[ME. J. W. WILSON in the Chair.]
(1) Sums collected by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue under this Act shall be paid into such account as the Controller may direct, and there shall, except as otherwise expressly provided, be paid into and out of that account any sums received or payable by the Controller under this Act.
Adjourned Debate resumed on Amendment, at the end of subsection (2), to insert the following new subsection:— 58 "3. There shall also be debited to the said account such amount as may be necessary to meet the administrative expenses of the Board of Trade constituted for the purpose of the control of the coal industry incurred during the period of the operation of this Act, and any payment made by the Controller with the consent of the Treasury as a consequence of action taken during that period in respect of the coal industry under Regulation 2JJ of the Defence of the Realm Regulations."—[Mr. Bridgeman.]
Question again proposed, "That subsection (3) be there inserted."
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Bridgeman): I am afraid I did not succeed in making quite clear the last time exactly what the effect of this amendment, read with the amendment which we passed to Clause 1, really is. I would call attention to sub-section (2) (a) (i) of Clause 1, which refers to the administrative expenses of the Coal Control Department, and the expense incurred under Regulation 2JJ. AS far as we can estimate the annual expenses of the Coal Control Department—it can only be a rough estimate—amounts to about £750,000. It is still more difficult to give a close estimate of expenses under 2JJ, but I am informed that in any case they cannot exceed half a million pounds. They arise as a result of action taken by the Department prior to winter in causing merchants to stock large quantities of coal in advance which afterwards, having bought at a higher price, they had to sell after the 10s. reduction. Of course, against that is set any gain they made arising from the rise of price previously. It is not possible to state exactly what that may be, but I am told it cannot exceed half a million pounds. That means that there may be involved in this proposal £1,250,000. The effect of this is that the £1,250,000 is not, as it would have been under the original Bill, deducted from the aggregate profits before apportioning it as it is apportioned in the rest of that clause, and therefore it has the effect, if the total profits come up to the pre-war standard, of giving 1-10th of the £1,250,000 to the owners. In other words, it may be £125,000. This brings their position exactly on all fours with the position with those who get the Sankey wage. The Sankey wage is given irrespective of this deduction, and therefore it puts the profits that the Bill decides to give to the owners on exactly the same footing as the wages which the Bill decides to give to the men, and it 59 also brings the arrangement as to control—so I am informed by the Treasury—into line with the arrangement which they have made with regard to other controls which they are financing. That means to say that the expenses of the control, these expenses under 2JJ, will be met out of the pool later on, and if, as everyone expects, the total profits come to enough to pay the full pre-war standard, then it will mean that £125,000, or thereabouts, will be paid to the owners.
Mr. ADAMSON: I think the Committee were well advised on the occasion of our last sitting to adjourn the consideration of the Amendment then moved by the Parliamentary Secretary. On that occasion he was able to explain to us very fully what the first part of this Amendment meant. He was able to explain that it put the responsibility for paying the Coal Control proportion of the £750,000 on to the Treasury; but, with reference to the second part, all the information that he was able to give us then was that Regulation 2JJ had some reference to the payment of the expenditure incurred by coal merchants in the course of their operations. This morning he is able to inform us what this really will mean, and it means that, in addition to the £750,000 which was explained to us at the last sitting, the coal merchants' proportion of another £500,000 will be required to be met from the Treasury instead of from the profits of the coal mining industry.
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: No, it does not mean that. It means 10 per cent. of that sum. The rest will be paid out of the Coal Controller's fund, and the Treasury will get it back from that fund.
Mr. ADAMSON: The explanation just bears out the statement I have made. The information we have got this morning from the Parliamentary Secretary is to the effect that under 2JJ the coal owners' proportion of this additional half million will require to be met from the Treasury. I observe that the Parliamentary Secretary explained that this would amount to £125,000 instead of £500,000, as appears upon the surface, but I think that the whole explanation this morning was well worth waiting for, because if we had passed it with only the information we had on the last occasion, we would have 60 thought there was nothing in this innocent addition under Regulation 2JJ, but we now know that it means a very substantial addition to the expenditure that is to be met from the Treasury instead of from the profits earned in the coal mining industry. I do not know that the hon. Gentleman can expect the members of the Labour Party to support a proposition of that kind. We have already settled the first portion of this amendment. We voted against its inclusion, and I think we will have no other alternative than to vote against the inclusion of this part also.
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: Of course the right hon. Gentleman and his friends are perfectly entitled to vote whichever way they like upon this, but I did want the Committee to feel that they understood what it meant, and that is why I came down to try and make a fuller explanation than I was able to do on the last occasion. There is one mistake the right hon. Gentleman makes; he is wrong in saying that all the expense under 2JJ falls on the Treasury.
Mr. ADAMSON: I object to that. I said the coal owners proportion, and I was thinking of the 10 per cent.
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: But the difference is that the expenses in these two cases come out of the Coal Controller's fund after the calculation has been made as to the aggregate profits divisible instead of before. That is the whole difference.
Major BARNES: With regard to the payment under 2 JJ, the hon. Gentleman has told us it is estimated to amount to not more than £500,000. I see that in the supplementary estimates on the coal mines deficiency it is put down as an indemnity to coal merchants. I understand that this payment under Regulation 2JJ is to coal merchants, and that it is being made on account of losses which they may suffer through directions issued by the Coal Controller. The point I want to clear up is whether this sum of £852,000 which is down here as an indemnity to coal merchants, and which appears in this estimate as a payment to meet the cost of certain emergency measures in regard to the stocking, transport, and distribution of coal and compensation for the loss on stocks as a result of the reduction of 10s. in the price of household: and domestic coal. I certainly understood 61 that that was the matter for which payment was being made. The question I want to ask is whether this sum of £500,000 now estimated is in addition to this sum of £852,000 or whether it is included in it.
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: The £500,000 is included in the £852,000, but the £500,000 is the maximum that can be paid under this particular section, and when I say maximum, I hope it will be understood that I do not say that it is the exact amount, because maxima are apt to be quoted as the exact figure.
Major BARNES: Whatever the sum, is it included in this £852,000?
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: Yes.
Sir CLIFFORD CORY: I understand that the Government took powers to control certain articles required during the war, such as food. Then they extended it to coal by which they had power to commandeer anybody's coal, even the right hon. Gentleman's coal in his cellar, if required for the purposes of the State and the cost of removing that coal would be one which the Government ought to defray, and, in fact, has to defray under that Regulation. Nobody can object, if somebody's coal is taken for the State, to the proposal that the expense of the removal should be borne by the Government.
Mr. HARTSHORN: I do not know whether anybody understands what we are now dealing with. I gather from the remarks of the hon. Member for Newcastle-on-Tyne (Major Barnes) that the impression was we were providing money to meet the demands made by merchants on account of having to sell coal at 10s. a ton less than they thought they would have to sell when they bought it. Now we are told by the hon. Baronet opposite that this money is for shifting coal from one place to another, which is a very different thing. Reference has been made to the Supplementary estimate of £850,000, but I wish to point out that this estimate altogether makes up about £32,000,000 that the State is asked to pay for the Mining industry owing to the fact that we have somewhere between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000 of profits in the industry. I should like to have some information as to the figures for the current year. We have here in this esti- 62 mate £32,000,000 to be provided from the Exchequer. Reference has been made to this figure as being indemnities to Coal merchants. I should like to know what it is we are supposed to provide this money for under 2 JJ. IS it for the purpose of meeting the demands of those merchants or is it for the purpose suggested by the hon. Baronet opposite? If it is for the merchants can we be given any information as to whether a proper adjustment was made on account of the stocks in hand when the 6s. was added and the merchants got the advantage of that, and whether that was set against their claim when the 10s. reduction took place.
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: The hon. Gentleman was not in the room when I explained this and I hope he will let me say that I hold to my own explanation and not to that given by the hon. Baronet behind me. I will read it again for his benefit. It says: "As a result of the action taken by the Department prior to winter in causing merchants to stock large quantities of coal in advance which afterwards, having bought at a higher price, they had to sell after the 10s. reduction." I think that answers the hon. Member's question. With regard to the £32,000,000, I do not think I should be in order in explaining it now, but I did explain it yesterday, and I thought I made the hon. Member understand it.
Mr. HANCOCK: It seems to me that there is no difference of opinion on the question of the losses being made good. Apparently, from what we have heard, the question is whether they should be made good by the Treasury or out of the Industry. That is what I understand to be the question before the Chair.
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: No.
Mr. S. WALSH: Personally, I think this amendment dealing with two very distinct points is rather a regrettable one. If I understand the amendment aright there is two distinct matters dealt with. In the first place there is the administrative expenses of the Board of Trade, and the second is payments made by the Controller. The Board of Trade is a great department, and no one desires that its expenses should not be properly met, but surely that is quite distinct from payments 63 made by the Coal Controller with the consent of the Treasury under the Defence of the Realm Regulations. I think it would have contributed to the better understanding of this question if those two matters had been kept distinct from each other. The matter of the administrative expenses has been practically settled, but in respect of the other point I am bound to say that while I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman has done his best to explain the matter, I really am in a state of very great embarrassment, because I do not know what connection the £750,000 has with the £500,000, and I do not know what relation the £125,000, which is supposed to be one-tenth of the whole, has to either of the sums I have mentioned, or what relation the £750,000, the £500,000, or the £125,000 has to the £852,000 which is required to make up the total of £1,250,000. We want this matter simplified in order that not merely this Committee which represents the nation, but those engaged in the Industry who have to inform their people as to its effect, should have a much clearer view of what is being done than we have at the present moment. The sum required is said to be £852,000. The original estimate was £150,000, the revised estimate £1,002,000, and the additional sum asked for is £852,000, and the hon. Member in charge of the Bill says there is a maximum of £500,000 which shall not be exceeded. These figures are all jumbled up in such a way that I do not think Cocker himself could explain them, unless there is some attempt at simplification. We have no desire to hamper or delay genuine progress, but when we go outside we have to tell our people exactly how matters stand, and I am sure there is not a man here who really knows what we are dealing with.
The CHAIRMAN: My opinion is that the matter under discussion in this Clause is any remains of past expenditure still to be paid under those conditions. We are not here to discuss the Supplementary Estimate. Obviously that must be discussed in the House, but the Government is taking power to deal with what remains of certain obligations that still continue, and that is a perfectly right subject to discuss here. I do not understand myself how the supplementary 64 estimates for the current year can be discussed when obviously we are discussing only the administration of the department.
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: I really do not think there is so much mystery about this matter as the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken seems to think, and perhaps hon. Members themselves have contributed something towards that mystery. The £500,000 is the maximum which we say is needed under 2JJ of this Clause and that is included in the £850,000. The hon. Gentleman asked how I arrived at the £125,000, the £750,000 and the £500,000. I have already told the Committee that the £500,000 is the maximum under 2JJ. The £500,000 and £750,000 make £1,250,000, and one-tenth of that is £125,000.
Mr. WALSH: What is the relation of the one-tenth?
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: You only need to look at the Bill for that information because it lays down that the one-tenth goes to the owners as their share of the profits, and nine-tenths go to the pool, and therefore under this proposal, if the total proceeds exceed the pre-War standards by £1,250,000 the owners will get £125,000, or one-tenth of that sum. It is really only an accounting question, whether you deduct this from the aggregate first or whether it is paid out of the Controller's Fund afterwards. The Treasury have decided that the proper way to do it is the way that we are proposing to do it here.
Brigadier-General HICKMAN: In a word, all the profits of the Ministry are aggregated together, and if there is sufficient money left under the Bill afterwards the owners will get 10 per cent. of what remains. The balance of it goes into the Controller's Fund, and if, as hon. Members opposite contend, the expenses which have been enumerated by my hon. Friend in charge of the Bill are set against that balance before the 10 per cent. is given to the owners, the latter will lose 10 per cent. of that £1,200,000.
Sir W. RAEBURN: Hon. Members seem to be concerned as to whether there should not be a separation between the two points dealt with in this Clause—whether they should not be dealt with in separate Clauses. The whole thing arises out of what we did at our last sitting, 65 when on Clause 2, sub-section (1), we took out the word "deductions" and put in the word "deduction." It is simply a matter of accounting. Regulation 2JJ comes in on that Clause. This Clause has been introduced to-day to show what must now take place now that the Treasury has to pay instead of the coalowner. I do not think we could have made two separate things of it. It is absolutely clear, and would only lead to misapprehension if the hon. Gentleman were to split the Clause into two.
|Division No. 5.]||AYES.|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood||Doyle, N. Grattan||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Gould, James C.||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Grant, James A.||Raeburn, Sir William H.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.||Ramsden, G. T.|
|Cope, Major Wm.||Hinds, John||Wheler, Major Granville C. H.|
|Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Hurd, Percy A.||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Guest, J. (York, W. R., Homsworth)||Lawson, John J.|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Hancock, John George||Parkinson, John Allen (Wlgan)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Hartshorn, Vernon||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Hirst, G. H.||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
Motion made and Question proposed,
"That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
Major BARNES: Before we leave this Clause, which is, after all, the most important Clause in the Bill, because it is the one under which the whole liability of the Treasury may arise, I think we should have a word or two on its general effect. Up to the present we have been simply discussing the effect of the Amendment on one of the sections, and you deprecated any reference to the Supplementary Estimates in connection with this.
The CHAIRMAN: Not on the whole Clause.
Major BARNES: I am sorry. With regard to that a Memorandum has been issued on the expenditure falling on the owner under the Bill in which reference is made to the Supplementary Estimate. It is clear there is considerable difficulty on the part of everybody in grasping the full effect of the proposal. The expectation of the Government is that the adoption of this Clause will be of considerable benefit to the Treasury. This is the Government's second shot at the Coal industry. Their first was the Coal Mines Control Agreement, which this Bill is intended to displace. I have read the66
Mr. WALSH: On the one hand we have the expenses of the Board of Trade for administration, and on the other the expenses of the Coal Controller.
Sir W. RAEBURN: We decided at our last sitting that both these items should be put into one Clause.
Question put, "That sub-section (3) be there inserted."
The Committee divided: Ayes, 18; Noes, 12.
Debate on that agreement, and I see that the Minister in charge, when it was brought in, said it was not expected that any deficiency would arise under the Coal Mines Control Agreement. Now, however, we learn that a deficiency of over £32,000,000 has arisen, and I think that is sufficient to show how important it is that we should fully understand the effect of this Clause, because, if this Bill is as bad a shot as was the Coal Mines Control Agreement, we may perhaps find we shall be landed into a deficiency of £96,000,000, instead of £32,000,000 only. I gather that what the Treasury expect to get as a result of this proposal is a sum of £20,000,000 which they could not get without the Bill. In an answer which I got from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and which covered both Clause 5 and Sub-section (2), and Clause 7 Sub-section (4), it is estimated that about £20,000,000 will be ultimately repaid to the Exchequer, so that the effect of this Clause is that this Bill is going to give to the Treasury £20,000,000 which they could not get without it; and the only deduction which one can come to make from that is that it is really a surrender which is not quite appreciated by my hon. Friends behind me. There is a surrender to the Treasury here by the coal-owners of the country of £20,000,000, which under the law as it stands they could have retained.67
Brigadier-General HICKMAN: Instead of the Excess profits going to the Chancellor of the Exchequer?
Major BARNES: Without this Bill the Treasury loses £20,000,000, by this Bill it gets it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says: "There is a deficiency of £32,000,000 If I get this Bill I shall get £20,000,000 under it which would otherwise go to somebody else." The only people it can be got from are the coal-owners, and I am rather surprised that my hon. and gallant friend opposite does not appreciated that point. As far as I can see the coal-owners have made a very generous bargain; if they had stood on their rights under the law as it stands this £20,000,000 would have remained in their pocket, but for some reason or other—and I am sure my hon. friends near me will find it difficult to believe that the action is entirely philanthropic—they are prepared to surrender to the Treasury £20,000,000 under this Bill, which under the old Bill they would have been able to retain. That is, I take it, the effect of this proposal. If it is not, perhaps the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill will further explain the matter. That £20,000,000 will be affected by concessions which have been made since the Bill was introduced. According to the answer given to me on the 25th February, the Bill, as it then stood, was one under which the expenses of administration and the indemnity under 2JJ were deducted against the profits. Now that has been altered, and I take it that the £20,000,000 estimate is reduced by £1,250,000 less 10 per cent. These are really points upon which we should have a little further information. I agree with my hon. friend the Member for Ince (Mr. Walsh) it is important that we should be able to go away from this Committee to our constituents, if necessary, to explain the provisions of this Bill. It is a very difficult matter. We all appreciate that, and I think the general effect of this Clause, with the concessions made by the Parliamentary Secretary for the Board of Trade, should be properly explained so that we may be able to form a correct estimate of the effect and purposes of the Bill.
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: I do not think I would be in order in discussing the Supplementary Estimate on this, or, indeed, the figures which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has introduced into his speech 68 this morning. This is not the occasion to do it. The difficulty under which he laboured, and from which I have several times tried to relieve him, is that he does not seem to understand that the payments by the Treasury are advances to the Coal Controller in order to enable him to carry-on the operations for which he is responsible. He cannot get the levy in time to pay the adjustments and awards he will be called upon to pay. He cannot get the levy from the mines that are paying well in time to pay the awards and adjustments so as to keep going those mines which are not doing well. The sole object of this Clause is to give him the money, which he will have to pay back to the Treasury afterwards, to finance his operations until he can get paid to him the levy which will be due under this Bill. That is as plain as I can make it. The levy is raised by the Inland Revenue officials, who have to give two months' notice of it, and, therefore, it is perfectly clear that it may be several months before the Controller has in hand, without these advances from the Treasury, funds sufficient to pay what he has to pay. The sole object of this Clause is to enable the Treasury to advance him money which he is afterwards to pay back when he gets in this levy.
Mr. ADAMSON: We have no intention of prolonging the discussion on this Motion, but we do intend to vote against it, and we reserve our criticisms for the discussion which will take place later on downstairs, when we shall not be under the difficulties which you seem to think we are under in discussing the relationship of the Supplementary Estimate to the figures contained in the Bill.
The CHAIRMAN: I may point out to the right hon. Gentleman that I have not limited the discussions. As far as I understood it, the hon. Member for Newcastle was entirely in order in everything he said.
Mr. ADAMSON: I understood you to say you had some difficulty in allowing the figures of the Supplementary Estimate to be discussed here.
The CHAIRMAN: On a particular Amendment.
Major BARNES: Clause 7 says that the temporary advances shall be repaid to the Exchequer with interest as soon as there are funds in the account available for the 69 purpose. The only fund out of which the deficiency can be met is the fund created under this Bill, and if that fund should not be adequate—if after the years working there should be a deficiency of £1,000,000, as the late Coal Controller thought there might be—there would not be money in the fund, which is the only source from which the repayment can be made, to provide the Chancellor of the Exchequer with his £20,000,000.
Sir EVAN JONES: I might be able to explain that point. Before the question of the Coal profit of the year 1919-20 was determined at all, whether it was according to the independent accountant's report £1,000,000 profit or £1,000,000 loss, these particular items which are recoverable had been charged to the expenditure,
|Division No. 6.]||AYES.|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood||Gould, James C.||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Grant, James A.||Raeburn, Sir William H.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.||Ramsden, G. T.|
|Cope, Major Wm.||Hinds, John||Wheler, Major Granville C. H.|
|Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Hurd, Percy A.||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Lawson, John J.|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Hancock, John George||Parkinson, John Allen (Wlgan)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Hartshorn, Vernon||Sltch, Charles H.|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Hirst, G. H.||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, [Ines]|
Clause 8 ("Offences") ordered to stand part of the Bill.
9. Subject to the provisions of Part I. of the Second Schedule to this Act the agreement confirmed by the Coal Mines Control Agreement (Confirmation) Act, 1918, shall cease to have effect, and shall be deemed to have ceased to have had effect as from the first day of April nineteen hundred and nineteen, and that Act shall be repealed as from the same date:
Provided that the provisions of the said agreement relating to the closing of mines, information and accounts, and secrecy as set out and modified in Part II. of the Second Schedule to this Act shall have effect as if enacted in this Act.
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: I beg to move, after the word "accounts," ["the closing of mines, information and accounts"] to insert the word "apportionment." This is merely to bring it into line with an Amendment to the Schedule which I shall have to move with regard to making the periods of apportionment.
Mr. ADAMSON: I think the Committee is entitled to an explanation of the70
and therefore whether the account will result in a small profit or a small loss does not affect that in any way. They have been charged as a cost and as an expense to the accounts and before the result one or the other is arrived at.
Major BARNES: That is a very interesting statement indeed. I have the account before me which was made by the accountant which sets out the items of expenditure, wages, timber stores, etc. I am very glad to hear that in all these items appears the amount of advances which have been made by the Treasury.
Question put. "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
The Committee divided: Ayes, 17; Noes, 12.
Amendment which follows before we agree to this.
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: The Amendment I referred to is on Schedule 2, to add words which are taken from Clause 12 of the Coal Mines Control Agreement with certain consequential modifications. Clause 12 reads, "where the undertaking is subject to Control, etc.," and it does not contemplate the termination of the agreement otherwise than by the termination of control. If the words in the agreement had been "subject to the provisions of the agreement" no difficulty would now have arisen, because control is going on or although the agreement will terminate, and these words are necessary to adjust the arrangement under the agreement to the present arrangement, for apportionment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause as amended ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 10 ("Interpretation") and 11 ("Short Title and Duration") ordered to stand part of the Bill.
(1) If the sum distributable does not exceed the aggregate of the total standards of all the undertakings, that sum shall be apportioned amongst the several undertakings in accordance with the proportion which the total standards of each undertaking bears to the aggregate of the total standards of all the undertakings.
Sir J. S. HARMOOD-BANNER: I beg to move in paragraph (3) (b), to leave out the words "household and domestic," ["every ton of household and domestic coal."]
This is to make clear what is the intention of the Act.
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: I am quite ready to accept the Amendment. It only affects She distribution of profits amongst the owners. If they like these words I am quite willing to agree to them.
Amendment agreed to.
Sir J. S. HARMOOD-BANNER: I beg to move, in paragraph (3) (b) after the word "Act," "the period of the continuance of this Act" to insert the words "for 72 household and domestic purposes for the manufacture of gas or electricity for household and domestic purposes."
Major BARNES: Does this make any change in the existing arrangements? Coal at present is supplied for the manufacture of gas or electricity at a reduction of 10s. a ton. Is that so, or is it only household and domestic coal which gets the 10s. off?
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: This is merely a question of distribution between the owners. It makes no difference to anyone else concerned. It is really a drafting Amendment, which, in their opinion, makes it easier to distribute the sum.
Amendment agreed to.
Question, "That the Schedule, as amended, be the first schedule to the Bill," put and agreed to.
Provisions subject to which Coal Mines Control Agreement to be, determined.
(1) The determination of the agreement confirmed by the Coal Mines Control Agreement (Confirmation) Act, 1918, shall not affect any right or liability which may have accrued before the date of the determination thereof.
(2) Any sums payable under the said agreement after the passing of this Act shall be paid into or out of the account established under this Act, and any deficit at the passing of this Act on the account established under the said Act shall be transferred to the account established under this Act.
(3) Any sums collected as coal mines excess payments under the said agreement in respect of any accounting period ended after the thirty-first day of March nineteen hundred and nineteen shall be regarded as payments on account of coal levy except to the extent to which such coal mines excess payments relate to the profits apportioned for the period up to and including the thirty-first day of March nineteen hundred and nineteen, in accordance with the number of months or fractions of months falling outside the period of the operation of this Act.
(4) Any sum paid by the Controller under clause four of the said agreement in respect of any accounting period ended after the thirty-first day of March nineteen hundred and nineteen shall be regarded as a payment on account of coal award or adjustment award except to the extent to which such payment relates to the profits apportioned up to and including the thirty-first day of March nineteen hundred and nineteen, in accordance with the number of months or fractions of months falling outside the period of the operation of this Act; and if no coal award or adjustment award is due in respect of such period or the amount so paid ex- 73 ceeds the coal award or adjustment award, such payment or excess or the part thereof which is attributable to such period, shall be repaid to the Controller and shall be recoverable as a debt due to the Crown.
Provisions of the Coal Mines Control Agreement re-enacted with Modifications.
I.—(1) If the owner of an undertaking intends to close or abandon the whole or any part thereof he shall give to the Controller not less than sixty days' notice of his intention, and if before the expiration of the notice the Controller directs that the undertaking or such part thereof shall not be closed or abandoned, the undertaking shall continue to be carried on in accordance with the directions of the Controller.
(2) If no such directions as aforesaid are given by the Controller, the undertaking or such part thereof as aforesaid shall, unless otherwise agreed between the Controller and the owner, be closed or abandoned at the expiration of the notice or at the earliest date at which the owner has power to close or abandon it under the conditions of his tenure.
2—(1) The owner of every undertaking shall keep and furnish to the Controller at such times and in such form as the Controller may determine such cost accounts, trading accounts, and balance sheets and other amounts and records as the Controller may require, audited and verified in such manner as he may direct, and where an undertaking forms part only of a trade or business entirely separate accounts of the undertaking shall be kept, and the price charged on departmental transactions between the undertaking and any other portion of the trade or business shall be on a commercial basis, and such as may from time to time be fixed by the Controller, whose decision shall be final.
(2) The Controller or any person appointed by him in that behalf may require the owner of any undertaking, and any director, manager, or officer of the undertaking to furnish any information which may be reasonably required by the Controller for the purposes of this Act, and may inspect and take copies of any books, plans, records, and documents relating to the undertaking, and every such owner, director, manager, and officer shall furnish to the Controller or any person appointed by him all such information as aforesaid, and shall produce all such books, plans, records, and documents as may be in his possession or under his control, and shall afford to such person all reasonable facilities for inspecting the same.
(3) If any person knowingly gives any information which is false in any material particular, he shall be guilty of an offence against this Act.
3. The Commissioners of Inland Revenue may make available to the Controller any information acquired by them for the purposes of income tax or excess profits duty or otherwise which the Controller may desire for the purposes of this Act.74
4.—(1) Subject to the provisions of the Coal Industry Commission Act, 1919, any information obtained under the last two preceding paragraphs shall be treated as confidential, and shall be used only for the purposes of His Majesty's Government or any department thereof, and no person who obtains any such information shall disclose or make use of any such information for any other purpose.
(2) Any person who may obtain any information which by virtue of this section is to be treated as confidential shall be required to make a declaration of secrecy in such form as may be prescribed by the Board of Trade, and subject as aforesaid any person who has made such a declaration shall, for the purposes of section eighty-nine of the Income Tax Act, 1918, and the declarations made thereunder, be treated in relation to the disclosure of information under the last preceding section of this Act as if he was a person sworn to the due execution of the said Act.
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: I beg to move, in Part I, to leave out paragraph (2) and insert instead the following new paragraph:— "2. Any sums payable under the said agreement after the passing of this Act shall, subject to paragraphs 3 and 4, be paid into or out of the account established under the Coal Mines Control Agreement (Confirmation) Act which shall continue to be kept until all the sums so payable have been paid." The object of this Amendment is to enable the account of the Coal Mines Control agreement to be kept separate from the account to be established by this Bill and the effect of the Amendment will be read with Sub-sections (3) and (4), that future payments under the agreement will go into the agreement account as far as they relate to accounting periods or parts of accounting periods ended the 31st March last year so as to keep that account separate from the account which began at the date of which this Act takes effect, that is 1st April, 1919. It divides the accounts under the agreement from the accounts under this Act.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: I beg to move, in Part II, paragraph (2) (1) to insert the words:— "and where coal has been or is sold or delivered from an undertaking to a concern in which any owner, partner, or person engaged in the management or direction of the undertaking is directly or indirectly interested, the price to be brought into the accounts of the undertaking in respect of that coal shall be such as may from time 75 to time be fixed by the Controller having regard to market price, and the decision of the Controller shall be final." This is intended to protect the pool from operations which might take place between one company and a subsidiary company with which they might be allied. That is to say the company might sell coal below the market value to some company in which it was interested and that company would therefore be the gainer by it, and indirectly the original company, so far as it was interested in it, and the pool would suffer because they would not get into the pool the amount which was the real market value of the coal. They would only get the amount in the books as having been sold by one concern to the other. Therefore this proposal is intended to safeguard the pool and to give, power to the Controller to account for this coal at the market price and not at any fictitious price which might have been arranged between these two parties.
Mr. HURD: Is not that the present arrangement?
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: I think this enables us to enforce it in cases where it might not be enforceable now. There is a minimum export price and if anyone sold at that minimum export price, although they were really getting a great deal more back in some other way, it would not be easy for the Controller to safeguard the pool and collect the money. Under this we think it prevents any transaction of that kind.
Mr. HARTSHORN: Does this refer to coal that has been sold by colliery undertakings to other undertakings or departments owned or run by them?
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: That we can do now. This is aimed at preventing what would really be a fraudulent transaction, as I think, between one company and another which was allied with it by which they would appear to be selling their coal at a price below the market value and so defraud the pool of the real value of the coal.
Sir J. HARMOOD-BANNER: I think this question has been raised once or twice in the House, and it has been said that colliery owners are in the habit of malting colourable sales for the 76 purpose of preventing their profits being properly shown. I do not know of my own knowledge of these colourable sales. It is a very good thing that we should have it down in print so that there should be no such thing, and any colourable sales made to avoid profits coming to the Controller's hands should be put an end to.
Mr. HARTSHORN: It is because I do not think this amendment deals with the point that has been referred to that I rise. I think the Parliamentary Secretary will be quite prepared to admit that the coal owners are supplying to themselves coal below the actual cost of production. They are selling to themselves as steel and coke manufacturers and as manufacturers in other directions coal below the cost of production.
Brigadier-General HICKMAN: So long as it is the scheduled price laid down by the Controller.
Mr. HARTSHORN: Those parts of an undertaking which are not controlled by this Bill ought not to be supplied with coal from the mining industry below cost price. I understand that the Parliamentary Secretary said they have power at present to deal with that, but I should like to know whether it can really be dealt with and whether the price that the coal owners will be expected to charge for their other branches will be at least cost price.
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: I quite see the point that the hon. Gentleman raises, but I think he has overlooked a part of the second schedule, in which it says that "where an undertaking forms part only of a trade or business entirely separate accounts of the undertaking shall be kept, and the price charged on departmental transactions between the undertaking and any other portion of the trade or business shall be on a commercial basis, and such as may from time to time be fixed by the Controller, whose decision shall be final." That, we hold, covers the case that he mentions, but the Amendment was designed for a different kind of case.
Mr. HARTSHORN: May I ask if it is the intention of the Coal Controller for the future to insist upon the charge being such from one department to the other as will cover the cost of production?
The CHAIRMAN: I think the Commutes have, already passed Sub-section 77 (1), but the hon. Member can raise the point on the Question that the schedule stand part.
Brigadier-General HICKMAN: We are just as keen as is the hon. Member to stop any money going the wrong way. The Mining Association have been thinking about this particular section a great deal, as have also the Controller and the Board of Trade, so as to stop any money being made by private individuals which ought to go into the pool, and I think the hon. Member can rest assured that this is the way to stop it, and that there will not be any loophole.
Mr. R. McLAREN: I think this matter requires clearing up, and I am not sure that I am in favour of the Amendment. It must be observed that the Coal Controller fixes a certain price for manufacture coal, and manufacture coal just now is sold at less than the actual cost of raising it. Take the case of a brickwork that I know something about. The brickwork people are using coal, and can only charge the price laid down by the Controller, and that is put against the brickworks and in favour of the coal. The same thing also applies in other industries, and supposing there are steel works in connection with the collieries, the steel works will be supplied with coal from their own collieries at the price fixed by the Coal Controller, and if there is any fault at all it is with the Controller in supplying industrial coal below its cost price. I do not think you can blame the coal owners. If the Controller thinks this coal should be utilised for the various industries, let him raise the price at once, and that will fix the thing, but it is very unfair to make statements in the House of Commons that the coal owners are in many ways trying to avoid their responsibilities.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: I beg to move, in paragraph 4 (1), at the end, to add the words: "Provided that the Controller shall publish as soon as may be in respect of the three months ended on the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and twenty, and each succeeding three months, statistical summaries of output and of the costs of production, proceeds, and profits of the coalmining industry as a whole, and for the various districts, notwithstanding anything 78 in this Schedule or that such summaries may be compiled from information obtained under paragraph 2 thereof." I have put down an Amendment which is slightly different from the one I had on the paper yesterday, after consultation with some of the hon. Members opposite, and I hope it will meet with general approval. I feel strongly that the early publication of statistics will do more to allay the unfortunate suspicion that exists so much at present than anything else, and although I cannot accept the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) that these statistics should be published within three months, I have put down "as soon as may be" at the end of each quarter. We certainly hope that they will be able to publish them in less than three months, but I do not feel able to put into the Bill a date which would subject the Coal Controller to a penalty if he was unable to fulfil it, although the inability would not be owing to any fault of his own. If we put in the words "three months," it would very likely lead to our not being able to get the statistics so soon as otherwise, for people would wait till the end of the period and then rush the Controller with a lot of figures in the last week or two. We want to screw up as much as we can the return of these figures and publish them as soon as we can afterwards, and I hope my Amendment will meet everybody's wishes in the matter.
Mr. HARTSHORN: So far as we are concerned, we are prepared to accept the Amendment. I rather think, after the discussion we had with the Controller and with the Parliamentary Secretary yesterday, that the words they suggest will probably accomplish the object we have in view more effectively than would the words of the Amendment we ourselves have put down. I can only express the hope that the colliery owners will render every assistance to the Controller by supplying the information he requires at the earliest possible date, so that we may have these returns with as little delay as possible. We are satisfied that the Controller does intend to get the information published at the earliest possible date.
Mr. R. McLAREN: I think any person who has anything to do with getting out statistics will be inclined to support the Amendment. The statistics do not depend 79 so much on the Controller as on the people who send in the returns, and it is not a very easy matter to get out these returns. I think it is only reasonable that the Controller should be allowed ample time in the matter; to hurry him means that people would possibly wait to the end of a fixed period and then suddenly send in their returns, which would have to be checked in a very inadequate time.
Sir C. CORY: I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out the words "and for the various districts." I agree that the coal owners do not object to this Clause at all, and will do all in their power to help to get the information out as soon as possible, but I would suggest the omission of the words I have mentioned. The Bill deals with profits in the aggregate, as a whole, and the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) in his Amendment also suggests as a whole. It would enable the coal owners to get out the information much more quickly if it was not taken for the various districts, but as a whole, and there is no reason for taking out a district separately.
Mr. ADAMSON: I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will not accept the Amendment to his Amendment, for it would mean that the figures would be of little or no value so far as the miners and the general public were concerned. We understand that the coal owners were favourable to the Amendment of the Parliamentary Secretary, but I fear we have been giving them credit for more generosity than they were entitled to. I hope, therefore, that the Parliamentary Secretary will not agree to the Amendment to his Amendment, and that the other hon. Members of the Committee will support him in that action. It is of the utmost value that the people in this country should have the fullest possible information regarding the mining industry, without going into what may really be the figures of individual companies. The Amendment as proposed by the Parliamentary Secretary does not reveal publicly the figures relating to individual companies. What it does is to give us the figures as a whole, applicable to each of the districts, and after we have got that to get the total of the whole of the districts combined. I think that is the least information to which the public 80 are entitled, and I do not think the coalowners ought to stand in the way of the acceptance by the Committee of the Amendment moved by the Parliamentary Secretary.
Mr. HURD: The suggestion just made from the other side is exactly the suggestion of the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) in the Amendment which he has on the paper, in which there is nothing about districts.
Mr. HARTSHORN: I think the Committee may as well be put in possession of the facts. We discussed with the Coal Controller's Department the kind of information with which we desired to be furnished. They objected to publish any information that savoured of individual accounts, but they did not object to figures in the aggregate. We drew attention to the returns published in the report of the coal owners in which the figures were drawn up relating to districts.
Major BARNES: What makes a district?
Mr. HARTSHORN: Scotland is a district, and Derbyshire is a district, and so on. I know the Amendment we have put down does not ask for the figures for each district separately, but our Amendment was granted in a hurry and put in at the last moment, and we afterwards found that it did not cover what we had agreed to, and the Parliamentary Secretary then put in the words "and for the various districts."
Sir J. HARMOOD-BANNER: I do not think we ought to bandy words as to who has been the most benevolent. An appeal was made for this information, and the coalowners are only too glad to give it. I wish to point out that the information was wanted as speedily as possible, and if you are going to have it for the various districts it will take longer to classify than if the information is given as a whole. The whole tendency of this Bill is to treat the matter in the aggregate, and I think that is the way we should consider the question. We are anxious to have the information speedily, and it involves an enormous amount of work and cost, and we are ready to give it as soon as possible, and I think we have always done so in that part of the world to which I belong. I think it would be much quicker to give it as a whole than for the various districts.81
Mr. WALSH: I must appeal to my hon. Friends opposite on this point. They know perfectly well that the existing machinery in the various well-defined coal districts of the mining industry is such that these returns can be made relatively with speed and smoothness. This amendment which stands in our names was rather hurriedly framed.
Sir J. HARMOOD-BANNER: We are only carrying out your views.
Mr. WALSH: The hon. Gentleman in charge of this measure is perfectly acquainted with this business, and he has put down an amendment which surely meets the reasonable needs of everybody engaged in the industry. After all there are very well-defined distinctions in this industry. There are great exporting areas, great self contained inland areas, and so on, and the information, if it is put en bloc before the public would practically be no information at all. You really need this kind of tabulation and distinction if the information when compiled is to be any real information to the public. I earnestly hope my hon. Friends opposite will not press this amendment, and I trust that at the last moment of the Committee we shall not waste time over this matter, which is of small importance to hon. Members opposite, although it is of great importance to the workmen in the industry because of the general information it will give to the public.
Sir C. CORY: I am afraid we shall have to press this amendment because there is no object to be served by getting out the information for each district which will entail a lot of extra work. The amendment put down by the hon. Gentleman opposite does not ask for it to apply to the various districts, and there is no reason whatver for taking out the figures for every district. I think it is better for everybody that it should be taken out as a whole if you want to know the profits as a whole.
Mr. HARTSHORN: I do not know why a suggestion should be made that this will involve a great amount of work. The coalowners have to supply this information upon forms under the direction of the Coal Controller, and those returns are sent in regardless of how they will be tabulated afterwards. As a matter of 82 fact it is the Coal Controller's Department who will have to do the work, and it means nothing at all to the coalowners. We already have the information for the six months ending December, 1917, for the March, June, and December quarters, 1918, in fact we have the information up to December, 1918, and we are getting the same information for 1919. We are now asking that it should be embodied in this Bill as an obligation upon the Coal Controller to publish this information every quarter. We are only asking for the same thing which we have got for the last eighteen months or two years.
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: I hope the hon. Baronet will not press this amendment. When this Bill was discussed on the Second Reading the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) pressed very much for these statistics, and criticised the Bill on the ground that they might not be able to get them. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Brigadier-General Hickman) met him very handsomely, and said he was quite willing that the figures asked for under this amendment should be given.
Sir C. CORY: Yes, as a whole.
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: What the hon. Member referred to was the figures mentioned in the Sankey Report, and that to me seems to be the most useful sort of statistical statement that can be had, and I do not see why it should be said that it is easier to produce the whole, because the whole consists of the statistics for each district, and therefore the trouble will be mainly in our own department. Whatever resistance I have offered to this proposal was not because I do not want to get all the statistics possible, but because I did not want to give an impossible task, owing to the short time at our disposal, to our officials, who have had a dog's life at the Coal Control Department for a very long time mainly owing to so many Commissions, and Accountants, and the rest of it. I hope the hon. Baronet will not press his Amendment to a division.
Mr. R. McLAREN: I hope the hon. Baronet will withdraw his amendment, because after all there is not much difference between us. I understand what is meant is that it should apply to the Mine Inspection Districts, and I think time will be saved in the departments by 83 giving these statistics for the various districts. The Coal Controller, I am quite sure, will appoint various Gentlemen to deal with the different districts, and as the forms come in they will be handed to other officials, and the whole thing will be done in a very short time. If the thing is done as a whole we shall only have one person responsible, whereas by taking the districts separately there will be somebody responsible in each district. I suggest that we should not have a division, and seeing that this information has been given in the past I think we ought to have it now.
Brigadier-General HICKMAN: I am not of the same opinion as my Friends of the Mining Association on this point, and what I said on the second reading I stick to now.
Amendment to the proposed Amendment negatived.
Proposed words there inserted.
Further Amendments made: In paragraph 4 (2), leave out the word "section" and insert instead thereof the word "paragraph."
At the end of the Schedule, add the following paragraph: 5. Where an undertaking is subject to The Coal Mines Control Agreement (Confirmation) Act, 1918, during part only of an accounting period the profits standard or the special standard, as the case may re- 84 quire, and the guaranteed standard, and any other sums brought into account in calculating the sums retainable under Clause 3 or payable under Clause 4 of the said agreement shall, for the purposes of applying that agreement to such part of such accounting period, be proportionately reduced, and the profits for that period shall be apportioned between the parts of the period before and after the date of the termination of the said agreement in proportion to the number of months or fractions of months in those parts, respectively.—[Mr. Bridgeman.]
Question, "That the Schedule as amended be the Second Schedule of the Bill," put and agreed to.
Title ["A Bill to make temporary provision on account of the emergency arising from the War as to the profits and control of, wages in, and advances in respect of, colliery undertakings, and for purposes connected therewith."] agreed to.
Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill as amended be reported to the House."
Mr. ADAMSON: I wish to say that as several unwelcome additions have been made to the Bill we intend to put down Amendments on these points for the Report stage.
Question put, and agreed to.
Bill, as amended, to be reported to the House.
Committee rose at twenty-nine minutes after Twelve o'clock.
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:—
J. W. Wilson, Mr. (Chairman)
Banner, Sir John Harmood-
Barton, Sir William
Cory, Sir Clifford
Davies, Sir Joseph
Doyle, Mr. Grattan
Guest, Mr. John
Jones, Sir Evan
McLaren, Mr. Robert
Parkinson, Mr. Allen
Raeburn, Sir William
Walsh, Mr. Stephen
Yeo, Sir Alfred