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Coal Board Employees (Territorial Army)

Volume 440: debated on Thursday 24 July 1947

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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?