Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question. [ 10th June]:
"That this House approves the proposals of His Majesty's Government embodied in Command Paper No. 6364 relating to coal."—[Sir John Anderson.]
Question again proposed.
On a point of Order. Yesterday I asked you Mr. Speaker, which of the Amendments upon the Order Paper you were proposing to call in this Debate. You then said that you would await the course of yesterday's proceedings in order to be in a position to let us know your decision in the matter. I should like to ask, Sir, whether you are now in a position to tell us.
Since yesterday I have had an opportunity of further considering the matter and have come to the conclusion that there are a certain number of Members who wish to have the opportunity to vote with regard to the nationalisation of the mines. I shall therefore at a later stage call upon the mover of the Amendment dealing with that point.
May I ask, Mr. Speaker, which Amendment it is that you are proposing to call?
That in the name of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton).
In response to your appeal yesterday, Mr. Speaker, no fewer than 28 speeches were delivered, of which only one came from the Government Front Bench. As a consequence it was possible for a large number of hon. Members to contribute to the Debate, and a number of very useful and constructive suggestions were made. My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal and I, together with the new Minister of Fuel, who, I understand, is being sworn in to-day, sat through the whole of yesterday's Debate, and we have discussed among ourselves in a preliminary fashion a number of the questions that were put, and I will speak about some of them before I sit down. From to-day the new Minister takes over. Having been myself somewhat entangled in these affairs for some little while, I should like to add my personal good wishes to him and his Parliamentary Secretaries in the task which they are taking over. My right hon. and gallant Friend the new Minister asks me to say, since it is not possible for him to speak to-day, that as soon as he has taken over he will be ready to confer with the representatives of the Miners' Federation and the representatives of the Mining Association upon the many questions which are involved in the White Paper. I think the House would agree that it would be wrong that decisions should be taken upon a large number of these questions before my right hon. and gallant Friend has had an opportunity of getting into his office and considering, in consultation with both sides of the industry, the considerations which have a bearing on these matters. He is most anxious to enter at the earliest possible moment into the fullest and most friendly discussions on all the points which have been raised.I turn aside from reorganisation, to which I shall return in a moment, to say a few words on paragraphs 23 and 25 in the White Paper, relating to consumption. The Government have gone a considerable distance in order to seek to meet the views expressed in various parts of the House and outside, and we have agreed to the postponement of the immediate introduction of fuel rationing, quite frankly in order to secure as wide as possible a measure of general agreement and support for the White Paper policy taken as a whole, and it is on that White Paper policy taken as a whole that the Government are asking the House to vote to-day "Aye" or "No." The postponement of rationing is a condition, in our view, of the acceptance of the scheme of reorganisation, and conversely, but none the less it remains most essential, in our view, that there should be a substantial reduction in coal consumption. I should like to emphasise the importance of the reference to industrial consumption in paragraph 23 of the White Paper. The Government are determined to pursue to the utmost the possibilities of economy in this scheme of industrial consumption. We attach great importance to stopping any unnecessary consumption which may be taking place at present on a considerable scale. Therefore, we are most anxious for this purpose to treat coal as rigorously as other Departments treat raw materials in their allocations to munition factories and other industrial establishments, and a scheme with that end in view is now being actively worked out in detail. I should also like to urge that the fullest possible support should be given by all concerned to the work done particularly by industrialists and others with responsibilities for factories consuming coal, or gas, or electricity, and that the utmost use should be made of the possibilities of economies in fuel consumption on which for a long time the Mines Department have been working very hard with the aid of the Committee presided over by Dr. Grummel. Those who have opposed rationing and favour voluntary appeals now have an opportunity to prove that they are right, and His Majesty's Government will do their utmost to give full support to a sustained campaign designed to secure voluntary reduction on a large scale. The Prime Minister, I hope, will be able to broadcast at an early date upon this subject, and the Government intend to make the most of this as of all other roads towards economy in the consumption of coal. But, in our view, it is not enough to set in motion an economy campaign and to take the steps which I have indicated with regard to industrial coal. Therefore, His Majesty's Government have decided, as indicated in the White Paper, that although compulsory rationing is not immediately to be introduced, all necessary administrative preparations must be made at once, including the issue to householders of the very simple form, as it seems to me, set out in paragraph 19 of the Annex II and the making of necessary assessments by local fuel overseers, the purpose of which is that if it should become necessary, in the light of the experience of the next few months, both in regard to production and consumption, to put rationing into force at short notice, all our preparations would be duly laid for that and there would be no further loss of time after final discussion and decision taken in this House. I would also like to say a word upon paragraph 25. Pending rationing and so long as supplies of household coal remain short, it is essential that the larger consumer should not be favoured at the expense of the smaller, and with a view to that end, we are following up, with two measures, the provision announced some time ago for compulsory registration of all consumers with a coal merchant or distributor. The first of these measures is designed to secure that the available supplies of coal shall be distributed between different merchants roughly in proportion to the number of their registered customers, and the second will require merchants, from now on, to keep records of their coal deliveries in such a form that the local fuel overseers may be able to ascertain from time to time the quantities delivered to the various registered customers. That will mean that we shall have a record, first, of the stocks held by particular householders on 1st July, from the forms on which I have spoken, outlined in the Annex, and in the second place, we shall have a record of the deliveries from now on, so that if it should become necessary to introduce rationing at a later date, it will be possible to take account both of the stocks held on 1st July, and of the deliveries during the intermediate period, in allocating the rations which would then be determined. Those particulars will be of great value in such an eventuality. As far as the scheme in the Annex is concerned, I do not propose, and I do not think the House would wish me at this stage, to debate its details at any length. But I wish to repeat what was said yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council that the Government have given very close attention during these last weeks to alternative rationing schemes. We have considered the question of which rationing scheme among the various alternative suggestions should be adopted in the event of its being inevitable that rationing should be imposed, and we have come to the definite conclusion, after taking a good deal of evidence from various sources and considering suggestions made in this House, and in the Press, and elsewhere, that the scheme indicated in the Annex is the best available scheme, and it is that scheme which will be applied, if the necessity of rationing should, finally, impose itself. That scheme is not in every detail, the scheme put forward by Sir William Beveridge some time ago but it is the same in its general framework and in many of its particulars. I would like to pay my tribute here to the work which he has done—and in this, I am sure, many will join who may not wholly agree with the conclusions which have been reached—in preparing that scheme at short notice and in enabling us to comprehend some, at least, of the administrative problems and difficulties inherent in this operation. I will not at this stage say anything further on details. They are there to be read, and for the moment it is a hypothesis against which I am sure all the most eager advocates of a sustained publicity campaign will do their utmost to guard. They will wish, and I am sure will do their utmost, to make sure that the appeal for economy is a success and that this scheme therefore will remain in the Annex to the White Paper.
For the purpose of removing doubt which the right hon. Gentleman's last few remarks may possibly create, may I be allowed to put this point? What the right hon. Gentleman has just said would seem to conflict with the statement made yesterday by the Lord President of the Council, who said:
that is, the Annex plan—"I will give the House an assurance that in any event the Government will not bring in this scheme "—
What the President of the Board of Trade appears to have said, if I understood him correctly, is that if a scheme is proceeded with it will be the Annex plan. What, then, is the value of the pledge given yesterday by the Lord President of the Council? I think it most important that the House should be clear on that point."or any other scheme of rationing of coal into operation without prior intimation to the House and opportunity for Debate, if that should be desired."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th June, 1042: col. 1086; Vol. 380.]
I do not think there is any ambiguity, but I am glad to make the matter abundantly clear in reply to the question of the hon. Member for Stockport (Sir A. Gridley). What the Lord President of the Council said yesterday and what I have repeated is that the Government are not imposing rationing immediately; that if circumstances in their view make it necessary to impose rationing, they will inform the House; that they will ask the House for authority to impose it and that there will be, if desired, a Debate in this House. I think that is perfectly clear.
Does that mean that when the Government ask the House to approve of rationing being brought into force, the whole of the scheme and its merits will be debatable in this House—that the House will have an opportunity of discussing the whole scheme, not merely the date of bringing it into operation but the scheme itself?
That would evidently be the purpose of the discussion—to enable hon. Members in different parts of the House to express their views upon the merits of the Government scheme and on whether, in the view of the House, the Government were right in their judgment that it was time for the scheme to operate.
Would it be possible to amend the scheme if the House saw fit to do so?
Clearly, I cannot be led at this stage into deciding matters which it would be, in the last resort, for the Chair to decide.
It is very important.
Does the right hon. Gentleman's statement mean that if the House accepts the Government's Motion to-day, it is not accepting the Annex?
The Government statement in the White Paper—I will read it to the House—is in paragraph 24—
"After full consideration of the views expressed in the Debate… on May 7th, and after examination of various alternative schemes, the Government have decided that the most practical and effective method of rationing the consumption of domestic fuel is by means of a 'points' scheme of rationing on the lines indicated in the Annex."
That is part of the policy?
That is part of the White Paper policy, just as various other matters relating to reorganisation are part of it. The Government are putting that to the House as a whole. Part of that whole is what I have just read. When the Debate comes, if it does come, it will obviously be open to hon. Members—I think, Mr. Speaker, you would agree that this is so, though I must not seem to be usurping your judgment as to what in a hypothetical Debate would be in order—either to oppose rationing altogether, although the Government would then have informed them that in their view it was necessary, or to raise points of detail as to the method of rationing proposed by the Government. That, no doubt, would be in order, and I really do not think there is anything more which I can usefully say on the subject at this stage.
May I put this point? I understand that if a rationing scheme is brought in, it will be brought in as a series of Regulations, and if I understand the procedure correctly in that case' it cannot be amended. Consequently, if the House is to be able to give free expression to its opinions on the scheme, it will be necessary before the actual Regulations are to be brought in, to have a preceding Debate upon a substantive Motion on which the whole matter could be discussed.
May I raise a similar point? Is it not essential for the Government to have the rationing proposals, now in the Annex, approved by the House in order that they may take the necessary preparatory steps to carry out registration so as to put the rationing scheme into operation should it become necessary? Furthermore, is it any worse to have rationing imposed by Regulation, without the House being able to amend it, than to have a whole coal reorganisation scheme imposed upon the House without any attempt to amend it? I hope the right hon. Gentleman will stick to his guns.
I am trying to stick to what I thought was a rather simple statement in the White Paper—which I have read—and also in the speech of my right hon. Friend yesterday. Just how this undertaking will be carried out is a matter for detailed consideration later, but the undertaking is perfectly clear. There will be an opportunity for Members of this House to discuss, before the Government finally impose it, the rationing scheme, both in principle as to whether there should be one or not, and the details of the scheme which the Government propose.I must now turn to the not unimportant subject of reorganisation. There are certain essential principles embodied in the White Paper under the heading "Reorganisation." I would like to summarise what those are. There are essential principles to which the Government are definitely committed, although, as I have said already, there is a wide range of questions of detail on which they are anxious to have further discussion. My right hon. and gallant Friend, the new Minister of Fuel and Power is anxious, in the first instance, to have further discussions with the representatives of those concerned. The first essential principle is that the Government are to take full control over the operation of all coalmines, and the responsible Minister will exercise this control to enable the maximum production for war-time use. We are quite set and fixed upon that principle. In the-second place is the establishment of a National Coal Board. In the third place, the appointment of Controllers in each region—the number of regions is to be discussed before the final decision is taken—to whom will be delegated the Minister's power to control the colliery undertakings and give directions to the managements. These Regional Controllers will be assisted and advised by Regional Coal Boards, which, in turn, will be responsible for the conduct of mining operations in their regions. In the fourth place, the pit committees are to assist pit managers to secure maximum output. I will say a word in further detail in a moment about the pit committees. Finally, and I attach importance to this matter and wish to remove all ambiguity which may exist in any quarter, the Government are committed to assisting in the setting-up of a properly constituted national body in order to deal on a national basis with questions of wages and conditions in the industry. Those five principles are vital, in our view. Subject to them, there are many details, some of them of great importance, which we shall be anxious to discuss. Many speakers in yesterday's Debate elaborated those questions of detail. Paragraph 21 in the White Paper is to be given the widest interpretation. It relates to the White Paper as a whole. Any proposals made in the White Paper are subject to further discussion, although I have just enumerated a number of principles which we are not prepared to modify; but their detailed application we are most anxious to discuss. The new Minister and I had a preliminary discussion last night of a number of the points raised, and he has asked me to say that he was very much impressed, as I was, with many of the arguments used by hon. Members regarding this matter.
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves this point, I should like to ask him a question, if he does not mind. There is a point of very considerable importance emerging here; in fact, there are two points. He will know that certain observations, which were considered to come under Paragraph 21, were adopted by representatives of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. Is the right hon. Gentleman able to tell the House that he considers that the suggested modifications are details within the meaning of Paragraph 21, with the exception of the first one, which deals with national ownership of the mines?
The difficulty which I have in answering that question in that form is that, although a paper has been submitted to me, it has not been submitted in that form to the House or published, and therefore I do not think I should reply to a question put in that form; but a number of the points which my hon. Friend has in mind were raised in Debate yesterday by hon. Members, and I was proposing to make reference to some of them. I was going to make reference to Paragraph 16 (e), where a form of words is laid down which has been the subject of some criticism, as follows:
a good deal of objection was taken by some hon. Members to that phrase—"it is undesirable that the Controllers should be burdened with the details of day-to-day management of the pits. This will be left, as it is to-day, in the hands of the managers, who will continue to be the servants of the owners,"—
I say at once that that can be further discussed. I go on to add that I have consulted with ther of my colleagues, in addition to the new Minister, and that we are agreed that, in the event of the arrangement proposed in 16 (e) proving to be any interference with the fundamental purpose of the Government to obtain complete control of mining operations in all the pits, the Government will most certainly reconsider the relationship of the managers to the owners, with a view to making the Government's main object of full operational control completely effective. We intend that our main objective shall be realised, and we are prepared, in the event of evidence being produced that that objective is being interfered with or impeded by this provision, to reconsider the matter. Evidence of such interference can come, under this scheme, through a number of channels. It can come up from the pit production committees. I will say another word about pit production committees in a moment; we intend them to be important. It can come up from the Regional Boards, on which miners will be represented, as they will, of course, on the pit production committees. It can come, if necessary, and if the case is sufficiently important, from the regional coal board. It can come by another channel, if there is evidence of serious obstruction, through hon. Members of this House, who will be able to take it up direct with the Minister or raise the matter here. Alternatively, it may be reported by the staff of the Regional Controller in the region to the Controller, who would report it to the Minister."though subject to removal at the instance of the Controller, should he deem that course necessary."
This item is of importance. We know on this side of the House that the conference of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain will stand over after this Debate to-day in order to examine its position in the light of the replies made today.
Is this a new 1922 Committee?
No. The House of Commons need not take the slightest notice of it, but it is necessary that certain other bodies should understand quite clearly what are the Government's intentions, as well as the 1922 Committee. Do we understand from the right hon. Gentleman that, in the event of its being found that a particular management is not implementing the desires of the Controllers properly, there is nothing in the White Paper which would prevent the Government taking the management of that particular colliery away from the owners? That is the first point. If that is what the right hon. Gentleman is saying, it is not good enough. We want to know whether the right hon. Gentleman considers there is anything in the White Paper to prevent the Government, after representations made to them, from taking full charge of all the managements of all the pits away from the owners. That is an important point for us.
The first point which my hon. Friend raises' will be sufficiently answered if he will read what is already in the White Paper on page 7, the second paragraph. With regard to particular pits, the Minister already has power—it is laid down in the second paragraph on page 7—to take over a mine and put in a manager. In fact, my hon. Friend, who worked constantly and steadily with me on this problem for many months, has already done that in several cases. There is nothing new there. It is laid down, and, if necessary, this part can be invoked as a final sanction for enforcing directions issued by a Controller. There is nothing new there. What I am saying is that as a general principle, with regard to the general scheme outlined in paragraph 16 (e), if evidence is produced that the scheme is not working satisfactorily from the point of view of maximising output, then—I will quote again the words I used:
That is, they will reconsider it, but there must be evidence. (An hon. Member: "How long will it take?") My hon. Friend will know that we are anxious to go forward as quickly as possible. Once we get through with the White Paper, my right hon. and gallant Friend will go full steam ahead with the necessary next steps and with the consultations on all these matters. There will be no avoidable delay at all, and, as I have already suggested, there will be a number of channels through which evidence of the failure of this scheme to work as we hope may be adduced. I turn for a moment to pit production committees. By general agreement these will now be relieved of their responsibility for dealing with absenteeism. I do not think that anyone dissents from that, and my right hon. and gallant Friend the new Minister will be very glad to hear representations and arguments on the various alternatives to the present procedure in regard to absenteeism. What is here said is not final, but is subject to further discussion; meanwhile, it is the firm intention of the Government that the pit production committees shall play a larger part than ever before in stimulating production, and I have no doubt, after my conversations with the new Minister yesterday, that it will be made part of the regular routine of the pit committees to send in regular reports to the Regional Boards, and the Regional Controller through his staff will be in regular and constant touch with them. It will be our duty to remove any obstacle to increased production which pit committees may discover."The Government will reconsider the relationship of the managers to the owners with a view to making the Government's main objective of full operational control completely effective."
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why ultimate action in the case of absenteeism is to be left to the Minister of Labour?
May I just finish what I was saying about pit committees, and then I will take that point? So far as pit committees are concerned, the intention of the Government is that they should play a much larger, more important and more stimulating rôle than in the past, and the Government will rely upon the representatives on the pit production committees to play their full part in removing any obstacles to increased production as well as in positively promoting production.My hon. Friend just asked what was the reason for placing the responsibility for instituting proceedings with the National Service Officer. He is an officer of the Minister of Labour, and he is responsible, under the Essential Work Order, for giving permission for men to move and so forth. Everybody agrees that pit committees should lose the unpleasant duty of dealing with absenteeism; as to the alternatives, the Government put forward the suggestion in the White Paper. As at present advised, we think it is on the whole the best, but we are prepared to listen to alternative arguments, and my right hon. and gallant Friend the new Minister has already given an undertaking through me to this effect.
Is it not rather unfortunate to divide responsibility for absenteeism between the two Ministers?
No, Sir. We have thought about this a good deal, and we do not think that if there are to be prosecutions, they should be instituted by officers appointed by the Ministry of Fuel and Power. We do not want the new Ministry mixed up in those matters. If there are to be prosecutions, we think that they had better be initiated through the representative of the Ministry of Labour.
Before leaving pit production committees, will the right hon. Gentleman say whether, if there is a minority vote in a production committee, the minority will have the right to send their convictions forward as well as those of the majority?
I should think that that could undoubtedly be adjusted; obviously I cannot commit myself on matters of detail and procedure like that, but I should certainly think that there would be means whereby a minority would be able to make their views known. I repeat that the Regional Controller, through his staff, will be in touch with the pit committees; the pit committees will report up to the Regional Boards, and I cannot believe that it is beyond the ingenuity of any minority in such a case to get their views known. I think we must leave something to the common sense and intelligence of those who will be working the scheme.
I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether new lines of procedure will be set out to be followed by pit production committees, apart from what is set out in the Essential Work Order?
Where pit production committees have to take up a new phase of activity, I should think that the issue of revised instructions would be very likely.I now want for a moment to draw the attention of the House to the way in which the scheme of control proposed in the White Paper differs from the control adopted in the last war.
I have sat here, as most hon. Members know, all through this Debate. The right hon. Gentleman knows that some of us hold very strong views upon one aspect of the production question, a point that runs right through the whole White Paper; it is the question of the concentration of output upon the best collieries and seams, but up to the present it has scarcely been mentioned throughout this Debate. The right hon. Gentleman knows that, whatever the Government may wish, there are great combines in this country which have always wanted to close what they call the uneconomic pits—the small pits. Those of us who know both the large and the small pits would, in many cases, say that it is the large pits which are uneconomic. The point I want to put is that throughout the whole of this period, in the small pits, which together engage a very large pro-porportion of the men, there has been no trouble at all. It is in the big pits where the trouble has been. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman to say what is the Government's intention. I know what their wish would be. Is it their intention to allow a Controller to close numbers of these small collieries, to unsettle the people, to interfere with production in those collieries, and turn the men over to the larger collieries? Is that the Government's object?
My hon. Friend will realise from the terms of the White Paper that any concentration or any movement of men from one pit to another under this scheme is designed for one purpose only, namely, to secure an increase of output. Unless in the judgment of the Regional Controller the effect of any proposed scheme would be to increase output—and any case of serious doubt or of difference of opinion would come up to the Minister himself—the disturbance involved would certainly not be undertaken. My hon. Friend says that in many cases the smaller pits are more efficient in many respects than the large ones. Very well; where that is so, of course there will be no question of closing down such pits. The sole test would be whether output could be increased, and in the cases raised by my hon. Friend, that test would clearly not be passed. Let me add further that it is not a question of what the large combines may desire, because the whole essence of the Government's scheme is that operational control of the mines is now to be exercised, not by the existing owners of the mines, but by the Minister working through the Regional Controller, the Regional Boards and the rest of the machinery, and therefore the decision that will be taken in future will be taken solely from the point of view of whether production can be increased. My hon. Friend may rest assured that in each area there will be a Regional Board and that on those Regional Boards the miners will be represented, and there will be opportunity in all such cases for any objection to be put forward to any proposal made.
The Controller is the final authority. He has to accept absolute and undivided responsibility for the operation and conduct of the mines. All I am asking is whether the Government themselves will keep a very close watch upon the combines to see that they do not achieve under this scheme what they have long tried to achieve without it.
If they have not achieved it without the scheme, they will certainly not achieve it with the scheme, because powers which they had have now been lost. My hon. Friend must really take the words in their sensible meaning. In the last resort no Minister will agree to important decisions being taken by officials without reference to him, and if in some particular case where the Regional Controller might seem to be going against the wishes of the Regional Board or of those with knowledge in the locality, I am sure that my right hon. and gallant Friend would desire to have the whole matter resubmitted to him for Ministerial decision. I am anxious not to speak much longer, as I wish to enable the same considerable width of Debate to take place as was the case yesterday, but I wish to make one point. The control scheme in this war is fundamentally different from that in the last war. In the last war there was appointed one Coal Controller, but there was no responsible Minister devoting himself wholly to fuel and power. There were no Regional Controllers under the control scheme of the last war. There was no operational control of the mines in the last war. On the contrary, the Government left each colliery company free to conduct its own mining operations subject to the occasional issue of directions in very general terms. His Majesty's Government in. the last war accepted full financial responsibility and did not take operational control. In these respects the present scheme is an almost complete reversal of the scheme which then obtained.With regard to finance, I wish to say one word, as it was referred to by many hon. Members yesterday. I quote from paragraph 20 of the White Paper:
—I stress those last three words—"The wages and profits structure of the coal mining industry has been operated on the basis of division of proceeds as between wage costs and profits. It is not intended by these proposals"
That does not mean that the financial structure of the industry is totally static. On the contrary, various changes are taking place even now, though they may not be laid down specifically in the White Paper. It would be quite wrong for me to prejudge the recommendations which will be made by the Board of Investigation into the miners' wage claim. It is certainly not impossible that those recommendations may result in introducing a new and important element into the financial structure of the industry. So far as the basis of wages is concerned, the Miners' Federation have expressed a strong desire, and the Government have accepted the claim, as I have already stated, for the setting-up of national wage machinery. How that machinery will work out we cannot at this moment prejudge, nor how far the working of that new machinery will modify the existing financial structure. It would be wrong and premature for me to speculate on that, but it may lead to considerable modifications."to introduce any fundamental alteration in the financial structure of the industry."
Is the setting aside of the present system of ascertainment contemplated?
It is contemplated that that will be discussed between the parties concerned. I cannot prejudge discussions between the parties on that matter. With regard to prices, there is now strict Government control of prices. There have been several proposals made since I have been President of the Board of Trade for an increase of prices. They have been presented sometimes for the country as a whole, sometimes for particular regions I have taken the view, and the Government have taken the view, that these price increases should not be permitted pending reorganisation of the whole of the financial situation of the industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Sir R. Clarry) raised the question as to whether there would be some tribunal set up on coal prices. That is a question of administrative detail which it would be wrong for me to answer now. It will be for my right hon. and gallant Friend to consider that. The bias of the Government has been against allowing an increase in coal prices so far because we have been anxious not to give any further stimulus to an increase in the cost of living. Our policy has therefore been to seek other means than allowing a rise in prices in order to get a satisfactory financial situation.There is another matter not referred to in the White Paper because it was a separate decision taken some time ago, and was in a Treasury Charges Order which was issued before the White Paper was given to the House. For some time the Government have been considering the whole question of the output levies which have been imposed in the mining industry, and they formed the view that it would be much better to bring all these levies and their administration together and vest them in the responsible Minister rather than allow them to be controlled exclusively, as hitherto, as to amount and distribution by the Mining Association. Therefore a Treasury Charges Order made ten days ago gives power to apply the proceeds of the 7d. levy, which is the levy now imposed, for purposes connected with the production or marketing of coal. They will henceforth be administered by the Minister of Fuel and Power with the advice of his National Coal Board.
Will the balance they have now go to him as well?
The collection of the levies and the administration of the sums collected will henceforth be administered by the Minister in accordance with this general formula which I have read. Under the new constitution laid down in the White Paper he will be advised by his National Board.
The President of the Board of Trade has not answered my Question as to whether the balance they have—and they have a jolly good nest egg—will come to the Minister when he takes over.
I think that the answer is "Yes," but we will take that matter up. We intend that for the future that shall be so.
It is the past I was thinking of.
The future is more important than the past.
I am sorry to intervene, but some of us wish to speak and there is a matter which is not clear in the White Paper. If we had a Bill before the House we should have a Money Resolution or the financial Clauses in the Bill, and we should know where we were, but I cannot find in the White Paper any mention anywhere of where the cost of new machinery is to fall. Is it to fall on the Exchequer or on the revenues of the industry? If it falls on the revenues of industry—it is very expensive machinery—85 per cent. of the cost will be borne by the miners if the existing system of ascertainment remains.
I have a quick reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths)—which only shows how efficiently we conduct our arrangements in this Government. We have power to put any sums now in hand, collected under the levies and not yet spent, into the same fund into which future proceeds of the levies will go. With regard to the cost of administering this scheme, that is going to be discussed between my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Ministers concerned, with a view to seeing what is the best and fairest arrangement. I cannot make a commitment at this stage. I think the total cost will not be so heavy as my hon. Friend thinks. At any rate, that is to be discussed, and no doubt at an early date some statement will be made upon it. [Interruption.] It is going to be discussed. I cannot add to that. If my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) catches your eye, Sir, he will no doubt be able to say something more about it.
There will very soon be nothing left for the hon. Member to say.
When I said it would be discussed, I thought that my hon. Friend understood that that would involve discussion among both sides of the industry, as well as by Ministers. I must leave it there.
I must put this point of Order, then. The House is being asked to consider proposals in the form of a White Paper because the House has already given the Government wide powers. If the Government had not got those powers, they would have had to bring a Bill to the House, and in that case they would have had to tell the House where the charges would lie. Now, after weeks of discussion, we understand that we are not to be told what sum of money the House is involving itself in. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is the point of Order?"] The point of Order is that the House ought not to be asked—
That is not a point of Order.
Do we understand that the House is committing itself to unknown expenditure, provided from an unknown source?
It will not be the first time the House has done that.
I hope I have now answered a sufficient number of questions. I may now say, in conclusion, that the Government are asking the House to vote for the White Paper—including, I ought to say, in order that my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale may know in which Lobby he should vote—proposals for an unlimited and unknown and indefinite liability. We are asking the House to vote for the proposals in the White Paper, and to reject any Amendment which may be taken to a division. This plan—there is no need to hide the fact—is a compromise between different views. So long as we have a Government of national union, formed to win the war, we shall have plans on behalf of the Government which are compromises; but once the compromise has been reached, it is the policy of the Government, and they ask the support of the House for it. The principal purpose of the whole plan is to increase the output of coal, so as to hasten the hour of victory over the common enemy. Its subsidiary purpose is to reduce unnecessary consumption. Of course, it is not the last word on this old and long-debated problem of the mining industry. Of course, it is not, and nobody has ever claimed that it is, a complete and final solution of the mining problem. What it is, is an attempt to deal with the immediate problem, to go some considerable distance towards the reorganisation of the mining industry, and, above all, to reinforce our war effort at a point where it is now dangerously vulnerable; and as such I ask the House to give it their support in the Division Lobby.
Is it the intention of the Leader of the House to deal in his final reply with the many points which were put in the Debate yesterday?
I must leave that to my right hon. and learned Friend to exercise his judgment upon.
My right hon. Friend, with great clarity and patience, has explained to the House many points upon which we had some doubts. I should like to start by congratulating the House upon this White Paper. It is the best, the most practical, and certainly the most intelligible, White Paper I remember. It bears the impress of the hand of the Lord President of the Council and of the Leader of the House. It is a good White Paper, because it takes the horse and puts it at least in front of the coal cart. It puts the whole emphasis on production and puts rationing into cold storage, and the Beveridge is bottled against a rainy day. May I congratulate my right hon. and gallant Friend the new Minister of Fuel? No better appointment could have been made. In his own witty phrase, he has gone from one black market to another; and I am sure he will deal with the problem boldly and in a comprehensive spirit. One speaks on this question of the coal industry with great trepidation. I am an amateur, talking in the presence of men who have spent their lives in the industry, and whose advocacy of the miners' cause was one of the features of our pre-war Debates. I was very stimulated yesterday by hearing the refreshing speech of the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths), and I very much enjoyed the maiden speeches of two other mining Members. Nevertheless, the onlooker sometimes sees much of the game. I started ray public life by joining the staff of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Burghs (Mr. Lloyd George) on the day of the coal strike of 1921. In 1926 I was thrown out of work by the long stoppage that occurred then. [Interruption.] It came to the same thing: the rest came out, and I could not work. The amateur has to form some view about the organisation of the coal industry, whether he wishes to or not. I have formed definite views, and I have always tried to urge what I think are the reasonable and unanswerable claims of the miners. I have already cut out half of my speech because the right hon. Gentleman has answered many questions.As the House knows, a committee of Liberal National Members recently made a report on the coal situation. We put forward four suggestions in particular. Those suggestions can be found in our report, which is in the hands of Members. The first point was that there should be a persistent campaign to convince the miners that they are working in the national cause. I am delighted that the Prime Minister is to broadcast in the near future. I believe, and I think most people believe, that his broadcasts will prove to be one of the decisive factors in the ultimate victory of the United Nations. I am sure that an appeal such as he can make to miners will not be made in vain. The second point we urged is that the miners must understand beyond any doubt that the result of any additional work they are asked to do does not pass in profits to the owners but goes to the benefit of the nation. The third point we urged was that the mining industry, like the agricultural industry, should be put under the wise control of the Government. That has been done, and I congratulate the Government on that solution. We anticipated their solution in our report. Lastly, we suggested that it was vital to give a sure prospect for the future for the men now engaged in the industry. I agree with so many speakers that the real trouble in the mining industry is not anything that is material; it is psychological. I have always felt myself that the miners have never had a square deal, and there is nothing that I would like so much as to see that they get one at last. How can production be increased? In the White Paper the emphasis is put on the need of concentrating available men and machinery on the more productive pits and seams. I am assured by every technical expert to whom I have spoken that this is really the essence of the problem. I realise the difficulties of it. The House will remember that this policy is very strongly emphasised in the report of the Samuel Commission. They will find it in the chapter on production, and I would add by way of parenthesis that that Samuel report pays for reading over and over again. It is a mine of information. The report of the Samuel Commission stated:
That is a very strong thing to say. I myself have in mind a colliery that a few years ago was employing about 2,000 men and had an output of 750,000 tons. They borrowed a large sum of money to re-equip the pit and put in better machinery, and within 18 months the output had gone up to 1,250,000 tons, and the cost of production had fallen by 2s. or 3s. per ton. That sort of thing means, if the price of coal remains constant, that more money goes in wages into the district through the ascertainments, more money goes to the Government through the E.P.D. paid by owners or, alternatively, the price can be lowered by 2s. or 3s. a ton to the consumer. That all came about by concentrating upon a first-class pit and seeing that it was properly developed. Everyone will agree that we have some of the best mines in the world. I am thinking of the new developments in East Fife, at Bolsover and in other districts where there is usually a number of first-class, well-equipped pits, but at the same time there is a great contrast in the existence of entirely uneconomic pits. I believe that the policy of concentration is of the essence of the whole thing and that that alone will make up the deficiency of production of 5 per cent., which is all that we require. I am very glad that the White Paper puts absenteeism in its proper perspective. My own view, after making inquiry, is that the miners are tired through working continuously for 2½ years at a rate at which they would not be working in peace-time. It is rather a shame to overemphasise the question of absenteeism. The older responsible miners resent it very much. It is confined to the younger men in the industry. I was interested in reading extracts from the Russian newspaper "Pravda" to find complaints that there were certain mines in Eastern Russia that were only working from 65 to 70 per cent. of their capacity, and on another day "Pravda" came out with a warning against absenteeism. It rather looks as though nationalisation is not always a cure for all the evils in the mining industry, because in no other country in the world is there so much control by State ownership. Be that as it may, I am glad that there is to be new machinery to deal with cases of voluntary absenteeism. It is not really fair to expect pit men to deal with their own kith and kin, and I am glad that the matter is to be put into the hands of an investigation officer. I want to say a few words about the consumption of coal. An expert committee under either the President of the Board of Trade or the Secretary for Mines has been examining the question of economics in the consumption of coal. I want to give one example, but I believe that it can be multiplied. I do not know what is the industrial consumption of coal to-day. Pre-war it was 60,000,000 or 70,000,000 tons a year, and now, of course, it is very much more than that. I am convinced that there is a tremendous wastage of coal in the industries that use Lancashire boilers. I know of a case where a company recently took over a cotton mill where there were four Lancashire boilers and the consumption of coal was between five and seven tons per day. The company immediately repaired the base wall and seatings and re-pointed the bricks and made the gas go under the boilers, with the result that within a week the consumption of coal had fallen from between five and seven tons to between two and a half and three tons a day. That mill, incidentally, was a going concern when it was taken over. There was thus a saving at the rate of 3,000 tons of coal a year. These kinds of cases can be followed up. My right hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that there must be an annual inspection of boilers on all industrial premises under the existing safety regulations, and here is a case where that point should be watched."If more undertakings would come up to the level of efficiency of the large ones the problem of restoring prosperity to the industry would be a long way nearer a solution."
On the question of rationing, am I right in thinking that it will be organised by the Board of Trade, or is it to be transferred to the new Fuel Department?
No, Sir, it is to be transferred to the new Ministry of Fuel'.
I think that that is wise. Experts who have great knowledge of rationing can go over to the Board of Trade and help my right hon. and gallant Friend. I am glad to hear that we shall have a chance of discussing the details of the scheme. In one particular this is surely wrongly framed. I am an East Anglian. I will not add the obvious remark about those who come from the East—
They come West and stay there.
—but I cannot for the life of me see why the allowance of coal should be greater for those who live in Scotland and the North and why, when you come into the Midlands you lose half a ton, and when you get down South you lose a whole ton. The expert who thought out that clever scheme knew nothing about meteorology. You have only to ask any expert meteorologist, and he will tell you that the cold patches of weather do not come from North to South; they come from the East to the West. If I send the President of the Board of Trade a diagram on this question, will he look into it?
I do not mind the principle of differentiation of the allowance if a scheme is scientifically accurate, but we should get more than the North-West of Scotland which is a temperate zone as compared with East Anglia. Finally, the miners must be assured of a better prospect for their industry. An investigation should be made forthwith. It should take account of the deep underlying discontent which miners feel about their wages being less in comparison with those in comparable industries and their amenities being less than those which are enjoyed by other people. A year ago I spent several days in South Wales, in the Rhondda Valley, and I was absolutely shocked at the housing conditions. No one has extended a greater welcome to the London evacuee than have the miner and his family. I was charged with the duty of looking into this question, and I saw people in the Rhondda Valley living in housing conditions which were an absolute disgrace to this country.
I am glad you are waking up now.
I believe that a happy spirit in the mining industry would do far more good than any other practical suggestion in the White Paper. That is why it is vital to hold out to the miners the prospect of an industry which is better organised and which will offer not only decent wages and conditions but an opportunity of happiness. Why should not the mining industry be a happy industry? I want the Lord Privy Seal and my right hon. and gallant Friend the new Minister to consider the point that sooner or later, and sooner rather than later, they must get their minds to work as to what organisation after the war will create this better condition of things. I hope they will not leave it too late. I hope they will set up the proper body now, and that miners' leaders will not be suspicious of any inquiry, whatever form it takes. I know their feelings about the Sankey Commission and other Commissions, but these inquiries have at least had the effect of educating public opinion in favour of the miners' case. Incidentally, I remember no other Commission whose recommendations were carried out to a greater extent than the four or five Reports of the Sankey Commission. Therefore, I hope that any experience of the past will not prevent the mining industry from welcoming an impartial inquiry by competent people so that we may try to devise a better organisation for the industry. If that can be done, it will be a tremendous contribution to the problems which will arise in postwar years. In conclusion, I only wish to say God-speed to my right hon. and gallant Friend the new Minister in the great opportunity which has now been presented to him.
I believe that when the reports of this Debate come out in the country the House of Commons will fall still further in the esteem of the nation as a whole. During the last few weeks excited discussions have been taking place among different organisations and interests on this problem. Not for a long time have I known more bitter controversy and keener division of opinion than have been aroused by this White Paper. But when the House of Commons itself comes to consider these proposals they are discussed in a tepid atmosphere, because all the various interests have been squared beforehand. Thus the House of Commons becomes merely a rubber stamp, endorsing decisions made behind closed doors by private interests. I consider that that is a disgraceful situation; it is one that Parliament will not survive if this sort of thing continues; it is one which is creating a tide of cynicism right throughout the country. The House laughed a few moments ago when, in reply to a question, Mr. Speaker. said that we frequently passed Measures authorising unknown amounts of expenditure. If such a statement had been made in any previous Parliament, the whole House would have been in an uproar.What are we doing? We are handing over to a Minister of the Crown unknown powers of patronage and corruption. He can appoint thousands of people, and I prophesy that he will appoint very nearly thousands of people if these proposals go through. We have not tied him in the slightest degree. There is no estimate of the amount to be spent. So disposed is the House of Commons that when the Government come forward with a White Paper containing fundamental proposals of this kind it does not even ask how much money it will cost and who is to find the money. The President of the Board of Trade, on behalf of the Government, after a Cabinet Committee has been sitting on this for many days, can come to the House and tell us he does not know what is the estimated expenditure and who will find the money. Such contempt have the Government for the docile sheep of the British House of Commons to-day. So low have we fallen. No other Government would have dared to have said it in any other House of Commons. This matter of finance is extremely important. It is to be discussed not with us—we do not count—by both sides of the industry. In other words, the coalowners and miners will discuss how much money the House of Commons is to be asked to find. We are merely marionettes. We shall be told what they have decided, and then we shall endorse it. What a disgraceful situation. It lowers the dignity of Parliament and, as I have said, makes us a series of rubber stamps. I understand that what may happen is this. After the usual tug of war between the Treasury and others the salaries Of the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretaries will be on a Vote of the House of Commons and will be provided by the Exchequer in the normal way, but probably the salaries of the executives the Minister will appoint will be on the revenues. It may not be so; all the salaries may be on the Exchequer, or they might all be on the industry. But if they are on the industry, under the present financial system of the industry, 85 per cent. of the cost of these proposals will fall on the miner. As the ascertainments are now made, 85 per cent. of the disposable surpluses go in increased wages and 15 per cent. in profits. If the costs of coal production are increased by this machinery, 85 per cent. of the additional costs will be found by the miners. I hope the miners will pay special regard to this, and insist that, as far as can be achieved, the costs of the new administration will be imposed on the general Exchequer. Furthermore, if they are imposed on the Exchequer, the House of Commons will have slightly more control over the administration of the machinery and will be able from time to time to call those concerned to book for misbehaviour. That is all I want to say about finance. I wish to make it clear that if you, Mr. Speaker, had called the Amendment which is on the Order Paper in my name, I would have voted for that Amendment, but I understand you do not intend to call it. There is only one good feature about the Government's scheme, and that is the appointment of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to be Minister of Fuel and Power. I wish he could have started his Ministerial career under better auspices than have been found for him in these proposals. It is extremely difficult to discuss the proposals. I have never seen such protean proposals. They change from hour to hour. We knew what they were last week, we knew what they were at the beginning of this week, I thought I knew what they were yesterday, but they are radically different to-day. Never have I known such a malleable scheme as the one that is before us. Yesterday, the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council told the House that the language used in describing the managements as continuing to be the servants of the coalowners was made with precision in order that there should be no doubt whatever as to what was the Government's intention. Now, however, only a few hours afterwards, that precision has become the most masterly ambiguity, because the President of the Board of Trade now tells us—and I am glad to hear it—that there is nothing in that language which prevents the managements from becoming the servants of the Minister.
I did not say that.
I am not trying to be tricky. I want to be quite fair. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that there was nothing in the language of these proposals that would prevent the Government, within the framework of the proposals, from considering taking the managements away from the owners and making them the servants of the State. If the Government were satisfied—I did not say the right hon. Gentleman had declared that they would be—that the managements, under the proposed arrangements in the White Paper, would not be effective and efficient executives of the Controllers, there was nothing within these proposals that would prevent the Government from considering taking the managements away from the owners and making them servants of the Controllers. I understand that is what the right hon. Gentleman said.
Would the hon. Member like me to read the words again? I would rather read words that were considered with some care than say "Yes" or "No" to the hon. Member's statement. I repeat what I have said already:
"In the event of the arrangement proposed in 16 (e) proving to be any interference with the fundamental purpose of the Government to obtain complete control of mining operations in all the pits, the Government will most certainy reconsider the relationship of the managers to the owners, with a view to making the Government's main object of full operational control completely effective."
There is no conflict between that language and the description I gave; in other words, the statement made by the Lord President of the Council yesterday, that the purpose of the precise language used in that provision was to avoid any misunderstanding, has now been replaced by the right hon. Gentleman's statement that, in fact, the managements can become servants of the Controllers if the Government so desire, without a new White Paper. We are now on shifting sands. We do not know where we are. I am very pleased indeed that the Government have not closed their eyes to that possibility, because I am certain they will be faced with it in the very near future. I believe that throughout Great Britain, among all classes of the community, there is a majority of more than 75 per cent. in favour of taking the pits entirely away from the coalowners. I see that the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Magnay) shakes his head in dissent. If to-morrow there were taken in this country a plebiscite on the issue whether the coal mines should be nationalised, there would be an overwhelming majority for that course. I make this challenge to the hon. Member for Gateshead. I will go with him to his constituency at any time he likes, and attend any meeting he likes to convene, and take the meeting away from him on that issue.
No. They are quite satisfied with me.
The credulity of certain people is amazing. I believe I am saying what most hon. Members in the House know to be true when I say that, in the matter of the mining industry, the House is well behind the country. That has been proved, and we do not need to prove it again. The reason the House is not nationalising the coal industry is that the House is not the servant of the people, but the instrument of vested interests. Have not those vested interests been fighting a rearguard action on this for the last two or three months? They know that very well. The coalowners are one of the most powerful vested interests in Great Britain, and the coalowners have on the other side of the House people who have fought, and still are fighting, to keep the coal mines in the hands of private owners, despite the fact that that is now helping to ruin the country in the middle of a war. When we say that on this side of the House, we know what we are talking about.
So do we.
The hon. Member does not. There is more unrest in the coalmining industry at the present time than I have known for the last 20 years.
And who instigated it?
Who instigated it, indeed. Does the hon. Gentleman think that 800,000 miners are such babies that they do not know their own minds, and that agitators can work upon their minds? They know what they want. The miners are in this agitated, cynical condition that even though they themselves believe in the war, there are more strikes going on now than for a very long time past. Any proposal which the House carries to increase coal production must satisfy one condition. It must not satisfy the condition that the House likes it, or even that the Miners' Federation may be prepared to accept it. It must satisfy the condition that the miners will approve of the scheme and work it enthusiastically. I prophesy—there is not an hon. Member on these benches who would not prophesy—that the miners of Great Britain will not operate this scheme enthusiastically. It will not produce a single additional ounce of coal. We know there is only one condition that would cause the miners to work enthusiastically, and that is that the pits should be taken away from the coal-owners. It is no use hon. Members opposite shaking their heads in dissent. They have been doing that for two years, and there is now a serious situation as a consequence. Nationalisation has ceased to be a political nostrum. It has become, to very large numbers of people, a basic condition of social reorganisation. The nationalisation, not of all industries, but of certain basic industries, is now regarded by all thoughtful and intelligent people as a prerequisite of good social planning. When hon. Members speak over the radio, when the Minister of Production, the Foreign Secretary and other Conservative Ministers make speeches about a new world and about new relations between the State and private industry, what do people understand them to mean by those words?The people think that the time has arrived when certain basic industries shall become national property. If the Ministers do not mean that, they are deliberately deceiving the people. If it is not possible during war-time, in the exceptional conditions of war, to nationalise the coalpits, it will never be possible in peace-time, and Members on this side of the House are deceiving themselves if they regard this as a first instalment to nationalisation. If hon. Members look at the scheme, they will see that there is not the slightest difference between it and the economic apparatus of Nazi Germany. This is economic Fascism in all its elements. This is a State-operated private industry, which remains private in the interests of the owners. Look at the Gilbertian situation which this scheme will produce. We are to set up a whole new apparatus of administration, costing large sums of money, in substitution of the apparatus which the owners have already, but the owners are to be allowed to be paid for the apparatus which will not be used. The directors will exist under this scheme, and they will receive directors' fees. We are creating the most highly-paid unemployed army in Great Britain, because all the executives which the right hon. Gentleman will substitute will still receive their revenue, they will have nothing to do, and, if they have, the right hon. Gentleman will be failing in his job. He proposes to take the management of the pits, the general direction of the pits, away from the coalowners, but the coalowners are still to remain in charge of the revenues of the industry, and so all these people are still to be paid out of the bloody sweat of the miners, although we deliberately take away all their executive functions. If that is not a fantastic situation, I do not know what is. The Lord President of the Council, in answer to a question, stated that the undertakings—mark the word "undertakings"—are to be asked to nominate the person who is to be the executive instrument of the controllers in that undertaking. That means that the ownership units and not the management units will meet as a board of directors—they cannot meet in any other way; they cannot get all the shareholders together—and at that meeting they will nominate the person who is to be the man to whom the Regional Controller will give his instructions. I ask the House whose creature that man will be. Will he be the Minister's creature, or the creature of the colliery owners? He will get his orders from the Controller, but the extent to which he will carry out his orders will be the extent to which the coalowners want him to carry them out, because he will look to them after the war for the continuation of his employment, and he will be paid by them. If the financial proposals go through, he will be the creature of the owners all the while. And so, you have the situation in which the regional board meets, and on the regional board will be a coalowners' representative and a miners' representative, and then a representative of the management, who is the coalowners' man, and a technician, who is also the coalowners' man. The poor Controller will ask advice of the board as to what is to be done, and he will get the advice the coalowner has prepared him to get, because the management will be his creature. The mining engineer will be his creature also, and the coalowner will be there to see that he carries out his instructions. The poor Controller will, therefore, receive the advice which the coalowners want him to get. Let us imagine the Controller is a man so strong minded that he overrules their advice. What happens then? He then gives his instructions to the other man who will also be appointed by the coalowners. Does anyone out of Bedlam imagine that the scheme is going to work except in accordance with what the coalowners want? I have not met a single person, entitled to speak with authority on this matter, who believes that it will work out in any other way. There is a coal-owner sitting on the opposite bench, and I venture to prophesy that he will not criticise these proposals; there is no reason why he should. The hon. Member does not want to part with even a semblance of control. He is not worried very much by the proposals, because he knows very well that furtively and clandestinely, behind the back of the Minister, the coalowners will burrow away, doing exactly what they have been doing all the time, and the Minister will be all the time picking the chestnuts out of the fire for them. Furthermore, the Miners' Federation is in danger of becoming the creature of the coal-owners. It cannot help itself. The Miners' Federation will have its representative on this machinery, but this machinery is part of the State machinery, and so the trade unions will be helping to operate a piece of State organisation while that organisation remains under private ownership. If the trade unions became part of a State apparatus, as in the Soviet Union, where industry is socialised, that would be a different matter, but, if industry is managed by the State and the unions become a part of State apparatus and the industry remains in private hands, then they make themselves partly responsible for administering it, and that is Fascism. That is exactly what happens in Germany. It is the Fascist labour front, and the nominees of the trade unions become gauleiters. However much hon. Members may grin, that is exactly what happens. Let us work it out in more detail. It is proposed that miners shall be transferred from one district to another, from one seam to another, and from one pit to another, moving them about like pieces on a chessboard.
Just like the soldiers and sailors.
And the hon. and gallant Member would like to have the miners in the same situation. These men are going to resent being moved. They resent it now very bitterly. They may have to be transferred from their homes. They are to be moved to better seams to produce more coal for more profits. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman succeeds in his task of producing more coal, he is bound to produce more profits, because the financial structure of the industry remains the same under these proposals. How are you to persuade miners to accept those disciplines, to work harder, to accept all the inconveniences, when out of it idle, function-less coalowners will be making more profits than they ever did before?—[Interruption]—If the hon. Member who interrupts had been here, he would know that I have already dealt with the 85 and the 15 per cent. I have not said for a moment that the men will not get more wages, but they will have earned them. They will have produced the coal. The owners will have done nothing, because the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is going to take over the management of the pits.It boils down to this, that the Mine-owners Federation, unless it is careful, will allow itself to become the instrument of the owners by forcing the miners to accept disagreeable conditions in an industry which still remains privately owned. It would be unpleasant if the industry were publicly owned to have to say to the men, "Your pit is closing. You will have to work at another coalfield 20 miles away." But you are doing that in a privately-owned industry. If that is not Fascism, I do not know what Fascism is. The miners have told the right hon. Gentleman clearly what their position is. They have said that in their judgment the scheme will not work. They have put valuable amendments before him. The first is that the industry ought to be national property. The second is that the management should be taken away from the coalowners and should be made the servant of the Ministry, because, unless you do that, the scheme is unreal. If there is one thing that the country must do in its reorganisation of industry, it is to draw sharply and clearly the line between public and private responsibility. Private enterprise cannot work efficiently in a straight waistcoat. It cannot work efficiently under ambiguous conditions. Responsibility must be placed clearly where it belongs. I admit that some industries should be left private property because of certain special conditions, but others should be national property because of their technical nature and their social importance, so that we should be able to say, "Here is a segment of State-owned and State-operated industry subject to such and such restrictions, controls and safeguards." Outside that area industry should be publicly owned. If you flow over from one to the other you get a set of chaotic conditions. This is not the scheme of intelligent men sitting down to work out a scientific proposal for the coal industry. It is a sordid and miserable compromise. In no part of it is it intelligent. It is not the product of the Leader of the House of Commons. He would not make a proposal of this sort if he had his own way. He is too intelligent for that. His mind is too tidy, too well-conceived and too disciplined to produce this abortion if he had his own way. So is the mind of the right hon. Gentleman next to him. He has a mind of very great lucidity and administrative grasp. Whose scheme is it then? It is the 1922 Committee's scheme, not the one that they would have produced if left entirely to themselves, but it represents a concession to the Conservatives inside the Cabinet—to reactionary influences. If my Amendment had been called I would have voted for it. I prophesy that before this scheme has been in operation two or three months the Government will have to take it all back or drastically reconstruct it. We know that it is wrong now. Why not put it right before it leaves the House of Commons? If the Government produce many more such proposals as this, it will be' necessary for some of us, not to vote against them from time to time as they come before the House, but to put down a Vote of Censure on the Government as being unworthy of the nation, as not being statesmen but the marionettes and puppets of private interests, manipulated from behind.
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member in his remarks, because they are so wild that they do not need any answer. First of all, I should like to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food on the great work that he has undertaken in accepting, as I understand he will accept, this new office. It is a very responsible position, and there is no doubt that it will be a very difficult one. At the same time I should like to congratulate the late Secretary for Mines on the great work that I consider he has done for the mining industry. It has been the fashion to decry him and to put on him the blame for such ill-success as may have been achieved by the coal industry, but, having heard him speak at meetings in aid of War Savings, meetings composed to a large extent of miners, I know that he is very popular with them, and I know that he has done his best to increase the production of coal and to improve the position of the miners. To my mind the mining industry suffers from propaganda. There is far too much propaganda and far too little truth. I consider that the Miners' Federation continually overstate their case, and when you continually overstate your case you eventually damn your case, and that is what will happen.We are supposed to be having a political truce. That is the reason why the mineowners have got into this rather difficult situation, because they have been trying all the time to increase the production of coal so that the country may not be in the deplorable state as regards coal production that some Members think it is in. They have been looking after their business, and others, politicians, and I think the Miners' Federation, have been looking more after propaganda. It would be quite easy for the mineowners to have a lot of propaganda and to go to the editor of the "Star" and ask him to put in something with regard to what they have done since the war in spite of their difficulties, in spite of the high cost of timber, in spite of the double cost of steel, in spite of emergency conditions, to maintain the output with a drop of only 8 per cent. per shift. We could pat ourselves on the backs and do a lot with regard to propaganda, but we have not done it because we thought there was a political truce. If the political truce is to come to an end and we are to fall back on propaganda, the Mining Association is quite capable of putting it across in propaganda as the Miners' Federation have done.
Did not the Mining Association circulate a pamphlet to every Member of the House?
That is true, but only after one had been circulated from the other side. It was full of incorrect statements, and it could be denied paragraph by paragraph. When incorrect statements and half truths are made it is only natural that a reply should be made. The "Star," in a leading article on 3rd June, pointed out the terrible conditions of the miners and said that the coalowners had such a black record. Have the coalowners a black record? Has the mining industry a black record? The record of the coalowners and the mining industry in recent years is as good as that of any other industry in the country. We get a lot of terrible misstatements, and we get the other side arguing all the time from the particular to the general. We had the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) stating yesterday that some poor fellow who had been brought out of the Army was killed at mid-day after being only five days in the mine, and that half a day's wage was taken away from his widow. I do not think that is correct. I do not think that it could take place under the Essential Work Order. Under that Order any man who goes down a pit gets a day's wage. I should like that statement, which was used to prejudice the mineowners, to be elucidated. If it did happen, it seems to me to be somewhat inhuman. In the firm I am connected with we do not take half a day's wages in such circumstances. Probably we pay the funeral expenses and do something for the widow. At my place we always give the widows coal and help them in other ways. To argue from the particular to the general in that way is to overstate the case. It must be due to the Celtic temperament that actuates Members from Scotland and Wales, and even from the North of England, as against the placid Midlander who carries on and achieves the best results both for the owners and for the men.One gets tired of listening to the drivel that is doled out from time to time in the House of Commons, often by Members who know nothing about the trade and its conditions. We have the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) telling us that if 50 per cent. of the coalowners were put in prison, the whole question would be solved. I suppose that I should be one of those who would go to prison, because I am not particularly friendly with the hon. Member for West Fife. I do not know whom he would put in prison. We have another Member telling us that if the coalowners were all to die tomorrow, the mines would go on just the same as ever so long as the miners did not die. That is more drivel. The coalowners and directors of the collieries are some of the most capable men in the country. They are not all puppet directors and people who do not know their business. They either know the business side or know the technical side. There may be one or two old gentlemen who have served their time in years gone by and who may not be so capable to-day as they were, but who are kept on as a sort of honour. Generally speaking, the owners and the directors are as capable as the miners of running the pits. If they were all to die to-morrow, especially some of the eminent men whom I know, the pits would for the time being be in rather a difficult position. All that sort of talk seems to get us no further. It is no good. It is drivel. It is doled out too much in this House. Then we have Members like the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland). I wish he were here. I think that he is a large landowner in Devonshire. He made certain statements about men working up to their waists in water. When he was corrected, he said, "What I really meant to say was that they had thigh boots on." That sort of thing is ridiculous. He mentioned Bedwas, and it will no doubt be answered by the authorities of that pit. He said that the miners were working in water although there was a nice dry seam that could have been worked but was not being worked, for what reason I do not know. I should imagine that an owner generally wants to make a little money while the going is good, and he would certainly not put people to work up to the waist in water if he had a nice seam of coal which could be worked easily and cheaply in producing coal for the country. The coalowners are not all wicked men any more than the miners are. There may be wrong ones among them, as there may be among the miners. It should not be forgotten that there are 100,000 shareholders in the mines of this country, many of them comparatively small people. Those who talk glibly about doing away with the coal-owners and taking everything from them have not had regard to the people, many of them small people, who have invested money in the mines. In all the concerns I am connected with the management are interested in the profits of their concerns and a great many of the managements have shares in them. It is true that there are 700,000 miners and that their needs have to be considered in every possible way.
Message to attend the Lords Commissioners.
The House went; and, having returned—
Mr. SPEAKER reported the Royal Assent to:
Question again proposed,
"That this House approves the proposals of His Majesty's Government embodied - in Command Paper No. 6364 relating to coal."
On a point of Order, I desire to know from the right hon. Gentleman who is at present leading the House whether the time of our Sitting can be extended, in view of the break which has occurred in our proceedings. Mr. Speaker has decided to call one Amendment and several hon. Members still wish to speak.
I should have to consult my right hon. and learned friend the Leader of the House before I could give an answer on that matter. It is the first time the question has been raised. I know that a number of hon. Members have made their arrangements already in other directions.
When this matter might have been considered at the opening of the Sitting, after Question time, there had not been the break which has just occurred, and although it might have been expected that an Amendment would still have to be called, hon. Members must agree that there cannot possibly be time adequately to discuss any Amendment if the present arrangements are carried out.
I will consult my right hon. and learned Friend, but I would remind the hon. Member that we have been held up for only ten minutes and that a large number of speeches were made yesterday. I should think it would more suit the convenience of the House to follow the present arrangements, as well as the convenience of hon. Members who desire to take part in the Division. A large number of them have already made arrangements.
When I was interrupted, I was referring to the fact that there are more than 100,000 shareholders in the coal trade, mostly small men, whose interests had to be considered. There are also 700,000 miners. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) has gone away. He made a rather lengthy speech, and I would have liked to—
May I point out that the hon. Member said at the beginning of his speech that he did not intend to refer to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan)? Because of that, my hon. Friend said he would not wait.
Oh, I see. I meant that I did not wish to refer to it in detail. In all these discussions on the coal trade, in this House, in the country and in the Press, it always seems to be assumed that if one is a coalowner, one has a double dose of original sin. Propaganda is always used against us, in spite of the fact that there is supposed to be a political truce. The record of the coal trade is not a black record. In 1938, after all the difficulties which we had before the war started, wages had advanced 85 per cent. over those of 1913. The cost of living had not advanced 85 per cent. when the war broke out. The Board of Trade figures are to be seen. To-day the cost of living is only 100 per cent. over 1913, and yet miners' wages are considerably higher than they were before the war. That is not a bad record. I have the figures here of what was being paid in wages in the different coal districts during March. For hon. Members to get up and say that the miner is poverty stricken and worse off than before the war is absolutely incorrect, and can be disproved. I have the Board of Trade figures here. They are supposed to be private and confidential, but I do not suppose there is anything in them that need not be disclosed. I am still dealing with the question of whether the coalowners have a black record.I see that in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, South Derbyshire and some other areas, wages have increased over three times since 1913. During the month of June the wages to be paid will be round about 19s. per shift in Leicestershire. We paid 19s. 3.09d. in March. In Nottinghamshire they paid 19s. 3.4d. per shift. In South Derbyshire they paid 18s. 9d. per shift. In Yorkshire the figure was 16s. 6d. per shift. In Yorkshire there is an allowance for free coal and there are certain amounts for free houses for some of the men.
There are no free houses. You are talking without your bat.
Whether I am talking without my bat or not, a note is made in the Government figures with regard to allowances in kind in Yorkshire, and they amount to something like 4d. per shift. That may be free coal or coal at considerably reduced prices.
That is it.
These figures show a certain disparity. There is the difficulty that a man working in one place may have his two sons working in two different coalfields, and they will all get different rates of pay. To say that these men are badly paid is wrong when you find that some of them earn more than £400 a year at the face. I saw Income Tax returns recently showing that deductions had been made from wages on the basis of £400 a year or more. Men at the face can easily earn 30s. or 35s. a day in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, South Derbyshire and Warwickshire, if they like to work. In Leicestershire the average per shift was 19s. 3.09a. That amount includes workers on the surface as well as boys, men underground and everyone employed at the pit, and that average shows that some of the men must be getting very considerably more than 19s. 3d. Naturally, they are entitled to it, but there it is.There is a certain discrepancy about these figures. To say that all men are badly paid is not right. In some parts of the country men may not be as well paid as they ought to be. As to all the" talk about the £4 5s. minimum, there are no miners working underground who receive as low a payment as £4 5s. per week. I have not any on the surface that receive as little as that. Mine happens to be a good district. I daresay in some places in Yorkshire they get 70s. or 75s. for work on the surface. Is it suggested by the Miners' Federation that work on the surface is really worth £4 5s. per week? I believe in Russia that women screen the coal. Is it suggested that workers who have only to pick out the shale from the coal on the screens are worth £4 5s. a week? Their work is not as hard as that of agricultural labourers, and by the same standard agricultural labourers should receive £5 per week. I think I have shown that miners' wages have advanced in every district, certainly to a greater extent than has the cost of living, and in some districts very considerably more. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) said yesterday that the coal-owners always had a dog-in-the-manger spirit, and that they had never done anything or taken any notice of anything. But mechanisation in the pits has been increased by three times since 1913, and to-day 56 per cent. of all the coal in the country is mechanically got.
It must be a panzer division.
In some pits over 90 per cent. is mechanically mined. Some collieries are not suitable for the introduction of mechanical mining. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland) in his place. He made certain statements yesterday with regard to the Bedwas Colliery, which I understand will be answered in due course, because they were entirely incorrect. I was really surprised that he should make such statements, and I hope and feel sure that they Will be disproved. I wonder whether he would like to apply the principle of nationalisation to his own land. I wonder whether he would apply the £4 5s. minimum to his own agricultural labourers.
I would like to know that.
I certainly would. I would like to see agricultural workers' wages raised, but I do not think you can deal with this thing by the piecemeal raising of wages within the present structure. The only way to deal with anomalies as between one set of wage-earners and another—and there are very many such anomalies—is on the basis of common ownership nationally, and then, when no private interests are getting their whack out of the reductions or increases in wages, as between one set of wage-earners and another, the anomalies could be smoothed out. But you cannot do it piecemeal.
I am glad to know that the hon. Member is in no immediate danger of being ruined by increasing his agricultural labourers' wages to £4 5s. a week. Possibly he may reduce his labourers' rents and so on, and in that way set a good example.
I cannot give way again. I was surprised that the hon. Member mentioned Bedwas, and utilised that as an argument in saying that coalowners were working bad seams instead of working good seams, because he knows that that is contrary to the whole economy of the coal trade and to the mentality of the coalowners. If they can work a nice dry seam, of course they will work it, and if a man is working in a wet seam he is working there for some purpose, either to develop a seam or to get into some other seam. The hon. Member does not seem to know that in every area in this country a mining expert is sent round by the Department of Mines to see that there is no holding back of the best seams. He has to report to the Department of Mines that there is none of it. What the hon. Member stated was very misleading and very wrong; it can be entirely disproved, and I can only assume that he utilised that argument to prejudice the issue.As I say, the coal trade is 56 per cent mechanised. Where is the money to come from for the extra wages that are desired? I do not know what will be the decision, but the fact remains that profits in the mining industry are about the level of £10,000,000 a year at the present time. This proposal, if granted in full, would mean £40,000,000, which the public would have to pay either by an increase in the cost of coal or by an increase in the subsidies from taxation. Practically the whole of the proceeds of coal to-day are going in wages and other costs. Somethink like £150,000,000 a year is spent in wages, other costs may be £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 and there is a matter of £10,000,000 left to the coalowners, which is not 10 per cent. of the wage bill. There is no other industry in the country which is satisfied to receive only 10 per cent. of the wage bill. There is no other industry in the country in which labour gets two-thirds of the total proceeds. If coal is sold at 24s. at the pit-head, the miner is receiving 16s., or two-thirds, in direct wages, apart from such things as National Health Insurance, pit-head baths and all that sort of thing, so it is certainly untrue to say that the coal trade has a bad record. Admittedly, in some cases, output has gone down to a certain extent, but it has gone down only about 8 per cent. per shift, which I think is quite good. In some collieries—I am interested in two myself—output has increased. In one, partly by mechanisation and partly owing to the fact that we are able to work full time, it has increased by nearly 80 per cent.; in another it has increased by 20 per cent., even if others may have gone down. The late Secretary for Mines knows quite well that in the districts of South Derbyshire and Leicestershire output has gone up quite considerably, and we have done a little to help the country to get the coal so much desired. As I have said before, I think it must be that in the placid Midlands they do not have many strikes, the men produce the coal and get higher wages. Every time there is a strike the miner is cutting his own throat, because 85 per cent. of the proceeds, after paying minimum wages and other costs, goes to the men and only 15 per cent. to the owners, and every time a colliery is on strike the proceeds go down. No coal is sold at the pit-head, and the expenses incurred in keeping the pit open still go on, although there is no revenue coming in. There is another point I wish to make, and that is with regard to the selling-price. I think I have shown that miners' wages have at any rate gone up over 50 per cent. on the average since the war started, and in some cases have gone up to nearly double. The selling-price of coal has gone up only by one-third. Is that a black record? We are paying three times as much for our timber, twice as much for our steel and various other things, and yet the pit-head price in 1941 was 22s. a ton compared with 15s. a ton in 1938. That, of course, is an average between slack and best coal. The other day an hon. Member raised the question as to how it was that so much more had to be paid for coal in London, and stated that the railwaymen did not get it. The hon. Member said that he understood that the price of coal was only about 23s. at the pit-head, and he wanted to know why it cost so much. Of course, coalowners do not sell hand-picked coal at the pit-head at the same price as slack. There are all sorts of prices. The price of house coal might be 33s., and if you add the cost of railway transport at, say, 15s., that brings it up to 48s. Then there is the merchant who has to deliver it, bag it and so on, so that it is easy to see how the price of £3 per ton is arrived at. I am quite aware that the miners are only looking upon this measure as a step forward, if you like—I do not know myself whether it is a step forward—but at any rate the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) said it was only a step forward, and that it would ultimately lead to nationalisation, and that that was what the Miners' Federation were out for. I think the country will want to know, before there is any nationalisation, what examples there are where nationalisation has succeeded in any part of the world. I suppose I shall get the answer that in Russia the collieries are nationalised. I reply to that that the Russian miner does not get as much money, and never has done, as the miner in this country. That can be proved by the figures of the International Labour Office of the League of Nations, which have been published and which can be cited. Before nationalisation comes in, the people of this country will want some evidence as to what has happened in other industries which have been nationalised. How was it that before the war ships could always be built more cheaply in shipyards run by private enterprise than those built in Admiralty yards? They always could before the war. The answer has been given several times from the Front Bench as to why contracts have been given to Beardmore's and to Vicker's—that the vessels could be built more cheaply and efficiently. Otherwise more would have been built in Government dockyards. It is said that it is the profit motive which the coalowners are after. Profits are going down and down, and are less than almost in any other trade to-day, and if a colliery does manage to earn profits over and above what it earned before the war there is the Excess Profits Tax. What about the shareholders? There are 100,000 of them. No doubt some time or other some of the hon. Members opposite will be appealing to the country, and they must not forget that there is a middle class in this country. There are 100,000 shareholders in the collieries, most of them small people. If Members opposite are simply to go out at the elections for one sectional interest and are not going to deal fairly with all the interests in the country, they will ultimately be beaten. There is no evidence at all that anybody works any better for the State than they work for a private enterprise. There is no evidence that a county council workman does any better than a workman employed by a road contractor. If this increase in wages is given without any consideration to output, it will be a failure; you will not get the coal. But if you can devise some scheme by giving a wage increase based on output, you may get some increase in coal production. But as I say, this is looked upon by the Labour party as being only, so to speak, a sop to Cerberus. A sop will never satisfy them. I hope they will leave all this bitterness of feeling until after the war, and let us settle it when the war is over. This is not the time to have all this bitterness. Let us stop this bickering, let us have good will in the industry. If this Is done, and if we all pull together, I have no doubt that we shall get more coal than we are getting at the present time.
I beg to move, in line I, to leave out from "House," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
My hon. Friends and I are profoundly dissatisfied with the scheme as presented by the Government, a dissatisfaction which I gather is shared by many hon. Members above the Gangway, a dissatisfaction which I gathered from his closing remarks is shared by the President of the Board of Trade. He said frankly that this is a compromise scheme. I remember the President of the Board of Trade in 1929–30, the late right hon. William Graham, presenting a coal scheme in those days and saying frankly that it was a compromise scheme. All along, whether there was the excuse of a war, or without the excuse of a war, never would any Government face the position and say, "What is best for the mining industry? Let us do it. What is best for the fuel supplies of the nation? Let us do it." This problem has come up periodically. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has been in the House nearly as long as I have been in it myself. We have the privilege of seeing him in the House only on the occasions when the coal industry is being discussed. When he thinks his own industry is in danger he comes on to those benches and shouts, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians." Never once has the question been discussed by this House and faced by the Government of the day as a problem of politics, as a problem of economics, as a problem of sociology. How can we get full production in the industry on such a basis that fuel will be available for all the needs of industry, all the domestic needs of the nation and a surplus for export, and at the same time provide a livelihood for the men doing the essential work, and provide conditions of work which our own conscience will make us feel are right? Never has that been the situation. Always discontents have had to arise: the crisis has to come, and then the Government of the day, as has been said very well by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), listen to all the parties that are interested, and always succumb to, not the big battalions, but the financially strong battalions. The hon. Member for Belper (Mr. Wragg) has told the House that miners' wages are being increased by 50 per cent. One recognises that there have been rising prices in various directions throughout the country, a very big drop in the numbers of men available in the industry, and a very great increase in the demand and a much more secure market for coal than is normally found. It is not surprising that the miners' wages should have gone up. If it be true that they have gone up by 50 per cent.—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is not true."] I am accepting as true the hon. Member's statement that since the outbreak of war miners' wages have increased by 50 per cent. I have a list of wages at present paid. It was sent to me by a friend of mine, who is a miners' leader in the North. According to the list, the day-time rate for underground workers in Durham is 11s. 6¾d."condemns the Government scheme for the reorganisation of the mining industry as it is framed with too great regard for the private interests of the coalowners and too little appreciation of the hardships and dangers of the workers in the industry; is of opinion that the only way to provide for an adequate coal supply and a contented industry is by its reorganisation along with its associated industries on the basis of communal ownership and control with a guaranteed adequate minimum wage paid to its workers comparable with the wages in the best paid industries; and with satisfactory arrangements for the provision of an adequate supply of coal to the poor people of the country more especially during the winter months."
I have here the official figures, from the Mines Department. The average figure for men and boys is 15s., plus 1s. 3d. allowance for wages in kind, which makes 16s. 3d.
Is the hon. Member quoting average earnings?
I am quoting the figure for every man and boy, everybody employed.
The hon. Member is quoting average earnings. He has told us about those who are earning £400 a year.
Those are the average earnings in Durham, for everybody employed.
The underground day rate in Durham at the present time is 11s. 6¾d. All of us know the circumstances by which there are people who get more than that daily; but that is the standard rate, what they are entitled to, what they can claim, and what a fair proportion of them get. In South Wales the rate is somewhat higher—13s. 6d. underground, and 13s. 1d. on the surface. If the hon. Gentleman will do a little simple arithmetic, and deduct that 50 per cent. increase from that 11s. 6¾d. a day, or from I2S. 3d., or from the 16s. 3d. that he talked about, he will have a pretty good picture of what the earnings of the miners were before the war.
That is entirely wrong. I did not say that every individual in every district had a 50 per cent. increase. I said—and I make the statement now—that the average throughout the country is more than 50 per cent.
That is my point. If miners' wages have increased by 50 per cent. during the war, the hon. Member can see from these figures—
What is the authority for your figures? Mine are from the Mines Department.
These are from a mines department, but a different kind of mines department from yours. But I did not get on my feet to deal with the hon. Member for Belper. Nor do I propose to deal with the detailed contents of this scheme, which is sponsored by my two right hon. Friends on the Government bench. There are, however, one or two things to which I must call attention. I come to a point which is of importance to us with reference to our Amendment, because we claim that the whole fuel problem should be considered as one, that electricity, gas, etc., should all come under the purview of the new Minister. In the regional control there is machinery by which that happens. The Controller will have the assistance of three directors: one concerned with technical engineering aspects, one with labour questions, and one with public service. I cannot find anything in the national machinery which empowers the Minister to go to the gas undertakings generally.
The powers which are at present with the Board of Trade are being transferred to the Ministry. That was in the announcement about the Ministry.
Announcements do not make law.
Orders in Council do.
Will the Minister now assume all the powers, duties, and rights formerly assumed by the Electricity Commissioners and so on?
The new Minister of Fuel and Power will now take many other powers, the same powers in respect of electricity and gas which I, as President of the Board of Trade, have hitherto had. Since the formation of the Ministry of War Transport electricity has been with the Board of Trade, whereas formerly it was with the Ministry of Transport. Gas has been with the Board of Trade for many years, and is now being transferred to the new Ministry.
May I take it that the new Minister will have all the necessary powers to deal effectively with coal, gas, and electricity?
Yes. Let me make it perfectly clear. He is taking the existing powers which now rest with the President of the Board of Trade. Whether those powers are adequate or not is a matter for debate.
Including the fixing of prices for coal, gas, and electricity?
Some of the powers go to the new Minister, but others remain outside his control.
He takes all the powers now with the Board of Trade with regard to gas and electricity.
I am very glad that it is proposed to have some regard to the health of the miners by developing a special health service with which they will be specially concerned. I do not know why that could not have been done long ago, and I cannot say that I like the way in which it is being launched nor some of the reasons given in the White Paper. It is said that it should be possible to reduce the numbers of those leaving with medical certificates on account of sickness of a not very serious character. In many cases miners suffering from illness or from some physical unfitness could be retained in industry if further arrangements were made for medical treatment. The Government therefore propose to establish a medical consultative service for the mines. I have a very great fear that these men are not going to perform the high functions of the medical profession but will be additional disciplinary workers to drive men back into the pits when their ordinary panel doctor, the man who knows them, would give them the necessary sick line for leave of absence. Every Member of this House has had too big an experience of medical men examining recruits for the Army and shoving them into it to be very confident that the medical profession, when it is in this sort of relation, is going to consider the health of the miner first and other things in a very secondary position.Although I think it is a good thing that there is to be a specialised medical service for the miners, its declared objects at the moment are something different from what this implies, a harsher and stricter certification of health. A man goes home unwell, and he goes to see his panel doctor, who say, "Lay off for a couple of clays, and we will see how you are." This medical service presumably comes in on top of the panel doctor and says, "You are quite fit and must go down the pit to-morrow." I cannot say that that would be a great addition to the welfare conditions of the men in the pit. These are the only detailed points that I want to raise in connection with the scheme itself. I will devote myself now to the Amendment which urges the taking-over of the mines into the public ownership and control of the nation. I regret that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) and the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) are not in their places at the moment. They have been in very regular attendance and have shown themselves in general to be against the idea of a national service for the miners. I want to ask both these hon. and gallant Gentlemen whether, if I came to this House and proposed that the Royal Navy could be better run by private enterprise and that we should hand the management and control of it over to the shipping companies to be run for profit, and for each of the competing shipping companies to make the best out of it, they would not turn round on me and say that I was trying to sabotage the war effort.
I do not think that I would say that of my hon. Friend but would rather be inclined to think that there was something that was not quite right with him.
If I had been fortunate enough to catch the Speaker's eye, my hon. Friend would have heard exactly what I think of what is happening in the mining industry and proposals for bettering the output more effectively than would be likely to occur if nationalisation were accepted.
The hon. and gallant Member for Epsom gives me an answer that suits me better than that of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Portsmouth. The hon. and gallant Member for Epsom says that if I were to propose handing the Navy back to private enterprise to be run by the shipping companies, he would think that I was wrong in the head. I think that when he resists a proposal to turn the mines over to the nation he is just making exactly the same kind of mistake.
The Royal Navy has never belonged to private enterprise.
What about the Merchant Navy?
The hon. Member is making a mistake. The Royal Navy used to take up merchant ships, but when taken over they belonged to the Royal Navy.
What about the good old days of private enterprise when we got up an expedition and fought His Majesty's enemies on the high seas and made what profits we could out of it?
Has not the hon. Member ever fought for the I.L.P.?
There are things to be said for both. Let me try to get the House to see this thing in its proper perspective. I recollect that in the last war there was not this trouble about the shortage of coal. If my recollections are correct, both the industrial and the domestic consumers got their supplies without rationing. I think we also gave supplies to our Allies, France and Italy. At the end of the war there was an outcry from people like the hon. Member for Belper, and all the control had to be removed at once. There was a terrific slump in miners' wages. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan) referred to it yesterday as being a 75 per cent. drop. There was a strike which lasted for three months, the condition of the men was simply deplorable, and the misery in the mining villages was heart breaking.
The hon. Member has made a serious misstatement. The Mining Association strongly objected to control being taken off suddenly in the way that it was.
Control was taken off. Miners' wages were cut in the interests of international competition, and I want the House to note this, that it was following that struggle that the Labour party came into this House, to become the official Opposition for the first time, in 1922. In the following year they became the Government. In 1924 the Baldwin Government came into power, and in 1926 there was the great General Strike. That strike proved that every section of the working-class movement, and many other sections in the community not of the working class, felt that the nation was not treating the miner justly. Throughout the length and breadth of this land people were moved as never before.
Why did the Trades Union Congress talk about betraying them?
Do not talk about betrayal now.
A. J. Cook did.
The strike collapsed after the Government of the day had turned out the Army, Navy and Air Force, but for six months afterwards the miners remained on strike. Then came the Labour Government of 1929–31, which had to face up to the situation again. As I said in my opening remarks, they allowed themselves, through the exigencies of the Parliamentary situation and other things, to agree to a compromise, just as we are being asked to accept a compromise scheme to-day. When will the House learn? Nearly all the speeches from the other side have been based on speaking nicely to the miners. Well, I know miners very well; I have lived in many miners' homes in different parts of the country, and I know that they are the least gullible people in the world. You will not gull them by nice words, or even by the eloquent phrases of the Prime Minister over the radio. I will not say that you will face a great struggle at this juncture, but if you postpone the operation of a scheme as laid down in the Amendment of my hon. Friends and myself, you will have one of the most bitter struggles you have ever seen in this country.Remember, it was the miners who first brought working men on to the Floor of this House nearly 60 years ago. Miners founded the great Labour Party. Robert Smillie and Keir Hardie pioneered the conception of a Labour party separate from a capitalist party. It was the affiliation of the miners' unions with the Labour party that made a great political party in this country. Always the rank and file of the miners sent ministers here. Even the President of the Board of Trade sits on that Front Bench by the work of miners. Always have they thought that one day they would be free men in an honoured industry in which they would not merely work and toil but in which they would have an effective say. Until they get that, there will be no satisfaction, and no nice words or plausible talk about what will be done for them in the future will remove the grievance which rankles in their breasts. I want to say to the hon. Members with whom I have had a long and friendly personal association in this House that I have watched their attitude on this Measure. I am one of those who would like to see a world made happier by being run in a kindly way rather than by cruel and brutal methods. My philosophy has always been that I wish we could always have friendly agreement and understanding. I say to these hon. Gentlemen that if their attitude on general post-war reconstruction and the new order is to be of the same kind as that which they have manifested in their attitude towards this Measure, then God help Great Britain.
I beg to second the Amendment.I do not wish to be long in doing so, because I do not think I can add very much to what has already been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). As I see it, this country needs coal, and the mining industry is not able to produce the goods. The Government, by their scheme for the reorganisation of the mining industry, have plainly shown that they have not much faith in it, because in the Annex to the White Paper they say that there will be a rationing scheme if the coal cannot be produced. I think the Government are right in their appreciation of their own scheme. It is a miserable piece of work. Some way had to be found by the Government out of the position in which they found themselves, and so we get this White Paper which first promises something bold and says that the Government will take full control of the industry but is then followed by words which show that this control will mean little or nothing. No hon. Member who has spoken in the Debate has shown any very great faith in the Government's scheme. The proposals have been damned with faint praise. Some hon. Members have said that if the scheme is put into operation and if a bonus system is brought into being, there may be a certain amount of increased production. I do not think the scheme will be of any use. It will take up time, and I consider that the country may be faced with a very great crisis because of the loss of time involved by this scheme. If there comes an industrial crisis caused by lack of coal for the war effort, the Government will have to take their responsibility for that position, as also will Members of the House, who see this position developing while this abortive scheme is put before them for consideration. I believe there are only two ways of dealing with the situation. Either the private owners should be left in control of the industry, and given, if necessary, subsidies to enable them to provide the miners with a decent standard of life, and given every encouragement to carry on the industry. Or, on the other hand, there should be a scheme of communal ownership of the industry. This miserable pretence of public control in the Government's scheme, which does not really mean public control, will simply have the effect of hindering production and creating a more impossible situation in the near future. I see no hope for the miners in this scheme. I see in it no hope for the ordinary people of the country, who are in need of coal, getting adequate supplies. I see no hope for the industries of the country being adequately supplied as a result of these proposals. There has been a long fight for the nationalisation of the mining industry. The miners have contributed more than any other section of the community to the advance of this country, and we owe it to the miners to give them their industry, into which they have put their blood and sweat and tears. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton said, if the attitude of hon. Members and the Government is an indication of what we have to hope for in the future at the end of this war, that future will be blacker even than the days which followed 1918, with all the unemployment and trouble in the mining industry and the other industries of the country. I want the country to take note of these things. I appeal to hon. Members in all parties to face the real problem and to get away from the pretence in these proposals. If hon. Members are honest with themselves, they know that the Government's scheme is a mere pretence of dealing with the problem of the coal industry. I ask hon. Members to insist that steps be taken to deal effectively with the coal industry, whether by nationalisation or otherwise. Do not let us be taken in by this miserable plan in which nobody realty believes. I appeal to hon. Members to take their courage in their hands, to go into the Division Lobby against this pretence of the Government, and to insist that the Government bring forward a great scheme of communal ownership of the industry which will give the miners hope for the future and mean that the miners will not be serfs in the industry, but will be working to provide for the happiness and welfare of all, and not for the private profit of a few.
I have not had the opportunity of taking part in recent Debates on the coal industry, and although a great deal of ground has already been covered in the Debate, I would like to make one or two general statements. I do not propose to follow the speeches of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen), other than to say that if the eloquence and sincerity of the hon. Member for Bridgeton were on a par with his knowledge of statistics, I do not think the House would take him very seriously. The whole crux of his speech, I think, was his assumption that in the latter part of the last war we were producing all the coal we needed both for home purposes and for some of our Allies. The hon. Member forgets that at that time there were nearly 1,100,000 men in the industry, whereas to-day our great problem is to produce the coal required with slightly over 700,000 men.Before making some general observations, I should like to add my congratulations to those that have been forthcoming from all quarters of the House to the new Minister for Fuel and Power and to the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) on his appointment as Joint Parliamentary Secretary. I can think of no happier selections or ones more calculated to inspire the confidence of the mining industry, the consumers, and the House. If there is any regret to be expressed, I think it is that the creation of this Ministry should have been delayed 17 years after its recommendation by the Samuel Commission. I think, moreover, that we may congratulate the new Minister not only on his appointment and his elevation to Cabinet rank, but on the powers and machinery in. the proposals in the White Paper with which he is now furnished. The hon. Member for Cam lachie said that he had not come across anybody who was wholeheartedly in favour of the White Paper. But for some slight criticisms, I can assure him that I am wholeheartedly in favour of the plan now being adopted.
What I said was that, while I heard Members speaking in favour of the scheme, there was no indication from anyone that the plan would increase production. Does the hon. and gallant Member think that it will?
Yes, Sir. As I develop my speech, I will try to show how, if this plan is effectively put into operation, it will, in due course, increase production. I see no purpose at this moment in criticising the Government for having delayed so long. Some of us thought that a scheme of this nature ought to have been adopted from the commencement of the war, and I think the remarkable thing it that we find ourselves in no worse condition than we are. We might easily have had a number of power stations and pits put out of production by enemy action had the war taken another course, and there might have been a far greater strain on our mining man-power. As it is, we find ourselves with a gap which has to be closed. It is not a very large gap, but it is a gap which will, in due course, if it is not dealt with, become increasingly large. There is little justification in not recognising either for the eventualities I have mentioned, or the inevitable increased demand for coal brought about by the expansion of industry due to the war. The coal industry has been adequate to deal with pre-war national purposes when a great many concerns were producing coal effectively and adequately for their own local demands. It has now been found that the industry can no longer function effectively in what is really a mass production basis without a considerable degree of rationalisation. For the moment the present system has to go by the board, and something has to be substituted in its place. We have to face up to the necessity of concentrating men and material to the greatest use, and introducing machinery to bring about increased production with the minimum amount of man-power available to our hands.Statistics, particularly as they affect the coal trade, are apt to be misleading, but we cannot disregard the difference between 20 cwt. and 30 cwt. per manshift in the same districts, or the difference in output between coalfields. Still less can we disregard the difference in output between this country and the United States. In the United States they are producing 1,200 tons of coal per man per year, as against 300 tons in this country. We all know that we can discount a great part of that difference owing to the difference in conditions in the two countries, but it cannot be completely disregarded. Before the war I had opportunities to visit all the major coal-producing countries in the world, and I think it is true to say that in recent years the United States, Germany and ourselves enjoyed cycles of efficiency, and that France, Poland and Russia had not attained the same standard during that period. Most recently America was going ahead, particularly in the use of power-loading machinery. In this country we have a number of technical men who are as good as any in the world, and in my submission the solution to the problem confronting the new Minister lies primarily in paragraph 9 (iii). In that paragraph are set out the means by which, through grouping concerns into control able units, the Minister can turn the efforts of these efficient technical men to the best account. The problem is chiefly one for the mining engineer. Just as it is necessary to rationalise men and machinery and concentrate their use where they can win the most coal, so it is necessary for the Minister to use the technical efficiency at his disposal to help him produce the maximum amount of coal. I am not sure from the White Paper how he proposes to find and use that technical efficiency. In my view there are just so many men capable of carrying out the proposals envisaged in the White Paper and these men will of necessity be engaged at the collieries. I do not know whether it is the intention to use them part-time. I see that "The Times" suggests that there are large numbers of technical men available for the Minister's purpose, but I think that that is an exaggeration. Certainly there is a fair number, but is by no means a large number. It is a very real problem which the Minister will have to face up to. I think, in view of the immense amount of work which in the initial stages will have to be undertaken by the Controller-General and by the Controllers, consideration might be given to the question of their having assistance, otherwise there may be some considerable delay in getting the scheme under way. I do not think, whatever steps are taken to-day, the Minister can expect to see any improvement in less than eight or nine months and that is why, if for no other reason, we should go ahead at the earliest moment with plans both in regard to the concentration of men and machinery and to the grouping of pits into more economic units as I have suggested. I am glad that the Government have resisted the appeal to withdraw any considerable number of men from the Army. We all want to see a second front and, as the President of the Board of Trade said the other day, who would like to embark on a second front without the Durham Light Infantry, the Northumberland Fusiliers or the South Wales Borderers, and I think he might have added the Sherwood Foresters? I can think of nothing which would give the Germans greater pleasure than to feel that those regiments, and others of a similar nature, were going to be withdrawn from whatever Force we may propose shortly to put on the Continent. I am sorry to see in the White Paper no allusion to the Miners' Welfare Commission. However important the work they do in peace-time, it is doubly important in war-time, and I do not see that you can legislate for moving men about within the country without very serious consideration to their welfare interests. I do not propose to say anything about absenteeism except that I am glad to see that it has been put into its proper perspective. I am convinced that cases are very few. The figure of 5.66 shifts per week speaks for itself. They are the same few who are not prepared to work for the profit motive, and equally are not prepared to work in case they pay Income Tax to the State. I think we should be wise to desist from perpetual reference to the question of absenteeism. I am glad to see that the responsibility for dealing with this problem is being withdrawn from the pit production committees and that they will be enabled thereby to carry out their main function, which it seems to me should never have been one concerned primarily with the question of absenteeism. The medical arrangements are all to the good, but I should like to see an increase in rehabilitation centres. They have done immensely good work, but they are all too few. I wonder if it would be possible for the miners' welfare funds to be used to increase them. After all, they deal primarily with men who have experience in the industry and who are wanted badly at the earliest possible moment. The White Paper does not mention strikes, but we cannot ignore them. They have been taking place, and they have been on the increase recently. I am afraid they may continue until we have reached a settlement, both in regard to what we are considering to-day and in regard to the matter of wages. Whereas in the last war industrial unrest in the coal trade was due primarily to the cost of living rising more sharply than miners' wages, I think the reason to-day is almost entirely the disparity of wages in the mining industry as against those enjoyed in munition works in particular. Perhaps the National Tribunal will pay particular attention to that aspect of the matter. However important are the matters that I have referred to, we must not lose sight of the fact that the underlying principle of the proposals in this White Paper is the matter of increased production. I am pleased that in due course we shall be able to produce more coal. I feel that at long last we have produced the means and the machinery by which we can do something which will be to the nation's interest not only at this moment but in the equally difficult times which will he in front of us after the war. We have the machinery and the tools to hand and the good wishes of all of us are with the new Minister in the task that lies ahead of him.
We have had something like 12½ hours of Debate, and we have had something like 35 speeches, very few of which have been whole-hearted in support of the scheme. The ground covered by the White Paper has certainly been well trodden—I might almost well say well ploughed-up. There have been those who have felt that the White Paper, being a compromise, was of necessity unacceptable to the majority of the House, who, however, owing to political exigencies, were finding it possible to feel that the best thing was not to oppose it. I should be much happier in delivering a speech on the lines of the eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). I often feel happier on the platform in delivering propaganda speeches. Most of us on this side of the House are happier in propaganda, but I am not too sure that this is an occasion for a propaganda speech. This industry, in which I have spent the whole of my life, is confronted with a very difficult problem, and we who have responsibilities are compelled to get down to face it.Before dealing with the main portion of the White Paper, I would like to refer to the postponement of rationing. On 13th May, when my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal made the announcement that the previous White Paper had been withdrawn and that the Government were considering a White Paper which would take in production as well as rationing of consumption, I ventured to ask whether the views of the Mineworkers' Federation of Great Britain would have the same weight as those of the 1922 Committee. He replied:
I do not know much about the 1922 Committee, but they seem to me to be a very formidable and influential body. Whether they were consulted or not they seem to me almost to determine Government policy. Previous to the last White Paper they were consulted. As a result of those consultations that White Paper was withdrawn. Previous to this White Paper they were not consulted, I understand, but rationing has been postponed—just the thing they asked for. We in the Miners' Federation have been consulted throughout. We have had many consultations with the Government, but I am satisfied that the 1922 Committee carry more weight without consultation with the Government than the Miners' Federation do with consultation. In my opinion we are discussing this White Paper to-day mainly because of the influence of the 1922 Committee in this matter. I realise that we have men in the Government who have throughout their lives been friends of the miners. The Lord Privy Seal himself rendered us invaluable service over the Gresford explosion that we shall never forget. He showed himself then, as he has on many occasions, to be a good friend to the miners. I know that he and my right hon. Friends the President of the Board of Trade, the Minister of Labour and the Dominions Secretary, would do all they could to advocate the miners' claims as to the best way to handle this problem. I know that they would, under the influence of their colleagues in the Cabinet, come to a compromise. I do not see that they could do anything else, and I am certain that this White Paper is the best compromise they could get. If they could have got a better one they would have got it. I want to ask one question with regard to the postponement of rationing. I experience some difficulty in trying to visualise how it is to be decided to introduce rationing. As the result of the White Paper, appeals are to be made for reduced consumption and efforts are to be made for increased production. At what point are the Government going to decide that rationing should be introduced? Have the stocks of the country to attain a certain quantity? Has output to be increased to a certain extent. Has consumption to be reduced to a certain figure? At what point do the Government intend to decide? What factors and considerations will determine whether rationing shall be introduced? Along with the rest of the House, I congratulate the new Minister from the bottom of my heart. He won his spurs, golden spurs, at the Ministry of Food, and if he can win some other spurs at this Ministry he will do very well indeed. I presume that he will ask for a report in a month or two. He will watch events and find out what is happening. He will then submit a report to the Cabinet, and say either, "I think the time has arrived for us to introduce rationing," or "There is no need to introduce rationing." I should like to be enlightened on this question. I am taking for granted that there is to be no more political influence on this question and that from now on it is to be a question of safeguarding the fuel requirements of the country in the coming winter without any political influence from inside. Before dealing with the reorganisation proposals, I should like to draw attention to the proposal for the rehabilitation of those engaged in the industry. The mining industry, generally speaking, is made up of strong, hefty, healthy men. You have only to look on this side of the House to see specimens of some of them. At the same time, those engaged in the industry face great difficulties and are subject to many ravages. I am thinking at the moment of the ravage of silicosis. In a report submitted to a committee of which I am a member, it was stated that 1,000 of my fellow miners in South Wales alone during 1941 suffered from this terrible scourge. Over 10 per cent. of them went to immature graves. I am pleased to know that there is something in the White Paper which will help to deal with the victims of the future. I had three personal friends, each one of whom committed suicide as a result of depression caused by nystagmus. I wanted to see somewhere sooner or later some effort to deal with these miners. I think that in this White Paper there seems to be a suggestion of it, although I was not too encouraged by a reply given on 2nd June to my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths)—than whom no man inside or outside the House has taken a more active interest in the question of silicosis. He asked the Home Office whether it was possible for a statement to be made with regard to the report that had been issued. He got a reply from the Under-Secretary, and I want to be fair to him for he said that he appreciated the urgency of the problem. I want to know whether this reference in the White Paper to rehabilitation is to be taken up in dead earnest. Surely it is not a mere form of words. Surely it was not put in with the intention of making the White Paper more acceptable to us. I believe it to be a sincere and genuine intention to deal with this serious problem. As regards the reorganisation proposals, we were told by the President of the Board of Trade that the primary purpose of this White Paper was to secure increased production. What are the essentials of increased production? First and foremost by far I should place good will in the industry. I know the industry intimately and I am a member of a district board. It is no use the hon. Member for Belper (Mr. Wragg) saying what he did. To me his speech was the most regrettable of all the speeches in this Debate. It was no speech to bring about good will in this industry. I should be ashamed, if I were a coalowner, to make such a speech in this Debate."I do not think it is intended that the Committee sitting on this subject should consult the 1922 Committee."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th May, 1942; cols. 1749–50, Vol. 379.]
To what part of the speech does the hon. Member refer?
This industry needs good will, but I sometimes feel that we are in danger of thinking that everything will be all right if we get good will on the National Board. Good will there is very necessary, but if it is found nowhere else in the industry, we shall not get the coal. I know from personal experience that good will on the regional boards in the districts is also essential. Where good will will count for most is at the pits. It is not there to-day. My hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Foster), who delivered that fine maiden speech yesterday" were busy during the week-end trying to get men back to the pits because of the lack of good will at the pits. They have succeeded. Everyone of those pits is working this week. How did they do it? By referring to this White Paper and to some negotiations that are going on.The first essential towards getting good will in the pits is to make the pit production committees a reality. They have not been so up to the present, and I would make one or two suggestions for making them more effective instruments. Up to now they have spent most of their time dealing with absenteeism. In this White Paper the Government have wisely excluded that topic from their future deliberations. It was always disliked by the miners' members on those committees. They did not like to sit in judgment on their fellow miners. They have a healthy distaste for that kind of conduct. Further, the question of absenteeism took up so much time on pit production committees that there was seldom much time for anything else to be discussed. We put forward during the Debate yesterday suggestions as to how absentees should be dealt with which are slightly different from those contained in the White Paper. My right hon. Friend gave a definite undertaking that those suggestions would be considered at the right time by the right authorities, and that is all right for me. My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal might consider whether the regional controller himself, or some representative, could not occasionally attend one of these pit production committees to see how they conduct their business and to ascertain the topics with which they deal. Further, could not the regional controller ask for reports occasionally as to what is happening at the pit production committee meetings? If he finds that the subjects considered are not those which would help in production he can then ask that the committees should deal with this, that or the other matter. In that way we could get really effective pit production committees, which would help to create that good will which is essential to make this industry meet the war needs of to-day. I should say that the second requirement is a well-manned industry. I think the White Paper helps in that direction, noting its reference to the efforts that are being made to bring boys into the industry as well as to get back men who have left; but I am not sure whether the Government have realised how serious the problem is. I can well understand the Government saying that they cannot possibly release men who are in the Army. As I have said before, I would not ask them to return a man from the Army to the industry if he is serving the interests of the country better where he is. But I must refer to the reports we get as regards men in the Royal Air Force, a point which was emphasised by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson). He tells me that there are thousands of men on the ground staff of the Air Force who could be spared and would render better service in the mines of the country than they are rendering where they are. Will the Lord Privy Seal give an undertaking that that statement shall be investigated to ascertain its accuracy or otherwise? In the manning of the industry it should not be forgotten that when men are brought back to the mines from other occupations time must be allowed for them to get accustomed to the work again. Work at the coal face underground is not something you can jump to as' easily as you can jump to being a Member of Parliament. That is not difficult. If the Lord Privy Seal were to say to me "You are an ex-miner, you look a decent, hefty fellow, and we need miners; do you mind going back to the mines for the duration of the war? I do not know how I should feel about it; but I do know that it would take me quite a time to get acclimatised again to pit conditions. That happens in all cases. Therefore, I do not want the Government to expect great results immediately after the men have been returned to the pits. Next to a well-manned industry we need a well-managed industry. The managers are a body of men for whom I have a great regard. I do not think that as a nation we have realised our indebtedness to colliery managers. There are nearly 2,000 of them. Their responsibility is a heavy one. I know that there are good ones and bad ones and indifferent ones, as is the case with Members of Parliament. I have worked under them and I have worked with them, and I know them well, and we ought to realise their position. On the one hand they have to consider the owner of the undertaking. He has put them there for one specific purpose only, to provide financial profits. That is the only purpose for which he engages them, and I am not blaming him. The workmen expect from him decent wages for the work they do. Most mine managers are anxious to pay good wages, but sometimes they are prevented from doing so by the other consideration of safeguarding, maintaining or increasing the profits of the owner. In this White Paper managers have been placed in a very difficult position.
I do not wish to interrupt my hon. Friend, but there is a war on, and I think he is not quite justified in talking about the profits of mineowners while there is a war on. The principal thing is to produce coal. We are all concerned with the production of coal, and I think my hon. Friend has laid too much stress on the profits of the mineowners.
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who, I know, is interested in this matter from the owners' side, wants to contradict anything I have said I should like him to do it in a different way. He cannot deny that the mine manager is in a very difficult position and this White Paper makes it still more difficult. We must place the mine manager in a position where he can assist to get us more coal. That will not happen while he is in the position where the White Paper leaves him. The Controller will come along with his suggestions. Those suggestions may mean doing something which may for the time being endanger the financial return from the pit. That mine manager has to consider, "I may want to be employed by this colliery company when this war is over. Therefore I must continue in the course of pleasing them." I would again ask for serious consideration of this matter. I accepted 1s reply given earlier in the Debate by the President of the Board of Trade because I thought it was an advance. I would accept it for the time being, but I hope that this question will be thoroughly examined to see whether it is possible to make the mine manager a paid servant of the State rather than of the owner Having got this good will and a well-manned and well-managed industry, I suggest that the next requirement should be a well-paid industry. The cause of most of the trouble in the mining industry has been wages. We have had trouble over hours and conditions, and we have had our psychological approach to questions. We have dealt with nationalisation as a political issue for a long while. No section of workers in this or any other country has been more advanced politically than the miners. The hon. Member for Bridgeton told us how we sent the first Labour Member here—or "Lib-Lab" as he called him—and have been in the forefront in this House. We have dealt with nationalisation to a large extent in the past as a political question, but all that has gone. We still advocate nationalisation, not as a political nostrum at all, but as the best economic and industrial solution to the problem. I should be much happier at this Box now fighting for nationalisation, as I believe that it would do far more good than this White Paper. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why do you not vote for it? "] Wages count for far more at the present time. Our boys have been out, and we have lost hundreds of thousands of tons. They have not been out for any political nostrum, but for wages. I do not mind hon. Members who oppose our claim for more wages objecting to comparison with other workers. We have a far better claim to more wages than that. I do not want us as miners to say that because some other body of workers somewhere else is getting more wages than we are we therefore want more wages. We shall never solve our problems if every body of workers is to keep its eye on the wages paid to every other, body. I base my claim for advanced wages upon the services rendered by the miners to this country. No body of workers has rendered better service. We are entitled to better treatment from the country than we are getting. The coalowners say that they cannot give it to us; very well, we will ask the Government to see that we get it.We have asked for a National Board to deal with wages. Does the Lord Privy Seal know why? The hon. and gallant Member for Fylde (Lieut.-Colonel Lancaster) told us that production in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire was much higher than in Lancashire and elsewhere, but that is not because Nottinghamshire mines are better worked than in Lancashire, but because of geological differences. The Lord Privy Seal and his colleagues must recognise that sooner or later this industry must be treated as a unit for wage-paying purposes. It is not fair to say to a miner in one of the poorer districts that because he has to work harder under more difficult conditions, in that thin seam, that great heat, in that water, he shall do so for a lower wage than the man who works in a better and more comfortable seam. It is not fair to place upon the individual miner the burden of geological differences. That is what the present wage system is doing. I would ask the Lord Privy Seal to keep that point in mind. Does he think it is fair that a man should get a lower wage merely because he happens to work harder and under more difficult conditions? That, is what happens now. In less than an hour we shall have endorsed this White Paper. That will not be the end, by any means. We shall need coal; we shall need more coal. The wage negotiations now going on will determine the fate of this White Paper. I agree that there was a problem to be examined, and the Government did the right thing in setting up a court of inquiry, which I expect will report within a week or so. I hope that the Government will not absolve themselves from responsibility and say that because the Board has said this, that or the other the Government cannot do those things. If the wage settlement on the immediate claim is unsatisfactory, and if that unsatisfactory wage settlement is imposed on the industry, this White Paper will be a "dismal failure. I press the Government to keep in mind the issue that this immediate claim cannot be dissociated from the White Paper. It must have a good start and a good start will mean that the men in the industry must be satisfied that they are getting a fair deal as regards wages. I shall have no hesitation in voting for the White Paper. If I were asked to vote for the White Paper against the National Labour Council's plan, I should vote for the National Council of Labour's plan. If I were asked to vote for the White Paper against nationalisation, I should vote for nationalisation, but when I realise that the White Paper is the only practical thing before me and when I realise it is so important, I have no hesitation in saying that I shall vote for the White Paper.
I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman two questions. He said it was necessary to increase output; would it be possible to extend the number of hours in the shift?
For the moment, the Miners' Federation have turned a rather blind eye at the hours being worked throughout the country, but they are beyond the statutory hours.
If the length of the shift cannot be increased, can you not increase the length of the week and make it an eight-day week?
If I may reply again, I would do so in this way: If the hon. and gallant Gentleman realised the strain on men working in the mines after nearly three years of war and with not much extra rations, he would realise also that to suggest an extension of the week would be a very unfair thing.
After the wealth of specialised knowledge that has been shown by various contributors to this Debate, I feel a little like an Englishman rising to address a Committee on Scottish Estimates. The Debate has given an opportunity to Members with the most divergent views to express those views to the House. The Government may be satisfied that they have heard expressions of views from all sides of the House. Further, they may be satisfied that the great bulk of those views have—with some reservations, it is true—commended the White Paper. I am sure that my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power will be grateful to the House for the good send-off given him in the very difficult job which he is now facing.I would first say a word about the Amendment which has been proposed by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). The issue raised by the Amendment is the straight and clear one of nationalisation. In other circumstances and at other times it may be that some of us would take a different view upon that issue, but as the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) has said, this scheme is provided to deal, not with some political theory but with the immediate situation of getting an agreement upon how we can secure the most effective production from the mines. In the view of the Government, this scheme will be effective, and it has the great merit of commanding a very large body of agreement throughout all parts of the House. It is, of course, in one sense a compromise, but we believe that it is a compromise which is capable of working to the great benefit of the country. Like every other scheme, this must depend very largely upon the way in which it is administered. The administration will be vital; the White Paper itself is not coal, it is the means by which, if it is wisely and firmly administered, we hope the coal will be obtained. The hon. Gentleman who preceded me asked, with regard to one feature, whether we were in earnest about it. I should like to assure him, and the House and the country, that we are in absolute earnest about every part of this White Paper. Nothing has been put in merely for the sake of window-dressing; every paragraph of it is intended to be carried out, and I am sure that under the new Minister it will be carried out, with the express purpose of maximising the product of the industry. I would like to say one word about the question of good will which has been raised in many speeches from many sides of the House. We all agree that production in an atmosphere of good will is much easier than production in an atmosphere of antagonism. But good will is not a thing that exists sentimentally in vacuo. In an industry, good will is a thing that exists by virtue of the conditions in that industry, and when we speak of creating an atmosphere of good will in an industry, what we really mean is creating a sense of justice and fairness in that industry, so that those who are actually engaged in the operations of production feel that they can give their best to their productive effort. It is because we regard good will from that point of view, that we have put some of the provisions in this White Paper. I think the more convenient way for me to deal with it, will be to go through the White Paper, picking up the criticisms and the questions which have been asked in the order in which they arose in the Debate. First let me deal with the question of man-power. The hon. Member for Ince asked whether the Government realised its seriousness. I can assure him that the Government fully realise the seriousness of the man-power question. During the last two years, as the White Paper states, there have been called back from other occupations—all important occupations—33,000 men from industry, and now some 11,000 more are being returned from the Army, the R.A.F., Civil Defence and industry. These are the maximum figures which, as at present advised, the Government feel they can get from those sources, the maximum figures, that is, of skilled workers for the mines. If there are still unexplored resources somewhere which we have been unable to discover, we shall certainly be glad to utilise them if we can. But that expedient of bringing men back into the industry is a thing you can only do once; get the man back, and you cannot get him back again next year. Therefore we feel that those expedients have been substantially exhausted with the present withdrawal of 11,500 men. We are, then, bound to consider the question of man-power from two other points of view, first the getting of young people into the industry and secondly the prevention of avoidable wastage of manpower from the industry. As regards the first, we have set up a committee to advise us upon conditions in the industry likely to make it more attractive to young people going into it. We realise that the industry in the past, and especially in the recent past, has failed to attract young people, and therefore we are determined, as soon as we get the report from that committee, to take such steps as are necessary to make the industry more attractive to the young people entering it. Secondly, we desire to set up a medical system in the industry which will give full play to the powers of medical rehabilitation, so that the wastage can be kept down not, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton suggested, by harshly returning men to the industry when they are not fit, but by preventing them from leaving the industry for good, when a small amount of remedial treatment might enable them to retain their position in it. I would also draw the attention of the House to the fact, set out in paragraph 6 of the White Paper, that the Minister of Labour has now given instructions that the coal-mines shall be added to the list of priority industries to which, under certain conditions, men not deferred in their present work may go, instead of being called up for military service, and we hope that in that way too we shall be able to attract a certain number into the industry. Besides the desire to stop the wastage, we hope that this medical service will, in fact, perform a much greater function for the industry than the mere temporary one of providing labour that is badly required. We hope that it will become a permanent part of the industry and a pioneering system as regards other industries as well. Now, if I may, I will pass to the next paragraph of the White Paper and say just one word about absenteeism. We have stated in the White Paper that
and I hope that the ghost of absenteeism has been finally laid by this Debate. A great deal of unfair criticism has been made as regards absenteeism, which, though it exists, is not an illness that affects the whole of the mining industry. Then we come to the question of reorganisation. The effectiveness of the scheme which we propose must depend upon the primary purpose for which it is operated. If, as some Members have suggested, it were to be operated for the primary purpose of maintaining the owners' position in the industry, one could imagine one set of circumstances following such decisions. Therefore we have set out very clearly and precisely in the opening paragraph on reorganisation the fundamental purpose for which this reorganisation is to be carried out, and I would remind the House of the words we have used:"charges of excessive absenteeism cannot be sustained against the great majority of the miners,"
It is important to note that we do not anticipate, as some hon. Members have suggested, that this scheme should be dropped in a hurry and thus plunge the coal industry into chaos as was done after the last war. This scheme will continue until Parliament, after the war is over, have decided how they think the coal industry of this country should be conducted in the future. The primary and fundamental objective which we have in view is that there should be an absolute control over all mining operations by the Government, and as my right hon. Friend remarked to-day with regard to one item, anything that stands in the way of that major desideratum will have to be reconsidered or dealt with differently, but we believe that the White Paper, by the scheme set out, will be able to accomplish that purpose. When we come to the question of the national machinery—as to which, we repeat, that the Minister will take full control over the operation of all coalmines and over the allocation of the coal raised—we set up a system of control. I would particularly draw the attention of the House to the fact, which was commented upon, I think by the hon. and gallant Member for the Fylde Division (Lieut.-Colonel Lancaster), that there is to be there a Labour Director under the Controller-General who will be responsible for the welfare, safety, health and working conditions of coal miners. All these matters will come directly under the control of the Minister and will be particularly attended to by a special directorate for that purpose. Then comes the National Coal Board. There has been some criticism of the composition of that Board. I would point out to the House that neither in the case of the Regional Boards nor in that of the National Coal Board have any numbers been given as regards representation. That was left open for the very specific purpose that the matter might be discussed with those interests who were to be represented on the Board and a decision come to by the Minister on the exact numerical composition. Then there is the regional organisation, which we regard as a very vital and essential factor in the scheme. In that case also there will be, under the Controller, a Labour Director who will be concerned with the same problems of safety, health, and the conditions of the workers. There will be Regional Boards on which the miners and others will be represented, and here also the numerical balance is left to be determined as I have already stated. Finally, we come to the paragraph of this White Paper which has perhaps caused most criticism and most difficulty in the minds of hon. Members. It is that in which it is said that the managers will remain the servants of the owners. The essence of this scheme is that the financial side of the coalowning business is being separated from the operational side. It is the operational side which the Government are completely controlling, irrespective of its effect upon the financial side, and the managers, as the operational nerve centres in the pits, are obliged to carry out the Controller's directions, irrespective of what effect those directions may have upon the financial interests of the owners. If the Controller says, "Move all the men or machinery out of this seam" it is no concern of the managers what the financial effect of that may be. This is a matter which will have to be settled subsequently on some compensation basis, if there be such, between the Government and the owners."In order to ensure that all practicable means of increasing output are adopted without delay and pressed forward vigorously, private interests being subordinated to the over-riding needs of increased production, the Government have decided to assume full control over the operation of the mines, and to organise the industry on the basis of national service, with the intention that the organisation now to be established will continue pending a final decision by Parliament on the future of the industry."
With a means test for the owners as in the case of pensioners?
With proper tests to see that the interests of the country are safeguarded. It is said that this will mean a dual loyalty in the management. [Interruption.] An hon. Member says "Of course it will." Unless we were going permanently to nationalise the mines at this moment—if we were going to requisition them temporarily—the manager would be in just the some position, so that as between requisitioning temporarily and permitting the finances of the ownership to continue uninterfered with, except for the operations of the Controller, there is really no difference upon that point. We do not believe that the managers, who are bound, under pain of dismissal, to obey the Controller's instructions will make it impossible or difficult for the Controller to have those instructions carried out. But as my right hon. Friend has said, if that defeats the purpose of this White Paper then the Government will certainly reconsider it because they do not intend the main primary purpose to be defeated.
What is the test of defeat?
The test of defeat is the test of whether we are able to operate to greater advantage the coal mining industry.
I gather that the Government have given an undertaking that they will consider this matter again in the light of experience. I think that the manager is in a most difficult position under this scheme, as he is liable to be dismissed by the owner and is also liable to be dismissed by the Controller and is continually having to serve two masters. It is because we felt that the scheme might break down because of that, that we put forward our proposals.
I appreciate may hon. Friend's point, and if the scheme is going to break down because of that, then we are prepared to reconsider the position, as my right hon. Friend has said. Secondly, it was said that this appointee of the owners might be someone out of touch with the direct management or not the direct manager. I draw the attention of the House to the words at the bottom of page 6:
—that is the object of this system—"The Controller will thus have direct access to, and control over, the person in executive charge of the working of the mine"—
Who precisely that man will be in given circumstances it is impossible to say, circumstances differ so much in so many different areas and pits, but that is the object which is being aimed at, and which my right hon. Friend the Minister will no doubt see is carried out. Finally, as regards managers, some question was raised as regards their responsibility for safety. We have said expressly that:"—who will similarly have direct access to the Controller."
skilled, carrying out very difficult jobs, and we shall continue to rely upon them, as we must under the law, for seeing to the safety of their pits. Then we come to pit production committees, and I should like to say here, with great deference, that the Government look on the pit production committees as giving the men an opportunity to put at the disposal of the country the great knowledge and experience they have in the production of coal. We do not intend that these pit production committees should be shelved in any way, and we have removed from them the task of dealing with of absenteeism for the very purpose of seeing' that they concentrate their energies on what we consider the right thing, assisting in production at the pit. We come to the question of wages machinery. It is impossible for me to say anything at this stage as regards settlement of wages. That matter we have referred to an investigation committee, which, I believe, will have the confidence of everybody in the country, and is one of the best bodies of that kind ever set up in the country. We shall await its report. The Government will then have to decide what action they propose to take as a result of that report. There is one factor in this White Paper to which great importance has been attached, and which I should like again to emphasise. The Government have stated specifically that they believe it to be desirable to develop a system by which wages and conditions in the mining industry can be dealt with on a national basis, by a properly constituted national body. That is a statement of fundamental belief—if I may put it in that way—on the part of the Government, and that matter, too, has been referred to this investigating body to suggest the best way in which they can be carried out."It is not proposed to interfere with the statutory responsibility of pit managers for questions of safety."
Will that body have the power to investigate the question of eliminating the present system of ascertainments?
The new national body, when it comes into operation, will, of course, be able to suggest any new basis for wages that it likes. I am much obliged for my hon. Friend's interruption, because I wanted to say a word on the paragraph headed "Wages, Machinery," dealing with the financial structure of the industry. I think there has been some misunderstanding of the phraseology used. What is stated here is that these White Paper proposals are not intended to introduce any fundamental alteration in the financial structure of the industry. That is clear from the proposals themselves. But that is not to say that there may not be a necessity, for some other reason, for a new wages basis, and for some such alteration. It is only to say that we are not making any proposal here for such a change. Anybody who has had to study, as I have in the past, some of these wages ascertainments and facts, knows how difficult it is. Anybody who has studied these things will appreciate that it is not a thing into which you can quickly put your foot and take it out again. You can easily put your foot in, but it is likely to remain there once you have done so. We believe it is a matter to be dealt with in this special way, by this investigation body, and in consultation with the various interests in the industry. As to the question of running the Fuel Ministry, that will be an ordinary Governmental cost, like the running of any other Ministry. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) asked how it was to be financed. So far as the controllers and everybody else are concerned, they will be a charge on the Exchequer. As to the changing of machinery, that will have to be dealt with on some basis of compensation, when one sees how the industry is affected.
How will the boards be financed?
As far as their financing is necessary as part of the scheme, it will be from the Exchequer.
We have had three references in the speech of the Lord Privy Seal to the question of compensation of the owners after the war. I ask him directly, is it proposed to apply to the mineowners the means test, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes to apply to old age pensioners?
I have said that we propose, if and when there are any compensation provisions, to see that they are applied equitably as far as the country is concerned.
That dodges the problem.
On paragraph 21, I desire again to emphasise that a whole mass of subjects which will have to come under this scheme will remain open for discussion with the miners and the owners, if necessary. I come to the question of domestic rationing. It has been decided that domestic rationing shall, for the present, take a second place. Some of us felt that if you were going to bring in a big reorganisation scheme in order to stimulate production, it was better to give that a chance, to see whether you got the hoped-for results from it, and not to apply a rationing scheme at the moment you were introducing the reorganisation. On the other hand, it is essential that we should have a scheme ready in case of need. We had, therefore, to decide on what we thought was the best rationing scheme, and to get it ready. We have made it clear that, after very careful consideration, the scheme in the Annex is the one we believe to be the best. We are going to proceed, on the basis of that scheme, to get matters ready. As has been pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, we do not propose actually to apply the scheme until we have given this House an opportunity of saying whether it shall be applied or not, and, if they do not like it, of suggesting alterations in it, and of voting against it. We believe that we have done the best that is possible.
What considerations are to determine the need for rationing?
The coal position in the country, the output, the amount of consumption, and the availability of stocks.
There is some coal in the country. What improvement do you expect in stocks, output, and consumption before you suggest rationing?
It is impossible to give any figure. One has to judge on the general situation as it is reported week by week. If a time comes when the Minister of Fuel reports to the Cabinet, "The position is such that I cannot safely go on without introducing rationing," I have no doubt the Cabinet will introduce rationing.
If and when the Government introduce the scheme, will it be in such a way and in such a form that the House will be able to amend the scheme before it is put into operation?
The House will be able to make suggestions as to alterations; but we are not going to introduce a Bill which can be amended, by putting Amendments on the Order Paper.—[Interruption.]—I cannot explain that any more. It has been explained by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, and it will all be in the OFFICIAL REPORT, for Members who were not here when those explanations were made. In finally commending this White Paper to the House, I would make only this remark. The success or failure of this scheme, be it good or bad, will depend upon the willingness with which it is accepted by the people who have to work the scheme.
May I put a point on the question of good will in the industry? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that there are thousands of summonses against workmen in every part of the British coalfields "about to be issued? Is he further aware that at my own particular colliery—that is, the Maltby Main Colliery—231 summonses are to be heard to-morrow? These boys are walking to the court, and this large colliery in the Doncaster coalfield will shut down to-morrow. In order that we may start the new era in the coal industry of this country, may I ask the Lord Privy Seal whether he can do anything about it at this late hour?
I am afraid that obviously at this moment I cannot do anything about it. I suggest that the hon. Member gets into touch with my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister for Fuel, who is here. I was just saying that the success or failure of this scheme must depend upon its acceptance by those persons who have to operate it in the industry, and we hope very earnestly that it will be given a fair and full trial. We are prepared to do our utmost to see that the scheme does do what we suggest in the White Paper it can do, and we feel that if the miners and the managers, who will be the other two parties concerned in the getting of the coal, will equally give their help to the operation of this scheme, then we can make it a real step forward in the organisation of the coal industry of this country.
Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
The House divided: Ayes, 329; Noes, 8.
Division No. 13.]
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Dugdale, Major T. L. (Richmond)||Jones, L. (Swansea, W.)|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Duncan, Rt. Hn. Sir A. R. (C. Ldn.)||Kendall, W. D.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Cannock)||Dunn, E.||Kerr, Sir John Graham (Scottish U's)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Ede, J. C.||Kimball, Major L.|
|Alexander, Bg.-Gn. Sir W. (G'gow, C.)||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||King-Hall, Commander W. S. R.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Kirby, B. V.|
|Amnion, C. G.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty).||Knox, Maj.-General Sir A. W. F.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ.)||Elliot, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Lancaster, Lieut.-Col. C G.|
|Assheton, R.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Law, R. K.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Lawson, J. J.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Errington, Squadron-Leader E.||Leach, W.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Etherton, Flight-Lieut. Ralph||Leslie, J. R.|
|Barr, J.||Evans, Colonel A. (Cardiff, S.)||Lindsay, K. M.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Lipson, D. L.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P.||Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Lloyd, Major E. G. R. (Renfrew, E.)|
|Beattie, F.||Everard, Sir W. Lindsay||Lloyd, G. W. (Ladywood)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Foster, W.||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Mabane, W.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff Central)||Fyfe, Major Sir D. P. M.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir G. C.|
|Bennett, Sir P. F. B. (Edgbaston)||Gallacher, W.||McCallum, Major D.|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E.||Gammans, Capt. L. D.||McCorquodale, Malcolm S.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Gates, Major E. E.||Macdonald G. (Ince)|
|Blair, Sir R.||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n)||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'mbr'k)||McEntee, V. La T.|
|Bossom, A. C.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Bower, Norman (Harrow)||Glyn, Sir R. G. C.||McGhee, H. G.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T. (Cleveland)||Gower, Sir R. V.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. H. (Stockton)|
|Bowles, F. G.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||McNeil, H.|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. B.||Grant-Ferris, Squadron-Leader R.||Maitland, Sir A.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose)||Granville, E. L.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. Sir E.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. J. G. (H'dern's)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Mander, G. le M.|
|Brass, Capt. Sir W.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Martin, J. H.|
|Brocklebank, Sir C. E. R.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Mathers, G.|
|Brooke, H.||Grenfell, D. R.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Mills, Colonel J. D. (New Forest)|
|Burghley, Lord||Grigg, Sir E. W. M. (Altrincham)||Mitchell, Colonel H. P.|
|Burke, W. A.||Grimston, R. V.||Molson, Capt. A. H. E.|
|Butcher, Lieut. H. W.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Montague, F.|
|Cadogan, Major Sir E.||Groves, T. E.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.|
|Caine, G. R. Hall||Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. (Rochdale)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Morgan, R. H. (Stourbridge)|
|Cary, R. A.||Hall, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Aberdare)||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hannah, l. C.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)|
|Challen. Flight-Lieut. C.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Channon, H.||Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.||Mort, D. L.|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Harvey, T. E.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Haslam, Henry||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Chater, D.||Headlam, Lt.-Col. Sir C. M.||Nicholson, Captain G. (Farnham)|
|Christie, J. A.||Heilgers, Major F. F. A.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G. (Leicester, W.)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hn. Winston S. (Epp'g)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Henderson, J. (Arkwick)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Henderson, J. J. Craik (Leeds, N. E.)||Orr-Ewing, l. L.|
|Cobb, Capt. E. G.||Heneage, Lt.-Col. A. P.||Paling, W.|
|Colegate, W. A.||Herbert, Petty Officer A. P. (Oxford U.)||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Collindridge, F.||Hewlett, T. H.||Peake, O.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hicks, E. G.||Pearson, A.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Higgs, W. F.||Peat, C. U.|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Hill, Prof. A. V.||Petherick, Major M.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir Stafford||Hollins, J. H. (Silvertown)||Peto, Major B. A. J.|
|Critchley, A.||Holmes, J. S.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Horsbrugh, Florence||Price, M. P.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Hughes, R M.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Pym, L. R.|
|Daggar, G.||Hunter, T.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Radford, E. A.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. G. l. C. (E'burgh)||Raikes, Flight-Lieut. H. V. A. M.|
|De Chair, Capt. S. S.||Isaacs, G. A.||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|De la Bère, R||Jagger, J.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||James, Wing-Comdr. A. W. H||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Digby, Capt. K. S. D. W.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Dobbie, W.||Jeffreys, Gen. Sir G. D.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Dodd, J. S.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Donner, Squadron-Leader P. W.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Douglas, F. C. R.||Jennings, R.||Rickards, G. W.|
|Drewe, C.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. (Stl'g&C'km'n)||Ridley, G.|
|Riley, B.||Stewart, W. Joseph (H'gton-le-Spring)||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. H. (Richmond)|
|Ritson, J.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|Robertson, D. (Streatham)||Strickland, Capt. W. F.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Robertson, Rt. Hon. Sir M. A. (M ham)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (Northwich)||Westwood, J.|
|Rothschild, J. A. de||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||White, Sir Dymoke (Fareham)|
|Rowlands, G.||Studholme, Captain H. G.||White, H. (Derby, N. E.)|
|Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.||White, H. Graham (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Russell, Sir A. (Tynemouth)||Summers, G. S.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Salt, E. W.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Sutcliffe, H.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Schuster, Sir G. E.||Tasker, Sir R. I.||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Scott, Donald (Wansbeck)||Tate, Mavis C.||Willink, H. U.|
|Scott, Lord William (Ro'b'h & Selk'k)||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||Wilmot, John|
|Shakespeare, Sir G. H.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Windsor, W.|
|Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)||Windsor-dive, Lt.-Col. G.|
|Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)||Thomas, Dr. W. S. Russell (S'th'm'tn)||Womersley, Rt. Hon. Sir J.|
|Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Thurtle, E.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir K. (W'lwich, W.)|
|Shute, Col. Sir J. J.||Tinker, J. J.||Woodburn, A.|
|Silkin, L.||Titchfield, Lt.-Col. Marquess of||Woolley, W. E.|
|Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A.||Tomlinson, G.||Wootton-Davies, J. H.|
|Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Touche, G. C.||Wright, Wing-commander J. A. C.|
|Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Tufnell, Lieut. Comdr. R. L.||York, Capt. C.|
|Smith, T. (Normanton)||Walkden, A. G. (Bristol, S.)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Snadden, W. McN.||Walker, J.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Somerset, T.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir D. B.||Watkins, F. C.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.|
|Spearman, A. C. M.||Watson, W. McL.||Mr. Boulton and Mr. John.|
|Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||Watt, F. C. (Edinburgh Cen.)|
|Brown, W. J. (Rugby)||Maxton, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Cove, W. G.||Reakes, G. L. (Wallasey)||Mr. Stephen and Sir Richard|
|McGovern, J.||Silverman, S. S.||Acland.|
|MacLaren, A.||Stokes, R. R.|
Main Question put, and agreed to.
"That this House approves the proposals of His Majesty's Government embodied in Command Paper No. 6364 relating to coal."
Sunday Entertainments Act, 1932
"That the Order made by the Secretary of State for the Home Department under the Sunday Entertainments Act, 1932, extending Section 1 of the Act to the Urban District of Stroud, a copy of which was presented to this House on 9th June, be approved."—[Mr. ft Morrison.]
The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
Great Britain And Soviet Russia (Treaty Of Alliance)
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. James Stuart.]
I am glad to be able to inform the House that His Majesty's Government have concluded a Treaty with the Union of Soviet and Socialist Republics which confirms our Alliance with that country during the war against Germany and her associates in Europe. The Treaty provides that after the war our two countries will render each other mutual assistance against any further attack by Germany or her associates. It further provides that we will collaborate with one another and with the other United Nations in the peace settlement and during the ensuing period of reconstruction on the basis of the principles set out in the Atlantic Charter.The House will remember that Germany invaded Russia on 22nd June last year, and that on the same evening my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister affirmed that the Russian danger was our danger and that we should give whatever help we could to Russia and make common cause with the Russian people. Practical effect was given to the Prime Minister's declaration by the signature on 12th July of the agreement for joint action in the war against Germany. In September Lord Beaverbrook, with Mr. Averell Harriman, visited Moscow and negotiated an arrangement for supplying the Soviet Government with the war materials which they urgently needed for the prosecution of the war. This was followed in the political field by my visit to Moscow in December of last year. The purpose of my visit, in the words of the joint communiqué which was issued on my return, was
Since then conversations begun in Moscow have been continuing. The British Dominions, the United States and other countries most closely concerned have been kept fully informed of the whole course of our negotiations. When I was in Moscow, I gave Mr. Molotov a cordial invitation to visit us in this country, and, when our discussions here had made sufficient progress, His Majesty's Government suggested that Mr. Molotov should come to London to embody our agreement in a formal treaty. Mr. Molotov meanwhile had been invited by President Roosevelt to visit him in Washington. It was arranged accordingly that Mr. Molotov should come here and then go on to the United States. He arrived in London on 21st May. The Treaty was signed on 26th May. The next day Mr. Molotov left for the United States in accordance with his programme. I am glad to be able to tell the House that Mr. Molotov had a safe journey to the United States and back and that he had most useful and satisfactory talks with the President in Washington. Mr. Molotov has now gone back to Moscow. When I sit down a White Paper will be available to Members at the Vote Office. It will contain, in addition to the Treaty, an exchange of Messages between His Majesty the King and Mr. Kalinin, as well as the speeches made by Mr. Molotov and myself at the signature of the Treaty. But I think it would be for the convenience of the House if I gave them now a brief outline of what the Treaty contains. The United Kingdom and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics reaffirm their determination to afford one another all possible assistance in the war and"the exchange of views on questions relating to the conduct of the war and to post-war organisation of peace and security in Europe."
The two countries also agree that they will, when peace is re-established, work together for the organisation of security and economic prosperity in Europe. In doing so, they will take into account the interests of the united nations, and they undertake to be guided by the two principles of not seeking territorial aggrandisement for themselves and of not interfering in the internal affairs of other States. The two Governments go on to declare their desire"not to enter into any negotiations with the Hitlerite Government or any other Government in Germany which does not clearly renounce all aggressive intentions and not to negotiate or conclude except by mutual consent any armistice or peace treaty with Germany or any other State associated with her in acts of aggression in Europe."
Meanwhile, when the war is ended they"to unite with other like-minded States in adopting proposals for common action to preserve peace and resist aggression in the postwar period."
There is, of course, bound to be some interval after the victory has been gained before an effective international system can be built up for preserving peace and for the prevention of further aggression. The two Governments accordingly have agreed that should one of our countries during the post-war period become involved in hostilities with Germany or an3' of her European associates in consequence of an attack by any one of these, the two Governments will at once give each other "all the military and other support and assistance" in their power. As for the duration of this undertaking, I will quote from the relevant article of the Treaty:"will take all measures in their power to render impossible a repetition of aggression and violation of the peace by Germany or any of the States associated with her in acts of aggression in Europe."
that is, the long-term system of international security which the Treaty contemplates as our goal which I have already mentioned. The Article then goes on as follows:"This article shall remain in force until the High Contracting Parties by mutual agreement shall recognise that it is superseded by the adoption of the proposals contemplated in Article III"—
The Treaty contains a ratification clause. Both Governments are anxious that the Treaty shall come into force as soon as possible. The Treaty accordingly will be laid forthwith on the Table of the House. But our conversations with Mr. Molotov were not, of course, confined to Treaty matters, important as those were. The war in all its aspects was reviewed, and I will now give the House a quotation from the communiqué which is being issued to-day:"In default of the adoption of such proposals, it shall remain in force for a period of 20 years, and thereafter until terminated by either High Contracting Party."
I am sure that the House will join with me in welcoming the signature of this Treaty and the prospect which it opens up of active and fruitful co-operation in war and peace. From our long and friendly exchange of views with Mr. Molotov, we are assured that the Treaty expresses exactly the common desire of the two Governments. We have been enabled to arrive at this happy result through the establishment, by our contact with Mr. Stalin and Mr. Molotov, of complete mutual confidence. This is the time to mention the valuable contribution to Anglo-Russian understanding made by Mr. Maisky over a long period of years. The signature of this Treaty not only formalises and emphasises the closeness of the collaboration between our two countries during the war. It affords also an indispensable basis for European reconstruction. This does not mean that our two countries alone will be responsible for the peace of Europe when the war is won; that is a burden which will be shared by all the United Nations. It means that without the closest understanding between Great Britain and the Soviet Union there can be no security and stability in Europe either for ourselves or for any of our Allies. The problems of peace are not, of course, for Europe alone, and I hope, with assured confidence, that the good work which our two Governments have accomplished will be welcomed by the President and people of the United States, and will enable our three great countries to work together in the years of peace as now in the hard times of war."Full understanding was reached between the two parties with regard to the urgent tasks of creating a second front in Europe in 1942. Discussions also took place on the question of further improving the supplies of aeroplanes, tanks and other war material to be sent from Great Britain to the Soviet Union. Both sides were gratified to note the identity of their views on all the above questions."
I feel that the House has received my right hon. Friend's statement with feelings of the most profound satisfaction. We work together as comrades in war and work together in the times of peace. There will be no desire to pursue this topic now, and I am sure the House will wish to study the White Paper. There is just one question I should like to put to my right hon. Friend, not in any spirit of suspicion on my part. Here is an open Treaty, published to the world. Will he now tell this House and suspicious persons outside the House whether in these negotiations any secret understandings have been come to?
I am much obliged to my right hon. Friend. The whole of the terms of the Agreement arrived at are published in the White Paper now laid. There are no secret engagements or commitments of any kind whatsoever.
As one who has laboured for over 20 years to establish a good understanding between Soviet Russia and this country, I felicitate the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary and the Government upon the accomplishment of this Treaty. Had it been a fact some years ago many grave blunders in foreign policy would have been avoided. Not only that: this war could never have occurred.
Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.