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Poles (Coal Mining)

Volume 440: debated on Thursday 24 July 1947

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asked the Minister of Labour in how many cases has objection been raised to the employment of Poles in the coalmines; how many days work by these Poles has been lost as the result of these objections; and whether any Poles are at present being prevented from working in the pits as a result of such objections.

Up to the end of June objections had been raised to the employment of Poles by 301 branches of the National Union of Mineworkers. Up to 18th July it is estimated that 8,738 days work had been lost. Six hundred and sixty-eight Poles were then awaiting placing The National Coal Board officers with area officials of the National Union of Mineworkers are jointly working to remove local misunderstandings in this matter, and I am informed that the position is improving.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider giving full publicity to individual cases, so that the healthy effect of public opinion may be brought to bear on those who interfere with the employment of these aliens?

This is a matter of considerable delicacy. I agree there must be a complete understanding of all the facts and of the need for these men to come into the industry to help us to produce the coal, but I think I must leave the negotiations to the representatives of the, Coal Board and of the National Union of Mineworkers, and I should not be doing my duty unless I acknowledged the very great help we are having from Mr. James Bowman, the Vice-President of the Mineworkers' Federation. who is helping us very considerably.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the meantime, in this delay, every week there is a further short fall of the target which the Economic Survey said was the minimum amount required to see us through?

Can the Minister assure the House that he will tolerate no obstruction in this matter of any kind?

We are bringing this matter to a head—[HON. MEMBERS "Oh!"] This is a matter which is being discussed by the Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers. We are bringing all the pressure we can to get the largest possible number of Pole into the industry at the earliest moment.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say on what grounds these objections are against the Poles?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is the seventh Question from this side of the House on this matter, and that this is the first time he has in any way admitted that there were any efforts whatever on the part of the miners' union to screen or obstruct the Poles entering the industry?

There is no screening at all. This is an objection to Poles of any kind coming into particular pits by the men engaged in those pits. There are reasons, but they are not political at all.

There are questions of the physical capacity of men still unemployed, the question of the re-establishment of nystagmus men—all these things are involved, and I would not put this down to political pressure.