455 STANDING COMMITTEE B Thursday, 15th July, 1920

[Mr. MOUNT in the Chair.]

MINISTRY OF MINES BILL.
[OFFICIAL REPORT.]

At half-past Eleven o'clock, a, quorum of Twenty not having been made

Mr. RENWICK: How much longer are we going to sit, Mr. Chairman I We have already waited for half-an-hour, and I think it is a great waste of time.

The CHAIRMAN: We want only two more Members to make a quorum, and I understand there are two in another Committee, who will be along in a couple of minutes.

Mr. RENWICK: That is a very un satisfactory way of carrying on the business; it is like barristers running from court to court.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir Robert Home): That is a very bad analogy.

Mr. RENWICK: It is a very true analogy, as you well know.

Mr. WALLACE: We had better remain for five minutes longer anyway.

The CHAIRMAN: As we have waited for so long, I think it would be a great pity if we did not wait some little time longer.

Subsequently,

Sir R. HORNE: May I make a personal appeal to hon. Members to return at Two o'clock, and we will do our best to ensure that there shall be a quorum then. I hope everyone will come at Two.

Sitting suspended at Twenty-three minutes before, Twelve o'clock, till Two o'clock.

456

On resuming (a quorum having been made),

CLAUSE 9.
—(Constitution and functions of pit committees.)

(1) A pit committee shall comprise representatives of the owners and management of the mine and of workers employed in or about the mine selected from amongst their own number, so however that the representatives of the workers shall constitute at least half of the number of the pit committee.

  • The functions of a pit committee shall be to discuss and make recommendations with respect to—
  • the safety, health, and welfare of the workers;
  • the maintenance and increase of output;
  • reports made on an inspection under Section sixteen of the Coal Mines Act, 1911, which reports shall be referred to the committee by the manager;
  • disputes arising in connection with the mine, including disputes as to wages;
  • any other questions and matters relating to the mine which may be prescribed by the regulations.
  • The regulations shall provide for the holding of meetings of pit committees at intervals of not more than a month, and for matters which cannot be satisfactorily disposed of by the pit committee being referred to the district committee.
  • For enabling a pit committee to exercise their functions under paragraphs (a) and (b) of Sub-section (2) of this Section, the committee shall be entitled to be furnished by the manager of the mine with such relevant information as may be necessary for the purpose, and may appoint two of the management and one being a repre of their members, one being a representative sentative of the workers, to make periodical inspections of the mine or any part thereof and to report the result of their inspections to the committee, and the persons so appointed shall have all such facilities for the purpose of making inspections as persons appointed to make inspections under Section sixteen of the Coal Mines Act, 1911, and that Section shall apply accordingly.
  • Any recommendations of the pit committee made on any report under Section sixteen of the Coal Mines Act, 1911, which has been referred to the committee, and on any other matters to which that Act relates, shall be sent to the inspector of the division by the manager.
  • Question again proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill"

    Mr. R. McLAREN: I rise to oppose the inclusion of this Clause, and I do so for several reasons. In the first place, Clause 9, as drawn up, especially Section (2), paragraphs (a) and (b), interferes very much with the management of the 457 mine; and in the second place, the setting up of pit committees, so far as the management is concerned, is utterly impracticable. In any remarks I have to make on behalf of the colliery managers of England, Scotland and Wales, I want the Committee to understand that I speak for a body of men who hitherto have not had full justice done to them at the hands of the Government and the heads of departments under which they have to work. The position to-day is very much altered from what it was years ago. We have now a body of men united together for the purpose of looking after their own interests, and this body represents 80 per cent. of all the managers who hold positions in the collieries of these three countries. Therefore, I speak on behalf of a body of men who understand exactly the position of matters, and who have to undertake responsibility in connection with the Coal Mines Act, 1911. Their views are bound to be heard with respect by this Committee, and also by the Government. Turning to Clause 9, we find that Sub-section (2), paragraphs (a) and (b), have a very considerable bearing particularly upon the management of the various collieries. It is proposed in this Clause to give the pit committee power to interfere in the question of the safety, health and welfare of the workers, and yesterday the Minister in charge of the Bill inserted words to the effect that this is all to be inside the mine itself, and to be connected entirely with the colliery workers in and about the mine. I cannot understand why a pit committee should have anything to do with the question of safety. The Coal Mines Act, 1911, puts down 39 Sections entirely bearing on the question of safety in mines, and the responsibility for the carrying out of these Sections is placed directly upon the manager of the colliery. The inspectors of mines have to see that the manager does his duty in carrying out these provisions, so that accidents in the mines may be lessened, a thing devoutly to be hoped. It is due to these operations that accidents have been reduced in this country to an extent greater than in any other country in the world. That says a great deal, not only for the managers and the owners, but for the inspectors of. mines and the way in which they have carried out their duties. It has been stated that the first considera- 458 tion of the owners and managers is to make profits, and that safety does not enter into their consideration. That is a libel on a fine body of men. There are fair provisions in the Act with regard to health. I cannot understand what a pit committee can do in the matter of health, except it be in connection with the carrying out of certain sanitary provisions. Apart from that altogether, it is incumbent upon the management, and the management only, to see to it that the health of the men is looked after. The principal provision is with regard to ventilation. No man is permitted, under the Mines Act, to work in a place where the ventilation is bad and where noxious gases lie about. He must be withdrawn from such places, and we find to-day no complaints at all by the men themselves on this subject. As to the question of health, no man works underground under better conditions than the miner of the present day. The next matter on which a pit committee may make recommendations is the maintenance and increase of output. On this matter the management are feeling very sore. The necessary men and means have to be provided whereby the maintenance and increase of output are to be brought about. That is entirely a scientific question, and in no way concerns the pit committee. I put it to the Members of the Committee here to-day who are engaged in business whether they would not resent it very strongly if a body of their workmen had power to tell them how they should manage their business. But you are proposing to allow a body of men—good men and practical men, but men who know nothing about the scientific and technical side of the business—to interfere in these scientific and technical questions. These men are to interfere with the men who do know the subject and who are responsible in these matters, and there is nothing in the measure to suggest that these men, in asking the manager to do certain things, should themselves take any responsibility. No man in the three Kingdoms has more responsibility than the colliery manager. He is responsible for the carrying out of all the rules and regulations, and can be brought into court if they are not fulfilled. Yet the pit committee may ask that the manager who is responsible under the Act of Parliament should do certain things for which they themselves (the 459 members of the pit committee) will take no responsibility. It is an unfair position into which to put a man, and the responsibility of the manager is already sufficiently great without having to undertake this additional burden. In the second place, the whole thing is impracticable. If the pit committees were to be appointed for the purpose of settling disputes, nothing would be wrong. In coal mining there are a great many disputes-small disputes, though they may sometimes become very large ones. If, for instance, a man has a bad place, or if the coal turns hard, the prices have to be rearranged, and the pit committee can settle what the price should be. In that arrangement there would be nothing wrong. Or in the case of a dirty seam the pit committee would be of value in deciding what quantity of dirt might be allowable before penalisation of the men concerned. But they could do that amongst themselves, and between the pit committee and the management the thing could be quite well done. But to ask these men to interfere, as I have said already, with the management of the colliery is utterly impracticable. I should like to refer to what was decided by the managers at their last meeting. In connection with the Bill the managers had a meeting a fortnight ago. These men were not out to ask for anything unreasonable. They simply wanted to be treated as reasonable beings. That is why they have asked me to put down the Amendment to this Clause. They simply want fair play. In connection with this meeting I may say that the National Association of Colliery Managers decided that they would offer "the strongest opposition to pit committees on the ground that their experience of similar committees was that they were a total failure, leading to friction, the weakening of discipline, interference with the statutory duties of managers, and in no way assisting in the maintenance and increase of output" They also said that just now there was machinery at every colliery whereby local disputes could be easily settled without bringing in a new committee to look into matters over which they had really no control. In conclusion, I am authorised to tell this Committee to-day—and I want the Minister in charge to pay heed to this, and also the Government—that 460 while they are opposed to any shape or form of direct action, and while they would be the last to say that it was a wise thing to take drastic measures, the managers yet feel so strongly upon the matter that if these pit committees are insisted upon by the Government, then there is just one thing they must do, and that is to resign. It is impossible to work with the pit committees. The experience of the past has shown that it cannot be done. It might have been done 10 years ago, when the men were more reasonable, but the experience now is that these men are too much given to dictation as to what shall be done. They insist that their will shall be carried out. The managers know that if this is done, their functions as managers are destroyed. And they have asked me to state most emphatically that if this is insisted upon, then they will be compelled to reconsider the whole question, and it appears to them that nothing else can be done but that they should resign their positions and leave it to others to undertake the duties of colliery managers. I want to say to the Minister in charge very solemnly that I have advised them not to go so far, but they are determined upon the point, and I want here to add that hitherto it has been thought a good thing to conciliate the miners so that the trade of the country need not suffer through lack of coal; but if there are no-managers there would be no need for miners either, because in Section 2 of the Act of 1911 it is provided that no collieries can be carried on unless there be a first class certificated manager in connection] therefore the whole thing would cease because of the want of managers. I may be told that there are other managers. It is true that there are hundreds of men who have got certificates, but there are not hundreds who can undertake the duties of the management of the colliery. Many men may have certificates, but I would not necessarily trust them to take charge of my colliery. I trust that the Government will take seriously to heart this position in which the managers will be placed if this pit committee Clause is passed. The managers have made up their minds, knowing the facts of the case better than the Government or the Mining Department of the Government, that it is utterly impossible under the present conditions to 461 carry on if these pit committees are given the functions which the Clause provides.

    Sir R. HORNE: I do not propose to answer at any length the observations made my by hon. Friend. I recognise the sincerity and candour with which they are made, and the importance of the body of people whom he professed to repre sent. There is no doubt that the managers of collieries in this country have had very serious and onerous duties to perform, and that on the whole their work has been conducted with a measure of efficiency for which the whole country may be grateful to them. Very often too, their work has been done under con ditions of the most trying difficulty. But I think my hon. Friend has exaggerated the position. He seems to be a present-day follower of Lord Melbourne. His chief argument is to ask us to leave things alone. I have no doubt that that is a tendency which is manifested by a large body of people to-day, and not always wisely. Conditions arise in which it is far better to do something than to let things alone, and in the coal industry it is apparent that conditions have arisen which make it imperative that something should be done. May I refer to what happened at the Sankey Commission? There we had a report in which every body on the Commission agreed in stating that pit committees should be set up and that the workers should be represented on these committees equally with the employers and the management.

    Mr. McLAREN: May I say, in connection with that, that the men who carry out these things were never asked to appear before the Commission, and that they would have been entirely opposed to the whole idea?

    Sir R. HORNE: That does not meet my point at all. There were present on that Commission representatives of the owners of coal mines, and the manager is the servant of the coalowner and is bound to conform to his wishes in matters of this kind. It is not a real answer to say that if the managers had been consulted they would have been against this proposal. Everybody who has considered this question, so far as I can discover, on both sides has taken the view that some method of bringing the parties together so that they may discuss in common the carrying on of the mines is absolutely necessary at the present time. That does 462 not apply merely to coal mines. It has been laid down as a principle governing all industry in this country, and there will be no future for the industry of the country unless some common interest can be created as between employer and employes in all the various ramifications of our trade and commerce. Perhaps it would be enough for me to say that the coalowners themselves presented a separate scheme for the conduct of the coal mines of the country, and in that scheme they proposed this very thing—a series of pit committees and district committees with, in the end, a National Board. Therefore the point taken by my hon. Friend on behalf of the managers is one not supported from any other branch of the coal industry that I know of. I think he is in error in saying that a pit com mittee would be of no value in relation to safety. He admits it would be of value with regard to many of the matters concerned in the conduct of a mine. I happen to know a good deal about the conduct of coal mines, and I am perfectly certain that there are many circumstances in which the pit committee will be of the greatest service to the manager in the performance of his duties. I know of many cases in which trouble and even accidents have occurred simply because the manager was not sufficiently supported in the mine itself. Accordingly, if there were a vigilant committee which regarded it as part of its duty to help the manager, I have no doubt at all that it would prove a Very valuable adjunct to the management of the mine and its safe conduct. Therefore I venture to put it to this Committee that they should reject my hon. Friend's Motion. I agree that the management must not be interfered with, but there is no proposal to interfere with the management. You can no more manage a mine by a committee than navigate a ship by a committee. At the same time nothing of that kind is proposed. The management will retain, complete and entire, its jurisdiction over the control of the mine, but that is not to say that matters could not be improved very much and made much more harmonious by the appointment of a pit committee.

    Sir C. CORY: I beg to support the rejection of the Clause, and I have been urged by a large number of coalowners and colliery agents and managers to do 463 so. I have not found a colliery agent or manager who is not opposed to this Clause, and notwithstanding the fact that the right hon. Gentleman says that this is part of the scheme put forward by the Mining Association, a very large number of coalowners are entirely opposed to it. I quite agree that instead of making for safety in the mines, it will have exactly the reverse effect. I have been sitting on the Joint Conciliation Board, and on the sliding scale joint committees for the last twenty or twenty-five years, and the miners' representatives are paid for coming there, whereas the owners' representatives are not paid. The consequence is that the miners' representatives are always trying to prolong meetings and to get them carried on from day to day, which pays them very well. but the owners' representatives have other work to do, and it does not pay them to have too many of these meetings, so that there is always a struggle going on. That is exactly what will happen with these pit committees. The men are to be paid, and it is, of course, a much easier and pleasanter job for a man to sit on a committee and discuss matters than to do his ordinary work, and he will be trying to make these committees meet almost daily. The officials will be wanting naturally to get to their work in order to look after the safety of the mines, but if they have got to be sitting frequently on these pit committees, it will have anything but the effect of increasing the safety of the mines. With regard to the second point on which they' are to be allowed to make recommendations, namely, the maintenance and increase of output, the men may desire to work a certain seam, as is often the case, because it is a seam which is much more profitable to them to work than the seam they happen to be working on, and they will be struggling always not to work such seams as are in the interests of the safety of the mine, but to work such seams as are most profitable to them. I do not blame them, because after all it is only human nature; but if they are to be allowed to dictate, as they will dictate, to the management of the mine as to the carrying on of the mine, we all know what will occur. They will propose fresh sinkages, for instance, irrespective of whether the mines can afford to make such developments, and 464 I am sure that if this pit committee Clause is passed, it will make the industry absolutely impracticable. I believe it will make the Act unworkable, and wherever pit committees have been set up the managers have found the thing absolutely unworkable, and if you wish to wreck this Act, after it is passed, the best way to do it is to pass this Clause, which I have been urged strenuously to oppose and which I shall oppose.

    Mr. ARMITAGE: One finds in a Committee like this that the ideas from various parts of the country differ largely. My experience in Yorkshire is entirely different from that of the two hon. Members who have preceded me. We want the pit committees, and we do not mind them a bit. We think they will be a good thing, and the managers with whom I have spoken are all in favour of them. In the pits that I have to manage we shall welcome having these pit committees, and the only fear that we have got is that we shall have them, as the previous speaker said, too frequently. I should like to have had some provision put in to prevent the pit committees meeting too frequently. I differ from what has been said in regard to the safety and health of the miners. I think the pit committees will help in regard to the safety of the mines. Take, for instance, stone dusting. I think that if there had been pit committees in the various mines throughout the country, the whole question of stone dusting would have gone forward very much more rapidly than it has done. Then there is another question which is going forward very slowly at the present time, and that is the adoption of electric lamps in the mines. In the mines that I have got to deal with, we have compared the results both before and after the introduction of the electric lights, and the accidents have most decidedly decreased, while the cases of nystagmus have also decreased in all the mines. I think if that was generally looked into by the mine managers, these sort of things would very much more rapidly spread throughout the country for the safety of the miners. While there may be difficulties in certain parts of the country about pit committees, I know that in other parts they will be welcomed.

    Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill"

    465

    The CHAIRMAN proceeded to collect the voices and declared, "The Ayes have it"

    HON. MEMBERS: The "Noes" have it.

    The CHAIRMAN: We cannot have a Division, because there is not a quorum.

    Mr. RENWICK: As you have called attention to the fact that there is not a quorum, Mr. Chairman, we cannot go on, I believe.

    The CHAIRMAN: I am afraid that is so. There is no choice in the matter.

    Sir R. HORNE: Perhaps we can meet at three.

    Mr. RENWICK: Is not that rather absurd? We could not get a quorum this morning, and here again this afternoon the same thing has happened. I do not think it is very dignified to go on in this way.

    The CHAIRMAN: It is advisable to get on with the Bill. I think it is the wish of the Committee to meet at three, and try to make some progress this afternoon.

    Mr. RENWICK: We are suffering from the absence of the representatives of the miners. They are not here, and, after what happened this morning, I think it is not dignified to go on. In my opinion, it would be much better to accept the situation and adjourn, say, until Tuesday next.

    Sir C. CORY: It is very evident that there is no interest in this Bill. If there were, Members would have been here this morning. It is not only the miners' representatives, but the other Members do not come here.

    Brigadier-General HICKMAN: They are on other Committees.

    Sir C. CORY: They would give up the other Committees if they thought this Commitee important; but it is obvious, by their not turning up, that this is not a popular Bill.

    Mr. T. A. LEWIS: In so far as some of the Labour representatives who are Members of this Committee have indicated that they have no intention to serve on the Committee, is it not true that the Committee is under strength, and would it not be in Order for you, 466 Sir, to ask for some more to be appointed on the Committee In that way we might get a quorum.

    The CHAIRMAN: I cannot do that once the Committee has been set up, and the Bill has been started.

    Brigadier-General HICKMAN: I asked the question of the Selection Committee this morning, and the answer was that there was an absolutely strict rule that when once a Committee has been set up, you cannot exchange or add to it, unless somebody is very ill or goes abroad.

    Mr. C. WHITE: I happen to be a Member of two or three Committees, but I have left an important Committee to come here this afternoon and help to make up a quorum. I have been constrained to stay because of the difficulty you have had to face. I deprecate altogether people remaining away from Committees, and especially the Labour Members, with whom I am associated in the House, although I am not a member of the Labour party. I will pledge myself to come here for an hour every time this Committee meets, whatever other Committee I may be on, so as to help ensure having a quorum. If 19 other Members would pledge themselves to do the same, the Bill would not be destroyed for want of a quorum. I am sufficiently a sportsman to know when I am defeated, and to have another shot when I have a chance. I voted against the Ministry of Mines Bill in the House, but I am prepared to do my best towards making it the possibly modified success that it may be, and I will do what I have said, whatever other Committee I am on. I am interested in the other Committees very largely, but I will come here for an hour, at any rate, at any time this Committee may meet.

    Sir R. HORNE: That is the way to look at it.

    The CHAIRMAN: I have, of course, no wish to force the Committee to meet at three o'clock, but it seems to me that the general wish of the majority is that we should get on with the Bill. That being so, I thought we might make some progress with it in the hour between three and four, which, I thought, would be for the convenience of the Committee. I am still inclined to believe that that would be for the convenience of the 467 Committee, and we will therefore meet again at three.

    Sitting suspended at Eighteen Minutes before Three till Three o'clock.

    On resuming (a quorum having been made)—

    Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put and agreed to.

    CLAUSE 10.
    —(Constitution and Functions of District Committees.)

    (1) A district committee shall comprise representatives of the owners and management of the coal mines in the district, and an equal number of representatives of workers employed in or about such mines.

    (2) A district committee shall take into consideration—

  • questions affecting the district of the same nature as those which may be the subject of discussion and recommendations by a pit committee;
  • any questions which may be referred to them by a pit committee;
  • any questions which may be referred to them by the area board, the National Board, or the Minister of Mines;
  • and if the matter is one proper to be dealt with by the area board rather than by the district committee they shall refer the matter to the area board, and in any other case they shall deal with the matter themselves and make such recommendations as they think fit, and if their recommendations are not complied with they may forward them with a report on the matter to the Minister of Mines.

    Amendment made: In Sub-section (1), leave out the word "comprise" ["district committee shall comprise"], and insert instead thereof the words "consist of"—[Sir C. Cory.]

    Sir C. CORY: I beg to move in Subsection (1) to leave out the words "and management" ["the owners and management"]

    Sir R. HORNE: This is the very point we argued out in connection with the question of the pit committee—the argument is precisely the same. I do not think we can accept this Amendment. The Committee rejected it in the case of the pit committee.

    Amendment negatived.

    Brigadier-General HICKMAN: I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to 468 insert the words, "in each case nominated and elected in accordance with the regulations constituting the committee"

    Mr. RENWICK: I want information in regard to this. We have already decided to elect advisory committees, pit committees, district committees, area boards, and so on. I want to know whether women will be eligible on these boards. I think they will, because in certains districts in Scotland, Lancashire, Staffordshire, etc., women still work in and about the mines, the pitheads, and so on. I want to know if women can be elected for these boards. I can see very many difficulties. For instance, the men working about the mines might take it into their heads to appoint all women, and there is nothing to prevent them. If you refer to Clause 4, you see, speaking of the advisory committee, it says that it shall consist of a chairman and 24 other persons. I think a woman is a "person," and I think, before we proceed any further, we should keep it in mind as to whether we are going to check the number of women or put in the words "male only," because I foresee women will be elected to these committees. They may be useful under certain circumstances, but at other times they may not. Is it in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman that women are intended to be on these committees?

    Sir R. HORNE: It would be quite competent for the miners in any district to elect all women, or some women, on the pit committee. I do not imagine they will do it to any extent, but they may—just in the same way as you might have the whole business of this country—indeed it is much more probable—conducted by women, because women may be in the majority very soon in respect of the votes of the country, but it is likely to happen. I do not think we need have our equanimity more disturbed by the prospects of the miners electing women to the pit committees than by the prospect of women being the sole representatives of the great British nation in Parliament. That is how the matter stands from the practical point of view. It is competent for them to be elected, but I do not think they will be.

    Mr. RENWICK: It is quite clear that it is contemplated?

    469

    Sir R. HORNE: If my hon. and gallant Friend will accept words that I think entirely meet his point, I suggest the Amendment should be couched in the following fashion: Leave out the words "each case," and insert instead thereof the words "nominated or elected in accordance with the regulations constituting the Committee"

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Amendment made: At the end of Sub section (1) insert the words "nominated and elected in accordance with the regulations constituting the Committee,"—[Brigadier-General Hickman.]

    Further Amendment made: In Sub section (2, c), leave out the words "the National Board"—[Sir G. Cory.]

    Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    CLAUSE 11.
    —(Constitution and Function of Area Boards.)

    (1) An area board shall comprise representatives of the owners and management of the coal mines in the area nominated in accordance with the regulations constituting the board by the representatives of the owners and management who are members of the various district committees within the area, and an equal number of representatives of workers employed in or about such mines so nominated by the representatives of workers who are members of the district committees within the area.

    (2) The area board shall take into consideration—

  • questions affecting the area of the same nature as those which may be the subject of consideration by a district committee;
  • any questions which may be referred to them by a district committee;
  • any questions which may be referred to them by the National Board or the Minister of Mines,
  • and if the matter is one proper to be dealt with by the National Board rather than by the area board, they shall refer the matter to the National Board, and in any other case they shall deal with the matter themselves, and make such recommendations as they think fit, and if their recommendations are not complied with, they may forward them with a report on the matter to the Minister of Mines.

    (3) An area board shall formulate, at such intervals and on such principles as may be prescribed by the National Board, schemes for adjusting the remuneration of the workers within the area having regard to the profits of the industry within the area. and any such scheme when formulated shall be submitted to the National Board for their approval, and if approved by that Board shall be referred to the Minister of 470 Mines, and for the purposes of this Sub section the owners of mines in the area shall furnish to accountants appointed by the area board such information as they may require in order that they may ascertain for the information of the area board particulars of the output, cost of production, proceeds and profits in the area as a whole:

    Provided that no such scheme shall be formulated during the period of the operation of the Coal Mines (Emergency) Act, 1920, or, if the Minister of Mines so directs, whilst an order made by the Minister under Part I. of this Act as to the distribution of profits is in force.

    (4) The accountant so appointed as aforesaid shall not include in his report or disclose information with respect to any particular undertaking, and if he does so he shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds.

    Brigadier-General HICKMAN: I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the word "board" ["an area board"], to insert the words "shall consist of such number of members as is prescribed by the regulations and" My Amendment is very much the same as the one my right hon. Friend altered just now. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend wants to alter that as he did the other one, but it is on the same principle exactly, so as to see it is done by regulation.

    Sir R. HORNE: I agree, in so far as the words "consist of" are substituted for the word "comprised," but I am afraid I cannot accept the rest of the Amendment for this reason: It imposes upon the Minister the duty of prescribing the number of the members of the area boards. I would prefer that some latitude should be left in that matter, in order that the opinion of the District Committees themselves upon this matter should be taken, and I would rather not have it set down in a rigid form in the Statute that the Minister himself should prescribe by regulation the number of representatives on the area boards. It is better to leave that to the circumstances of the occasion, and I really would ask my hon. and gallant Friend not to press his Amendment.

    Mr. RENWICK: Have the coalowners or the representatives of the men, or who has the say in drawing up these regulations? Is it to be left entirely to the Coal Controller or to the Board of Trade? I think it necessary the coal-owners and the representatives of the men 471 should have some voice in regard to the drawing up of these regulations. The Bill is full of these regulations, and who is going to draw them up? Are they to be laid on the Table of the House?

    Sir R. HORNE: I quite appreciate the point that the hon. Member has raised, and I have endeavoured to meet it by anticipation by providing in an Amendment now on the Paper that the proposed regulations should lie on the Table of the House and opportunity should be given for exception to be taken to them.

    Mr. RENWICK: I am quite satisfied.

    Sir R. HORNE: So far as this particular matter is concerned, I think the hon. Gentleman will agree with me that you do not want to prescribe a rigid constitution for all areas. If you prescribe by regulations the number of representatives on the area boards, you would have the same number for all the various areas. I think that would be bad. You might require different numbers in different areas. For example, Scotland. which is a comparatively important place, is an area; on the other hand, Northumberland and Durham together are an area. Without disparaging these important counties in any way, I think it is obvious that the Scottish Board will require to be larger. Therefore I think it would be a pity to say that the Minister must prescribe by regulation what the numbers are to be. I would rather that the districts which will be concerned in making those area boards should themselves constitute the most efficient and practicable area board they can. That is why I am not ready to assent to my hon. and gallant Friend's Amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Amendment made: In Sub-section (1) leave out the word "comprise" and insert instead thereof the words "consist of"

    Sir C. CORY: I beg to move, in Sub-Section (1), to leave out the words "and management" ["management of the"]. If my hon. Friend will not agree to that Amendment, will he add "appointed by the owners?" You do not want to set up two separate parties of owners and management. I think that is agreed. The management should be appointed by the 472 owner. If he will agree to that, I think that will meet my point.

    Sir R. HORNE: In response to what my hon. Friend has suggested, I do not think the matter is quite on all fours with what we determined in connection with the Pit Committee, because it is perfectly obvious that the representatives of the owners and management on the Area Board should be people appointed by the owners and management who are on the District Boards; at least that is the intention of this particular Bill. Accordingly, I do not think the words "appointed by the owners" should here be inserted, because in point of fact those who are appointing the members who are going to appear on the Area Board will themselves be owners and managers sitting on the District Boards. I suggest to the hon. Baronet that he is under some misapprehension.

    Sir C. CORY: I had not got the Amendment before me at the time when the District Boards were being discussed. If you, at the Report stage, could put it in with reference to District Boards I should be very glad. That would make it in accordance with what I really understand my right hon. Friend's intentions are.

    Brig.-General HICKMAN: We have had this out with the management themselves, and they want to be at one with the owners, and express their concurrence with this; they do not want to have three separate entities—men, management, and owners. That is their wish as well as ours.

    Sir R. HORNE: I entirely agree; that is my point of view. But I do not think that my hon. Friends are really conversant with the Clause, because if they will kindly look at it, they will see that an Area Board shall consist of representatives of the owners and management of the area, nominated in accordance with the Regulations instituting the Board, by representatives of the owners and management sitting on the District Boards.

    Sir C. CORY: Will you agree to put it in Area Boards?

    Sir R. HORNE: I cannot agree to that It is perfectly plain, as far as this Clause is concerned, that the representatives of the owners and men of the Area Boards are to be nominated by those who appear on the District Boards. I think the point is well met.

    473

    Sir C. CORY: I should like to hark back to District Boards at the Report stage.

    The CHAIRMAN: I am afraid you cannot do it now.

    Amendment negatived.

    Brigadier-General HICKMAN: I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words "nominated in accordance with the regulations constituting the board by the representatives of the owners and management who are members of the various district committees within the area" This is the first of three Amendments dealing with the membership of district committees. We want that in the case of district boards the owners and men shall elect their own people to those boards, and in the case of area boards, they shall elect their own people, but they need not necessarily be members of the district boards, because as a rule the pit committees and the district committees would have more of the managers on, because they are more directly in touch with the mines; but on the area boards basic and more general questions would be dealt with, and possibly the presence of owners, outside management, would be very valuable on the area boards. We want to make that distinction.

    Sir R. HORNE: I do not think the hon. and gallant Gentleman, or those who drew up this Amendment, have quite foreseen the effect of the Clause which they now propose. The scheme of the Clause as proposed by the Government is that the representatives of the owners and managers of the district boards shall nominate their representatives for the area board. That is a perfectly clear and consistent plan. They may, if they choose, elect people who are not members of district Boards, as my hon. and gallant Friend seems to wish; but the plan he proposes would have this result, that the representatives of the workmen on the district boards would have a say in nominating the representatives of the owners and management for the area board. I scarcely think that is what the hon. and gallant Gentleman really wishes. My plan is to leave the owners and management on the district boards to elect their representatives on the area board, but he proposes an Amendment which has an entirely opposite effect, 474 and which puts it in the hands of the workman, along with the representatives of the owners, to appoint the people who are to appear on the representative board. I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend wishes that, and I do not think that is advisable.

    Brigadier-General HICKMAN: I do not want that.

    Mr. McLAREN: If that be the meaning of the Clause as here drawn up, I think we could accept that. What we desire most of all is that each district board should be able to elect a representative who need not necessarily be a member of that Board. It would be a pity to lose the services of such a man.

    Amendment negatived.

    Brigadier-General HICKMAN: I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), after the word "Board" ["dealt with by the National Board"], to insert the words "in that it raises any question affecting the coalmining industry as a whole" We want to take care that the National Board cannot have too much to say in the regulation of the industry on the spot. What we want to do is to try and get back to the conditions as they were before all these troubles took place, when we were able to settle all differences in the different areas with the men locally. The whole principle of this Bill was opposed on its Second Reading by the miners' representatives because what they really want is that the whole thing shall be governed by people at the head at the National Board, which is getting somewhere near nationalisation. This Bill, we contend, is trying to avoid and obviate any step towards nationalisation. Their real contention against this Bill is that it is trying to settle our differences locally in the different areas, and that the National Board, on which such men as Smillie and Hodges will probably sit, will not have enough to say.

    Sir R. HORNE: When I first read my hon. and gallant Friend's Amendment, I was entirely in favour of it, and it was only after very careful consideration I came to the conclusion that it was better to leave the Clause as it stands. I am just as ardently opposed to any policy of nationalisation as my hon. Friend, and very unwilling to do anything which would form even a small step towards nationalisation. But the effect of the Amendment 475 would be to prevent matters coming before the National Board which really ought to come before them. You might have a question which affected more than one area, which could not be settled without reference to the National Board. My hon. Friend and gallant Friend's Amendment would prevent that happening; unless the question which arose was one which affected the whole country, it could not come before the National Board at all. I think that puts too great a restriction on the functions of the National Board. There might be many questions which affected a variety of areas, but not others, which the National Board would be the most appropriate body to settle. After considering the matter very thoroughly I came to the conclusion that on the balance it was better to leave the Clause as it stands. Accordingly I regret to say I cannot accept the Amendment.

    Sir C. CORY: Could not my hon. Friend accept it in a modified form. Make it "affecting more than one area".

    Sir R. HORNE: That would be nearer my own view. I would be willing to accept words to the effect that "if it affect more than one area"

    Brigadier-General HICKMAN: I accept that.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Amendment made: In Sub-section (2), after the word "Board," insert the words "in that it raises any question affecting more than one area"—[Brigadier-General Hickman.]

    Sir E. JONES: I beg to move, to leave out Sub-section (3). The Amendment which I move is probably one of the most important Amendments in connection with this Bill. It goes to the very root of the principles and vital questions which really this Bill was meant to solve. The object of the Amendment is to clear the way for another Amendment which I will move later on. I take it, and I believe I am right in the point of Order, that if this Sub section is not, in the first place, taken away, it would not be possible for me to move my subsequent Amendment on Clause 1 (3). Obviously, as the question to be submitted to the Committee in this Amendment is that the whole of this 476 question of wages should be taken away from the area board altogether, I shall have to show reasons why that should be so, and in connection with that, to make those reasons effective, I shall have to show that there is something which, in my opinion, is better, and which should be put in its place. The President of the Board of Trade has very rightly said on more than occasion, and said it very effectively on the Second Reading of the Bill, that things cannot be left as they are—that something has to be done in connection with this industry to place it on an appropriate footing, and that is the real reason for the introduction of this Bill. I agree fully, but I think it is more important that the something which is proposed is something which is going to effect its object, and effect its object in the best possible way. When we divest the whole of this complicated question from a good many of its trimmings and bring it down to a bare, backbone question, it all resolves itself into the question of wages, of the settle-of wages, the question of output, and the settlement of output. That lies at the root of the whole trouble in connection with the coal industry from beginning to end, and if some satisfactory solution is arrived at which will meet this one pressing point of devising some machinery which can be accepted generally, upon which wages can, in future, be regulated to suit all sides, I think the coal problem will be settled once and for all. I do not think that this Bill meets the condition that it is a Bill which will settle that question on anything like satisfactory conditions. In the first place, the Bill possesses one feature which is not altogether a happy one. It is not designed to meet the varying conditions which will arise under all circumstances. It is only designed, and, as it is now drawn, will only operate successfully to meet the conditions of the industry when they are normal. I recall what was said by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, on the Floor of the House, on the Second Reading, in answer to the very vital criticism from the Labour Party, put forward by the right hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace), in discussing this very point, and in his reply to the President of the Board of Trade. When the right hon. Member for Abertillery pointed out what the position would be in the case of these wages being settled by 477 Area Boards in districts like South Wales, which might be making huge profits, and districts like the Midland or Central District, making no profits, the right hon. Gentleman answered to this effect, that it was only during abnormal times, such as we have been passing through, when these abnormal profits on exports have been made, that those conditions would arise at all, but under other circumstances he hoped that before long, matters would get back to normal, and therefore the Bill would work. I do not think that that is going to meet the case. It is a very long way, I am afraid, to the end of the present state of things, which is going to result in matters becoming normal, and I think the machinery of this Bill, if it can be devised to meet the situation when it is abnormal as well as when it is normal, must materially help in its value. I am sanguine enough to think that there is a way in which it can be done, but regarding the proposal in this Bill, I do not think that is the way. Any Bill that does not satisfy that condition must break down in its operation. After these general remarks, I will try to come to the actual point which underlies my Amendment. What really governs the principle upon which the wages question should be settled is a fact we must all recognise. There is a minimum wage in existence already, and we must further recognise the fact that the existence of that minimum wage has materially and fundamentally altered the whole condition of the industry and will have an important, a very important, effect and a very important bearing upon the process of devising the means which are the proper means or meeting the situation arising out of them. The minimum wage introduces a principle which may be right or wrong, but it is there. The principle is that under no conditions, as long as the employment is there to be offered, are the men to receive less than a certain wage, irrespective of output, irrespective of conditions—purely and simply on an ad hoc basis, with work or no work, output or no output. If the men go into the mines, they have to receive a certain minimum wage. The extension of that principle does involve, as I have said, a very serious and a very fundamental position, and it behoves anyone, in attempting to tackle this question of an adjustment of wages beyond that point, 478 to take into full account and to realise very definitely what the principle leads to. The principle or the method suggested by this Bill which this Sub section particularly relates to, is, in the first place, that the adjustment of wages over and above the datum line of the minimum wage is to be on the basis of profits, and in the next place, that assuming the basis of profits is going to be worked, that it should be sectional, and dealt with by areas and not nationally. I submit that both those principles are fundamentally wrong. Let me deal, first of all, with profits. The application of settling wages on the basis of profits is very limited. It is only suitable in a very limited sense and in a very limited area. It is not, in my opinion, suitable in the case of industries such as the mining industry. If you get an utterly self-contained work, such as a factory confined to one particular spot, turning out an article of limited use, or an article which is, in effect, in the course of its manufacture by other operations and industries, then you might apply the principle of profit-sharing or the determination of wages by profits. But if you come to the wider sphere of industry, such as is covered by the mining industry, where everything depends upon having a certain amount of work done for a certain amount of money, I submit the principle of determining wages in accordance with profits will not work. Practically there is very little difference between settling wages on the basis of profits and settling them on the basis of a selling price, because, after all, profits are, to some extent, determined by the selling price. To vary wages with the selling price of an article—a system which, I think, we must all admit has broken down, because the very fact of that caused control in the first place—to regulate wages by selling price is, in effect, very much the same as regulating them by profits. I submit that profits are not a proper basis for dealing with the regulation of wages. In the first place, wages are a first charge on any industry; they are an essential part of the cost of production, and profits are not an essential part of the cost of production. Now that the principle of a minimum wage is established, wages must be fixed, and in future be settled largely in relation to a certain standard of living and the 479 conditions of life of the workers. We can never again return to the time when wages were entirely settled by means of selling price of coal, or profits on coal, be they up or down. We can hardly imagine the time. In fact, the principle of the minimum wage has entirely admitted the fact that such a settlement has gone, and gone for ever. Wages are an essential part of the cost of production. A man has got to be paid whether the owner makes a profit or whether he does not, and he has to be paid in the first place. He has not got to wait for his money. In the settlement of wages by means of profits it means that you have got to wait—that the workmen have got to wait. The workman has to know, in the first place, how much money he is to get for his work. But he would have to wait until the company made up its accounts, until they knew whether any profit had been made, and whether a dividend could be paid. Imagine 1,000,000 or 1,200,000 men spread up and down the country, all of them waiting for the settlement of balance sheets and the announcement of dividends before they know how much they are going to be paid for the work they have done! I think that shows that, in an industry of this sort, the regulation of wages by profits must break down. What are profits? How are you going to satisfy the workman when you tell him, "We have made a loss this year, not a profit," or, "We are only going to pay one or two per cent. dividend" He should want to know what you have charged against your expenses before you have arrived at your profit and loss. He would want to know how much you are charging for depreciation and fixed charges, and would not that be a constant source of trouble if any attempt is made to settle wages on these lines? As far as I can see, it must be, in future, that to a very large extent profits and selling prices will be determined by the cost of production. The cost of production will largely be determined by wages, which are an essential part of the cost of production. For these reasons, for this main, basic fact in an industry of this sort, an adjustment of wages on a profit basis is an impracticable proposal, and I submit this Clause should be omitted from the Bill. On the subject of areas I must confess—although I do not think there is a 480 stronger opponent of nationalisation in this House than myself—that the argument that was produced by the right hon. Member for Abertillery on the Second Heading of this Bill, against the settlement of wages by areas, was unanswerable. I consider that although the object of the right hon. Gentleman was clear, and that he was simply using it as a case of special pleading for a special purpose, the argument really underlying what he said was unanswerable, and that if any attempt is made to sectionalise the settlement of wages by confining them to areas, the whole machinery of the Bill must break down, and break down very quickly The only case in which it would have the least chance of being successful would be in a case where profits over the whole country were nearly uniform, and that, we know, in an industry of this sort, could never be, under the present condition of affairs. It is true it has been said—and the right hon. Gentleman used that argument, as far as I remember, on the floor of the House—that wages already differ. Of course they do; but the present system of settling wages has broken down. The natural differences have to be provided for. The variations of wages according to local conditions are already provided for by the machinery for settlement of the minimum wages, and you will not be able, as far as I can foresee, to extend in future the variation of wages as between different districts further than the point where they are settled by the conditions affecting each particular district itself. Over and above that, there must be something in the nature of a general equalisation. The settlement as regards local conditions is already provided for by the minimum wage. What we do want, in order to settle this business, is some sort of system which will enable the workman to know that he is having full value for his work. I am sure that if you obtained a ballot of every miner in this country, absolutely free, and ask him, "Are you willing to wait a year until we settle our balance sheets for you to know how much wages you are going to have, or would you prefer having your wages fixed on some definite basis, that you may know from week to week how much money you are going to take home?" I have no doubt as to what the answer would be. The overwhelming majority of the men would say, "We pre- 481 fer knowing exactly where we are" If there is going to be a payment on profit, what are you going to do, say, if there is a loss? How are you going to know how you have arrived at your profits, and so on? I am sure the men themselves, by a great majority, would prefer knowing definitely what the wages were which they were going to receive. I must now outline what I shall have to develop more fully. I am sorry to detain the Committee so long, but this is a very important matter, and I think it is necessary it should be developed as fully as possible. The details of the scheme and the system which I suggest should be substituted, for this proposal will go on the other Amendment which I have on the Paper. I simply want to outline, sufficiently to enable the Committee to understand, that in pressing the deletion of this Sub-section I do propose, later, to bring forward something to replace it, which I consider will meet the essential conditions of the industry and provide machinery which will be adapted, not only to normal periods, but to abnormal periods. I believe the true settlement of the adjustment of wages over and above the datum line of the minimum wage is the regulation of wages by output, and I believe that it is possible, feasible, and practicable to devise a scheme by which that could be applied universally, and its main principles would be that when it maintained the individuality of every mine, it at the same time provides a national basis which, while not taking away the individuality of a mine—

    Sir C. CORY: You would not disturb the present standard of the individual mines?

    Sir E. JONES: The present standard of the individual mines is already superseded by the minimum wage in practice.

    Sir C. CORY: Not when they do not work under a minimum wage.

    Sir E. JONES: One essential proposal which I shall make later on, is that there shall be a standard output for the mines in relation to the conditions and equipment, and the number of men employed at that mine. It will preserve the individuality of the mine and of the district, and it will have an area board. So, while preserving the individuality of the area 482 board, the principles on which it will be based will be principles applicable nationally. They will be applied nationally. It will not mean that the actual standard will be the same for every individual mine, or the actual wage paid will be the same for every individual man, but it will mean that the principle on which the wage is arrived at and adjusted will be a principle that can be applied nationally, and that will be an important step towards obtaining what the miners are asking for—having some settlement on a national basis—and will preserve, at the same time, the individuality not only of every man and every district, but of every mine in the country. I shall be able to sketch roughly the scheme which I think would be workable for the application of this principle of the settlement of wages by output, but for the reason that I do not think the principle provided for in this Bill is a principle that is going to meet the necessities of the industry on this really essential basic point, I beg to move the omission of the Sub-section.

    Brigadier-General HICKMAN: This is a complicated business and I want the Committee to understand it. The Mining Association will be absolutely opposed to these proposals of my hon. Friend. As far as I can see at present, what will be the effect will be this—if I have a pit here and my friend a pit there, quite close together in the same neighbourhood, where the men have been accustomed to meet in the public houses and know they have been receiving the same wages, the effect of this proposal will be that there will be different wages paid in the different pits close to one another, and there will be rows in the districts. It will create more trouble than anything we have had before. Supposing you paid better wages in the pit over there than in the pit here, the men from that pit would want to come to this pit and it would make trouble all through. What it really means is that you should establish a minimum wage for each pit.

    Sir E. JONES: It is established already.

    Brigadier-General HICKMAN: In addition to that, you will have an output for each pit, and that will have to be 483 arrived at by the pit itself, in addition to the masters. It would be most difficult to fix this.

    Sir E. JONES: On a question of Order. I think the points my hon. and gallant Friend is putting now really come on the other Amendment. I did not go into the details of my system.

    The CHAIRMAN: If this Amendment be defeated, I think that will cover the point of the subsequent Amendment on Clause 13. It would therefore be more convenient to discuss the two Amendments together.

    CLAUSE 13.
    —(Constitution and functions of National Board.)

    Sub-section (2).—The National Board shall also determine, subject to the approval of the Minister of Mines, the principles on which schemes by area boards under this Part of this Act for adjusting the remuneration of workers are to bo framed, and shall consider all such schemes when submitted to them for their approval.

    Amendment proposed (Sir E. Jones): After the words "the National Board shall also," insert the words "formulate as soon as may be after the passing of this Act a scheme for adjusting the remuneration of the workers based upon the relation of the output of every individual mine or group of mines for which a pit committee has been established to the standard output for every such mine or group of mines as determined by the pit committee in accordance with Section nine, Sub-section (2), paragraph (b) of this Act, and so that the same principle of adjustment shall apply to the workers in or about all mines, and any such scheme when formulated shall be referred to the Minister of Mines"]

    Sir E. JONES: Shall I have the right to reply?

    The CHAIRMAN: Yes.

    Brigadier-General HICKMAN: That was why I was developing my opposition to this proposal. If we do not throw out this Amendment now, and supposing we throw out the subsequent Clause which the hon. Member is going to put in, we shall have nothing in the Bill to provide for these things. It would be almost impossible for the coalowners to hope to adjust the minimum output in each colliery. It cannot be done. You would have variations in wages from pit to pit in the same neighbourhood. The end of it would be that we should have rows in 484 every district all over the country. I hope my hon. Friend will not continue with this Amendment, because the Mining Association, who do know something about their job, are absolutely opposed to it. We cannot support it.

    Mr. N. CHAMBERLAIN: My name is also on the Paper in support of the Amendment, but it is not down in support of the later Amendment, and I regret very much if your ruling means that the Committee is going to vote upon this Amendment with the other Amendment in its mind. It is possible to vote in favour of this Amendment and against the Amendment of my hon. Friend hereafter, and the effect of passing this Amendment would be to leave matters where they are now. I am not concerned with the coal industry, and I shall listen with great attention to anything those may say who have greater knowledge of it than I have. But I try to take the commonsense view of the situation as I see it, and this, it appears to me, is the only justification for a Sub-section of this kind is that it is going to bring peace and harmony into the coalfields. But from the speech of the right hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Brace), on the Second Reading, it appears that this is the very Sub-section he fixed upon as being the most objectionable part of the Bill. He devoted a large part of his speech to show that it would be likely to set up a good deal of friction amongst the miners. I cannot see any justification for introducing what I call a profit-sharing scheme if it is not going to bring about better feeling between masters and men, and my support of this Amendment, which is simply an Amendment to leave out Sub-section (3), has nothing to do with any counter-proposals made by my hon. Friend opposite, but to get rid of an objectionable part of the Bill.

    Mr. WALLACE: Are we going to sit beyond four o'clock? It seems to me that important questions have been raised which cannot be settled in a hurry. In view of the fact that some of us have engagements at four o'clock—

    The CHAIRMAN: I think that probably the Committee would like to adjourn. I was waiting to see if there would be a discussion. Shall we meet on Tuesday, at eleven o'clock?

    485

    Major WARING: Are we going to sit on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of next week?

    Sir R. HORNE: It is necessary to do so.

    486

    The CHAIRMAN: In order to finish the Bill, we must.

    Adjourned at Three Minutes after Four o'Clock till Tuesday, 20th July.

    THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:—

    Mount, Mr. (Chairman)

    Armitage, Mr.

    Ashley, Colonel

    Betterton, Mr.

    Birchall, Major

    Bridgeman, Mr.

    Bruton, Sir James

    Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel

    Chamberlain, Mr. Neville

    Cory, Sir Clifford

    Dockrell, Sir Maurice

    Gardiner, Mr.

    Hickman, Brigadier-General

    Horne, Sir Robert

    James, Lieut.-Colonel

    Jodrell, Mr.

    Jones, Sir Evan

    Lewis, Mr. Thomas

    McLaren, Mr. Robert

    Renwick, Mr.

    Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander

    Strauss, Mr.

    Thomson, Mr. Frederick

    Thomson, Mr. Trevelyan

    Wallace, Mr.

    Waring, Major

    Warner, Sir Courtenay

    White, Mr. Charles

    Young, Mr. Hilton