certainly cast before it, and a question may have arisen as to whether we were going to supply bunkering to German ships. It would not have mattered, because war did break out, but if finally war had been avoided it would have been most unfortunate if we had had to announce to the world at large that we had issued an edict saying that bunker coal should not be given to German ships. If you get some very important matter where the Minister has to give 914 a direction to the Board, he cannot wait, because there is no time he just has to give them the decision.
What would happen would be this. He of course would come to his colleagues in the Cabinet, and he would state to the Cabinet what he had done. It might very likely he something which would not be in his own interests at ail, but something which one of his colleagues in the Cabinet wanted done. But a statement would be made to the Cabinet, and then, as always, there would follow the question: "Ought this to be announced to Parliament?" My view has always been—I say this quite frankly—that unless there is some important reason of public policy why the matter should not be disclosed, then Parliament ought to be allowed to know. But I would be very sorry—and I think the noble Viscount will agree with me in this—to have it a statutory obligation in all cases to make an announcement to Parliament. I am quite satisfied that in some cases to make such an announcement might be very much opposed to the national interest. I would rather leave it in this way: that the ordinary Cabinet practice will prevail, and that where an important decision has been come to which the Cabinet thinks should be announced, then it will be announced. It will be for the Cabinet to judge. Then if the Cabinet of the day has neglected its duties, I think that in the Report—this comes under Clause 50 I believe—the Board would set out, as they would be perfectly entitled to set out, that they have had this or that direction given to them and, therefore, they have had to do certain odd things. If Parliament thought they were placed in that position, and no statement had been made to Parliament abut the matter—assuming it was a matter concerning which there was no reason why a statement should not have been made—the Cabinet would, quite rightly, get into trouble.
I would be most reluctant, for I believe it would be against the public interest, to accept a statutory obligation, governing all cases, to announce these things to Parliament. I appreciate what the noble Viscount has in mind, and whilst not seeking to limit the extent of knowledge which Parliament should have—I agree with him the more the better—I feel that, for the reasons I have given, I cannot accept this Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I am very much obliged to the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, for going so far to meet me. I agree that there may be exceptional cases where secrecy is essential, cases in which, obviously, there should be no disclosure. But I do not think that these are matters about which the Board and the Minister are in the least likely to disagree. I am certain that if the Minister went to the Board and said: "A very serious international situation has arisen, which the Cabinet has been considering. You took a decision yesterday, but I must ask you to reverse that decision because we really cannot take the risk of letting so-and-so have any coal at this time," the Board would not disagree about it. They would see that this was not their responsibility, but the responsibility of those concerned with the international situation.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
Where, in the national interest, secrecy is essential, I am much too old a Cabinet member and Parliamentarian not to agree fully with the Lord Chancellor that the Government of the day has to take the responsibility of when and how far they make any announcement. But that is not really what I am concerned about at all. Whether we put the words in here or somewhere else, I would be prepared to rule out any exceptional cases of the kind referred to by the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor. What I am anxious about is something quite different, and that is the Minister quite honestly over-ruling the Board on a mixed matter of business and policy. The Board might think that one thing should be done, and the Minister might decide, as he is given power here to do, to over-rule the Board's decision. The Lord Chancellor agrees that in a case like that Parliament should know what has happened as soon as possible and should be able to challenge the Minister if that was desired. I do not think, with great respect to the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, that the right way to ensure this is to put the record of what has happened in the Annual Report of the Board. I think the information might easily come too late. But, leaving out the question of time, in any case this Report, I understand, is a Report by the Board to the Minister, and 916 the Minister presents it to Parliament. I do not think that is right. I do not think you ought to put the onus on the Board of saying in their Annual Report that they have had a difference of opinion with the Minister. I think that is very invidious to the Board.
If the right place to do this is in a report made annually to Parliament, I am quite clear that we should put a provision in this Bill to ensure that when that report is presented to Parliament the Minister should add a rider stating on what occasions and why he has over-ruled the Board. That, I think, has been done in some other Bills which have either passed or have been before us. We certainly have had provisions ensuring that where recommendations have been made to a Minister, the Minister has then, in his report to Parliament, to say what action he has taken on the recommendations, and, if he has taken no action, why he has followed that course. I think the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, will agree that that is a proper responsibility for the Minister and not one to be put on the Board.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I will look at this and discuss it with my right honourable friend the Minister of Fuel and Power. This is, of course, an entirely new idea.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I am very much obliged to the noble and learned Lord. The essential thing is that we should know, and, if possible, know in time where no question of secrecy arises, when there have been differences of opinion and the Minister has insisted as against the Board on a certain course on matters of serious importance.
If I withdraw this Amendment it is only fair to give the Lord Chancellor notice that I will put down tomorrow another Amendment dealing with this—I do not think I could have it ready to-night. I will put down an Amendment to the Clause dealing with the Report of the Board. On that understanding I now withdraw this Amendment. My new Amendment will be designed to ensure that when the Minister presents the Report of the Board to Parliament he shall put in whatever is the appropriate rider, so to speak, in each case where he has over-ruled the Board. But that does not wholly meet the case, because, as the 917 Lord Chancellor agreed just now, Parliament ought to know, and know in time about these things. But there may be delay because a very serious decision may have been taken and the Report may not come out until eleven months later. I am therefore placed in the difficulty that if I accept this suggestion, Parliament will be depriving itself, in some circumstances, of getting the information for a very considerable time. But on the understanding I have mentioned, I ask leave now to withdraw this Amendment.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
Would it meet the objection to this Amendment by the noble and learned Viscount if the words were added "except when in the opinion of the Minister it is not in the public interest". That would safeguard the Minister, I suggest, in a case where it is necessary to preserve official secrecy, and otherwise would give Parliament power to look into a matter at the time.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I will look into that. I see the difficulty. There might be some direction given which it would be better to forget all about, which ought not to appear even in the Report. I hope that the noble Viscount will bear that in mind when he drafts his new Amendment.
I am not a very great hand at drafting Amendments, but no doubt I shall have the help of the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, and perhaps of the draftsmen in this matter. I am sure we are all agreed that if there is something secret, something which it is not in the public interest and in international interest to reveal, then it should not be disclosed. I would not want it disclosed now or at any time. But I do want disclosure as soon as possible of differences of opinion between the Minister and the Board where the Minister over-rules the Board, when there is nothing in international interest or in the public interest which precludes Parliament from knowing what has happened.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 3 agreed to.
§ Clause 4:
§ Consumers' councils.
§ 4.—(1) There shall be established for the purposes mentioned in this section two consumers' councils, to be known respectively as the Industrial Coal Consumers' Council and the Domestic Coal Consumers' Council.918
§ (2) Each of the said councils shall consist of such number of persons as the Minister may think fit, appointed by him to represent the Board, and—
- (a) in the case of the Industrial Coal Consumers' Council, after consultation with such bodies representative of the interests concerned as the Minister thinks fit, to represent consumers of coal coke and manufactured fuel respectively, for industrial purposes or other purpose; involving supply in bulk, and persons engaged in organising or effecting the sale or supply of coal, coke and manufactured fuel respectively, for those purposes;
- (b) in the case of the Domestic Coal 'Consumers' Council, after consuitation with such bodies representative of the interests concerned as the Minister thinks fit, to represent consumers of coal, coke and manufactured fuel respectively, for domestic purposes and other purposes not falling within the preceding paragraph, and persons engaged in organising or effecting the sale or supply of coal coke and manufactured fuel respectively, for those purposes,
§ (5) On the notification or making to the Minister by either of the said councils of their conclusions or report on any matter, if it appears to him, after consultation with the Board, that a defect is disclosed in the Board's general arrangements for the production, sale or supply of coal, coke or manufactured fuel, as the case may be, he may give to the Board such directions as he may think requisite for remedying the defect, are the Board shall give effect to any such directions.
§ 6 p.m.
§ LORD TEYNHAM moved, in subsection (1), after "section", to insert "a Coal Export Council and". The noble Lord said: With the concurrence of your Lordships may I suggest that further Amendments standing in my name on this Clause, one on page 4, line 25, another on page 4, line 42, and the last on page 5, line 16 (a consequential amendment), may be discussed together. In moving an Amendment to Clause 1, I referred to the importance of the export trade, and to the fact that it was apparently neglected in the Bill. This drew an assurance from the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor that he would insert suitable words in Clause 1. We have in the Bill provision for Industrial and Domestic Consumers' Councils, but there is no mention of an export Council to look after the export trade. As the Bill is drawn, there is nothing to protect exporters, so far as I can see. No doubt the planners of the Bill had in mind that exporters would be able to submit their problems, and put forward their suggestions, to the Industrial Council. Perhaps exporters have 919 been grouped under the heading of "distributors," but the interests of exporters and those of distributors may clash.
§ The Export Council proposed in my Amendment would be available for advising the Minister on export generally, and at the same time would protect the coal export industry. May I draw your Lordships' attention to the Amendment proposed on page 4, line 25, which is one of the four Amendments of which I have given notice? It will be seen that that Amendment alters slightly the wording used for the Industrial and Domestic Consumers' Councils, and has the effect of requiring the Minister to appoint members of the Export Council, or members nominated as the representatives of persons concerned. It seems obvious that it is better, and more consistent with general practice, that export interests should put forward their own representatives whom the Minister can select.
Page 4, line 20, after ("section") insert ("a Coal Export Council and").—(Lord Teynham.)
LORD FAIRFAX OF CAMERON
In rising to support this Amendment, I would point out that it deals with one of the most important subjects in the whole Bill, because coal is our chief export. We may have exported a lot of whisky, but it can never amount to the same value to us as coal, which is doubly important now. If coal exports are vital to this country they are much more vital to the industry, which is only part of the country. And amid the many requirements there will be in this great big monopoly, and the clamour of setting up this new organization in this industry, it may even be rather difficult to hear the call for the exporting of coal. It seems to me absolutely vital, therefore, that there should be some organization which can make its voice heard in support of the export of coal.
In addition to that, foreign markets and foreign buyers require special handling. It needs a man who has spent most of his life dealing with foreign people to handle them. Then again, perhaps it might be hard for people concerned with the other side of selling coal, selling it at home, to have the time and personal contacts for 920 the necessary sale of coal abroad. Apart from that, there are technical considerations. What amount of coal can we afford to send abroad? How much is available? The present facilities for dealing with the selling of coal abroad are not adequate to the position, nor to the importance which this particular side of the industry merits.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
I would like to support the Amendment moved by my noble friend. Earlier in the debate to-day the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, talked about what was in the public interest. He stated that obviously the development of the export business of coal was something which would come within the definition of public interest to be served by the Board. But, my Lords, the Minister has thought fit to promote two advisory councils, one an Industrial Consumers' Council, and the other a Domestic Consumers' Council, and it seems to me that my noble friend makes out a strong case for the necessity of a third Council, an Export Council, if the Minister is to be able to take a balanced view of all the factors that go towards the public interest. Expert opinion of an Industrial Council may well lay emphasis upon domestic requirements, and may perhaps not take the broad view, technical and general, that specialists would take in respect of our export needs. Surely the Government might be willing to consider a better balancing of technical opinion to serve the Minister in the way it is considered best in the national interest, and to allow the Minister to have at his disposal the advice of an experienced body such as the Coal Export Council.
I think there is a little more in this export coal business than meets the eye, because not only have we to pay for our foodstuffs from abroad, by means of coal exports, but our British interests overseas, which are to play so large a part in providing us with unearned income—if I may call it that—have to a large extent sunk capital in installations designed specifically for the burning of British coal. The present dearth or famine of this coal has been a most crippling blow to them, and as a result their working costs are very much higher than they should be. In the future it will be of paramount importance in any planned economy that the Government 921 shall allocate sufficient of these good-quality British coals to the British interests overseas, to enable them to earn the right and correct net returns which they should be able to remit to this country. Therefore I think this Exporters' Council would play a very great role. The particular interests to which I have referred cannot be represented on it directly, but I have no doubt that they would be able to make their voices heard through their normal exporting suppliers.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think we are all agreed, as I have said before, that the importance of the export trade of this country cannot be over-emphasized. Let us all agree about this. One of the main functions of the Board, and I stress the Board, will be the development of an efficient organization to get the greatest amount of export sales that we can. I think everybody agrees so far. I think we should agree, further, that in the past the organization for pressing sales, even when we had the coal, was not by any means as efficient as it ought to have been. The problem now is how best to help build up a really efficient export trade. The proposition that is being advanced is that it would be helped by having another committee, a committee, be it observed, which does not report to the Board, but reports to the Minister. I think that is an absolutely wrong way of doing it. I cannot, of course, say what the Board will do, because it is not yet set up, but I will wager anything that anybody likes that when the Board is set up, it will appoint a body of the best people experienced in export—to advise the Board not to go running round with complaints to the Minister. We all want to leave this to the Board. It is the Board who have to work the thing out. I suggest to noble Lords in all parts of the House that really they are harking up the wrong tree here.
The right way to deal with this matter is to set up an organization to advise the Board, who are responsible for this thing, and not to set up an organization parallel to the Consumers' Council, because, after all, these Consumers' Councils are more or less brakes or checks on irregularities or unfairness. This is a very different proposition. Here you have to promote and encourage a trade, and the trade has got to be won, perhaps in great competition, by the efficiency and organizing 922 power of the Board. To set up another committee, a statutory committee which, if my wager is right, is going to rim alongside the informal and advisory committee of the Board, seems to me the very worst possible piece of organization. I do beg of noble Lords, if they really want—as I know they all do—to capture this export trade, not to assume that by setting up more statutory committees you will facilitate your object in recapturing export trade. I am very sorry to say, therefore, that I cannot possibly accept this Amendment.
I am not entirely satisfied with what has been said by the noble and learned Lord. I do feel, of course, that he has a very great interest in export trade, and, in view of the assurance which he has given us, that the Coal Board will set up an Export Committee to deal with these matters, I beg leave to Withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE moved, in subsection, (2), to leave out "to represent the Board, and." The noble Lord said: The purpose of this Amendment is to enable the position of the Consumers' Council to be one which was so eloquently defined by the Lord Chancellor a few moments ago. The noble and learned Lord said that these Consumers' Councils will act morn or less as brakes or checks on irregularities, and indeed one of their main functions will be to hear complaints arising from the operation of the Board. I feel that the membership of this Council should be independent of the Board, that it should not include members of the Board, but indeed., as is proposed in a later Amendment, that this Consumers' Council should be able, as it were, to request—I will not use any stronger word—members of the Board to come before them and give information. For that reason I feel—and I hope the Government will agree with me—that it would be an improvement in the organization, and would fulfil the purpose of the Board more properly and adequately, if this Amendment were accepted. It would mean that no members of the Consumers' Council would be appointed to represent the Board, and that the Consumers' Council remains inviolate. I beg to move.
Page 4, line 24, leave out from ("him) to end of line 25.—[Lord Balfour of Inchrye.]
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I wish the noble Lord, of whose judgment I have such a high opinion, would really consider this Amendment again, because I cannot think that this would be a wise move, and I do not believe that he would think so if he again considered it. One conception is this, that you have the Board, and then you have a quite independent body with no connexion with it, not a common measure, sitting as it were as a check on it, to try to find out if it has made any errors or mistakes and to deal with them in the appropriate manner by passing its comments through to the Minister. In short, the two bodies are to be at arm's length. The noble Lord has Ministerial experience and knows very well that once you have got a decision crystallized by a Department, when a Departmental view is formed, it becomes extremely difficult to deal with it. I would suggest that it would be a better way of dealing with this, and that you would be likely to get a far more efficient check, if, instead of dealing with this thing at arm's length, this Council and representatives of the Board sat round the table together. The cards could be placed on the table, and the Consumers' Council people would say "Well, don't you think this, that, or the other?" The Board would say, "Well, the answer is this…" and so on. I believe that by that sort of less firm, less frigid attitude, you are very much more likely to achieve better results.
I would like the noble Lord to consider that, if he will, because we all want to do the same thing here. There is a risk, I agree, of these wrong things happening. We want to provide an effective check. I put it to him, as a most experienced business man: Does he not think that we are much more likely to get that effective check if there is the informal atmosphere which you get by having members of the Board and members of the Council all together, so that all secrets can be revealed, all the books can be opened, and all the rest of it, than you would do if you have two watertight compartments with officials communicating with each other? We all know what officials are when they communicate with each other, each taking their own point of view, determined to uphold their own dignity and that sort of thing. It becomes very much more difficult. My experience would suggest—and I believe that of the 924 noble Lord also—that if you do merge those two bodies to a certain extent, and have common members, you are much more likely to get really efficient results in the form of checks. Believing that, as I do, I cannot accept this Amendment.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I think this is genuinely one of the really difficult issues. If it was a question of people being at arm's length, I should say that undoubtedly the right thing is to make them sit together and have them both members.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
Common members. I had not contemplated that in looking at this Amendment or in any discussions I have had. I thought you would have a Consumers' Council. There is nothing very new in this. I remember years ago I was responsible for a Consumers' Council with regard to food and various other things. The traders came forward and met the members. Whoever was the right person would come forward; the millers at one time, the brewers at another, and the meat packers another time. They came and discussed questions very frankly. I imagined that here the Board would send along the right persons to come and talk over matters. One of the difficulties of making membership too formal seems to me that you always want to be sending different people along. I hope that we shall agree that there ought to be a number of sub-councils, but I am not going to discuss that now. The right person to come along is the man who knows the business. You may want to send one official on one occasion, another official on another occasion, and somebody quite different on a third. By making a formal membership I am not quite sure whether you will meet that difficulty. But, be that as it may, I think I should myself be a good deal influenced also by numbers. I do not want to formalize the thing, by voting and one thing and another. But I should like to know what the Lord Chancellor thinks about numbers. I do not think that you will satisfy the public—the consumers—that they have got a real Court of Appeal or a real tribunal—if you have an equal number of members of the Board. I will not call them the men in the dock, but they are the people after 925 all against whom the complaint is made, otherwise there would not be a complaint at all. If you have an equal number of defendants and an equal number of plaintiffs constituting the Council, I do not think that the plaintiffs would be satisfied that they would get a fair deal.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
The consumers should be in the majority. I hope I may be allowed to say a word or two on these other Amendments, because the whole of this business hangs together. I am anxious that the Minister should not appear to be a judge in his own cause. Therefore I did not want the Minister to have the sole right to appoint the Board. What is going to happen it somebody is dissatisfied: After all, every client does not go away completely satisfied, even from the best of courts. It is a great thing that a man should not have an obvious cause of complaint and say: "I knew I should not get any satisfaction out of that tribunal, anyhow." If the court is going to consist of the Board, who are the defendants, in the minority, it is true, who are appointed by the Minister, and a number of other people, also appointed by the Minister, then ordinary people will say: "We might as well have been appealing to the Minister direct." I see the difficulty of getting the right bodies to appoint these people. We have tried to see a way round that. Under the Bill as it stands, the Minister has to consult with the organizations which he thinks most representative. I would suggest—and I think I have used this method myself before in appointments of this kind—that the Minister should say who are the organizations who ought to be consulted, and then invite them to submit to him a panel of names. From those name let him appoint the people to be members.
I ask leave to carry my mind a little forward these other Amendments, because we shall more easily make up our minds on this one if we see how we are likely to be dealing with these Councils as a whole. I think my view would be this. If the Board are to be in a minority—that is agreed—and if the Minister will agree that he shall not give the appearance of appointing arbitrarily the other members of the tribunal but will give the consultative bodies the chance of putting up the names and will select from those, then I think it would be wise to let this stand— 926 that there shall be some members of the Board and some others. I am afraid those observations are rather disjointed, but I thought I would give my reactions to what the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor said.
§ LORD WARDINGTON
I am a little confused as to what has been said in regard to this, but the whole point seems to me to be that the noble Lord who moved the Amendment wishes to leave out the words "to represent the Board." Surely the members of the Council are not appointed to represent the Board; they are appointed to represent the consumers, whether industrial or domestic.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
It is very confusing, but we are discussing several Amendments together, in effect. The point at issue is this. I think the noble Lord is moving the Amendment to canvas the question as to whether the Consumers' Council should not be entirely apart from and not contain any member of the Board, whereas I want to have a Consumers' Council with some members of the Board. The sort of thing I have in mind is a body of eight, two of whom would be members of the Board. I want that for this reason. If I may use the nomenclature of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, I am very anxious to avoid the atmosphere of plaintiffs and defendants, because I know when you do that people tend to dry up a bit and you have to drag documents out of them. Therefore, I want some representatives of the Board and some representatives of the Consumers' Council all working together to try to do the right thing. If there has been any unfair discrimination, every honest man must resent it, and it is much better, I am convinced, to get all these people working together to try and find out what has gone wrong and put it right. That, I think, is the effect of the Amendment which the noble Lord moved.
With regard to what the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, said, I am rather anxious to avoid the organizations being able themselves to appoint. I will tell you why. It is because I think it is so fatal, when you get people doing this sort of job, that they should regard themselves as delegates who have instructions, and that if they are taking a particular line they are letting down their constituents. You must have a man with a fearless and independent mind of his own.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
That is exactly why I took the middle course of not saying: "You shall become delegates," but of saying to these various bodies: "You shall put me up a panel of names." I think you get just the right balance between the two.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I do not think it has. It seems to me much better than the other system. I think the Minister certainly ought to consult with these organizations, and in nine cases out of ten no doubt he would draw his names from the names they submitted. But there might be a case in which the Minister would want to appoint some independent person who was not persona grata with that particular group. I think the responsibility should be that of the Minister. However, that is a matter we can discuss when we come to the later stage. At this stage I hope I have convinced the noble Viscount that it is not desirable to keep these two bodies separate.
I am not quite clear as to the function of this Council. I remember, going back to the first Consumers' Council in 1917—
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DOMINION AFFAIRS (VISCOUNT ADDISON)
May I appeal to the noble Viscount for one moment? The point under discussion, as the noble Viscount will perhaps apprehend, is the Membership of the Board, and not the question of its functions. It was agreed quite shortly that the debate should come to a conclusion in a suitable and agreed time. May I ask the noble Viscount not to discuss the functions when the Amendment is confined to the membership?
I will just ask one question which will sum up what I had in mind. Is this Council an Advisory Council to the Board, or is it a Council which forms part of the administrative functions of the Board? Because there is nothing to show it is. The two are very different things.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
It is an advisory council to advise not the Board but the Minister, and the Minister, when he is satisfied with the advice, can then give directions.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
I thank the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, for his explanation. I have no regrets at having ventilated this particular point. I think the solution lies in two directions, one the spirit in which the work is done, and the other in that important piece of information he gave noble Lords on this side—his idea of what the numbers broadly should be. I should feel less hesitant to withdraw this Amendment if I felt there would be a reasonable balance. But with the assurance the learned Lord Chancellor has given I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House resumed.