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Ministry Of Mines Bill

Volume 41: debated on Wednesday 11 August 1920

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Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Bill read 3a.

My Lords, I do not know whether I might intervene in order to explain a matter which perhaps may give rise to some little criticism owing to two slight slips that I made in your Lordships' House on the Second Reading. I alluded to the Emergency Act and the possibility of the coal trade getting some proportion of the excess profits over and above their pre-war standard. I alluded to the possibility apparently, as reported, that the trade might secure nine-tenths of their excess profits. I should have said only one-tenth and not nine-tenths.

But there is another matter which is perhaps of still greater moment, because it alluded to the earnings of the workmen employed in the mines. I stated that before the war the miners were earning per shift 6s. 10½d. That figure was correct so far as our figures have been ascertained of the total earnings of the miners before the war. But I went on to say that the most recent figures showed that the miners were earning 25s.d. per shift. That figure is an inaccurate one. The miners are now earning, so far as our latest figures for the month of May show, in a normal week, 17s.d. per shift; but the average wages cost per ton has increased from before the war from exactly the same figure of 6s. 10½d. to 25s.d. I have nothing to add to what I have already said on the Second Reading of the Bill. I do not desire to retract or add anything to what I then said with regard to the general appreciation or depreciation of the proposals.

I think, however, that it is due to your Lordships' House that I should say on behalf of the coal industry that they feel that the Amendments which your Lord- ships have inserted in the Bill will have made the Bill more workable and will have removed some of the injustices which the coal trade thought were in the Bill as it reached your Lordships' House. Before sitting down, I should like, if I might, to pay a tribute to the noble Viscount for the way in which he has conducted the Bill under somewhat difficult circumstances in this House.

Several NOBLE LORDS: Hear, hear.

It is your Lordships' pleasure to look perhaps rather more to the merits of a question than to the necessity for giving general support on every detail to the Government. So far as I can judge the situation, it is a favourable contrast with that which sometimes occurs in another place. But I appreciate the difficulties that the noble Viscount has been under, and I congratulate him on the passage of the Bill through its various stages, and I hope the Bill will now pass.

Clause 1:
1. For the purpose of securing the most effective development and utilisation of the mineral resources of the United Kingdom and the safety and welfare of those engaged in the mining industry, it shall be lawful for His Majesty to appoint an additional Parliamentary secretary of the Board of Trade.

had on the Paper an Amendment to leave out all words after "industry," and to insert the following words: "there shall be established a department of the Board of Trade (to be known as the Mines Department) under a Secretary of the Board (in this Act referred to as the Secretary for Mines), and all powers and duties of the Board of Trade in relation to mines and minerals, whether under this Act or otherwise, shall, subject to the directions of the Board of Trade, be exercised and performed through the Secretary for Mines."

The noble Viscount said: Your Lordships will realise that this Amendment gives effect to the arrangement entered into with the noble Marquess opposite as the result of the discussions we had in your Lordships' House. I desire to move it with only one slight alteration, which I have already mentioned to the noble Marquess—that is, to insert the word " Parliamentary" before "Secretary" where that word first occurs. It is really only a drafting Amendment to make clear what is intended.

Amendment moved—

Clause 1, page 1, line 10, leave out from ("industry") to the end of the clause and insert the said new words with the alteration mentioned.—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 2:

General powers and duties.

2.—(1) It shall be the duty of the Board of Trade, in the exercise and performance of the powers and duties transferred to or conferred or imposed on the Board of Trade by or in pursuance of this Act, to take steps to carry out the purposes aforesaid, and there shall, as from such date or dates as His Majesty in Council may determine, be transferred to the Board of Trade all the powers of a Secretary of State under enactments relating to mines and quarries.

moved to omit, in subsection (1), the word "the" ["exercise and performance of the"] and to insert "their." The noble Viscount said: This is a consequential Amendment.

Amendment moved—

Clause 2, page I, line 14, leave out ("the") and insert ("their").—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment moved—

Clause 2, page 1, line 14, leave out from ("duties") to ("to") in line 16, and insert ("in relation to mines and minerals").—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 4:

Amendment moved—

Clause 4, page 4, line 33, after ("duties") insert ("relating to mines and minerals").—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 5:

Staff remuneration and expenses.

5.—(1) There shall be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament to the Parliamentary Secretary appointed under this Act an annual salary.
(2) There shall be transferred and attached to the Board of Trade such of the persons employed under any other Government department in or about the execution of the powers and duties transferred by or under this Act to the Board of Trade, as the Board of Trade and the other Government department with the sanction of the Treasury, may determine.

Amendment moved—

Clause 5, page 5, line 22, leave out ("Parliamentary Secretary appointed under this Act") and insert ("Secretary for Mines").—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

With regard to my next Amendment in line 23 [after "salary" insert "not" exceeding two thousand pounds"] I do not propose to move that. I prefer that it shall be left to another place to deal with it.

It is their own responsibility if they do not. They will be ready to do it.

I am sure it is much more correct that the Commons should do it rather than we should insert the salary.

Clause 6:
6.—(l) The office of a Parliamentary Secretary appointed under this Act shall not render the holder thereof incapable of being elected to or sitting or voting as a member of the Commons House of Parliament.
(2) The person who is first appointed to be a Parliamentary Secretary under this Act shall not by reason of such appointment, if a member of the Commons House of Parliament, vacate his seat as such member.

moved, in subsection (1), to omit the words "a Parliamentary Secretary appointed under this Act" and to insert "the Secretary for Mines." The noble Viscount said: This is consequential.

Amendment moved—

Clause 6, page 6, lines 1 and 2, leave out ("a Parliamentary Secretary appointed under this Act") and insert ("the Secretary for Mines").—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

moved to leave out subsection (2). The noble Viscount said: This subsection is now unnecessary.

Amendment moved—

Clause 6, page 6, line 5, leave out subsection (2).—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 17:

This Amendment is consequential. The Minister of Mines has now ceased to exist.

Amendment moved—

Clause 17, page 12, lines 16 and 17, leave out ("on the recommendation of the Minister of Mines").—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 20:

Establishment of fund for improvement of social conditions of colliery workers.

20.—(1) There shall be constituted in each of the districts mentioned in Part I of the Second Schedule to this Act a fund to be applied for such purposes connected with the social wellbeing, recreation, and conditions of living of workers in or about coal mines in the district, and with mining education and research as the Board of Trade, after consultation with any Government Department concerned, may approve.

(2) The owners of every coal mine in each district shall before the thirty-first day of March nineteen hundred and twenty-one, and before the same day in each of the subsequent five years, pay into the said fund for the district a sum equal to one penny a ton of the output of the mine during the previous calendar year, and the sums so payable in respect of any mine shall be defrayed as part of the working expenses of the mine and shall be recoverable either as a debt due to the Crown or by the Board of Trade summarily as a civil debt:

Provided that in the case of the first payment the amount shall be calculated with reference to the output during the six calendar months ending the thirty-first day of December nineteen hundred and twenty.

(3) The duty of allocating in each district the money from time to time standing to the credit of the said fund in the district to the several purposes aforesaid shall be vested in a committee consisting of five persons, appointed by the Board of Trade, of whom one shall be appointed by the Board of Trade after consultation with the Mining Association of Great Britain, and another after consultation with the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. The committee shall have the assistance of three assessors appointed by the Minister of Health, the Board of Education and the Secretary for Scotland respectively; the assessors shall have the right of attending meetings of the committee and of taking part in the deliberations thereof, but not of voting; and different persons may be appointed by the abovementioned departments to act as assessors in relation to different matters:

Provided that the Committee shall take into consideration any scheme submitted by a district committee, and that before allocating any money for a local purpose they shall consult with the district committee if any concerned:

Provided further that upon a recommendation in that behalf made from time to time by the National Board the said fund to an amount not exceeding one tenth of the aggregate annual total thereof for all the districts may, if the Committee think fit, be applied in any year to purposes authorised by this section being of benefit to the interests of workers in or about coal mines either generally or in more than one district.

(4) The Committee may invite a local authority to submit a scheme for any of the purposes to which the fund in a district may be applied, and if such scheme be approved by the committee they may make such grants in aid to the said local authority out of the fund in the said district and upon such conditions as may seem to them desirable:

Provided that in no case shall any grant be made out of the fund for building or repairing of dwelling-houses.

(5) Where money is allocated for the purpose of meeting the cost in whole or in part of providing accommodation and facilities at a coal mine for the workmen taking baths and drying clothes, and such accommodation and facilities are so provided, section seventy-seven of the Coal Mines Act, 1911, shall apply as if such accommodation and facilities had been provided under that section, provided that (a) cost of maintenance shall not be deemed to include any interest on capital expenditure so far as that expenditure was met out of money allocated from this fund, and (b) the contribution of the workmen to the cost of maintenance shall be reduced by the proportion which the money so allocated from the fund bears to the total capital expenditure.

(6) Payments out of and into the fund in each district, and all other matters relating to the fund, and moneys standing to the credit of the fund (including temporary investments thereof) shall be made and regulated in such manner as the Board of Trade, subject to the approval of the Treasury, may direct.

(7) The Board of Trade shall in each year cause an account to be prepared and transmitted to the Comptroller and Auditor-General for examination showing the receipts into and issues out of the said fund in the several districts in the financial year ended the thirty-first day of March preceding, and the Comptroller and Auditor-General shall certify and report upon the same, and such account and report shall be laid before Parliament.

We now come to a larger question in Clause 20. It is put in the form of a series of Amendments which carry out the arrangement arrived at with the noble Earl opposite. It differs from it slightly in one way which I will indicate. First of all, it carries out the arrangement that one-fifth of this fund to be raised—the miners' betterment fund, as I may call it—should be spent centrally instead of locally. The question is what "locally " means; whether it should be spent in districts or in areas. I had some discussion with the noble Earl opposite yesterday on the subject, and I think then he desired that the local money should be confined to the districts. As this clause is drawn the local money is to be spent in the different areas, and, if that is objected to, I am prepared to move it with the substitution of "districts" for "areas." But I do not know whether, on consideration, the noble Earl might not be content with the Amendment as it stands.

I am very sensible of the courteous manner in which my noble friend has put this question, and I am really sorry to differ from him and from his Parliamentary chief, for whom, if I may respectfully say so, I have so great a respect. But it does not seem to me that the principle for which we have endeavoured to contend will be carried out if the word " areas" is substituted for "districts." We have gone far to meet the views of the Government in agreeing that one-fifth instead of one-tenth may form a central fund. If we were to fall in with the suggestion of substituting "areas" for "districts," really the whole contention which I endeavoured to set forth when I moved the Amendment will be gone—that is, the value of the local expenditure and of the local connection between the fund and the men on whose behalf it is used.

Let us take the areas. I am sorry to trouble the House, but I want to show the greatest respect to the Government in arguing this matter, so as to show that my position, whether right or wrong, is not wantonly held. In the first place the whole of Scotland is one area. Who am I that I should speak for Scotland in the presence of my noble friend opposite and of the Earl of Kintore, Lord Wester Wemyss, and others. But it does seem to me that there is a considerable geographical interval between Fife and Lanark, and that the position of the Lowlands is not quite the same as the position of other counties—of Galloway, or Ayr, Dumfries, or Argyll. Therefore it seems to me, as an ignorant Englishman, that lumping all Scotland together, though very gratifying to the national sense, is destructive of that local object which we had when we moved the Amendment. When you come to Northumberland, that is all right; Durham—that is all right; it was the county area for which I was contending. And, going to the end, Ireland—I did not know that Ireland had any coal.

South Wales is an area. I quite admit that the spirit of my contention is carried pat if you lump Glamorgan and Monmouth together. Then you come to the Southernarea—the Forest of Dean, Somerset, Bristol, and Kent. When you lump Kent with the Forest of Dean, Somerset, and Bristol then all my county sense is outraged. Passing to the area that is lightly called by the draftsman "the Midlands" I will tell you what the Midlands consist, of. Cumberland, Lancashire, Cheshire, North Wales, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire. That is a pretty description of the Midlands.

It is the Federated Area now.

There is also Derbyshire, Cannock Chase, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, and Shropshire. Those are Midland counties, no doubt. But from our point of view it seems a great pity to lump all this vast number of counties under one head. I would therefore earnestly press my noble friend to allow the word "districts" to stand.

Though the noble Earl treated the subject of the Midlands humorously, that expression is used in a coal mining sense, and not in a hunting sense, in which it was used by the noble Earl. Absurd as it looks, it is no use dividing them, because there is this Federated Area, which is well understood in that particular industry. As regards Kent, of course, if the noble Earl has his way, that is one of the difficulties of the case. The union of Bristol and Kent may seem curious to those who have not studied this coal question closely, but at present there are something like 2,000 miners employed in the Kent coalfields. I believe some day they will be extremely prosperous and will cover the whole of that beautiful country with their pits. But that is not so at present. If the noble Earl has his way and the whole place is divided into these comparatively small districts you will, under this fund, have very small amounts to dispense.

I understand that the reason why the President of the Board of Trade is anxious that the larger area should be used is that the wealthy areas can assist in this way the poorer areas, whereas, it you have them cut up into districts, you will have the poor areas raising their small amounts and the money spent there, and the rich and larger areas with much coal would have plenty of money to spend upon themselves. It is not a mere fad of the Minister; it is really a principle that the miners and the different districts should assist each other.

I am not going to press this matter at this stage, and, if strong objection is raised, I am quite prepared to move the clause in a different form. I have not had the opportunity this morning of consulting the President of the Board of Trade, though I have tried to do so, and I do not know what view he would take in another place, but if it is pressed by the noble Earl I am content to accept the word "district" for "areas," and, instead of Part II, Part I of the Second Schedule.

Amendments moved—

Clause 20, page 13, line 33, leave out ("in each of the districts mentioned in Part I of the Second Schedule to this Act").

Clause 20, page 13, line 37, leave out ("in the district").

Clause 20, page 14, line 1, leave out ("in each district").

Clause 20, page 14, line 4, leave out ("for the district").

Clause 20, page 14, line 14, leave out ("in each district").

Clause 20, page 14, line 15, leave out ("in the district").

Clause 20, page 14, line 32, leave out ("Provided further that upon a recommendation in that behalf made from time to time by the National Board the said fund to an amount not exceeding one-tenth of the aggregate annual total thereof for all the districts may, if the Committee think fit, be applied in any year to purposes authorised by this section being of benefit to the interests of workers in or about coal mines either generally or in more than one district"), and insert ("and that the Committee shall allocate for the benefit of the several districts mentioned in Part I of the Second Schedule to this Act sums equal to four-fifths of the contributions from the owners of coal mines in those districts respectively").

Clause 20, page 14, line 40, leave out ("in a district").

Clause 20, page 15, line 3, leave out ("in the said district").

Clause 20, page 15, line 20, leave out ("in each district").

Clause 20, page 15, line 28, leave out ("in the several districts").— (Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Clause 23:

Amendment moved—

Clause 23, page 16, line 35, after ("Department") insert ("relating to mines and minerals").—(Viscount Peel.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons.

I should like to express my thanks to the noble Viscount for the great courtesy with which he has conducted the Bill through this House. It is an experience we often have from the noble Viscount, but I should like on this occasion to emphasise it.