[Mr. TURTON in the Chair.]
(1) The Coal Mines (Emergency) Act, 1920, as amended by any subsequent enactment, shall, so far as it is limited in duration continue in force until the thirty-first day of March nineteen hundred and twenty-one and no longer, and the expression "the period of the operation of this Act" wherever it occurs in the said Act shall be construed accordingly.
(2) For the purpose of the provisions of the said Act relating to the pooling of profits, the period of the operation of the Act shall be divided into two periods, the one ending on the thirty-first day of December, nineteen hundred and twenty, and the other commencing on the first day of January, nineteen hundred and twenty-one, and the said provisions shall, in relation to each pooling period, have effect as if for references therein to the period of the operation of the Act there were substituted references to the pooling period in question.
(3) If, in either of the said pooling periods, the amount of the aggregate profits of all the undertakings, after such deduction or addition as is mentioned in Sub-section (2) of Section one of the said Act exceeds the aggregate of the total standards of all the undertakings, no part of the profits ill excess of such aggregate shall be distributable amongst the several undertakings; and, accordingly, proviso (i) of Sub-section (1) of Section one of the said Act shall have effect as if the words "plus one-tenth part of such excess" were omitted therefrom.
(4) In relation to the second pooling period, coal levy and coal award shall be calculated with reference to nine-tenths of the standard-instead of with reference to the standard as if in paragraph (a) of Sub-section (1) of Section two of the said Act for the words "the standard" wherever they occur in that paragraph there were substituted the words "nine-tenths of the standard."
(5) Paragraphs 2, 3, and 5 of the First Schedule to the Coal Mines (Emergency) 70 Act, 1920, and as from the first day of April, nineteen hundred and twenty-one, Section three of the Mining Industry Act, 1920, shall be repealed.
The CHAIRMAN: Before we resume the discussion on Clause 1, I wish to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that last Friday, through a desire to extend the utmost fairness to all parties, I inadvertently allowed an Amendment to Clause 1 to be moved after the Question had already been put that Clause 1 should stand part of the Bill. By the practice of the House, this course was clearly inadmissible and irregular, and I mention it so that my action may not be taken as a precedent.
Question again proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
Mr. ADAMSON: I hope the Committee are not going to agree to Clause 1 standing part of the Bill, because if they do, in the opinion of my colleagues and myself they will be agreeing to something very unfair indeed being done to the mining industry. As a matter of fact, I think they will be agreeing to the making of the mining industry the Cinderella of British industries. In terms of Clause 1, the Government propose to decontrol the mining industry, or in other words they propose to shed themselves of all responsibility for that industry as from the 31st of the present month. As it has been put, both in the House and the Committee already, they have evidently been quite willing to take any of the benefits that accrued to them from this industry, but as soon as there is any sign of them having to shoulder responsibility that may involve the spending of money, they want to shed themselves of that responsibility. They want to deal with the mining industry on a different footing from that on which they are still dealing with other industries, because hon. Members must not forget that there are still industries that are subsidised by the Government. Agriculture is still subsidised by the Government, and so are railways and certain other industries, so that in shedding themselves of the financial responsibility of the mining industry the Government are apparently prepared to treat the mining industry on an entirely different basis from many of the other industries of the country. Then there are a number of other industries that are quietly waiting on until they can secure relief through the mining 71 industry. For example, the hon. Baronet the member for Dumbartonshire (Sir W. Raeburn), who has taken a considerable part in the discussion in Committee, represents an industry that is quietly waiting on until the miners are crucified, so that he can get relief in the shape of cheaper coal. Not only have we shipping in that position, but we have steel, textiles, and other industries that are only quietly waiting on until they can get relief through a considerable slump in the selling price of coal. Therefore, if the Committee give their consent to Clause 1 standing part of the Bill, they are undoubtedly coming to the assistance of the Government in doing something that is unfair to that industry as compared with the other industries of the country. In attempting to make wages the first cut, the Government have evidently made up their minds that they are going to attack wages through the most strongly organised industry in the country. I do not think there is much doubt but what the workmen in the mining industry are more strongly organised than in many of the other industries: but I think there need be no doubt, also, that if the Government and the employers of labour are able to get a big cut in miners' wages that will only be the starting point, so far as the cutting of wages in all parts of British industry is concerned. I want further to point out that in making the first attack on miners' wages, they have chosen an industry that has already contributed very substantially to the welfare of the other sections of British industry. In the years of war, and since the war, because of the fact that there has been a limitation of prices in the mining industry, shipping, steel making, and other industries have had a very substantial advantage at the expense of mining, and I think it is scarcely fair to make a second call upon the mining industry in the way in which the Government seek to do it through this Bill. During the discussion we had the hon. Gentleman opposite confessing—and confession is sometimes good for the soul—that there was a time when shipping got a bit of a blessing—
Mr. S. WALSH: Which hon. Baronet?
Mr. ADAMSON: The hon. Member for Dumbarton (Sir W. Raeburn), who speaks with a strong Scotch accent. He con- 72 fessed that there was a time when shipping got a bit of a blessing through cheaper coal. He is quite conscious of the fact that already the mining industry has contributed very substantially to the well-being and prosperity of the industry in which he is particularly interested, and the other industries of the country, and my hon. Friend reminds me that so substantial was the contribution to their prosperity that they can now afford to wait on until they get the substantial fall in coal through the reduction in miners' wages.
Sir W. RAEBURN: Some of them can.
Mr. ADAMSON: It will be within the memory of the Members of the Committee that the Lord Privy Seal, the Leader of the House, in dealing with the shipping question some time ago, proved, I think beyond the shadow of a doubt, that they had all participated in very very large profits indeed in that industry, and he did not say it only applied to some of them. His words were applicable to the whole of the shipping industry, and therefore it places them in the position of being well able to wait on until they see what is going to occur.
Mr. BARTLEY DENNISS: No profits since the war.
Mr. ADAMSON: I do not agree with that interjection, but even supposing there had been no profit since the war, the profits during the war were so substantial that they can afford to wait on for a considerable time in a very complacent frame of mind. The hon. Baronet, in the course of his remarks in the Committee, also stated that one of the chief causes of the slump in trade was because of the strike and the threatened strike in the coal industry. That is a proposition with which I profoundly disagree. I believe that one of the chief contributory causes to the slump in industry, not only in our own country but in other countries as well, has been the shameless profiteering that has gone on in industry, and not the strike or the threatened strike. I want to say further in that connection that if the Government get their way as far as decontrol is concerned, there is a grave danger of our having more strikes and threats of strikes because of the 73 heavy reductions of the wages which some people seem to think are to be imposed on the miners and other sections of workers in British industry. I do not see how either the Government or employers of labour expect that they can get these reductions imposed without serious trouble arising in the industrial system of this country. There are some people who are interested in mining who are talking about very substantial reductions in wages after the 31st March. They seem to forget that already substantial reductions have been made and that there has been one of 3s. 6d. a day or roughly £1 a week in miners' wages, so that if further substantial reductions are to follow I do not see how we can expect that they can be effected without serious trouble arising in the industry. Quite frankly I say I look to the next few months with very grave fears indeed if decontrol is going to take place. I hope, therefore, before we consent to Clause 1 standing part of the Bill we are going seriously to consider the situation that is likely to arise. Now is the time for us to handle this question. Meantime the responsibility rests with this Committee, and I trust that an overwhelming majority are going to refuse to give consent to this motion, and intend to throw back upon the shoulders of the Government the responsibility which it gladly shouldered when there was something to be made out of the industry. Now that the industry is in deep water the responsibility ought still to rest on the shoulders of the Government to see it through these trying times. Evidently it was the intention of the Government to do that because, as will be in the recollection of hon. Members, last year it passed a Bill which proposed to keep the control in its hands until the 31st August next. It passed that measure without the assistance of the miners because there were several sections of the Bill which the miners did not like one little bit. Seeing that the intention was originally to carry the responsibility up to the 31st August next, I do not think that members of this Committee ought to be parties to allowing the Government to shed itself of that responsibility on the 31st of this month. I hope, indeed, there will be a substantial majority against that course being taken.74
Major WHELER: I should not have intervened in this debate had it not been for what the right hon. Gentleman said with regard to agriculture still being subsidised. He made quite a wrong statement. Not a single agriculturist has got a penny out of the State, and Agriculture has not been subsidised up to the present time. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman's statement that agriculture is still subsidised—and I emphasise the word "still"—shows that he has not studied the case from the point of view of other industries. Throughout; his statement not one word has he said on behalf of the over-burdened taxpayer. He wants to throw the burden on the Government. But the Government is only dealing with the coal trade in the same way as every other trade and it is doing it in the interests of the community as a whole. However much we may regret a loss of wages being suffered by anybody in difficult times like this, it is clear that the miner will have to come into line with everybody else.
Mr. WALSH: Who is everybody else?
Mr. W. CARTER: I do not know much about agriculture and if I am wrong in what I am going to say I hope I will be corrected. Is it not the fact that as far as the coal industry is concerned the Government introduced a Bill containing a stipulation that the price of coal should only be a certain figure: in other words that there should be a maximum figure which the coal owners could charge for that particular commodity? The only difference I see between the Government action in regard to the coal industry and that in relation to agriculture was that while it put a maximum price on coal it fixed a minimum price for wheat. Is not that so?
Mr. ADAMSON: They guaranteed it.
Mr. CARTER: That is how I understand the position.
The CHAIRMAN: I think we had better confine ourselves to coal for the moment.
Mr. CARTER: There is no reply to the point I have put, and therefore we may take it for granted that our contention is right. I am one of those who believe that, seeing the Government took over the responsibility for the management and 75 control of mines soon after the war commenced without any representations being made by either the mine-owners or by the workmen, and by so doing prevented the prices of coal going up, profits being made and wages increased, under these circumstances it is only fair to ask, now that trade has declined and a slump has taken place, having regard to the profits that were made out of the industry, that the Government should keep control until things become normal. Whether hon. Members believe it or not, the men have a deep-rooted conviction that there is at the present time a combined attack being made on the wage earners of this country. I am one of those who believe that the wages of the miners and of those engaged in other industries followed the prices of various commodities: they did not lead prices. The Trade Unionists of the country made a special appeal to the Government to do their very best to prevent the prices of foodstuffs and necessities of life going up. What did they do? They introduced an Act which has proved a failure because of its limitations. My second point is that the workers had to put in claims and had to threaten to strike, or the profits would still be going into the coffers of the owners. The men would never have received an advance if they had waited until it was granted voluntarily. Furthermore, the wages went up by easy stages, and it was only after threads of strikes that advances were granted. What are they asking for now? As far as the proposal of this Bill is concerned, it seems to me the Government was perfectly willing to keep control of the industry while it was in a state of prosperity, but as soon as a slump comes about, brought about by world conditions and the war, they say they will leave owners and men to extricate themselves from the difficult position in which they have been thrown. That is a very dangerous proposition, and as one who has had considerable experience in the mining world I can only say if we are going to put the industry on an economic basis it not only means the reduction of 3s. 6d. in wages which the miners have already suffered, but an additional reduction of 5s., making 8s. 6d. in all. That is how I understand the situation; if the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill differs from me perhaps he will 76 explain his views. I repeat the position in which we stand is a very grave one. I believe the Government has blundered. Their action has been mean and contemptible. It has been willing to keep control of the industry in the days of its prosperity, but now there is likely to be trouble, in consequence of the great slump brought about partly by the policy of the Government, it is proposing to hand it over bag and baggage and to leave it to the owners and men to fight the battle out between themselves.
Mr. S. ROBERTS: This is the first Grand Committee on which I have had the honour of sitting and if I may say so without any disrespect I certainly have suffered a good deal of disappointment, I listened very attentively to the debate in the House on the Second Reading of this Bill and also to that which took place on Friday last in this Committee, and I never heard in Committee one argument which had not been used in the House. It seems to me we have been going over this question again and again, using the same old arguments with a few little interjections from one side or the other which have nothing whatever to do with the main question which is—are we able to go to the taxpayers of this country and ask them to subsidise coal? Are we able to go to the working men in other industries who are unemployed and ask them as workers to help to subsidise the mining industry when they themselves and their industry have gone under? We have gone through this question very thoroughly: the issue is a very simple one, and personally I think we ought very soon to come to a decision.
Mr. J. GUEST: I have listened to the hon. Member's complaint with reference to the disappointment he has felt at the repetition of arguments. The only consolation I can afford him, I am afraid, is that as long as he remains a Member of the House he will meet with further disappointments of the same kind. That, at all events, has been my experience up to the present time. I want to say something, as to which I assume the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill will again disagree with me, and that is that, viewed from our standpoint as miners' representatives, we cannot get away from the fact that the introduction of this Bill to provide for the cessation of control is a gross breach of faith on the 77 part of the Government. Not only do we miners hold that view, but the coalowners also are of the same opinion. The coalowners felt as strongly as we feel on this matter in the early stages when the Bill was introduced. They have made their position as clear to the Government as we could, perhaps in even more emphatic language. Both owners and men are quite clear that this Bill is a gross breach of faith. It is true that in this Committee and in the House the Government appear to have won the consent of the owners to this measure. How they have done that is best known to the coalowners and the Minister in charge. Perhaps we shall know more of what has transpired behind the scenes as the plot unfolds. We can be assured however, that, although the mine-owners' representatives are supporting the Bill for the moment, it is not because they believe it to be consistent with good faith; it is because, directly or indirectly, they expect to receive their quid pro quo. The point has been made, and it has not been refuted, that the position taken up by the coal trade during and since the War has been of inestimable benefit to the nation, both financially and morally. The other trades in the country—the shipping trade, the textile trade, and the general trades of the country—were largely subsidised at the expense of the coal trade and of the coal workers during and since the War. Surely that ought to be an argument for fair and equitable treatment at a time when a slump has occurred. It ought, at all events, to have been sufficient to induce the Government to carry out the bargain which they made in the Act passed in August of last year. They should have carried out that bargain and borne the loss, since, as my hon. Friend (Mr. Carter) says, they have taken the gains during that period. They have precipitated a crisis in the coal trade at a time when the trade is suffering from the worst slump that has occurred during the last 40 years. Something has been said about the power of the Miners' Federation, and something has been said about the capacity of the owners. I agree entirely as to both, and I think that, with fair and equal conditions on both sides, a fair and honest bargain could have been arrived at. By this Clause you force upon owners and workmen the necessity of making a bargain, at a time 78 when, obviously, the workers' side of the argument is in a very bad position indeed. We know something of bargains. We have been negotiating and making bargains pretty well all our lives, and we know what an equal chance in a bargain is. If the Miners' Federation have to go into this conference, as they will, faced with the fact that the trade is suffering from the greatest slump of the last 40 years, with all the gasworks and trades fully stocked, we know, the Government know, and the mineowners know, that our side is unfairly prejudiced and weighted. We have not a fair chance in that bargain. I can scarcely disabuse my mind of the idea that for a long time there has been premeditation on this question. After the strike of last autumn, we, as private Members, pressed upon the Minister of Mines the necessity for freeing coal for export and giving licences for export. When the strike was over, and trade had resumed its normal conditions, we were in the position that ships were laid up in the Humber and in the Tyne waiting for coal for export. We had the trade for export, but the Minister was obdurate. He was refusing licences, and our pits were playing at the same time. The coalowners were receiving instructions to supply the gasworks and public utility societies, and coal was kept in the country when there was a demand for it on the Continent.
Mr. DENNISS: You did not produce enough.
Mr. GUEST: As I have said, some of our pits were playing. The Government were putting an embargo on export and were filling up the stocks in the country, not for the needs of the day, but in order that they might have a reserve for the future. I cannot disabuse my mind of the idea that there was an ulterior point of view, that they were looking forward to the time when trouble might arise in the trade, that they were looking forward to such a position as that in which the trade finds itself to-day. I should be glad to know what is the basis of the Minister's optimism that a wages agreement is likely to be arrived at in the near future. It seems to me that a wages agreement is almost impossible at the present moment.
Mr. HARTSHORN: Not almost, but quite.79
Mr. GUEST: In the first place, our men suffered a reduction of 3s. 6d. per day. We are told by the Minister that there is a deficit of £5,000,000 per month in the trade, and the Government are decontrolling the trade in order that they may get rid of that deficit. How do they expect that deficit to be made up? They certainly do not expect an increase in the price of coal, on an overstocked market and with pits closing down. What the Government and the owners are looking for is that this £5,000,000 per month is going to come out of the wages of the men. That means, of course, that our men, on the top of the reduction they have already suffered, will, if the scheme works out, be faced with a further reduction equal to something like 25s. per man per week. That is not a prospect which, however bad the trade may be, is likely to be favoured by our men, nor is it a position that can possibly be accepted. Hon. Members will recollect that these wages which are now to be thrown into the melting pot were on the basis of flat rates and war wage. They were not on the old basis of percentage, but on a basis of war wage and flat rate in order to meet the definitely increased cost of living which had already occurred before the increases were given. They were not given on the old basis of trade profit and prices. The cost of living has certainly not fallen to such an extent as to justify the position that is now being taken up. The drastic reductions that are suggested cannot be justified on the ground that the cost of living has fallen sufficiently to meet them. I look forward almost with despair to the near future so far as the trade is concerned. Even at this stage I hope the Committee will reconsider the position, and will call upon the Government to halt and to carry out the bargain which they made, so as to give the trade a fair chance of reorganisation and re-habilitation, in order that we may have prosperity and peace, not only in the coal trade but throughout the whole of the industries in the country.
Mr. WALSH: It is with some reluctance that I rise to speak again, because I agree that there has been a good deal said, and possibly some of it repetition. I think, however, that my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Roberts), when he has been in Parliament a little longer, will not take the attitude of the young mentor 80 quite so easily as he does this morning. When strong feelings are excited, and when matters of very high responsibility to the State are under discussion, it is not only desirable, but necessary, to repeat time after time, in order that frivolous-minded Members may be able to get into their rather thick skulls—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"]—well, supposing that I say hard hearts. It is because we believe that Members are more thick-skulled than hard-hearted that we have to do this thing now. We are discussing to-day the most responsible position that has arisen during the last half-century, but hon. Members on the other side will not see it in the light in which we are trying to present it. The first thing that occurs to them is that the coalminers' wages are too high and must be reduced. The second consideration is that shipping profits have vanished and must be restored. Another consideration is that there are no profits in the steel-making industry now. Therefore, the miners' wages must be reduced. They do not seem to consider that behind that reduction of wages lies the gravest possible prospect of social disorder. I do not wish to use terms in any way as portents; I am simply expressing a state of definite fact. I wonder whether we might, without being guilty of obstruction, refer to a few of the profits that have been made in shipping? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Surely, if you charge us with making too high wages, we are entitled to charge you with making too high profits. We are entitled to give you, and we will give you, the fact, which cannot be denied, that to-day you have made and have in reserve sufficient to tide you over half a score of lean years. Can that be said of the workmen? It is perfectly well known that the wages of the adult workers in the mines at this moment are not equal to the increased cost of living since the War commenced. Here we have some figures in black and white. The China Mutual Steam Navigation Company declares a bonus of 50 per cent. and a dividend of 3 per cent., making £5 6s. per £10 ordinary share. The Lancashire Shipping Company has paid a dividend of 17½ per cent., less tax, for the year. The Aberdeen Steam Navigation Company has paid a dividend of 12½ per cent. for the year. The Anglo-Belgique Shipping 81 Company has just declared a profit of £77,000 for the year. Those instances could be multiplied indefinitely, and yet it is men who are in receipt of profits of that order who are backing up the Government in the most nefarious and disgraceful attempt of which any Government has been guilty during the last half-century. Of course we know perfectly well that both the colliery workers and the coalowners can be driven over the precipice. We know perfectly well that nothing but strife will result, and we know perfectly well that the Government have power. It is not very long ago since we were told we must fight Prussianism. What is this but Prussianism of the very worst type? It is not upon the merits of the case. It is simply because they have declared their determination as a Government to get rid of control of the coal industry. It is not argument, it is not the need of the nation, it is simply the determination on their part, willy-nilly, to get rid of that which they now feel to be a burden but what they have hitherto claimed as the biggest possible national advantage. Year after year they appealed to us and kept down the price of coal. Year after year they took over the whole charge and control of things. Let the people who have simply made up their minds to vote with the Government come out into the country and take up that attitude on the platform in any great industrial constituency, mining or otherwise, and there is not a single one of you who would come back.
Mr. DENNISS: Not in Lancashire.
Mr. WALSH: Nor anywhere else in an industrial constituency. Go into your agricultural areas. For five years there is a guaranteed minimum for the farmer from 1918.
The CHAIRMAN: The hon. Member must not get into that discussion.
Mr. WALSH: I quite recognise that. As a matter of fact the coal mining industry subsidised every other. They subsidised munitions during the whole course of the War. Coal at a tremendously cheaper rate was supplied to the Government because of the limitation of inland prices. They subsidised railways, shipping, and textiles. There was not a single industry that was not subsidised at the expense of the coal mining industry. It is sharper than a serpent's tooth to have a thankless body of 82 members such as faces us. As a matter of fact you have never taken into consideration the real facts of the case. If this Clause stands part, it is not the last that will be heard of it, and those hon. Members who with light-hearted ease are prepared to vote for the Clause will not have heard the last of it. When they are faced with the troubles and consequences that we have tried to represent, they will know more of it. They will know exactly what they have been doing, and it is because of that, that at this very last moment we appeal to them to take a higher responsibility than up till now they seem to have shown. We ask them to think of this matter, which is fraught with the gravest consequences to the social life of the nation, and not merely the welfare of the miner. There is not a single coalowner here but knows that if this thing is passed a huge slice out of the miners' wages will have to be made. Can anybody imagine that those consequences will simply stand as they are? In the desire to appeal to the high sense of responsibility with which hon. Members ought to come into this Committee, I implore them before they pass their vote for this Clause to think once, twice and thrice before they vote in favour of the Government.
Colonel DU PRE: I profoundly regret the tone of the hon. Member's remarks. It must appear to those who have listened to this Debate that some hon. Members seem to think this is a dispute between either the miners and the mineowners, or the mining industry and the Government.
Mr. WALSH: That is what it is.
Colonel DU PRE: It is no such thing. I am neither a miner nor a coalowner, nor a shipowner. I really begin to doubt whether in these days I am the owner of anything. But I have a very vivid interest in the Bill as a taxpayer and a Member of the general community. The point of view from which I look at it is that, unless the Bill is passed, it is going to cost the taxpayer £1,000,000 a week, and it has to be remembered that it is the taxpayer and not the miner or the owner who is the overlord of the community. He is the overlord of the miner, of the coalowner and of the Government itself. I speak on behalf of those who are not directly interested in the matter, but who are 83 sick and fed up with Government control of any kind. This is a Bill for the decontrol of coal mines. That is quite sufficient for the general public. The general public says, "A plague on both your parties. Make up your differences between you as you can, miners and owners. But we will not pay and we will not subsidise you in any way." There is no more popular measure that can be passed than this Bill, and I implore the Government to stand firm on it.
Mr. HARTSHORN: It is evident from the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech that he is supporting this Bill in the hope of saving the taxpayer £1,000,000 a week, and it is also clear from the general attitude of the Committee that that impression is held by more Members than the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and they are not much to blame for it, because the Minister for Mines and the Under-Secretary to the Board of Trade have both declared in this Committee, and it is on record, that there is a real good chance of a wage settlement during this month. Theirs is the responsibility for having misled the Committee. The President of the Board of Trade made a similar statement in the House of Commons, and I and my colleagues have declared that there is not the least possible chance of a wage settlement, and that at the end of this month you will have this industry at a standstill, and instead of saving £1,000,000 a week, you will have to pay out £1,000,000 a week in unemployed payment, in addition to which you will have other industries affected, and so far from saving money, you are going to impose an incalculable burden upon the taxpayers of the country and bring the community right up against the danger spot. I will not waste any more time on it. It is only a matter of a week or two before we shall know who is right and who is wrong. I should like to say a word about the conception that is pretty general in the country that the miners can afford to agree to a reduction in wages. My hon. Friend (Mr. Walsh) has declared that the adult workers in the industry have not received advances in wages equivalent to the increase in the cost of living. That is perfectly true. Some of our workers have received advantages rather more than that, but the actual position is 84 this. The pre-War wage was 6s. 5d. a day. That included all grades and all wages. The average number of days worked was five. So that we had an average weekly wage of 32s. Those are figures submitted by the coalowners and the Government before the Sankey Commission and they are not in question. To-day we have an average wage of 16s. 4d. That is a 155 per cent. increase. Government figures show that the cost of living to-day is 151 per cent. above pre-War costs. So that in the main, we have just maintained our pre-War standard. Does anyone think the miners of this country are going to accept the low, miserable standard that they had in 1914? If so, he is making a big blunder. There is going to be no agreement on the wages question this month, that is certain.
The SECRETARY for MINES (Mr. Bridgeman): The owners have not yet met your representatives. I do not see how you can tell whether there will be an agreement or not.
Mr. HARTSHORN: We know enough about their general attitude and the attitude of the Government. We know exactly what the position is and there will be no settlement.
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: I do not want to misrepresent the hon. Member or to be misrepresented myself. What I said in my speech yesterday was that there could be an agreement amongst men of good will. Both sides, no doubt, have made their propositions, but there is nothing to prevent their meeting each other, even though their propositions may be at the moment divergent, and I still maintain that with good will an agreement can be made and speeches of this kind will not very much help.
Mr. HARTSHORN: I can assure you there is no intention on our part to make speeches which will help to carry out the policy that is being pursued by the Government and the owners. We will not attempt to help a settlement on such lines. However, we have put our case and the Government have put theirs and the Committee has made up its mind. That is clear. But the miners cannot afford to accept a reduction in wages, and I am only making the statement I am making to eradicate from hon. Members' minds the delusion that miners 85 are making huge wages and can well afford a reduction. I am quite content to see the vote taken. Let the Government take its responsibility and wait a week or two so that events will justify either the one side or the other as to what is taking place. My colleagues and I are deeply concerned about the possible consequences of the passing of this Bill. If we did not foresee the very serious trouble that is bound to result from it we should not have wasted the
|Division No. 2.]||AYES.|
|Armitage, Robert||Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)||Palmer, Major Godfrey Mark|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Perring, William George|
|Barrand, A. R.||Falcon, Captain Michael||Raeburn, Sir William H.|
|Bennett, Sir Thomas Jewell||Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Reid, D. D.|
|Bigland, Alfred||Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Lynn, R. J.||Rodger, A. K.|
|Bird, Sir A. (Wolverhampton, West)||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Wheler, Lieut.-Colonel C. H.|
|Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Dennis, J. W. (Birmingham, Deritend)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hartshorn, Vernon||Robertson, John|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hirst, G. H.||Simm, M. T.|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Holmes, J. Stanley||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
Clause 2 (Short title) ordered to stand part of the Bill.
The CHAIRMAN: In regard to the proposed new Clause (Establishment of National Coal Board), in the name of the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn), my impression is, subject to what the hon. Member may say, that it is outside the scope of the Bill, but I will be glad to hear what the hon. Member says.
Mr. HARTSHORN: Of course, the Act which this Bill aims at repealing deals not only with the subsidy or the guarantee of profits for the owners, but makes provision for wages that are to be paid to the miners, and we therefore think it is in order, while repealing those provisions, to propose something else to take their place. According to the title of the Bill, it is "to curtail the duration of and amend the Coal Mines (Emergency) Act, 1920, and for purposes connected therewith," and we thought that under that part of the title we should be entitled to introduce this Clause.
The CHAIRMAN: I have read very carefully the proposed new Clause, as also the second one on the Paper, standing in the name of the right86
time of the Committee. It is not merely for the sake of wasting time that we have made our case, but we have been anxious to impress the real facts on the minds of those who after all are not so intimately acquainted with the facts as some of us are.
Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
The Committee divided: Ayes, 28; Noes, 11.
hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Adamson) (Powers and Duties of National Coal Board and Regulation of Wages and Profits). I am afraid I cannot agree with the contention of the hon. Member. This Bill is not a repeal of the Coal Mines Act; it is only for the purpose of curtailing the duration of and amending that Act and for purposes connected therewith. If it was "for other purposes," no doubt the hon. Member would have had a strong argument in favour of his proposed new Clause, but I cannot conceive that it is within the scope of the Bill, when you are going to decontrol something, to set up another kind of control, which is what in effect it comes to if you set up a National Coal Board. Therefore I must hold that the proposed new Clause—and, of course, the second one follows equally—is outside the scope of the Bill.
Mr. HARTSHORN: I do not think the proposed new Clause aims at setting up any form of control at all. It simply aims at setting up a wages board between the coalowners and the miners and makes no sort of provision for the State subsidising or financing the industry or interfering with the finances in any shape or form. It simply lays down the proposal that a 87 national wages board shall be established, and it determines the broad principles upon which that board shall be based. We are in this position, that this Bill is abolishing the only machinery that exists in the industry at the moment for regulating wages and for other relationships between the owners and ourselves, and we aim at laying down in this Bill the broad principles upon which the owners and ourselves shall proceed in placing an alternative in its stead.
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: If this Clause were added to the Bill, it would merely be duplicating a Section which is already in the Mining Industry Act. Section 12 sets up a national board which takes into consideration wages and questions affecting the industry as a whole, and therefore, as all the powers that are suggested to be given by this proposed new Clause are already in that Section, we should be in the position of having two Acts with practically identical Clauses in them.
Mr. ADAMSON: Like my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore, I am very much surprised to hear you say, Mr. Chairman, that the proposed new Clauses are out of order, and I am more surprised still to find the Minister in charge agreeing and pointing out that already there is in the Mining Industry Act provision for the very thing dealt with by these two Clauses.
Mr. BRIDGEMAN: I am only speaking of the first proposed new Clause.
Mr. ADAMSON: But the Secretary for Mines will observe that these two Clauses are pretty closely related to each other, and they are sought to be inserted in the Bill for a specific purpose. With regard to the point that you, Mr. Chairman, raised, that this is a Bill purely and simply to end the duration of control and purposes connected therewith, I think that under that last phrase in the title we are quite entitled to put down these new Clauses. We do not attempt in any way to continue Government control of mines in these new clauses. We know that after 31st March, if the Government get their way, there will be complete chaos in the mining industry.
The CHAIRMAN: The right hon. Gentleman must understand that we are not going into the question of the merits 88 or the reasons for the proposed new Clause. The whole point is whether he can convince me that my first impression is wrong, that this is outside the scope of the Bill.
Mr. ADAMSON: That is what I am attempting to do. I may do it in a very halting and lame fashion, but I am attempting to convince you that our intention is to get something inserted in this Bill to assist the industry and prevent chaos from reigning, not only in the mining industry, after 31st March, but in British industry as a whole. We seek to put in the Bill by the proposed new Clauses provisions whereby the two parties who will be left in the industry—because after 31st March the Government propose to go out—that is to say, the coalowners and the miners, may have a complete arrangement between themselves that will prevent this chaos taking place when the Government slip out in the inglorious way in which they propose to slip out. The provisions we seek to insert are simply that as soon as the Government shed themselves of the responsibility, the two parties will, through this National Coal Board, regulate the industry themselves. There will be set up a National Coal Board consisting of representatives in equal numbers of coalowners and coal miners. That Board will deal with the questions of wages and of profits, and in these two new Clauses we go on to set out a basis on which wages and profits will be regulated. We believe that the basis that we set up in these two new Clauses is a fair and equitable basis as between the two parties, and I think that will be preferable to leaving the industry—
The CHAIRMAN: The right hon. Gentleman must understand that we are not entitled to discuss whether it is a proper Clause or not. The only question which I have to decide—and I think I am in possession of all the arguments that can be fairly adduced on the point—is whether this Clause comes within the scope of the Bill.
Mr. HOLMES rose—
The CHAIRMAN: I do not desire any further discussion on that point, because I have had the opportunity of listening to the careful and reasonable arguments of the right hon. Member 89 for West Fife and the hon. Member for Ogmore, together with the observations of the Secretary for Mines. In my opinion the whole question with regard to this Clause is governed by the word "therewith" in the title to the Bill. The phrase "and for purposes connected therewith" governs the question of curtailing the duration of and amending the Coal Mines (Emergency) Act, and in my judgment the proposed new Clauses are outside the scope of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman will have ample opportunity of raising the question before Mr. Speaker, so that no great injustice
|Division No. 3.]||AYES.|
|Armitage, Robert||Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Perring, William George|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Falcon, Captain Michael||Raeburn, Sir William H.|
|Barrand, A. R.||Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Reid, D. D.|
|Bennett, Sir Thomas Jewell||Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Lynn, R. J.||Rodger, A. K.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Wheler, Lieut.-Colonel C. H.|
|Dennis, J. W. (Birmingham, Deritend)||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)||Palmer, Major Godfrey Mark|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hartshorn, Vernon||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hirst, G. H.||Robertson, John|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Holmes, J. Stanley||Simm, M. T.|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Myers, Thomas||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
The Committee rose at Sixteen Minutes after Twelve o'clock.90
can be done. The same observations will equally apply to the second proposed new Clause, which is clearly only a corollary of the first one. With regard to the third proposed new Clause, in the name of the hon. Member for Ogmore [Maintenance of wages for a temporary period], my ruling equally applies to that, that it is outside the scope of the Bill.
Question put, "That the Bill be reported, without amendment, to the House."
The Committee divided: Ayes, 26; Noes, 12.
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:—
Turton, Mr. (Chairman)
Banner, Sir John Harmood-
Barker, Mr. George
Bennett, Sir Thomas
Bird, Sir Alfred
Carter, Mr. William
Cory, Sir Clifford
Dennis, Mr. John
Denniss, Mr. Bartley
Du Pre, Colonel
Guest, Mr. John
Lloyd-Greame, Sir Philip
McLaren, Mr. Robert
Nicholson, Mr. Reginald
Norris, Colonel Sir Henry
Palmer, Major Godfrey
Parkinson, Mr. Allen
Raeburn, Sir William
Roberts, Mr. Samuel
Walsh, Mr. Stephen
Yeo, Sir Alfred