Catalogue description Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission

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Details of COAL 12
Reference: COAL 12
Title: Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission

This series contains the records of the Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission: including the minutes of its meetings, reports on revaluation of many collieries, correspondence and reports concerning amalgamation proposals and other regional files of the commission. There are also a few files which relate to general policy and establishment matters.

Date: 1926-1939
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission, 1930-1938

Physical description: 204 files and volumes
Publication note:

Two reports of the Coal Mines Re-organisation Commission, for 1933-1934 and 1935-1936 were published (Cmd 4468 and Cmd 5069).

Administrative / biographical background:

The Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission was established under Part II of the Coal Mines Act 1930 and formed part of a policy of long term reorganisation in order to make the coal industry more competitive.

The commission consisted of five commissioners, under the chairmanship of Sir Ernest Gowers who was appointed by the President of the Board of Trade. Its functions were: 'to further the re-organisation of' the coal mining industry with a view to facilitate the production, supply and sale of coal by owners of coal mines and for that purpose to promote and assist, by the preparation of schemes and otherwise, the amalgamation of undertakings consisting of or comprising coal mines, where such amalgamations appear to the Commission to be in the national interest.' To this end, it formulated schemes which were submitted to the Railway and Canal Commission for ratification, amendment or rejection.

The commission was advised by a body of professional and technical agents paid by the Board of Trade. Coal owners co-operating with the commission could recoup the expenses involved from the Board of Trade. The amalgamation of small uneconomic units of production represented the formalisation of a process which had already been occurring for decades on a voluntary basis.

However, the work of the commission made little headway, partly because of the opposition from coal owners and partly because such rationalisation was bound to exacerbate the unemployment problem.

In 1934 the commission commenced working on schemes for compulsory amalgamations. However, the first major compulsory scheme, for collieries in West Yorkshire, was rejected in May 1935 by the Railway and Canal Commission both on its merits and on legal grounds. Following this the Board of Trade asked the commission to refrain from initiating further schemes pending a review of government policy and in May 1936 a Bill to widen the powers of the commission was withdrawn due to opposition.

A fresh review of the state of the coal industry led to a government decision to concentrate on the unification of royalties (i.e. the ownership of unworked coal) and the vesting of ownership of these royalties in a new corporate body. This was intended to prepare the way for subsequent amalgamations of undertakings. The Coal (Registration of Ownership) Act 1937 gave the Mines Department of the Board of Trade the task of establishing a Register of Coal Holdings. The Coal Act 1938 set up the Coal Commission to complete this register and to purchase all royalties. This act also transferred the powers and functions of the Coal Mines Re-organisation Commission to the Coal Commission. The transfer took place on 29 July 1938.

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