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Coal Industry

Volume 393: debated on Tuesday 2 November 1943

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Open-Cast Sites, Stoke-On-Trent

2.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power why Mr. Arthur Jones, a farmer, and several miners, who are not fit to work in the mines, are prevented from working the easily accessible coal on 30 acres at Ashenough Farm, Talke, Stoke-on-Trent?

The site is believed to contain a considerable tonnage of coal which could be worked by open-cast methods and has already been earmarked by the Ministry of Works for future operations.

Is it not a fact that these men have wanted for some time to work this coal; who has prevented them from doing so? Men not fit for work in the mines are eager to work at getting this coal.

My hon. Friend will be aware that the Ministry of Works, who are responsible for the working of these open-cast sites, have been making borings for some considerable time, and this is one of the sites which in their opinion they will be able to work.

Will the men mentioned in the Question be given preference when work is begun?

Volunteers

4.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is in a position to state how many young men have volunteered for work in the coalmines who would otherwise have had to go in the Services and whether any part of the country has shown a marked preference for colliery work?

I have been asked to reply. Up to 25th September, the latest date for which figures are available, the number of men who had volunteered for work in the coalmines as an alternative to service in the Forces, and had been placed in coalmines, numbered 3,366. An additional number volunteered but subsequently withdrew their offers. There is no evidence of any marked preference for coalmining as against service in the Forces in any part of the country.

When men volunteer for coalmining are they allowed a preference for any particular part of the coalfield, or do they have to go wherever they are directed, whether they want to or not?

I could not answer that without notice, but I think they go where they can best be used.

Miners, Armed Forces (Release)

5.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the conditions by which ex-colliery workers will be released from the Services; and can he give the number who will come under it?

As regards the first part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 19th October to my hon. Friend the Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring). As regards the second part, I am advised by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War that it is not possible at this stage to estimate the number who will be affected.

Have the Government laid down definitely the conditions under which these men shall be released from the Services? I take it that the answer to which he has referred did lay them down definitely, and if that is so, it is the cause of a lot of dissatisfaction, because the House of Commons has not discussed what the conditions ought to be.

If my hon. Friend will study that answer, he will find that it is clear what men are involved and what has happened at the moment. The reason the information cannot be given is because all the particulars have not yet come in.

Is the Minister aware that since he made his statement hundreds of these men have been writing to hon. Members asking what is to be done, and can he not be more specific, so that these men can be satisfied?

I am sorry if that is the case, but that is not due to anything we have done. I gave an answer to the Question I was asked, and it is a very explicit one. I have written to many hon. Members personally, and if any hon. Member wants further information, I will give it, but if the hon. Member will study the answer given, he will find there all the information which is necessary.

In view of the unsatisfactory state of the position, I beg to give notice that I want the whole matter cleared up, so that people may know exactly what they have to do.

Man-Shifts

6.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how the number of shifts per person per week worked in the coalmining industry during the period 1st January to 30th September, 1943, compared with those worked in the corresponding period of 1942, in the country as a whole and in each district?

As the answer involves a number of figures, I will, with my hon. and gallant Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. As stated in my reply to a similar Question on 26th October, there were more holidays taken in January/September, 1943, than in the corresponding period of 1942, and it would, therefore, be misleading to compare the figures for the two years.

Following is the answer:

Average number of shifts worked per wage-earner per week in the Coalmining Industry.

District.January-September.
1942.1943 (provisional).
Scotland5·815·55
Northumberland5·175·12
Durham5·365·21
S. Wales and Mon.5·225·03
Yorkshire5·124·97
North Derbyshire5·415·15
Nottinghamshire5·144·96
South Derbyshire5·635·61
Leicestershire5·535·34
Cannock Chase5·275·13
Warwickshire5·044·90
Lancs, and Cheshire5·375·16
North Staffs.5·084·87
Cumberland5·115·30
North Wales5·515·14
South Staffs.5·625·14
Shropshire5·235·02
Bristol5·465·33
Forest of Dean5·385· 02
Somerset5·385·32
Kent4·854·79
Great Britain5·315·13

Coal Face Shifts Lost

7.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how the percentage of shifts lost at the coal face in September, 1943, compares with the percentage lost in September, 1942?

The percentage of shifts lost at the coal face during the four weeks ended 25th September, 1943, was 15.2 per cent., as compared with 13.7 per cent. during the corresponding period a year ago.

Voluntary Absenteeism

8.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the average percentage of voluntary absenteeism at the coal face on each day of the week during September, 1943?

Absenteeism percentages for each day of the week are not available. The percentage of voluntary absenteeism at the coal face during the four weeks ended 25th September, 1943, was 6.1 per cent.

Will my right hon. and gallant Friend consider making this information available to us?

I am afraid that is quite impossible, because already colliery companies have been complaining to me of the shortage of their staffs and this would mean a tremendous addition to their work, and I could not possibly contemplate it.

Would the right hon. and gallant Gentleman not consider cutting out some of the unnecessary information which collieries are asked to supply, in order that they may supply this vital information?

Output

9.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power the reasons for the decline in the output of coal per man-shift worked at the coal face since his Department was established?

The output per man-shift worked at the coal face improved considerably following the establishment of my Department and was well maintained relatively to the preceding year until the early summer of this year. It is impossible, by way of question and answer, to give the reasons for the recent decline, but I would refer my hon. Friend to the statements made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and myself during the recent Debate on coal.

Does my right hon. and gallant Friend admit that in fact the output per man is less now than when he took office?

I could not admit that unless I go further and say that it has improved considerably over the three quarters following upon the quarter in which the Ministry was formed. At this moment it is only very slightly below what it was at the start.

Clifton And Point Of Ayr Collieries

10 and 11.

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power (1) in relation to the Clifton Colliery, Nottingham, the shares of which are now held by the Treasury, the total monthly output and the output per man-shift, respectively, for each of the 12 months prior to Government acquisition and corresponding figures for each month since that date;

(2), the output and the output per man-shift, respectively, for each of the six months prior to Government control of the Point of Ayr Colliery and the figures for the months of the period since that control?

It is not in the public interest to give figures relating to individual collieries.

Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say whether there has in fact been a decrease in production since the Government controlled these two undertakings?

No, that is not in fact so, but I do not think it is very wise to give information of that character, because, as I have tried to point out, what has happened is not because the Government have taken the collieries over. In one case there has been an improvement; in the other case, owing to the condition in which the colliery was, a tremendous amount of development work had to be done.

What is the public interest which prevents the giving of this information? Are the Government afraid that if they gave it the Germans would drop a bomb down one of those collieries?

I do not want to discuss that, but I dare say my hon. Friend would think that. If he worked it out for himself, he would see there was nothing in it.