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Colliery Workers

Volume 436: debated on Thursday 24 April 1947

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asked the Minister of Fuel and Power of the persons employed at coalmines in Great Britain, how many wage earners were there on the colliery books at the end of February, 1947; how many clerks and salaried persons were employed at the same date; and what are the similar figures at the end of December, 1943.

The number of wage-earners on colliery books was 700,000 at the end of 1943 and 698,600 at the end of February, 1947. The number of clerks and salaried persons was 20,300 at the end of 1943; the estimated number of such persons at the end of February, 1947, is about 21,000.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware of the dissatisfaction among colliery staffs and clerical workers in the industry at the efforts now being made by divisional coal boards to lower the 1946 conditions of service of such workers, such as reduction of annual staff holidays, bonuses, coal allowance, etc.; and if he is prepared to give an assurance that, where identical employment continues, no lower conditions of service shall apply as from 1st January, 1947, the vesting date of the national ownership.

Is the Minister aware that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction, and I have here a number of documents, which I will send to him if he wishes? Is he further aware that prevention is better than cure, and will he, therefore, undertake to fulfil the guarantee which he gave during the discussion on nationalisation?

If there is any dissatisfaction among the employees to whom the hon. and gallant Member refers, their proper course is to approach their trade union organisation, who have the opportunity of consulting with the National Coal Board under the terms of the Act of Parliament.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that prevention is better than cure? If he gave proper instructions could not this be stopped now?

We are anxious to prevent anything in the nature of dissatisfaction, which sometimes is inspired from quarters that are suspect. If the hon. Member is sure of his information, there is nothing to prevent him sending it.

Is the Minister aware that I have information from the East Midland division, which I will send to him?

Mr. Speaker, you have recently ruled that it was contrary to the practice of this House to use the words, "We do not trust the Government." The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his reply, has accused an hon. Member on this side of the House of using information from a suspect source. May I submit that the rebuke which you gave to my hon. Friend would equally apply to the Minister, because he made a personal charge against an hon. Member on this side of the House?

I heard the Minister's reply, and he mentioned about reports which he thought might be inspired from certain quarters. I think that he was possibly referring to those formerly in charge of the coal mines. I do not think that there was any personal reference to the hon. Member.

May I make this personal statement? I was not referring to the hon. Member at all. I was referring to quarters which are suspect, because statements appear in the newspapers which are obviously intended to create dissatisfaction.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I give notice that I will raise this matter again on the Adjournment.

The noble Lord the hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) in putting a point of Order referred to a Ruling given by you, which I had not properly appreciated, to the effect that it was wrong for anyone to say that they did not trust the Government. I trust that I am relieved from any anxiety on that matter.

Before the right hon. Gentleman came in there was a personal allegation against the Prime Minister as an individual, or, at any rate, it appeared to me it was personal. Therefore, I quoted some words from Erskine May which showed that we should conduct our affairs with courtesy quite apart from party politics. One does realise that one should conduct our affairs with persona: courtesy to individuals and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree with that.

Mr. Speaker, I think that you should tell my Leader that I apologised to the House for the remark.

The hon. Gentleman did get up, and apologise, and I am sure he did not mean the allegation which was imputed to him.