(click image to enlarge)
Early in 1926, Sir Herbert Samuel, a Liberal, chaired a Commission of Enquiry into the coal industry. It had no nominees from the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain, nor any representatives from working class organisations. The other members included Sir William Beveridge, another Liberal; General Sir Herbert Lawrence, a banker; and Kenneth Lee, an industrialist. These four men appear in the lower section of Quiz’s caricature, in what might be termed ‘the predella panel’; for the artist seems to be presenting an ironic modern altarpiece, with the miner portrayed sympathetically as a latter-day Christ.
The commission’s report was presented on 6 March 1926. While praising the organisation of some pits, it considered many to be too small to be profitable and too badly planned, with defective equipment and poor management. So it proposed a thorough reorganisation that would take years to become effective. It argued against Government subsidy or a national pay agreement in favour of district rates. It also proposed the introduction of more pithead baths, profit sharing, the establishment of joint pit committees and the extension of payment by results – though only once the industry became more profitable. To achieve profitability, the commission recommended that wages should be reduced immediately, a conclusion which suited the interests of the Government and the mine owners.