28 DECEMBER 1945, Page 2

The Nation's Coal

The Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill, published last week, is one of the decisive measures in the history of the Labour Govern- ment. Indeed, the. Government will, in the long run, be judged very largely by its effects ; for it is the first and the most important of those measures introducing public control into industry which the Government promises, or threatens, to bring in. The most remarkable feature of the Bill is the freedom it gives to the National Coal Board which is to be set up to acquire the mines, develop the industry and to make coal 'available " in such quantities and at such prices as may seem to them best calculated to further the public interest." Under the terms of the Bill, there seems no reason why the members of the Board should be restricted in any way from exercising their personal initiative to the full ; there are no provisions for workers' representation, nor for the appointment of any advisory bodies "from within the industry ; control is exercised directly by the Minister, who will be responsible to Parliament for the coal industry. The great advantage of the Bill is that at last the industry will obtain the very large new capital investment which is required if it is to become an efficient, modern and paying proposition ; the Government will have the power to advance to the Coal Board Lr5o,000,000 within five years of passing the Bill. It is certain that no such sum could be made available to the industry except from public resources ; and it is impossible for the public to invest so heavily in the industry without insisting on taking over control. It is these two facts which have made it possible foi the Government to take over one of the country's most vital industries with such ease and with surprisingly little opposition ; a Labour Government has done it but any Government would have had to do it. Never- theless, the results of the Bill will be watched with intense interest ; there is a good case for saying that the Government, having introduced this measure, should wait for its results and digest their lessons before proceeding to further measures of. nationalisation. But such patience would not be practical politics now.