Conflicting Views On The Coal Bill
The Coal Bill at present being considered by Parliament has had a mixed reception. We publish the opinion of a miner who gives the Bill a fairly cordial welcome. The coal-owners, on the other hand, while accepting certain parts of the Bill do not believe that the nationalisation of royalties will be of benefit to the industry. They are also opposed to compulsory amalgamation.
The Liberty Restoration League, whose aim is to oppose state-despotism, object to the nationalisation of royalties for the following reasons:— 0 I The compensation to royalty owners is only about half the true capital value of the coal as it has been calculated on slumpfig u res.
(2) At present royalty and colliery owners have a common interest in the efficient working of the mines. The coal commission. " a costly bureaucratic body would have no such interest."
(3) Owners of the surface property will cease to have any interest in the exploitation of the minerals below their property.
The League concludes that this part of the Bill is unjust to coal-owners, and that it is an invasion of the principle of private ownership and control of property.
The League also contends that the distress in the coal areas is almost entirely attributable to the many legislative favours to the interests concerned in the exploitation of foreign oil-fuel, for which an unnatural demand has been created at the expense of coal, which—with its natural derivatives—is the most efficient and economic fuel in Great Britain.
The true remedy for the distress in the coal areas is, therefore, the cessation of the legislative favours to the foreign oil industry.
The Coal Bill
From a Durham Min.er
A welcome step nearer nationalisation. That is how most miners will hail the new Coal Mines Bill. It has long been a heartburning grievance with the pitman that while he often receives only Is. for hewing and filling a ton of coal and keeping the roof up while he does it, somebody else receives 6d. or more because he owns the coal.
It would be difficult to defend these royalty rents on moral grounds or find a more pernicious example of unearned increment. Remember the colliery company had to buy (at high price usually) the land on which its pit is situated. Moreover, for any damage done to the land surrounding it by mining operations, either through subsidence or by dust from the pit-head, compensation has to be paid to the occupier.
This amounts to such a large annual sum that many colliery companies have been impelled to buy the land above all their workings and farm it themselves. Yet the person who claims to own the coal measures receives a royalty which varies from ld. to 8d. in various places for every ton mined.
Abolition Will Benefit Miners
Furthermore, the gain to the industry by the abolition of a toll which must amount on the average to 4d. or 5d. per ton will be by no means inconsiderable. The Miners' Welfare Fund which is financed by a levy which was formerly Id. per ton of coal mined but is now only Id. has done wonders for most pit villages by providing pithead baths, playing-fields and parks, social halls, etc. In the diverting of a sum eight or ten times as big the miner can see a clear prospect of better wages and/or working conditions.
Compulsory Amalgamation Compulsory amalgamation ought to benefit the miner by making it easier to maintain the selling price of coal. It might also result in a better general standard of wages and conditions.
At present the rates of pay and earnings of pieceworkers and local practices at different pits vary to a remarkable
extent. / am by no means sure, however, that on the whole the employees of the smaller firms do not enjoy a better deal. Certainly there seem to he fewer disputes and lightning strikes among them than among employees of the big trusts.
Short-time Again, when trade is slack the oldfashioned practice is for the various pits to work short-time. If they were all amalgamated the first sign of a slump might see the " less economic " pits closed and the better-paying ones kept working " full hole."
Something of the kind has already occurred in Durham. It has resulted in derelict villages and other miseries. Given the choice between " short time" and being completely unemployed, the average miner would choose "short time " without hesitation.
So Many Are Trust-Owned
Al! the same so many coal mines are trust-owned (hardly anywhere in the North of England is there any personal contact between actual employers and their workers) that the general opinion must be that further amalgamation cannot make things any worse.
Altogether the Coat Bill is to be welcomed as evidence of the Government's determination to accept more responsibility for the welfare of the 780,000 men and lads who earn a very uncertain living in and about the mines.