asked the Secretary for Mines whether the coal industry in the Lancashire and Cheshire district have asked the Board of Trade or the Committee set up under Clause 20 of The Mining Industry Act, 1920, for an allocation in aid of wages from the miners' welfare fund in order to relieve the distress which prevails in that district; whether this request has been refused and, if so, for what. reasons; whether he is aware that the Law Officers of the Crown have advised that the Committee would be acting within their powers by making such a grant; and whether he will state the total sum paid into the welfare fund by the Lancashire and Cheshire district up to date and how much of this sum has been spent?
The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. I understand that the application was refused by the Committee on the grounds that it was not the intention of Parliament, in instituting this fund, that it should be used for the purpose of augmenting wages, that the result of using it for this purpose would be to exhause the entire sum available in a, comparatively short time, without having made any lasting contribution to the social well-being of the miners as a whole. In refusing this application, the Miners' Welfare Committee acted upon their own responsibility and entirely within their rights as the independent body in whom Parliament vested the duty of allocating the fund. I am aware that the Law Officers of the Crown have advised that allocation for such a purpose would be admissible, so far as the terms of the Act are concerned. The total sum paid into the Miners' Welfare Fund from the Lancashire and Cheshire district is £87,376 11s. 4d., and the sum which, under the Act, must be allocated in the district amounts, with interest, to £70,627 10s. 10d. No part of this sum has at present been allocated, owing to the fact that no application, other than the application referred to in this question, has been put forward by the District Welfare Committee.
Is not the £70,000 of which the right hon. Gentleman has spoken still in this fund; and as it has been produced by the Lancashire and Cheshire miners, why cannot it be used for keeping these men from starving, or is the only alternative of the Mines Department starvation for the men who have produced this £70,000?
No, Sir. The position is that we do not think the hon. Member has rightly interpreted the intention of Parliament in passing the Act in assuming that this money was raised to be spent for that particular purpose.