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Commons Chamber
19 December 1929
Volume 233

House Of Commons

Thursday, 19th December, 1929.

The House met at a Quarter before Three of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair.

Private Business

Standing Orders (Private Business),—

Standing Order 33 read, and amended, in line 67, by leaving out "1901," and inserting "1929," instead thereof.

Standing Order 35A read, and amended, in line 11, by leaving out the words "registered under the Companies Act, 1862, or the Companies Consolidation Act, 1908," and inserting the words "within the meaning of the Companies Act, 1929," instead thereof.

Standing Order 63 read, and amended, in line 3, by leaving out the words "formed or registered under the Companies Act, 1862, or the Companies Consolidation Act, 1908," and inserting the words "whether a Company within the meaning of the Companies Act, 1929," instead thereof; and in line 11, by leaving out the words "formed or registered under the Companies Act, 1862, or the Companies Consolidation Act, 1908," and inserting the words "within the meaning of the Companies Act, 1929," instead thereof.

Standing Order 65 read, and amended, in line 5, by leaving out the words "formed or registered under the Companies Act, 1862, or the Companies Consolidation Act, 1908," and inserting the words "whether a Company within the meaning of the Companies Act, 1929," instead thereof; and in line 25, by leaving out the words "formed or registered under the Companies Act, 1862, or the Companies Consolidation Act, 1908," and inserting the words "within the meaning of the Companies Act, 1929," instead thereof.—[ The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Astley Ainslie Institution Order Confirmation Bill,

Read the Third time, and passed.

Ministry of Health Provisional Order (Bradford Extension) Bill,

Read a Second time, and committed.

Oral Answers To Questions

Unemployment

Disputed Claims

1.

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asked the Minister of Labour the number of disputed claims to unemployment benefit which were referred to the umpire by the insurance officer or others for the four weeks ended to the last convenient date; and can she say whether there are any figures that will show the number of cases at the present time that await decision?

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During the four weeks ended 30th November, 1929, 1,674 disputed claims were referred to the umpire for decision. The number of cases awaiting decision on the 13th December was 948. This number includes cases referred between 30th November and 13th December.

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Can the right hon. Lady say whether the umpire's decision is always circulated to the Employment Exchange?

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Statistics

6.

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asked the Minister of Labour how the numbers of unemployed to-day compare with those when the Government took office?

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The number of persons on the registers of Employment Exchanges in Great Britain on 9th December was 196,700 more than on 10th June.

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Is the right hon. Lady aware that during the last three years, taking the period for the middle of November to the middle of December, the figures have steadily fallen week by week; and how does she explain the figures of the last few weeks?

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I think the hon. and gallant Member is slightly in error. I have an answer here to another ques- tion giving the figures for comparative dates for the last two years, and the rise has been quite normal on the first Monday in December of each year.

Trade Unions And Employers' Organisations

16.

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asked the Minister of Labour whether she proposes to recommend to the different trade unions receiving requests from employers to provide labour that they should notify to the Employment Exchanges concerned all such applications with the object of ensuring that the Exchanges are familiar with the state of the local labour market?

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It will be my object to secure close co-operation in this matter between the Employment Exchanges and the trade unions and employers' organisations, and I will take the hon. Member's suggestion into consideration in this connection.

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May I ask whether the right hon. Lady intends to issue regulations in this matter, and, if so, whether they will be published?

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The regulations will be circulated. They fall into two categories. There are those regulations which are purely concerned with the internal working of the machine. They are not public documents, and are not published. There are certain other regulations which will be published.

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Would it not be well for the unemployed persons to know of these instructions so that they may be familiar with the conditions?

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A great many of them do not concern the unemployed at all.

Exchange Accommodation, Belper

18.

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asked the Minister of Labour if she is aware of the nature of the building used as the Employment Exchange at Belper, the whole of the staff having to work in one room and, in addition, unemployed men and women having to sign on here; and whether she intends to provide more suitable premises?

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I will cause inquiries to be made, and will communicate direct with my hon. Friend as soon as possible.

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May I ask if the right hon. Lady is aware that this temporary office, which is merely one small room, has no less than seven persons working in it, and that, on an average, between 500 and 600 sign on there every week?

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I will look into it.

Five-Day Working Week

2.

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asked the Minister of Labour whether she has any information regarding the extent to which the five-day working week is in operation in British industry; and, if so, whether she can state the approximate number of workers affected?

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It is known that, a number of firms have adopted a, five-day working week, but I have no complete record of them, nor of the number of workers involved.

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May I ask whether there is any intention of ascertaining the effect of this five-day week?

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It would mean a great deal of investigation which I do not propose to undertake at the moment.

Washington Hours Convention

7.

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asked the Minister of Labour when she will introduce a Bill for the regulation of hours in industry which will make it possible for His Majesty's Government to ratify the Washington Convention?

10.

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asked the Minister of Labour whether she has received a resolution passed at a meeting of the Plymouth and District Trades Council calling upon the Government to hasten the ratification of the Washington Hours, Convention; and what is the present position?

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I have received the resolution referred to. The Hours of Industrial Employment Bill is in course of preparation, but I cannot yet give a date for its introduction.

Industrial Disputes

11.

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asked the Minister of Labour how many days have been lost owing to industrial disputes in the last six months as compared with the same period in 1928?

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The number of working days lost through industrial disputes reported as having been in progress in Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the six months June-November, 1929, was approximately 7,510,000, of which 6,600,000 were lost in the cotton dispute of July-August. The corresponding total for the six months, June-November, 1928, was about 890,000. Small disputes involving less than 10 workpeople or lasting less than one working day are not included in these figures.

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Would it be correct to say that the days lost during the last six months is approximately eight times that which it was for the same period last year?

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Can the right hon. Lady say how many days were lost in 1926?

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Does it not prove that we were a better Government than hon. Members opposite?

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Who are "we"?

Trade Boards Act

Inspection

14.

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asked the Minister of Labour what steps the Government propose to take to bring about the more effective observance of decisions of Trade Boards respecting hours and wages?

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The question of inspection in Trade Board trades is receiving constant attention, and by improved methods resulting in snore effective use of the inspecting staff, the amount of inspection is being progressively increased.

Factories, Wolverhampton

15.

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asked the Minister of Labour if she is aware of the wages and conditions existing in certain factories in Wolverhampton where female labour is employed; that these workers are not organised; and will she consider the advisability of extending the scope of an existing Trade Board to cover these cases or setting up a new one?

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No specific information is before me. Perhaps the hon. Member will let me have any particulars in his possession about the low wages and unsatisfactory conditions to which he refers.

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I shall be glad to do so.

Tradesmen's Carriers (Ice Cream Sales)

21.

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asked the Minister of Labour whether she will consider extending the provisions of the existing Trade Boards to the employment of persons engaged in selling ice cream from tradesmen's carriers; and, if not, will she consider bringing such employment within the scope of any new Trade Board that may be set up?

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This question will be examined as part of the general question of applying the Trade Boards Acts to the catering trade.

Aliens (Russians)

20.

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asked the Minister of Labour how many permits have been granted since 1st June, 1929, to nationals of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to undertake respectively permanent and temporary employment in this country; and for employment in what occupations have permits been granted?

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I am endeavouring to obtain these particulars, and if they can be got without excessive labour, I will send them to the hon. Member.

Flour And Bread Prices

23.

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asked the Minister of Labour whether she can give the figures of the cost of flour and the cost of the 4 lb. loaf in Great Britain in November, 1929, together with comparable figures for France?

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As the reply is somewhat long, I will, if I may, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

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May I ask whether the right hon. Lady can account for the fact that the loaf in France is so much cheaper although the price of flour is so much higher?

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It is rather a long reply. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member had better read it.

Following is the reply:

In Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the average retail prices charged to working-class purchasers for flour and bread at 30th November, as shown by the information collected for the purpose of the official cost-of-living index figures, were 1s. 4d. per 7 lbs. of flour, and 9d. per 4 lbs. of bread. Corresponding averages for France are not available. It is understood that in Paris the price of white bread at the end of November was 1.95 francs per kilo., equivalent, at current rates of exchange, to nearly 7d. per 4 lbs., but I cannot say whether these figures are on a comparable basis with the figures quoted for Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Prisoners (Flogging)

24.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what States, being members of the Commission Penitentionaire Internationale, have abolished flogging in prisons?

26.

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asked the Home Secretary whether any States which are members of the Commission Penitentionaire International, having abolished flogging from their penal code, have found it necessary to reintroduce this form of punishment during the past 10 years?

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My right hon. Friend has not the information desired but he understands that the Bureau of the Commission is about to issue a questionnaire to all its members on various points of prison administration, including flogging, and no doubt the replies will enable questions to be answered at some future time.

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Can the Under-Secretary give me any idea when that information with be available?

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No, Sir.

Industrial Diseases (Paintspraying)

25.

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asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware of the harmful effects of paint-spraying, both on the operators of machines for that purpose and also on others working in the vicinity of the operation; and whether he will consider introducing legislation for the purpose of safeguarding the health of such workers?

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Paint-spraying is not necessarily harmful—it depends on the nature of the paint and the circumstances in which it is used, and so far as the Department is aware, any cases where there is risk to health can be, and are being, effectively dealt with under the powers conferred by the Factory and Lead Paint Acts. If, however, my hon. Friend will furnish him with particulars of the cases he has in mind, my right hon. Friend will be glad to consider them and make any further inquiry necessary.

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Has the hon. Gentleman had any representations made to him regarding this type of work?

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I am not aware of it.

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Is it not a fact that, if the workmen carry out the regulations of the Department, there is no danger at all?

Shop Hours Act

27.

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asked the Home Secretary the number of prosecutions instituted under the Shop Hours Acts for non-compliance during the last 12 months to the latest available dates; and the number of convictions?

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Only annual returns are received, and the latest available figures therefore are for the year 1928. The total number of persons proceeded against in England and Wales during 1928 for offences against the Shops Acts was 2,998, and of these, 2,344 were convicted and fined.

Vaccination (Exemption, Neath)

28.

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asked the Home Secretary the number of applications made at the Neath police court by parents for exemption from vaccination for their children during the last 12 months to the latest available date?

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I am not in a position to give this information. Records of such matters are not kept either at this court or as a general rule at other petty sessional courts.

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Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the practice that operates in this particular district, and that parents, if they desire to exercise their rights under the law, and to get exemption from vaccination for their children, are compelled to apply to the police court, and the application has to be made by the father?

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If the hon. Member will give me particulars, I will have inquiries made.

Licensing Law (Royal Commission)

31.

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asked the Home Secretary whether any new appointment has been made to the Royal Commission on Licensing to fill the existing vacancy?

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The matter is still under consideration.

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Is the delay not due to the fact that everyone thinks it is waste of time to serve on this Commission?

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Will the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration the appointment of a Welsh representative to the vacancy?

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I can only say that my right hon. Friend will take into consideration all relevant facts.

Local Government (Incorporation Petitions)

32.

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asked the Home Secretary whether he can now state the position with regard to those petitions of incorporation which have been before the Privy Council for some considerable time?

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I understand that my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council will at an early date communicate his decision to the petitioners indicated in my hon. Friend's question.

Police

Non-County Boroughs

33.

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asked the Home Secretary how many non-county boroughs have their own police forces in England and Wales; and bow many such police forces have been amalgamated during the past five years with the police force for the county within which the borough is situated?

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The answer to the first part of the question is 49 and to the second, two. In addition there is one case where a county force and a city force have been placed under the command of the same chief constable.

Chief Constable, Nottingham (Appointment)

34.

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asked the Home Secretary in which sense he has exercised his authority in regard to the appointment of a chief constable for Nottingham?

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My right hon. Friend has the matter still under consideration.

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Can the hon. Gentleman say when a decision is likely to be reached, and what the present position is in Nottingham?

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I am unable to make any statement regarding those two supplementary questions.

Passenger Vehicles (Unsplinterable Glass)

36.

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asked the Home Secretary whether he will consider taking steps to make it compulsory for all hackney carriages and other vehicles plying for hire to be fitted with unsplinterable glass?

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The jurisdiction of my right hon. Friend in this matter is limited to London. He has considered it in consultation with the Commissioner of Police: he is afraid that it is not practicable at present to enforce the use of unsplinterable glass in public service vehicles generally on account of the cost, but the matter will not be lost sight of.

Stag Hunting

37.

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asked the Home Secretary whether he will take an early opportunity of introducing legislation to prohibit the practice of stag hunting?

38.

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asked the Home Secretary whether he proposes to introduce legislation to stop stag hunting?

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I am afraid that I cannot add anything to the reply which was given on the 15th July last, that it is not possible for the Government to take up this subject at the present time.

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In view of the great flood of indignation which has been aroused by certain recent incidents, details of which I am afraid I am not allowed to give to the House, will the hon. Gentleman reconsider that decision, remembering that those who practise these cruelties will be greatly encouraged by an unsympathetic answer?

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Will the hon. Gentleman bring before the Home Secretary the necessity of giving facilities for discussion of the Motion which stands upon the Order Paper in the name of six Members of this House, asking that a Select Committee may be set up to inquire into stag hunting?

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I shall communicate to my right hon. Friend the nature of the two supplementary questions.

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If a Bill is introduced under the Ten Minutes Rule, will the Home Office assist its passage?

Education

Nursery Schools

39.

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asked the President of the Board of Education how many new nursery schools have been approved by the Board during the previous 12 months; and can he state what is the Board's present policy with regard to the provision of further nursery schools?

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Fourteen new nursery schools have been approved by the Board since 1st November, 1928. With regard to the second part of my hon. Friend's question, I would refer him to the Circular recently issued by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health and myself, of which I am sending him a copy.

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Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether there are any applications before the Board now?

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Yes, a good many new ones.

51.

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asked the President of the Board of Education whether by way of supplement to Circular 1,405 and for the information of local education authorities, he will issue a Return showing, as far as possible, the initial and maintenance cost per head of nursery schools already recognised and an estimate of the initial and maintenance cost of the larger nursery schools which the Board are now prepared to recognise?

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The initial cost of schools already recognised cannot in many cases be given, as a number of them are voluntary schools for which the Board have no information as to the initial cost and in other cases the schools were established in existing buildings. With regard to the cost of maintenance of the new schools, I am afraid that any estimate which I could give at the present time would not be very reliable. I will, however, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT information as to the initial cost of schools recently established or proposed, together with a statement of the cost of maintaining the schools already recognised.

Following is the information:

NURSERY SCHOOLS-INITIAL COST.
Name of School.Cost of Buildings.No. of places.Cos per place.

Recognised Schools.

££s.
Sheffield, Denby Street.3,610100360
Walthamstow3,590150240

Proposed Schools.

Bradford, Bierley3,940105380
Leeds, Hunslet3,788105360
London, Bethnal Green.3,9631502610
London, Stepney4,222150280
West Ham, Abbey4,905120410
West Ham, Rosetta Road.4,416120370

NURSERY SCHOOLS—COST OF MAINTENANCE IN 1928–29
Name of School.Average number of children in attendance.Net Maintenance Cost per child in attendance.
1. L.E.A.£s.d.
Birmingham—
Dartmouth Street271400
Summer Lane6715180
Bradford—
Lilycroft Council412442
Princeville Council4225141
St. Anne's Roman Catholic651685
Wapping Road2316141
Derby—Wright Street67131711
Leeds—Hunslet3514159
London—Deptford, R. McMillan (Stowage951478
Manchester—Mather Training College3621152
Scarborough—Friarage329135
Sheffield—Denby Street612737
Total59117165
2. Non-L.E.A.
Birmingham—Selly Oak381535
Bristol—Rosemary Street459130
Darlington—George Dent7110188
London—
Deptford, Goldsmiths' College (27–28)191788
St.Pancras, Rachel McMillan1281285
Kensington, Notting Hill5820310
Hampstead, Kilburn, Union Jack153418
Lambeth, West Norwood, Rommany2818175
Poplar, Bow, The Children's House242028
St. Pancras, The Jellicoe3318150
St. Pancras, The Mary Ward Settlement1919190
St. Pancras, Somers Town39171711
Southwark, Blackfriars, Women's University Settlement Manchester—1416139
Manchester—
Ardwick261500
Collyhurst35171011
Salford—Hulma Street502458
Total6421627
Total L.E.A. and Non-L.E.A.1,233161810

Schools (Hot Water Supply)

40.

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asked the President of the Board of Education what steps his Department has taken during the last three years to see that hot water for washing, especially in winter months, has been laid on in all elementary and particularly infants' schools?

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I cannot give my hon. Friend precise figures, but I can assure him that the Board fully recognise the desirability of a supply of hot water, especially in infants' schools, and it is their practice to suggest that a supply should be provided in all cases where this appears reasonably practicable.

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Is my right hon. Friend aware that in many of these schools there is hot water for heating purposes, but none for washing, and will he suggest that schemes be adopted for linking up the two systems?

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are still many schools which have not even a proper supply of cold water?

School-Leaving Age (Maintenance Allowances)

41.

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asked the President of the Board of Education whether he can make a statement as to maintenance grants in connection with raising the school age?

44.

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asked the President of the Board of Education whether he can make any statements as to his proposals for providing maintenance allowance when the proposal to raise the school age comes into operation and whether they will be on the basis of a flat rate or whether the rates will vary according to family needs or according to area?

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The Bill for raising the school-leaving age was introduced last Tuesday and is now in the hands of Members, and, as the House will observe, it contains provisions for maintenance allowances in respect of the children affected by the raising of the school age, and for the payment of Exchequer grant in respect of the local authorities' expenditure on such allowances. The conditions governing the award of maintenance allowances by the local education authorities and the payment of grant by the Exchequer will following the normal course, form the subject of regulations which will he made by the Board under the provisions of Section 118 of the Education Act, and these regulations will be framed in accordance with the decisions to which the Government have come on the subject and which I am about to explain to the House.

The Government, guided largely by the expressions of opinion which they have received from representative associations of local education authorities, and with a view to bringing the method of awarding the new allowances into line with the principles on which awards are at present made to selected children attending central and secondary schools, have decided that the new maintenance allowances should be related to the actual needs of the children and their parents. I propose to ask the representatives of the local education authorities to assist me by forming a committee to recommend scales of need and a simple procedure for determining eligibility. In every case in which the prescribed conditions are satisfied it will be the duty of the local education authority to pay the maintenance allowance as a matter of course.

With regard to the Exchequer contribution the Government have decided that the State should pay grant at the unusually high rate of 60 per cent, on allowances not exceeding five shillings a week. The initial cost of these allowances may be estimated at about £3,000,000 a year, of which the Exchequer will bear £1,800,000. Taking the extra charge for education and the cost of maintenance allowances together, the total cost of the Government's proposals will be about five and a half million pounds a year, of which the Exchequer will pay about four millions or over 70 per cent. Both the form and the amount of the maintenance allowances will be provisional and subject to revision after the experience of five years. In conclusion, I ought to make it clear that the Bill has been introduced at the present time for the guidance of local education authorities and that the legislative programme of the Government is so full that no date can at present be suggested for the Second Reading. It is, however, the determination of the Government to pass it before Christmas, 1930.

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I wish to put two questions arising out of the right hon. Gentleman's answer. First, what is to happen in the case of maintenance allowances in excess of 5s., because I understand the Government grant of 60 per cent. is confined to allowances below 5s. a week. Secondly, in view of the fact that under the Bill these regulations, though only draft regulations, carry for the first time in such regulations a statutory obligation on the local authorities, will the right hon. Gentleman see that the House has an opportunity of discussing them before they are put into force?

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I cannot answer the second question without further consideration. That point will arise on the terms of the Bill. With regard to the first question, the proposed Government grant will be applicable to maintenance allowances up to 5s.

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But not higher? In the case of higher allowances, is no grant at all to be allowed?

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the Government grant is only valid up to the 5s.

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Does the right hon. Gentleman's reply mean that there is going to be a means test? Secondly, does it also mean that the rates of allowances will vary according to the areas?

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I have said that I am asking the local authorities to help me by the appointment of a committee to decide details of that kind.

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What the country wants to be made clear is this—are these maintenance allowances to be universal, applying to the children of all parents, or are they only to apply to some?

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I thought I made it quite clear that they would be related to the actual needs of the children.

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In view of the very strong resistance that was put up to any means test in another case, on what ground do the Government propose to apply a means test in this case?

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I am afraid that, in reply to questions, I cannot argue the matter.

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Will these maintenance grants be paid to the parents or the children?

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I thought it was quite obvious that they would be paid to the parents.

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Are we to understand that the size of the maintenance grant is to be at the discretion of the local education authority?

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No. I have said that I am going to ask the representatives of the local authorities to advise as to the method of payment and the amount.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman inform the House as to whether the local education authorities have already accepted responsibility for the principle of this inquisition into means?

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The representatives of the local authorities have themselves suggested that there should be some such arrangement.

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Do these calculations include Scotland?

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The Secretary of State for Scotland will reply to questions relating to Scotland.

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In his calculations, has the right hon. Gentleman considered what will be saved in unemployment benefit as a result of this step?

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That will be a debating point.

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Arising out of the Minister's original answer, I wish to put two questions: First, will the maintenance allowance be available only for children of from 14 to 15 years, or will it be available, at the discretion of the local authority, for younger children? Secondly, supposing two local authorities differ, one holding that a parent is in need if his means are £250 per annum, and the other that a parent is not in need unless his income is less than £100 per annum, how is it to be decided which is the right interpretation?

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I think, perhaps, it would be wiser if we left the matter until hon. Members have been able to read my reply. Both questions put by the hon. Lady are answered by that reply.

50.

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asked the President of the Board of Education if he is aware that resolutions have been passed or statements made recently by the Shropshire County Education Committee, the Wiltshire Education Committee, the Dorset Education Committee and the Jarrow Education Committee to the effect that it will not be possible to carry out the raising of the school age effectively in those districts by the date fixed by him; and, seeing that this policy will result in compelling children to attend classes overcrowded and insufficiently staffed, he will consider its postponement?

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I am aware that some of these authorities have expressed a doubt as to their ability to provide a full scheme of reorganisation by April, 1931. But, as I have previously stated, I am not prepared to postpone the date on this account.

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Are we therefore to understand that the right hon. Gentleman is in favour of compelling children to attend classes that are overcrowded and insufficiently staffed?

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Certainly not. I am not prepared, because the machine may not be absolutely perfect in all cases, to defer the advantage which the raising of the school age is going to be for 400,000 children.

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It still follows from the right hon. Gentleman's reply that the—

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Speech!

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that so far as the county of Dorset, which is mentioned in the question, is concerned, the carrying out of his proposals will mean an increase in the county rate of something between 6d. and 8d. in the £?

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I have not gone into the proposals of Dorset County yet, but I understand that they have put forward in many respects a quite satisfactory scheme.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that more and more such resolutions are being passed every day?

School Buildings (Defects)

42.

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asked the President of the Board of Education whether His Majesty's inspectors have been instructed to report in detail upon any defect in structure, lighting, heating, water supply, or sanitary arrangements of all schools which they visit; and, if not, whether it is his intention to issue such an instruction?

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Yes, Sir; this is one of the functions of the Board's inspectors.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that during the economy campaign, they were instructed not to report on these matters; and has he cancelled such instructions?

Secondary School Teachers (Training)

43.

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asked the President of the Board of Education if he has had under consideration the making of a regulation requiring all new entrants to the teaching profession in secondary schools to have undergone a course of training of not less than 12 months' duration?

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No, Sir. I do not contemplate the issue of such a regulation.

Conveyance Of Children (Grant)

52.

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asked the President of the Board of Education whether, under the Elementary Education Amending Regulations, No. 6, of 1929, he will recognise for the purposes of grant, at the rate of 50 per cent., expenditure to meet outlay on the conveyance of children to senior schools necessitated by reorganisation?

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It is not proposed to increase the rate of grant payable in respect of expenditure of this nature.

London Naval Conference

45.

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asked the Prime Minister what would be the reduction in British cruiser tonnage as compared with that now actually in commission if the proposals made on behalf of the British Government before or at the recent Washington Conference were adopted as the basis of British-American parity; what would be the corresponding figures if the lowest American figure proposed were accepted; and what would be the total saving in Naval Estimates in the first year after the scheme came into operation in each case?

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I have been asked to reply. In view of the impending London Naval Conference I do not consider it advisable to make any statement on the tonnages and figures referred to by my hon. Friend.

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Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that discussion in this House and the formation of public opinion on these vital matters should be possible; or are we to be kept entirely in the dark, until something has been done of which the House disapproves?

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My hon. Friend must recognise that we have been in touch for six months, in negotiation upon these matters, and we are in a better position to judge on that point.

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Is it the case that, if the British proposals are accepted as a basis of parity, the effect will be that the Americans will disarm by substantially increasing their cruiser tonnage?

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That supplementary question shows the wisdom of my previous answer—

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Speak up!

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Does it not also show the need to supply some of this information to Members of Parliament? Why should Ministers keep it all to themselves?

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Why should the forthcoming Naval Conference preclude the right hon. Gentleman from answering the questions which are being put to him?

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I think it has often been said from this Box, in regard to previous Conferences, that there are questions which it would be wiser to leave unanswered, until the negotiations are complete. That is the view I hold and the view to which I adhere.

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How does the right hon. Gentleman make his present attitude fit in with his previous views on secret diplomacy?

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(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister, if he can now give the House any information regarding the arrangements for the forthcoming Five-Power Conference?

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The first public plenary meeting of the Conference will be held in the Royal Gallery of the House of Lords on the morning of the 21st January. His Majesty the King has graciously consented to open the Conference and to deliver the opening address. The second plenary meeting of the Conference, and all subsequent meetings, will be held at St. James's Palace, which the King has placed at the disposal of His Majesty's Government for the duration of the Conference. All questions relating to the subsequent procedure of the Conference, and the holding of further public meetings, will be left for discussion by the Conference itself.

46.

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asked the Prime Minister whether any indication of an official or semi-official nature has been received from the American or any other Government participating in the Five-Power Conference that they would be prepared to view favourably a scheme for the substantial reduction of battleship strength immediately or at a defined future date; and whether any proposals with this end in view have been made by the British Government to any of the other interested Powers?

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I have been asked to reply. The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. As regards the second part, it was stated in the invitations extended by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom on 7th October last to the Governments of France, Italy, Japan and the United States that it would be desirable for the Conference to consider inter alia the battleship replacement programmes provided for in the Washington Treaty of 1922, with the view to diminishing the amount of replacement construction implied under that instrument.

Forestry Commission

47.

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asked the Prime Minister, in view of the growing national importance of the work of the Forestry Commission, whether he will consider the appointment of a Minister directly responsible for the work of national afforestation to this House?

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My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply. The constitutional status of the Commission has recently been under consideration. It is found that the present arrangements work satisfactorily, and it is not proposed to make any changes.

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To what Government Department is the Foresty Commission responsible?

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The question is quite correctly asked of the Prime Minister, but he is not able to be present to-day.

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Is it not a fact that great dissatisfaction was expressed in the last Parliament at the difficulty of getting answers to questions about forestry matters, and that this dissatisfaction was voiced particularly by the party now in office?

Trade Barriers (Government Policy)

49.

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asked the Prime Minister whether it remains the policy of the Government to pursue a policy of freer trade between all nations in the world?

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I have been asked to reply. It is certainly part of the policy of His Majesty's Government to do everything in their power to secure a reduction in trade barriers, and it was in pursuance of that policy that at the last meeting of the Assembly of the League of Nations I put forward a proposal for a conference early next year to examine the possibility of concluding a tariff truce with a view to subsequent negotiations leading to reduced duties.

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Am I to understand that the Government are not in sympathy with the latest food taxing crusade?

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There is no doubt that not only on our side but also, I think, in all parts of the House there is opposition to anything resembling food taxes.

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Does not a tariff truce mean the maintenance of existing tariffs?

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No, that is exactly what it does not mean. It means if we secure agreement under a convention of this kind that at all events the existing tariffs will not be increased, but I made it perfectly plain that the whole object is, within that framework, to press for an agreement for the reduction of tariffs.

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Does not the right hon. Gentleman entirely oppose the subsidising of dumping coal abroad?

Housing

Slum Clearance

53.

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asked the Minister of Health if it is the policy of the Government drastically to deal with the slum problem; what new schemes, if any, have been initiated by the Government since it took office; and what is the estimated cost of those schemes?

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As to the first part of the question, I would ask the hon. Member to await the proposals for legislation which I hope shortly to be in a position to submit. With regard to the last part, the Government do not initiate schemes of the kind. Six such schemes have been submitted by local authorities since the present Government took office, the total cost of which is estimated by those local authorities at approximately £511,000.

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Is that all that the right hon. Gentleman can contribute towards fulfilling a definite election pledge?

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The hon. Member had better wait until after the Recess.

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Is it not a fact that the right hon. Gentleman has held up a large number of slum clearance schemes, and will he make a move as soon as possible?

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It is true that because of decisions in the past impediments have been put in the way of slum clearance schemes being carried into effect, but I hope to be able to deal with that at a very early date.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman be able to circulate an outline of his scheme well in advance of the time when it is likely to be discussed—before the millennium?

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I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that it will be discussed long before the millennium, and that he should have very good time to consider the Bill.

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Does not the Rents Restriction Act hold up a good many of these schemes?

Exchequer Grants

60.

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asked the Minister of Health if he will consider lending money, at a low rate of interest, to local authorities who are anxious to build houses; and if there is any intention to increase Government grants for this purpose?

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The policy of the Government is to give assistance to local authorities in the provision of houses by means of direct Exchequer subsidy payable out of voted moneys, and not by the means suggested by the hon. Member. The amount of grant payable to local authorities was fully considered in connection with the Housing (Revision of Contributions) Act of the present Session.

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What interest is charged by the Exchequer to the local authorities for these grants?

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No question of rate of interest arises at all. The grants are payable per house built; the money is handed over, and there is no question of interest.

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Has the Minister considered the use for this purpose of the money in the Post Office, which is contributed at a low rate of interest?

Caravans

62.

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asked the Minister of Health whether he has received from local authorities in different parts of the country copies of resolutions adopted by them drawing his attention to the difficulties experienced by them with regard to caravans and other temporary dwellings; and whether, having regard to the doubt which apparently exists in the minds of the members and officials of these councils as to the powers which they possess for dealing with such dwellings, he will consider the advisability of issuing a memorandum indicating what these powers exactly are?

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Yes, Sir, I have received resolutions and have had a memorandum prepared, of which I am sending copies to each of the local authorities who have passed the resolution, and to the several associations of local authorities. I will send the hon. Member a copy.

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Is that memorandum favourable to or against living in caravans?

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The memorandum is simply an explanation of the law and the powers of local authorities, without any expression of opinion at all.

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Have the local authorities sufficient powers to go into this matter, or will it be necessary to have further legislation?

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No, I think that local authorities have quite adequate powers to deal with this problem if they choose to exercise them.

Swilly, Devonport

64.

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asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been drawn to the bad condition of council houses at Swilly, Devonport, and the danger to public health involved; and what action his Department proposes to take?

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Early in 1926 attention was drawn to the condition of certain council houses in this area. The houses were inspected by one of my officers and steps were taken by the Council to remedy the defects complained of. I have received no further complaint in the matter.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that recently there has been a recurrence of this trouble, and that there is great suffering by the tenants, and will he look into it?

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Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the Corporation are not looking after that property to the best of their ability?

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I understand that the earlier cause of complaint was dealt with by local authorities, and I have heard no complaint since.

Town Planning (Developed Areas)

66.

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asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been called to the development of certain properties in the West End such as the sites of Grosvenor House and Devonshire House, Westminster, and Hereford Gardens, near Marble Arch, whereby large new populations are housed without regard to the traffic capacity of the serving streets; and when he proposes to introduce legislation to enable developed areas to be re-planned and the population to the acre limited?

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I am aware generally of the type of development to which the hon. and gallant Member refers. I hope in due course to introduce legislation for extending town planning powers to developed areas.

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Will that legislation be included in the housing legislation which the hon. Gentleman is going to introduce?

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As the hon. and gallant Members is no doubt aware, housing and town planning legislation are now separated into two bodies of Statutes.

Sites (Cost)

70.

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asked the Minister of Health if he can give the average price per acre of land purchased by local authorities for housing schemes since 1919, and the annual rateable value of the same land immediately preceding purchase?

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According to the information available in my Department the average price paid for housing sites is approximately £200 per acre. I regret that the desired particulars of the rateable value, preceding purchase, of the land in question are not available.

Local Authorities (Legal Liabilities)

55.

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asked the Minister of Health whether he intends to introduce any proposals to Parliament with regard to the communications he has received from certain corporations or other bodies with regard to the legal liabilities that have been recently incurred by them?

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I understand the right hon. Member to refer to the four local authorities affected by the failure of Corporation and General Securities, Ltd. I have been in communication with the authorities in question, but I have not been asked to introduce legislation with regard to their legal liabilities, nor do I contemplate such legislation. I may say, however, that one of the authorities is promoting a private Bill for the purpose of spreading the burden of their loss over a period of years.

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Is it possible for the right hon. Gentleman to indicate roughly what is the total loss incurred by the four corporations concerned?

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I could not, without notice. The case of Wakefield is the local authority which was hit hardest, and there the sum involved was rather over £300,000.

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Is there any question in any of these cases of the personal liability of any members of the corporation?

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Not so far as I am aware, in the case of the four corporations.

Poor Law (Necessitous Areas)

56.

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asked the Minister of Health whether he has any new proposals for assisting the necessitous areas this winter; and, with regard to the deputation recently received by him from the National Executive Committee on Necessitous Areas, which asked that the cost of relieving the able-bodied unemployed should be made a national charge, will he say what reply he made?

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As regards the first part of the question, I am not at present in a position to make any statement on the matter. As regards the second part, I understand that a report of the proceedings is being prepared by the committee, who will no doubt send the right hon. Gentleman a copy at his request.

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Does not the right hon. Gentleman think he had better at once state the answer to the first part of the question, whether he has any new proposals for assisting necessitous areas this winter? Unless he is able to make a statement now, they will not know quite how he proposes to deal with them, and perhaps he will indicate what reply he has to make on the matter?

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I have already said that I am not in a position to make a statement.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House exactly what he told the National Executive Committee on Necessitous Areas and whether he is really prepared to do anything for them within a reasonable period?

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I have already told the right hon. Gentleman, if he is so anxious to get this information, that, if he will write to that Committee, they will supply him with a copy of my answer.

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Why this secrecy?

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There was no secrecy about it, as I am informed that a verbatim note was taken and is to be published.

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Did not the right hon. Gentleman inform this deputation that he was unable to do anything for them, and ask them to come to him at some later date, in the next year?

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The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to need a copy of the report.

Public Health

Mental Institutions (Accommodation)

58.

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asked the Minister of Health what action he is taking to provide suitable accommodation and care for the many cases of mentally deficient children who have been recommended for institutional treatment by mental deficiency committees, but who are not receiving it?

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I am aware of the existing inadequacy of institutional accommodation for mental defectives, both adults and juveniles, and local authorities are being urged to carry out their statutory duty to provide institutional accommodation.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are many hundreds, and possibly thousands, of mentally deficient children who are in lunatic asylums, and very often where they should not be?

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That is a condition which I know exists in many areas, and I am doing my best to persuade local authorities to make provision.

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Has the right hon. Gentleman no powers where persuasion fails? If not, will he take steps to secure such powers?

59.

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asked the Minister of Health what action he is taking or intends to take to prevent the present overcrowding of public mental hospitals?

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Though there is a shortage of accommodation in public mental hospitals, there are relatively few cases of serious overcrowding. The position has already received my attention. Approval has been given to certain proposals for extending mental hospital accommodation, and others are under consideration. It is anticipated that these extensions will largely meet the present shortage; and further alleviation of the position may result from the survey of institutional accommodation which may become available under the Local Government Act.

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Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are many mental hospitals in the home counties where the patients are sleeping on the floor, and that certain authorities in the home and other counties are reluctant to develop fresh institutions owing to alleged financial stringency?

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As regards the first part of the question, I do not know the particular cases which the hon. Member has in mind. As regards the second part of the question, it is perfectly—

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We cannot hear! Address the Speaker!

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On a point of Order. May I call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the difficulties which we have on this side owing to the habit of Ministers of turning round to their own supporters?

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It is my question. If the right hon. Gentleman speaks to the other side of the House, it is difficult for us to hear on this side.

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Is it not the duty of Ministers to address the Chair?

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That is always the best plan.

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As regards the second part of the question, it is true that a number of local authorities—

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Speak up!

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Can the right hon. Gentleman be provided with a revolving platform?

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A number of local authorities have been reluctant to undertake expenditure on mental hospitals, but I have recently appointed a committee with a view to reducing the cost of these institutions; local authorities are now being pressed to exercise their duties, and I hope that within a reasonable time there will be adequate accommodation for mental cases.

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We cannot hear the right hon. Gentleman at this end of the House. Is it in order for a Minister to face both ways?

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rose

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We have had so many points of Order that we had better get on with the questions?

Committees

61.

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asked the Minister of Health whether he will furnish a list of advisory or other committees which have been set up by the Ministry of Health in connection with the administration of National Health Insurance or of public health generally since the commencement of the year 1925; and whether he will indicate on which of these committees provision has been made for the inclusion of members from Wales, including Monmouthshire, and the number of such members on each committee?

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With the hon. Member's permission, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement of the facts for which he asks in the first part of the question. I am not in a position to reply specifically to the second part of the question, since I am advised that in many instances it has not been considered relevant to the object for which the committee was set up to inquire whether all or any of the members could be considered to belong to particular parts of Great Britain.

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Is it not true that, in spite of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman will not give an answer, the general effect is that that part of the scheme since the formation of the Ministry of Health, has been a dead letter?

Following is the statement:

List of Committees set up by the Ministry of Health in connection with the administration of national health insur-

ance or public health generally since the commencement of the year 1925:

  • Committee on Post Graduate Medical Education.
  • Committee on Vaccination.
  • Dental Benefit Joint Committee—which has now been replaced by the Dental Benefit Council.
  • Advisory Committee under Therapeutic Substances Act, 1925.
  • Medical Advisory Committee on Decennial Revision of International List of Causes of Death.
  • Committee on the Optical Practitioners (Registration) Bill.
  • Advisory Committee under Article 41 of Medical Benefit Regulations, 1928.
  • Committee on Ethyl Petrol.
  • Committee on Training and Employment of Midwives.
  • Committee on Maternity Mortality.
  • Pharmaceutical Distribution Committee under Article 25 of Medical Benefit Regulations, 1928.
  • Joint Advisory Committee on Pollution of Rivers and Streams.
  • Advisory Committee on the Definition of Drugs for the purposes of Medical Benefit under the National Health Insurance Acts.

Refuse Disposal

67.

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asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the menace to the health of the rapidly growing communities on the Thames-side areas in Essex, he will take steps to prevent the further dumping of refuse by outside authorities in these areas?

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I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the replies given on the 7th November to a number of questions regarding the disposal of the refuse of London.

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Is the Minister aware that these are breding places of millions of rats, and that the fumes and stench are perfectly horrible and a menace to the health of the whole district; and cannot he take steps in his Department to stop it?

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I am perfectly aware, and so was my predecessor—

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It is getting worse every day.

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—and that is why a committee was appointed consisting of representatives of all the London authorities. As have explained in the House, the work of that committee was suspended by the lamented death of Sir John Gatti, but they are meeting again, and I hope to have their report in the next few months.

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Why is the right hon. Gentleman always falling back on his predecessors?

Blind Wrlfare (Grants)

68.

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asked the Minister of Health whether in view of the fact that, under the Local Government Act, 1929, grants to voluntary associations for the blind will as from 1st April next be paid by the local authorities and that hitherto these grants have been paid half-yearly in arrear, he will state what arrangements have been made to ensure that any voluntary association for the blind which may find it necessary to close down on 31st March next will receive the balance of grant earned by it for the year 1929–30 which will then be outstanding under the arrangement hitherto in force?

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I do not anticipate that these circumstances will arise in the case of any of these associations, but should such a case occur, I should be prepared to consider whether the facts justified a further payment to the association.

Surrey County Council (Loans For Drainage)

63.

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asked the Minister of Health if he has received a Report on the inquiries held by his Department into the applications for loans by the Surrey County Council for the drainage of the valleys of the Rivers Thames and Wey; if he has yet reached a decision on the applications; if so, when it was communicated to the Surrey County Council; and, if not, when he expects to be able to communicate his decision?

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I have received reports upon these inquiries and have decided to approve the proposals subject to discussion of details. My decision was conveyed to the Surrey County Council and other authorities concerned on the 17th instant.

Floods (Relief)

69.

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asked the Minister of Health whether he has any information as to the steps being taken to afford relief and assistance to the inhabitants of those districts recently subjected to flooding in various parts of the country; and whether it is the intention of the Government to supplement local assistance by a financial grant?

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I am aware that voluntary funds have been set up with the object of affording relief. As regards the second part of the question, I would draw attention to my replies to questions asked on the 28th ultimo.

Sugar Duties

71.

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asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will undertake, before giving effect to any decision to remove part or all of the present Sugar Duty, to make some arrangement which will permit refiners and wholesalers to carry sufficient stocks of sugar to meet normal requirements without fear of suffering financial loss and causing a possibility of a serious shortage in the supply of white sugar to the public?

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My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply on his behalf. I must ask the hon. and gallant Member to await the statement referred to in the reply given to a question by the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Tout) on the 12th December.

Beer Duty

72.

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asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, having regard to the present price and quality of British beer, whether he will consider a reduction in the Excise duty upon all beer brewed from home-grown barley and hops?

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My right hon. Friend has noted my hon. Friend's suggestion, but he cannot hold out any prospect of its adoption.

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Having regard to the aeroplane price and the submarine quality of present-day beer, cannot the Government give some assistance by using the home-grown article?

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I will acquaint my right hon. Friend with the point to which the hon. Member refers.

Safeguarding Duties (Lace And Cutlery)

73.

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asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has received protests from the Joint Industrial Councils or a combined protest from employers and trade union leaders in the lace and cutlery trades against the possible repeal of the Customs Duties on those goods; and whether he is prepared to receive deputations from those industries?

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My right hon. Friend has received from the Federation of Lace and Embroidery Employers' Associations a copy of a resolution passed at a conference of representatives of employers' associations and trade unions in the lace industry in regard to the lapsing of the lace duty when the statutory period for which it has been imposed expires; he has received no similar representations in the case of the cutlery duty. With regard to the second part of the question I would remind the hon. and gallant Member that the policy of the Government in relation to the Safeguarding Duties is well known. [HON. MEMBERS: "Is it?"] The Government feel that no useful purpose would be served by receiving such deputations.

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May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether his attention has been called to the fact that 14 trade unions connected with the Nottingham lace industry carried this resolution unanimously, in conjunction with the employers; and secondly, whether it is not the fact that the cutlery trade joint industrial council of employers and trade unionists have unanimously requested His Majesty's Government to take no steps; and how do these square with the reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

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The hon. and gallant Member's question asked whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer had received protests and the answer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is perfectly correct. As to whether there have been resolutions carried, that was not the question, and I am not able to say whether that is so or not.

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Is the hon. Gentleman not aware of the fact that a request has been sent to the Ministry by this joint body of employers and trade unionists in Sheffield?

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I am not aware of any facts beyond those which are given in the answer.

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Recognising the importance of this question in the country, may I ask what is the attitude of the Government with regard to this matter?

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The policy of the Government on the matter was stated quite clearly on several occasions, and the hon. Member cannot expect me to add to the statement which has been made by my right hon. Friend and by the Prime Minister.

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rose

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Mr. Lovat-Fraser.

Stationery Office (Compositors' Wages)

74.

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asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury what are the present scales of wages of the compositors employed by His Majesty's Stationery Office; and what were the scales for doing the same work before the War?

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The present minimum rates of wages of the compositors employed by His Majesty's Stationery Office are £4 9s. for hand compositors and £4 16s. for machine compositors, in each case for a week of 48 hours. These are the standard rates of wages for compositors in London. As regards the second part of the question, no compositors were employed by the Stationery Office before the War; but the standard rates then were £1 19s. for hand compositors and £2 5s. for machine compositors for a week of 50 hours in each case.

Industrial Assurance (Lapsed Policies)

75.

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asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury whether he is aware that certain insurance companies and societies are serving notices of forfeiture or lapse on their policyholders, and in default of payment of arrears of premiums they will forfeit all interest in or benefit under their policies; and whether he will take steps to advertise the rights of policy-holders under the Industrial Assurance Act, 1929, in the post offices?

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As to the first part of the question, the notices of forfeiture to which the hon. Member refers should follow the terms of Section 23 of the Industrial Assurance Act, 1923. The issue of such notices and the lapse of the policies in accordance with them does not affect any rights of the policy-owners to free policies or surrender values under the Act of 1923 or the Industrial Assurance and Friendly Societies Act, 1929, or under their contracts. As to the second part of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 17th December last.

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In view of the right hon. Gentleman's answer, is it not clear that it is very necessary that these same notices should bear a brief statement of the rights of policy-holders to a new policy or to a surrender value on their old policy, and that this should be as clear as are those other statements which only mislead them as to their rights?

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The hon. Member will appreciate that I have no power to compel any private company to take any steps except those which I am empowered to take by Statute, but he will notice that I have treated his question sympathetically, and, if I can find any practical steps which will achieve the purpose which he has in mind, I am willing to do it; but the difficulty is to find a course that is practicable.

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Will the hon. Gentleman remember that there is only from now until the 9th May for these people to have a chance of getting something back out of the enormous amount of money which the insurance companies have taken from them?

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Is this not a very excellent argument for the nationalisation of insurance?

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Would it not be a practicable step to allow the Post Office to develop life insurance business? That might go to the root of the trouble.

Long Distance Flight (Disaster)

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(by Private Notice) asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he can give the House any information with reference to the accident to the long-distance-flight machine and the death of the two pilots?

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I am not yet in a position to add materially to the information which has already been made public about this most regrettable disaster. The reports so far received from His Majesty's Consul-General in Tunis merely state that the machine crashed in the hills some 30 miles south of Tunis, the weather at the time being both cloudy and stormy, and that Squadron Leader Jones-Williams and Flight Lieut. Jenkins were both killed. A military guard has been placed over the machine and the Consul-General left at dawn this morning for the scene of the accident with a view to obtaining the fullest possible information and bringing the bodies of the dead officers to the Military Hospital in Tunis.

The Air Ministry have already despatched a technical officer to Tunis, in order that the fullest expert inquiry practicable may be made on the spot. Pending receipt of his report no cause can be assigned to the accident. I should like to add that the responsible French authorities have given the greatest possible assistance. I am sure the whole House will join with me in deploring the loss of the lives of two gallant officers of such outstanding promise and in conveying to their relatives an expression of our most profound sympathy.

Colliery Explosion, Ayrshire

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(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary for Mines whether he is aware that an explosion of firedamp took place on Monday morning of this week at Bank pit, New Cum-flock, by which two men lost their lives and several others were injured; what is his latest information regarding this unfortunate accident; and what steps has he taken to discover how this accident occurred or what steps does he propose to take?

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I deeply regret to inform the House that an explosion of firedamp occurred in the Blackband Seam of the Bank Colliery in Ayrshire at about 1 a.m. on 16th December. Eleven brushers and three coal-cutting machinemen were injured; two of them have since died and two others are in a serious condition. Investigations as to the cause of the explosion were undertaken without delay, but I cannot as yet make any definite statement on this point, nor can I decide what action I can best take in the matter until I have received and considered the reports of the Inspectors of Mines. I expect to receive these in the course of a day or two and no time has been or will be lost.

The whole House will join with me in an expression of deep sympathy with the relatives and friends of those who have lost their lives or have been injured. It is a saddened Christmas for them.

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Does the hon. Member not think that, if an automatic gas alarm had been used at this colliery, this disaster might have been avoided? Will he consult his advisers as to the advisability of making compulsory the use of an automatic alarm of that description?

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I will consider the second part of the supplementary question. As regards the first part, it was a naked-light mine until 12 days ago, and until further reports have been received I cannot make further observations.

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Is it a fact that the officers of the Mines Department have seen this experiment and have endorsed the view that it would be effective in saving life?

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The Department have seen many sorts of lamps, safety lamps, and devices of one sort or another, and whenever they find the perfect one they will make regulations accordingly.

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Is it not the fact that an automatic gas alarm lamp was approved by the Department two years ago; and is my hon. Friend not aware that two existing inspectors and two ex-inspectors have recommended it as the almost perfect thing for the purpose?

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Will the hon. Gentleman tell us before he replies to the question put to him by my hon. Friend how his inspectors will know that they have found a perfect lamp?

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I have no further observations to make.

Business Of The House

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May I ask the Prime Minister if there is any alteration in the business that we understand is arranged up to the moment of Adjournment; and, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman will tell the House, for the convenience of Members, what arrangements have been made, when we resume, for taking the Ballot for Amendments on first going into Committee of Supply on the Estimates?

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There are no alterations in the business previously announced, but it is proposed to put down the Motion providing that the Ballot for Notices of Amendments on going into Committee of Supply, should be held on Thursday, 23rd January, and that no such Amendment be accepted in anticipation of the Ballot. Perhaps I may take this opportunity of reminding the House that on 21st January, the first day of meeting, there will be a Ballot for Notices of Motion for 22nd January, and the three succeeding Wednesdays, and on 22nd January a Ballot for Notices of Motion for Wednesday, 19th February, will be taken.

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When is the Chancellor of the Exchequer going to make his statement on safeguarding?

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The Chancellor of the Exchequer has already stated that he would make that statement before the Adjournment for the Christmas Recess. I think it is desirable that we should have some such statement, so that we may discuss it.

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I understand that that question was answered yesterday.

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I do not think that that question was answered yesterday, and I think it might be answered now.

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Unfortunately, some of those engagements which take us away, took me away yes- terday, but I thought the question was answered then. At any rate, I am in the hands of those who advise me on these matters. I understand that the intention is that the statement referred to may be made on Monday, but will the House please allow me to guard my language; I say that I understand a statement is to be made on Monday.

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When may we expect to see the text of the Bill dealing with the Washington Convention?

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That will not be introduced before Christmas. There is the Factory Bill as well and the two must be made to co-ordinate. They will be introduced without delay.

Ordered,

"That other Government Business have precedence this day of the Business of Supply."—[The Prime Minister.]

Message From The Lords

That they have agreed to—

Highlands and Islands (Medical Service) Additional Grant Bill,

Lanarkshire Traction Order Confirmation Bill, without Amendment.

Amendments to—.

Ministry of Health Provisional Orders Confirmation (Bristol and Ross Water) Bill [ Lords],

Birmingham Corporation (General Powers) Bill [ Lords], without Amendment.

Bills Reported

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order (Fylde Water Board) Bill

Reported, without Amendment [Provisional Order confirmed]; Report to lie upon the Table.

Bill to be read the Third time morrow.

Ministry Of Health Provisional Order Confirmation (Sheppey Water) Bill Lords

Reported, with Amendments [Provisional Order confirmed]; Report to lie upon the Table.

Bill, as amended, to be considered Tomorrow.

Importation Of Plumage (Prohibition) Act (1921) Amendment Bill

"to amend the Importation of Plumage (Prohibition) Act, 1921," presented by Colonel Clifton Brown; supported by Sir G. Dalrymple-White, Viscountess Astor, Mr. Kingsley Griffith, Mr. H. Gosling, Mr. Ede, Mr. Horrabin, and Mr. Malone; to be read a Second time upon Monday, 10th February, and to be printed. [Bill 105.]

Civil Estimates (Supplementary Estimate, 1929)

Estimate presented, of a further sum required to be voted for the service of the year ending 31st March 1930 [by Command]; Referred to the Committee of Supply, and to be printed.

Orders Of The Day

Coal Mines Bill

Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [ 17th December], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

Which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon this day six months."

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

4.0 p.m.

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In dealing with this Measure, I think it is generally realised that the primary object of it is not to benefit the community at large and not to benefit the coal industry itself; its primary object is partially to implement a pledge given by the present Government at the time of the last election. I should hardly have thought it worth while on the part of the Government to have attempted such a small instalment of their promise. The Government is already discredited by their failure to carry out their pledges in regard to the Widows' Pensions Bill and the Unemployment Insurance Bill. Their original pledge was, of course, that they would immediately repeal the disastrous Act, as they called it, of the previous Government, which permitted a longer working day. When they entered into office, they at once realised that the full carrying out of their pledge was impossible without bankrupting the whole of the coal industry. I think that in itself is testimony of the wisdom of the previous Government in having lengthened the hours. They find now that the most they can do without severe injury to the industry is to suggest shortening the hours by half an hour. Even that is going to put a very heavy burden on an industry which has not yet recovered from the very heavy blow which it received during 1926—a heavy burden on an industry which is not yet paying any profit, which is just about on a balance between profit and loss. It is obvious that they could have no hope of carrying through such a Measure as the shortening of hours without the consent and a certain amount of co-operation on the part of the owners. Therefore, after various discussions with the coalowners, they have inserted in their Bill what really amounts to a monopoly to the coal industry—the power of fixing output and fixing prices as e, return for the shortening of the hours. They also add on that what, I think, is one of the worst features, and that is the permanent interference with the coal industry by the Government of this country.

In his speech the day before yesterday the President of the Board of Trade said that there were many people who might ask: "Why not let the industry alone, and let it work out its own salvation?" I frankly admit that I am one of those who think that the coalmining industry, in common with most other industries, prospers most with the least possible Government interference. We have had many examples in the past of Government interference at exceptional times, but here we have the proposal that as a permanency the Government should have the right of interfering with the industry. I realise full well the importance of the coalmining industry to this country. It has in the past been one of the greatest factors in our trade. It is of the very greatest importance in the general support of this country, but it has to be in a position to give support to the country. It is of no use to the country if it has to be supported by other industries which are in as bad a state as the coal industry itself. Certainly we would welcome its help and support in the revenues of the country. But if the coal industry is to be placed in the position of being given a dole or placed on Poor Law relief, then the industry is going to be of very little use to us.

I would like to mention some of the Government interferences in previous times to show how disastrous they have been to the industry. I will not go further back than the control period during the War. We know that from the early part of 1917 until the spring of 1921 the coal industry was controlled. We also know too well that during that period of control the cost of production went up enormously, the output per man was sadly decreased, and a large number of additional men were taken into the industry for whom afterwards there was no work. That was some of the harm that was done to the coal industry itself by that control period; but we also have on record the serious effects it had on the finances of the country, because in giving evidence before the Royal Commission Sir Ernest Gowers, who was then the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Mines Department, said that during those four years of control a sum of £40,000,000 was paid into the industry from the Exchequer. So there, again, it was not only injurious to the industry itself, but it was a great burden on the taxpayers of this country.

In 1921, when the industry was decontrolled, we had a period of temporary prosperity due to the occupation of the Ruhr, and afterwards the great coal strike in the United States of America. During that period there was a slight prosperity in the coal industry. By 1924 that was beginning to show signs of diminishing, and then we came to the next piece of Government interference with the industry. The Socialist Government that was in office in 1924, though they could see that this period of prosperity was beginning to dwindle, forced on the coalowners of this country an increase in wages of 11 per cent. which was wholly unjustified. I maintain, and have always maintained, that that unjustifiable increase in wages given by the Socialist Government in 1924 was the root cause of all the troubles we had in 1925 and 1926. I would refer the House to the Report of the Royal Commission with regard to that injury to show how serious it was. On page 227 they say:
"The increase of the minimum percentage, so as to make the minimum wage rate of every man 11 per cent. higher than before, was not justified; if the temporary prosperity, caused by the paralysis of the Ruhr—Britain's principal competitor in Europe—did not continue, the rising of the minimum was bound to lead to an impossible situation."
As, of course, the Royal Commission realised, it had brought it to an impossible situation. With that increase in wages a further burden was placed on the industry, and by 1925 it was found impossible to carry on the industry at the rate of wages which had been given in the previous year. I will not go through the history of the negotiations, but we know that in order to avert the trouble in 1925 the Conservative Prime Minister offered a subvention so that the matter might be thoroughly discussed and thrashed out, in the fervent hope that the disaster of a stoppage might be avoided. That subvention cost the country £23,000,000, but if its effect had been successful it would have been well worth that amount. Unfortunately, in spite of the Report of the Royal Commission, we know that no agreement could be come to between the owners and the men, even with the intervention of the Government. The Commission, again, in their Report, say, with regard to the position at that time:
"We come reluctantly but unhesitatingly to the conclusion that the costs of production, with the present hours and wages, are greater than the industry can bear."
That was one of their considered opinions, and yet throughout those negotiations the Miners' Federation, supported by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, refused to meet the situation in any way whatever by refusing any reduction in wages or any increase in hours.

We come to the time when the General Strike came and went, and the coal stoppage seemed to be going on indefinitely In June, 1926, my right hon. Friend the Leader of our party came to the conclusion that it was necessary to make permissible the working of longer hours. I would like to say now that in bringing in that permissive increase in hours the one object in the minds of the Conservative party at that time was the sincere belief, which we still hold, that it was necessary to bring in some such permissive Measure to avert a worse disaster of far lower wages and far greater unemployment. I think that permissive Act has shown that it was not only justified, but it has to a large extent carried out its object. I will point out the difficulties that had to be met at the end of 1926 and throughout 1927. We know that, in spite of the lengthening of hours, in spite of the reduction in the cost of production, the markets which we had previously enjoyed had been largely lost. During that period of stoppage our rivals abroad had taken our markets. In 1927 we found that, instead of supplying 80 per cent. of Sweden's import trade which we had been enjoying previous to the stoppage, we were enjoying only 46 per cent. The remainder had gone to our rivals. Poland, Germany and our other rivals had increased their output capacity to the greatest possible limits.

In spite of all those difficulties, the coal trade struggled on. It fought hard to regain the markets which it had lost. The Conservative Government encouraged the efforts of the coalowners to get together to try to avoid wasteful competition. I hear right hon. Gentlemen opposite say "Hear, hear!" It was one of the criticisms of that time that there was wasteful competition as between companies, districts and so on in our own country, and we certainly encouraged the efforts of the owners to get together to avoid wasteful competition. Another great way in which we tried to assist them was with regard to lightening the burdens on the industry, and I was glad to note that the President of the Board of Trade in his speech paid a tribute to the effect of the de-rating action of the late Government and the reduction of freights in the coal mining industry. That, in itself, had a very beneficial effect on the industry. The President of the Board of Trade gave us the figures, and admitted that that freight relief assisted the industry to the extent of between 7d. and 9d. on every ton of coal. That I consider to be of very great assistance.

We found that, with all these assistances, by the middle of last year—during the last 12 months, I might say—there had been a very considerable improvement in our export trade and throughout the mining industry. I would like to give the House a few figures to show the combined effect of the longer working hours, a certain amount of co-operation on the part of the owners, and the benefits under the de-rating Bill—the accumulated benefits to the mining industry, as shown in the statistical summaries issued by the Mines Department in the years 1928 and 1929. The latest figures that we have at our disposal so far are for the June quarter of 1929, and therefore I make the comparison between the June quarters. We find that, between 1928 and 1929, the output increased by nearly 5,000,000 tons. The net costs—a very important factor in the mining industry—the net costs, on the average for the country, had decreased from 14s. 6d. in 1928 to 13s. 10d. in the June quarter of 1929. The debit balance—another important factor in the coal industry—for the whole country decreased from 1s. 5d. in 1928 to only 3½d. in 1929. I maintain that that shows that the policy of non-interference, but of giving every help that could possibly be given.

which was followed by the late Conservative Government, was succeeding, and was actually showing its result in the figures of the coal mining industry.

Coming to the actual districts, let me take some of the most important districts as regards export trade and volume of output in the country. In Northumberland, in the June quarter of 1928, they were making a loss of nearly 1s. 2d.—ls. 1.8d. on every ton of coal. In the. June quarter of this year they had turned that lose into a credit of 4½d. Anybody who knows the difficulties in. Northumberland and on the North-East Coast will realise what an immense advantage that is to the industry up there. Durham had reduced its loss from 7½d. in 1928 to a credit of ld. in the June quarter of this year. South Wales, which in June, 1928, was making a loss of nearly 1s. 9d. on every ton of coal, had reduced that loss by June of this year to 4½d., a very considerable reduction—1s. 4d. on every ton of coal—due, as I have already pointed out, to the longer working hours and to the de-rating and freight relief given by the late Government. Yorkshire also made a reduction from a loss of 1s. 9d. in 1928 to a loss of only 2d. in the June quarter of this year.

It is not only with regard to profits and losses, though they are important enough. The question of unemployment usually interests hon. Members opposite whenever it is dealt with, and I would remind them that when we make the comparison in this case we have later figures, namely, for the September quarter. When we compare the September quarter of 1928 with the September quarter of 1929, we find that, while in 1928 there were over 899,000 miners employed, at the present time there are over 940,000 employed, which shows again the benefits that were brought to the industry by the administration of the Conservative Government. Unemployment in the coal industry at the present time, again taking the September quarter, is 16.1 per cent., as against 26.1 per cent. in 1928.

In the matter of working hours, in the number of shifts that have been worked we find an increase in the 12 months. We find that in the September quarter of the present year 5.1 days per week were worked, are against 4.77 in the previous year. It is one of the strongest signs of increasing prosperity in the industry when you find the average shifts per week being increased. I maintain that, when we find the industry developing and improving at this ratio, it is not unreasonable to believe that, if that industry were left alone to work out its own salvation, with the benevolent help of the Government in office, it would, by July, 1931, have been in such a position that it would have been possible to allow the Eight Hours Act to lapse, as it would lapse in the ordinary course. It is quite possible, and I believe probable, that without interference the industry would so set its house in order, would so develop and so improve, that there would be no necessity whatever to continue the permissive Act which was brought in by the Conservative Government. When we find ourselves in that position at the present time, I do say that this is not the occasion to interfere with an industry which is struggling bravely and making progress.

We find that under this Bill the half-hour is to be a definite burden on the industry. The President of the Board of Trade gave us his estimate that the reduction of half an hour would mean an increase of 1s. 6d. on every ton of coal. He gave us that the day before yesterday; I have it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I would ask the House to realise what that means. I have shown that, as the result of the industry's struggle with the assistance of the Government, a reduction has taken place in the previous 12 months amounting, I should say, to something almost less than the 1s. 6d. which the right hon. Gentleman opposite now proposes to re-impose on that struggling industry. The industry, in spite of its improvement, is not yet showing any profits. Where does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that that increase of 1s. 6d. per ton is to come from? He tries to prove to the House and to the country that there will be no serious increase in price; but, if there is an increase of 1s. 6d. in the cost of production in an industry which is still losing money, where is that increase to be found? It can only come, either by an increase in the price to the consumer —the home consumer only—or by a reduction in wages, and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite think that there is no possibility or probability of there being a decrease in wages. I would only put to them what was mentioned by, I think, the President of the Board of Trade with regard to South Wales.

South Wales is one of the interesting problems, because that is a case where the increase in cost of production cannot be passed on. How does the right hon. Gentleman propose that South Wales is to meet that increased cost of 1s. 6d. a ton? Something like 80 per cent. of the output of South Wales is used for export, and I think that the right hon. Gentleman and my successor at the Mines Department will agree with me that you cannot persuade the foreigner to pay 1s. 6d. more for your coal because you have added 1s. 6d. to the cost of it. South Wales is not in a position to have a levy on the other 20 to 30 per cent. of its output. That levy on the home-consumed coal would be too heavy; it would be impossible for South Wales to place the levy on that small proportion in order to meet its difficulties. How did the right hon. Gentleman ride away from that? He said that, with regard to South Wales the Government, thanks to his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had obtained from Italy a contract for 1,000,000 tons of coal a year for three years. I am sure that he is not so ungenerous to his predecessor as to claim the whole of the thanks for that increase in the demand from Italy. I know perfectly well that my right hon. Friend who was his predecessor in office had been working on those lines for a very considerable period, and that, had it not been for the groundwork which had already been done before the right hon. Gentleman opposite came into office, the obtaining of that increase would have been very unlikely. But what does that increase mean? I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has included in the price for that extra 1,000,000 tons of coal per annum the 1s. 6d. per ton which he says he is going to put on to the cost of production? If he has not, what advantage is it to the South Wales coalfields if they have the opportunity of selling another 1,000,000 tons of coal for 1s. 6d. a ton loss? It is of no great assistance to them.

That is the case with regard to South Wales, which is largely an exporting district, and what I have said with re- gard to South Wales is going to be largely true of other exporting districts. I think that right hon. Gentlemen opposite are very optimistic indeed if they can visualise the inland coal-producing areas giving a free levy in order to support South Wales and other exporting districts. Let us realise that the coal exported from this country only amounts to 20 per cent. of the total output of the country. Is it likely that the other 80 per cent. of producers in this country are going to make this free gift by putting a voluntary levy upon themselves in order to give a subsidy to those coal-exporting districts which stand to lose their markets and to lose heavily in their trade? It is quite likely, as has been said, that this has the support of some of the coal-owners. One can quite understand that the Yorkshire coalfields welcome the suggestions in the Bill. They at the present time are only working 7½ hours, and they see with pleasure the prospect of their competitors in the other areas being brought down to their working hours of 7½, because they know that the bringing down of the working hours in those other districts will put up their costs, and, therefore, Yorkshire will be in an even better position than at present. It is only natural that Yorkshire should welcome such a scheme as this, which not only brings other people down to its level of working costs, but is also going to penalise the other people in the world's markets.

The Secretary for Mines said that he thought there was something in this Bill that would give the miners a little bit more sustenance than they had had before and he told us to read the Bill and see where it came in. The only thing that I can see in this Bill that is going to give the miners any extra sustenance is through the monopoly—through the powers which the Government propose to give to the coal industry. Are those powers going at last to bring both sides in the coal industry together? Is it to be that the Miners' Federation and the Mining Association are going to band together in order to fleece the rest of the community and obtain greater profits and increased wages? I have read the Bill very carefully, and I read the hon. Gentleman's speech, as well as listened to it, and I cannot find anything in the Bill that is going to give greater sustenance to the miners unless it is, by joint action, to put up prices against the home consumer.

With regard to home consumption, who are these other people who will have to pay the increased price? The Secretary for Mines quoted a miner's paynote which he said, after all deductions, gave the miner only £1 14s. 8d. I think he will agree that that is an exceptional case. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I was not asking hon. Members on the back benches. I was asking a responsible Minister of the Government, and if he makes inquiry, he will have to admit that that is an exceptional case. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] His own statistical returns will show it so. The average wages for mine workers in the June return were something over 9s. a shift, and we are working over five shifts a week and, therefore, it is common arithmetic to say that 45s. is the average wage. [Interruption.] I am not going to be drawn into argument all over the House. I am taking up a point which was raised by the Secretary for Mines the night before last, and he made a statement with regard to a miner's paynote. I am only putting it to him that if he makes inquiry he will find that that is exceptional. [Interruption.] I will take the hon. Member's suggestion. Even supposing that were an average—it is not an average I know; it is very much below the average—but even if it were £1 14s. 8d., does he realise that many of the consumers who will have to pay extra for their coal under this wholly unwarrantable Bill are getting far less than 34s. a week? [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] Shame it may be, but you have to realise that it exists. Why should the mine workers try to clamber up on the shoulders of other workmen It is a deliberate attempt to clamber up on the shoulders of the poorer paid workers. If hon. Members opposite went anywhere in the Eastern counties, they would find that the agricultural labourers' wage is 30s. a week, and there are many workers throughout the country who will have to pay more for their coal who are receiving less than that 34s. 8d. a week, which is an exceptional case in the coal mining industry.

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Why should you not pay it?

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I shall certainly have to pay it in every ton of coal that I buy, as well as every other private consumer. But what of the other industries which will have to pay more for their coal? The President of the Board of Trade spoke of unsheltered industries.

"An unsheltered industry: if ever that phrase could be used it is true of coal."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th December, 1929; col. 1271, Vol. 233.]
I do not know what knowledge he has already acquired at the Board of Trade with regard to other industries, but I could name a great number which are far less sheltered than the coal industry. Only a fifth of the coal raised in this country enters into competition at all, or has any competition against it. It is only the 20 per cent. that we send to foreign markets that is unsheltered in any degree at all. The other 80 per cent. of the output is fully protected by geographical conditions. No coal comes in in competition with it from other countries and, therefore, he is giving this unsheltered industry, as he calls it, a greater measure of protection than any other industry enjoys. If you want to know of other industries less sheltered than the coal industry, what about the iron and steel trade? That industry has been in a depressed state far longer than the coal industry has been and it has suffered far more severely, and yet an increase in the price of coal is bound to be injurious to the iron and steel trade.

Let me put it from the other point of view. Let us take the benefits, admitted by the right hon. Gentleman, with regard to the reduction in rail freights. That came into force on 1st December last. In the three months following that 1st December the blast furnaces at work increased by over 10 per cent. which, I claim, was largely, if not entirely, due to the reduced price of something like 10½d. a ton on coal going to the iron and steel trade. If right hon. Gentlemen by their efforts are going to increase the price of coal to the home consumer—they cannot do it abroad—they are going to place that wholly unsheltered industry in a far worse position in its competition with foreign buyers, and so with every other unsheltered industry in the country. It is going to cost industry more. If we are going to put the cost of production up, the effect of it is going to be first of all in the coal industry. In many cases it will reduce wages, it will certainly reduce employment, it will throw many people out of employment in the coal industry, and the effect on other industries of increasing the price will be to increase unemployment in those other industries. I consider that at the present time to interfere with the coal industry will injuriously affect its position both in this country and in the world and is going to do a grave injury to all other industries and to every private consumer in the country. I therefore, hope that to-night we shall have the pleasure of seeing the Bill rejected.

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I have never taken part in a Debate in the House where it was more difficult to make a speech, because there is so little to answer. I have listened to the speeches from the other side of the House. I listened to the very admirable exposition of the President of the Board of Trade, which was in many respects a very fine Parliamentary feat, but there was very little attempt to justify a Bill of this character. I listened, too, with very great delight to the Secretary for Mines, and I think it is to the credit of his integrity and intelligence that, after six months of close study of the Bill and of these proposals, he could not find a, single presentable argument in favour of; them. Therefore, a critic of the Bill is addressing the House under conditions of very exceptional embarrassment. It is an incredibly bad Bill. It is really an incredible Bill at all for the Labour Government to have introduced. It contains, in my judgment, the worst features of Socialism and individualism without the redeeming features of either. It is State interference without State protection. It has all the greed of individualism without any of the stimulus of competition, and, for that reason, it is exceedingly difficult for anyone, whether he be an individualist or a Socialist, to find a single creditable argument in favour of it. I can hardly believe the Government intend to put it through in anything like its present state.

I should like to add a few words of protest against the way in which it has been introduced. This is, after all, a very great Bill which affects every industry in the Kingdom. It affects every hearthstone in the Kingdom. It is introduced on a Thursday. The country is given no time to consider it. The industries have no time to come together—not even executive committees—and on Tuesday, just after a short week-end, immediately before Christmas, the Bill is rushed through its Second Reading. I should like to ask whether anyone in the House, however long or short his experience, can produce a single precedent for action of that kind. It is not as if it were an emergency Bill. It has taken five or six months to prepare, and it ought to have been produced earlier or the Second Reading ought to have been postponed.

The very masterly analysis of its provisions by my right hon. Friend sitting by me the hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) has absolved me from the need of going into it in great detail. Let me state, first of all, the two provisions of the Bill of which I approve, in conjunction with the Members with whom I am acting. The first is the reduction of hours. The other is the establishment of the National Wages Board. I can do no otherwise. I was responsible as the head of the Government that reduced the hours of labour to seven. I was also responsible for the carrying of the Act which the right hon. Gentleman said was his analogy for the setting up of the National Wages Board—I mean the Railways Act, 1921. I might say that the right hon. Gentleman, in mentioning those two things, might—I will not say out of courtesy but even out of a sense of justice—have mentioned those two facts, that he was just reverting, in the first case, to a Bill which I had the responsibility of carrying with some right hon. Friends of mine sitting there, and that, in the second case, he was copying it. I hope he will go on continuing to copy these excellent examples. The 1921 Act has been a very great success. It has averted a good deal of trouble in the railway world, and I am very glad that that excellent precedent is being followed in this case.

Nine-tenths of this Bill, though, is a fixation of prices and a limitation of output. The right hon. Gentleman the late President of the Board of Trade, in a very able speech which showed a very great mastery of the coal industry, pointed out what is true of this Bill, that it is not a marketing Bill. There are no marketing provisions in it in the ordinary sense of the term. Marketing provisions like those in Germany, great selling and marketing syndicates—those, at any rate, would have cut down the cost of distribution. As he pointed out so well—and I make no apology to the House for repeating this, because it is a very important feature of the criticisms of this Bill—this is a Bill to put up prices and to limit output. There is no co-operative selling in any sense of the term.

Let us examine what the effect will be on prices. The President of the Board of Trade with very great skill, glossed over all those rather troublesome aspects of his Measure which are likely to create prejudice in the minds of the people of this country who regard coal as a basic industry, and he did not say very much about them. Let us examine the facts. There is, first of all, a deficit on the working of the coal mines. It is a diminishing one, but it is there. Some of that loss is genuine, and I am rather suspicious that a good deal of it is manipulated. At any rate, there is no doubt at all that a good deal of it is genuine. This must necessarily be increased by the Bill, even by the parts of which we approve. You cut down hours. You propose to put on an export levy. I do not see how you are going to avoid increasing the deficit which you have to meet by at least from £25,000,000 to £30,000,000 per annum. I have been trying to work out the figure with a great many people who know the industry. I know that some may put it low and some may put it high, but it is going to be a very grave deficit, and the real point is: How do you propose to meet it? There are two ways of meeting it. One is the crude method of putting up prices. The other is the method of reorganising the industry so as to save under-production and under-distribution. That is the scientific method, that is the rational method, that is the method that would benefit the mines and the miners, and the owners, especially the best, and would benefit the country as a whole. The Government have chosen that crude, burdensome method, easy but pernicious, of merely putting up prices, and the second method, which is difficult and will require a lot of thinking out, they have discarded altogether.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen put a number of questions to the Government. I regret that it should be necessary to put them across the floor of the House. We should have been quite willing to have put those questions and to have pursued them in consultation with the Government. But the questions have been put across the Floor of the House. I understand that the Prime Minister is speaking later on in the course of the Debate. May I incidentally, as a citizen of the City of London, offer my hearty and cordial congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister and to his colleague the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon the distinction which has been conferred upon them by that centre of commerce and finance to-day. The right hon. Gentleman may be answering later on, but I hope that we shall get an answer before he gives his answer, because I understand that he is winding up the Debate. I hope that an answer will be given at a time when there will be an opportunity for us to consider what has been said.

Questions were put the other day and answers were given by the hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Mines. They were very unsatisfactory. It is not the fault of the Secretary for Mines, because he read the answers in a very clear voice. Therefore, he was not in the least responsible for any misapprehension or disagreement that may have arisen. I will point out, later on, where they were inadequate, but I think it is fair that I should say that no answer that can be given to these questions would induce hon. and right hon. Gentlemen acting with me to be responsible in any degree for this Bill. We think that the other provisions are so thoroughly vicious that we must reserve to ourselves the most complete freedom to deal with them in Committee, and all that we could do, if they were completely satisfactory, would not be to interfere—in so far as we could—with their going to a Committee for examination. But, on the question of the Committee, I should like to say that I sincerely trust that the right hon. Gentleman, if he gets his Second Reading, is going to see that this Bill is taken on the Floor of the House. It would be a perfectly indefensible proceeding to send a Bill of this character, highly controversial and of vast moment to the country, to a Committee upstairs, and I do not believe that it would ever get through.

I come to the questions which were put by my right hon. Friend. The first dealt with the questions of grouping and amalgamations, which we consider to be thoroughly vital and fundamental, and I will tell the right hon. Gentleman why we consider them to be fundamental. By the best computation which I have been able to secure, the effect of this Bill must be, in the absence of provisions for cutting down the costs of production, to increase the cost of coal by at least 3s. 6d. a ton. There are some who put the figures very much higher. [Interruption.] There is a Gentleman who spoke yesterday. He is the Chairman of the Scottish Coalowners. He says that the effect will be to put up the price of coal by 4s. 6d. [Interruption.] He is the Chairman of the Coalowners' Association in Scotland. That is very serious for the industries of this country. It would be disastrous for the exporting districts. At the present moment, they are holding their own and perhaps just progressing a little, gradually but on very small margins; just by a small margin of profit they are able to hold their own, and some of them, like the cotton industry, are working at a loss. If you are going to put on 2s., if you like, and certainly 3s. 6d. a ton, that margin will be swept away in a vast number of cases, and, if, in addition to that, we are going to tax the industries here, in order to give a, bonus to the manufacturers across the seas, then it is simply legislating for calamity. It will be a crushing cost.

Take the heavy industries—iron and steel, shipbuilding, engineering—I do not know how they can possibly face it. Take even the textile trade, where you do not consume so much coal. Most of the coal is consumed in the dye for these industries. I am told that for Lancashire alone, even on the basis of 2s. 6d. increase, this would mean an addition of £600,000 per annum to the cost of the industry. Everybody knows that they are in a very bad way. They can barely hold their own, and this £600,000 added to their annual cost might very easily bring down a great many industries. I can well understand the point of view taken by the mining Members, and I sympathise with it, but this is not the method with which to deal with that grievance. They say that the mining industry is being bled and that this is a process of transfusion of blood from other industries to vitalise it. Yes, but you are going to get it out of industries, many of which are white with anaemia at the present time.

5.0 p.m.

Take domestic coal. The consumers of domestic coal are the most defenceless of all God's creatures against a monopoly. They cannot come together; they cannot organise. The great industries, the railway companies, the gas and electricity companies, and, may be, some of the great heavy industries will be able to federate in order to present their case. The consumers of domestic coal cannot do so. Three and sixpence per ton added to the price at the pithead will mean at least 4s. 6d. by the time is comes to the home. In scores, if not hundreds of thousands of homes, it will mean a perceptible diminution in warmth and comfort. When we woke up this morning and looked out of the window, we saw the ground covered with a thick hoar frost. [Interruption.] Is no one to be allowed to sympathise with the people, except hon. Gentlemen opposite? I saw a thick layer of hoar frost, and I said: "This is not the day to go down to the House of Commons and vote for the Second Reading of a Bill that puts up the price of coal to the people." There was an old tax in this country called the Hearth Tax. It was an oppressive tax, it was a cruel tax, and it was abolished by the humanitarian sentiments of this country; no one thought that it would fall to a Labour Government to reimpose it.

What is the alternative to putting on higher prices? [An HON. MEMBER: "Nationalisation."] This is not nationalisation; this is running away from nationalisation. What is the alternative? It is the one which has been proposed by the Labour leaders themselves and by the Labour party in what I call their provisional schemes before the Election. It was quoted by my right hon. Friend—the grouping of mines (which they proposed in 1929 at the Election, but rejected twice in 1919 when the Government offered it to them, with the loss of 10 years, 10 years of disorganisation) with miners on the Board; the grouping of mines in such a way that you could save cost in production and save cost in distribution. More than that, that you should concentrate more and more upon the economic pits. Everybody who knows the mining industry knows very well, especially those who have been engaged many times in settling mining disputes, that the uneconomic pits are mainly responsible for lowering the general level of wages throughout the whole industry. [Interruption.] Certainly. Close down the uneconomic pits and concentrate upon the others. Every inquiry that has been instituted has recommended that course. No inquiry has recommended the present course; not even the Lewis inquiry, as my right hon. Friend pointed out.

The experience of Germany is not the experience which the President of the Board of Trade stated to the House. Germany began with marketing schemes, and there were 30 years of conflict until they came to grouping. There were high prices which the Prussian Government had to fight, but could not fight because the pits were run by the State, and therefore they were too costly. The Prussian Government fought it, the other mines fought it, the industries fought it, and for 30 years there was nothing but conflict until they came to grouping. The experience of Germany points to the fact that you should begin to consolidate with groups. When that happened, what was the result in Germany? Efficient mines, improved production per head, improvement in regard to cost. They were able to reduce the price of coal without reducing the wages of the miners, and they were able to reduce the hours of labour as well. That was the experience of Germany.

The right hon. Gentleman said that one of his arguments in favour of, I will not say compulsory marketing but of compulsory quotas, was the experience of Scotland, South Wales and Yorkshire, where every scheme had collapsed for lack of compulsion. Why is the scheme collapsing in Yorkshire now? Has the right hon. Gentleman read the report of the inspector of the Mines Department for 1928? It has reduced the number of shifts, and when you reduce the number of shifts in pits you increase the dangers, and the percentage of lives lost has gone up. That is the report of an inspector of the Mines Department. It is not merely that. I will give an illustration from Yorkshire of why the scheme is collapsing, and it is an illustration which is full of lessons for the Government when they are proposing a scheme more or less on that basis. There is a letter which is in the Mines Department—I have a copy of it—from one of the largest collieries in Yorkshire. I will give the right hon. Gentleman the letter afterwards, but I am not sure that I will give the name. In any case, the letter is in the Mines Department. It is from one of the largest collieries in Yorkshire. Before they came into the scheme they were well managed, always paid good wages, and worked full time. Their output was 600,000 tons. Under new management they spent a good deal of money in putting improved machinery in the pits in order to increase the output. They increased the capacity to 700,000. Then they were induced to join this scheme. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which is the colliery?"] I have already said something about that and I am not going to say anything more. The letter will be in the hands of the Secretary for Mines or the President of the Board of Trade. What happened? The quota of capacity was fixed quite fairly, and they are not complaining about that. The quota was reduced to 438,000 tons. They bought a quota from another mine and paid thousands of pounds for it, but they could only buy a quota of 30,000 tons. That brought up the joint quota to 478,000 tons. [HON. MEMBERS: "468,000 tons!"] The amount is 478,000 tons, so that the first quota must be 448,000 tons. What has happened? They said: "We can only make the pits pay by working full time. If you cut us down in the quota we cannot work the pit except at a loss." They said that they would either have to cut down the number of shifts to 3¾ days—they were working five days—or dismiss 500 men. They have written a letter withdrawing from the scheme.

I will put a question to the right hon. Gentleman. Here is a case of this kind, where there is a good mine, working well, giving five days work a week to the miners, paying good wages. Their quota is cut down, and they have either to dismiss men or to reduce their wages to what is called starvation point by giving them three or four days work. Every day you cut off is an addition of shillings on the tonnage you produce, because the overhead charges are just the same. Supposing the owners of a colliery of that kind say: "We will not throw our men on to the roadside under a scheme which we think is an unjust one. We will not reduce their wages to starvation point." Who is going to prosecute? Is the right hon. Gentleman going to prose- cute? Is the Labour party going to prosecute the owners of mines because they refuse to throw their workmen out?

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I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down!"] The right hon. Gentleman has given way. The question will be fair and legitimate. In view of the importance of the illustration that the right hon. Gentleman is now giving, surely the House is entitled to know the name of the mine.

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I have told the hon. Member what I shall do. As soon as I sit down I shall make inquiries. If the Secretary for Mines chooses to give the letter to the hon. Member, he can do so. That is his responsibility.

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We all want to know.

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I am answering the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). I think I shall be in a position pretty soon to show the letter to the hon. Member. I shall do my very best to do so, and I think it will be within a very short time after I have sat down.

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Is that the only evidence that the right hon. Gentleman has for the collapse of the scheme?

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I cannot in the time at my disposal enter more fully into the matter, because I have to deal with many points. I am giving an illustration of how the scheme works. What is the whole point of the scheme, unless you cut down? That is the point of it. Here is an illustration of how it can work and how it has worked in a particular case. I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman, who is going to prosecute in these cases? Is it the Government or is it the coalowners? Who will do it? The right hon. Gentleman is going to create quotas. What do quotas mean? Quotas mean that you are going to create a statutory property where there is none now. It must mean that. If these things have a value of their own, well, then, you sell upon the value, whatever it is. If you are going to create a statutory quota, there is something to buy without the mine passing at all. That is an absolutely new property which is being created. The right hon. Gentleman said that these mines could buy quotes. They are buying something which has no value apart from this Bill which he has introduced. What is the result? They will become more and more valuable as you go on buying. You may buy a few quotas at a fairly reasonable price, but the fewer there are left to part with the higher the price, and good mines will have to buy something which has no value merely in order to be able to keep going and to employ their own men. The industry is going to be held up by a band of quotas. It is a deadweight burden upon the industry. Talk about putting amalgamation last. This is cutting down the output first. It is putting the cart before the horse. It is even worse than that; you are filling the cart with rubbish, and when you put the horse between the shafts he will be carrying a lot of deadweight which is of no use at all. That is the proposal in the Bill.

I want to put this question to the right hon. Gentleman: Will the Government undertake to introduce into this Bill on the Committee stage complete provisions for compulsory grouping of mines—this is very important—will these provisions have legal effect to establish groups as and when the Commission reports to the Committee to be set up without the necessity of resorting to other or further legislation? I hope that question is clear to the right hon. Gentleman. The answer that was given on Tuesday night, that provisions will be inserted for the appointment of a commission to investigate and report and that another Bill would be brought in at a later date, is of no use, and hon. Members opposite know that perfectly well. Once you get a period of temporary quiet in the mines you are not going to get any Government to go out of their way to disturb it. If you could put Mr. A. J. Cook and Mr. Evan Williams to sleep I cannot see any Government wantonly stirring them up. If grouping and amalgamation is to be accomplished, it must be accomplished in this Bill or you will not see it, and the result will be that you will simply have a mere crude Bill to raise prices. The mines will go from bad to worse because it will discourage those who are trying to improve their output by means of machinery and good management.

The second question I have to put is this. When you start grouping you must do it upon a certain basis of value. In my judgment far and away the best report on amalgamation since the Report of my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen is Sir Arthur Duckham's Report. He goes into the matter in great detail and sketches out his plan. His proposal is to group a number of mines which will be reported to be so situated that they can be worked together more effectively than they can be worked separately. Then there are values. You establish your amalgamation upon the basis of those values in the form of shares. There is no need for the raising of any capital, unless they wish to do so, for the purpose of working the mines. That is a very different amalgamation to the amalgamation Lion which we have here, and which is purely and largely—I do not care to use the proper term for it—in the nature of a financial deal. It is not real amalgamation in the sense of grouping together mines for the purpose of cutting down the costs of production and improving distribution.

I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman this: In a case of that kind, will the values for the purposes of amalgamation —I should like to have the attention of both right hon. Gentlemen—be on the basis of the real value of the mines—nobody wants to take away any value which really exists—without taking into account the artificial values created by this Bill? The right hon. Gentleman said that there would be no values created by this Bill. I think he is absolutely alone in that matter. Everybody knows that when you establish a statutory quota you are establishing a value which does not exist now at all; a value which is not a real value, which is not an intrinsic value, which is not a value due to the development and prospects of the mine, but a value which is due to an Act of Parliament carried by a Labour Government. It is rather curious that a Government which is in favour of the nationalisation of all property is creating a new property which has no value of any sort or kind, and proposing that it should be paid for!

The third question I want to ask is in regard to the time limit; and that has a bearing upon values. You may put it in an Act of Parliament and say that there shall be no such value, but quite unconsciously it may influence values. You may call it goodwill, but, if you have a time limit, then that value cannot be a serious one— I mean the fictitious value. Therefore, a time limit is essential. I do not mean that at the end of the time you should have no marketing schemes. I hope you will have real marketing schemes. It will be far easier to establish them then when you get the Commission. You will have a different set of men to deal with. They will see the advantages of grouping for marketing purposes, and at the end of that time your Commissioners would come in and advise and assist in some sort of way in the organisation of a real marketing scheme. But a time limit is essential.

I come now to what is almost the most important question of all—that is, the matter of prices. I must dwell a little upon this in order to explain our proposal. In this scheme there is no protection for the consumer. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade consulted the miners and the mine owners, but there was no consultation with any body of men representing the consumers of this country. They were never brought into consultation. Suppose that the Attorney-General brought in a Bill to reform the legal profession—not that they stand in need of it—[An HON. MEMBER: "Abolish it."] If you call together the Bar Council and the Incorporated Law Society I am quite certain that the only recommendation you would get would be that the one reform which was necessary was an increase in the fees of both. [An HON. MEMBER: "And no limitation of output."] The solicitors would say to the Bar, "We will not object to your fees providing you do not tax our costs," which is more or less what is happening in this Bill. The client is not there; the consumer is not represented, and, therefore, this is a Bill which is an owners' Bill. The only thing you have is an investigating committee; and, when you come to prices, it lures the consumer into a labyrinth of inquiries.

There is no provision in this Bill which so completely demonstrates the fact that this is an owners' Bill as the provisions with regard to the consumer. It is the besetting vice of the Bill, you can see it running right through the speech of the right hon. Gentleman—you must do nothing which will be in defiance of the owners. His words were, "You must have agreement with the owners." It is an abdication of the functions of government to the owners the moment you say, that it is for them to decide. The standard capacity of the mines, of the whole of the mines of the country, is to be fixed—by whom? By the owners. The whole quota for this country is going to be fixed by a committee of the owners. The district capacity, the district quota is to be fixed—by whom? By the owners. The capacity, the quota, of each individual mine is going to be settled—by whom? By the owners. The prices which are to be fixed, who are going to fix them? [HON. MEMBERS: "The owners."] Hon. Members opposite are learning their lesson very swiftly. I hope that they will pass it on to their constituencies.

Let us see what that means, because there have been other recommendations for dealing with this situation. Surely the quota which you fix, whether for a district or an individual mine, will affect the livelihood of the miners themselves. If you cut the quota down you may turn miners out, you may cut down the number of hours they work. Surely they at least ought to be consulted, but it is all left to the colliery proprietors. And Mr. A. J. Cook accepted this! "Blessed are the meek." [HON. MEMBERS: "Finish your text."] It is just as well that hon. Members should know what they are voting for, not that it will make any difference in their case, but it will make some difference in their constituencies.

Let us show a little further how this goes on. If there is a dispute between one district and another with regard to the quota there is to be arbitration. If there is a dispute between one owner and a district as to the quota or the output there is to be arbitration. It is to be decided by an impartial tribunal. Why? You must be just to the owner. When you come to the consumer how do you deal with him? Price is not even mentioned. Why? I do not say that price cannot be referred to a Committee of Investigation, but there is nothing in the Bill to say so. When you come to fixing the price at which you sell, and which is fixed by the owner, you are not ashamed to put in the word "price"—arbitration—but when you come to protect the consumer you must not mention the word "price." Why? It would upset the owner. [Interruption.] Hon. Members must listen. They listened for an hour and 35 minutes to the President of the Board of Trade when he moved the Second Reading of the Bill.

We come now to the Committee of Investigation. What is it to do? Grievances will be sent in, perhaps, by consumers, although it is not clear in the Bill that the consumer can complain about price. It is just as well, however, that that should be mentioned. You send in a complaint to the Committee of Investigation. What are they to do I Can they decide? Oh, no; that will disgruntle the owners. All that they can do is to send their complaint to the Board of Trade, and if the Board of Trade show as little aptitude to protect the consumer as they have shown in this Bill, very little protection will the consumer get from them. What are they to do? They can investigate and, having investigated, what are they to do next? Do they decide? No. They can send the complaint on to the owners. What follows after that? [An HON. MEMBER: "Another committee."] That is right; there is just another committee, just another investigation, and, as far as I can see, even in the end the Board of Trade cannot decide the price, cannot adjudicate on price. Arbitration for quotas, arbitration for all the interests of the owners, none for the interests of the consumer. All that the Board of Trade can do is to write to the owners and say, "If you do something, well, we shall have to reconsider the whole scheme." No wonder that the provisions with regard to hours and with regard to wages have been compressed and crowded into the back pages of the Bill behind a high screen, so that the owner should not see them.

This is an owners' Bill. I wonder what would have been said if my right hon. Friend of the Conservative party had ever attempted to bring in such a Bill as this? Every previous recommendation, every inquiry, every Bill has contained special provisions for the protection of the consumer. The consumers have been put forward in every scheme, including nationalisation schemes, except one, and have been given equal representation. There is a report of a Commission which has never been mentioned in the whole of this Debate—the Sankey—

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You will never forget it.

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You have forgotten it already. If you remembered it, you would never go into the Lobby tonight to vote for this Bill. [Interruption.] I certainly supported Sankey in his dealings with consumers, and I am shortly coming to that point. Why has the Sankey Commission not been mentioned? It has been flung at my head so often by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite and their followers that I am afraid they began to consider it not as a message but as a missile. The moment it ceases to have any use for flinging at someone's head its contents have no value to hon. Gentlemen opposite. What is it? It was a scheme for putting the whole of the mines of this country under public control and authority. The property was to be in the State; the management was to be in the State. In spite of the fact that you had the State, that represented miners and consumers, in charge, the Sankey Report made recommendations by which the consumer as such should have the same representation on the management as the workmen —the same representation—and there were to he no owners. The miners and the consumers were to have the same representation.

I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has consulted the author of that Report upon this Bill? He might ring him up. If he will apply at the office of the Lord Chancellor he will get his number. I ask now a question which has been asked me many a time: "What about Sankey? What about it?" The consumer—there you would have given him equal representation—the consumer has not one man to stand up for him in this great scheme of those who believe in the Sankey Commission. I ask the right hon. Gentleman this question: Will the Government in Committee establish as complete a protection of the aggrieved consumer as they propose to give to the aggrieved owners in this Bill? What does that mean? Judicial protection, something which you can decide, something which you can resort to, as a colliery proprietor can do when he is aggrieved. Will the right hon. Gentleman give the same protection to the aggrieved consumer as he is proposing for the aggrieved owner? That is the question.

It is incredible that such a Bill should ever have been introduced. It was unfair to the President of the Board of Trade to send him to these hardened negotiators without any protection. The result has been that he has surrendered completely —completely. Crude, simple, innocent! The right hon. Gentleman said that he was a Scotsman. I do not believe it; it is impossible. Was this scheme considered by the Cabinet? Did it pass the Cabinet? There were three Cabinets, and two of them at least considered it—the cabinet of the mineowners, the cabinet of the Miners' Federation, but the Cabinet that seems to have counted least, of all was the Cabinet that sits in Downing Street. Did they pass it?

It is very significant that there is no name of any Minister on the back of the Bill except the names of Ministers who were bound to be there. On every great Bill there is the name of some one Minister who is not engaged in the departments by way of giving the sanction of the rest. The name of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade is on the Bill. Who is the author? The name of the hon. Member the Secretary for Mines is on the Bill. I have great respect for the hon. Member, and there are many positions that he has filled with great distinction and many positions in which he would prove successful, but, honestly, regarding him as Minister of Mines I cannot help thinking that the quota of responsibility is greater than the standard capacity. [Interruption.] I say that without any hesitation, and I am entitled to say it. [Interruption.] In my judgment, it is vital, in so important a Ministry, that men should be there who are acquainted with the working of the industry. The name of the Attorney-General is on the Bill. He was bound to be on. I see that he himself said, in substance, in the discussions on unemployment, that those who were genuinely seeking work cannot discriminate in the jobs which are offered to them. [Interruption.] I can well understand that Ministers are shrinking from putting their names on the Bill. The Bill is a complete surrender to one interest—a complete surrender—without regard to the general interest of the community.

The owners treated the Government with insolence in my judgment. They refused to appear, at the invitation, I believe, of the Prime Minister, in order to discuss matters with him, because the miners were there. I think the Government ought to proceed to redraft their Bill. Instead of doing that the Government surrender. Well, I do not put Cabinets too high. [Interruption.] I have been in several, and I know. As a matter of fact, to use a phrase which has been falsely attributed to me and which I never used, Cabinets are not "homes for heroes." There never has been such a case of abject surrender as this surrender.

May I just say in conclusion—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—I flatter myself that the proof that I am not tiring hon. Members is that they should be here—[HON. MEMBERS: "Go on!"]—and I can assure them that I shall not be more than a few minutes more. What I want to say in all seriousness is this: This is not the expectation that was roused at the last Election. There never were higher hopes excited at any Election—[HON. MEMBERS: "1918!"]—HON. Members opposite must really allow me to continue. We have listened to their Ministers. I say there never were higher hopes roused at any Election. I am not referring merely to pledges which were given. I am referring to genuine hopes which the men who roused them honestly believed, and which the men who listened to them honestly accepted. I am referring to the sincere hopes that were excited that there was to be something different from anything that had happened before in the way of re-conditioning the country and raising the level of the standard life. It. was going to be something different from anything that had been done before. Pensions, doles —all these had been done by capitalistic Governments, but this was going to be something different.

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On a point of Order. Is the right hon. Gentleman in order— [Interruption.]

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Does the hon. Gentleman rise to put a point of Order?

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Yes, I want to know if the right hon. Gentleman is discussing this Bill?

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That is a matter which must be left to the discretion of the Chair. The right hon. Gentleman is quite in order.

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All these, as I have said, were things which had been done by capitalistic Governments, and there was a genuine expectation aroused that there was going to be something of a different order—the development of the resources of the country, the re-conditioning of the country itself, and so on, and there was a great deal of it with which hon. and right hon. Friends of mine were in great sympathy. What have the Government done with that impetus which sprung from high hopes? They have taken the easier task. It is easier to pay doles and to increase them than it is to find work. It is easier to raise prices in the coalfield than to reconstruct the industry, and the Government have followed that course. I am not unreasonable in the sense that I would expect a Government in six months to redeem legitimate promises made at an election. There are always wild promises made by every party. I am talking now of legitimate promises. But we are entitled to take note of the direction in which the Government are going. They are not going in the direction of the hopes which they roused. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has had the experience which I had a few years before him, of a visit to the Sahara. He must have noticed one feature which impressed me very much. Streams flow down into the Sahara from the surrounding hills, and you expect to see them fructify the land. But as they proceed they are absorbed in the wide arid sands of the great desert, and you can only follow their track by the weeds. This is one of the weeds and ought to be cut down.

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A Debate on coal in this House is nothing new. Every Government in the past twenty years has been called upon to devote considerable time to the discussion of this great industry and hon. Members in that period have had to consider proposals submitted by various Governments in successive Parliaments. But I venture to assert that on this occasion the House, the Government and the country are faced with a more important problem in the coal industry than has been the case at any time in the last 20 years. Those who have taken part in the Debate, including, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), have been very much concerned as to what we are going to do about the conditions created by this Bill, but no one seems inclined to deal with the problem with which the Bill is supposed to contend. That problem has to be appreciated in its fulness and entirety before anybody can judge whether this Bill is suitable for solving it or not. The proposals of the Bill must at all times be considered in relation to the problem with which they are intended to deal. This discussion has gone on as though we were dealing with something which had arisen, just at the moment; as, though there were no history attaching to the coal problem; as though nothing had been done in the past; as though the leaders of the other two parties were in no way responsible for the conditions which have grown up in this industry. I hope I may be excused for making reference to a few incidents of the past 10 years which are very largely responsible for the conditions with which we have to deal to-day.

I submit that the Governments of the past—successive Governments in the past 10 years at least—and the coalowners have been pursuing a coal policy which is based upon a delusion and that until that delusion is destroyed we shall never cope successfully with the coal problem. The delusion upon which the coal policy of Governments and coalowners has been based is that, if we reduce the price of coal by reducing the cost of production, we shall, by that means, regain lost markets and secure a volume of business equal to that which existed in pre-War days. That is the delusion on which the coal policy of this country has been based for 10 or 15 years. It is a very dangerous delusion and it is responsible for most of the blunders which have been committed in the industry and for the deplorable conditions now existing. In pursuance of that delusion wages have been thrown into the price cutting policy. Lengthened hours have been thrown in; the reserves of the coalowners, overdrafts on the banks, concessions from railway companys and docks, de-rating benefits—anything and everything that could be taken hold of by the coalowers has been pushed into this policy of cutting prices in the hope of regaining the volume of business which we had in pre-War days. The Government policy of 1925–1926 was based on that delusion. The coalowners' policy all along is in harmony with it and until we get rid of that policy we can never hope to deal with the coal problem successfully.

Why do I say that it is a delusion? We have been trying ever since the War to regain our markets. We have cut prices but we have not succeeded in regaining the markets. Why? For the simple reason that the markets are not there. We have not lost our markets because the Germans or the Americans have cut us out, but because they have dried up and are not there for anybody. In pre-War days we sent 6,000,000 tons to Russia. That market has dried up and does not exist for anybody. It is not that Russia consumed only 6,000,000 tons. Russia consumed 10,000,000 tons of which 6,000,000 came from us, but that market has gone. In pre-War days we sold 21,000,000 tons for bunker purposes. Today we only sell 16,000,000 tons and you can search in vain for those other 5,000,000 tons in the ports of the world. The market for them does not exist. In South American markets, which were mainly our markets, 2,000,000 tons or 3,000,000 tons have gone. In France where they are consuming 6,000,000 tons to 8,000,000 tons per year more than they did before the War, they are producing 10,000,000 tons or 12,000,000 tons more than they did before, and they are dependent on outside sources for 2,000,000 tons or 3,000,000 tons less than formerly. To that extent the French market has dried up.

6.0 p.m.

In addition to that, we have other forces coming in to prevent this market being regarded as of pre-War dimensions. In pre-War days Holland, for instance, produced 1,500,000 tons; to-day she is producing 11,000,000 tons, so there are 9,500,000 tons that were not in existence. In addition to that, we have had waterpower resources utilised. In eight of the European countries water-power resources have been developed to such an extent that work is now being done by electric current produced by water-power which formerly it required 29,000,000 tons of coal to perform. The same thing applies to the home market, which is down by 20,000,000 tons, and you have only to look into the items under which that reduction has taken place to see the hopelessness of any attempt on our part to regain a volume of trade equal to pre-War business by merely cutting prices and reducing wages. I say that that policy is responsible mainly for the conditions in the coal trade to-day and that that is the theory that has to be reversed. It is in order to reverse that theory or to meet the evil consequences of that fallacy that something on the lines proposed in this Bill is necessary to prevent the cutthroat competition, under-cutting, and ruination for the owners and for the workmen that have been going on as a result of that false notion upon which we have been conducting our business hitherto.

I should like, for a few minutes, to look at the attempts that have been made to regain our markets. I was very interested in the speech delivered by the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), when he referred to this Bill as providing a sort of subsidy for foreign manufacturers in the shape of cheap British coal, so that they could compete successfully and oust British manufacturers in world competition. Let us look at what has taken place in foreign markets. During the War 400,000 of the miners went into the Army, as a result of which our output went down by 50,000,000 tons a year. As we could not cut down our home consumption, we were compelled to decrease our exports by 50,000,000 tons, and the Government of the day decided that we must send the whole of our surplus to France and Italy. When the War was over we had, outside Britain, only those two markets; we had been deprived of every other market in the world, and then the Government of the day made a Reparations agreement under which they said that Germany must supply with coal the only two markets in the world which we had, and left us absolutely without any markets at all.

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May I just remind my right hon. Friend that that agreement was accepted and supported by the Labour party in the House of Commons?

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I am not in the least concerned about blame or responsibility. I am simply concerned about the facts. As a matter of fact, it was never done by the Labour party, which was about 60 strong, I suppose, at that time. We had nothing to do with drafting it, and I knew nothing about it. I know that I denounced it at the time. I personally denounced the whole thing. I spoke for myself, and I denounced it as undermining the very foundations. Anybody who looks at the Debates in 1921—not in 1919, but in 1921—when we were dealing with the consequences of it, will see that I then pointed out—[Interruption.] I listened to the right hon. Gentleman while he was speaking—

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I apologise.

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I do not want to say nasty things, but I do expect to receive the same courtesy as I give. I was saying that as a result of that Reparations agreement the only two markets in the world, outside Britain, that were left to the British coal industry were taken from us, and the result was that immediately our export business was gone, because during the War, we having had voluntarily to give up every other market in the world, the United States of America came in and took the European markets, except France and Italy. The first thing we had to do was to get America out of our old markets. The Government of the day said, "Yes, you have got no markets, and now we are going to decontrol the industry and allow the miners and the mineowners to have a light over this." The miners of that day said, "Do not do that," and we offered three shillings a day from the wages of every miner in this country, a concession of practically £50,000,000 a year in reductions of wages, to ease the position and to help tide over that very difficult situation.

The Government of that day, as I say without any feeling at all, but simply as a matter of fact, with a callous indifference to the interests of the miners such as I have not seen exhibited in any other action that has taken place during my political life, decontrolled the industry, although the miners' Members in this House predicted—and our speeches are on record—precisely what was bound to develop and come out of the policy that was then adopted. As a result of that decontrol and the fight that took place, the coalowners could not help themselves. They simply had to force down wages, and they secured an agreement, after a prolonged struggle, which meant for the miners in this country during the year 1921 a reduction in wages amounting to £120,000,000 a year. That was the first-fruits of that policy. Anyone who will take—the documents are there to be seen—the figures prepared by the Mines Department and compare the March quarter of 1921 with the December quarter of that year will see that wages had fallen at the rate of £120,000,000 a year. What happened then? During that year we sold precisely the same quantity of coal abroad as we sold the previous year, and we disposed of it for £56,000,000 less. Wages were taken from the miners with a ruthlessness that would have done credit to any tyrant, and they were handed over to the foreigner without regard.

We are told in this Debate that this Bill is going to provide cheap coal for the foreigner, but what has been going on for years past? In 1922 the miners had another reduction in wages, amount-to £30,000,000 a year—£120,000,000 down in 1921 and another £30,000,000 down in 1922. Out of the first £120,000,000 a year the owners managed to keep 3d. The next year they had another £30.000,000 handed to them, and they managed to keep 11d. of it. All the rest went in price-cutting proposals with a view to extending the market. During those two years 1921 and 1922 the cost of wages in this country had fallen by 18s. 3d. a ton, and none of it remained in the industry. It all went through in this policy of price-cutting in order to secure a higher volume of business, because I think the employers honestly believed that by that process they could secure a bigger volume of trade than had been the case before.

I do not for one moment suggest—and this may he a criticism urged against what I have been saying—that the price prevailing in 1920 or in the early days of 1921 could have been maintained indefinitely in this country. That goes almost without saying, but the result of the Government's policy of that day was such a scramble for a bit of business, such a driving down of prices, that we drove America out of Europe, and we knocked the bottom out of the German cartels. When the German employers, who were under obligations under the Reparation Treaties to supply coal to France at the same pithead prices as they charged their own nationals, plus freightage to the frontier, or at the pithead prices of British coal for export, had to supply France at British pithead prices, they were so much lower than German pithead prices that the German employers had to go to their own Government, and say, "Because we have had to reduce our prices down to the British level, we must have £700,000 from you to make good the deficiency. It is a political thing, and we are entitled to have that loss made good."

As a matter of fact, it is the British coalmining industry that has led the price-cutting process throughout the world, and when we talk about this Bill having anything to do with prices abroad we have to keep this fact in mind. Our policy here has had the effect of driving down prices in Germany, in France, in every coal-producing country in the world, and to-day the coalmining industry in all those countries is in very much the same position as is the mining industry in this country. They are practically on the border of bankruptcy, and for years past they have been endeavouring to open up negotiations with representative industrialists in this country with a view to allocating the business of Europe, so as to get higher prices for themselves, because, just as you have cut-throat competition proceeding in this country, so you have it between the European countries in the foreign markets, and they are as much concerned in getting a better price for foreign coal as we are ourselves.

In order to live on our prices they have had to get all kinds of subsidies, direct and indirect; and if we set up machinery of the kind outlined in this Bill, one of the things which I should expect to result from it would be, not the selling of coal cheaper to the Continent than has been the case hitherto, but the fixing of international arrangements under which coal will be sold, not at monopolistic prices or at inflated prices, but at an economic level. Coal to-day is being sold in foreign markets, not at a reasonable profit, but at a very substantial loss, and there is no sense or reason in carrying on business and sending the coal produced in this country to foreign lands at a price below that at which it is produced. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen talked about the pro- visions in this Bill for getting cheap coal for foreign lands. There is to be a levy imposed upon all the home-produced and home-consumed coal, in order to get cheap coal for abroad. I agree that there is a permissive Clause in the Bill, and the National Board may, if they care to, put in such a provision, but, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has explained, that Board consists of representatives of all the coalowners in this country. I shall believe that that Board is going to put in such a proviso as that when I see it.

If the owners in Derby, Nottingham, Warwick, Leicester and the other Midland coalfields can be induced to hand over some of the proceeds of their sales to the coalowners of Wales, all I can say is that there is a little bit more Christian spirit in them than I have seen evinced up to now. As a matter of fact, nothing of that kind is likely to happen. In some areas where they have a large home consumption and a small proportion of their output is sent abroad, this policy may be pursued in relation to that small quantity, but I should be very surprised if that permissive provision in the Bill were ever put into operation. I would like to come to 1925 and 1926. We have given the policy of settling the coal problem by cutting prices a very fair chance. The last Government dealt with this problem in 1925 and 1926, and I was amazed to read recently a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition referring to this Bill. In Edinburgh, on 13th December, he said:
"It seems to me that the effect of the present legislation will be to throw back once more the coal industry into the political arena, from which with such infinite difficulty we saved it in 1926."
I could understand the Leader of the Opposition saying, "We did our best to keep this out of the political arena; we did our best to put it on to some basis, and to provide a solution; and we thought we were doing it. We were honest in our attempt to solve it. by longer hours and lower wages. We thought that that was a correct line of procedure." I can understand him saying that, and I dare say it would be true if he said it. I do not believe that in 1926 anybody responsible for the Government would, from a spirit of cussedness, merely pursue a policy to the detriment of the miners unless they thought that it was going to be an advantage to the community, and unless they believed in it as an ultimately successful policy. Had he said that, he should have gone on to say: "We regret that our policy has hopelessly failed, and that it has resulted in creating a much worse position; therefore, we must help this Government to provide a better proposal than we adopted."

When that policy was being pursued, we pointed out that the problem in the coal industry was of such a character that it could not be solved by longer hours and lower wages. I strongly urged that, and predicted that the result of an eight-hours' day would mean not merely not solving the coal problem, but immensely worsening the situation. What has happened? What we said then has come true in every item and detail. I challenge anybody during this Debate to name any period in the whole history of this country when there have been so many miners unemployed, when the standard of life of the miners as judged on the basis of the purchasing power of wages has been so low, when there have been so many bankruptcies among the coalowners, and when the problem of the coal trade was so intense, as at the present time. It has been enormously worsened as a result of the eight-hours' day.

I have here the results of 2½ years' working under the eight hours' day. In the quarter ending March, 1927, everybody expected prosperity. We had had six or seven months' trouble; stocks had been exhausted; there was no coal in the country; we wanted to replenish our exhausted stores; and we expected high prices and a good volume of trade. What happened? In the first quarter there was a profit of £3,500,000. By the end of that time, the effect of the eight hours' day had come into operation. There was more coal coming on to the market than there was an outlet for, the scramble for the business that was available became more and more intensified and prices began to fall. What has been the result? In the June quarter of 1927, there was a loss of £2,400,000; in the September quarter, a loss of £3,150,000; in December, a loss of £2,900,000. In the March quarter of 1928, the loss was £2,200,000; in June, £3,600,000; and in September, 3,300,000; and so it goes on. The last results show a loss for the June quarter of 3½d. a ton, which is precisely the figure that represented the loss on the industry in 1925, when the Conservatives took it in hand first. At that time, they were dealing with an industry that was paying on a seven hours' basis, and with an industry that employed 1,126,000 men. To-day, they have brought it down to 940,000 men; 180,000 men have been thrown out of employment as a result of their legislation.

We have had these deplorable conditions as a result of a policy, deliberately entered upon, of cutting prices in order to expand the market. It bas simply failed, and the industry has now reached a stage when something has to be done. It is no use talking about what will be the conditions arising out of this Bill. We have to face the position of what is going to happen if this Bill does not go through. Does anybody imagine that this industry can go on along the lines on which it has been moving during the last few years? Surely there is an end to this kind of thing. If the banks next week declined to continue to finance the coal industry in this country, there would be a complete collapse in the industry. How much longer are they going to do it? Only as long as they are satisfied that the rolling stock, and the plant, and the other redeemable assets are sufficient to cover their indebtedness. The day is not far distant when in a large number of cases that point will be reached in the coal trade of this country. If all this was increasing the output and expanding the market, and making a future possible, there would be something to be said for all the sacrifices that have been made, but we are still in the 250,000,000 tons stage. In pre-War days, we had some 30,000,000 tons or more in excess of that, and we are not going to get improvement by the kind of policy that has been pursued hitherto.

What is the object of this legislation? Up till now a policy of cut-throat competition has been proceeding for this simple reason. You have such disparities between the costs of production of the various concerns in the coal trade, some of them producing 5s., 6s. and 7s. a ton below the cost of production in other collieries. As long as you have these disparities in costs, and as long as, coupled with that, there is an output greater than the demand, there will be a scramble for trade and reductions in prices; the low cost concerns will dominate the market, and the other people will be hopeless and helpless. That is what has been going on, and it is continuing. They have been unable up till now to retain in their industry anything that they have had. They had £24,000,000 by way of subsidy, and it passed through the industry like water through a sieve. They have been given £150,000,000 a year out of the wages of the miners, and it has gone through the industry in the same way. They have had substantial reductions in costs, and it has all gone in the same way. It has gone because the owners are unable to coordinate their activities, to control prices, and to prevent the policy of cut-throat competition at home and abroad.

This Bill aims at putting a check on them. Quite frankly, there is no attempt on our part to hide it. The Liberals, as I understand their Amendment, say: "We are quite prepared that you shall have a shorter working day, but go and fight for it." Let there be no misunderstanding that if the Liberal position in this Amendment, and in their general attitude, should become effective, and if their sentiments were translated into action that we should have only a shorter working day through this Bill, it would mean a shorter working day with a fight. The miners of this country are not going to submit to any more reductions in wages. If that happens, it will not happen without a fight'. It is an injustice to the miners to expect them to submit to still further reductions in wages. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke on Tuesday made out such a case for a reduction in hours as won my greatest admiration. It was a much stronger case than I could have put, a case that is absolutely unanswerable, and yet the miners cannot have that mere measure of justice without fighting for it again; unless something is done to prevent the employers cutting each other's throats and undercutting in the markets and thus enabling some revenue to be brought into the industry.

This Bill may not be all that people think it should be. It may be a rotten Bill; it may be everything that has been said about it; but surely, if the proposals do not meet the case, it is the business of this House to help to make them meet the case. The Liberals, at any rate, have put down something in the nature of suggestions for the future, but not to meet the present position. The Conservatives are not prepared to make any suggestions at all. They do not say, "Yes, we agree there is something to be done, but this is not the way to do it, and we suggest an alternative method." No, they say, "Just leave things alone. Read this Bill this day six months." In other words, it is a "do nothing" policy. I should be very pleased if this Bill could be given a, Second Reading and amended in such a way as will make it more efficient and more effective for the purpose for which it was introduced. I have listened to the suggestions made and the questions asked. I did not know what the Government's replies would be. I have no authority to speak on behalf of the Government, but I gathered not merely from the replies, but from the original statement of the President of the Board of Trade, that they were going to introduce an amalgamation scheme and were going to appoint commissioners to carry it into effect. The Liberals say, "But you have not the power to do it." The President says, "I think we have, but if we have not we will obtain powers." There is common agreement between us on principle about that. The Liberals say, "Are you prepared to insist upon amalgamating them on present values and net upon inflated values?" A very definite and emphatic reply in the affirmative has been given to that question. [interruption.] I did not catch what was said.

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I was saying I was not sure that the answer had been given.

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Well, I read the report to-day and I understood it to say that it is the intention of the Government definitely to secure the amalgamations without including in the price any fictitious values which will be created by this Bill. What is more, they say they do not think any fictitious values will be created, but if such be the case, it will be the duty of the commissioners in amalgamating the mines to see that any fictitious value is not taken into consideration. There is one question which has been stressed and to which, so far as I know, no reply has been given, and that is as to the price. Is there to be proper public control of prices? I have not heard any definite reply to that, and I am not authorised to give any reply. I suppose some reply will be given later. But I am speaking now on behalf of the miners on this point, and I can say this so far as the miners are concerned, that we do not desire any schemes that will enable either the miners or the mine- owners to fleece the British public, but to charge nothing beyond what is necessary to enable us to have a decent civilised existence. As to any safeguards that can be inserted in any part of the Bill that will bring about that result, as far as we are concerned there is no combination between the miners and the mineowners to carry the thing further than that. As far as we are concerned, we would not enter into such a combination. We should certainly adhere to that provision.

I want now to say a few words about the amalgamation proposals. I regard the present position of the Government as being very largely due to the action of the Commission of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen was head in making what in my judgment was an altogether wrong report upon the evidence submitted to them. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not mind my differing from him in my interpretation of the facts which were placed before that Commission. After all, the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues had that evidence before them for a few months. At that time they were qualified better than any other individuals in this country to form a judgment. But we have had the same data before us for three years now, all the evidence, all the facts, all the figures, all the accountants' state-ments, everything upon which they formed their conclusion, and any one of us can form his or her own judgment upon that data. I realise that I am expressing a contrary opinion to that of a very able and competent gentleman, and I realise that in differing from him, I may be regarded as a little bit lacking in modesty.

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I hope the right hon. Gentleman will remember that the report was the unanimous report of all the Commissioners.

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Yes. I intended to say that; but had I been on that Commission there would have been a minority report. Let us look at the position for a minute. In 1925, and that after all, is the crucial date, the conditions in the mining industry were the subject of a special examination by the Commission. What did they find? They found that the mining industry, taking it all through, sustained a loss of 3d. per ton for the half year ending June, 1925. I dealt with those figures in 1926 and I showed what that 3d. per ton meant. The industry taken as a unit, as one complete whole, showed a loss of 3d. per ton. But when we look at it in its respective constituent parts, what do we find? Out of the 613 concerns we find that 90 lost from 3d. to 1s. per ton, 89 from 1s. to 2s., 74 from 2s. to 3s., 42 from 3s. to 4s., 16 from 4s. to 5s., six from 6s. to 7s., and 35 over 7s. per ton. You will see how difficult it is to understand the whole coal problem when 3d. per ton loss means 7s. per ton loss to some collieries. That is what happened in connection with 396 firms out of the 613 producing 58 per cent. of the output. What about the others? We find that 74 firms made profits of less than is.1s per ton, 63 made profits of between 1s. and 2s., 35 between 2s. and 3s., 18 between 3s. and 4s., 14 between 4s. and 5s., six between 5s. and 6s., two between 6s. and 7s., and six made profits of more than 7s. per ton. There we have a group of 217 firms making profits varying from less than 1s. to over 7s. per ton, while the industry as a whole was losing 3d. per ton. It is difficult to understand how 3d. per ton loss can be harmonised with 7s. per ton loss, and how 3d. per ton loss means 5s. per ton profit. It is a very difficult proposition.

What was the position of the industry then? There are three facts which I want to put before the House, and on the basis of those facts I entirely disagree with the findings of the Commission. The price of coal during that half-year was 18s. per ton. The cost of producing it was 18s. 3d. per ton. Had the industry been under common ownership, had the whole industry been unified, at the end of 1925 the simple problem with which the country would have been faced would have been, "How are you going to wipe off 3d. per ton loss?" A 10 per cent. reduction of wages would have reduced the cost 1s. 3d. per ton, which would have meant wiping out the losses and establishing a profit of 1s. per ton on the total industry. That is a fact proved by the statistics of the right hon. Gentleman's documents. Those are facts and figures that cannot be challenged. If the coal industry in this country produced the coal at 17s. per ton and sold it at 18s., there could be 1s. per ton profit on every ton raised, and the wages payable to the men and the number of men employed in 1925 could be maintained out of the finances of this industry. Can this industry afford to pay 18s. per ton? At 18s. per ton this industry can employ 1,126.000 men. It is true that at the present time prices are 4s. below that, and when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs talks about raising the price of coal 4s. 6d. per ton—

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3s. 6d.

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I would say this. For another 4s. per ton you could employ another 180,000 men and find them in wages of £120 a year.

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