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Coal Mines Bill

Volume 237: debated on Thursday 3 April 1930

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Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [2nd April], "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

Question again proposed.

I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."

We now enter upon the final act of the drama which has held the stage through so many long days and long evenings during the present Session of Parliament. I should like to preface my remarks by paying some tribute to the Members who have conducted the Debates and to the high quality of the Debates and the skill and knowledge which have been brought to bear in the many discussions, and particularly, I should like to congratulate the President of the Board of Trade who has indeed carried the burden of the day almost single-handed, and with such charm that we have forborne to feel in the slightest degree aggrieved by any inability on his part to explain the inexplicable or to justify the unjustifiable.

I should like, before I proceed to the brief examination of the Bill which I propose to give to it, to say a word or two in defence of the mining industry as a whole. Little has been said of the wonderful progress which has been made by that industry in the last two or three years. The constant struggles which have taken place in the industry during recent years have, to some extent, blinded people to a great deal that has gone on. Many people who know nothing of the mining situation are apt to get very tired of the publicity which is given to the industry. They are very apt, according to their predilections, to classify the miners as troublesome fighting fellows or the owners as ignorant and inefficient. From that, and from a great deal that has been said during the struggles, there is a very common idea abroad that the mining industry of Great Britain is down-and-out, and that it has very little chance of survival.

I would like those people to reflect for a moment how, in an atmosphere of depressed industry in this country, in face of a poor demand, having regard to the use of fuel substitutes, and when you remember the economic difficulties of the country, the foreign competition to which we are subjected, competition arising from nations with lower wage scales and infinitely lower social services than we enjoy, we have produced and sold something like 240,000,000 tons of coal, 60,000,000 of which have been sold in competition at world prices, a figure within 20 per cent. of the peak figures of 1913. It is a most remarkable performance and reflects immense credit upon the whole industry.

It confirms me in my view that the British miner is second to none in the world. I would add that, when you have regard to the financial position of that industry, to the shortage of capital owing partly to domestic troubles in the industry and partly to bad trade, shortness of capital, which makes it so difficult to provide new machinery or new equipment, it is proof that, at any rate, no general charge of inefficiency can be brought against the management of the industry. Given peace, given confidence and given a revival of trade, I for one have no fear of the ultimate future of the industry, or of its ability to take care of itself. Before we left office we were within sight of the corner of a very long lane. The industry was beginning, in places, to pay its way, and it had in front of it, in the autumn, the advantages accruing from de-rating.

Now we have this Bill, and this Bill, for good or for evil, is going to make a very great deal of difference both in the administration and the management of that industry and to re-act on its future. The reason for the Bill, which is thoroughly unjustifiable economically, whatever it may be on other grounds, lies in politics, and when you get politics and business mixed, as I have always said, you get an explosion or disaster of some kind. [An HON. MEMBER: "Referendum."] The Bill is a direct outcome of certain pledges which were given at the last election. It is not exactly the fulfilment of a pledge. It is the payment of 50 per cent., and that 50 per cent. has been accepted. I may say, in passing, that I doubt very much if it would have been accepted from me, but that is another story. But the Bill has been accepted. There is to be half-an-hour's reduction, but there is no guarantee in the Bill, nor can there be any guarantee, that that half-an-hour's reduction, which must add to the cost of mining the coal, is going to be obtained without a reduction of wages. But a reduction of wages is unjustifiable, because it would lead to grave trouble, and therefore a way out had to be found. A way out has been found in this Bill for which the whole responsibility rests on hon. Members opposite, and on the Liberal party, to whose ingenuity and persistence we owe primarily the celebrated Clause on compulsory amalgamations.

I should like to say a few words about amalgamations, because in the active part of the Bill the two points that appear to me to cause the greatest difficulty are the compulsory amalgamations, and, what we may call, the compulsory price rings. As the House knows, I do not like a long word from choice. Long words are always used to obscure meaning and "amalgamation" is a word like "Mesopotamia," "co-operation," "co-ordination," and "rationalisation." [An HON. MEMBER: "And referendum !"] They are very often used to cover a want of clearness of thought. That is the reason why I always make a point, as far as I am able, if I use any of these words, to explain very carefully what I mean. Of amalgamations we have heard very little, and many people go about the country saying, "Oh, what the coal industry wants to do is to amalgamate." I want to examine the situation for a moment.

4.0 p.m.

I remember very well, many years ago, walking through the hop-fields in Worcestershire, and a stalwart young woman approaching me dragging a reluctant youth towards me by the lapels of his coat. "This is my young man," she said to me. "We are not exactly married, but we've been co-operated" Like amalgamation, it covers a multitude of sins. You can imagine in a few years' time a group of coalowners coming to the President of the Board of Trade and saying, "We are not exactly united, but we've been amalgamated." Let me use a homely illustration. In trying to get more production from the Government Front Bench, compulsory amalgamation would be a useful thing—compulsory amalgamation of the Lord Privy Seal and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer as the banker. You see the point I am aiming at by using a homely illustration. Whether amalgamation is to succeed or not, depends on a hundred questions of personal equation.

You cannot amalgamate some concerns, and you cannot amalgamate some people. The whole system of amalgamations in the coal trade and any other big manufacturing industry is absolutely distinct. Amalgamation may be a very good thing in the iron and steel trade—and this is a form of rationalisation—when it is properly done by bringing together companies, by the companies joining forces on one spot with their big productive units. Then you may get economy. But coal pits differ very much from each other, they are scattered about the country, and there is a real fear that the end of your compulsory amalgamation, apart from the personal equation, may be simply this, that you take a progressive, productive concern, and you kill it by hanging half-a-dozen duds round its neck. We have seen some of that kind of thing in the last few years in some of the financial amalgamations. Anyone who comes from certain districts will know well what I mean. An amalgamation has been brought about, that left without any capital, and the last state of the amalgamated company has been far worse than the state of all the separate units in it would have been if left alone. It is the compulsory amalgamation. I believe that amalgamation, as has been said by many in this House, if carried out by individuals—under general pressure if you like—will far more nearly accomplish what you have in view, and what, in itself, is not bad in essence. Compulsory amalgamation I do dread very much, and I also dread it from the financial point of view. An amalgamation, unless carried out with skill, unless left in a sound financial position, finds it very difficult to get fresh capital, which is what is wanted in the industry more than anything.

That is one problem, and the other problem is that of management. The great difficulty of all large amalgamations is to get the right people to manage. Amalgamation, of course, has been the principle form of rationalisation in many cases of industry in many countries, but I fancy now there is beginning to be a reaction in those countries which have carried amalgamation the furthest, in finding that, after all, there is a limit to the size of the amalgamated units beyond which amalgamation is rarely successful. It calls for rare gifts of management and rare gifts of administration. The mere fact of amalgamating can neither assure you success in finance nor assure you success in what is equally important—management.

I will say a word or two on the question of compulsory price rings. We are not in this country very fond of price rings. I have heard many speeches directed from benches opposite in previous Parliaments on this subject, and the justification for such an experiment has, in my view, to be much stronger than any justification that has been put forward during these Debates. I regard a price ring, where prices are raised, as a backward step economically. I regard it as a backward step for the reason that I think it will have the effect in certain of the industries of this country of which I know something, and, therefore, probably in many industries of which I know nothing, of retarding progress rather than assisting it. Of course, one of the difficulties we have in discussing this Bill is that neither the President of the Board of Trade nor anyone else can tell us for a certainty what will be the cost of certain action we are taking in this Bill. It is a leap in the dark. Hon. Members opposite hope that we shall land on soft ground. I hope we shall. We may very easily land on something that will break our necks. We do not know where we are going to land, but it does seem fairly clear from the Debate, that among the people who will have to pay more for their coal are the public utility companies and the great electrical concerns.

If there is one thing I consider of the first importance in this country, and which animated me and those who worked with me in passing the Electricity Act five years ago, it is the universal provision of a cheap supply of electricity, and one of the ways in which you get that, apart, of course, from the cheapness of your fuel and your material, is by the electricity works on a big scale supplant- ing the little single units that are found dotted about all over the country. Supposing, as I believe is the case, the big electricity companies have to face a substantial advance on their fuel, the small man his works who buys his fuel at the cheaper price, at which, I understand, many of the industries are able to purchase their fuel, has at once taken from him the incentive which exists to-day to scrap his small plant and depend on the utility company, thereby increasing the consumption and helping to reduce the cost of supply all over the country. It seems to me that a step in this direction is a backward one, and not a forward one.

I may say a word, also, on a subject with which I happen, or happened, to be well acquainted, and that is the question of the large steel works. That was discussed, I think, last night; certainly it has been discussed in the last few days. The case is not unfamiliar to Members, but it is worth looking at once more as typical of the way in which the action or this Bill will hit companies in this country which have been progressing and done everything they can to bring themselves up-to-date. Now in the iron and steel trade for many years past companies which wished to be in the van of progress, and which wished to produce their steel at competitive prices, have been regularly amalgamating various interests in a vertical line from bottom to top; that is to say, they have secured the control of the ore, the limestone and coal, and right the way up to everything that they need to produce the finished article. That has undoubtedly made for economy, and it has been a wholly good thing. This Bill is going to hit those companies, and, as hon. Members opposite know as well as we on this side of the House know, there is no raw material—"raw material" is, perhaps, hardly the phrase, but there is nothing which enters into the manufacture of steel the price of which bears more on the cost of the article than the fuel—the coal.

Take the case of those large works which have spent a considerable sum of money in acquiring coal, in developing pits and in working them for their own consumption, a company which has just about as much coal as it wants for itself, but does not enter, except in very unusual times, into the open market for selling, and which, accordingly, never has need to buy in the open market. The reduction of output in the districts hits them both ways, whatever the reduction may be, because reduction of output at once sends up the cost of the coal they are mining for themselves, and for the surplus quantity which they are no longer allowed to produce, they have to go outside, and enter into a market where, probably, after such a reduction in the coal has been made there will be very keen and severe competition to secure the amount of fuel that they want. It may well be that the alteration in the cost of the steel affected by the rise in the price of coal which they would have to use, might make just that little difference in securing or losing an order in the face of foreign competition. The President of the Board of Trade seemed quite unable to meet this case, but it is a serious case. It is a case which occurs in every district where steel is made in England and Scotland, and that it has not been met, I think, constitutes a very grave defect in this Bill, and one which I sincerely hope may be remedied before the Act has been in operation for any length of time.

I cannot help feeling some regret that hon. Members opposite would not consider one question which was brought up on this side, and that is the spread of hours over the fortnight. I will tell the House why. In the first place, I am always an advocate of giving an industry the power itself to settle its own hours. I know the argument used by hon. Members opposite. It is one that we have heard very often from the Miners' Federation. [Interruption.] The Government have refused to look at the proposition. I regret it simply for this reason: I quite admit that this inevitable rise in the cost of coal does not seem to worry many of the hon. Members opposite connected with the mining districts as much as it worries those outside. It is quite clear that if an arrangement of hours could have been agreed to between the two parties in the coal trade, it might have been possible to have carried on with no reduction of wages. Had that been the case, the whole necessity for this elaborate system of price rings would have gone, and we might have got through this crisis without incurring, what you will incur, the charge of making fuel dear from one end of the country to another. I think that would be worth trying, rather than doing what you have done in an Act of Parliament.

There are two main objections that I have, on very wide grounds, to the Bill as a whole. My first objection—here those who have done me the honour of listening to me before will recognise an old friend—is because the Bill causes uncertainty. It causes uncertainty, without doubt, in the coal trade until such times as the coal trade has been able to assimilate all that is in the Bill, which it may be able to do, or may not; that we do not know yet. But it causes uncertainty throughout industry, for this is the first time that Parliament, in its wisdom, has taken upon itself to tell an industry how it is to be conducted. Now that this principle has been applied to one industry and that, in some ways, the most important industry in the country, there is no industry that cannot feel that there is some chance at some time of Parliament interfering and telling it how its business should be managed. Holding the view that uncertainty is bad for trade, I object to the Bill on that ground.

I object to the Bill, secondly, on the ground that by legislation you are going to raise the cost—if you do not raise it, the whole reason of your Bill has gone, and your Bill is ineffective—of a necessary article, necessary alike to business and to individuals throughout the country. It would be a sad thing if there was nothing in this Bill that could give one satisfaction. It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good. This Bill will certainly blow one bit of good. It is going to explode, once and for all time, the one argument that is used against Protection, that in no circumstances should you raise the cost of anything by artificial means. The principle set by this Bill is that by Act of Parliament, if you are dissatisfied with the wages of any industry, you are at liberty to cause the product of that industry to be sold at a higher figure throughout the country. That is a more extreme form of Protection than could possibly be applied by tariffs. You give away at one blow the whole of your case. So far as harm to the trade of the country goes, you might, on the logic of this Bill, say that the agricultural labourer is paid far too little, which is quite true, and that it would do less harm to the country by taxing wheat than by taxing coal. When this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament the President of the Board of Trade may, very likely, go back to Geneva and ask the countries a Europe to lower their tariffs, and he will do that just after he has passed an Act enabling us to send subsidised coal into every port of Europe. I should like to ask whether the indirect subsidisation of coal for export, which will be one of the effects of this Bill, can be met by foreign countries either by prohibition, by equivalent duties, or by bounties. I do not remember that point having been raised, although it may have been raised—I have not been present at all the Debates—and I should like information on that point.

It is a curious and extraordinary fact to remember in connection with this controversy that to-night, at 7·30, when we divide, all the books of orthodox political economy will be thrown into the funeral pyre, the flames of which will be lighted by the President of the Board of Trade, and when the last leaves of those books are shrivelling, through the flickering flames we shall see the forms of hon. Members opposite, and the Liberal party, dancing round the embers and watching the final consumption of their ancestral scriptures. The indecency of that proceeding, I might almost say the blasphemy of it, takes from me the power of further speech, and I therefore conclude by moving "That the Bill be read the Third time upon this day six months."

I most strongly support the Motion "That the Bill be now read the Third time." There have been months of active preparation in connection with the Bill, and to-day is the appointed day for its Third Reading. I desire to join my congratulations with the words of appreciation that the Leader of the Opposition has addressed to the pilot of the Bill. I have been in close association with the President of the Board of Trade for eight or nine months in connection with this matter, and it has been one of the proudest things of my life to be able to work behind the scenes with him and to know how great he has been both in mind and in action. We have had three months' careful examination of the Bill. The claim that was made months ago by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) that this was an owners' Bill has now, I hope, been changed into the belief that it is a House of Commons Bill. The care that has been displayed in the examination of the Bill is an evidence of that change having taken place. Many Amendments have been accepted, not only Amendments moved from below the Gangway opposite but many Amendments moved from the Conservative Benches. On several occasions hon. Members opposite have expressed the joy which they have felt at the acceptance of their Amendments by the Government.

I am not going to follow the Leader of the Opposition into the protective arguments to which he has been alluding. The Bill is a four-part Bill. The first Part consists of the marketing provisions. I am convinced that that is a method of providing an immediate avenue out of the present uneconomic position. Although it is said that it is an owners' Measure in this Part, I contend that the protective safeguards from improper exploitation of the consuming public which have been inserted in the Bill are in themselves evidence that the Government are not unmindful of their responsibilities to the public. The marketing proposals dealing with the production, supply and sale of coal are directed to abolishing some of the existing wastefulness and to overcoming some of the antediluvian methods that have applied to this industry in larger or lesser degree. This Part of the Bill has been subject to many Amendments, some of which have strengthened it.

The amalgamation Clauses in Part II were well hammered out in Committee. I am aware, however, that some of the owners are opposed to them, some of the owners are in favour of them, and some have expressed the view that they wilt lead to proper economy in the industry. The public interest is the paramount interest in this Part of the Bill, as in Part I, and no wild-cat schemes can go through the mesh of the Amalgamation Commissioners or of the Railway and Canal Commission. These amalgamation proposals are simply extending the proposals in the Act of 1926. This brings along what we cannot avoid, namely, the evolution of industry.

Rationalisation has been mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, but the mixture of words he used were beyond my understanding. I understand rationalisation to be the development of the organisation of industry, but I am certain that these policies of amalgamations and reorganisations have their evil effects on the human side, even bigger effects than upon the financial side. The well-known conference that was held at Burlington Gardens under Lord Melchett, myself and other people had to recognise that these reorganisations and developments would bring also certain hard effects in connection with the human factor. The other day the hon. Member for East Leicester (Mr. Wise) raised this question and suggested that when these rationalisation schemes, amalgamation schemes or reorganisation schemes did destroy the chances of labour of persons in the industry, it would be well to accept in general the principles of the scheme propounded by the Melchett Committee and to provide some sustenance or maintenance for the persons so displaced.

The third Part of the Bill relates to hours of labour and takes off one-half of the additional hour which was imposed upon the miners in a time of disaster and trouble. I am convinced that this partial restoration will help to wipe out the memory of an incident which is best forgotten, if forgotten it can be. There is another reason which calls for consideration. Work in many pits has become more arduous and concentrated by the mechanisation established and constantly developed. The increased output per man is in itself a case for regulating the hours of labour downwards, so that many of the unemployed miners may expect a job or the chance of a job in the reorganisation. It would be far better to reduce the hours so as to absorb many of those brave people who, if no employment can be found for them, will go down into the gutter of despair. I am still a convinced believer in the reduction of the working hours per person per day as one means of absorbing unemployed persons. An expert in the coal trade has said that even the half-hour which has been restored to the miners may mean a few thousands more men being employed in the coal mines. I hope that on that ground alone hon. Members opposite will withdraw their opposition to the Bill.

It has been said by some coal experts that plans can be adopted by careful management, and employing a body of satisfied workers, by which the economic value of a pit can be maintained. Anyhow, it is half-an-hour of human justice to as fine a body of men as any country can find, and I appreciate very much the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Their heroism is proved in every national industrial disaster; their value as workpeople is incontestable; their patriotism is above calculation. But all these virtues are not enough. They need the help of all men of good will to a more rational working day. Some other countries are before us in working hours, but even if they were not Great Britain could, and should, now, as in the past, lead the world in its uplift and human progress. It may be said that this is sentiment and not business, but sentiment is often more godly than logic, and it is certainly time to do away with the stigma of overworked coal getters and remove some of the uneasiness which affects the working population in our mining districts. Now I come to the point that I hoped would have received strong support from the Leader of the Opposition—namely, our National Industrial Board.

This House is asked to confirm by this Third Reading the policy of a National Industrial Board. It may not be called upon to act frequently but it is certainly an instrument that can be used to find the pathway to peace in an industry where many big struggles have disfigured the history of the past. There are good signs of mutual relationships improving. Many of us, whichever side of industry we are on, have no doubt made speeches in our anger, or in our moments of excitement and passion, or under deep emotion and provocation, which we should not have made, and many hon. Members, both inside and outside this House, have been tempted from the paths of conciliation. But, surely in this 30th year of the 20th century, a century of great scientific developments, we can devise better plans than perpetual conflicts or fear of conflicts, and this National Board is certainly one step in that direction. I do not want our fears or our past relations to prevent this machinery being created.

When leading industrialists and leading trade union leaders assembled at Burlington Gardens, they laid it down as a fundamental of industrial peace that organised employers and organised workpeople should meet and argue out the details of industry, and I am pleased that in the coal trade the Miners' Federation and the Mining Association have, through their officers, recently assembled together. I do not care what was the object, the principal thing is that both sides should get together. We cannot have peace without mutual contact and conciliation of spirit. This great national industry used to have in it great men who favoured conciliatory methods. I do not doubt but that to-day there are men on both sides as great as in the past, with the same spirit and the same feelings; and I want to see them harnessed by this Bill in the assistance of the coal industry.

There is in this Bill the principle of arbitration, strengthened by Amendments which have been accepted from the other side. It secures equity between owner and owner and between coalfield and coalfield. The principle of protective safeguards is provided for in the committees to be set up both in the districts and nationally; and it is in its general structure the first step towards rescuing this great basic industry from its present chaotic condition. Every interest that may be affected by changes of price, has its defence in the investigating committee, and every owner is protected by the arbitration clauses. Is it too much to ask this House to give its legal, moral and spiritual support to a Bill destined to improve the condition of the industry so that owners and work-people can be reasonably satisfied in their endeavours to carry on the industry, and to believe also that out of the reconstruction proposals there need not be added one penny to the cost of household fuel, or perhaps any addition to the competitive industries which depend upon coal for their success; and that out of the amalgamations and regulation of production and sale the country can rest assured that the coal industry has been given a help towards its self-regeneration? Let it be sent as improved and amended to another place with the blessings of the House of Commons.

I should like to be the first to congratulate the Secretary for Mines on having preached a most ex- cellent sermon, full of sentiment, as he admitted, but singularly lacking in logic. He laid particular stress upon the improvements in the Bill which have been carried out as the result of Amendments moved from this side and accepted by the Government. Let me add my tribute, at this point to the courtesy and fair spirit with which the President of the Board of Trade has conducted the Bill through this House. His presence on the Government Front Bench in charge of the Bill has been an invaluable asset. But for him there would have been much greater difficulty in securing the successful passage of this Measure but, whilst admiring his urbanity and courtesy, I cannot agree that he has in any way met the suggestions from this side of the House. He may have accepted a few drafting Amendments but he has accepted practically no Amendment of any substance or importance. It is true that he was forced at the point of the sword to drop one of the Clauses of the Bill, but he did not do so very graciously and only when he found that the forces on which he had relied up to then were temporarily against him. Not only has the President of the Board of Trade not accented our reasoned Amendments designed to improve the Bill but he has actually made our opposition stronger by accepting most objectionable clauses from the party below the Gangway.

There is no secret as to the reason for this Bill. The right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) dealt with that particular aspect of the situation, and we all know that if the miners' representatives in this House, and the Socialist party as a whole, had not given that pledge so light heartedly, a pledge which won them a great many seats, there would have been no occasion for this Bill. This is a semi-fulfilment of a pledge given designedly and unscrupulously for the purpose of catching votes at the last election. The Government succeeded in catching those votes, but they have done so at the expense of the industry as a whole. They have interfered with the industry just when it was showing signs of recuperation and convalescence; just at a time when it was beginning to show decreasing losses on the sale of coal, in some case, a profit. At a time when it should have been left to itself to try and get over this difficult period the Govern- ment comes along and, in order to fulfil a pledge, casts this added burden on to the industry as a whole.

Does the hon. Member object to the Government carrying out its election pledges?

I do not object to the Government trying to carry out their election pledge, and I can only regret that they have not carried out the whole of their pledge. They seem to be content with the fulfilment of half of it What I regret is that the Government, and I have no doubt the hon. Lady also, was so unscrupulous and unmindful of the facts of the situation as to give that pledge at the last election. Great stress has been laid upon the distress which exists in the mining industry and the poverty of the miners, their women and children. We do not deny that for one moment, and we should like to see a great improvement in the mining industry, but at the same time we should not allow our sympathy with the miners to destroy our sense of proportion. It has been suggested that the miners' wages and hours of labour are very much worse than in other countries. Figures have been given by the League of Nations which prove beyond a doubt that not only do the miners' hours compare favourably with those of other countries, but that their wages are considerably higher than in any country which is our competitor in coal.

When we talk about the distress among miners we should realise that the miners who are at work are working under as good or better conditions than those which prevail in Continental countries, and that our attention is focussed upon the distress in the mining industry largely because of the large representation of the mining interest in this House. There is distress in other industries. There is distress in the steel and iron industry, in cotton, and in agriculture, and we should not seek to bolster up the mining industry at the expense of other industries which are in equal distress but have not the same power over the party which is now in power. But how is this Bill going to relieve the distress among the miners? The result of this Bill will be to increase unemployment in the mining areas. The right hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) only yesterday made a very pointed speech. He said:
"I could take hon. Members to districts in South Wales and elsewhere, where it is not a case of 10, 20 or 30 per cent. of the workers being thrown out and maintained by the insurance fund to which the remainder and the owners and the State would continue to subscribe, but a case where whole districts will be closed clown. If that is not so, then the Debates that have taken place in this House have had no meaning, no knowledge, and no effect."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st April, 1930; col. 1235, Vol. 237.]
Of course it is so. The Bill is designed with the object of cutting down the number of workers in the mining industry, not with the idea of increasing them. It is perfectly true that as a result of reducing the hours of labour you may possibly have to take on a few thousand more miners in order to make up for the loss. But one hopes that with the reorganisation of industry this will only be temporary, and permanent unemployment is bound to result from the passage of this Bill. Instead of having 200,000 unemployed miners, with admittedly no prospects of permanent future employment, we shall have a considerably increased number and, therefore, it is quite useless for hon. Members opposite to pretend that this Bill is in any way going to assist the distress among the mining community. It will have another object which has only been appreciated by hon. Members opposite during the course of our discussions. In all probability in many districts as a result of the decrease of hours there will be a decrease in wages. They have no pledge that there will be no decrease of wages. It is true that by giving the industry power to fix a minimum price for coal they hope to make up the extra cost out of the sale price of coal, but in some districts that will be difficult. I anticipate that there will be a very considerable prospect of a decrease in the wages of the miners. All this could have been avoided if they had accepted a one-Clause Bill proposed from this side, which, instead of fulfilling the actual pledge which hon. Members opposite gave at the last election, would have given a reduced number of hours to the mining industry, and at very little or no cost to the industry as a whole. The miners' Members have rejected that offer, and—

Assuming that that had been done, will the hon. Member explain where the revenue would have come from?

At this stage of the Debate, I had better remind hon. Members that this question of the 90-hour fortnight is not in the Bill, and that, on the Third Reading stage, we cannot discuss subjects that are not then contained in the Bill itself.

I defer to your Ruling, Sir, and I only mentioned the 90-hour fortnight and the spread-over of hours to show how easy it would have been to avoid all this complicated and vicious legislation by adopting the sensible and well reasoned suggestion which came from this side. Rather than do that, hon. Members have abandoned all their Free Trade principles, and have set out to tax the raw material and the essence of the industries and the consumers of this country. I cannot imagine for a moment why, if they are prepared to tax coal in this way, they should refuse to tax food. If they are prepared to tax the community in the interests of the miners, why do they refuse to tax the community in the interests of the steel workers, which is what we, on this side, have asked them to do? I cannot see any difference between the two suggestions. Hon. Members opposite have put a tax upon the raw material of every industry of this country. They are deliberately setting out to exploit the consumers of coal in this country, in order to pay for the pledges which they gave at the last election, and it is for that reason that we so deplore the passage of this Bill.

Before sitting down, I should like to make a passing reference to the attitude of the Liberal party during the passage of this Bill. In the middle of the discussions they began to give a somewhat belated consideration to the Naval Conference, and the explanation of the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) was a pitiful exhibition and one that made him the laughing stock of this House. The Liberal party, which de- nounced this Bill when it was first introduced as containing the most vicious principles, as being an attack upon the consumers of this country, and as giving undue power to the owners and miners in the industry, have now, for their own reasons—reasons which are known to many of us and which are certainly not reasons which we can admire—withdrawn their opposition to the Bill, and are prepared to go back on their principles for the sake of expediency. I only hope that when the evil effects of this Bill become apparent, as they will, the Liberal party will, in honesty, share the blame with the party opposite exactly as they have taken credit during the passage of the Bill.

I should like to say a few words in support of the Third Reading of this Bill. It is not very often that I get up in this House to speak, but I feel on this occasion that I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade on the very able manner in which he has piloted this Bill through the House. I think he has done exceptionally well. It is quite true that he has been pulled to pieces from time to time, occasionally by the Liberal party, in a mild way, but more particularly by the Tory party. I can understand the party opposite, because they have never, during my time in this House seemed to go anywhere near where the miners could get an improvement in their position. The Leader of the Opposition to-day praised the miners as being second to none in this country, but I wish he had thought of that in 1926, when he assisted the coalowners to increase the hours of miners and also to reduce their wages. The Leader of the Opposition says that politics and business do not go hand in hand. I quite agree that Tory politics and business do not go hand in hand.

I am strongly of opinion, having been connected with the miners for over 50 years, and having been in half-a-dozen or more disputes since 1881, that this Bill will go in the direction of attaining peace in the mining industry in the future. So far as the reduction of a half-hour is concerned, that is most necessary, and I think the President of the Board of Trade should be congratulated on taking a very mild step indeed. He was not as rash as the Opposition when they were in power and put an hour on the working day, and he did not take a full hour off again, as we promised we would do, but a little reasonableness has prevailed since then, and the right hon. Gentleman has only gone for the half-hour instead of the whole hour. I believe that that half-hour, when it comes off, will be of benefit to the miners, and I am hoping that in July, 1931, the other half-hour reduction will take place as well.

Some 29 years ago we established what was termed a miners' international conference for the reason that the Continental miners in those days were working two, three, and four hours per day longer than the British miners, and their wages were much lower as well. I am sorry to say that, while our hours in this country were much lower than the Continental miners' hours in those days, the British miners' hours to-day are longer than the Continental miners' hours. Therefore, in this country the mining industry has gone back, instead of going forward, as it has on the Continent. I remember the late Lord Oxford introducing the Minimum Wage Bill in this House, and when it was opposed from the benches opposite, the late Lord Oxford said that the mining industry was an industry which was very different from any industry working on the surface, seeing that the miners had to work down below. The reduction of hours in my opinion, will be of great benefit to our men. Then we are to have an industrial board set up, and that also will be a great blessing. Those of us who have been in disputes for the last 50 years are hoping that we shall never have any more disputes in the mining industry, and if the men and the employers will only show a reasonable spirit, I believe that peace will obtain in the future.

I ask the House to support this Bill, because I believe that it will be a step in the right direction. The ex-Prime Minister said he thought this was a leap in the dark. Well, we cannot be any worse off than we are at the present time. Hours are long, and I should like the House to remember that while to-day we have an eight-hours day, in some of the collieries that I have been looking after the men are down nine and a-half and in some cases 10 hours a day. It does not mean an eight-hours day at all, but a nine and a-half or a 10 hours day. When we speak of a seven-hours working day, it means eight and a-half and nine hours, but the country, I believe, thinks it means a bare seven hours. Therefore, I trust that the House will give the Third Reading to this Bill without any opposition, with complete unanimity, and let us go on the right road for attaining peace and improving the conditions of the miners of this country.

I should like to join in the general chorus of praise with which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has been greeted, and as one who has had some little share in working on this Bill and suggesting Amendments, I should like to say, here and now, that on all occasions I and everyone else have received nothing but the greatest courtesy at his hands. One realises that there are as many opinions about the various parts of this Bill as there are Members in this House, but we are all agreed that the Bill as it stands is certainly not the Bill which was introduced in this House last December. It has been greatly modified, and I was surprised at the hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Culverwell) charging the President of the Board of Trade with not being ready to accept Amendments. I believe that not only has every constructive suggestion which has been put before him been considered, but that he has gone out of his way to accept some of them.

We, on these benches have been charged with a lack of consistency, a charge which I should have thought lay rather at the door of hon. and right hon. Members above the Gangway for their attitude towards Part I of the Bill. From the outset, we have disliked that Part as being a protective Measure which was not required, but they welcome it now and taunt us with the fact that it is a protective Measure, intended to protect certain owners in a certain industry, and yet they have steadily voted against every part of it. I should like to emphasise Part III of the Bill, as it is now, which decreases the hours of the miners. Without a doubt that is the Part of the Bill which brought the Bill into being, and I am surprised to find hon. Members above the Gangway taunting hon. Members opposite with bringing in that Part of the Bill in order to fulfil pledges. I should have thought that it was not a fault, but a matter for praise, that people who give pledges should do their best afterwards to carry them out.

5.0 p.m.

It is not merely in order to fulfil pledges that this Part of the Bill has been introduced. It has been introduced as a real necessity, because of the circumstances under which the miners are working, and, so far as we are concerned, one remembers with gratitude that it was a Liberal Government which brought in the eight-hours day for Scotland and reduced the hours in certain mining areas from 10 to eight. When that was done, the same suggestion was made then as is made now. It was said, "You will ruin the industry, you will increase the price of coal, and you will be throwing that increase of price upon the consumer." Those gloomy prophecies are always made when you are doing your best to help the people who are giving their time and their lives in order to produce this raw material. The same charge has been made now as was made then. These gloomy prophecies were not fulfilled. It was said that if you reduced the hours from 10 to eight, the effect would be to decrease production, but within a year or two after that Measure had been passed we reached the peak year of production, in 1913. It was, again, a Coalition Government which introduced the Measure reducing the hours from eight to seven. Again the gloomy prophecies were made, and again they were disproved. Why should you always subordinate the men to the industry rather than subordinate the industry to the men? If the industry cannot afford to pay the wages, unless the men are kept in the mines for over seven or eight hours—and even now, according to the last speaker, the hours are eight and a-half to nine—then I say that there is something wrong with the industry.

With regard to the changes made and accepted by the right hon. Gentleman, we realise that it may be said that if you reduce the hours, prices may be increased. We do not think that prices will be increased as much as has been said, but let us admit that argument. The right hon. Gentleman has shown himself ready to introduce Part I to cover part of that increased cost. Speaking for myself, I still dislike Part I, but I do not dislike it as much as I did, and for these reasons. [An Hon. MEMBER: "The Naval Conference!"] No, not necessarily the Naval Conference, but we know that the right hon. Gentleman has introduced Amendments which have done away with a great number of the Amendments that were there originally. May I remind the House of some? First of all, it is clear that export coal may be treated as a separate class, and it is clear that if the district board or the central council think that the quota on the export trade shall not be cut down it will not be cut down. Secondly, certain pits will be protected, if required. That was covered by an Amendment which was accepted the day before yesterday. Thirdly, where special circumstances are met with in the case of the steel industry, or by-product works, or coking ovens attached to a pit, those special circumstances shall be considered in assessing the standard capacity of a mine or the quota allocated in a district. Fourthly, instead of fixing a standard capacity haphazard, the board or the council will have to consider the economic and efficient working of a pit, whether new or old. These Amendments which the right hon. Gentleman accepted have made a great difference in Part I. He has even gone further and admitted, quite frankly, that Part I is an experiment. His prophecies with regard to that may be right or they may turn out to be wrong. At any rate, there cannot be in time two opinions about it. There may be now, but time will show whether he is right or we are right.

The right hon. Gentleman has fairly said, "I will limit the time of the experiment to a bare two years," and in doing so he has been most fair, and has met the greater part of the criticism advanced from these benches. He has also provided for arbitration, so that anyone, consumer or coalowner, whether a coalowner had an objection to the quota or standard capacity, or the consumer to the price, everyone who has a grievance may have his grievance placed before an arbitral tribunal. The result is that our objections cannot be as great now as they were when the Bill was originally introduced. Further, while the President of the Board of Trade admits that this is a temporary solution, he has admitted that there is a permanent solution, which he himself has accepted and placed is another part of the Bill. We think that in one way, and one way only, can this industry pay its way and provide increased wages, work more efficiently and increase its profits, and that is by doing away with artificial barriers above and below the land. Rationalise and unify if you like, but put the districts in the position to work in a proper way, and provide a solution which will permanently reduce hours and increase wages. For all these reasons, I welcome that part of the Bill, and I hope that when it reaches another place the Government will take the same view with regard to that part that they have taken with regard to the other parts.

I have listened, I think, to nearly the whole of the Debates in connection with the Coal Mines Bill, and although I represent in this House a large mining constituency, I have only intervened on one occasion for a few minutes. Naturally, I have been very much interested in the arguments we have heard from time to time both for the Bill and against it. An hon. Member on the other side who followed the Secretary for Mines referred to the speech as being a sermon lacking in logic. I would remind him that if that be true, it is not the only sermon lacking in logic which has been delivered during the Debate. There have been others, and not from this side either. Generally speaking, it has been very convenient for Members opposite to ignore the circumstances which have made this Bill necessary, but occasionally there have crept into some of the speeches of hon. Members opposite indications that they were not altogether devoid of responsibility for the condition of the coal industry to-day. For instance, one hon. Member last night began his speech by the well-known quotation:

"The evil that men do lives after them."
I imagine he was not thinking of the possible consequences of the Measure we are now discussing, but was really troubled by a guilty conscience, because he understood that the situation with which we have to deal was due to the evil perpetrated by his own party during the recent history of the mining industry.

The hon. and gallant Member for North Leeds (Captain Peake), speaking last night, said that the Bill was introduced because of pledges which had been given to the miners in the recent election. I wonder how long it is since it became the wrong thing to make pledges when election campaigns were on. It may not be a very nice thing for hon. Members opposite to recall the fact that in certain mining constituencies there were Conservative candidates who made pledges to the miners in their election speeches. I well remember many of these pledges, because I had to read them. This was one of the pledges they made to miners as a guarantee of some sort of prosperity for the mining industry: "We are living in a country which imports 3,000,000 tons of iron and steel every year. Let us put on Safeguarding duties."

The hon. Member is confined now to what is in the Bill, and must not deal with election promises.

I, of course, accept your Ruling. I was only pointing out that hon. Members on the other side introduced the question of pledges we made during the election in regard to miners' hours, and I was illustrating the fact that they also made pledges.

He was entitled to refer to pledges, but he must not go into these pledges on the Third Reading of this Bill.

I shall have to obey your Ruling and leave out my point. It would be convenient to Members apposite that I should not deal with this.

On a point of Order. Members opposite referred to pledges on the Third Reading.

That is different from pledges relating to hours. Safeguarding of iron and steel has nothing to do with this Bill.

I am dealing with what is the general practice of the House. Members are confined to the points in the Bill on the Third Reading.

I will refrain from further reference to that, and I will turn to a theme which has been developed a great deal by Members opposite. A prevailing argument has been the one that this Bill would be responsible for the raising of the price of coal. I do not understand why Members of the Conservative party scoff and deride Members of the Liberal party. They should be grateful to them. After all, it was the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in that magnificent speech in the Second Reading Debate, who really coined this phrase about dear coal. I shall never forget the passage in which he did it. It is one of those things that lives in one's mind. I remember he said on that morning that he had looked through the window and had seen the ground covered with hoar frost and said to himself, "This is not a day on which I can go to the House of Commons and vote for a dear coal Bill." That phrase has been the theme of the majority of the speeches of the other side. Of course the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) on the same evening, tried to go one better than the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, for he drew for us a vivid picture of the poor widow frying cheap steaks over a dear fire. That is another of the remarkable phrases that will live in one's memory. We would not have regarded it, perhaps, in a cynical way if we had not recalled that the party opposite, only a few weeks before, were doing everything they could to prevent the Government from assisting the widows with whom they sympathised on this occasion.

The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has set many balls rolling in his time, and they have rolled far, but some that he has set rolling have not rolled far. I do not think the one in regard to dear coal will roll far. I am sceptical about dear coal so far as this Bill is concerned. I was at a public function a short time ago in my own constituency, where the guest of the evening was a gentleman regarded as an economic expert and a great leader of industry, and he used the occasion to make a speech in regard to the Coal Mines Bill, and was more or less critical of the Bill. He said that this Bill would increase the price of coal by about 2s. 6d. a ton. Various other prices have been mentioned as possible owing to the operation of this Measure, but, as I say I am rather scepti- cal, because the gentleman of whom I am speaking is the head of a certain organisation, and even when he was speaking he had purchased coal, at current prices, for the industrial undertakings of which he is the head, up to June, 1931. Obviously, if the coalowners imagined that under this Measure they were likely to get a much increased price, they would not have made contracts at current prices for such a long time ahead.

The gentleman to whom the hon. Member refers was protecting himself against future high prices.

I am not talking about what he did; I am calling attention to the fact that the coalowners were willing to enter into these contracts with him. That is the important point, and not the far-sightedness of the individual to whom I have referred. I leave the question of dear coal for the moment and turn to the question of hours. The hon. and gallant Member for North Leeds deplored what he thought would be the probable ill effects of the Bill in regard to hours, and he spoke of the industry as a sick industry which was just emerging into a state of convalescence when this Measure was introduced. The hon. and gallant Member's party had a very curious method of dealing with this sick industry because they said to the people on whom its very existence depends, "Yes, you are in a bad way but all we can do for you is to make you work longer and harder." In fact the action which they took had that result.

Reference has also been made to the fact that in many parts of the coalfields there are newer and deeper pits, which are very hot, and in which the working conditions grow more and more exacting. At such pits only the strongest men can endure the conditions for long, and consequently there goes on a ruthless process of selection. I have in mind a colliery to which batches of men have been sent periodically by the local Employment Exchange. When the men reach that colliery, the ruthless process of selection is applied to them, and they are asked such questions as this: "Have you ever received compensation?" What miner is there who, for some minor injury, at some time or other, has not received compensation? But if the answer in this case happened to be in the affirmative, that particular man could never hope for employment at that colliery. I call attention to this case in order to stress the importance of reducing miners' hours. We have also reached the stage in some parts of the coalfields in which men are considered to be too old at 45. If a man has worked for a number of years in a colliery, he may be 50, or 55, or even 60, and as long as he retains his job there he is all right; but let him get out of that job, and he cannot get another one at any of the newer collieries. Too old at 45! That is the condition which we have reached, and only the ablest, the strongest, and the fittest can hope to find employment nowadays under the new conditions.

This Bill sets up a National Industrial Board from which we hope for much, and I entirely agree with an hon. Member who spoke a little while ago and who expressed the hope that we had seen the last of those struggles between miners and coalowners which have occurred at various periods. But I wonder if the party opposite will ever come to understand that the industrial upheavals which they so much deplore are not the results of action by agitators, and are not due to the existence of trade unions but arise entirely from the bad social conditions under which large numbers of the people have to live and from a burning sense of economic injustice. So long as that economic injustice and those bad social conditions exist, so long must we continue to have these upheavals from time to time.

The hon. and gallant Member for North Leeds called our attention to the advance which has taken place under the present system of ownership and made that the basis of a suggestion that nothing at all should be done in regard to the mining industry at the moment. We do not deny that there has been material progress. Poverty and wealth are relative terms. We are quite prepared to admit that, and we do not deny that material progress has brought advantages to the working classes but we are entitled to call attention to the fact that, in relation to the increased capacity for producing wealth which exists to-day, the masses are poor indeed. They might be very much better off than they are. What a welter of Chaos and confusion our economic system is, and yet any attempt to bring order out of that chaos is strongly opposed by hon. Members opposite. During the last few weeks a number of hon. Members on the other side have attempted to build up reputations as defenders of liberty. They have peen talking incessantly about religious persecution in Russia. Now the reports of religious persecution in Russia—

I have already pointed out to the hon. Member that on the Third Reading we can only discuss exactly what is in the Bill.

I am now discussing the Industrial Board which, it is hoped, will lead to pacification between the miners and the mineowners.

The hon. Member was referring to religious persecution in Russia which is very far away from the subject matter of this Bill.

I was only introducing that as an illustration of a point which I wished to make in regard to the Industrial Board and the matters which will come under its attention. I was pointing out that hon. Members opposite have been trying to gain reputations as the friends and defenders of liberty, and knowing that they are all aglow with a passion for liberty at this moment, I was going to invite them to come with me into the coalfields of Nottinghamshire and to remind them that there are other forms of liberty which people cherish besides religious liberty. There is such a thing as political and economic liberty—the freedom to express one's opinion, the freedom to do as one would wish. I do not know if hon. Members are aware that in the case of some of the newer collieries in the north-east Midlands it is possible to find a mining village owned entirely by coalowners, where the first charge on a miner's wages is the rent of the house in which he lives, and where frequently, when that rent has been paid, a man goes home with 10s. or 15s. or £1 a week. Worse than that—they dare not be known to associate themselves openly with the Labour and Trade Union movement. That is a crime, I say, in the England of to-day and hon. Members opposite in their new enthusiasm for liberty—especially as we are now living in a period of great crusades—might join us in seeking to bring about a better condition of affairs in the part of the world from which I come. I hope that this Bill will have the result improving matters for the mining population of this island because the miners are surely entitled to have some care shown for their homes, for their children and for their future; and if we cannot achieve our object along these lines, then we shall have to proceed along some other lines in order to bring to fruition the efforts which we have been making for many years past.

I join with the Leader of the Opposition in paying a tribute to the Parliamentary dexterity and good humour with which the President of the Board of Trade has piloted through an extraordinarily difficult Bill under very difficult conditions. The right hon. Gentleman undoubtedly added to a Parliamentary reputation which was already very considerable—a reputation won by sterling merit in his contributions to the Debates in this House. As I may have been, perhaps, a little too severe on the hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Mines, in the Debate on the Second Reading, may I say that he also contributed by his supreme good humour and geniality to the passage of this Bill. His benignity made us feel that there was surely nothing very harmful to anybody in a Bill with which he was associated. He beamed good will upon us, and, even when he was not taking part in the Debate, he was a sort of beam wireless in communicating his thoughts to the House.

With regard to the Third Reading of the Bill, Members on these benches take up exactly the same attitude as that which they took on the Second Reading. We will not depart in the least from that position. In the speech delivered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) on the Second Reading, and in the speech which I subsequently delivered in the course of the same Debate, we both made it quite clear that, if four points which we elaborated and stated to the House, were accepted by the Government, and if the Government could promise to introduce Amendments in reference to those four points, we, while not accepting any responsibility for the Bill itself, would abstain from taking any part in the Division. That was the promise which we made on the Second Reading, and, that promise having now been redeemed, we are in exactly the same position as we were in on the Second Reading. There has been no change in our attitude in that respect. It has already been declared to the House that if we had been asked for a solution of this extraordinarily difficult problem this is not the angle from which we would have approached it, but, the Government having taken this line, we made suggestions with regard to four cardinal points, and my right hon. Friend and myself stated emphatically that, if those four points were conceded, we should not vote against the Second Reading of the Bill. That is exactly our attitude with regard to the Third Reading. We have not departed the least from it.

I do not see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Hartshorn) in his place, but I wish to take this opportunity of dealing with one point which he made in my absence. I am not complaining of that, because I happened to be absent temporarily when he was making his speech, but he brought something tantamount to a charge of breach of faith against us. In fact, we have been open, as a middle party always is, to attacks from both sides and the charge brought by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway against us was that we were not supporting every Amendment against the Bill, while the complaint of the right hon. Gentleman opposite against us was that we should support any Amendment against the Bill in Committee, after the Government had accepted the four points laid dawn by us. Although I am not sure that he used the exact phrase, he almost indicated that we had been guilty of a breach of faith. Let me give him two answers to that charge, because it is the sort of charge that ought to be answered. My first answer is that the Government did not accept these four points on the Second Reading, and, therefore, in so far as any Parliamentary arrangement was concerned, it dropped with the fact that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill could not see his way to accept those four points on the Second Reading. The second point is this. In my speech on the Second Reading, I made it quite clear, and I can read to the right hon. Gentleman the words if he doubts it, that if the Government accepted those four propositions, the party with which I am associated would be free in Committee, even then, to move Amendments on other points of the Bill. I made that quite clear. I am only putting that point in order to make it clear to the House that we were not guilty of a breach of faith in proceeding—

I know that the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to misrepresent what I said. I was dealing with the quota question in Part I. I pointed out that the right hon. Gentleman, in the Second Reading Debate, put up four suggestions, one of which was that Part I should be limited in its operation, but that point has been met; and then, the Government having agreed to limit it in accordance with the suggestion of the Liberal party, they suggested that Part I should be abolished altogether. That is the point I made, and I do not think that it was an unfair point.

If the right hon. Gentleman was simply putting that as a debating point, I have nothing more to say, but if he was putting it as a charge of a breach of faith, I want to make it quite clear that I stated on Second Reading that, even if the four points were accepted by the Government, we should regard ourselves as free to move Amendments to other parts. If, however, the right hon. Gentleman puts it as a debating point, that has passed now, and there is no further need for me to clear up that point. I have come to the four points which we laid down in the course of the Second Reading Debate. The first was that there should be provisions for compulsory amalgamation introduced into the Bill. That has been done. The second was that amalgamations should be on the basis of the present valuation of the mines, or, as I put it subsequently, that the value for the purposes of amalgamation should be on the basis of the real value of the mines, without taking into account the artificial values created by the Bill. Those two points have been met by the right hon. Gentleman in the course of the proposals which he has put down.

The third point put by my right hon. Friend and myself, and to which we attached very great importance, was that the provisions with regard to marketing, quotas, prices and so forth, should be temporary, merely to tide over a difficult period, and have a short time limit. The right hon. Gentleman, first of all, met us in that respect by reducing the time to three years. He has met us still further in the course of the Committee by reducing it to two years. The fourth point put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen was, "Are they prepared to secure that, if powers are given to secure fixed prices, there will be a really effective control of prices in the public interest?" The right hon. Gentleman has accepted the suggestion which we made repeatedly, both to him and in the discussions in the House, that there should be some form of arbitral tribunal interposed; and not only that, but that the mineowners should be obliged to take cognisance of the award of that body with regard to prices, and comply with the award.

Therefore, I think it is right that I should say that the right hon. Gentleman has very adequately met the four points which we made in the course of the Second Reading Debate. If he had promised them then, we should certainly not have voted against the Second Reading, and we said so repeatedly in the course of that Debate. Since then, there have been two or three Amendments of considerable importance. There is the further reduction of the term from three to two years, and there is the very important Amendment moved by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. C. Davies), to which we all attach very great importance, and which, incidentally, meets the point which the Leader of the Opposition made to-day. The right hon. Gentleman, obviously, had overlooked that. I am afraid that he based his criticism of the Bill upon its original form, and did not take into account the Amendment which has since been introduced. The Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend deals specifically with the case of the iron and steel trade, and also with the single pit. Those things can be taken into account in the fixing of quotas and prices. There is a specific provision which covers that case. It is an Amend- ment of considerable importance, and when it was passing through Committee, I do not think that the right hon. Gentlemen here and the hon. Gentlemen behind them fully appreciated the value of that concession made by the Government.

I do not pretend that the Government have met us in every detail. As I made clear in the course of the Debate in Committee, I object very strongly to the restriction of output. I have never thought it possible to cut down hours of labour without some temporary increase of prices until the industry has been reconstructed; but that was an increase in prices which has been the natural and inevitable result of the diminution of the hours of labour. I have always considered that the restriction of output brought an artificial increase which was quite unjustifiable. The right hon. Gentleman has undoubtedly altered the position considerably by reducing the term during which that can be done to two years, which is the period which will probably be taken in reconstruction. I would like to say this to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition: I am sorry that he is not present, but I understood that he would be at another engagement, and I make no point of his absence. He criticised these provisions, utterly oblivious of the fact that he was the man who was responsible for introducing the Act of 1926.

There are two points in that Act which he has completely ignored. The first is that automatically next year the hours of labour will come down to seven. The present Government have cut down the hours of labour by half an hour this year, having anticipated the reduction of next year by the cutting down of half an hour; but the party that is responsible for the reduction from eight to seven is the party that was responsible for introducing the Act of 1926 and for fixing the reduction definitely to seven hours in 1931. Did they mean that or did they not? The second point is that the right hon. Gentleman criticised compulsory amalgamation. Compulsory amalgamations are introduced, not merely as a principle, but as a matter of machinery in the Act of 1926, and he certainly has no right to criticise it. In the 1926 Act there is a right to override reluctant owners by compulsion, but he criticises it as if it were an absolutely new principle introduced for the first time in the Committee of the House of Commons in 1930. He introduced it; he was responsible. The principle of compulsory amalgamation is one which he definitely enshrined in an Act of Parliament, for which he was personally responsible. It is perfectly true that it is a very bad Act. Is he going to say that it was so badly drafted that it has never been operative? If he does, he ought to be the first man to say, "I am sorry we have introduced a principle of compulsory amalgamation which has been futile, which has been nugatory, and which has not been of the slightest use, and I am glad that the Government have amended it in order to make it work".

But his party cannot complain. They are the last people to complain of the increase of prices, which is due directly to the reduction of hours, and I have never at any time in the course of these discussions challenged the action of the Government in setting up machinery which would meet that particular case. The right hon. Gentleman knows that that is so both in our private discussions, as well as in the part which I have taken here. They cannot complain of it. They are responsible for it, and rightly so. I supported that part of the Bill in 1926. They cannot challenge the principle of compulsory amalgamation, for they initiated it by the Act of 1926. The right hon. Gentleman refers to certain financial amalgamations which have turned out to be a failure, but these were voluntary amalgamations, full of "boodle." That is exactly why compulsion has been introduced. If you are going to depend entirely on beckoning them to come along, and to persuading them, each one of them will exact the biggest price he can, and then those who operate the whole thing will want something for their trouble—and they have got a good deal. You have only to see how the shares are standing in the markets to-day to see that the whole thing has been on an extravagant basis, and that is the full justification of compulsory amalgamation.

My right hon. Friend gave me a letter which he had received from a very important coalowner upon this very point. I cannot give his name, but he is a man of great ability. This is what he says:
"Many arguments has been brought forward against compulsory amalgamation, and people have said that where it is to one or two companies' mutual advantage, amalgamation ought to take place, but is this so? We find that the thing that enters very largely into a problem of this kind is the personal element. Many people would lose their positions, and others would not lose their work, but become less important. Is it not rather a case of this kind, that voluntary amalgamation is what you can get together, and compulsory amalgamation properly initiated is that which ought to go together. Many schemes of much promise in the past have been rendered ineffective through a failure of getting that amalgamation key position."
That is the answer to the right hon. Gentleman's complaint about amalgamation. I am going to meet another criticism. It was made last night, and has been made to-day. It is: Why have we, having taken such and such a line, and a very strong line, with regard to particular parts of this Bill, not succeeded to the extent of defeating the Government when there was a second challenge? I am going to put that question back. Why did not you? There were two occasions when Members above the Gangway could have defeated this Bill. In December of last year, in spite of abstentions on these benches, there was a sufficient number of Liberal Members who went into the Lobbies against the Second Reading of the Bill that, if the party above the Gangway had had their full muster, they could have beaten it.

I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I am sure he does not want to misrepresent our party. It is not true what he said. Unfortunately, we had very many men sick, but I did my utmost to get the biggest number I could here that were not sick. I shall always do my best, to defeat the Government, whatever the right hon. Gentleman and his party may do.

The right hon. Gentleman is the last man in the House that I would criticise. No one has greater admiration for his extraordinary efficiency in his task, and I have had very pleasant experiences of the assistance he has rendered to me. If there was any slackness, it was certainly not due to him, and therefore I am very glad of this opportunity of putting that right. But this is not a charge which I am bringing. This is a charge brought by very important people on his own side. Here is an article in the "Times"—I think it is the official organ of the hon. and gallant Member's party. [Interruption] I do not know which is the official organ at the moment. This is a criticism by the "Times" in its leading article immediately afterwards:

"That a Bill so important as the Coal Mines Bill should obtain its Second Reading by the same means, that merely because of Unionist apathy—"
It is not my charge: it is the charge of the "Times" newspaper against right hon. Gentlemen—
"is deplorable from the party point of view."
But it goes on to say it is a very good thing.
"Nevertheless, it is certainly desirable in the public interest that the Second Reading should be carried."
The reason is such an extraordinary one in face of what was said by the Leader of the Opposition to-day. One of his charges against the Government for bringing in this Bill is that it provokes uncertainty. This is what the "Times" said:
"The rejection of the Bill would produce many uncertainties and doubt"
They must keep their newspapers in better order! Two occasions! Through no fault of the right hon. Gentleman, but through obvious reluctance! I will quote another comment. There was a very distinguished Member of this House who used to sit up there supporting the Government. He was a good supporter of theirs. I refer to Sir John Marriott, a very able man and a very good Conservative. I read an article of his in the "Fortnightly Review" in which he said:
"Absenteeism on the part of Conservative Members has not been due wholly to slackness. It has ball partly due to cowardice—"
"and partly to calculation."
Why have right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen who did not muster in sufficient numbers and beat the Bill on Second Reading, and on the quota, suddenly become so zealous to defeat the Bill? [Interruption.] The hon. Member can get up afterwards. I will tell the House the reason. It was not desirable! There was great confusion of counsel. To use the elegant phrase of the editor of the "Times," "The monkeys had not been caught." One of them he said was still at large. But one of them has been caught, and although he is pelting right hon. Gentlemen with peanuts, still, he is securely in his cage for the time being. But they are not sure of him. And they are quite right! I know him! He is rattling his cage very badly; he may break loose; so this is the acceptable time, this is the time to beat the Government. Now! Not in December, not in February, but now! There was cowardice in February; now they are brave, because they have got the monkeys behind them. [Interruption.]

I am answering taunts. I did not start it. No party in this House can afford to taunt another party with disunion. Therefore, I am throwing the taunt back. Why should it be flung at us? There are differences in dogma, and even about leadership, in every party. Every leader is not everybody's fancy. Some fancy others—and a few fancy themselves! And in these days of great self-confidence and tremendous self-assertiveness, when everybody believes that he has got the last remedy for every evil in this world and the next, and is the only man to apply it—well, all the leaders can do is to be tolerant. And we do fairly well, the leaders of all parties—fairly well! We are tolerant and good humoured. The only thing one does not like is when those who disagree with you plaster their brows with phylacteries, as if they were more righteous than others. In the main right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen are just considering what suits them best. Before, they thought they had got hold of something that would unite them. They are beginning to discover that they have not, but before—well, slackness! cowardice! Just enough to bring them down to a majority of seven or eight! But you must not turn them out! This is not the time! But now—now they want it! They are suiting themselves. We have considered what is best for the interests of the country.

We have had one of those astute and ingenious speeches from the right hon. Gentleman to which we all listen with admiration, and which all of us who undertake to reply to them greatly envy; but, from my point of view, the right hon. Gentleman got on very much better in the merry and irrelevant part of his speech than he did when he was dealing with the problem before us. I thought he was particularly unfortunate in his attempt to justify the course which his party have taken in regard to this Bill. He told us that all of the four desiderata which were before the House on Second Reading have been granted by the Government, and that for that reason the Liberal opposition to the Bill has disappeared.

What I said was this. It is a question now of Third Reading, as it was a question then of Second Reading. I made it quite clear on Second Reading that if the Government promised those four points we would abstain from voting against the Second Reading. We are confronted on the Third Reading with those four incorporated in the Bill.

It would have been a good thing if my right hon. Friend had thought of those things in connection with some of the vital Amendments with which the House had to deal. If he was so completely satisfied with the attitude of the Government upon all of those four main points upon which he desired satisfaction, it is very difficult to understand why he should go through the ignominy of that ridiculous and futile explanation which he gave to the House with regard to the Naval Conference.

We are now at the end of our procedure on a Bill which is of vital importance to the country. It deals with one of the two greatest of our industries. Coal and agriculture are the basic industries of this country, and the livelihood of the country depends upon them. If coal does not thrive, Britain can never prosper. Therefore, I am sure we all approach this question in a serious attitude and with a desire to get the best results that are obtainable in Parliament. So far as I am concerned, and so far as any influence that I can exercise may be useful, in whatever shape this Bill emerges from Parliament, I can say that we shall do our best to see that it is put into operation in a spirit in which the country will have the opportunity of deriving the very best results from it. But, of course, we differ, and have differed throughout these discussions, in regard to the process which should be taken to secure that end. The hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown), who made an eloquent speech, said the Bill would bring order out of chaos and bring happier conditions to the lives of the miners. If we thought so, the Bill would have our wholehearted support, and it is only because I do not think it can achieve those results that I have ventured to put forward other points of view.

6.0 p.m.

What is the condition of the coal trade to-day? The coal trade has been the foundation of this country's prosperity, which was maintained by the coal trade up to the time of the War. Since the War there has been a change. The figures show that while the countries which import coal from us have, in the main, been increasing the amount they have been taking, they have, in fact, been taking less from us than from other countries. The reason for our difficulty is that we have not been maintaining the proportion of our exports which we used to send to other countries. The reason for that is not because the demand for coal is going down, but because of our difficulty in selling coal has been greater. What are the reasons for these difficulties? I think those who look back to the Versailles Treaty must acknowledge that the stipulation by which part of the reparations was paid in coal was bad for this country and bad for the coal industry. In addition, there has been a desire on the part of other countries to become independent of outside sources, and get as much coal within their own territories as they can. In the third place, we had another arrangement at the Versailles Conference with regard to the Polish corridor by which you shift all the cheaply got Polish coal from Danzig into the Baltic, and thus destroy many of the markets which we previously held.

There is another element which I hope the House will not forget. One of the things which did us harm was our shortened production and higher prices during the War. There is no doubt that the high prices which we were charging the rest of the world created a feeling of animosity, and a determination to render themselves independent of us in the future. I think everybody who looks at this matter dispassionately will come to the conclusion that to some extent our higher prices were due to shortened hours, and I say that after the most complete and impartial examination that I have been able to make. I think it will be found that it is those countries which were working longer hours than this country which have taken the markets which we used to hold, and that it is unquestionable that any dispassionate examination of the figures will establish that conclusion.

Let me say that I think far too much criticism has been made will regard to the administration and management of the coal industry in this country. You do not find in any other country in the world people criticising the administration of the coal industry as they do in this country. The coal industry in this country has been subjected to a process of limelight which no other industry in the world has had to undergo, and most of the other industries in this country would have come just as badly out of such an examination as the coal industry has done. This process of investigation by commission has been going on steadily ever since the War ceased, and I am surprised that the people who have been so much occupied in appearing as witnesses before Commissions have had time enough to devote to the industry to make it as good as it is at the present time. Nobody can say, looking at the last few years, that the coal trade has been doing badly. If we look back to the year 1929, we find the recovery of the industry has been quite remarkable, and you will find that in a time of very great distress and trouble in the world we have increased our coal output by 20,000,000 tons. During the same period we have increased our exports of coal by 10,000,000 tons; and whereas the proportion of exports that we had in relation to the rest of the world in the ordinary export market went down from 17 per cent. in 1913 to 10 per cent. in 1928, last year it. went up to 11·8 per cent. All that is to the good.

I was one of those along with many others who thought that the coal trade had taken a turn which was going to lead us into a position of gradually achieving prosperity for this country, and for that reason I deprecate the interference which is now going to take place. I am one of those who do not agree with the President of the Board of Trade that the world is going to demand less coal. It is going to demand more coal, and the progress of science in this matter is going to require a larger output of coal in the world. I believe that coal in comparison with other forms of fuel is going to come back into its own again. Surely it is a pity to interfere with a trade which has made this complete turn round, and which is advancing towards better things in the future. I know that the Government were in a difficult position, and I entirely sympathise with the necessity which they found for taking up the hours question. They were so committed, in consequence of the election, that it was impossible for them to meet Parliament and not to deal with this question in some shape or form.

It is admitted that the decrease from eight to seven and a-half hours will have the result of putting up the cost of a ton of coal by 1s. 6d. or thereabouts, or between 9d. and 1s. 6d., and certainly the increase will be 1s. 6d. per ton in some of the districts which require the most help. How is that increase of price going to be met? I put forward a proposal during the Committee stage which, of course, it would not be in order for me to discuss now, but it was a proposal which I hope was not entirely put aside. I say no more now, because I understand that conversations are going on upon that matter at the present time. I would like to say, however, that I believe, if that proposal could be adopted, the other methods which this Bill brings into play could be entirely dispensed with. [Interruption.] I am not going to discuss that point now. Hon. Members opposite are perfectly aware of what their representatives are doing in regard to it. At any rate, the attention which is being given to that proposal at the present time discloses the fact that it was at least worth more consideration than was given to it during the Committee stage. I am very anxious about some mitigating process such as that to which I have referred because I think it is inevitable that the arrangements made under Part I of the Bill will reduce the supply of coal, and will not tend in any way, in the end, to meet the additional cost which is going to be imposed by shortened hours, and therefore I think that any other devices that could have been adopted would have been advantageous.

Now I come to one or two of the matters which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has dealt with. There is the question of compulsory amalgamation. I do not think that my right hon. Friend quite appreciated the point of view expressed by the Leader of the Opposition. It is not because the financial magnates were brought in to deal with amalgamations that various amalgamations have not done so well as perhaps they might have done. The real crux of the matter is this: I am not going to deal with the principle which I dealt with when I argued this matter in Committee, but I would like to say that amalgamations get the very best chance of success when they are initiated by the people who are themselves concerned, and that was the reason which my right hon. Friend gave when Parliament was asked to place the Act of 1926 on the Statute Book. The reason given at that time was that voluntary action on the part of the collieries gave the greatest possible chance of success in the direction desired. It is when you have outside people, whether financers or peripatetic chartered accountants, or lawyers, or whatever this commission may be composed of, people without intimate knowledge of the conditions and no knowledge of the personnel—it is when such influences are brought to bear that you lose the advantages which amalgamation would ordinarily give. It is from that point of view that we on this side of the House do not believe that any good effect can come from compulsory amalgamation—that indeed it will give rise to a great deal of trouble rather than benefit.

I am not, in principle, averse to the regulation of production in the coal industry or in any other industry on the voluntary principle. At the present time. we know that there is over production of a very large number of things, and one of the great difficulties with which the world is faced to-day is the state of over production in regard to such commodities as tea, sugar, lead, zinc, coal, wool and other articles. A considerable part of our difficulties at the present time is really due to that fact. At the present time—let me avow it to the House—I am a party to the regulation of production in an industry of high importance, but it is a voluntary arrangement, and it is when the regulation of production passes from a voluntary to a compulsory arrangement that I object. Under a voluntary arrangement the bonds which unite those who come together to regulate production are so loose that they can never be abused. For example, any attempt to make a very rigid limitation of production would defeat itself, and any attempt to raise the price to the consumer would be immediately defeated. In any of these voluntary arrangements we never get everybody into the ring, and there are always some people outside, and they are what my right hon. Friend would call weak sellers, but they tend to prevent the abuse of any such regulation of production as might come about under the system which has been put before us.

In this Bill, you have an entirely different situation. Under this Measure, you have a rigid compulsitur which brings everybody into the producing ring. That system compels all to act in unison, and it creates apprehensions which no voluntary system could ever bring about. Let me give an illustration to the House which came before me only a very few weeks ago. Some people here who were proposing to inquire about the opening up of a very large and beneficial coalfield in this country, were entirely deterred when they saw the provisions of this Bill, and they are not going forward with that proposal, because, as one of them explained to me, they do not know whether they could ever get a quota, how much it would be, or upon what terms they could get it. As new people coming into a district where already there is a large number of coalowners, they recognise that they would not be welcome. That is one of the results which you get from giving statutory effect to a quota system into which every coalowner already existing is bound to come, and into which new people who propose to open up new fields may find it very difficult to get any sort of entry.

I want the House to realise the kind of principle we are adopting when we embark upon the quota provisions which the President of the Board of Trade has put forward, because that system is subject to all the difficulties which have been expressed as eloquently from the Liberal Benches as from any other benches in this House. For my part, while, as I say, I have no objection at all to the voluntary regulation of production in order that the markets shall not be overfilled with goods that are not wanted, and which are a great waste in every conception of industry, I cannot by any chance give adherence to a system which is liable to produce all the evils which have been described in the course of our Debate.

Now the Government piles Pelion upon Ossa, in this matter. Not only this, but this Measure gives a compulsory quota system as well as a compulsory price fixing arrangement. So far as I can understand these matters, most people who are producers would be perfectly content to have production regulated to the amount the market can take and then to leave the prices to take care of themselves, but the Government proceed to paint the lily and add jam to the butter that it puts upon the bread. They say not only shall the amount of production be limited by the producers accordingly as they choose, which necessarily means that they would take a census as to what the demand was; not only so, but they lay down that the producers shall fix a minimum price below which the coal shall not be sold. What does that mean? It means, certainly, that the last defence of the consumer is taken away, because, while, even under the Government's quota system, it is probable that the producers would always have an extra margin of production available—that they would not cut their margin of production to a very fine point—and that would tend to keep the price at a fair level, now, if there is any margin of production which is there and available, no consumer is going to get it at less than the fixed price which the producers themselves decide. I ask myself, when I read these provisions, where are all the Free Traders in the Government? I perfectly understand that there is a very large number of people on the opposite side of the House who have long ceased to be Free Traders, but what about the Members of the Government who have to deal with this matter?

The basic principle of Free Trade theory is that there shall always be a free market, in order that the consumer may get his goods at the cheapest price at which they can be made available. That is the basic principle of Free Trade; that is the principle which we have heard so often enunciated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The principle of this Bill is that the producers shall be allowed to fix the price for the goods which they produce, at a figure which will give them a fair profit. That is allowed for in all the safeguards which the Bill provides—that they shall allowed to fix the price at such a figure as will give them a fair profit, and that statutory sanction shall be given to this price, so that nobody shall be allowed to sell at any price below it.

That is a complete travesty of the whole theory of Free Trade; it is the most ruthless example of Protection that we have ever seen. No tariff, no Protectionist Bill in the world, has ever done anything like this. What would not all the other trades in the country give to have this form of Protection? An import duty is a modest, a steady, even an old-maidish thing compared with what the Government propose in this scheme. I would like to know how the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to defend this kind of thing, and whether he supported it in the Cabinet? I suppose he must have supported it; at any rate, he acquiesced in it, and, so far as we are concerned, I think we shall refuse any longer to listen to those rather intolerant speeches that he has made about the weakness of intellect of those who could not see that Free Trade and free competition in goods was an absolute necessity for our industry. Perhaps, when he lectures the other nations of the world for being almost guilty of immorality in having divagated from the path of Free Trade economic theory, he will recollect what his own actions have committed him to in this particular case. It would seem that, however rigid his principles are, and however dogmatically he addresses us, he takes an entirely different tone when he addresses 42 representatives of the mining industry who are determined to get their Bill through Parliament.

I can understand the Government, under that form of coercion, giving away all their principles, but what about the Liberal party? My right hon. Friend came down to the House on the famous occasion when he made his Second Read- ing speech, which, by the way, was hailed by half the Press of this country as representing the real anti-Socialist feeling, as a proper representation such as ought to have been given by the whole Opposition, as an example of what the Conservatives ought to have done in their attitude towards this Bill. What did he say then in order to get all this praise? He said, "This is a Bill for raising the price of coal," and he gave us a picture of the hearth that was going to be dimmed in its glow because—[Interruption]. Oh, yes. My right hon. Friend forgets. He must not allow his modesty to overcome his remembrance.

I am only, of course, repeating what my right hon. Friend said as nearly as I can, and such a repetition must always be, I admit, a very poor effort compared with his own original one. Not only so, but the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that it would be a sorry day for those who had to face their constituents on this matter. I wonder what he thinks about that now. There is something to be said, also, as to the way in which he has retreated from the position that he then took up. It was described by the "Daily News," the leading journal which supports my right hon. Friend, as "obscure manoeuvres." I remember quite recently an article by my right hon. Friend in one of the magazines, which talked about the decay of the House of Commons. I cannot, myself, imagine any course of conduct which could more rapidly bring about disrespect for the House of Commons than a cynical retreat from national interests, from high principles which were most loudly voiced from those benches. The excuse which was given in regard to the Naval Conference was so ridiculous that it makes one begin to wonder. When very astute people come forward with ridiculous excuses, one is rather apt to suspect that there is something behind that cannot be told.

What is it that my right hon. Friend is proceeding upon? Is he in a great hurry to get his Alternative Vote, and has he a promise on that matter? May it not be that the patient oxen of the last Socialist regime have become the impatient asses of this one? And what about the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), in whose hands remains the sacred Ark of the Covenant of Free Trade? He made a most eloquent speech on the Second Reading, and he went further even than my right hon. Friend. He said that this was going to be a tax upon the poorest of the poor. He described how the people's gas all over the country was going to be increased in price, and he went on to ask how my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade was going to answer the questions which would be put to him by other industries. I might venture to ask the right hon. Gentleman himself what sort of answer he is going to give now to the other industries when he goes down to try to explain how he agreed that the producers of coal should fix a price, below which it should not be sold, which would give them a fair profit on their expenditure?

How is he going to answer the Lancashire cotton manufacturer who shows how the costs in Lancashire are even greater than the price at which Japan is selling the same sort of goods in Manchester to-day? And when he meets a steel maker who exhibits costs from his books, what is he going to say to that steel maker when he produces figures showing sales by Belgium at prices £1 or £2 a ton of steel less than what it costs him to make the same article in this country? What explanation is he going to give when that steel maker asks, "Why cannot you give me also the right to fix a price for my goods which will yield me a fair profit on my costs?" What is going to be said, too. to the British farmer in the same circumstances? I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not try to fob off on the British farmer the explanation that he gave to the House two days ago. He then said that his party would vote against the Government upon things that did not matter, but they must support them on things that mattered. I should have thought that he would have taken exactly the opposite course.

What an ignominious position! What a desertion of all the high principles that he expressed in his speech! What a decline from a highly-respected tradition! One thing that this Bill has done, if it has done no other, is that it has made it absolutely impossible for anyone who has ever actively supported the Bill, or acquiesced in it, when their acquiescence has made them guilty—for the Liberal party is as guilty of every line of this Bill as the Government—it has made it absolutely impossible for them any longer to be heard when they denounce any form of Protection to any trade in this country. I desire that good should emerge from this Bill, and I believe that, if in some of the particulars to which I have referred it could be modified, even on later consideration by the Government, between now and the time when the Bill finally leaves Parliament, we might produce a Measure which, if it did not do all that it was hoped might be achieved by such a Bill, would at least prevent those injuries and those harms which necessarily flow from its present provisions.

Unlike the last speaker, I am not in a position to predict the effect of this Bill. He stated, as has already been stated in this House during the discussions on the Bill, that it would have the effect of increasing the price of coal to consumers in this country, but he was certainly less cautious than the ex-Prime Minister, who did not attempt to indulge in prophecies as to what might be the effect of the Bill when its operation as an Act of Parliament commenced. We have been told on repeated occasions that we shall have to address meetings in our constituencies and defend the Bill when it becomes an Act. I want to assure all hon. Members who are present that we shall have no hesitation, as miners' representatives, in doing so, and I have yet to find any section of the working class who are not prepared to pay a slightly increased price for their coal so as to enable the miner to have a decent wage and reasonable conditions of employment.

The ex-Prime Minister made reference to the possible increase in the price of coal to those undertakings which are responsible for the production of gas in this country, and also for the generation of electricity. We have at our disposal statistics which will enable us to ascertain to what extent the price of coal might be increased, and find that, as regards the statutory gas undertakings in this country which are owned by companies, during a period of 13 years from 1911 to 1928, excluding the years 1914 to 1918, for which no particulars are available, the total receipts were over £536,000,000. The total expenditure during the same period amounted approximately to £465,000,000. During a period of 13 years the profits made by these companies were in excess of £70,000,000. If regard is had to the local authorities which are also responsible for the production of gas, we find that for precisely the same period their total receipts were in excess of £275,000,000. The total expenditure was approximately £233,000,000 and the excess of receipts over expenditure was £42,359,000. After paying interest on loans, the amount of loans also repaid and the amount placed to Sinking Fund, the profit was slightly in excess of £9,000,000.

These are not insignificant undertakings when regard is had to the fact that they consume each year approximately 17,000,000 tons of coal. For more correct comparative purposes, let us take the period when the slump in the mining industry commenced, the period of eight years from 1921 to 1928, in order to determine whether these industries are not in a position to pay a slightly increased price for their coal. During that period, the companies received over £374,000,000 and their expenditure was £326,000,000, an excess of £48,000,000. In the case of local authorities over the same period the receipts amounted to £192,000,000 and the expenditure was slightly in excess of £163,000,000, an excess of £30,000,000. After the local authorities paid interest on loans, amount of loans repaid, and the amount placed to the Sinking Fund, there remained a surplus of £5,804,000.

I want to deal for a moment with the authorised electricity undertakings. I take the position of the local authorities. During the same period, their surplus was £93,000,000, out of which they paid in interest on loans secured an amount of £32,000,000, to the Sinking Fund £36,000,000 and for other purposes £25,000,000. The companies that own these undertakings also during the same period had a surplus of £59,000,000. The interest paid lay the companies engaged in the production of electricity during the same period took a sum of £11,000,000, depreciation and other purposes absorbed £25,000,000 and the dividends declared were in excess of £23,000,000. The gross surplus increased from £4,000,000 in 1921 to £10,000,000 in 1928 and, if we ignore the surpluses of the local authorities, the companies producing gas and electricity made profits equal to £71,000,000.

The point I want to stress is that the increase in profits can only be explained by the fact that these undertakings in 1921 paid 35s. a ton for their coal, whereas in 1928 the mining industry supplied them with coal at a miserable 15s. 7d. per ton, a difference of over 19s. 3d. If there were no other facts than those, we are entitled to claim that, even if the price of coal increases to the owners of these industries, we have a good case in defending the operations of the Bill when it becomes an Act. Contrasting it with the position of the mining industry, we find that the loss to that industry in 1927 was over £5,000,000 and in 1928 it had increased to £9,000,000, a loss on the working of the industry in two years of £15,166,000 and, if regard is had to one producing district, South Wales, since 1926 there is a total deficiency of over £14,000,000. Furthermore those profits were made by these undertakings during the time when the miners' wages were reduced from £264,000,000 in 1920 to £117,000,000 in 1928, a reduction of over £146,000,000. In South Wales the total wages paid in 1920 were slightly in excess of £65,000,000, whereas in 1929 they were £20,000,000.

The evidence of coalowners seemed to be of considerable importance during the discussions on the Bill, and I am personally interested in a statement recently made by a Member of the Opposition that they now realise that this country did an injustice to the miners when they agreed that Germany should pay for the war in the form of coal. I am in good company in the observations I have put before the House, for I find that one of the leading coalowners, Mr. A. W. Archer, in a recent speech made this statement:
"According to the Board of Trade figures relating to all authorised gas undertakings in Great Britain for the year 1928, the profit on revenue account for the year of the companies' undertaking exceeded £3,000,000, and in the year 1928–1929 the profit on revenue account of local authorities' undertakings was just under £5,000,000. The coal industry by contrast incurred an immense loss in 1928 of more than £9,700,000."
I, in common with many other Members, have been surprised at the attitude of the Liberal party with regard to the question of compulsory amalgamation. We were told during the election that the scheme they had prepared was to be found in "Goal and Power." We have also been informed that when the Liberal party is in difficulties they always set Members of their own party to write books. I studied "Coal and Power" during the General Election and I failed to find any provision for the compulsory amalgamation of the producing units in the mining industry, and I am very pleased to know that for once they have changed their policy and are now prepared to support a Bill which provides for compulsory amalgamation.

We have always been assured that hon. Members opposite who oppose the Government are sincere in their opposition. I should be the last person in the House to question the sincerity of those who oppose the Government, but there are thousands of persons outside who realise that the word "sincerity" is fast becoming as loosely used as the word "charity." I am a new Member of the House, but I have been informed that that is a quality that may be ascribed to His Satanic Majesty, the Devil, but none of us, because of that, would attach any importance to either his solution of the mining problem or to the assurance that he might give us that he is sincere. I am very much dissatisfied with the Bill, but on entirely different grounds from those of its opponents. I regret the fact that no provision is made for an immediate reduction of the eight hours to seven. While on innumerable occasions we have been criticised because of our lack of experience, those of us who have worked in the mines for 25 years suggest that experience in the mines would be of considerable advantage to our opponents. Many Members opposite are as physically fit to do eight hours in the pit as thousands of men who are now compelled to do it. After eight hours a day for 12 months, some hon. Members opposite would adopt an entirely different attitude to any legislation that might be introduced.

I am pleased that provision is made for the establishment of a National Wages Board. I regret that the levy is not to be made compulsory, but is left to the voluntary co-operation of the owners. I accept the charge made against the Government that this is a step towards nationalisation. I am prepared to admit that, being convinced that there is no permanent solution of the mining problem unless by complete unification of producing units under a system of public ownership.

It is not denied that this Bill has been introduced to fulfil in part the pledges given by the Labour party at the last election. The half-hour reduction is expected to cost not less than £9,000,000, possibly a good deal more, but the owners are to be allowed to increase prices in order that they may recoup themselves the extra, cost. When the Government took office the industry had been passing through a bad time, but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) said, things were improving and by their own efforts they had got to the stage already of convalescence. Now by this Bill the Government will create a state of paralysing uncertainty. They profess to be Free Traders, and yet they are interfering by means of the Bill with free production, sale and export in the most drastic manner. The Protectionists are often charged with increasing prices. It is often said that to place a duty on imports will necessarily increase prices. Protectionists are not prepared to admit that. They claim that by enabling home production to expand, and by reason of internal competition, prices need not rise, but very likely will even fall. This Bill limits production, and, instead of reducing costs, adds largely to the costs of production and even more to the price at which coal has to be sold.

To enable the owners to obtain the higher prices, the Government have been obliged to set up an elaborate and costly machinery of a central council and district boards composed and representative only of the owners. They have been obliged to give these committees of owners unheard of powers to decide how much coal is to be mined, and, indeed, what each pit is to produce. How any Free Trader, or anybody who believes in the elementary principles of Free Trade, can bring himself to support a Bill of this sort passes my power of comprehension. It is still by the law of the land illegal to make arrangements in restraint of trade, but this Bill not only legalises in the coal trade agreements which would otherwise be illegal, but it compels the dissentient coalowner to fall in with a limitation of output and to be bound by the decision of a committee of rival owners as to the price below which he may not sell his coal. It even enables the committee of owners to impose penalties upon the owner who contravenes their decrees. We admire, and I even fear that we are sometimes taken in by, the apparently guileless and innocent optimism of the President of the Board of Trade, but not even he, much as the House admires him, could persuade the House to pass a Measure without some show of protecting the public against exploitation by the owners to whom he has given such great powers.

One of the four points which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) insisted upon as the price of his support, or, at least, for not opposing the Third Reading of this Bill, was that the consumer should get an adequate protection, and he professed to say that he found in the Bill the adequate protection that he was seeking. I wish he had been little less sketchy at that moment. I wish he had told us in what Clause of the Bill he found any protection for the public. What is the fact? The public are usually protected by competition in trade and competitive prices, but the Bill destroys competition. It fixes the prices, and the only protection that the consumer, whether he be a domestic consumer or an industrial consumer, has under this Bill is a committee of investigation of five persons, one a mineowner, one a mine worker, two consumers, and a chairman.

Is that fair? Why, it is useless. My complaint is that it is useless, and I will show the hon. Gentleman why it is useless. Take the consumer who, we will say, in the month of December complains of the price which he is being charged for coal. He can go before this committee, and they can investigate and report, and then the Board of Trade hold inquiries, and, finally, if the Board of Trade think fit, they may alter the scheme, and they may alter the minimum price for the future. How long does the hon. Gentleman think that these inquiries will take? First one committee with a report, then the Board of Trade—will you get an answer under a month?—then another committee set up by the Board of Trade, then a report, and then consideration, and perhaps an alteration months afterwards.

The hon. Member must not put too much on the back of one man.

The right hon. Gentleman has forgotten the change which has been made in the Bill on the Committee stage.

If the right hon. Gentleman will point to anything which I have forgotten, I will gladly give way to him.

If a complaint is made to the committee of investigation, and the committee request the mineowners to make an alteration, and the mine-owners refuse, they do not have to refer the matter to the President of the Board of Trade, but they can go at once to the independent arbitrator, and, if he awards that the price has to be reduced, the mine-owners shall comply.

Does the right hon. Gentleman or any hon. Member think that by arbitration intervening in this process it is going to speed up the process? That is only adding another month to the delay. My impression is that it will be at least two months under the sketch I was giving, but an extra month will be added if arbitration is to be given. As far as I know, there is no power to order the repayment of over-charges. There is no power to give a remedy for past oppression, although there may be some protection for the future. I do not find in the Bill, even as amended, that the consumer can himself call for an arbitration. If you bad wanted to give a real protection, you would have given, not the committee of investigation, but the consumer, the right to claim an arbitration. It may be very important. He may be a consumer of a very large amount of coal.

Take the case of the man who is. Let us assume for a moment that it is a public utility company. It may make all the difference to a large number of people who get their gas or light from that utility company whether the price goes up or does not go up. It is very important that the matter should be settled at once, and not months after wards. Yet it would have been quite possible if hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway had co-operated with us to have secured the right of arbitration for the consumer. He has not that right because sufficient pressure was not brought to bear to overrule the pressure which had been brought to bear on the Government by the coalowners.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was also, I suppose, satisfied with the protection which was given to the dissentient owner. What is the protection which is given to him? Let us take the case of an owner who disputes his quota, or the price fixed below which he may not sell his coal, or the penalties which have been imposed upon him by a committee of rival coal-owners. What is the protection given to him? I cannot find that that is made clear at all. He may appeal to an investigation committee, and apparently he may claim arbitration. At any rate, the President of the Board of Trade, in the course of debate, told me that he could claim arbitration. I accept that. Here he is being deprived of part of the protection which the Arbitration Act would have given to him. The Arbitration Act provides that a case can be stated on a point of law, and, if necessary, the higher courts of the land may be called upon to give a final decision. But in the Bill, as brought in, the Arbitration Act was cut out altogether, and the Law Courts will not be allowed to give a decision even on legal matters. I pressed that in Committee the Arbitration Act should apply and on Report the Government have reinstated the Arbitration Act but they have said that nobody but a judge of the first instance shall give a final decision and the owners shall not be allowed to appeal. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs is satisfied with that as a sufficient protection to the dissentient owner.

The President of the Board of Trade has sought, in the course of these Debates, to justify overriding the dissentient owner and the adoption of quotas and price fixing on the ground that similar schemes have been brought into operation by the owners themselves. There is all the difference between a compulsory and a voluntary scheme. A voluntary scheme is an agreement of all those who join in it, and any special conditions affecting any individual groups can be taken into account. These who join want it to succeed, and they therefore prepare to meet objections, but in a compulsory scheme set up under this Bill a large dissentient minority will be forced into it. They will try to find ways out. Unlike the voluntary scheme, it does not follow that they really want it to succeed. Certainly, the industrial consumer, who is to be deprived of his rights to use his own colliery which his own enterprise has attached to his business, is not likely to want this scheme to continue. This Bill does not, in fact, give any real protection, and, if it did, it would he unworkable because completely arbitrary powers are necessary if a scheme so contrary to all the conceptions of the rights of individuals has to be forced into operation.

7.0. p.m.

I want to say a few words about compulsory amalgamations. The Liberal party has been uneasy about Part I. They have insisted that Part II should be added to the Bill. We have had an example this evening of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) trying to show us how all his points have been met, and how he could with an easy conscience either support or, at any rate, not oppose the further stages of the Bill. He did not say to-day that it was because of the Naval Conference, and he did not tell us the other good considerations that have apparently induced him to change his mind. The Bill, therefore, provides that, if the minority cannot be coerced under Part I, they may be deprived of their businesses by amalgamations with other companies under Part II.

That is no exaggeration of the fate of an unfortunate dissentient coalowner. Let us trace this position for a few moments. Let me assume that an owner's pits are vested in a limited company, of which he owns the ordinary shares, and that the company is well equipped and up to date and has plenty of working capital. If the company has appealed to arbitration about quota or price, months will elapse before the final decisions are obtained. Meanwhile, the re-organisation committee set up under Part II may get busy. Its duty is to promote amalgamations of coal mines in a district where it appears to be in the national interest. If there is dissent in a district, if some of the owners of some of the mines have been appealing or are appealing and holding up the position in that district, it may appear to these commissioners that it is in the national interest to bring about a compulsory amalgamation.

What powers are given to this wonderful commission? They have a power to prepare a scheme of amalgamation, and then, even though every owner of every mine included in the scheme objects, they can still go forward with the scheme and machinery for compulsion can be put into operation. The commission can hold inquiries, send for the owners, examine them on oath, look into their papers and their books, employ technical experts, lawyers, accountants and engineers, and then, after all that, they can call upon the owners to formulate a scheme for amalgamation, and, if they do not do so, the commission can themselves formulate a scheme and bring it before the Railway and Canal Commission. If the Railway and Canal Commission agree, then the owner whose fate I have been tracing can have the shares he had got in his own property, well equipped, with working capital, taken away from him compulsorily, and the only return he will get by way of compensation is shares in the amalgamated concern which may have a value totally different from those taken from him.

The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs challenged my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. He said, "You are complaining now of compulsory amalgamations, but it was you yourselves who in 1926 brought in an Act to enable that to be done." There is an immense difference between this Bill and the Act of 1926. In 1926, you had to have some one owner who was willing to father the scheme. He had to bring about the scheme and there might be dissentients in it, but he had to take the responsibility of drawing up that scheme and bringing it before the Railway and Canal Commission. He was the promoter, he had to see about the management and to see to the working capital, and, in order that there might be any success at all, he had to take the responsibility upon himself. Under this Bill, there need be no one except this Commission. How are they going to provide for the working capital or the management? There is no provision in the Bill. All these vitally important matters are left entirely in the air. Suppose that a company now owning a mine wants further capital. This is one of the difficulties which the mining industry is under at the moment. How is it going to get the further capital? Who is going to give it? It may be that an individual mine is worth working and could by itself obtain its capital, but no one would finance that mine when they know that the next day, as soon as the working capital is provided, they may be amalgamated into another group, and, instead of getting the mine they were prepared to back, get a smaller share in the group. This Bill will destroy the credit and destroy the power to get credit to finance the industry's requirements.

I propose to summarise the objections I have to this Bill. I object to the compulsory quota; a voluntary quota is a totally different thing. If a compulsory quota is necessary, it should be fixed in relation to the economic and efficient working of the mine. I object to price fixing. I say that, if a minimum price is to be arbitrarily fixed by the owners themselves, then better protection ought to be given to the consumers especially against discrimination. I object to levies to give our foreign competitors cheaper bunkering coal than we ourselves enjoy. It will intensify competition and increase unemployment. I object, and I cannot believe that the House realises what they are doing when they allow a committee of owners to sit in judgment and to exact penalties, being themselves interested parties. It seems to me to be contrary to all sense of British justice. I object to Part II. It creates a deplorable precedent; it is not right that a man's legitimate business should be taken from him and vested in another without his consent and without adequate compensation in cash and not in shares unless he accepts them. If this Bill is put in operation, I believe it will cause unemployment by raising prices, not in the coal trade only but also in every industry depending upon its power to compete in the world markets. For a century cheap coal has been the foundation of the nation's prosperity, and we are now to have dear coal, coal deliberately made dear by Act of Parliament. It is an act of madness for which sooner or later both the Government and the Liberal party will be held responsible.

Very often in these long Debates I have risen to reply with anxiety, but I do not mind confessing to the House to-night that I rise to give this quite brief reply in conclusion with undisguised joy. Before I say a single word about the merits of this case, I should like to acknowledge with gratitude the kind personal references of the leader of the Opposition, of the Leader of the Liberal party and innumerable private Members in all parts of the House during these prolonged Debates. It is only fair that I should also acknowledge the unfailing assistance which the Government have received, and which I have received in particular as responsible for this Bill, from the Mining Association and the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, and, if I might add this tribute, from hon. Friends and colleagues on this side of the House, and more particularly from those who represent the mining Divisions. For all that, I am profoundly grateful in what has been admittedly a controversial Bill. I propose to try to reply quite briefly on one or two broad considerations arising from this Measure which appear to me particularly appropriate in the Third Reading Debate.

Hon. Members have suggested that this Measure was forced upon the Government by the pledge which we gave to reduce the working hours of the miners. I have never disguised that, within certain limits, that is perfectly true. Following the crisis of 1926, there was an extension of these working hours to eight per day, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Clayton (Mr. Sutton) has pointed out, supplemented by my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar), that in practice means, not the eight hours that is permissive, but much longer periods, because it is plus one winding time, averaging half-an-hour over the whole country and in certain parts of the coalfields an hour. This working day, having regard to the circumstances of this industry and the constant danger under which these men conduct their occupation, nobody in his heart will really defend.

It is remarkable that during these Debates the attack has not been so much on the reduction of the working time, but has tended to concentrate all its efforts in order to spread the reduction over or to find some other solution rather than to make a frontal oppositions these proposals. The House has been reminded that next year, at the end of June, the Act of 1926 expires. If I had time tonight, it would be quite easy to prove that there are many advantages in the interests of the industry and other industries in taking off this half-an-hour now, as the Miners' Federation themselves recognise, and another half-an-hour's reduction after these marketing schemes have been working a certain time, when that Act expires, in the middle of next year, by which date we all trust this industry will be restored to a position of health and strength. It is also suggested that there will be a considerable increase of working costs due to this reduction of working time. Some hon. Members put it as high as 1s. 6d. a ton in one of the leading export districts of the country, a figure which has been widely quoted but is subject to qualification. On the average it is said to work out at nine-pence, which I have not completely accepted.

Against these considerations, there are provisions which it is perfectly reasonable to take into account when we embark upon any reduction of working time. It is fortunate that the coal industry is improving and has been improving for some time. Last year, as the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home) reminded the House, exports were better by 10,000,000 tons. It is true that the inland demand remains, broadly, static, that there is not a great deal of variation in it, but if the heavy industries recover, the home demand will show elasticity and expansion. I have always acknowledged to hon. Members opposite that there is also a contribution of probably 6d. or 7d. per ton attributable to their derating scheme. On principle, we did not oppose that scheme but we rather opposed the method of its application.

It was always part of our case that many of these local burdens should be transferred to the national exchequer, especially where they fell with great weight upon industries such as the coal industry. From these two heads there will be contributions. In the case of South Wales there will also be a contribution from the Italian State Railways contract, which we obtained, and, finally, there will be a contribution in the operation of the marketing schemes over a period of three or four months in endeavouring to obtain an economic price for the coal which we sell, which will go to help the ascertainments in the different districts, and will be available in certain proportions for the owners on the one side, and for the miners on the other. It is reasonable to take these considerations into account in making this reduction in working time. Therefore, both on economic and on human grounds I suggest that this change is justified, that this is a policy to which the Government are rightly committed, and that we have adopted the best method in our endeavour to carry it out.

Let me turn to what are wider and perhaps deeper considerations in connection with the Bill. There are two broad influences operating in Part I of the Bill, in the regulation of output, in the price fixing, in the co-ordination of the owners in the central scheme and in district organisations on the one side, and in the compulsory amalgamations which are now part of the Bill, on the other side. Hon. Members opposite seem to argue that we have gone too far in introducing any kind of compulsion, either in regulating the marketing or in bringing the undertakings together. I submit, with the friendship and good will which have in reality characterised our Debates, that there is an overwhelming case for a big contribution from these two forces, if we are to have any chance of surviving in the competition of Europe or in any other part of the world in the coal market.

There is nothing new in the marketing proposals. They have been tried with very substantial results in the Five Counties Scheme which, however, has been subject to a great deal of difficulty because of a dissentient minority which has remained outside, which has made no contribution but which has taken all the advantages of the benefits which the Five Counties Scheme has secured. The principle was tried in South Wales for the purpose of safeguarding the economic situation, and it was tried in Scotland under a temporary scheme which had a great deal to recommend it, because part of the levy raised in the Scottish proposal was to be used for the extinction of those uneconomic units which were a menace to the industry.

What is the characteristic note in the experience of the marketing schemes so far as they have been voluntarily adopted in this country? First of all, it has been made clear that a minority, and sometimes a small minority, in any district, can undermine the scheme, and can hinder the progress which has been made. In the next place, the experience of the industry proves that it requires only some accidental, fortuitous circumstance to occur to destroy the scheme altogether. The cold spell in the earlier part of last year accounted to a material extent for the disappearance of the Scottish scheme. It is an odd fact in coal production in this country that when any artificial aid is given, for example, the large subsidy in 1925, or where there is an improvement in some form of marketing, or when a spell of cold weather intervenes, immediately the precarious organisation that has been built up disappears, or tends to disappear, and the industry relapses once more into that lamentable state which has done so much to bring poverty and misery upon millions of people in the land. How long is that state of affairs to continue?

Sometimes during the Debates I have been surprised at the attitude of hon. Members on the Conservative Benches, in spite of all that goodwill which I so gladly acknowledge. This sort of thing has been done and is being done by them in other important industries in this country in their individual capacities. It is true that hon. Members opposite argue that that has been done on voluntary lines. I would remind the House that there is very much more compulsion in the industrial practice of this country than in any form of legislative compulsion. There are cases where minorities have been unwilling to come in but where it has been absolutely impossible for them to remain outside, because of the economic pressure to which they have been subjected. In my economic studies within recent years, I have read bitter complaints of many of these people who by trust organisations have been driven out of business and have had no redress at all. However that may be, the fact remains that this industry, no more than any other great industry, cannot escape the necessity of some form of co-ordination in the production and marketing of its products. From the beginning to the end of these long Debates not a single Member has ever challenged this fact, which is beyond dispute, that considerable quantities of coal have been sold at an uneconomic level, and until order is brought to the industry there is no remedy for that state of things.

When the Bill was introduced, I do not deny that perhaps, in the innocence which has been attributed to me, perhaps wrongly, I relied too much on the tendency of fusion which I thought was inherent in Part I, on the fixing of standard tonnage, on the quota scheme, on the co-ordination of the central body or of district organisations. I have modified that view a little, but it is still true that there will be a great contribution towards the amalgamation of collieries from that side. Observe the conditions in which the industry are now placed. They will have now a central knowledge of the amount of coal which is required, or which can be disposed of. That is not restriction in the sense that hon. Members opposite describe it. Under this Bill there is provision for immediate reaction to any increase in demand, and to any economic level, and there are special steps which can be taken to stimulate in the export trade that elasticity on which the recovery of the coal industry so largely depends. There will be knowledge of national demand, district allocations and so on. Surely it is economic common sense, outside our party politics altogether, that the tendency of such a combination of forces must be all to the good from the industrial and national point of view. Is it not desirable that we should get together and fuse these undertakings, or to have them fused, which are no longer in effective competition in many cases, but are engaged in the indiscriminate scramble which continues in this industry at the present time?

I am betraying no secret when I tell the House that since these proposals were made, and within very recent times, far-reaching proposals for the amalgamation of collieries have been put forward, and every effort will be made to try to bring in the minorities in those districts into what will be powerful units in the home market on the one side, and the export market on the other. In addition to that, there is the contribution of the compulsory amalgamations. My right hon. Friend opposite made reference to that point. The Act of 1926 was from some points of view a very remarkable departure by Conservatives who are wedded to a competitive system on the individualistic basis. They had been wedded at the same time to a good deal of interference in other spheres prior to that. I have been long enough in this House to remember the Railway Act of 1921 and the Electricity Act of 1926, to which reference has been made to-night, which followed a most damaging report by three leading industrialists in this country, stating that the voluntary principle had broken down, and that a very comprehensive and inclusive scheme was required. It is true that there were public utility concerns, but I beg the House to remember that the great coal industry and other industries are passing into that category of fixed and comparatively inelastic demand. Even if that were not true of Great Britain it is true of the Continent of Europe and I would ask hon. Members, in fairness, how we are to escape a tendency of that kind and how we are to survive if we do not adjust supply to that demand. The Act of 1926 was voluntary on the amalgamation side, but it introduced a compulsory element. The moment one owner took the initiative, compulsory machinery of a far-reaching character came into play.

What more does this Bill provide? We have had two or three years' experience under that Act. Under the 1926 Act no one has suggested that there has been other than an infinitesimal amount of amalgamation. There has been nothing like the amount of amalgamation that this industry requires, with some 1,400 undertakings and 2,000 pits, as against the concentration in the Ruhr and the Westphalian area and in other great centres of European coal production. We have had two or three years of perfectly fair trial of what I would call the voluntary principle. Now we come to the principles of the present Bill. What does the Bill do? In a single sentence, it does no more than this, in my judgment, and it is decisive: it guarantees the initiative for amalgamation. It says that if amalgamation is not promoted by the owners in the districts then the amalgamation commissioners may go down and consider all the circumstances and frame a scheme. All the rights of the parties are protected, because they can go to the Railway and Canal Commission, who are charged with the duty of deciding whether the scheme is in the public interest and whether it is fair and equitable to the parties concerned. That is the change that is made in this legislation, and it is a change which I believe can be abundantly justified on the facts of the situation and certainly on the needs of British coal production.

I want to say a word or two on the importance of this contribution vis-à-vis the home market and the Continent of Europe. It is quite true that this Bill does not touch in its marketing proposals or in its investigating committees those stages between the pithead production of coal and the retail sale to the consumer. That is perfectly true; and it would require separate and perhaps comprehensive legislation. Take the figures of 1928. During that year the average pithead price of coal in this country was 12s. 10d. per ton, which was a 27 per cent. increase over the pre-War 1913 pithead price. What was the percentage increase to the consumers? Over the great bulk of the fuel, it was approaching 100 per cent. In other words, there is the remarkable difference between a 27 per cent. increase on the pithead average price and 100 per cent. increase on the average to the consuming classes. I am not disputing that there are intervening factors, such as freights and railway charges, but they do not account for anything like the difference. I have always admitted that this is one of the problems which all parties will have to face—that is, the difference between the pithead price, or the original price, and the final price, the retail price, which is in force at the present time. That is a situation which will have to be faced.

Part I of the present Bill at any rate does this—even now steps are being taken to this end—it is going to bring owners together in those various districts. They are negotiating with the wholesale traders, and they are trying to ascertain whether by vertical organisations, a point which was strongly pressed by two hon. Members on these benches in the case of the cotton industry, they can bridge this gulf between the pithead price and the retail price, which is as great a danger and injustice to them as it is to any class of the community. In regard to the Continent of Europe, let me say that an organisation of this sort in Great Britain will give us greater bargaining power on which we can approach some kind of a European agreement, and it will also give us greater bargaining power in those markets in which we have been displaced in Europe because of the remarkable circumstances following the European War; and that great accession of strength to certain departments of coal production which were undoubtedly gained by Poland within recent years. Authorities on the Continent in their negotiations indicate that not until British coal production is organised substantially on these lines will it count for anything at all in the European coal controversy, either for a better price in marketing, or for a better allocation of the European markets should that come.

I want to say one final word on what seems to be the one consideration of this Bill, and I do it quite irrespective of party prejudice. When I started I hoped that there would be a desire on all sides to face this problem as one of the problems of the reorganisation of British industries to meet post-War needs and to strengthen us vis-à-vis European competition. Let the House remember the burdens under which we labour. I have quoted this striking fact before that during the six years of our peak War expenditure, between 1914 and 1920, the expenditure which we poured out amounted in the whole to as much as two and a quarter centuries of our preceding experience and we now have 50 years' burden on industry on the backs of our people. On the Continent they have got rid of a great deal of their internal debt by in- flation. We have had innumerable forms of mortgage and debt which British industry is carrying, and short of this organisation in a great basic trade we have no hope of real and effective competition. I am not a pessimist so far as coal is concerned. The Balfour Committee was perfectly correct, if I may humbly say so, in saying that in spite of all these burdens which have fallen on British industries there is still a great inherent and basic strength, but it still requires order and discipline in place of scramble and indiscipline.

And finally I beg the House to remember that underlying the cold technical clauses of this Bill there is a great human proposition. These men are carrying on their work in circumstances of the gravest danger and they are entitled to have their production sold at an economic

Division No. 250.]


[7.38 p.m.

Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)Cocks, Frederick SeymourHirst, W. (Bradford. South)
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)Compton, JosephHoffman, P. C.
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. ChristopherCove, William G.Hollins, A.
Aitchison. Rt. Hon. Craige M.Daggar, GeorgeHopkin, Daniel
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')Dallas, GeorgeHorrabin, J. F.
Alpass, J. H.Dalton, HughHudson, James H. (Huddersfield)
Ammon, Charles GeorgeDay, HarryIsaacs, George
Angell, NormanDenman, Hon. R. D.Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)
Arnott, JohnDevlin, JosephJohn, William (Rhondda, West)
Attlee, Clement RichardDickson, T.Johnston, Thomas
Ayles, WalterDukes, C.Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)
Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)Duncan, CharlesJones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)
Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)Ede, James ChuterJowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.
Barnes, Alfred JohnEdge, Sir WilliamJowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.
Barr, JamesEdmunds, J. E.Kelly, W. T.
Batey, JosephEdwards, E. (Morpeth)Kennedy, Thomas
Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)Egan, W. H.Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.
Bellamy, AlbertForgan, Dr. RobertKinley, J.
Bean, Rt. Hon. WedgwoodFreeman, PeterKirkwood, D.
Bennett, Capt. E. N. (Cardiff,Central)Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)Knight, Holford
Bennett, William (Battersea, South)Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)Lang, Gordon
Benson, G.Gibbins, JosephLansbury, Rt. Hon. George
Bentham, Dr. EthelGibson, H. M. (Lancs. Mossley)Lathan, G.
Bevan. Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)Gill, T. H.Law, Albert (Bolton)
Bondfield, Rt. Hon. MargaretGillett, George M.Law, A. (Rosendale)
Bowen, J. W.Gossling, A. G.Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.Gould, F.Lawson, John James
Broad, Francis AlfredGraham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)
Brockway, A. FennerGraham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edn., Cent.)Leach, W.
Bromfield, WilliamGreenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)Lee, Frank (Derby, N.E.)
Bromley, J.Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)
Brooke, W.Griffiths. T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)Lees, J.
Brothers, M.Groves, Thomas E.Lewis, T. (Southampton)
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts. Mansfield)Grundy, Thomas W.Lindley, Fred W.
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)Lloyd, C. Ellis
Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)Logan, David Gilbert
Buchanan, G.Hall. Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)Longbottom, A. W.
Burgess, F. G.Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)Longden, F.
Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Eand)Harde, George D.Lovat-Fraser. J. A.
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel (Norfolk, N.)Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. VernonLowth, Thomas
Caine, Derwent Hall.Hastings, Dr. SomervilleLunn, William
Cameron, A. G.Haycock, A. W.Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)
Cape, ThomasHayday, ArthurMacDonald, Rt. hon. J. R. (Seaham)
Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)Hayes, John HenryMac Donald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)
Charleton, H. C.Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)McElwee. A.
Chater, DanielHenderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)McEntee. V. L.
Church, Major A. G.Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)Mackinder, W.
Clarke, J. S.Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)McKinlay, A.
Cluse, W. S.Herriotts, J.MacLaren, Andrew
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)

level. From the beginning to the end of these Debates I have felt that we as a Government would be justified, and every effort on my part would be abundantly made good, if this Bill in its operation brought the two sides of the industry together and enabled them to reorganise in the production and later on the distribution of their coal, and if, above all, it brought a message of hope and encouragement to the 900,000 men in our coalfields, their womenfolk who under literally terrible conditions have not lost hope, and to the little children of the succeeding generation mho will look to this trade for their succour and support.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 277; Noes, 234.

MacNeill-Weir, L.Richards, R.Sutton, J. E.
McShane, John JamesRichardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)
Mansfield, W.Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S.W.)
March, S.Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Marcus, M.Ritson, J.Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Markham, S. F.Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)Thurtle, Ernest
Marley, J.Romeril, H. G.Tinker, John Joseph
Marshall, FredRosbotham, D. S. T.Toole, Joseph
Mathers, GeorgeRawson, GuyTout, W. J.
Matters, L. W.Salter, Dr. AlfredTownend, A. E.
Melville, Sir JamesSamuel, H. W. (Swansea, West)Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles
Messer, FredSanders, W. S.Turner, B.
Middleton, G.Sandham, E.Vaughan, D. J.
Mills, J. E.Sawyer, G. F.Viant, S. P.
Milner, Major J.Scrymgeour, E.Walkden, A. G.
Montague, FrederickScurr, JohnWalker, J.
Morgan, Dr. H. B.Sexton, JamesWallace, H. W.
Morley, RalphShaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)Wellhead, Richard C.
Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)Shepherd, Arthur LewisWatkins, F. C.
Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)Sherwood, G. H.Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Mort, D. L.Shield, George WilliamWatts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Moses, J. J. H.Shiels, Dr. DrummondWedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)Shillaker, J. F.Wellock, Wilfred
Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)Shinwell, E.Welsh, James (Paisley)
Muff. G.Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)
Muggeridge, H. T.Simmons, C. J.West, F. R.
Murnin, HughSinkinson, GeorgeWhiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)
Naylor, T. E.Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)Whiteley, William (Blaydon)
Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Noel Baker, P. J.Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Oldfield, J. R.Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)Williams Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)Smith, Rennie (Penistone)Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Palin, John HenrySmith, Tom (Pontefract)Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Paling, WilfridSmith, W. R. (Norwich)Wilson, J. (Oldham)
Palmer, E. T.Snell, HarryWilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Perry, S. F.Snowden, Rt. Hon. PhilipWinterton, G. E.(Leicester,Loughb'gh)
Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)Wise, E. F.
Phillips, Dr. MarionSorensen, R.Wright, W. (Rutherglen)
Picton-Turbervill, EdithStamford, Thomas W.Young, R. S. (Islington, North)
Pole, Major D. G.Stephen, Campbell
Potts, John S.Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Price, M. P.Strachey, E. J. St. LoeMr. Allen Parkinson and Mr.
Qubell, D. J. K.Strauss, G. R.Charles Edwards.
Raynes, W. R.Sullivan, J.


Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-ColonelBurton, Colonel H. W.Dugdale, Capt. T. L.
Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. CharlesButler, R. A.Eden, Captain Anthony
Albery, Irving JamesButt, Sir AlfredEdmondson, Major A. J.
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l.,W.)Cadogan, Major Hon. EdwardElliot, Major Walter E.
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)Carver, Major W. H.Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.M.)
Allen, W. E. D. (Belfast, W.)Castle Stewart, Earl ofEverard, W. Lindsay
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.Cautley, Sir Henry S.Falle, Sir Bertram G.
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)Ferguson, Sir John
Astor, Maj. Hon. John J (Kent.Dover)Cazalet, Captain Victor A.Fermoy, Lord
Atholl, Duchess ofChadwick, Sir Robert BurtonFielden, E. B.
Atkinson, C.Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)Fison, F. G. Clavering
Bae-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.Chapman, Sir S.Ford, Sir P. J.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)Christie, J. A.Forestier-Walker, Sir L.
Balfour, George (Hampstead)Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston SpencerFremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.
Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir GeorgeGalbraith, J. F. W.
Bane, LordCohen, Major J. BruneGanzon, Sir John
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.Colfax, Major William PhilipGibson, C. G. (Pudsey amp; Otley)
Beaumont, M. W.Colman, N. C. D.Glyn, Major R. G. C.
Bellairs, Commander CarlyonColville, Major D. J.Grace, John
Bennett, Sir Albert (Nottingham, C.)Courtauld, Major J. S.Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)
Berry, Sir GeorgeCourthope, Colonel Sir G. L.Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.
Betterton, Sir Henry B.Cowan, D. M.Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter
Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)Cranbourne, ViscountGreene, W. P. Crawford
Birchall, Major Sir John DearmanCrichton-Stuart, Lord C.Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)
Bird, Ernest RoyCroft, Brigadier-General Sir H.Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon, John
Boothby, R. J. G.Crookshank, Capt. H. C.Gritten, W. G. Howard
Bourne, Captain Robert CroftCroom-Johnson, R. P.Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.
Bowater, Col. Sir T. VahsttartCulverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)Gunston, Captain D. W.
Boyce, H. L.Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir PhilipHacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.
Bracken, B.Dakeith, Earl ofHall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)
Braithwaite, Major A. N.Darymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir GodfreyHamilton, Sir George(Ilford)
Brass, Captain Sir WilliamDavidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)Hammersley, S. S.
Briscoe, Richard GeorgeDavidson, Major-General Sir J. H.Hanbury, C.
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)Davies, Dr. VernonHannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)Harbord, A.
Buchan, JohnDavison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)Hartington, Marquess of
Buckingham, Sir H.Dixey, A. C.Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)
Bullock, CaptainMalcolm Duckworth, G. A. V.Haslam, Henry C.

Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd,Henley)Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n amp; Kinc'dine, C.)
Heneage, Lieut.-ColonelArthur P. Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John WalterMorden, Col. W. GrantSmithers, Waldron
Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur CliveSouthby, Commander A. R. J.
Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.Muirhead, A. J.Spender-Clay, Colonel H.
Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)Stanley, Lord (Fylde)
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)Nicholson, O. (Westminster)Stanley, Maj. Hon. 0. (W'morland)
Hurd, Percy A.Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld)Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
Hurst, Sir Gerald B.Neild, Rt. Hon. Sir HerbertStewart, W. J. (Belfast, South)
Iveagh, Countess ofOman, Sir Charles William C.Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. CuthbertO'Neill, Sir H.Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.
Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. WilliamThomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)
Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)Peake, Capt. OsbertThomson, Sir F.
Kindersley, Major G. M.Penny, Sir GeorgeTinne, J. A.
King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Lamb, Sir J. Q.Pilditch, Sir PhilipTodd, Capt. A. J.
Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molten)Power, Sir John CecilTrain, J.
Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.Pownall, Sir AsshetonTryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)Ramsbotham, H.Turton, Robert Hugh
Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)Rawson, Sir CooperVaughan-Morgan. Sir Kenyon
Leighton, Major B. E. P.Reid, David D. (County Down)Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)
Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)Remer, John R.Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert
Little, Dr. E. GrahamRentoul, Sir Gervas S.Wardlaw-Milne, J. S
Llewellin, Major J. J.Reynolds, Col. Sir JamesWarrender, Sir Victor
Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. GodfreyRichardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch't'sy)Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Locker-Lampson, Com. O.(Handsw'th)Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)Wayland, Sir William A.
Long, Major EricRodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James RennellWells, Sydney R.
Lymington, ViscountRoss, Major Ronald D.Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
McConnell, Sir JosephRuggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Macquisten, F. A.Salmon, Major I.Withers, Sir John James
MacRobert, Rt. Hon. Alexander M.Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)Wolmer, Rt. Hon Viscount
Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)Womersley, W. J.
Makins, Brigadier-General E.Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart Wood,Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Margesson, Captain H. D.Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.Worthington-Evans. Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Marjoribanks, E. C.Savery, S. S.Wright, Brig.-Gen. W. D. (Tavist'k)
Mason, Colonel Glyn K.Shepperson, Sir Ernest WhittomeYoung, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton
Meller, R. J.Simms, Major-General J.
Merriman, Sir F. BoydSkelton, A. N.TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)Commander Sir B. Eyres Monsell
and Major Sir George Hennessy.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.