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Coal Strippers, Bowhill (Medical Examination)

Volume 388: debated on Thursday 1 April 1943

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asked the Minister of Labour, who was responsible for sending several Bowhill strippers for medical examination; what action was taken by his representative in Fife; and on whose advice did he take it?

The instructions were given by me, and action was taken by my local representatives strictly in accordance with these instructions.

Are we to understand from the Minister's reply that he ordered the local officer to take the step of sending key men for military service without consulting the Minister of Fuel, the Fuel Controller or anyone associated with the men's organisation? And will he refrain from anything of that sort in the future?

I ought to make it clear that men of military age are soldiers. They are deferred for national work. When it is reported to me that they are no longer following that national work, their deferment ceases, and it is my duty then to issue instructions for their medical examination.

Will the Minister say who reported it to him or to his local officer that these men were no longer following their occupation? That is what I want to know. Can I have an answer?

I do not reveal who reports anything to me. The point is the direction to people who are off the pay roll and are no longer reported as being in employment. I have immediately to make a choice, and if they are not following their employment, they must carry out what this House says they shall carry out.

Is the Minister not aware that at this colliery a very serious dispute was in operation, and is it now the policy of my right hon. Friend to resolve disputes by sending those in dispute for medical examination?

No, Sir, there was no dispute reported at this colliery at all. These men were reported to me as having left the colliery. I acted on the basis of their having left. They were not in employment or on the pay roll of any colliery, so far as I knew, when I issued the instruction.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I propose to raise the matter at an early opportunity. I want to find out who reported this matter.