COAL BILL BATTLE OVER
The Peers have spent a great deal of time in fierce discussion of the Coal Bill. Perhaps because the Bill is, in the words of the Lord Chancellor, " one of the most complicated measures brought before Parliament in the last hundred years," or because it affects seriously their ierdships' pockets.
But now the Bill has been passed.
The Lord Chancellor moved the third reading on Tuesday, June 28.
"Chorus of Wrath "
Lord Snell, Labour peer, advised the house to pass the Bill, for it recognised a principle which he and his friends upheld often—" that wherever the interests of a section of the community clashed with the interests of the whole of the community the interests of the nation, and not the section, must be served," He complained that when his party had formerly stated this, it had been answered by " a shrill chorus of wrath," and what was once " red ruin and the breaking up of laws " is now accepted as " merely sensible overdue reorganisation."
He was pleasantly cynical about the energetic opposition by royalty-owners to the Bill.
"1 personally have become aware in
listening , the.. debates, of the many injustices I have escaped through not being a royalty-owner."
He complained about the Bill being " badly drafted, timid, insufficient and probably futile . . .' but it itertgnises principle of some importance " and so he reconciled etik ceititempt of the Bill with a plea for an uncontested third reading.
Raw Deal for Royalty-Owners
Lord Hastings energetically and truculently belaboured the Bill on behalf of the royalty-owner who, he said, " has been treated as a public enemy, whereas he is a mainstay of the Government and a contributor to the national revenue on an unpre cedented scale. The royalty-owner has received a very raw deal."
He thought " no section of the community except the Government, The Times and the Civil Service " wanted the Bill passed.
He was particularly angry with the Civil Service. " What prospect could be more happy for the. Civil Service than this Bill? When the Government gives them a licence to interfere in the coal trade itself, their cup of happiness must indeed be full."
Viscount Samuel was full of congratulations for the Government for producing the Bill, but he could not resist dragging foreign policy into this debate essentially concerned with domestic affairs.
"The firmness of purpose on the part of the Government in resisting the terrific onslaughts to which they have been subjected to by the opponents of the Bill is in contrast to their attitude in foreign affairs in which they are only firm in their determination to be weak."
Lord Balfour of Burleigh got hack to English affairs, with some interesting comments on the attitude of the Press to the Coal 13111 debates.
" The Press is divided more or less into two sections, one of which supports the Government, while the other has no love for the royalty-owners. It has been in the interest of neither to show that the Governtnent has done a shameful thing " (by introducing this Coal Bill) " with the result that the debates in the House have never been reported."
"Complete Disregard for Workers" Condoning and condemning the Bill in one breath, Lord Addison, one-time Labour Minister of Agriculture. said : " The Bill contains two features of first-rate importance. First is the introduction into British law and practice of an entirely new method of compensation upon the acquisition of property for the nation . . Second is the complete disregard of the interests of the tens of thousands of workers whose livelihood depended on the coal industry."
Earl Stanhope wound up for the Government with gentle flattery. about the House " fulfilling its duties in the way it always did . . . by improving, clarifying measures which came up from a Government Department."
He deprecated Lord Hastings' attack on the Civil Service, praised the patience of the Lord Chancellor, and hoped the Bill would go through. • It did, and now unless further serious difficulties arise, the State will have purchased by July 1, 1942, the royalty-rights of coal and coal-mines for the sum of £66,450,000.