EXPROPRIATION AND PRIVATE PROPERTY The Coal Bill
From the Bishop of Pella Stn. This is a most important Bill. and ' or amalgamated existing power stations in particular that part of it concerned with the compulsory acquisition by the Coal Commission of the fee simple of all the coal, and mines of coal throughout England and Scotland.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has called it expropriation of the property of the Royalty owners, and has stated that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, i.e., the Church of England, will lose £80,000 income through the'change.
Strong opposition has been offered to the Bill in the House of Lords. and the Government has made considerable con cessions. The Royalty-owners object to the price offered them in full settlement of their ownership of coal.
That price is £66,450,000. and it represents 15 years purchase, the nett annual income agreed to for purposes of calculation being £4,430,000, The Government has refused some of their demands, but has agreed to let them draw their Royalties for another three and half years, and only then to pay them the £66,500,000. That means almost sixteen years' purchase.
[The Bishop of Pella here inserted illustrative extracts from the speeches of Peers which are reported in an article on pare 13 to which the reader is referred.— Editor.] I am not, however. primarily concerned with the Coal Bill but with what in the light of modern legislation may be called certain preconceived ideas of property.
In the last thirty years or so we have heard much about the Nationalisation of the means of production, and many people have written and spoken as if such action by the State were contrary to Catholic principles regarding private ownership of property, even if adequate compensation Were made to expropriated owners.
Again let me say I am not discussing whether such State action is likely to prove good business or not. but the principle underlying it, which is that private interests must be subordinated to the public good.
Electric regional supply undertakings are a case in point, the Shannon Scheme in cluded, The State has set up public authorities to supply electricity and has suppressed owned privately or by municipal authorities. London Transport is another instance. No one can run a 'bus or coach service within about thirty miles of London except that public authority.
If Coal, Electricity, Transport, Water Supply, and Broadcasting. why not cotton mills, and the whole of the textile indus
tries and the land? It's all a matter of whether it is good business or not. and private interests must not be allowed to stand in the way. At least that's the argument put forward by the State for such changes.
How far does all this square with Catholic teaching on the rights of private property? We are told a man has a right to the fruits of his labour yet under the law no one can sell a pint of milk without the sanction of the Milk Board, and quite a number of small people who formerly supplied either to callers or by delivery have been put out of business and even ruined.
Will some one tell us whether all this Nationalisation—its promoters prefer to call it Rationalisation—is consona.nt with Catholic teaching about private property however far it may go? Even in Russia, I am told, a man can own clothes, a home, a garden, a little farm for his own personal use.
WILLIAM F. BROWN.