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Clause 1—(Extension Of Power To Make Advances To The National Coal Board)

Volume 616: debated on Wednesday 27 January 1960

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

3.50 p.m.

I beg to move, in page 3, line 23, to leave out "seven hundred" and to insert "six hundred and seventy-five".

I think that it would be convenient if the Committee discussed this Amendment together with the next Amendment, in line 25, to leave out "and fifty".

This Amendment is designed to reduce the capital sums made available by Parliament to the National Coal Board, having regard to the position in the industry today, where there are excessive stocks of coal on the ground, and the statement of future policy made by my right hon. Friend on 23rd November, notably in connection with opencast coal mining and the conversion of oil-burning power stations from oil to coal.

Perhaps I might, at the outset, refer to a paragraph in the concluding speech of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary during the Second Reading of the Bill on 23rd November.
"Stocking on a massive scale was undertaken with one purpose only in view, and it has reached a level which cannot be justified except to prevent excessive closures of mines. That is why the stocks are there and that is why the money has been laid out. That is why the Bill is necessary today, to finance these for one purpose only. They are not justified economically or on any business basis. They are there to prevent hardship to miners and to run down collieries with the minimum of hardship."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November. 1959; Vol. 614, c. 151–2.]
That, of course, was a highly controversial statement. It has always been an issue, not only between the opposite sides of the House of Commons, but among right hon. and hon. Members sitting on the same side, as to the attitude of Parliament to this major nationalised industry. Because it is the quintessence of my personal view, I think I may repeat what I said on this issue as long ago as 3rd December, 1958:
"The issue in my mind is whether the National Coal Board is to be run as a social welfare club or as a commercial organisation. If it is to be run as a social welfare club, Parliament must give it a subsidy. If it is not so to he run, Parliament must not give it a subsidy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December, 1958; Vol 596, c. 1223.]
That is the issue inherent in the finances which we are discussing this afternoon.

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has said that these very large stocks—and most of the finance under the Bill is concerned with those very large stocks—are to prevent the excessive rate of run-down of the mines, to prevent any grave dislocation in the employment of miners. He has said that it is not justified economically. I hold the opposite view. I hold the view, and so, officially, does the whole of my party, that nationalised industries are to be run as strictly commercial enterprises. That was what we said during the General Election in October, 1959. That is the view I hold today, and, holding that view, it is repugnant to me to be asked to vote moneys for holding excessive stocks of coal which are not likely to diminish in the next twelve to eighteen months, in my opinion. Here again, I am in conflict with my right hon. Friend the Minister because I say that they are not likely to diminish in the next twelve to eighteen months. They are likely to increase—

I should like to put this point to the hon. Gentleman. If he feels so strongly, as a matter of principle, that Parliament ought not to provide public money for the orderly running down of an industry, to prevent hardship to the workers and their wives and families, why did he and his hon. Friends vote almost unanimously for the Cotton Industry Act, which provides £50 million of public money—as against a statement by the Minister that it would be only £30 million—for the cotton industry, most of which will go to the employers and not to the workers?

Parliament has been voting hundreds of millions of pounds year after year for the orderly conduct of the Coal Board. Obviously I cannot dwell on the point at length, but the amount of money involved in the cotton industry legislation is relatively tiny—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—yes, relatively tiny, compared with the sums of money involved here, and, incidentally, the considerations are entirely different.

I am talking today on the single point of whether it is a good thing for the nation that the taxpayers should go on vesting very large sums of money for an increasing scale of stocking of largely unsaleable coal. That is the issue inherent in this Amendment. I have not sought to negative the whole of the increase in borrowing power. If hon. Members will look at the terms of the Amendment, they will see that I am seeking to cut in half the additional borrowing power. The main diminution in this Amendment will be noted in the course of my speech to be exactly related to the position of stocks.

During the last three years there has been a dramatic change in the position of the coal industry. Inland consumption of coal has fallen by 27 million tons per annum, from 218 million tons to 191 million tons. The production of coal has not fallen by as much. It has fallen from 222 million tons in 1956 to 206 million tons in 1959, a fall of only 16 million tons. But the stocks have steadily gone upwards. For example, twelve months ago undistributed stocks of coal were no more than about 17 million tons. Today they have risen to the phenomenal figure of 36 million tons. In addition to that, 36 million—is the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Wyatt) awaking from his long slumbers?

Yes, 35·3 million tons. If we add to that figure 14 million tons in respect of distributed stocks, the stocking of coal is, as near and makes no matter, 50 million tons—I am not talking in decimals, I am giving to approximately a million tons, which is good enough for the purposes of this debate.

The value of the 36 million tons of coal undistributed is put at £142 million, that is the sum of capital moneys of the Coal Board which is virtually sterilised by these excessive stocks of coal. There can be no contradiction as to that figure. What greatly concerns me at the moment is that the consumption of coal, instead of going up consonant with the large increase in industrial production, is not going up. It is going down.

4.0 p.m.

I have compared two exactly comparable weeks, the first the period of seven days ended 10th January, 1959, and the second the period of seven days ended 9th January, 1960. In the meantime, between those two periods, industrial production in this country has risen by about 10 per cent. The weather was approximately comparable in the two periods. The weather most largely affects the domestic market. On 10th January, 1959, 4·537 million tons of coal had been consumed in the preceding week. On 9th January, 1960, the figure was 4·268 million tons of coal. Notwithstanding an increase in industrial production of 10 per cent., the consumption of coal had fallen by about 300,000 tons in a single week.

These are figures which we should be very unwise to ignore. Hon. Members opposite will clearly recall that in earlier coal debates, for example, on 3rd December, 1958, it was stated that the falling demand for coal was due to what hon. Members opposite called "industrial stagnation." I contradicted that at the time. Today, we see a position in which industrial production has gone up by a very large amount and yet the demand for industrial coal, which is the most important consideration, continues to fall.

It is for this reason that I tend to quarrel with my right hon. Friend the Minister, though his claim to have a crystal ball is as good as mine, his professional advice is as good as mine and his assessment of the future position is as good as mine—no better, no worse. In truth, none of us has a crystal ball. None of us can look twelve months ahead and say what the level of industrial production will then be. None of us can look twelve months ahead and say how warm, or otherwise, the weather will be in January, 1961. It is therefore difficult to assess what will be the overall demand for coal during the next twelve months.

I beg the Committee to look again at my right hon. Friend's estimate for 1960. He has said that he proposes that the production of coal shall not be allowed to rise above 195 million tons. He has said that the consumption of coal is estimated to be 196 million tons. He has said that he will reduce the stocks by only about 1 million tons, out of 50 million tons, which is a reduction of only 2 per cent. That is at a time when £142 million of national money is tied up in undistributed stocks and a further £60 million is tied up in distributed stocks.

I said to my right hon. Friend on Second Reading—and it will bear repetition today—that his proposition in this regard is "futile and nugatory". I would far prefer him to have a more dynamic policy for an early reduction of this dreadful drug on the coal market of these excessive stocks; and that is one of the purposes of the Amendment.

Far worse is the lengthening financial shadow which is cast by these excessive stocks upon budgetary possibilities next April and the prospect for the Conservative Party of again being able to honour their election obligations and to reduce taxation.

The hon. Member should not be impatient. I have not even concluded my preamble.

I said that my right hon. Friend's proposition was not acceptable to me and is not sufficiently dynamic. I believe—and my view is shared, because it is an extension of the figures of the declining demand for coal which I gave a few moments ago—that far from using 196 million tons of coal in 1960, we may well use only 185 million tons. I believe that in the following year that figure may fall by a further 5 million tons to 180 million tons, on account of three major factors—and these are associated directly with this financial Amendment.

The first factor is the continuing higher level of efficiency with which coal is being used in industry and in the home. There can be no disputing that. Every creation of a smoke-control zone in an industrial area means a diminishing demand for coal. Even if coal is used as the prime product and the means of heating is provided by electricity, still electricity provides that heating more efficiently and smokelessly and uses less cal per B.T.U. than does the burning of raw bituminous coal under a boiler. It is inevitable all over the country that factors of that kind will continue to operate not only on account of fuel efficiency measures but on account of the intrusion of oil fuel, as well.

It is useless for the National Union of Mineworkers to continue their campaign, the jungle war as Mr. Paynter called it a couple of weeks ago, ably supported—if "ably" is the correct word in this context—by Sir James Bowman, Chairman of the National Coal Board, who used the phrase, "A damned good speech by Mr. Paynter". The Socialists are very divided in these matters. There may be Sir James Bowman and Mr. Paynter in one camp, but that eminent Socialist, Mr. Malcolm Muggeridge, is in the other camp.

It is no good the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) saying that Mr. Muggeridge is not a Socialist. Of course he is. You know he is, Sir Gordon.

The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) should not attribute knowledge of that sort to me.

I beg your pardon, Sir Gordon. I was not attributing knowledge to you, but endeavouring to be strictly Parliamentary in my approach and to address my comments to the Chair, where they properly belong.

I will give way to the hon. Member in a moment.

Mr. Malcolm Muggeridge wrote in the Sunday Pictorial on 10th January:
"Nothing, in my view, could be more advantageous than for all the old, grimy world of the industrial revolution to become redundant. In its place I should like to see clean, light, modern factories, whose power was atomic, or electric, derived from oil fuel, not coal… An enlightened and far-seeing Government could, and should, minimise the hardships."
He added:
"But the changes must come, and those who oppose them are modern Luddites."
Does the hon. Member for Bosworth wish to be a Luddite as well as Rip Van Winkle, awakened from his slumbers, as I described him on Second Reading.

I can at least get my facts rather more accurate than the hon. Member for Kidderminster. Mr. Malcolm Muggeridge, whom I know very well, has for a very long time been as much opposed to the Labour Party as is the hon. Member himself.

4.15 p.m.

I should not have thought that there was any political or other affinity between Mr. Malcolm Muggeridge and myself.

These changes are inevitable, and I wish to minimise hardship in the mining areas where there is displacement of colliers, but it would be futile for the House to disregard the scientific changes which are going on and not to make the necessary financial preparations to meet them. That is why I want the figures in the Bill to be re-examined.

May I deal, first, with the primary reason for the reduction in amount which is given in the Amendment? I refer to the topic of opencast coal. Whatever hon. Members opposite may think of my Parliamentary performances during the last decade, at least they cannot accuse me of any lack of consistency. I made my maiden speech in the House in March, 1950, largely on the topic of opencast coal mining. Ever since, I have consistently opposed opencast coal mining as the scourge of rural England. I did so when hon. Members opposite were vociferous in their demands for an increase in and an extension of opencast coal mining in 1950 and 1951.

The hon. Member must carry his Parliamentary researches into the Library of the House and study the debates during the days when his party was in office and was strongly in support of opencast coal mining. Jeers and sneers were directed at my activity in the country, which was against opencast coal mining. Today, I am being utterly consistent.

My right hon. Friend proposes to reduce opencast coal mining from 11 million tons mined in 1959 to 7 million tons mined in 1960, and he says that he will gradually reduce it until in 1965 it is only 2 million tons. That is a very slow rate of run-down. I am pleading the case of the National Union of Mineworkers and I expect to be offered an honorary vice-presidency of that union when I have concluded my speech. Of course, I am pleading the case which they happen to have put—except that I put it years before they did.

In this context, the National Union of Mineworkers is right. Let us take the case of Derbyshire. My right hon. Friend has refrained from comment on this so far. Today, in Derbyshire, there is the idiotic position that fresh opencast coal mining is going on in the east of the county while the coal is being put into disused limestone quarries in the west of the county. There it will remain for one, two, three or more years. In Shropshire, not far from my constituency, there is a large dump of coal which has been put down on a clay bed. It is soft coal. It started to steam a few weeks ago. It is now firing. It is being removed hurriedly at great expense to a local power station in an effort to use it, as a panic measure.

This position in respect of opencast mining exists all over the country. Is it logical that we should seek to mine 7 million tons of opencast coal in 1960? The cost of it at site is about £3 a ton. There is a further £1 a ton to put it down into stock, making £4, and there is 4s. per annum in stocking costs for every year that it is held. In that 7 million tons of opencast coal mining alone, in the year 1960, is tied up £28 million. That £28 million, calculated at £4 a ton, is provided for in the Bill.

I want to cancel at once, by mutual agreement, 5 million tons out of the 7 million tons of opencast coal mining this year. Because contracts have been entered into, I want to do what I have had to do many times in business when I have been responsible for making a long-term contract and, usually due to changed conditions, it has not been possible for me to work right through it; and that is to rupture the contract by mutual consent, paying an agreed sum in compensation. That is what I want to do with opencast coal mining.

I hope that my right hon. Friend, in replying to the Amendment, will not say to me in pious terms that he honours the sanctity of contracts and I do not. Nothing is further removed from the truth. He again refrained from replying to my question on Second Reading when I asked him what would be the cost of rupturing these contracts. Surely it could not be as much as £28 million in a single year for mining unwanted coal, which seems to me to be the height of folly.

Hon. Members will read into my first Amendment that I seek a reduction of £25 million. I have accounted at once for £28 million in respect of a diminution of opencast contracts. From the £28 million must be subtracted a sum equal to the payment of compensation for rupture of those contracts. Out of the £28 million I would expect to arrive at a net saving of nearly £20 million. I ask to reduce the amount by only £25 million.

There may be room for argument about what are the exact figures. Of course, I do not know. I am not in the happy position of Sir James Bowman, who made the contracts, of being able to go to the opencast contractors and ask them how much they will accept for the rupture of the contracts. I hope that my right hon. Friend knows. I hope that today he will not reply in terms of this year only, because he proposes to continue opencast mining until 1965. I want to see the back of it—all but 2 million tons during the current year 1960, and those 2 million tons would be in respect of special coals from special sites which have special application in the immediate district of the opencast mine.

I hope that I shall carry at least the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) with me, because his constituency has suffered, like the constituency of the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), possibly far more than any other Midlands constituency if not more than any other constituency in the country, from a process which I repeat can only properly be called the scourge of rural England.

Since my name has been mentioned, perhaps the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) will permit me to say that I have always considered him to be quite unconsciously the most ardent advocate and protagonist of the oil fuel loss in the House of Commons. I do not dissent very much from what he has said about opencast mining, but I wish that he would attach as much importance to the stimulation of the demand for coal. There is plenty of room for that, as there is for the reduction of opencast mining.

May I perhaps refresh the hon. Gentleman's memory, encyclopaedic though his knowledge is on this? At least one oil company is itself operating a bridging operation to convey its oil by rail from the point of entry to London. That is just one example of how coal consumption might be stimulated.

I am deeply grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his generous tributes to my activities in the House of Commons on fuel and power subjects. I will pass straight away to his point.

The hon. Member has evidently been following my speech with assiduity, because my very next paragraph deals with this subject of encouraging the demand for coal. There are many culprits. Sad to relate, the National Union of Mineworkers was one. It was not until I sent that memorable greetings telegram to Mr. Ernest Jones, its president, that he converted the oil-burning plant at his headquarters in Euston Road to the use of coal.

What are Her Majesty's Government doing today? The taxpayers are being called upon to finance huge surplus stocks of coal. This afternoon I have received an Answer from the Home Secretary about the use of fuel in prisons. It is admitted that seven prisons are being switched over from coal to oil. I ask the Home Secretary not to carry out that conversion and to keep them on coal. The taxpayers are financing not only the huge coal stocks, but Her Majesty's detainees in these prisons. Should we be concerned that their labour is less in these prisons? Is the amount of work associated with the use of coal so much more than the amount of work associated with the use of oil?

The Home Secretary sent me this Answer today. It will be printed in the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow morning. I rang my right hon. Friend's private secretary this morning and asked for this Written Answer to be delivered to me at 3.25 p.m. today precisely, so that I could use it in the debate. It was delivered at 3.20 p.m. That was very efficient. This is what the Home Secretary says in reply to my Questions:
"The National Industrial Fuel Efficiency Service advised"—
incidentally, that was three years ago—
"that in this type of case"—
that is, the prison case—
"either an oil-fired system or a coal-fired system with mechanical stoking should be adopted, and in the particular circumstances of the closed prisons where the difficulties of layout were considerable the former"—
that is, oil—
"was chosen. Including the fuel tanks, the capital cost of each of these installations will be between £6,000 and £7,000 and running costs are about the same as for coal firing.
Further modernisation schemes are under consideration and the National Coal Board is being consulted."
What my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary does not say is that he has taken my advice, stopped the conversion to oil-burning appliances and put them on to low-grade coal, using the coal which the taxpayers have paid for and which is lying around in limestone quarries in Derbyshire and elsewhere. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power will convey to the Home Secretary a message that we expect these prisons to continue using coal. If he does not, I promise him that I shall be very rough with him in the early future. It is a suicidal policy to ask taxpayers to pay for coal in national stocks and to pay for conversion to oil in Her Majesty's prisons thus using an imported fuel instead of an indigenous fuel.

There is another major issue, again associated with the sum by which I seek to diminish the borrowing powers. It is the burning of oil at power stations. It is analogous to the position with opencast mining. When the nation was very short of fuel two or three years ago, a number of power stations were swung over to oil burning or designed for burning oil. As a result of representations made by both sides of the Committee in the last twelve months or so, the amount of oil conversion taking place has been reduced, but it has not been reduced by very much. The amount clawed back from oil to coal is only 1·7 million tons in 1960 and will rise to only 3·9 million tons by 1965.

I cannot ascertain—the present Minister is never willing to tell me, nor was his predecessor—what is the coal equivalent being burned at power stations in terms of oil today. Forming my own assessment—I am open to correction—I believe that it is about 6 million tons of coal equivalent in terms of oil. Again, long-term contracts between the Central Electricity Generating Board and the oil companies are in being. Those contracts should be ruptured. I believe that compensation should be made payable in exactly like fashion to the opencast workings being wound up at an earlier date in order to diminish the burden on the taxpayers during the next few years, as a result of further and large increases in coal stocks.

I pass to the Coal Board's finances as distinct from the user of coal. The last published figures show that at 31st December, 1958, the Board's loss forward was £29 million. My assessment of its losses during 1959 is a further £21 million. I believe that the total of its loss forward at 31st December, 1959, will amount to £50 million. Is that £50 million provided for in the Bill? I am not sure that it is. Further, I believe that the probable loss of the Board during 1960 will be a further £50 million, making the loss forward at 31st December, 1960 a total of £100 million. I am not cavilling at that. At the moment, I am merely asking pertinent questions. Is that £100 million loss forward that I estimate to the end of the Board's present financial year, namely, 31st December, 1960, included in the Bill? I hope that my right hon. Friend will answer that point carefully when he replies.

I do not know if I understood the hon. Gentleman aright, but if he said that he thought that in one year coming the Coal Board would make a loss of £50 million, despite regrouping and the drop in production, and so forth, will he explain why? I listen with very great interest and respect to what he says, because he takes much trouble to find out his facts. It would be interesting to know why he says that.

I form that estimate, first, because of the further heavy increases in stocks which will take place if the Ministerial estimate is right. The Ministerial estimate is that consumption will be 196 million tons, that 195 million tons will be mined and that stocks will decline by only one million tons. I believe that by the end of 1960 production will be a good deal higher, consumption will be a good deal lower and that the total of stocks will have risen from 50 million tons, which is the approximate figure at present, to 75 million tons. That is the principal cause for my concern with the finances that the Minister has advanced as his estimate for the next few months.

Not only are there the finances of the Board and its losses forward. There is another very substantial cloud on the horizon. There is the miners' pay claim. I should like my right hon. Friend to apply himself to this very delicate and difficult matter, because it will be the House of Commons that has to finance the miners' pay claim if it is granted. It is no good arguing about that. The price of coal cannot be increased by the amount of the miners' pay claim, because if the price of coal was made any higher the demand would diminish further, oil would be given further advantages, the consumption of coal would fall further and the losses of the Board would be greater.

The miners' pay claim was first announced in the newspapers a week ago. It is for no less than £75 million in a single year. The Board estimates that a 2s. a shift rise for 300,000 day-wage men would cost £15 million a year. Arbitration on a cut from 7½ hours a day to 7 hours a day for underground workers would cost £57 million. If the 40-hour week were adopted instead of he present 42½ hours, it would cost a further £3 million in respect of meal breaks. The total of those three figures is £75 million. The consumer will not pay, because the price of coal cannot be raised. No one denies that. Therefore, if the pay claim is conceded the Board must find it from its own resources. That would mean a commensurate increase in the loss of the Board equal to £75 million a year. That is the Board's own estimate, not mine.

What will the Committee say this afternoon? Will it say that the miners cannot have any more pay?

No. I am stating the problem. Because my right hon. Friend carries his estimates under the Bill forward for twelve months. If the pay claim is conceded, it will immediately make nonsense of his financial estimates.

4.30 p.m.

What I want my right hon. Friend to say is that he has fully taken into account not only the assessed loss forward of the Board by the end of the year 1960, but the probability of the Board's conceding the miners' pay claim, which would immediately drive a coach and four through all the provisions of the Bill and increase the financial requirement by £75 million in a single year.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether he thinks that miners will accept conditions which were characteristic of private enterprise days, when they did not have an economic wage which would give them a reasonable standard of living? If so, he is in for a rude awakening. If there is anything morally wrong in the miners enjoying good conditions and wages, the hon. Gentleman should look at the other aspect of the picture—takeover bids, which make £1½ million profit a day.

There are many ways in which large capital gains can be made —for example, £250,000 on the football pools, tax-free. That is all part of the same theme, but in no way related to the coal problem. I immediately reply to the hon. Gentleman that if he cares to read my speeches over the years on the subject of coal mining, he will see that I have always been the strongest possible advocate of the men who do the dirtiest and most dangerous job in British industry—at the coal face—receiving the highest possible wage.

What I am proposing this afternoon is an allied but extremely difficult problem and hon. Members opposite who are representatives of the National Union of Mineworkers will be doing their followers the gravest disservice if they run away from this problem. Here is a pay claim of £75 million which cannot be offset by increases in coal prices and which can be met if the Board concede it, by putting up the rate of its annual loss. What I am asking is what my right hon. Friend feels about the pay claim? Has he allowed for it in his estimates in the Bill? If not, then this afternoon he must give urgent attention to it.

There are no more apropriate words on this problem than those written in the Daily Telegraph on 18th November in an article entitled "Coal Stocks", which wound up with this sentence:
"The country cannot contemplate an endless vista of accumulating stocks and accumulating borrrowings".
They are very telling words this afternoon.

I want to stop those stocks rising further. Fifty million tons in stock is quite enough. We are nearly at the end of the winter. Stocks always start to rise steeply at the beginning of April. Unless we do what I am advocating and drastically reduce opencast and drastically cut down the tonnage of oil burned in power stations and the conversion to oil, my prognostication of 75 million tons of coal by the beginning of the next coal winter will be a reality.

Has the hon. Gentleman taken into account the fact that since coal stocks reached their highest peak, on 12th December, they have been running down at a rate of more than ¼ million tons a week and are now 1·2 million tons lower than on 12th December? Why does he think that that trend will not continue?

That is not a correct figure. I have here the statistical digest issued by the Ministry of Power. In January so far, the diminution of stocks as a whole has been something less than 1 million tons compared with December.

Total stocks, distributed and undistributed, have diminished by only about 1 million tons in a period of exceptionally cold weather. Supposing the hon. Gentleman's figure of ¼ million tons a week is correct, which it is not, going forward eight weeks to early April means a decrease of only 2 million tons, and from early April stocks will start to increase steeply, as they do every year. In the year of the greatest famine for coal, in 1948, between the end of the coal winter and the beginning of the next coal winter stocks went up by 10 million tons. That is the period of stocking.

Even if we reduce stocks by ¼million tons a week, which I deny, that is only 2 million tons off 50 million tons by the beginning of April, and from the beginning of April to the beginning of November stocks will mount very fast. For all the reasons I have explained, I think that by the end of the year total stocks will reach approximately 75 million tons.

I do not believe that we can assist the National Coal Board by Parliamentary sloppiness. This is a genuinely acute and practical problem of mining and finance. In these Amendments I am not seeking to reduce the allocation of capital moneys to the Board. I have sought to relate the amount of the reduction in the Amendment to a direct diminution of opencast mining and to conversion of power stations from oil back to coal.

On those grounds, I believe that the Amendments should be supported in all parts of the Committee. Hon. Members opposite who are representatives of the National Union of Mineworkers will have a very difficult time with their members when they go back to their lodges and explain that they could not support me in my Amendment when I, a Tory voice, was seeking to espouse their cause.

The hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), who has just taken his seat, has been the sternest advocate in the country of the very things which I have been saying this afternoon. He is a close colleague of Mr. Paynter, general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers—the only difference being that one is a Communist and the other a Socialist. He is at one with me in wanting to rid us of opencast coal mining. I hope that he will support me in the Lobby, if there is a Lobby—[Hon. MEMBERS: "0h."] It is early days yet. I must wait for my right hon. Friend's reply. There have been bloodless victories in my activities on earlier occasions. I shall hope for something not dissimilar this afternoon.

I say to my right hon. and hon. Friends that we were elected in October, 1959, to ensure, among other things, that these huge State corporations were conducted on a commercial, profit-earning basis. We were not elected to support a system, as the Daily Telegraph calls it, of an endless vista of accumulated stocks and borrowing. That is the worst form of financial improvidence. We should give expression to our views by supporting an Amendment of this kind and putting the Coal Board into a better perspective in the community, and adding to its prospects of future financial solvency. For all those reasons, I claim support from both sides of the Committee.

I should like to support the Amendment which has been so ably moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). I am sure that I will carry the Committee with me when I say that my hon. Friend has added a great deal to his reputation, which he always enjoys here, for his quietness and modesty and, above all, his brevity. I am sure that my hon. Friend ought at least to have awakened some echoes in all parts of the Committee about the serious situation with which the industry is confronted.

The question which we are considering is whether the investment which we are asked to make is a proper use of our national resources, bearing in mind the rival claims which can be made on those resources. One might mention the subject of roads. I would not at all mind if my right hon. Friend the Minister were to get up at the Dispatch Box this afternoon and tell the Committee that not only was it his intention—with the exception perhaps of the 2 million tons mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster—to cancel the opencast mining programme, but that he would make a present of the earth shifting machinery to the Minister of Transport to enable him to get on with the road programme more quickly. That would ensure a much more profitable use of the machinery and would relieve the countryside of a pest and a scourge with which it has had to bear far too long.

Amendments such as these are virtually the only resort of those on both sides of the Committee who feel increasing and continuing anxiety at the relations between Parliament and a nationalised industry. I do not think that anyone in the Committee today would be prepared to get up and say that he was satisfied with things as they are.

Do I understand the hon. Gentleman to say that he now favours the denationalisation of coal and the railways?

I have heard the hon. Gentleman make many astonishing observations in the past—and some shrewd; but 1 am bound to say that that was not one of his best. I was once asked by the hon. Gentleman and, indeed, by a series of hon. Gentlemen opposite if I were in favour of denationalising the railways. I gave the perfectly simple and straight answer, "No"—for the reason that no one would buy them. That is my answer today—applying to the coal industry.

A great many hopes, some of them very pious and with the thinnest foundations, have been expressed over the years about this industry. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker), in April, 1951, when moving a similar Bill, said:

"The House can call them to account."
that at is, the nationalised industries. He went on to describe the Bill in rather glowing terms as enshrining
"… the hopes of British miners and of British industry."—{OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th April, 1951; Vol. 487, c. 861 and 865.]
That Bill did not form in any way an adequate foundation for the hopes of the British miners and certainly not of British industry.

One point with which I am particularly concerned this afternoon is to repeat what the late Lord Bracken said when he pointed out what nonsense it is to say that the House can always call these industries to account. If we are frank with the public and with ourselves we are bound to admit that we do not have the opportunity which we ought to have and that we are in a dilemma because of our lack of knowledge of the day to day affairs of these industries. If Parliament is to continue in the unhappy role of banker of a great industry such as this, then it needs, and must have, greater opportunities for far more regular discussion of it. That is one of the objects of the Amendments today.

My right hon. Friend the Minister, on the Second Reading of the Bill, said:
"… the first limit set by the Bill, of £700 million, is likely to be reached in the financial year 1961–62."
He continued:
"Therefore, a review by Parliament is almost certain in two years' time …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1959; Vol. 614, c. 44.]
I say as clearly as I can to the Committee today that, in my view, that interval is far too long, taking into account the present grave state of affairs. The interval should be shorter and I hope that my right hon. Friend will not feel tempted to say, "Well, there is always the opportunity afforded by Supply Days." That gives no comfort to me as a Government supporter. Traditionally, the Opposition enjoy the privilege of nomination of the subject for debate on Supply Days, but so far as the interest and opportunities of those of us on this side of the House are concerned we do not regard them as being adequately safeguarded.

4.45 p.m.

We are asked by the Bill to replenish the borrowing powers of the Board by £76 million. As my right hon. Friend said, in a rather informal, charming and old-world way, that figure would be rounded up into two lots of £50 million. I could do that with that sort of round up. It would be very popular and I am sure that it would be acceptable to both sides of the Committee. I hope, without much confidence, that this is the last round up of this kind. I am bound to say that the sombre prophecies just made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster have a note of real conviction behind them.

The Parliamentary Secretary has made it quite clear—he is very candid about it —that without the massive stocking which has taken place the Bill would not he necessary. It is about stocks that I should like to speak for a moment. They fell very slightly in the week ending 16th January and now stand at the very large figure of 35·3 million tons, double the figure of a year ago. It is worth noticing, when considering this figure, that fuel oil sales are now up by about one-quarter on those of last year. The Minister has told us that the written down value of these stocks is £142 million. He has also told us that the cost to the Coal Board of stocking them is about £50 million and he also said, to my sorrow, that the stocks are to be reduced only by the paltry amount of 1 million tons during the present calendar year. I want to ask one or two questions about that.

What will the cost of the stocks eventually be if they are put on rail in say two or three years' time? What will their calorific value be, bearing in mind that a large proportion of the stocks sonsist of fines? Are we eventually to be faced not merely with a temporary investment to finance stocks but with what will be a serious, heavy and permanent financial loss.

I am concerned with the question of consumption. The whole of this plan and the estimates which are being put before the Committee today depend on whether the Board has guessed right about future consumption. We have to bear in mind that during the three years from 1956 to 1959 demand has gone down by 33 million tons. In 1959, there was very slightly more energy consumed in this country than in 1958. Yet the share of coal went down sharply and stocks increased by 16 million tons.

The Economist of 16th January pointed out that
"Not until November, in spite of the rapid rise in industrial activity, did coal consumption in any month last year fractionally exceed that 12 months before."
What will check this general trend? I do not find it easy to accept what the Minister said on Second Reading. I find it very difficult to place any real confidence behind the hopes which he then expressed. The National Coal Board itself, on page 7 of the "Revised Plan for Coal", has referred to various factors which have been responsible for the drop in demand for coal. These include the use of other fuels, greater fuel efficiency and the clean air policy. These things are likely to continue. Certainly, there will be greater fuel efficiency—we must all hope for it. Clean air policy will, we hope, make further progress and no one can contest the prospects which face other fuels.

With commendable promptitude, my hon. Friend has called attention this afternoon to the decision of the Home Secretary to turn over six or seven prisons from coal to oil firing. I believe that this trend will continue and that it will be much more difficult to check than either my right hon. Friend the Minister or the Coal Board appears to believe.

The Board has announced certain measures—I do not want to go into them in detail—and we very much hope that they will achieve the intended result. The Board mentions particularly, on page 7 of the "Revised Plan for Coal", that steps are being taken to improve the control over quality. That is welcome, even if belated. I do not see in this or any other document any indication or evidence that the Board is aware of the state of its public relations or that it is conscious of how it stands with the man in the street.

To mention one small example, a man aged 64, who is now out of work, came some distance to see me the other day bringing with him a large parcel of wholly non-combustible material which had been sold to him as coal. He told me that he had been forced to change from cooking by coal to the use of electricity. This sort of thing is going on in a great many homes. But in reading the publications of the Board I cannot find any awareness or regret, or even, perhaps, any sense of shame, at the way in which the Board has treated so many of its customers. Many small retailers to whom complaints are made regularly by members of the public are forced back on the answer, "We have to accept what we are given and we have no redress." This is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs.

I am glad to hear that the Board is taking steps to improve its technical and sales service as well as its collaboration with the makers of appliances and with the distributing industry. I doubt very much, however, whether it is not far too late in the day to be talking of such things and whether, indeed, these things will have any chance of bringing about the quite dramatic reversal in trends that is necessary if the hopes expressed in the Bill are to fructify.

Since I have been a Member of the House of Commons, I have always refrained from intemperate, wild and unrestrained criticism of nationalised industries. The position in which those who are in charge of and responsible for these industries find themselves is invidious and difficult enough already without politicians seeking to exacerbate and exaggerate the problems which confront them.

When confronted, as we are, however, with these proposals today, for the reasons I have given I cannot feel sufficient confidence in the ability of the Board to foresee the future, nor do I derive any comfort whatever from the deplorable state of its relations with the public. It is, therefore, with a good deal of strength and earnestness that I ask my right hon. Friend the, Minister to give these two Amendments his blessing and to accept them, simply to Parliament an opportunity to discharge its proper duty.

I desire to oppose the Amendment. In proposing it, the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) covered a great deal of ground and I intend to deal with some of his remarks. In opening the Second Reading debate, the Minister said that the Bill contained one principal Clause, which is the subject of debate this afternoon. In introducing the Bill, the Minister said that it was

"inseparably connected with the Coal Board's 'Revised Plan for Coal'" —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1959; Vol. 614, c. 42.]
That being so, the Committee must be clear where it stands in this matter.

If the Amendment were carried, it would immediately undermine the policy of the Coal Board in its efforts to fulfil its programme for the next five years. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Kidderminster to talk about the stocking of coal and opencast working, with much of which we on this side agree, but that is not the subject of the Amendment. The Amendment would reduce the borrowing powers of the Board in its efforts to compete in the present situation. Indeed, if the Amendment were carried, we would be crippling the efforts of the Board to compete with oil.

Even under its revised plan, the Board has already cut its original programme by £175 million because, as the hon. Member for Kidderminster rightly pointed out, there has been a serious fall in consumption, particularly during the last three years. For that reason, capital expenditure proposals have had to be revised. During the past three years, the demand for coal has fallen by 30 million tons.

Under the revised plan, without any further cutting back of the proposals, 200 pits are to close during the next five years. This will entail redundancy among a large section of miners and will considerably reduce the industry's manpower, which already, during the last two years, has fallen by 70,000. By the end of this year, manpower will have been reduced by 120,000, or one-fifth of the original manpower in the industry. These figures are serious. That is what will happen under the existing plan, without any further reduction in the borrowing powers of the Board.

This is an industry which, by its very nature, is relatively inflexible and yet the Board, with this rapid drop in consumption, has had to meet the situation in such circumstances. Those connected with the mining industry will appreciate that this is an industry in which one has to plan ahead. Pits cannot be sunk in a few months. It is not like dealing with a factory. One has to plan ahead. It takes a considerable time to win coal for the nation. The Board, however, has had to adjust its programme in a very short time. If now, by the Amendment, we restrict the Board's capital expenditure, we shall be affecting the efficiency and productivity of the Board.

I warn the Committee that the sense of insecurity already prevailing in the industry can be aggravated by the speeches that we have already heard.

5.0 p.m.

The hon. Member has made it quite clear that he has misunderstood the main purpose of this Amendment, which is to ensure that the matter comes back before Parliament before things get much worse.

There are certain features of this Bill which make it necessary for the Minister to come to Parliament in certain circumstances. That is already provided in the Bill. I was trying to point out that the speeches to which we have listened on this Amendment will cause serious concern among those employed in this industry. They will feel that serious as the position is at the moment, to injure in any way the programme of the National Coal Board during the next five years will place the industry in greater insecurity than ever. That is the situation which will be read into this Amendment which will impair the Board's reconstruction programme as well as its fuel efficiency policy and its efforts to compete with oil.

I need not remind the Committee that this is an extractive industry. Without investment, coal output would go down. The industry has to be replenished from time to time, and this is a part of the investment policy. The Amendment would seriously impair the Coal Board's investment programme, and I can only conclude—I want to be quite frank about this—that the Amendment is designed to cripple the Board and to weaken the industry in its competition with oil.

A lot has been said by hon. Members opposite on Second Reading, and again today, about the need for the Board to stand up to the oil industry. We have been told that the Board must compete with oil, that it must prepare itself, that it must reduce the cost of production and increase productivity. The Government have said, "We cannot assist you. It is for the Board to put its house in order." Yet today we have Amendments which are designed to cripple the industry in its competition with oil.

We on this side of the Committee have said that there should be some balance between the production of oil and of coal, but there will be no balance if the Board is not in a position fairly to compete with oil. If we are to have more and more oil at the expense of coal, there will be serious economic consequences in this country, quite apart from the strategic point of view. That is what will happen unless we allow the Board to continue its capital investment policy as is outlined in the "Revised Plan for Coal".

Nothing in my Amendment impinges in any way on the capital investment programme. Evidently the hon. Gentleman has not done his homework during the last weekend. He has not read column 151 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of 23rd November, where my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said with the greatest deliberation that out of the sums provided in this Bill a sum of £50 million is for the financing of undistributed stocks. I am seeking to reduce that amount by reducing the stocks, and not increasing them. I do not impinge in any way on the capital investment programme of the Coal Board or on the ability of the Board to compete with oil.

With every respect, that is what the hon. Member for Kidderminster is doing in his Amendment. The Bill before us provides for a certain amount of capital expenditure, which the hon. Member wishes to reduce. All his talk about opencast mining is not relevant to the Bill in these circumstances. Clause I provides for borrowing powers to be increased by £100 million.

I would remind hon. Members that the Board in its plan proposes to spend £511 million, of which it will raise £375 million out of its own resources. So that nearly 75 per cent. of future capital expenditure will be financed by the Board itself. Previous capital expenditure is now showing results. Let us look at the results. Productivity has gone up by 5 per cent. compared with 1958. The cost per ton has gone down by Is. 9d. We are beginning to reap the advantages of the capital expenditure which has previously been made in the industry.

From the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, one would imagine that we were asking for a subsidy for the industry.

It is not. We are asking for borrowing powers. We are not asking for any grant. We want a loan which will have to be repaid with interest. The Coal Board has already repaid to the nation loans amounting to £260 million with interest. In addition, the Board has subsidised coal imports by £70 million.

This nationalised industry has never been treated as a commercial concern. It has never been in a position to increase its prices when, according to the law of supply and demand, it should have done so. If it had been allowed to increase its price in accordance with the law of supply and demand, the price of industrial coal would have increased by £1 or £2 a ton.

It is not the nation that has subsidised the coal industry, but the coal industry that has subsidised the nation. It has given cheap coal in years gone by to industry. It has subsidised the importation of coal to the extent of £70 million. It has repaid to the nation loans to the tune of £260 million with interest. What more can the industry do in these circumstances?

Today, with increasing productivity, the output per man shift has gone up. Since nationalisation the output per man shift has increased by 30 per cent. The miners have done their duty. It is all very well to talk because the Board is in this precarious position, but when the nation wanted the coal almost at any price we had full employment in this country. Now, in face of the serious competition from oil, we are already getting the sort of criticism that we have had today. The Coal Board can with confidence put its cards on the table and be proud of what it has achieved.

What a different picture is revealed in respect of private industry. Take the aircraft and cotton industries; they are subsidised. Look at any industry in this country. There are methods of control, and many of these industries have been controlled. Consider the money that is paid to agriculture—anything between £240 million and £300 million. That is being paid—

—year by year. Hon. Members say that there should be some accountability. I should like to know to what extent may we debate these industries which obtain money out of the public purse. The Coal Board has never had anything like that. There has been no subsidy for the Board, although there was under private enterprise. Millions of pounds were paid to the industry when it was under private ownership. In these circumstances, the industry has carried on. I know that there are faults, and I am not going to disguise the fact that there may be faults here and there, but I say at once that the Coal Board has done a great job in these difficult circumstances.

There are other aspects of this problem, and the hon. Member for Kidder-minister has referred to opencast coal. We quite agree with him. If the subject of opencast coal is to be brought into the debate, then I say that we quite agree that opencast working should be discontinued. Again, we ought to get these power stations back on to coal, and I hope that we shall get some reply from the Minister about that. I quite agree with the point made by the hon. Member for Kidderminster, but that has nothing to do with the Amendment. This Amendment will weaken the powers of the Coal Board to deal with this situation, and will weaken it in its efforts to compete with oil. That is what this Amendment seeks to do, and it has no reference at all to opencast coal. If there is to be a debate in this House on the subject of opencast coal, or on bringing the power stations back to coal, we should support such a policy, but that is not before us today.

I want to see, as I think hon. Members opposite should want to see, the Coal Board in a position to deal with this situation. Let us look at the finances of the Board, to which the hon. Member for Kidderminster referred. Let us take the whole capital expenditure. What is it? Originally, the Board borrowed £600 million, while £400 million was obtained from the industry's own resources previously, which makes a total of £1,000 million.

Therefore, in these circumstances, I say that we have an unanswerable case on this side of the Committee in speaking for the miners and for the coal industry. I will not say for a moment that the Bill is likely to solve our problems. It is not, by any means, and we are very critical of the Government in this respect. They are not giving the industry much in this Bill. It seems that these proposals are all that we are to have, but we want something more than this. We want more assistance for the industry in these particular circumstances.

Hon. Members have referred to opencast mining and bringing back the power stations on to coal. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that one of the difficulties in this industry is due to the fact that the Government have said that they are not going to give any more assistance to the industry, but, in these circumstances, is it not in the interests of the Government to do for this industry what they have done for private enterprise when serious difficulties are confronting it?

5.15 p.m.

I repeat that this industry has a great record. It produced the coal. It delivered the goods in the years gone by. Miners have suffered the perils of this industry in order to provide the coal for the nation, but the industry has never been able to function as a commercial undertaking, and now at this moment it is essential in the interests of the country that the Government should give us some help to tide us over the present situation. The industry should be given a chance to compete with oil, but there is no response whatever from the Government.

The most we can get is this Bill, and while its provisions are essential for the industry, it does not by any means meet the position. Yet I agree with the hon. Member for Kidderminster, and wish to make it quite clear that the discontinuance of opencast mining and the changeover in the power stations from oil to coal are essential, but that is not the issue before us today. Therefore, in these circumstances, we cannot support the Amendment.

I have listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch), but, after sixteen years in this House, his speech has made me wonder if anybody remembers the past and the arguments which we used to have on coal mining subjects.

I am particularly happy to be supporting the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), because if we look back to 1956 and read the debate which took place on an Amendment which my hon. Friend then introduced, along with Mr. Angus Maude, who has now left us for Australia, we begin to wonder whether we are hearing aright today.

Are we to believe that there has been no trouble at all with the mining industry, that there was never such a thing as absenteeism in the past? Are we to believe that all this money which we have just been told the National Coal Board has spent on foreign coal being brought into this country was entirely because the miners were working very hard at the time—

—to get the coal which the country needed and could not produce enough? Of course not. There was plenty of absenteeism. I am speaking only for the part of the country which I represent. We have no coal mines down there, but we know that we have to help to finance this problem. We have to pay the taxes, and the business people in that area and in London, who travel back there night after night, are worried about this continuous demand for help by the mining industry, which does not seem to be able in any way to help itself.

We are told today that we have to go on more or less indefinitely, and certainly until 1965, granting these extra moneys. As my hon. Friend has pointed out very clearly, we could save part of the money which is provided in the Bill, and which the Amendment seeks to reduce. The hon. Member for Bedwellty said that he agrees with my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster about opencast mining, but he is not willing to support us today for the simple reason that he feels that it does not come into the Amendment. The words are clear, and indicate the amount of money which we ask to be cut off this expenditure. It does not say how it could be saved, but we believe that it can be reduced by dealing with opencast coal.

In my innocence, I wonder why the Minister does not allow stockpiled coal to be sold a little cheaper. If it were, that would help the country considerably in its export markets. My constituents and people in other areas wonder why these moneys which are being spent in this way could not be better spent in dealing with atomic energy and all the new ideas now coming forward in this country for which we need money. Why should we have to spend this money in this manner? It does not seem to me to be necessary.

I admit that it will make it more difficult to find employment for people when pits have to be closed, but, after all, that is what the Government have been returned to do. They have been returned to see whether something cannot be done to make the economy of the country work properly, and we cannot have the economy working properly if we have this endless waste going on in the mining industry. We know what the industry has done in the past, and I have probably seen perhaps as much of it as many hon. Members opposite—[Hon. MEMBERS: "0h."] Indeed I have.

The hon. Gentleman has been speaking about the shocking waste in the industry. Those of us on this side of the Committee would like to have more information about that, because if it is true we should be the first to try to do something about it.

I hope that the hon. Lady will do as much as she possibly can about it. I should like the hon. Lady and other hon. Members opposite, after today's debate, to read some of the mining debates of the past. They would soon see that there is little doubt that more could be done and should be done.

I would also point out that what worries us considerably is that we do not seem to have the opportunity to debate this subject more frequently and ask more questions about it. An hon. Gentleman who spoke earlier said that during the General Election people asked why we could not discuss points about the nationalised industries more frequently in the House. It is so that we can in some way be able to do that that we are pressing this Amendment today.

The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) puzzles me somewhat. He has an enormous knowledge of the industry which he assiduously accumulates, but I cannot decide, at the end of all he says, whether he is for coal or against coal, whether he wants people to use more oil or less oil. In the end, I am forced to the conclusion that the principal object of his opposition is the Government.

Whatever the Minister of Power does, whoever he may be, he will be attacked by the hon. Member for Kidderminster, on the very understandable ground that the hon. Member is an extremely able and intelligent person who ought to be in the Government but who, for social reasons, no doubt, is not included. Consequently, the hon. Gentleman feels somewhat resentful at his position. I must say that I do not blame him. It must, I think, be very tiresome for the hon. Member for Kidderminster to see amiable and well brought up young men on the Government Front Bench above the Gangway below on which he sits when all the time he knows that he is twice as clever as they are and twice as able to do the job very much better. Yet he is excluded, on social grounds on the one side and, on the other, because he is not working-class enough to be paraded as a Tory working-class Minister.

I do not wish to detain the Committee for long, but the hon. Member for Kidderminster seems to have some of his facts wrong. He made a great case for saying that undistributed stocks would be increased at the end of this year as compared with the present level. As far as I can ascertain, all his figures are wrong. He thinks that the stocks are going up when, in fact, they are going down. The figures I have from the National Coal Board make it quite clear that, on 12th December last year, undistributed stocks amounted to 36·483 million tons. On 9th January this year, they were 35·511 million tons and on 16th January this year they were 35·338 million tons. I think that the Minister will probably agree with those figures. Unfortunately, the hon. Member for Kidderminster, who is usually so sharp on these matters, has not read the correction slip of paper which was sent out after the original figures on which he depends were discovered to be wrong.

Stocks are now being decreased by about 250,000 tons a week. The hon. Gentleman says that that is all very fine, but, when we come to April, the stocking will begin again because the summer season starts then, and so forth. Of course, there will be a certain increase in undistributed stocks when the summer season begins, but what he does not allow for is the fact that there is already a 6 per cent. drop in production in the mining industry as compared with the same time last year, and all the time this drop is being accentuated not merely by cutting down opencast coal mining but by the regrouping schemes, closures of some pits, loss of labour, and so forth.

All the time, the tendency is not for the stocks to rise but, on the contrary, to go down. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Kidderminster is not here, because I should like to offer him £1 for every million tons of stocks above the present figure which there are at the end of this year. I do not believe that there will be any increase at all. The Coal Board is cutting down very fast in production. It is very conscious of the need and is dealing with it rapidly. If the hon. Gentleman is worried only about the fact that coal stocks may go up by the end of the year, and that is his reason for moving the Amendment, he is not on good ground. It is very unlikely that undistributed coal stocks will have gone up at all by the end of the year.

In any case, I do not understand why the Coal Board is being so much attacked on this matter. In this Committee, we find ourselves in a very odd position. Government supporters spend a great deal of their time attacking a nationalised industry which the Government are responsible for running, and we spend much of our time defending the industry although, for ten years, we have had nothing whatever to do with it. If there is anything wrong with the Coal Board, it is absolutely and entirely the responsibility of hon. Members opposite. It is not at all the fault of the Labour Party, in spite of what the Government try to suggest.

None of the nationalised industries—this includes the Coal Board—will be run effectively and efficiently until a Minister's political reputation stands or falls with the industry's success. The political reputation of a Minister in the Conservative Government today is really enhanced if he is the Minister for a nationalised industry and he can make that industry so unpopular with the public that everyone will say, "We ought not to vote Labour, because" —so it is somehow suggested—" the Labour Party has something to do with how nationalised industries are run", while, at the same time, keeping the industry ticking over sufficiently well to meet the minimum needs of the nation. We shall not have matters put right until a Minister is responsible for what happens.

How this is to be done is something to be considered. I do not think that it is just a matter of a Minister answering Questions on Mondays and Thursdays or anything like that. He must be integrated with the industry and its affairs. Otherwise, he does not care. There is no inducement at all for a Minister to mind whether the Coal Board makes a success or not.

I defend the Coal Board on this matter of stocks. It seems to me that the Board has taken a very wise decision. It was absolutely right. It increased undistributed stocks last year by about 16 million tons of coal. If it had not done that, it would have been involved in sacking about 60,000 coal miners. If one sacks 60,000 coal miners, one has to pay each one of them half a year's earnings compensation, for a start. Moreover, one then has to give them National Insurance benefits, unemployment benefits, and so forth. This is a far more expensive operation than increasing one's undistributed stocks by 16 million tons. One has, at least, got the coal at the end of it, whereas, by the other way, one has to spend, perhaps, £50 million in the year because of the abrupt sacking of 60,000 coal miners, without having any coal at the end.

I shall come to that. At the moment, I am dealing with the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Kidderminster. Even on his own financial basis, he is quite wrong to criticise the Coal Board for its stocking policy, because it actually saved the nation money.

I do not think that the hon. Member for Bosworth has done his homework. If he has read the speech I made on this situation a few months ago, he will recall that I said perfectly clearly that 50 million tons was the maximum figure I would wish to see the stocks reach. The whole purpose of my speech this afternoon—I demonstrated the soundness of my fears in the matter —was to prevent the 50 million tons in stock becoming 75 million tons. I am not dealing in retrospect with what has happened. I am dealing with the dreadful prospect of what will happen if my right hon. Friend's figures prove to be wrong, as I believe they will.

I cannot go over again all my observations. The hon. Gentleman was not here at the beginning of my speech when I made some flattering references to him and advanced his cause for becoming a member of the Government, in, I thought, the most helpful terms. I pointed out, also, that he had not read the correction slip of paper issued which amended the figures upon which he depended in putting his argument about the state of undistributed coal stocks. Perhaps he has not received it because it has been lost in the post, or something like that. Anyway, he has his figures all wrong, and it is he who has not been able to do his homework.

The hon. Gentleman is completely wrong. I have the correction slip here. As I demonstrated this afternoon, between the 9th and 16th of this month, stocks actually increased by 173,000 times. They decreased last week, but the week before they increased.

It is becoming rather tedious to go over all these figures again. I know that the Minister will confirm that I am right and the hon. Gentleman is wrong. I took the trouble to make certain, and the facts of the matter—I repeat this for the benefit of the hon. Gentleman—are that, on 9th January this year, undistributed coal stocks stood at 35·551 million tons, and on 16th January they had gone down to 35·338 million tons. That is not an increase of 173,000 tons but a decrease.

May I p from the Minister's own abstract of statistics? His figures are that, on 9th January, stocks were 35·838 million tons and on 16th January they were 36·011 million tons, an increase of 173,000 tons. I will give a copy of my right hon. Friend's abstract to him now.

5.30 p.m.

The hon. Member will never listen. We listened with great interest to what he said. It was all amusingly put and very well done, but he has not got the correction slip in respect of these figures. The figures which I have given are the latest and most accurate figures. Perhaps the Minister can clear up this matter.

I am quite prepared to try to shorten the argument by saying that I think that the figures which the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Wyatt) has pd are almost correct, but not entirely correct.

I may be 001 wrong, but my figures, as the Minister will agree, are almost right and the figures of the hon. Member for Kidderminster are almost wrong. That is the important point which I am trying to make, because it has a bearing on whether we are likely to have more stocks on hand at the end of the year.

I cannot, for the benefit of the hon. Member for Kidderminster, who was not present, go over all the reasons why think we are likely to have less stocks at the end of this year than at the beginning of the year. I will, however, repeat my offer to give him £1 for every 1 million tons of additional undistributed stocks at the end of this year compared with the figure for 1st January. Perhaps the hon. Member will then remember because he has a financial inducement to do so. I should like to defend the Coal Board for its action. In the first place, it has saved itself a great deal of money in terminal payments by abruptly sacking miners, and it has saved the nation a good deal of money in National Insurance and unemployment benefits and it has an additional 16 million tons of coal at the end of it instead of nothing. Financially, it has done exactly the right thing. It has done the right thing from the social point of view of the dislocation of communities and the welfare of the miners This is not merely a question, as the hon. Member for Kidderminster rather sneeringly said, of treating the industry as a kind of welfare organisation.

As far as I know, the best run private firms take immense pains to ensure that their relations with their workpeople are conducted in such a way as to cause the minimum of dislocation, pain and hardship, because they know that in the end it is good business. If an employer has good relations with the people who work for him, he is likely to do a great deal better than if the relations between them are bad. It is not a question of running a gigantic welfare organisation but of running an industry on modern and humane lines.

In addition, the Coal Board has saved the nation a great deal in geological damage in the mines by not closing them abruptly. If the mines are closed too quickly coal may be lost for ever which could be saved by closing them more gradually. I do not know why the hon. Member for Kidderminster, with his enormous knowledge and interest, always talks of the coal industry as though it is a matter of turning a tap on and off and saying, "We shall have 10 million tons this week, 3 million tons next week and then the week after go back to 6 million tons." Changes in the coal mining industry must be brought about in a much more gradual way.

Incidentally, I think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been helped a great deal by the Coal Board having these large stocks. It means additional coal supplies are coming from stocks being run down which would have had to be produced by increased labour. Therefore, the stocks which the Coal Board holds are anti-inflationary, and presumably it is doing what the Chancellor wants. That is another reason why the Government should support the Board rather more enthusiastically.

I agree with the hon. Member for Kidderminster about opencast coal mining. I think it absolutely absurd that the Government should not do what he suggests and cancel opencast mining contracts, even if they have to pay compensation for the lost contracts. They represent a reserve of coal which can be obtained fast if for some reason or other production has to be stepped up quickly. It is madness to go on digging up opencast coal when we do not want to start dislocating the mining industry, and dismissing miners, and so on. I know that the Ministry has cut the figure from 11 million tons to 7 million tons a year, but if it could cut it by another 5 million tons by cancelling those contracts it would be the right thing to do.

The hon. Member for Kidderminster is right about the Government's extraordinary policy in allowing power stations and prisons to go over to oil. The hon. Member put down a most surprising set of Questions. The suggestion that there is so little labour available in prisons that it is not possible to keep coal- and coke-fired boilers going seems incredible. It makes one wonder how efficient the institution called N.I.F.E. is, because it makes many odd propositions. That is one proposition which it should go back on. Here, I should declare a minor personal interest. In an endeavour to retard the number of organisations going over to oil, I have joined a firm which makes a device for saving coke on all sectional boilers. It reduces the amount of coke used in a boiler by about 25 per cent. and cuts stoking by about half.

Having said that, I now want to make one or two criticisms of the Coal Board with regard to selling and advertising. One thing which the Government must do it the present sort of situation is to be avoided is to shake up the Board in its selling and advertising. It was only a few months ago that they started to acquire some technical salesmen, but I understand that most of these people have little or no ability to sell the goods which they are supposed to sell. They have a certain amount of technical knowledge, but the art of selling is not a matter of technicalities. A national advertising campaign has just begun which does not seem to be very widely extended or pressed to point out to large fuel users the advantages of using coal and coke as against using oil. Until the Coal Board realises that it is up to the Board itself to get into this business in the same way as the oil companies, I think that it will steadily lose ground.

The oil companies carry out the most ruthless and usually untruthful propaganda all over the country, saying that supplies of coke are disappearing, and that coal will go up in price and that it is not possible to run coal or coke installations as cheaply as oil installations. They do not mind what they say, or how hard they press the gadgets which they are offering for sale. They offer very considerable inducements, such as hire-purchase terms, to persuade people to instal oil appliances. They offer all sorts of cut-price terms for buying fuel oil, even below their own pd price. The only reason why they can do this is that the price of fuel oil is subsidised by the price which the motorist pays for his petrol. This is not a very secure foundation for the future.

I think that the Government should address themselves far more to making the Coal Board efficient in its relations with the public, in research into appliances for greater fuel efficiency and more easily handled systems of fuel installations. They should address themselves more to advertising and selling generally, and the Minister should become integrated with the Board in some way so that his reputation stands or falls with it. It is too much to ask a great political party to perform this schizophrenic act—on the one hand, pretending that it is in favour of the Board and does not want to see it collapse because it knows that it has to produce a minimum amount of coal, while knowing in its heart that the less successful the Board is and the more unpopular it becomes with the public the greater the electoral asset for the Conservative Party in the future. Until the Minister is so wrapped up with the success or failure of the nationalised industries, not one of them will be given a real chance to work.

It is time we stopped this arid argument, this "yah, boo" about nationalisation, because it is the Government who have been running the nationalised industries for nearly ten years. If there is anything wrong with them, it is nothing to do with the Labour Party. When we designed the structure of the industries, and had only about three or four years to run them, we did not decide that the system must remain inviolate for the next hundred years; and that all Conservative Governments would not touch anything in them or make them more efficient.

Until there is a great change of attitude on the part of the Government, the Coal Board is doomed to slow death— unless the Minister responsible is involved in such a way with it that if the Board does not do well he will be sacked instead of having the chairman of the Conservative Party giving him a pat on the back for seeing that coal nationalisation is unpopular with the public.

The hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Wyatt) seemed to make rather heavy weather of the stocks. He was saying that stocked supplies were being reduced by 250,000 tons a week. Frankly, in mid-winter, that is a very small reduction. I do not know whether he was at all interested in the coal industry before the war, but within the context of not very many more tons of production it was then always considered normal that at this time of year, and up to March. the reduction in stocks would be at the rate of 1 million tons a week. If the hon. Member puts any faith on a reduction, at this time, of 250,000 tons a week having any real impact on the undistributed stocks, he is in for a rather rude awakening.

It is very difficult for any hon. Member to question the Coal Board's consumption statistics. The Board says that consumption this year is to be at a level of 196 million tons, that it believes that production will he at a level of 195 millions tons, and that the difference of I million tons will be the difference in undistributed stocks at the end of that period. I find it very difficult to have complete confidence in both of those figures. As I say, I cannot question the Board's consumption figure. The Board has obtained its figures from industry and by making its own inquiries. For all I know, it may be very close to the mark.

What I am by no means certain about is whether the Board can, in fact, hold production at a figure of 195 million tons. I say that advisedly. We have been tooling up this industry for a number of years now, and have poured into it £500 million or £600 million. That is beginning to have its effect. In the divisions and in the areas there are a lot of very competent men. They have been given the opportunity and the money, and today they have got the pits into a condition where they can produce a great deal of coal—a great deal more than they were able to produce a few years ago.

I find it extremely difficult to see how production can be held at a certain level. There are only two ways of doing it. The Board can put men on short time, but if it does that—bang goes its opportunity for more recruitment in those areas where it is wanted. The East Midlands is an example of more recruits being needed —another 7,000 men are wanted there. The Board cannot put some divisions on short time and others on full time because that will not be acceptable as a whole.

If it is to try to hold the present stock at a certain level—and if I am right in saying that the industry has the ability, at the moment, to produce a great deal more coal than, I think, is generally realised—it must either put men on short time or, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) has said, considerably increase its stocks towards the end of the year. I take a much graver view of the situation than does the hon. Member for Bosworth. I believe that those stocks will go up, and that, for the reasons I have just given, the Minister will be confronted with a difficult position by July of this year.

At the same time, I do not find myself able to support the Amendment, because I think that the Minister is in very considerable difficulties. He is confronted with these stocks, with this difficult situation of increased production, and with the possibility of more stocks. Meanwhile, he must continue with his scheme of capital expenditure on reconstruction and the like. If we start strapping him in one direction, we shall make long-term planning—and let the Committee make no mistake about it; in this industry it has to be long-term planning—almost an impossibility.

In saying that, I do not say that my hon. Friend and his supporters did not make a very powerful case—they did—but we have to look on the figure as a whole, and although it can be quite reasonably said that if we cut down on opencast coal production, if we make economies in this direction and another we should see a lower figure, it would still confront my right hon. Friend with unreasonable difficulties. Therefore, I cannot support the Amendment.

Nevertheless, we must approach this matter—and here I am with the hon. Member for Bosworth—with a recognition of the fact that a great deal could be done to sell this coal abroad. We have to recognise that it is unlikely that, at its present level of price, we shall sell any great amount of it. We have to do everything we can to see that prices within the industry come down. We should be in a position to do that now. After all, we are not spending money on importing expensive American coal; we are not spending money on keeping in being some of the more high-cost pits which recently have gone out of production. We have those two factors on our side.

Further, the industry is becoming much more competent within itself. Our methods are much better, and the time should surely be approaching when, instead of prices being at their present level, there should be some diminution. The moment we do see that diminution in price, coal, once again, becomes highly competitive, and oil, with all the advantages it may have, cannot compete so severely.

5.45 p.m.

There are a number of things that we could do with coal that are not being done at present. Let me deal for a moment with briquetting. We have spent a good deal on research, but we have not yet got very far. We have been investigating this problem since 1952. It is now 1960, and we are still playing about with carbonisation and have not yet got very close to briquetting. Parliament will one day ask what has happened to all that money and research. It has not been effective. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend is seized of this point, but in dealing with the possibility of finding new markets I feel it right to mention briquetting. If we could produce a smokeless fuel—briquetted— there would be an immense market for it throughout the country.

I am sure that all hon. Members are conscious of the great problems with which a new Minister of Power is faced in taking over a situation fraught with all these problems and difficulties. I can give him only one ray of hope. When I was in Germany quite recently I found that the Germans, up to a month or two ago, had been confronted with something of the same proportional problem of coal stocks. I think that they had about 17 million tons of undistributed stocks as against our figure of about 35 million tons.

I found, however, that the Germans were quite confident that they would get rid of those stocks within twelve months. They said that the upsurge of industry and the demand from power stations and the like was such that the stocks would no longer present a problem. I believe that what the Germans can do we, in due course, can do—if not at that rate at least at some rate. As I say, although I have criticised the way in which we are approaching this problem, I find myself, reluctantly, unable to support the Amendment.

I had not intended to take part in the debate until I heard the speech of the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Teeling), whom I now see leaving the Chamber. What a difference between his speech and that of the hon. and gallant Member for South Fylde (Colonel Lancaster), a man with a great knowledge of the industry and a great interest in it, who has shown that there is competence in the industry at present.

When the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion was asked by me to give one example of shocking waste, he could not give one. It is that kind of propaganda that was used during the General Election, not only by the hon. Member but by other hon. Members opposite, who would consider themselves perhaps more responsible than the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion. That propaganda was used for political reasons to return the present Government.

I am very much opposed to the Amendment. I feel that the National Coal Board must have the chance, and, indeed, should have the right, to plan ahead. In an extractive industry of this kind it is just impossible to do anything if one has to live from hand to mouth, and that is what the Amendment suggests the Coal Board should do. I feel very strongly on this matter of the Board being enabled to plan ahead. Only about three years ago the Board was advertising the great need for young men to enter the industry in every area throughout the country. Then, last year, the bomb fell and the area represented by my constituency was the worst-hit in Britain. There, because of circumstances over which it had no control, the Board had to take the unfortunate decision to close a great many pits. The greater number were closed in Scotland and this hit my constituency worst of all.

I wish that the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion, and, perhaps, the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), could see the social upheaval in that area. The Coal Board had hoped that by planning it would be able to close the pits one after the other rather than close them all at once, but because of the circumstances it could not do so. The result is that in that area alone there are 203 adult men who are not in the mining industry and who, because of very sound domestic reasons, are prevented from leaving the area. The social upheavals are very great indeed.

I appreciate the social upheavals, but this is a matter of mobility of mining labour, among other things. The hon. Lady will be aware that in the West Midlands division of the Board there are 1,000 vacancies today for men and a further 1,900 vacancies for youngsters in the pits and, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Fylde (Colonel Lancaster) has mentioned, there are 7,000 vacancies in the East Midlands. This is not an overall redundancy.

I know very fully the figures which the hon. Member for Kidderminster has pd, but some of these men need not have come to the East or West Midlands. They might have been found jobs in Fifeshire but for strong domestic reasons, which were recognised by the Coal Board, they were unable to move from our area. Moreover, in those areas where sudden closures have taken place young boys leaving school, who normally would have entered the mining industry, find that type of employment closed completely for them. Surely the hon. Member for Kidderminster does not suggest that these 15-year-old boys should leave their homes to come to England and take jobs in the mining industry.

The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) should answer that.

These are the social ills which come about when the Coal Board has to change its plans suddenly, and this is one of the reasons why I oppose the Amendment most strongly.

The hon. Member for Kidderminster and the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton), seemed to consider that there should be much more accountability to Members of Parliament on the part of this industry. They made very great play with that theme, because, as they suggested, the money was being given not as a subsidy to the industry but as a loan on which the industry had to pay interest. I should be interested to find the same two hon. Members coming forward with a Motion—and they can ballot for it—insisting that there should be greater accountability in the House for the steel industry—for instance, by Colvilles, which has just been given a great deal of capital by the Government at a very low rate of interest and which does not have to begin paying that interest until some time after production has started.

I hope that the hon. Members' constituents are after them on that subject, as they tell us their constituents are after them about the accountability of the coal industry. The British Motor Corporation is to carry out great developments. After some pressure it has decided to carry out part of those developments not a great distance from my constituency and part of it in Wales. The Government are to give the Corporation about £9 million in respect of these developments at a low rate of interest. Are the hon. Member for Kidderminster and his hon. Friends intending to table a Motion calling for accountability to Parliament by these companies which are considered to be private enterprises?

If the hon. Member intends to do that, he will get the greatest support from this side of the Committee. I wait with interest to see that Motion on the Order Paper.

As to stocks of coal, I was interested in the point made by the hon. and gallant Member for South Fylde about what is happening in Germany. If the Government could bring about the increase in industrial production which has taken place in Germany we might get these coal stocks used at the same rate as they are being used there. Instead, only last week the Bank Rate was increased by 1 per cent., and that increase was really meant to damp down any great interest in the country's productive activity. The Chancellor of the Exchequer must play his part, therefore, if these coal stocks are to be reduced.

The hon. Member for Kidderminster asked that opencast working should cease. We on this side of the Committee have been asking for that for a long time. I am certain that the Coal Board would be more than happy to stop opencast working were it not for the heavy compensation that it would have to pay. I have a suggestion to make to the Minister, and I hope that in it I have the support of hon. Members opposite. The Government were ready to give £30 million to the cotton industry so that it might reorganise itself. They could give £30 million to the cotton industry, but it would be a much smaller amount that the Coal Board would need, and if the cotton industry could have the money as a grant and not as a loan, then I think hat we on this side of the Committee who are interested in the well-being of those in the mining areas—indeed, in the well-being of the whole nation—have a right to ask the Government to stop opencast work and to use a subsidy as they have in the cotton industry and give the money to the Coal Board for compensation.

6.0 p.m.

What the hon. Member for Kidderminster says his Amendment would do to stop opencast working is just nonsense, just complete nonsense. We oppose it. We hope he will take it to a Division. I remember that on a previous occasion he made a very strong statement on an Amendment to a Bill but when there was a Division upon it he had not the guts to vote for the Amendment. Some of us on this side called a Division. I was one of the Tellers, and the hon. Gentleman sat tightly in his seat. I hope that the hon. Member will have the guts today to vote for his own Amendment, if he believes in it.

Will the hon. Lady go away now and refer to the OFFICIAL REPORT of 10th May, 1956, when I led 25 of my hon. Friends into the Lobby against the Government, while the whole of the Socialist Party sat there without the guts of which the hon. Lady was talking?

The hon. Member is referring to a different thing altogether. I was referring to the occasion when the hon. Member made the criticisms which were backed up today by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Teeling). He had had the whole Press behind him for weeks, and there was talk about disclosures of waste and about the standards of the National Coal Board, but the hon. Member could prove none of it, and he sat in his seat when the Division was called.

I rise to support the Amendment. I have no desire to hamstring the National Coal Board. I support the Amendment because we are being asked to finance the coal stocks out of capital account. I speak as a coal merchant, and I should like to try to make a few constructive suggestions as to how we might in future sell more coal to the domestic consumer.

For a start, we in this country produce far more small coal than we do large coal. What the domestic consumer wants is large coal. Secondly, our costs are far too high. At the moment the price of coal to the domestic consumer is pd to the merchant at the price at the railway station, not at the pithead. If it is pd at the pithead, it is pd at the railway freight rate less the price which the railway charges plus a charge for people who collect it ex-landsale—which, I think hon. Members will agree does not make a lot of sense.

I believe there are two or three ways in which we can improve the position and sell more coal to the domestic consumers. Let us for a start try so to arrange mechanisation of the coal face that we produce more large coal in proportion to small coal, for it is this small coal—little better than dust, some of it —which we have in stock and are producing in greater ratio all the time as machines are worked at the pit face.

Secondly, let us try to grade our coal better. I have always regarded the end of coal rationing as a political manoeuvre, for although it lessened the paper work it did not increase the supply of large coal to the merchant, who had a real headache as a result. Let us try to grade our coal better, because even today after a fairly mild winter there is a great demand for Group 5 coal which is unobtainable. Let us try to screen our coal.

During the times I used to take my own coal round, when we sorted out the bad coal we used to find 5 cwt. of rubbish, stone, slate and clay, in a 10 ton lorryload. That was an expensive way of filling up the potholes in my yard. Some of that rubbish obviously found its way into the customers' coal sheds.

As to the price of coal pd at the station, I will give three examples of how I think we can reduce this. I was allowed to collect coal ex-landsale from a pit near Coventry. The railway rate was 18s. a ton. I collected 10 tons at a cost of 14s. 6d. a ton. To take coal from Warwickshire pits to North Devon the railway freight rate is approximately 40s. To take china clay from North Devon to Stoke-on-Trent the railways charge 33s. although the journey is 60 miles longer. Either the one is too high or the other is too low.

Part of the reason why these freight rates are so high is that coal is zoned and arbitrary lines are drawn across the country and in one the price is x and in another it is y. I suggest that in future the price of coal, as it is for industrial use, should for domestic consumption be pd ex-pithead and the factor and the merchant should be able to make his own arrangements for transport from there. He will use the railways if he has any sense, and the freight rate will go down and the price of coal to the consumer will go down at the same time.

I believe that if we can improve the quality, and provide coal at the right price, and bring the cost down, we shall sell more coal and decrease our stocks. I am certain that if my right hon. Friend can do even some of these things we can look forward to continued prosperity in the industry and see an end to the ever-increasing stocks of coal which are such a burden to the taxpayers.

I intervene only for a short time because this affords me an opportunity to reply to one of the statements which fell from the lips of the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton). I agreed wholeheartedly with the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne) when he said that greater care ought to be exercised in the screening of the coal which is put upon the market.

The hon. Member for Yeovil gave us an illustration brought to him by a constituent, calling his attention to the amount of foreign substance in the coal which had been sold to him. The hon. Member ought to remember that the quality of our seams in the British coal fields has deteriorated considerably during the last twenty-five to thirty years and we have now to win our coal from seams which contain a great deal of foreign substance. What I mean by "foreign substance" is non-combustible material. Way back in years gone by when I worked at the coal face—and I have had considerable experience at the coal face—the coal seam which I worked did not contain an ounce of foreign substance. It was 4 ft. 6 in. of clean coal. Now the British coal industry has to work seams 22 in., 24 in. and 36 in. high, and in those seams there is foreign substance from six to nine inches thick.

When we are winning coal which contains such an amount of foreign substance, if we are to make our coal consumable and make it saleable, we must have perfect screening plant. That brings me to this reply to the hon. Member for Torrington. In 1947 when the mining industry became a nationalised industry 40 per cent. of the screening plant was unable to cope with the amount of coal which was produced and to make it marketable. Therefore, the National Coal Board had to spend a tremendous amount of money because of the inadequate plant which it bought is 1947. Now we have a number of hon. Gentlemen opposite trying to prevent any expenditure on improving the plant at the pithead.

That brings me to another point. It is all very well for hon. and right hon. Members of the House of Commons to say, "Do this, and prevent that; do that and prevent this". It is vastly different when we come to put such directions into operation. No industry, private or nationally owned, can produce a perfect system unless it has the money to spend on making that perfect system.

We have the unfortunate position of three or four hon. Gentlemen opposite making suggestions which I find it hard to believe can be serious. Yet their speeches indicated a note of seriousness, though it was only a small murmur. I believe that this Amendment has been put down to undermine the successful work of the National Coal Board. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is how it appears to me, though I may be wrong. Ever since 1947 every opportunity has been taken to have a dig at the miners. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes. I know they cloak it, but they try to make it impossible for this nationalised industry to succeed. Well, they are too late in the day.

The nationalised coal industry has succeeded, particularly from the point of view of the men. Ask any miner. I live in a mining area, I represent miners and I have passed through every phase of the industry. I know the industry has its faults and weaknesses but it is not the only one to have them; there are a lot of faults in private industry today. It is not playing the game to try to undermine the progress made, not only in the relationship with the miners but in the relationship with the non-mining public who live in mining areas.

I am rather surprised that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Yeovil, the seconder of the Amendment, who has always been looked upon as a fair-minded man, should stoop so low as to associate himself with an Amendment of this character.

Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to interrupt? I was interested in the point he made when he claimed that the nationalised coal industry had succeeded because it had succeeded with the men. Will the hon. Gentleman tell the Committee whether he thinks that the object of nationalising the coal industry was in the interests of the miners or of the nation?

My concern, which should be the concern of all hon. and right hon. Members of the House of Commons, is to ensure that the men working in a dangerous and dirty industry have a fair deal. That is the first essential.

6.15 p.m.

A great deal has been said about the accumulation of stocks of opencast coal When the Government submitted to the House of Commons a Bill which had for its object the continuation of opencast mining, we opposed it strongly. Ever since 1941 I have been of the firm opinion that we could manage without resorting to opencast mining if the deep mines of this country were properly organised and we had sufficient personnel to fill the face room. My hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) said that one thing which has prevented the National Coal Board from ceasing opencast mining is the heavy cost it would have to meet in breaking its contract with those who had undertaken to produce opencast coal. I would prefer the Government to pay contractors the fair compensation which they would claim for ceasing to produce opencast coal rather than to pay for stocking it. In my judgment that would be a paying proposition.

What is happening now in the deep-mined coal areas? Opencast mining is going on. I know something about it because in the urban area of Ashton-in-Makerfield, which is in my division, 2,856,000 tons of coal have been extracted by opencast methods. Can any hon. or right hon. Gentleman opposite visualise the position in that area where 40 or 50 sites are working at once? We should have a balanced conception of what should be done, how it should be done and why it should be done.

I have strongly opposed opencast mining from the commencement, and the longer I live, the more I believe that it was a bad policy for the Government to pursue. It is all very well for hon. Members who come from non-mining areas, and so do not see at first hand the disfiguration of the countryside and the accumulation of the vast stocks. I tell the Minister that there is no prospect of the coal now accumulated in coal-mining areas ever being sold, because it is rubbish and will further deteriorate. I know from experience that some of our coal seams will stand up to the weather, but the major portion of them will not do so. So every hour of the day, every day of the week and every week of the year the coal now being stocked is deteriorating in value, and in twelve months' or two years' time no one will want it. Indeed no one wants it now, although it is of a better quality now than it will be in a few years' time. We shall not be able to sell that coal because no one will want to buy it—

I see that the hon. Gentleman agrees with me. It will not be saleable, because it will have lost its calorific value and will therefore be useless. I do not like the idea of hon. Gentlemen from non-mining areas telling the Committee, and telling us practical men, that they now propose to oppose the continuation of opencast mining. We have opposed it all along.

Why did the Government start producing opencast coal in 1940 and 1941? The former hon. Member for Harrow, West went to America and examined the machines for opencast mining. He concluded that opencast mining would pay in the long run. Opencast mining is a crazy method of obtaining coal, and I will explain why. If there had been more reorganisation of the existing deep mines in this country, and this reorganisation had been followed with vigour and determination, the requirements of the nation would have been met without opencast mining.

We are now faced with the situation that the Government have to find money to finance the National Coal Board. This finance is necessary, not to meet the demand of £76 million by the miners which the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) mentioned, but for the National Coal Board. One must remember that an industry like the British mining industry cannot be reorganised and re-equipped without the necessary finance. I am not advocating that this money would be spent on improving the conditions of the miners, but we must ensure that we do not allow the mining industry to slide back to the condition it was in in the early 'twenties and 'thirties. God forbid that that should happen.

Reference has been made to what the Government did for the cotton industry. I should be out of order if I conducted my argument on that basis, but why should hon. Members opposite ask the Government to assist the reorganisation of the cotton industry? It is in a derelict and disorganised state and £30 million was found for the industry, yet hon. Members opposite are now trying to oppose the extension of financial aid to the British mining industry.

For the first time in 35 years a shaft has been sunk in the county near where I reside. It is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee). Hon. Members opposite are complaining about the money it is proposed to spend on the mining industry. When the industry was in the hands of private owners those owners should have been compelled to reorganise the industry on the lines that practical mining engineers suggested.

Yes. We are suffering now because of our attitude to the mining industry in past years.

The House of Commons is answerable to the country and we should have the opportunity of surveying such progress as the National Coal Board is able to make.

I accept that. Because a nationalised industry run by the National Coal Board is not in keeping with the ideas of right hon. and hon. Members opposite, and because the Bill proposes to help a nationalised industry to plan ahead, they have tabled an Amendment.

I remember what was said about absenteeism. I remember what was said about the lazy Willies. I remember all the accusations that were made against the miners in 1947, 1948 and 1949. Following that period they have had an opportunity to produce great quantities of coal which has not been consumed. We are, therefore, now faced with the position that the Government are opposing further financial aid to the National Coal Board.

What would have been the position of this country during the last twelve years if the British mining industry had not been nationalised? I know that the present position does not suit the consumer, but if one goes to non-mining areas adjacent to the mining areas and asks the people whether the price of coal is too high they will quite rightly reply, "We do not care how much we pay for our coal so long as the British miner is getting a fair deal and a fair share of the price that we pay".

I now come to deal with the old story about pithead prices versus the cost of coal. It is asked why, when the pithead price is 18s. a ton, the cost to the consumer is £2 18s. The answer lies in transport costs and capital outlay. I agree that we should settle that aspect of coal production to ensure that the disparity between the pithead price and the cellar price is narrowed down so that there will be no exploitation by the retailers.

I hope that hon. Members opposite will not divide the Committee. If they do we shall vote against them, but I beg them not to do so. We should give the National Coal Board the opportunity to continue the work that it has done for the last twelve years and see to it that the British mining industry never slips back to the condition it was in in the early 'thirties.

It is extraordinary that in a debate of this kind so much criticism should be levelled against the oil industry which has contributed so much to the export of our products overseas. Those exports total about £100 million a year and are many times greater than those provided by coal.

We are today being asked to consider the allocation of a substantial sum of money to cover the cost of the stocks at present held by the National Coal Board and for a modernisation programme. A total of £511 million has been assessed by the National Coal Board to cover the plan. How much of that sum has been allocated for fundamental research? Why was that research not carried out from 1945 onwards? If, for example, the coal industry had developed a chemical industry similar to the petrochemical industry which the oil industry has devised, I do not imagine that the Committee would be troubled with an application of this sort.

6.30 p.m.

I hope that the Minister will indicate what amount of money the industry has been spending on fundamental research in the last 10 or 15 years, and how much it is likely to spend under the modernisation programme in question. Already Sir Harold Hartley has expatiated on this matter and has stated that the coal industry has a future but that it will depend upon research. I am afraid that I cannot accept the terms of the Amendment, because I consider that the industry requires all the money it has asked for. But it is no good the industry coming back in 5 or 10 years' time and asking for a great deal more; it must be given a reasonable time in which to settle down as a commercial body and become competitive.

Apparently the only argument against the oil industry is that it is too successful and competitive. Should not some plea be made on behalf of the industrial consumer? In an economy of this nature has he not the right to select the fuel he considers most appropriate for his purposes? Why should we hear arguments advocating the abrogation of con- tracts that have been negotiated between the electricity boards and the oil companies?

Perhaps I may refresh hon. Members' memories on this matter. The oil companies were prepared to fuel a number of additional power stations. They were requested to cut down that number, and they did. If they find that their contracts are to be completely abrogated, I should like to know, first, whether they will have the right to renegotiate them, or whether the unsatisfactory position will continue interminably. Secondly, I should like to know where this process will stop once it is started. Will it be necessary for the gas industry to abrogate its contracts with Constock, and cease the importation of liquid methane from Venezuela and the United States? Will it also be necessary for the gas industry to abrogate its contract with Shell, for the utilisation of refinery gases? Are the 25 or 30 plants for the production of gas from oil in the United Kingdom to be closed overnight?

We must consider this matter in a very broad perspective. We must calculate the maximum amount of aid which should be given to the coal industry. At the same time, is it right that we should endeavour to cripple the expansion of the petroleum industry, which is serving industrial and commercial users with the fuel they require? If as hon. Gentlemen suggest, the infraction of contracts is to be allowed, let us consider another case. By 1965 it is possible that the domestic and commercial consumption of heating oils will exceed 3 million tons a year. It may even exceed the consumption of oil either by the steel industry, in open hearth furnaces, or the quantity going to the power stations. Are all people throughout industry to be told that that is the wrong form of utilisation, at a time when we have to economise in our fuel costs?

I would remind the Committee that this is a global problem. It has been experienced not only in the United Kingdom but in Western Europe, the Soviet Union, and Japan. If we find that the consumption of oil, as a percentage of total energy used, is increasing, and that the consumption of coal is falling in every one of the nations to which I have referred, it is only right that the Committee should see to it that the Coal Board recognises the position and is persuaded to make the greatest use of the finance available to it so that it can put its own house in order as early as possible.

It is with some reluctance that I find myself unable to support the Amendment, but I appreciate the predicament in which the Minister finds himself. I have a feeling that these stocks will deteriorate in the course of a year or two and are unlikely to be assimilated as quickly as we would wish. The answer is surely that the industry should accelerate the redeployment of manpower and, like other and more dynamic industries, carry on with fundamental research at an accelerated pace. It should also adopt an entirely different attitude towards its method of selling coal in the United Kingdom and, if possible, abroad.

If a few of these recommendations were to be followed, many people in the mining valleys of England, Wales and Scotland would feel satisfied that this industry was being given the most appropriate lead by the House.

Many of the speeches made by hon. Members opposite have been grossly unfair to the Coal Board. The difficulty in which nationalised industries find themselves is that many of the decisions which they would like to take are taken for them by the Government, because the Government's general economic policy affects them in a major way. The main difficulty we are facing, and which has led to the Amendment being put down, is that the general Government budgetary policy has not produced the increase in production which operated for a considerable time under the Labour Government. Had production been at that level; had the Government not ben so afraid of the Prime Minister's tighrope walking and gone in for the Rake's Progress of collecting gains on the Stock Exchange, the Coal Board would have been in a much better position and would not have needed to much capital as is being made available under this Measure.

In bringing forward this loan to the Coal Board the Government cannot pat themselves on the back for their charity, because they have produced the situation which they are now trying to remedy. Even in minor ways, within their own control at the moment, they are not doing all they can for the coal industry. Let us consider the situation in the Scandinavian countries. Poland is dumping coal there. I should have thought that the British Government's reaction would be to come to some agreement with Poland on this matter. It cannot be good for the Poles to dump coal at the price at which they are dumping it. It would be in everybody's interest to get together with them and to decide upon reasonable prices for coal in Scandinavia. I see no signs of the Government taking a lead in this respect.

As for the domestic policy within Government Departments, I am surprised that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) should take so much credit to himself for his activities with the Prison Commission. The Home Office has been somewhat disingenuous about this use of oil. On 2nd September last, as an ordinary member of the public, I wrote to the Prison Commission and asked it what programme and policy it had with regard to oil conversion. I had heard a rumour that the heating system at Durham Prison was to be converted to oil-fired. That would have been stupid and vicious. I wanted to find out whether there was any truth in that rumour. The Prison Commission replied on 2nd October. I do not know whether there is any connection between that date and the General Election, but the letter read:
"I have to inform you that there is no specific programme for converting to oil burning from steam boilers in prisons."
The rest of that letter confused rather than helped me. When I became a Member the second Question I asked of the Home Secretary—after the conventional period which one waits before making one's maiden speech—concerned this matter, and the Answer I received was the exact opposite of that given in the letter to which I have just referred. The Answer contained a list of seven prisons to be converted to oil-burning.

The hon. Member for Kidderminster has forestalled me with his questions about conversion, or improved methods of using coal in prisons. I wonder whether this was just an accident, or indicated a difference of attitude on the part of the Government before and after the election.

The difference of attitude on the part of the Government was related to their dealing with their own supporters on the one hand and an opponent on the other.

Whatever the reasons, I have a shrewd suspicion, to put it no higher, that Government policy in relation to coal is not as enthusiastic as it might be. There are several ways still within the Government's power to put more support behind the industry. For example, the Central Office of Information could use its energies and activities in support of the Coal Board's publicity campaign concerning some of the excellent ways in which coal can be used. The Ford Company at Dagenham has one of the most efficient steam raising plants in the country, using pulverised coal. I know that the activities of the Coal Board will bring this idea much more before the public, but I cannot help thinking that the Government could be much more helpful than they have been.

I believe that the Board can produce pitch oil which burns in almost exactly the same way as fuel oil. I believe that it will be no different from fuel oil in the matter of efficiency and economy. But I have seen nothing about it in any publications. In matters of research which have been referred to, I should have thought that the Government, through their various research organisations, could have co-operated with the Board's research laboratories and together have produced results which would be beneficial to our economy.

The real difficulty is that the Government speak with different voices in different Departments. What we need is a general drive for more productivity, in the way which the Labour Party put forward its case before the election, associated with the maximum use of coal within Government Departments. At the same time, maximum publicity should be given to the improved, efficient uses of coal which the Board has been developing, It is unfair to blame the Board for a sudden change in economic policy, and also for decisions which it has to take under the general direction of the Government.

I want to refer only to two points—the attitude of the Labour Party to the Amendment, and the question of opencast coal. One of the things which my constituents and I—who are entirely consumers of coal—have noticed in the years since nationalisation is the selfish syndicalism which has been produced. To some extent it could be said that the Ministry of Fuel and Power in the past, the Ministry of Power now, the mining fraternity and the Coal Board have formed a strong coalescence to defend the interests of miners, come what may.

Associated with the coal industry, but not with the other nationalised industries, has been a very powerful miners' lobby in the House. This selfish syndicalism, which has been very marked in the past and was at times considered to be extremely ugly, is now associated with a kind of touchiness and worrying which still ill becomes members of the Labour Party who have associated themselves with it.

From the country's point of view the mining position is now very strong. There are large stocks of coal, and enormous quantities of oil are coming in. If at any time the representatives of the mining community thought that they had the country by the short hairs—and I do not say they did—they do not think so now.

6.45 p.m.

A very different situation prevails today. That being the case, it seems to me remarkable that the Labour Party is still showing this extraordinary touchiness about a moderate Amendment of this kind. The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) and other hon. Members opposite have practically accused us of moving a wrecking Amendment which is designed to bring the whole re-equipment of the Coal Board to an end. It would have been perfectly easy to have produced such an Amendment.

We could have voted against the Bill on Second Reading, and, had we been successful, it would have brought the Board up sharply against the fact that, ultimately, the borrowing power of £650 million per year would have come to an end in August, 1961. We did no such thing. It would have forced the Board into a position of drastic reorganisation to make sure it could provide from within its own resources—if necessary by increasing the price of coal—the means of carrying on with its re-equipment programme. Our Amendment does nothing of the kind. It is designed—as successive Amendments moved from this side of the Committee, looking back for nearly ten years, have been designed—to produce a coal debate once a year, and no more than that. My hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) was quite right when he said that the House and the Government are bankers to the nationalised industries. If, when I was in a state of overdraft, my banker were to write to me once a year and say, "Your overdraft is such-and-such. Please come and have a debate about it." I should be very pleased indeed, but he does nothing of the kind. He says, "Reorganise your circumstances—or else!"

By this Amendment we are doing no more to my right hon. Friend the Minister and his Department than to require them today, and, we hope, in about a year's time, to have another debate. Why should not we be entitled to have a debate and to look into the situation that obtains in the coal industry and the other nationalised industries?

Hon. Members opposite are all too inclined to take the view adopted by the present Lord Morrison of Lambeth when the nationalised industries were set up and made accountable to Parliament. He said that it would do if Parliament looked at their affairs once in seven years. Will it do if we look at their affairs once in two years, while most of them are incurring increasing losses year by year?

As the bankers to these nationalised industries we have the right to require them to adopt certain tactics, certain approaches, certain methods of reorganisation which ultimately, we hope, will bring them into the position, laid down by Statute by the party opposite, that they should break even taking one year with another. That is all that this Amendment is designed to do, to try to meet the suggestion made just now by my hon. Friends. One has to consider the distribution of coal stocks, research in coal, and things of that kind and more concrete suggestions about how the industry is to be reorganised.

The other point I wish to raise concerns opencast coal. I do not understand the attitude of the Government about this. I share the view of the party opposite. I cannot see why opencast coal operations cannot be drastically curtailed and brought to an end, as my hon. Friend wants them brought to an end, except for a very small amount of production, within a year or so. I hope that the Minister is able to justify these enormous stocks of coal on the surface today—if he is not going to be so kind as to alter completely the line of policy which he has been pursuing in the last few months—as being ample fuel resources available in any emergency. Will he say that he fears another oil crisis and that we must have these stocks doubled up in the next two years? What is the justification for this large amount of public money being locked up in these increasing stocks? I hope that the Minister will pay particular attention to what has been said about this matter by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. We feel as strongly about this as about the financing.

I come back to the first point. We have now arrived at a state of affairs—I speak politically about this—where the flaccidity which has characterised the financing of the nationalised industries—not only coal, but all the other industries—since the end of the war must be looked into thoroughly by the Government. We cannot go on year after year finding enormous amounts of the taxpayers' money—

The hon. Gentleman may have heard me on the subject of subsidies to private enterprise during the weeks before the Christmas Recess. If not, he will certainly hear me next week, when we discuss the Local Employment Bill. I feel as strongly about that as about the provision of enormous subsidies to the nationalised industries.

Surely these great commercial concerns, which were meant to be great commercial concerns standing on their own feet, and told to do so by Statute, should now be required to do so by the third successful Tory Government since the war.

If the purpose of the Amendment were that alleged by the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) one would not complain too much about it. Indeed, one of the main purposes in nationalising all these industries was precisely to make them publicly accountable, and that is what we are trying to do. But neither hon. Members on this side of the Committee nor, I suspect, most hon. Members opposite, believe that that was the intention when this Amendment was put down. The debate has been remarkable because of the relatively few speeches from hon. Members opposite in support of the Amendment, because they know what is the purpose. It is to denigrate this great industry.

There are three problems which are posed by the Amendment in conjunction with the Bill as a whole. The first is the question of public accountability. No one on this side of the Committee would object to debates being held three, four, five or six times a year on each of these industries. I would that we had the time to have such debates, but the Government have prevented that. We had a week extra on the Christmas Recess which we could have used to hold five debates on the nationalised industries, so that there is no difference between us about accountability.

I should like to draw the attention of the noble Lord to the fact that there is no public accountability for the —250 million which goes to the industry that he supports and represents in this House —the farming industry—which gets its entire wages bill provided out of the public purse with no accountability at all. In debates on Scottish agriculture I have said that the Scottish farmers get more out of the public purse than they pay out in their entire wages Bill. The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South does not say, "Let us have four or five debates per year on the agriculture subsidies." So on the question of public accountability we have no objection whatever.

The two more important points concern the purpose of the Bill. The prime purpose is the financing of the stocks, and the second is the financing of the long-term capital investment programme of the Coal Board. Parliament has decided. I think very rightly, that it is infinitely preferable to spend public money on the financing of stocks rather than that the industry should cut down drastically and suddenly, with all the evil social consequences that would flow from so doing. In other words, we are saying that in terms of — s. d. it is well worth the public while spending millions in preventing the social chaos and misery which would result from what is, after all, the effect of the Government's own policy of industrial stagnation. The House of Commons decided to spend that money to reduce—not entirely to eliminate, but to reduce—the social and economic hardship would would flow from a sudden cut-down in production.

One would accept that policy if we were quite certain that there was some prospect of these stocks being reduced in the foreseeable future. But one does not know. The Coal Board does not know and I am certain that no one else knows. It depends entirely on the future demand for coal. Anyone in the Coal Board will say that it is impossible to foresee future demand for coal, certainly not over the next few years and possibly not even for the next twelve months. Forecasts can be made, they have been made before, and probably they will be wrong one way or the other.

The investment plan of the industry, its demands for capital, must be flexible and subject to amendment. This is inevitable and the difficulties are increased precisely because this investment programme must be flexible for an industry which basically is inflexible. That is the problem. On the question of stocks and whether they can be disposed of we are unable to give an answer. I challenge my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) on whether there is a great decrease in the calorific content of the coal lying on the ground. So far as I know, there is no certain scientific evidence on this point at all, but I consider that a minor point. The question is, can the stocks be disposed of?

I think they can if during the difficult transition period through which the Coal Board is now going the Board is given a modicum of the help that private industry gets. The cotton industry is getting that help, the aircraft industry is getting it, every private industry is stuffing its maw from the public purse and the Government are not batting an eyelid. One does not object if the industry is to be made more competitive in this competitive world. But what applies to private industry should apply equally to the nationalised industries. All we ask is that the industry should be given help in the transition period in order to make itself competitive; that is all.

Again I say that there is no economic evidence, no statistical evidence, to show that coal cannot compete with oil. I would go further and say that it can more than compete with oil if we take into account certain facts which are sometimes ignored. Shortly before the General Election I went to Aden. There the British Forces are living in absolutely appalling conditions. I went into one of those hirings where an Army sergeant was living. His child aged nine had never had a day at school because there was no school provided in Aden by this Government. Had the child been in this country the parents, or the education authority concerned, would have been brought to the courts.

Why do I refer to this? I am not getting wide of the Amendment—

Precisely. It is because in Aden, and right along the Persian Gulf to Bahrein, millions of public money is being used to subsidise the oil coming into this country. That sergeant and his child represent the price which is being paid for the oil. Not a penny of such public money is provided for coal in this country. The coal industry is competing against that kind of thing.

7.0 p.m.

Even so, as we keep reminding hon. Members opposite, the price of coal in this country is 30s. a ton less than it is in Western Europe. When hon. Members opposite suggest that the National Coal Board should bring its prices down, I ask them what has been the reaction of firms in private industry to the Chancellor's request that they should bring their prices down? The National Coal Board might have been in a position to bring its prices down if it had had complete freedom to put them up at a time when it could easily have done so.

The hon. Member looked at me when he made that remark. What I said was that if we reduced the freight charges we could reduce the price of coal. The price at pithead is perfectly fair.

I was referring to the hon. Member and to his hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Teeling) who showed an equal ignorance of the industry. It is not well known to the London housewife that 10s. of every £1 which she pays for coal has nothing to do with the miner. To that extent I agree with the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne) in his comment on freight and distribution. He is in the distributive trade, and I say to him that freight and distribution, particularly the latter, are in a chaotic state in this country and need rationalisation to cut margins in distribution and in freight charges.

Is the hon. Member aware that there are also freight and distribution charges on oil from the Persian Gulf?

I also realise that the public money which we are spending to protect those interests is not shown in the price of oil in this country.

I doubt very much whether the National Coal Board will be able to reduce its prices in the near future, but I see no reason why it should not do so in the long run if it gets over this transitional period. If it does so, we shall be able to claim some credit for putting this industry on a rational basis, based on the public good. I think that we can get rid of the stocks if the industry is given sufficient time to get over this difficult period.

Turning to the capital investment side of the problem, the Government are in a difficult position in that they have to accept figures based on highly technical considerations which the Minister is in no position to question. I do not know whether the Coal Board's investment programme is based on sound factors, nor does the Minister. We must rely on the technical experts in the coal industry If they have to amend the programme, the Minister will again be in their hands and will have to accept their amendment. This is part and parcel of the problems of a highly technical industry. To that extent, and if the purpose of the Amendment is to urge that we should debate the matter periodically in the House, I have no objection to it. But that is not its purpose. Its purpose is simply to lambast the nationalised industry. A week ago the Parliamentary Secretary was in my constituency going round the pits, and he was asked by a newspaper man whether he had left the industry because it was nationalised. He replied, "Yes, of course I did." Thus, we have Ministers in control of the industry who do not believe in the fundamental principle of public ownership. I suspect that this comment also applies to the Minister. He would not be in the Tory Party if it did not.

That is the dilemma. It is the equivalent of a Labour Minister being Secretary of State for War. One position in a Labour Government which it should be easy to get is that of Secretary of State for War, because nobody on this side likes it. We have had one Minister of Fuel after another, in Conservative Governments, and I do not think that the present Minister will be in office for long.

The dilemma is that we have Ministers who are administering an industry in which they do not believe. They have to come to the Box to support something in which they do not believe. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) knows that. He is wondering how he can get into office. We shall be interested to see whether he carries his Amendment to a Division. I doubt very much whether he will. It will be like all his Purchase Tax Amendments to the Budget. He shouts and squeals and roars, but when the Division occurs he remains in his seat. If he carries this Amendment to a Division, we shall be interested to see how many of his colleagues believe that the intentions behind the Amendment are those which he and some of his hon. Friends have alleged.

I wish for a few minutes to express some thoughts on the subject of finance, particularly in relation to the mining industry. When I examine what the Government do, not only to the mining industry but also to many other industries. it seems to me to be a very peculiar financial system. The more profit that some industries are making and the bigger they are, the greater the relief they get.

The mining industry is in great financial difficulty, but it is trying to develop itself into a commercial unit which will require no assistance. This industry is essential to the country, because if it were allowed to die through an inability to get finance, it would be a serious matter for the nation.

Last year over £400 million was given in subsidies, virtually as free gifts. Big industries, making large profits, received special reliefs through investment and initial allowances amounting, for the public companies, to —362 million last year. They are making large profits and yet they are given this relief.

The mining industry needs money for many years in order that it may get out of an uneconomic position. It is essential, for the good of the nation, that it should be reorganised so that more coal can be brought to the surface. The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) talked about the mining industry becoming syndicalist and working as a unit for its own good.

We are considering an industry which had been nicking no profit and had been getting no assistance from the nation, and in which the conditions of work were for years a disgrace to the nation. It has been necessary to provide encouragement and finance to the industry in order to bring coal to the surface for the good of the nation. Can we expect any other than that the men in the industry will fight for improved conditions? If that is what the noble Lord means by syndicalism, we shall see it throughout the country.

Hon. Members have been speaking of the financial arrangements in the Bill as if we are making a gift to the miners. The fact is that throughout the whole period of nationalisation not —1 has been handed to the coal industry as a gift. Hon. Members talk of the amount of money provided for this industry, but the Government have merely been acting as moneylenders to the mining industry. Everyone knows that a moneylender is out to help himself through the money that he lends. That is the position in the mining industry.

What can I say to the Government to make the case for the National Coal Board that it should be helped not simply by means of a loan from a moneylender? It should be helped because of the work which was done during the last critical period when we could not get sufficient coal for the nation's needs. Did not the miners try, not only individually but as a body, to help the nation in its dire need for coal? Of course they did. After many years, the miners at last had the opportunity to take two weeks annual holiday, but they decided to forgo the extra week's holiday and to spend it working in the mine. Instead of the five-day week to which they were entitled, we asked them to work an additional day per week for the good of the nation, and they did.

What would be the attitude of the electorate if they knew that millions of pounds had been given to other industries as absolute gifts, by means of special taxation reliefs to some of the most profitable companies in the country? These are not companies which are having a great struggle. These reliefs were given because we want more investment. We said, "Increase investment and bring the industry into a better state, and we will make you a gift through legislation". Companies can obtain this special taxation relief only if they make large profits. If an industry is in the same position as the mining industry, making no profit, it receives nothing.

7.15 p.m.

The "Father Christmas" attitude adopted by the Government to many industries in this country and its tightfisted, moneylender attitude to the mining industry does not bear investigation. Some people have asked what the mining industry has been doing about research. One cannot imagine the industry worrying itself very much about research during a period when it is being told to keep on producing coal and it is costing a loss of £1, £2, £3, and £4 a ton at some collieries. What is the research needed in an industry in which the commodity produced faces a great market which it cannot fulfil? The main thing needed then is to introduce the ways and means, not on a long-term basis but as quickly as possible, to get something done to produce more goods.

The chief research made by the miners when they were sacrificing themselves to help the nation in its difficulty was how to get the pits modernised and to introduce machinery so that the men could produce more coal. For many years they have been gradually working up to that aim. Just as they are getting on top of the problem, a mighty change in coal demand takes place. So great is the change and so speedily does it come upon the industry that there is no time to meet it and organise the manpower without causing tremendous unemployment. The Government, as well as the miners, have been trying to help. Now in a critical period, after the miners have done everything possible to help the nation, when they face difficulties as an industry the Government to all intents and purpose are not doing very much to help. They lend the industry money, but the industry must pay all the capital back and the interest involved places further burdens on the industry. Last year £32 million were paid in interest charges. Under the Bill that interest liability is being increased. It is not a gift. It is a business, as hon. Members opposite continually point out. It is a commercial transaction by the Government with the mining industry.

I hope that, despite all that has been done, influences will be at work during the next few months to make the Government consider the question of opencast mining and whether they can take some steps to show their gratitude to the minors who did everything possible during many critical years to help the nation, The Government should consider carefully whether they ought not to give voice to the spirit of the people. The spirit of the nation is to help the miners in this critical period just as the miners helped the nation's industries for many years. That would mean helping not as a moneylender, but as a friend.

The Government should say to the industry, "Here is some help. We know what you have done in the past and recognise that you need help for the future, not for your own good but for the good of the nation as a whole". The Government should make a radical psychological change in their attitude to the mining industry in the very near future so that their offers of help have a genuine ring. At the same time as the Government are helping so many people by special relief, taxation relief and subsidies, they should say with sincerity, "Yes, and we intend to help the mining industry".

I have listened carefully to what has been said by hon. Members opposite. During all the fifteen or sixteen years in which I have been a Member of the House of Commons I have never been so convinced as I have today of the blatant hypocrisy of the whole of the argument put forward. The kidder of the Ministers, the hon. Member for Kidder-minister (Mr. Nabarro), does not kid us on this side that he intends to take us into the Division Lobby. He has been waiting for some considerable time—let us be blunt and honest about it —to have his say-so about the mining industry and the situation it is in today.

There is a very simple solution to all this. The Tory Party could have put the mining industry back into private ownership nine years ago. Of course, it did not intend to take back the mining industry as it had taken back road transport and part of the steel industry. It knew that mining was doomed. It knew at that time that it was doomed because of the condition it was in. It was not the Socialists in power that put the industry in the condition in which we found it.

Let us get down to brass tacks. When the war was over we brought coal and steel from America and Europe so that we could have full employment in this country. Incidentally, we paid for the steel with our copper reserves left after the war which had been dug by the Rhodesian miners in the Copperbelt. That is incidental, but it is worth mentioning. The mines were derelict. The guts had been taken out of them.

Today, we must decide whether to stockpile coal for the time being or stockpile human misery. The Tory Party is not concerned with human misery. If it were, history as it has been written would show how inept it has been in dealing with it. There would be whole villages derelict, with men back on the streets. We do not want that situation to develop in Britain any more. It is all very well for the Minister and the hon. Member for Kidderminster to blame the industry. Every ton of coal mined today does not carry with it the cost of its being mined and the cost of its being transported to the housewife.

We know that some of the coal is bad stuff. The good stuff has gone. It was taken out by those who owned and controlled the pits in past years. The cost of the new shafts, of all the new machinery, of modernisation and of importing coal to meet full employment have all had to be merged into the present day selling price of coal.

There is one thing about the coal now. Whatever else it has amongst it, there is not so much blood on it as there used to be, thank God.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman can say "Oh", but it is true. He should look at the accident statistics and think of those who were killed in the industry. He says "Oh", but I stand in awe of the figures as they used to be. People stood in awe then at the blood which was on the coal when you folk owned and controlled it. I say what I mean.

I referred to hon. Members opposite. The occupant of the Chair would be the last person in the world whom I should accuse of anything like blooding.

Today, the mining industry, through its Control Board, is talking about a loan of money, not from the Tory Party, not from any private owners of money or controllers of money, but from the State, which owns the coal and has a right to use it for its future benefit. It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to talk of the pickle which the industry is in. Someone should ask how it got into that condition. What the Coal Board is asking for is a loan of the nation's money, its own money. One cannot go wrong if one is paying money into something State owned and controlled. I hear stories about my industry, which I know a bit about. No one is crying about that State portion of it which recently announced £2 million net profit. That is one company which has not been sold. All that the Amendment seeks is to halve the amount of the loan. If someone on this side had tabled an Amendment to halve the amount of the pig subsidy, the cereal subsidy, the calf subsidy, or any other subsidy which the farmers must have to bring about an improvement in the food situation and to stop the importation of food there would be loud cries from hon. Members opposite. The coal industry needed money to modernise to stop the importation of coal. This is a piece of political trickery and nothing else. During the election campaign and since, in my own constituency, I saw good Barnsley seam coal, some of the best in Britain, being hauled to the surface and stockpiled. Within two hundred yards furnaces where I once worked as a boy were being fed with foreign oil, which comes from places mentioned earlier by the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton). It is costing the nation millions of pounds to defend the oil interests.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee), who will be winding up the debate on behalf of my party, will remember when he and I went to Persia. Ninety-one thousand men were on strike. Thousands of oil workers were living on the desert in atrocious conditions. They were badly paid oil workers producing oil which is now being exploited by this Government to denigrate and further a policy which is helping to create an argument to be used by the hon. Member for Kidderminster and others. I know that the hon. Gentleman is efficient in talking about the efficient use of coal. It is a wonderful thing when we have to get to 1958, 1959 and 1960 before efficient Tory members adopt such an attitude.

I give the hon. Member for Kidderminster his due. He knows what he is talking about when he talks about technical equipment for power stations, etc. He does very well out of the provision of articles which they use. He does not do so badly out of it. He did so well that two or three years ago he was able to buy up the Minister of Labour's own house.

On a point of order. I think that a personal statement is called for. I have never bought a house from the Minister of Labour. The hon. Gentleman is prevaricating.

I think that we should get back to the Bill. We are not interested in anything else.

I withdraw that statement. What I said was this, and I repeat it. If it was not the house of the present Minister of Labour, it was some other Minister. The hon. Gentleman does not do so badly out of the provision of articles for power stations, and so on. I shall not withdraw that.

On a point of order. This is developing into a very serious matter. Another personal statement is called for. I am not privately connected with the provision of equipment to any of the nationalised fuel and power industries, including electrical power stations. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman, who is making these wild allegations, will now withdraw his statement.

Order. As soon as we depart from strict order we run into difficulties. I must now appeal to the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) to confine himself to matters arising directly from the Clause.

I withdraw every word and go back—if it suits the hon. Member—to where I said that he was efficient in his knowledge of supplying goods to power stations.

I thank the hon. Gentleman very much.

advocating that for a long time. Many of us have been advocating doing away with Saturday morning work in the coalfields, despite the fact, as will be remembered, that I got into serious trouble for a long time with my mining colleagues when I advocated Saturday morning work to get sufficient coal to meet the then needs of full employment. 7.30 p.m.

The facts in this case are very simple. Here we have a Board controlling a nationalised industry which requires to continue to modernise so that it can meet the competition which has sprung primarily from oil. At one time the steel industry used millions of tons of coal a week. Today, it is using oil. I can mention the names of some companies. There is one in my constituency which is now going over from oil to electricity completely. I hope that as that industry is modernised and improved, electricity will be generated from coal which is now stockpiled.

Those who vote for the Amendment will be denying a publicly-owned State industry sufficient money to modernise and make itself an asset to the nation, rather than a debit as it was under the Tories.

If it is the will of the Committee that we should continue the debate there is nothing to prevent hon. Members from doing so. In the same way, there is no reason why I should not contribute to the debate at this point.

The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) was very much barking up the wrong tree when accusing my hon. Friends of revealing some type of selfish syndicalism He implied that the attitude of miners was determined on a pure issue of their economic power and that they had put the screw on the nation during that time when coal was very scarce. He suggested that we must now understand that the economics of the situation had changed and that power had passed to others, leaving the miners in a relatively weak position.

Looking back on the days when we were very short of coal, I cannot see how anyone can justly say that the policy of the miners was determined by economic power. At that time, the nation was very short of coal and the miners could have had almost anything they demanded. What did they demand? It could be argued that half of the employees of the National Coal Board now get less than the average wage of manual workers. Does that sound like policies determined by getting the country by the throat? Does it sound like the miners demanding their pound of flesh? Of course it does not.

The noble Lord was completely wrong in that as he was in saying that we were now trying to defend an industry which, he told us, we wished to cushion. He suggested that we were trying to prevent him and his hon. Friends from debating the coal industry. The fact is that we have had many debates on the coal industry in the last two years. Speaking "off the cuff", I should have thought that at least half those debates were initiated in Opposition time; in other words, we sacrificed time from our own allocation to give hon. Members opposite, as well as ourselves, an opportunity to discuss the affairs of the National Coal Board. Does that sound as though we have been trying to keep an industry which is inefficient away from the shafts of light which emanate from the benches opposite? I should have thought that entirely the reverse was the case.

It is not our view that the Board is controlling an inefficient industry. As a matter of fact, it is controlling one of the most highly efficient coal industries in the world. Comparing price with price, the Board is producing the cheapest coal in Europe. Comparing output per man-shift, it has the best record in Europe. Those are the criteria on which to judge the efficiency of an industry and on all of them the noble Lord is completely wrong in assuming that we are trying to defend an inefficient industry.

The difficulty of the coal industry is that up to three years ago the nation was demanding coal at almost any price—whether economic or uneconomic, coal must be got—and during that period the Board's customers were being forced to convert to oil, despite the economics of oil versus coal. That is the situation which the Board now faces at a time when, as the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) reminded us, the world as a whole has a coal glut. That is the aspect of the matter with which my hon. Friends have been concerned.

The hon. Member for Kidderminster asked whether the coal industry was to be run as a social service. He said that if it was, then a subsidy was justified, but that, if it was not, then a subsidy was not justified. I hope that he will be consistent in all this, and I hope that the party opposite will be consistent, too. If the hon. Member says that an industry which is not run as a social service should not have a subsidy, will he apply that to industry generally, to agriculture, horticulture, the aircraft industry?

In that argument, the hon. Member is on dangerous ground. I accept his criteria, but I see nothing wrong in any industry, nationalised or privately owned, trying to insure the social betterment of its employees. Surely that is one of the things about which we are all agreed. Surely we all agree that productivity in the last analysis depends upon a proper atmosphere within an industry. I should have thought that the Board was trying to fulfil what is the duty of any good employer these days.

I agree that the hon. Member has a point when he says that we should examine the sums being loaned to the Board, but I would very willingly go all the way with the hon. Member on that if he would say that instead of the Government lending the Board money on the terms of the Bill, they should lend money on the terms and conditions on which they lend money to private enterprise.

Would the hon. Member say that the conditions on which the Coal Board is getting loans are comparable with the gifts and doles given to the cotton industry? Let us consider the case of steel. Some time ago there was an agreement with Colvilles. One of the heads of that agreement, No. 6, said:
"The payment of interest (hereinafter referred to as 'the postponed interest') on each tranche of the loan which accrues up to the date on which works commence hot strip production (the construction period) will be postponed and will be subject to interest at the same rate as that tranche and payable at the same date and on the same terms as that tranche."
In other words, all payment is waived until Colvilles actually begin to produce steel.

If the Minister would like to change the terms for the Coal Board's borrowing to those of the Colville agreement, I think that my hon. Friends could be induced to accept such a change, but I doubt whether we will find that the Government are prepared to treat the Board in quite that way.

The Minister told us on the Second Reading:
"The Bill which, in itself, is very simple … is inseparably connected with the Coal Board's 'Revised Plan for Coal' for which plan the Bill aims to provide the finance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November. 1959; Vol. 614, c. 42.]
In other words, the Minister was telling us that the Bill is to enable the Coal Board itself to finance the "Revised Plan for Coal" and that it is not, therefore, in order to enable the Coal Board to finance the provision of the coal stocks to which the hon. Gentleman has referred.

If the hon. Gentleman will turn to column 151 of the OFFICIAL REPORT he will see that the Parliamentary Secretary said perfectly clearly that out of the provision of finance by this Bill the financing of undistributed stocks is £50 million.

It is not part of my speech to try to bring together the contradictory statements of members of the Government. I am quoting the opening statement of the Minister of Power.

The right hon. Gentleman went on to cover the question of the Order. The Order was also discussed, as the hon. Gentleman will remember, on the Second Reading of the Bill, and the Minister pointed out that the Order was the basis on which they would raise the money to finance the stocks of coal. In other words, we are now discussing not the Order at all; we are discussing the Committee stage of a Bill which, to p the right hon. Gentleman:
"is inseparably connected with the Coal Board's 'Revised Plan for Coal' for which plan the Bill aims to provide the finance."
That is the position. How, then, does it come about that the supporters of the Amendment argue that the Amendment will assist in any way, either in the lifting of stocks or in the greater efficiency of the working of the National Coal Board? What the Amendment will do is to put back the fulfilment of the Coal Board's "Revised Plan for Coal". That will be the effect and no other. Hon. Members who feel that they can support the Amendment are not, in fact, doing anything at all about stocks; they are deliberately retarding the efforts of the Coal Board further to modernise the coal industry. To quote right hon. Gentleman when he spoke about the Order, he said:
"I wish to make it quite clear … that the main reason that the Board wishes to have this higher limit for its annual borrowing this year, just as there was last year when there was another of these Orders, is the need it has to finance the present level of undistributed stocks."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1959; Vol. 614, c. 44.]
The Order we then discussed was for that specific purpose. We are not today discussing the Order at all; we are discussing Amendments on the Committee stage of the Bill itself, and I submit that there is no point in the hon. Member for Kidderminster and his hon. Friends arguing that in doing this they are showing concern about the growing large amount of stocks now in the country and trying in some way to help in finding methods by which those stocks can be used.

7.45 p.m.

Again, the hon. Member for Kidderminster is very concerned, and, the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South said the same thing, at repeated loans coming from Government sources to nationalised industry. I did not notice that the hon. Member for Kidderminster or any other hen. Member opposite objected very much when the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Power, on the last day on which the House sat before the Christmas Recess, told the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Summers) that he was increasing the borrowing powers of Messrs. Richard Thomas and Baldwin Ltd., which has an agreement with the Minister of Power by which it can borrow £60 million. The Minister has now agreed to increase that borrowing power to £70 million.

The hon. Member should not have said that. The reason why the hon. Member does not object to an increase in the borrowing power of a nationalised steel corporation is because it is to be denationalised at any moment. Therefore, the loans to a nationalised concern are one of the pickings which the private enterprise people will get when they take over Messrs. Richard Thomas and Baldwin Limited. I am grateful for the assistance of the hon. Member.

The hon. Gentleman was evidently not in his place yesterday when I pressed the Chancellor of the Exchequer to get on with the completion of the denationalisation of steel. That is all part of the argument.

That does not answer my point. The hon. Member today has argued a point of very great principle, as has the noble Lord— that we really cannot have this increasing use of the Treasury to finance nationalised sectors of industry, and so on. It is on that great principle that St. George and his associates have been charging into the back of their right hon. Friend. Why do not they object? Messrs. Richard Thomas and Baldwin is at this moment a nationalised sector of the steel industry. The right hon. Gentleman has agreed to increase the public money which it is borrowing. Does not the hon. Member feel any desire to come to the attack on that issue? We know the reasons—he has told us—that it will be a further incentive for private speculators to casl in on the fine achievements of Messrs, Richard Thomas and Baldwin as a going concern.

On the advocacy of the hon. Gentleman for the speedy ending of opencast mining and his support that the power stations should go over to coal burning, if these two issues were relevant to the Amendment he moved we would support them to a man, but, as I have shown, they have not the slightest relevance at all to the issues of the Amendment.

I want to refer to what the Parliamentary Secretary said, which is relevant to what the hon. Member said, about oil burning in power stations. On Second Reading, I asked him to qualify the remarks of the Home Secretary, in the Gracious Speech debates, when he told us that improvements would be made in the burning of coal in power stations. The Parliamentary Secretary replied:
"Two big power stations which are designed to burn oil will now burn coal. These are Northfleet and West Thurrock One conversion from coal to oil will not take place; that is a part of Portishead B. Two conversions to oil have been postponed, at Littlebrook B and Brunswick Wharf."
What is meant by postponed? Can we have an assurance that these two stations will, in fact, burn coal? On this issue I agree with the hon. Member for Kidderminster.

It is a great pity, but at times there are flashes in the hon. Gentleman's vast inconsistencies with which I find myself compelled to agree.

We have agreed on both sides of the Committee that no economic case for the burning of oil in power stations in preference to coal has ever been made out. My belief is that, where power stations are away from an estuary, coal burning is a far more economic proposition than oil burning in power stations. If that is so, the Electricity Board, which is the biggest customer of the Coal Board, was forced off coal on to oil by the Government not for economic reasons at all. Can we have an undertaking that a far wider extension of coal burning in the power stations will now take place?

The hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) said that he was not satisfied with the relations between monopolies and this House. Nor am I. We have the opportunity time after time to debate the public monopolies. We are debating them now—

I agree, on the hon. Member's initiative—although I should have thought that the Minister might make the little point that he, perhaps, had something to do with our being able to debate these matters, as he introduced the Bill. Even the hon. Member for Kidderminster cannot move Amendments to Bills that are not presented—a point that he might care to consider some time.

I was referring to the righteous indignation of the hon. Member for Yeovil about our inability to debate questions of monopoly—

If the hon. Gentleman says that they are not monopolies I will accept what he says—we are together again.

With each passing year, we see more and more public money being poured into the coffers of monopolies. For instance, I have been looking with some interest at the activities of the Minister of Aviation in the last few weeks. The Conservatives won a General Election last October, their principal cry being, "Competitive private enterprise is supreme over monopoly". As soon as they had won that election they gave the Minister of Education the job of running around to eliminate competitive private enterprise throughout the whole aircraft industry. As yet, we have not been told the terms, but we know that they were a mixture of Government patronage, backed by public money, together with threats of what would happen to those private enterprises if they did not come in.

I agree with the hon. Member for Yeovil that the time has come when this House, charged as it is with responsibility to the nation for the public moneys that it expends, should have more opportunities to debate these matters, but while the nationalisation Acts gave us the power of debate, I know of no private industries—or private monopolies, if I may use that expression—that give us the opportunity to debate such vital matters as the use of public moneys

We are not here debating the question of the stocking of coal, but the basis of the development of the coal industry. Surely, one of the most difficult jobs for any industry is, at one and the same time, to cut back its production programme and to hold down its prices—

I have given the hon. Gentleman my opinion on that.

The Coal Board has had the terrific job of deliberately cutting back its production and, at the same time, holding down its prices. For two-and-a-half years there has not been any increase in the price of the Board's commodity. I should have thought that the Board was one of the main contributors to that stabilisation of prices for which the Chancellor of the Exchequer keeps asking.

Not only has the Board achieved this vast increase in efficiency during a period when it has had to cut back its production, but it has reached a point where the output per man shift will be 30 cwt. or 31 cwt. by 1965 In the East Midland and the North-Eastern Divisions they have already surpassed that, and have reached a total of 40 cwt. per man shift. Surely this is an enterprise well worthy of the nation's backing—even forgetting the social side—as a purely financial project.

An industry that can show such figures when, for national reasons, it is compelled to cut back production is deserving of investment. Indeed, the improvement in productivity was largely responsible for a fall in production costs of about ls. 9d. a ton during 1958, although we know that, because of the burden of overheads, it was impossible to reduce the price of coal. Given the same conditions as coal had, there are precious few industries that could produce such a success story.

I ask the Committee to consider the basic issues that we are here debating, and not to be led up any garden paths by the hon. Member for Kidderminster. He has, of course, a "thing" about stocks. I share, in some measure, the apprehension about the size of those stocks—I am not comfortable about them by any means—but I am certain that the hon. Members' present suggestions are not in any way based on a belief, even on his part—he knows far too much about the industry for that—that they will assist in any way in reducing our present large stocks.

Again, what a way his suggestion would be of repaying an industry that has done so much in the social sphere. We argued on Second Reading that had the Board merely dismissed its employees—as it could have done had it looked at the matter entirely from the economic point of view—the National Insurance Fund would have had to maintain many thousands of unemployed miners, and National Assistance would have had to do the same thing. We should congratulate ourselves that so much accumulated misery has been avoided in the coal areas as a result of the responsible attitude of the Board.

The Board has a great job to do as competition from oil goes on intensifying. I have looked through its plan. I do not think that that plan is adequate for what is required in these five years I look at the method of the transformation of power from coal. Our ability to get power from coal at a far cheaper price than is at present the case may be a determining factor in coal's fight against oil.

The hon. Member for Kidderminster mentioned something which, I agree, is of vital importance, the effect of increased industrial production upon power consumption. I had something to say on that in our Second Reading debate. As the hon. Gentleman reminded us, we have seen a 10 per cent. increase in production in Britain this year—I doubt whether that will repeat itself, because it came from a static beginning—but the increase in the consumption of power is not in anything like the same ratio. It is, therefore, not necessarily the case that merely by increasing productivity we shall get a proportional increase in the demand for coal.

I think that the Minister could do a good job by getting some of his backroom boys really busy producing some sort of ratio between increased productivity and the production and consumption of power. It may well be that we can have, perhaps, a 3 per cent. average increase in production per annum coinciding with a reduction of 3 per cent. per annum in the use of fuel. That could be the position, so it is necessary that we should have a proper appreciation of such things.

We have recently had an increase in Bank Rate. I should have liked to discuss the terms and conditions upon which loans are made to the Board by the Treasury. Can the Minister tell the Committee what effect the increased Bank Rate will have on the loans that the Board is to draw from the Treasury? It would appear that as a result of that increase the conditions will be less favourable. Is that so? If it is, it could affect the ratio of development by the Coal Board under the "Revised Plan for Coal". Is it possible for the right hon. Gentleman to give us that information?

8.0 p.m.

It has been very sad for hon. Members on this side of the Committee to see the chaos and disruption on the Government benches today. But they need not fear. There will not be a single newspaper in Britain, outside, perhaps, the Daily Herald, which will comment upon it. With the exception of one speech, I do not think that the Minister has had a supporter among the Tory Party. Its members are split from stem to stern. What they will go into the Lobby about, I do not know. Let us hear no more nonsense about the Labour Party being in great difficulty.

The Minister has been—I almost said stabbed in the back, but perhaps I should say stabbed in the side. He has been unable to find any supporters, with, perhaps, one exception, to say a good word for what he is doing. The Government obtained power partly on telling the country about a divided Opposition. It has been a miserable spectacle to see the hon. Member for Kidderminster glorying in the discomfiture of his own Front Bench—

—aided and abetted by many of the rabble of the Suez rebels of yesterday, a motley crew who at that time kicked a little but were afraid to strike. We shall wait with interest to see whether the same rebels are afraid to strike after the debate on these Amendments.

I can assure the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) that if I am never more acutely discomfited than I have been this afternoon I shall look forward to a very happy time at Westminster.

This has been a most instructive debate, perhaps even more instructive than the debate in which I took part last November, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for allowing me to share with my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) some credit for the initiation of this valuable debate this afternoon.

We have ranged during the last four hours fairly widely over the field of coal, oil and other fuels. I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to the actual figures contained in the Amendment. The Amendment suggests that the first limit, which the Bill says should be £700 million, should be reduced to £675 million, and it also suggests that the second limit, which the Bill proposes should be £750 million, should be limited to £700 million. At the end of December, 1959, the total borrowings had reached a level of £590 million and they are likely to rise to about £630 million at the peak level towards the end of the present financial year—that is, the nation's financial year as opposed to the Coal Board's financial year.

The effect of this Amendment, if it were approved, would be that at the end of this financial year, in April, only £45 million of additional borrowing powers would be left unless I were to make a further order, and the effect, too, would be that the overall limit proposed in the Amendment—the second limit—would be reached in the financial year 1961–62. Therefore, however good the results of the National Coal Board in the next months and couple of years, it would mean, as several of my hon. Friends have made clear, that further Parliamentary action would be necessary in order to try to provide sufficient money, both early next year, in the shape of an Order, and also early in 1962 not in the shape of an Order but in the shape of a new Bill.

I appreciate the desire of my hon. Friends to keep a close watch on the progress of the coal industry and I understand that that wish that they have is shared by a number of hon. Members opposite who have spoken in the debate. I am quite convinced, however, that it is one thing to try to ensure regular examination of the industry, as I have attempted to do, by making it necessary for me to have an Order to go to the final limits in the Bill—and we may have an opportunity to discuss this matter on the next Amendment—but it is completely another matter to allow a great industry like the coal industry only two years certainty that the necessary capital is going to be available.

This is brought out by the figure of capital expenditure expected between 1960 and 1965 on schemes in progress at present, and out of the £535 million which the Board plans to spend up to 1965, £200 million is to be spent on schemes already in progress. Therefore, if we materially reduce the extent of the borrowing powers available we must necessarily hit at the £200 million on schemes at present in progress.

Several hon. Members, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet) and the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden), have directed my attention to the question of research. My hon. Friend said that one of the reasons why he could not support the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster was because he felt that research was vitally necessary. I know that a number of hon. Members agree. I am told that at the moment several million pounds are being spent on research into coal utilisation, development and usage; the coal industry is spending about £2 million. As the Committee knows, the Wilson Committee is sitting at present and, I hope, will report before very long to advise me on the possible further uses of coal.

I am certain that the Committee will agree that my own position, if the Amendment were approved, would be quite impossible because, as has been pointed out, it is on behalf of the Government that I recently gave approval to the "Revised Plan for Coal." As I see it, that approval that I gave must carry with it the obligation to make available the necessary capital. I must leave the Committee in no doubt that I intend to do so, because the only interpretation that could be put on a refusal to do so would be that I have no confidence in the Board's plans Despite what has been said by a number of hon. Members about our views on the future of the coal industry, I am confident that the Board will carry out the plans which are set before it.

Various methods have been put forward this afternoon by which it has been suggested that the National Coal Board might avoid the necessity for asking for the greater borrowing powers that are contained in the Bill and might, therefore, be satisfied with the lesser borrowing powers contained in the Amendment. As I understand from several speeches that I have been fortunate enough to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster make in the last few months, he believes that this level of stocks in the country at present is a great deal too high. I am bound to admit that in spite of his claims of consistency, when I hear him state this proposition that the stocks of 50 million tons are too high, I find myself in considerable confusion.

He will probably recall his speech—a very good speech too, with one or two minor blemishes or aberrations—of just over a year ago on 3rd December, 1958. in which he said:
"If we are to mine 200 million tons of coal a year. I would not regard it as unreasonable to have an aggregation of distributed and undistributed stocks of 50 million tons, which is one-quarter of a year's production."
He went on to say:
"Any prudent business engaged in large-scale operations normally keeps about three months' stocks in hand at any one time… —'[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December, 1958; Vol. 596. c. 1235.]

I have been absolutely consistent. I have with me the speech that I made on 3rd December, 1958. I said that three months' stocks would be about the right figure and that 50 million tons would be reasonable as an aggregation of distributed and undistributed stocks. I still hold this view. These Amendments are designed to prevent a further increase in the stocks after next April above 50 million tons.

I can only say that if my hon. Friend speaks or replies to me in those terms, I shall be more greatly confused; but, even accepting that philosophy as his, I find his mathematics about the level of stocks or the likely level of stocks very difficult to follow. He has been suggesting that the stocks at the end of 1960 are more likely to increase by 25 million tons than, as I believe, to decrease by a very small marginal amount. He suggested that they will rise from 50 million tons to 75 million tons, and that is roughly consonant with his last intervention. He has suggested that consumption will not be 196 million tons, as the Board and I believe, but that it will be 185 million tons.

If my right hon. Friend will allow me. I have said it twice. I said it on Second Reading on 23rd November, and I have said it again this afternoon, that consumption this year would be 190 million tons and next year it would be 185 million tons.

That makes my point even clearer. My hon. Friend has suggested that consumption will be 190 million tons and that stocks will increase by 25 million tons. Therefore, presumably, production will be 215 million tons, which is a considerable increase—one of 9 million tons—over 1959. At the same time, of course, certain reductions which many hon. Members do not think are adequate are being made in opencast mining. There are certain pit closures and there are certain closures of faces. I find it difficult to believe that, even with increased output per man shift, production in this country, instead of decreasing, as the National Coal Board expects it to do, will in fact increase as my hon. Friend suggests by about 9 million tons.

I must confess that I find my hon. Friend's mathematics difficult to follow, but in turn I must apologise to him because he apparently finds my own mathematics very difficult to follow. He handed me a statement about coal stocks which had been issued by the Ministry of Power and which I understand has since been corrected. I must apologise to my hon. Friend for its inaccuracy. The decrease in the total of distributed and undistributed stocks of coal, in which I know my hon. Friend is particularly interested, because we were discussing the figure together just now, is something in the neighbourhood of 3 million tons in the last month, and the decrease in the undistributed stocks in the last month, between December, 1959, and January, 1960, is something just over 1 million—1,150,000 tons. The significance of this is not perhaps very great in itself, because I appreciate the considerations which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Fylde (Colonel Lancaster) mentioned. The significance is that it compares with a decrease last year of only 120,000 tons for the same period.

My hon. Friend would like to find some means of reducing the stocks more quickly. Frankly, I think there is only one means of decreasing the stocks, and that is to see that production is below the demand; and, therefore, stocks cannot be run down more quickly unless we are prepared to cut production a good deal more severely than we are doing at present. I do not believe that there is any possible escape out of that fundamental dilemma at the present time.

My hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne) mentioned one or two very useful points which I should like to take up. I will certainly examine them and I hope to profit from them. The question of opencast mining which a great many hon. Gentlemen mentioned this afternoon has been con- sidered in various aspects, but one aspect which has been almost totally ignored today, which is odd in view of the fact that we are talking very directly about the National Coal Board's future and its profitability in the future, is that this opencast mining is obviously the Board's most profitable enterprise. Despite that, I was in agreement with the reduction in output which I see the chairman of the Board recently confirmed—the reduction to 7 million tons of opencast mined coal, and I look forward, as the Committee does, to a further reduction.

In my view, and in the view of the Board, the only justification for going forward much more quickly and rupturing the contracts, which a number of hon. Gentleman would like to see done, was if the cost of stocking this year each ton of coal which is already on the ground was considerably higher than the cost of compensation in rupturing the contract. I am advised that that is not the case. The cost of stocking coal on the ground, provided that the stocks are not added to this year, will be something like 4s. per ton for the coming year. In my view and in the view of the Board, that is going to be considerably smaller than the cost of rupturing the opencast mining contracts, which I agree and I think the whole Committee will agree, we should like to see run down as quickly as is practicable in the future.

Is not my right hon. Friend bringing into the argument the initial cost of producing the coal?

That has all been calculated. There is not only the loss of profit for the Coal Board on coal which it would not be producing if the view of my noble Friend were to prevail, but also the cost of breaking the contract to balance against the stocking of coal for an extra year. I have been into that very carefully, and I am quite convinced that it would be vastly more expensive to the Board if I were to suggest or if they were to decide to go ahead and cut down much more quickly.

8.15 p.m.

Why all this, to my mind, unnecessary secrecy about the global cost of disposing of the contract if necessary by compensation? I have heard it stated as high as £35 million. If that figure is correct—and I heard it from an authoritative source—it completely destroys the argument of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), who pd a much lower figure in his speech, to which I listened with interest.

I cannot give it, because I do not know it. The cost of compensation is always a rather intangible affair. I know that the hon. Gentleman keeps his ear close to the ground and might have information for once even more accurate than that which is given to my hon. Friend. I should like to mention a subject which has been discussed a certain amount in this debate, and that is the question of the use of fuel by Government Departments, and, in particular, by the Home Office in connection with the prisons. I understand that my hon. Friend has been given answers to three very long and interesting questions this afternoon by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I understand that the reason why the Home Secretary has had to take action is that a number of the prisons are rather confined in space and the only advantage of the oil which is to be used over the solid fuel which we should have liked to have seen used is that it is more amenable to confined spaces.

I have asked my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary—I hope the Committee will approve—to write to his colleagues in the Government to suggest to them not necessarily that they should always burn solid fuel in any establishments under their control but that they should consider very carefully always the merits of coal as compared with oil and, in particular, compare the most modern coal-burning equipment with the most modern oil-burning equipment. So often, the comparison is made between out-of-date coal burning equipment and the newest oil-burning equipment, which comparison is obviously unfavourable to coal. If the proper comparison is made, I am quite certain, as many hon. Gentlemen have said already, that coal can hold its place.

The hon. Member for Newton and other hon. Members mentioned the use of oil in power stations. I want to take this opportunity of correcting one or two reports which recently appeared in the Press of some remarks I am alleged to have made in Newcastle. These reports, I think, fell below that standard of accuracy which some of us expect of Fleet Street. I was represented as having said something which seemed very strange when I read it in the newspaper. All I said was that I would not be so optimistic as to say that no oil would continue to be burned in power stations in the future.

It is important to have this matter in perspective. Even if every oil-burning power station were converted to coal, the extra coal consumed would amount to about 4 million tons a year. Of course, that includes a power station such as Bankside which, for reasons of clean air, will obviously continue to burn the fuel it has now. I should like to be able to give to the Committee the latest information I have on this matter. I ask for its indulgence because I do not want to say anything this evening which might prejudice the consideration which I am giving and shall give to this matter. I certainly have been left in no doubt of the wishes which, I think, are shared generally on both sides.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster asked me about the deficit of the National Coal Board. I understand that, at the end of the year before last, December, 1958, it was about £28·1 million. My hon. Friend has that figure because it has been published. As he knows, it is too early for me to say what the deficit is likely to be for last year. There have been various Press reports of interviews between the chairman of the National Coal Board and the Press. I understand that the deficit last year is likely to be something over £20 million. That added to the other figure, with my hon. Friend's mathematical ability, will total something approaching £50 million.

I disagree very strongly indeed with my hon. Friend's estimate that to that will have to be added another £50 million in 1960. I do not know where he gets that figure from. Frankly, I do not think that it does the cause we all have at heart much good to take so gloomy a view of the future. I do not believe that that will be the trading result of the National Coal Board, and I should very much like my hon. Friend at some time to tell me the figures on which he bases his estimate. I am very clear about the difficulties and hazards of forecasting for coal, as I am sure he is, but I think that that forecast will be very wide of the mark.

The hon. Member for lnce (Mr. T. Brown) and other hon. Members suggested that my hon. Friends, by putting down their Amendment, my disagreement with which I have made very clear, have as their motive the wish to see the National Coal Board fail. I profoundly disagree. I do not think that that is their motive at all. I believe that they are just as anxious as hon. Members

Division No. 27]

AYES

[8.26 p.m.

Agnew, Sir PeterGresham Cooke, R.Pilkington, Capt. Richard
Aitken, w. T.Groavenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.Pitman, I. J.
Allason, JamesGurden, HaroldPitt, Miss Edith
Barber, AnthonyHamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)Pott, Percivall
Barlow, Sir JohnHarrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)Powell, J. Enoch
Batsford, BrianHarvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)Price, David (Eastleigh)
Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)Harvie Anderson, MissPrior, J. M. L.
Berkeley, HumphryHay, JohnProudfoot, Wilfred
Bidgood, John C.Hendry, A. ForbesRamsden, James
Bingham, R. M.Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Bossom, CliveHooking, Philip N.Renton, David
Bourne-Arton, A.Holland, PhilipRidley, Hon. Nicholas
Box, DonaldHollingworth, JohnRoberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Boyden, JamesHopkins, AlanRoots, William
Boyle, Sir EdwardHoward, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Braine, BernardHughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral JohnRoyle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)
Brown, Thomas (Ince)Hughes-Young, MichaelRussell, Ronald
Bryan, PaulIvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Scott-Hopkins, James
Bullus, Wing Commander EricJackson, JohnSaymour, Leslie
Burden, F. A.James, DavidShepherd, William
Butcher, Sir HerbertJennings, J. C.Skeet, T. H. H.
Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)Johnson, Erie (Blackley)Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)Johnson Smith, GeoffreySmith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Carr, Compton (Barons Court)Joseph, Sir KeithSpeir, Rupert
Channon, H. P. G.Kerans, Cdr. J. S.Spriggs, Leslie
Chataway, ChristopherKerr, Sir HamiltonSteward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Chichester-Clark, R.Kirk, PeterStodart, J. A.
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)Leburn, GilmourStoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)Storey, Sir Samuel
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Studholme, Sir Henry
Cleaver, LeonardLilley, F. J. P.Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)
Collard, RichardLitchfield, Capt. JohnSumner, Donald (Orpington)
Cooke, RobertLogan, DavidTalbot, John E.
Costain, A. P.Longbottom, CharlesTapsell, Peter
Courtney, Cdr. AnthonyLongden, GilbertTemple, John M.
Critchley, JulianLoveys, Walter H.Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Cunningham, KnoxLucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Curran, CharlesLucas-Tooth, Sir HughThomas, Peter (Conway)
Currie, G. B. H.MacArthur, IanThompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Deedes, W. F.McLaren, MartinTiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
Digby, Simon WingfieldMcLaughlin, Mrs. PatriciaTurner, Colin
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.Maclay, Rt. Hon. Johnvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Doughty, CharlesMcMaster, Stanleyvane, W. M. F.
Drayson, G. B.Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Duncan, Sir JamesMaddan, MartinWall, Patrick
Elliott, R. W.Maginnis, John E.Ward, Rt. Hon. George (Worcester)
Emery, PeterMarten, NeilWebster, David
Errington, Sir EricMathew, Robert (Honiton)Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Farr, JohnMatthews, Gordon (Meriden)Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Finlay, GraemeMawby, RayWolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)Mills, StrattonWood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Freeth, DenzilMontgomery, FergusWoodhouse, C. M.
Gardner, EdwardNoble, MichaelWoodnutt, Mark
George, J. C. (Pollok)Orr, Capt. L. P. S.Woof, Robert
Gibson-Watt, DavidOsborn, John (Hallam)Woollam, John
Glyn, Col. Richard H. (Dorset, N.)Osborne, Cyril (Louth)Worsley, Marcus

Godber, J. B.Page, GrahamYates, William (The Wrekin)
Goodhart, PhilipPannell, Norman (Kirkdale)
Gower, RaymondPartridge, E.

TELLERS FOR THE AYES:

Grant, Rt. Hon. William (Woodside)Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)Mr. Whitelaw and Mr. Sharples.
Green, AlanPercival, Ian

opposite to see the success of the National Coal Board. That, I believe, is the motive which inspired them, although I profoundly disagree with the Amendment and I ask the Committee to reject it. I have said already that the "Revised Plan for Coal" to which I gave approval commits me to find this money. Therefore, I must ask the Committee to accept the two overall limits contained in Clause 1.

Question put, That the words "seven hundred" stand part of the Clause:—

The Commttee divided: Ayes 179. Noes 11.

NOES

Birch, Rt. Hon. NigelHiley, JosephWilliams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Brewis, JohnHinchingbrooke, Viscount
Browne, Percy (Torrington)Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)

TELLERS FOR THE NOES:

Eden, JohnTeeling, WilliamMr. Nabarro and Mr. Peyton.
Goodhew, VictorWatts, James

I beg to move, in page 4, line 2, to leave out "seventy-five" and to insert "fifty".

The Amendment has rather different considerations from the Amendment on which we have just voted. It is the successor in title, but three years removed, to the Motion which a number of my hon. Friends and myself moved on 10th May, 1956, when we insisted on a Statutory Instrument procedure to authorise the capital expenditure programme of the National Coal Board each year.

On Second Reading of the Coal Industry Bill, in 1956, 25 of my hon. Friends and myself voted against the Government on that principle to secure the Statutory Instrument procedure in all circumstances annually to authorise the capital expenditure of the Board in respect of the forthcoming year.

On 2nd July, 1956, during the Committee stage of the Bill—the Minister of Fuel and Power was then my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones)—the Government conceded the principle to us which they would not do on Second Reading. They conceded that when the aggregation of sums borrowed by the Board at the conclusion of any one year exceeded by a sum of £75 million the aggregation of sums borrowed in respect of a date one year earlier a Statutory Instrument should be laid.

The purpose of the Amendment is to reduce the amount of £75 million to £50 million, thereby increasing the accountability of the National Coal Board to Parliament. The reason I seek at this stage to increase the accountability is because of the intrusion of stocks. When we originally had the Statutory Instrument procedure conceded to us it was based on the understanding that the Instrument would be in respect of capital expenditure only. May I remind my right hon. Friend that stocks are not capital expenditure?

I believe that as £50 million of the sum provided under the Bill is for financing stocks—the Parliamentary Secretary said so—

indicated dissent.

I do not want to quarrel with my hon. Friend again, as I have just quarrelled with him in the Lobby, but he said that £50 million was for stocks. I shall have to p what my hon. Friend said if he continues to shake his head.

Because of the intrusion of this financial element in respect of stocks, as we are changing the basis of the Statutory Instrument it is necessary to reduce the sums and thereby endeavour to ensure that greater accountability is given to Parliament.

My hon. Friend has said two or three times today that I said that £50 million of the money given by the Bill is to finance stocks, and pd column 151 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of 23rd November, 1959. In column 151 I told him what composed that Order. I did not mention the Bill at all. In the £120 million in the Order, £50 million of that was to be for stocks, but not £50 million of the money in the Bill.

My hon. Friend is surely making a mistake. He has not read the Statutory Instrument. It says nothing about stocks. The Explanatory Memorandum, which is a draft Instrument issued by the Minister of Fuel and Power, refers to section 26 of the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act. 1946, which enables the Board

"to defray expenditure properly chargeable to capital account …
That is the £120 million that my hon. Friend was talking about. In the £120 million he includes a provision for stocks. He cannot wriggle out of it.

We now have a foreign matter intruding into this Statutory Instrument procedure. It is no longer a matter of capital account only; it is a matter of stocks. I submit that that is a valid reason for asking that Parliament should look more often at the financial affairs of this vast and costly State Board.

My hon. Friend is making a point which I cannot clearly follow.

I have listened to all the arguments addressed to the Committee on this issue. I have always believed that expenditure on stocks can be as much capital expenditure as can expenditure on machinery. I cannot appreciate the distinction which my hon. Friend is making.

To hear a statement of that kind from a person who is actively engaged in private business is anathema to me. Capital expenditure, in the context of the National Coal Board or any productive undertaking, must mean sums vested on capital account. Stocks are expendable, and cannot properly be classified as sums of money spent on capital account. The Statutory Instrument procedure was designed to deal with moneys spent on capital account.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will be a little more compliant and flexible than he was on an earlier occasion this evening. This is an important matter. I do not propose that the Coal Board should be allowed to run until early next year, or later, without my having a very good look at what is going on in Hobart House. I designed this Statutory Instrument procedure, applicable to the Coal Board, for the purpose of enabling me, from the Government side, to initiate a debate on its affairs.

I am not satisfied with a Supply Day, because the initiative as to the subject chosen then rests with the Opposition. I want the initiative to be on the Government side, and that means effectively in my hands. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Oh, yes; it means effectively in my hands, to initiate the debate, so that I may poke a probing finger into the financial affairs of the Board.

I hope that the hon. Member will readjust his views on the point that he has just raised. Many hon. Members on this side of the Committee agree that the nationalised industries should be more accountable to elected representatives of Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown), the late hon. Member for Abertillery and I argued this matter in a very critical way with the present Lord Morrison of Lambeth in a room behind Mr. Speaker's Chair when the relevant legislation was going through. Time has proved the correctness of our line then, and I hope that the hon. Member will admit that this is a House of Commons matter. It is not an Opposition matter or a Government matter; the responsibility is that of the House of Commons.

I do not dissent from anything which the hon. Member has said, but if I, together with 25 of my hon. Friends, had not taken the ultimate sanction of voting against the Government on 10th May, 1956, on the Coal Industry Bill, we would never have seen this Statutory Instrument procedure.

Now, because of the position of stocks, I want the limit applied to that procedure reduced from £75 million to £50 million a year. I hope that the few words I have addressed to the Committee on this subject will take not only my friends, but also hon. Members opposite with me. They all ought to be as insistent as I am that Ministers should be kept in good order in these matters. I have every intention of keeping my right hon. Friend in admirable order, through the Statutory Instrument procedure and otherwise.

I have no desire to repeat what my hon. Friend has said, or I have said earlier this afternoon. I formally support the Amendment.

8.45 p.m.

I found it very difficult to follow the relevance of the point which my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) was making about the stocks and the working capital. Section 26 of the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act, 1946, says:

"For the purpose of enabling the Board to defray expenditure properly chargeable to capital account, including the provision of working capital, the Minister may make advances to the Board…"
It therefore seems to me that if my hon. Friend's intention is that the House should have a frequent opportunity to look at the affairs of the coal industry, the frequency would be likely to be increased by the consideration of which he seemed to be making great play, namely, that a great deal of the capital borrowings in recent years had been devoted to stocking coal. The Amendment suggests that the annual limit between peaks should be £50 million, instead of the £75 million at present laid down in the Bill.

Perhaps I can refer to the history of the borrowing powers and the annual limit. Hon. Members will know that the Act to which I have referred put a total limit on the borrowings of the Coal Board, but placed no annual limit on those borrowings. When the Government of the party opposite increased the borrowing powers of the Board from £150 million to £300 million in 1951, it was my hon. Friends who, on that occasion, pressed for an annual limit of £30 million. I think it important for tie Committee to consider that the annual limit of £30 million which my hon. Friends then had in mind was considerably above the expected level of annual borrowings by the Board. The tight hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker), the then Minister of Fuel and Power, in reply to my hon. Friends' suggestions, fixed an annual limit of £40 million, just about twice the expected level of borrowings in any one year.

Now we come to the time my hon. Friend was talking about, of the Coal Industry Act of 1956, when the borrowing powers were raised to £650 million. On that occasion the then Minister raised the annual limit to £75 million, where it is at present. He intended that limit to be neither so high as to exclude the possibility of periodic review by Parliament nor so low as to make it necessary every year. I think that on one occasion he expressed the view that the limit of £75 million would probably bite in two or three of the five years covered by the 1956 Act.

When I was engaged in drafting this Bill, at the end of last year, I gave considerable thought to what should be the proper future of the annual limit. I saw a case for abolishing the annual limit because the procedure which I was suggesting in the Bill, of the Coal Board getting these extra capital borrowings as it were in two bites, provided for a review by the House of Commons if anything went wrong with the estimates of the Board. But, on consideration, I was quite clear that Parliament preferred to retain the annual limit at some level and, indeed, only a very low limit would secure Parliamentary review in what I would call the early middle 'sixties, in or about 1965. Therefore, I decided to advise Parliament that the limit should remain at £75 million.

I wish the Committee to consider the effect of reducing the limit to £50 million in any one year. It would almost certainly mean that an Order would be necessary in the financial year 1960–61, because the Board's borrowings will probably exceed £50 million in that year. In the next year, 1961–62, it would, anyhow, be necessary for me to present an Order to the House under the new provisions in the Bill so as to increase the borrowing power above £700 million; that is a different kind of Order expressly provided for in the Bill.

In the following year, 1962–63, if the £50 million limit were exceeded a new Bill would be necessary, because the whole borrowings of £750 million would be exceeded. In fact, in the early middle 1960s, in 1963, 1964, and so on, the £50 million borrowing limit which my hon. Friend suggests is unlikely to secure a Parliamentary review because the annual borrowing in that year under the estimates the Board has made are likely to be well below that figure.

I hope that I have not confused the Committee, but the effect of my hon. Friend's Amendment, in my view, would be to secure in the whole future life of Parliament one extra debate on the coal industry some time in the next twelve months, when it will probably be necessary for me to make an Order to increase the annual borrowing above £50 million. In the light of the debate that we have had today, I cannot help realising, how important is this year for the industry. I sincerely hope that it will be able to stabilise its position so as to be ready for an advance next year.

Having heard the speeches this afternoon, I am quite well aware of the interest which Parliament has taken, and will continue to take, in the future of the industry. I have heard several hon. Members opposite supporting the possibility in the future of opportunities for the House to look at the coal industry. The hon. Member suggested that it was no good trying to escape the sharp logic which came from this side of the Committee and I thought that a persuasive phrase. Therefore, I should be unreasonable if, on this occasion, I refused to accept my hon. Friend's Amendment which, to the best of my belief, would give to Parliament one opportunity to discuss the programme of the industry.

I wish to make clear that this Amendment would give one extra opportunity to Parliament to discuss the industry and, therefore, I thought it unreasonable not to accept it.

I did not hear the "not" in the Minister's last sentence.

If I may reverse my words, I am extremely sorry that he proposes to accept the Amendment. That is not because we are not desirous that any of the nationalised industries should be accountable to Parliament. There have been exchanges on this subject and I think I am right in saying that a committee is now discussing the question of accountability. But I consider it irresponsible for the Minister to accept an Amendment based on the premises upon which this has been based by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro).

In his speech rejecting the last Amendment the Minister told us that a great industry such as this could not be run on a shoestring in the matter of time. He mentioned two years and said that if it were restricted to short periods it was impossible for the industry to plan ahead.

The hon. Member for Kidderminster told us that it is he who controls the Coal Board and not the Minister. Under the pretence of obtaining accountability to Parliament he is attempting not to use but to abuse the undoubted rights of Parliament to watch over the financing of the great nationalised industries. I fail to understand how the responsible men who are running the industry, from Sir James Bowman downwards, can be expected to plan their programme ahead when they know that each year they will have to seek the assent of the hon. Member for Kidderminster and the cabal who support him on these issues.

We believe that this action is entirely irresponsible. I use the arguments which the Minister himself adduced, because I see no essential difference between this Amendment and those Amendments which the right hon. Gentleman refused to accept. As this is not a question of accountability to Parliament, and as it is to be accepted by a Government who are lavishing hundreds of millions of pounds of public money on private monopolies without any accountability to Parliament, we do not see how they can claim to accept the Amendment because of a desire for accountability. It is sheer hypocrisy, and I ask my hon. Friends to divide the Committee upon the Amendment.

I should be churlish if I did not express to my right hon. Friend my gratitude to him for meeting the point of view expressed by my hon. Friends and myself by accepting this Amendment.

I assure the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) that none of the imputations which he has just made is correct. My only purpose in putting this Amendment on the Notice Paper was to make quite certain that the National Coal Board would have to come to Parliament to have its annual expenditure confirmed by Parliament at least once every twelve months. I have achieved my objective I think that that is very good progress, and I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the generous fashion in which he has responded to the pleas of my hon. Friends and myself.

Question put, That "seventy-five" stand part of the Clause:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 106, Noes 177.

Division No. 28.]

AYES

[8.59 p.m.

Abse, LeoHamilton, William (West Fife)Peart, Frederick
Ainsley, WilliamHannan, WilliamPentland, Norman
Awbery, StanHayman, F. H.Plummer, Sir Leslie
Bacon, Miss AliceHerbison, Miss MargaretPrentice, R. E.
Baxter, William (Stirlingeshire, W.)Hill, J. (Midlothian)Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.)Holman, PercyProbert, Arthur
Blackburn, F.Hoy, James H.Rankin, John
Blyton, WilliamHynd, John (Attercliffe)Reid, William
Boardman, H.Irving, Sydney (Dartford)Roberts, Rt. Hon. Alfred
Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.)Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Boyden, JamesJones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech(Wakefield)Ross, William
Brown, Thomas (Ince)Jones, Dan (Burnley)Short, Edward
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Jones, Jack (Rotherham)Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Castle, Mrs. BarbaraJones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Chetwynd, GeorgeKelley, RichardSmall, William
Cliffe, MichaelKing, Dr. HoraceSmith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Lawson, GeorgeSoskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Cullen, Mrs. AliceLee, Frederick (Newton)Spriggs, Leslie
Darling, GeorgeLogan, DavidStones, William
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Loughlin, CharlesSwain, Thomas
Davies, Ifor (Gower)Mabon, Dr. J. DicksonSylvester George
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)McInnes, JamesSymonds, J. B.
Deer, GeorgeMcKay, John (Wallsend)Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Diamond, JohnMackie, JohnWatkins, Tudor
Dodds, NormanMacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)Wheeldon, W. E.
Ede, Rt. Hon. ChuterManuel, A. C.White, Mrs. Eirene
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)Mapp, CharlesWhitlock, William
Fernyhough, E.Mason, RoyWilkins, W. A.
Finch, HaroldMellish, R. J.Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Fitch, AlanMillan, BruceWilliams, Rev. Ll. (Abertillery)
Forman, J. C.Mort, D. L.Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)Neal, HaroldWinterbottom, R. E.
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. HughOliver, G. H.Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Ginsburg, DavidOram, A. E.Woof, Robert
Grey, CharlesPannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)

TELLERS FOR THE AYES:

Mr. Redhead and Mr. Mahon.

NOES

Agnew, Sir PeterErrington, Sir EricJohnson Smith, Geoffrey
Aitken, W. T.Farr, JohnJoseph, Sir Keith
Allason, JamesFinlay, GraemeKerans, Cdr. J. S.
Atkins, HumphreyFoster, JohnKerr, Sir Hamilton
Barber, AnthonyFraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)Kirk, Peter
Barlow, Sir JohnFreeth, DenzilLeburn, Gilmour
Batsford, BrianGardner, EdwardLegh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)
Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)George, J. C. (Pollok)Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Berkeley, HumphryGibson-Watt, DavidLilley, F. J. P.
Bingham, R. M.Glyn, Col. Richard H. (Dorset, N.)Litchfield, Capt. John
Bossom, CliveGodber, J. B.Longbottom, Charles
Bourne-Arton, A.Goodhart, PhilipLoveys, Walter H.
Box, DonaldGoodhew, VictorLucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Boyle, Sir EdwardGower, RaymondLucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Braine, BernardGrant, Rt. Hon. William (Woodside)MacArthur, Ian
Brewis, JohnGreen, AlanMcLaren, Martin
Browne, Percy (Torrington)Gresham Cooke, R.McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia
Bryan, PaulGrosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.Maclay, Rt. Hon. John
Bullus, Wing Commander EricGurden, HaroldMcMaster, Stanley
Burden, F. A.Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)
Butcher, Sir HerbertHarrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)Maddan, Martin
Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)Maginnis, John E.
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)Harvie Anderson, MissMarten, Nell
Carr, Compton (Barons Court)Hay, JohnMathew, Robert (Honiton)
Channon, H. P. G.Heath, Rt. Hon. EdwardMatthews, Gordon (Meriden)
Chataway, ChristopherHendry, A. ForbesMawby, Ray
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)Hiley, JosephMills, Stratton
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)Montgomery, Fergus
Cleaver, LeonardHinchingbrooke, ViscountNabarro, Gerald
Collard, RichardHocking, Philip N.Noble, Michael
Costain, A. P.Holland, PhilipOrr, Capt. L. P. S.
Courtney, Cdr. AnthonyHollingworth, JohnOsborn, John (Hallam)
Critchley, JulianHolt, ArthurOsborne, Cyril (Louth)
Cunningham, KnoxHopkins, AlanPage, Graham
Curran, CharlesHoward, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)Partridge, E.
Currie, G. B. H.Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral JohnPearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Deedes, W. F.Hughes-Young, MichaelPercival, Ian
Digby, Simon WingfieldIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Peyton, John
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.Jackson, JohnPilkington, Capt. Richard
Doughty, CharlesJames, DavidPitman, I. J.
Duncan, Sir JamesJennings, J. C.Pott, Percivail
Elliott, R. W.Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)Powell, J. Enoch
Emery, PeterJohnson, Eric (Blackley)Price, David (Eastleigh)

Prior, J. M. L.Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir MalcolmWall, Patrick
Proudfoot, WilfredStorey, Sir SamuelWard, Rt. Hon. George (Worcester)
Ramsden, JamesStudholme, Sir HenryWatts, James
Redmayne, Rt. Hon. MartinSummers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)Webster, David
Ridley, Hon. NicholasSumner, Donald (Orpington)Whitelaw, William
Roots, WilliamTalbot, John E.Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Ropner, Col. Sir LeonardTapsell, PeterWilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)Temple, John M.Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Russell, RonaldThatcher, Mrs. MargaretWood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Scott-Hopkins, JamesThomas, Leslie (Canterbury)Woodhouse, C. M.
Seymour, LeslieThomas, Peter (Conway)Woodnutt, Mark
Shepherd, WilliamThompson, Kenneth (Walton)Woollam, John
Skeet, T. H. H.Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)Worsley, Marcus
Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)Turner, ColinYates, William (The Wrekin)
Speir, RupertVane, W. M. F.
Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)Vickers, Miss Joan

TELLERS FOR THE NOES:

Stodart, J. A.Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)Mr. Chichester-Clark and
Mr. Sharples.

Do I take it, Sir William, that you are not calling my Amendment, in page 4, line 10, at the end to insert:

"And provided that the Minitser shall direct that payments of interest in respect of advances made under this section are to be at a rate not exceeding the lowest rate determined by the Treasury in respect of advances made by way of Government loan to manufacturers of steel during the period of six months before the date of such advances to the National Coal Board, and that the terms of repayment shall not be less advantageous".

Division No. 29.]

AYES

[9.9 p.m.

Agnew, Sir PeterDuncan, Sir JamesKerans, Cdr. J. s.
Aitken, W. T.Elliott, R. W.Kerr, Sir Hamilton
Allason, JamesEmery, PeterKirk, Peter
Atkins, HumphreyErrington, Sir EricLambton, Viscount
Barber, AnthonyFarr, JohnLeburn, Gilmour
Barlow, Sir JohnFinlay, GraemeLegh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)
Barter, JohnFoster, JohnLewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Batsford, BrianFraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)Lilley, F. J. P.
Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)Freeth, DenzilLitchfield, Capt. John
Berkeley, HumphryGardner, EdwardLongbottom, Charles
Bidgood, John C.Gibson-Watt, DavidLoveys Walter H.
Bingham, R. M.Glyn, Col. Richard H. (Dorset, N.)Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Bossom, CliveGodber, J. B.MacArthur, Ian
Bourne-Arton, A.Goodhart, PhilipMcLaren, Martin
Box, DonaldGoodhew, VictorMcLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia
Boyle, Sir EdwardGower, RaymondMaclay, Rt. Hon. John
Braine, BernardGrant, Rt. Hon. William (Woodside)McMaster, Stanley
Brewis, JohnGreen, AlanMacpherson, Niall (Dumfries)
Browne, Peroy (Torrington)Gresham Cooke, R.Maddan, Martin
Bryan, PaulGrosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.Maginnis, John E.
Bullus, Wing Commander ErieGurden, HaroldMarten, Neil
Burden, F. A.Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)Mathew, Robert (Honiton)
Butcher, Sir HerbertHarrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)
Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)Mawby, Ray
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)Harvie Anderson, MissMills, Stratton
Carr, Compton (Barons Court)Hendry, A. ForbesMontgomery, Fergus
Channon, H. P. G.Hiley, JosephNabarro, Gerald
Chataway, ChristopherHill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)Noble, Michael
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)Hocking, Philip N.Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)Holland, PhilipOsborn, John (Hallam)
Cleaver, LeonardHollingworth, JohnOsborne, Cyril (Louth)
Collard, RichardHolt, ArthurPage, Graham
Cooke, RobertHopkins, AlanPannell, Norman (Kirkdale)
Costain, A. P.Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)Partridge, E.
Courtney, Cdr. AnthonyHughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral JohnPearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Critchley, JulianHughes-Young, MichaelPercival, Ian
Cunningham, KnoxIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Peyton, John
Curran, CharlesJackson, JohnPilkington, Capt. Richard
Currie, G. B. H.James, DavidPitman, I. J.
Deedes, W. F.Jennings, J. C.Pott, Percivall
Digby, Simon WingfieldJohnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)Powell, J. Enoch
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.Johnson, Eric (Blackley)Price, David (Eastleigh)
Doughty, CharlesJohnson Smith, GeoffreyPrior, J. M. L.
Drayson, G. B.Joseph, Sir KeithProudfoot, Wilfred

Yes. The hon. Member's Amendment is out of order and is, therefore, not selected.

I am sorry that I failed to put the second part of the Amendment that we have just dealt with. I will do so now.

Question put, That "fifty" be there inserted:—

The Commitee divided: Ayes 178, Noes 108.

Ramsden, JamesStudholme, Sir HenryWatts, James
Redmayne, Rt. Hon. MartinSummers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)Webster, David
Ridley, Hon. NicholasSumner, Donald (Orpington)Whitelaw, William
Roots, WilliamTalbot, John E.Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Ropner, Col. Sir LeonardTapsell, PeterWilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)Temple, John M.Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Russell, RonaldThatcher, Mrs. MargaretWood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Scott-Hopkins, JamesThomas, Leslie (Canterbury)Woodhouse, C. M.
Seymour, LeslieThomas, Peter (Conway)Woodnutt, Mark
Shepherd, WilliamThompson, Kenneth (Walton)Woollam, John
Skeet, T. H. H.Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)Worsley, Marcus
Smith, Dudley(Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)Turner, ColinYates, William (The Wrekin)
Speir, RupertVane, W. M. F.
Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)Vickers, Miss Joan

TELLERS FOR THE AYES:

Stodart, J. A.Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)Mr. Chichester-Clark and
Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir MalcolmWall, PatrickMr. Sharples
Storey, Sir SamuelWard, Rt. Hon. George (Worcester)

NOES

Abse, LeoHayman, F. H.Plummer, Sir Leslie
Ainsley, WilliamHerbison, Miss MargaretPrentice, R. E.
Awbery, StanHill, J. (Midlothian)Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Bacon, Miss AliceHolman, PercyProbert, Arthur
Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)Hoy, James H.Rankin, John
Beaney, AlanHynd, John (Attercliffe)Reid, William
Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.)Irving, Sydney (Dartford)Roberts, Rt. Hon. Alfred
Blackburn, F.Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Blyton, WilliamJones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech(Wakefield)Ross, William
Boardman, H.Jones, Dan (Burnley)Short, Edward
Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.)Jones, Jack (Rotherham)Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Boyden, JamesJones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Brown, Thomas (Ince)Kelley, RichardSlater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)King, Dr. HoraceSmall, William
Chetwynd, GeorgeLawson, GeorgeSmith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Cliffe, MichaelLee, Frederick (Newton)Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Logan, DavidSpriggs, Leslie
Cullen, Mrs. AliceLoughlin, CharlesStones, William
Darling, GeorgeMabon, Dr. J. DicksonSwain, Thomas
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)McInnes, JamesSylvester, George
Davies, Ifor (Gower)McKay, John (Wallsend)Symonds, J. B.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Mackie, JohnTaylor, John (West Lothian)
Deer, GeorgeMacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)Wainwright, Edwin
Diamond, JohnManuel, A. C.Warbey, William
Dodds, NormanMapp, CharlesWatkins, Tudor
Ede, Rt. Hon. ChuterMason, RoyWheeldon, W. E.
Fernyhough, E.Mellish, R. J.White, Mrs. Eirene
Finch, HaroldMillan, BruceWilkins, W. A.
Fitch, AlanMort, D. L.Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Forman, J. C.Neal, HaroldWilliams, Rev. LI. (Abertillery)
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)Oliver, G. H.Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. HughOram, A. E.Winterbottom, R. E.
Ginsburg, DavidPannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Grey, CharlesParker, John (Dagenham)Woof, Robert
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Hamilton, William (West Fife)Peart, Frederick

TELLERS FOR THE NOES:

Hannan, WilliamPentland, NormanMr. Redhead and Mr. Mahon.

On a point of order, Sir William. You have said that the Amendment in my name, in page 4, line 10, is not to be called.

I wonder whether we could have some explanation of that. The point, as we see it, is that the House of Commons is agreeing to a loan and apparently the Ruling is that it is out of order for the House of Commons to ask for particulars of interest rates, etc., in connection with that loan.

With great respect, may I say that. although I accept your Ruling on the matter, it would appear rather peculiar that it is out of order for us to ask for details, such as interest rates, conditions of repayment, etc., on a loan which the House of Commons is about to agree to. From that point of view, it does not appear very clear to my hon. Friends and myself why the Amendment should be ruled out of order.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, this matter was very carefully considered and the conclusion come to was that the Amendment is irrelevant to Clause 1 because the Clause is very narrowly drafted. The Amendment is therefore out of order as being beyond the scope of Clause 1. Even if redrafted and submitted as a new Clause, the Amendment would be beyond the scope of the Bill because the Bill contains only the one operative Clause, and for that reason it was ruled out of order.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

It would appear, Sir William, that we must now have a Report stage on this Bill in view of the fact that the Minister has accepted an Amendment. It is in order, of course, to ask the Minister to take into consideration certain things before the Report stage.

Would the Minister consider the implications of my hon. Friend's Amendment before the House undertakes the Report stage of this Bill? An important principle is involved. It may be true that, as drawn, the Amendment was out of order, but the principle that for moneys borrowed by the Coal Board a rate of interest should be fixed at a level not above that indicated seems to be one that the Minister might consider before Report.

The Minister will recall that in our earlier discussion I asked what effect the increase in Bank Rate would have on the Coal Board's borrowings. I do not intend to discuss any of the implications of the Amendment that I wanted to move, but the Coal Board is borrowing from the Treasury. We all know what the old interest rates were. Will those rates be affected by the increased Bank Rate? If the right hon. Gentleman could give us some information on that matter it would help, as the Coal Board's development plan might well be affected by the percentage of interest on the loans.