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Coal Industry

Volume 440: debated on Thursday 24 July 1947

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Knowes Colliery, Fauldhouse


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what are the prospects of having production recommenced at the Knowes Colliery, Fauldhouse, thus employing men resident in the vicinity who are compelled to travel considerable distances to work in other pits.

I am informed by the National Coal Board that they do not intend to reopen the Knowes Colliery, Fauldhouse. The reserves of coal at this colliery can be more easily worked from neighbouring collieries.

Does my right hon. Friend recollect that it was he who closed this colliery, and that it is the only one dealt with in that punishing way because of an unofficial strike, and is it not his intention to see that the punishment is brought to an end sometime?

No; the men formerly employed in this colliery have been absorbed in neighbouring collieries and that has led to increased production. It is true that we have handed over the mining assets to the National Coal Board, and they must take whatever action is proper.

As I consider that this matter requires further elucidation, I beg to give notice that I will raise it on the Motion for the Adjournment.

Disused Mine Shafts


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what steps will be taken to compel owners of abandoned mines to remove the danger caused by disused mine shafts.

The Metalliferous Mines Regulation Act, 1872, and the Coal Mines Act, 1911, require the owner or other persons interested in the minerals of an abandoned mine to keep the shaft surrounded by a structure of a permanent character sufficient to prevent accidents. The enforcement of these provisions is a matter for the local authority.

Miners' Halls (Political Meetings)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if it is the policy of the National Coal Board to make miners' halls available for public political meetings.

I am informed by the National Coal Board that premises owned by them are not ordinarily available for political purposes. An exception is made where a hall belonging to the National Coal Board is the only one available in the locality. In these cases permission may be given for the use of the hall provided there is no discrimination between one political party and another.

Will the Minister use his considerable influence with the National Coal Board to see that these halls, particularly in a small community, are made available to all?

Coke Supplies, London (Quality)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power, whether his attention has been drawn to the deterioration in the quality of coke supplied to blocks of flats in London; whether he is aware that in some instances, at least, this is so serious as to threaten the supply of hot water; and what remedial measures he proposes to take.

I am not aware of any general deterioration in the quality of coke supplied to blocks of flats or other consumers in London, though it may be that some consumers are using coke breeze for which their appliances were not specificially designed, to supplement their normal supplies. If the hon. and gallant Member has any particular cases in mind and will let me have particulars, I shall be glad to have them investigated.

Coal Board Employees (Territorial Army)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what is the policy of the National Coal Board towards their employees joining the Territorial Army.

I am informed by the National Coal Board that they have this matter under very active consideration in the light of the statement made by my right hon, Friend the Secretary of State for War on 21st July.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to draw the attention of the National Coal Board to the urgency of this problem, because, in some districts, the Board is the largest employer of labour, and, a few months ago, Territorial Army units were asked to start recruiting, but some men are not unnaturally hanging back because of the slowness of the National Coal Board to declare its policy and set an example to other employers.

Does that answer mean that the Minister now admits that he has some control over the National Coal Board?

Of course I have the power of direction on matters of general policy. That is embodied in the Act of Parliament covering the activities of the Board, but my answer does not denote that I interfere in the everyday administration. If I am asked to obtain from them information which is relevant, of course I do so.

Will the Minister say what is the attitude of the National Coal Board towards holidays for the training of men joining the Territorial Army?

That is not the Question on the Order Paper, but if the question is put down I will try to obtain an answer.

Can the Minister assure the House that he will be able to frustrate any attempt by the National Union of Mineworkers to screen duals who might desire to join the Territorial Army?

I think that is quite an improper allegation to make against the National Union of Mineworkers, and I would like to remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the mineworkers of this country are as patriotic as anybody.

Will the Minister bear in mind that, in his capacity as tie first Minister to be in charge of a totally nationalised Ministry, his responsibility is very great, and that the example he sets may be the guide for future industries?

That may well be. Personally, I can assure hon. Members that I shall put nothing in the way of men joining the Territorial Army.

May I point out that the National Union of Mineworkers have never adopted the policy of screening their members in connection with their patriotic duty?

Recruitment (Mobile Cinema Vans)


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power on how many occasions loudspeaker vans belonging to the National Coal Board have been used at Labour Party meetings.

One, Sir. A National Coal Board mobile cinema van was on a recruitment tour of the Cannock Chase area at the time when the Labour Party Rally was held on 6th July, and the opportunity was taken of showing mining films to the large crowds present. I am informed by the Board that they are prepared to send these vans to any large gathering of people purely for recruitment purposes, irrespective of what political party, if any, has organised the meeting.

Does not the Minister consider that it would be better if these National Coal Board vans stayed away from such meetings, and is he aware that not only were films shown but that the Minister's own speech was broadcast and that the Coal Board's beauty queen was alongside the Minister? May I seriously suggest that, in future, it would be far better for the National Coal Board not to broadcast the "Shinwell Ragtime Band."

If one of the means of broadcasting the need for recruiting persons to the mines is for the mobile cinema vans to avail themselves of the large and enthusiastic meetings which I address, they ought to be allowed to do so.

Could the Minister tell us how many recruits were obtained at that meeting?

No, Sir, I cannot, but what I can say is that, as a result of the activities of these vans and the recruitment campaign generally, we have recruited over 50,000 men and boys into the mining industry.

Does not my right hon. Friend think that it is rather futile to allow these vans to go to all political party meetings, because it is absolutely hopeless to get recruits to the mining industry, or any hard work, from the party opposite?

No, Sir, I cannot accept that view. What I have said denotes my extreme impartiality.

In the interest of political fairness, will the Minister see that the Conservative Party is not given undue advantage by the mass reproduction of his own speeches?

I should imagine that it members of the Conservative Party could appreciate the substance and force of my observations, it would do them a lot of good.

National Coal Board Accounts


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what is the financial result of the first six months trading of the National Coal Board.

I would remind the hon. Member that Section 31 of the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act, 1946, requires the National Coal Board to prepare an annual statement of accounts, which it will be my duty to lay before the House.

Does the Minister deny the reliable reports which are going about that, in the first six months, a loss has been made, and, further, will he use his influence with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply to see that no further nationalisation of steel takes place until these figures have been given?

The only reliable reports on the subject are those made by myself to this House.