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NOTES OF THE DAY » I from our London Ourreiipundent. THE COAL BOMBSHELL. f Seldom has the House of Commons been so agitated as it was this week over the coal question. The prospective ad- vance of a ton has staggered every- body, an< members of Parliament flocked to London from all parts of the compass in order to be present at the debate on a subject of such absorbing interest. On Mondays the attendance in the House is psually ,low the average, North of England and Scottish members who are accustonu I to spend the week-end in their hon;. s spldom being in their places until late t the evening. Last Monday, however, the benches were crowded from the opening to the close of the sitting. Usually after questions there is an ex- odus from the House W the tea-rooms ;but on this particular Monday the average member sat glued to his seat unwilling to lose a single minute of the discussion. The galleries were packed to the point of discomfort; and throughout the after- noon and evening long lines of men and- women waited patiently in St. Stephen's hall for a chance of obtaining a seat. Not often even during the war were there so many striking evidences of profound public interest and anxiety. DIMINISHED OUTPUT. I The debate was worthy of the impor- tance of the occasion. Sir Auckland Geddes spoke with judicial impartiality and seemed <r»<t.uinely anxious to be fair to the miners. Th, decline in the out- I put of coal is not, he said, entirely due to them. Transport difficulties hamper the despatch of machinery and timber to the mines and the despatch of coal from the mines. A group of 40 collieries that in pre-war days despatched 10,000 full trucks of coal in a fortnight have this year had only 700 waggons available per fortnight. But there is evidence too, that many of the miners are not doing their best. Through all causes combined the output of coal has fallen lamentably. On I the experience of the first 20 weeks of working this year, including allowance for dimished output as the result of the new 7 llOurs: shift from July 16th, the estimated production in the next 12 niontlis "Iv '2.)OO;OOO tons. On the basis of existing prices that would mean a loss of £ 46,600,000. It is to prevent that gigantic sum falling on the tax- payers that the Government decided to increase the price of coal by six shillings a ton. The House accepted Sir Auck- land's reasoning as conclusive; and it sympathized with his emotion in describ- ing the disastrous effect which so large an increase in the price of coal would have on all our manufacturing industries. "We live by exports" he said, "and the w hole of cur export trade is in peril." I BRACE AND HARTSHORN. I I Mr. Brace and Mr. Hartshorn, two able spokesmen for the South Wales miners, I emphatically denied that there is any justification for increasing the price of coal by six shillings a ton. "Why did the Government come to this rash de- cision without first consulting the miners' leaders ? We want to stimulate produc- tion; we know it can be done. It is not the miners who are responsible for the decline in output. We are willing to co- operate with the Government and the em- ployees in order to increase output. Give us a chance to show what can be done." Such was the case put with force and persuasiveness by Brace and Hartshorn, both of them admirable speakers. Brace, genial aud. insinuating, is master of every artifice of debate. Hartshorn has less experience of the House; but he knows how to speak and to reason. His trans- parent honesty help the impression made by his loud, ringing voice and his intim- ate knowledge of his subject. "THIS RUINOUS INCREASE." f Backing up the general argument by facts and figures, Hartshorn was clearly beginning to carry conviction into the minds even of hostile listeners. He shewed how wrong it wajs to base the estimate of future production of coal on the experience of 20 weeks' working in an abnormal time when the collieries have been allowed to run down and are short of waggons, machinery, tubs, timber,, etc., and when there are serious. delays in transit. He earnestly implored the Government before putting "this ruinous increase," as he called it, on the price of coal to consult with the miners' leaders and suspend, the increase for 3 months so as to give time for the working out of a scheme to increase output. This power- ful speech changed the whole current of debate. Hartshorn had altered the opinion of the House, and when he sat down there was a tempest of approving cheers. AN OFFER ACCEPTED. I The Government could not resist this appeal. Mr. Bonar Law came swiftly to a decision. Addressing Brace and Hart- shorn, he said "We will accept your offer provided you will guarantee that there will be no stoppage in the collieries in the next 3 months." Brace asked for time for consultation on this point with the Miners' national conference in session this week at Keswick. "Agreed," said Bonar Law; "we will wait until Monday for the decision of the conference." Meantime the increase of 6s. a ton, which was to have taken effect on July 16th, is suspended. There for the moment mat- ters stand. Brace and Hartshorn deserve congratulations on a wonderful Parlia- mentary achievement made in circum- stances of no little difficulty. They were out primarily to defend the miners; they did that effectively, but they also ren- dered the whole nation a service.






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