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Scottish Coalfield (Developments)

Volume 464: debated on Monday 2 May 1949

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asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if any statement on development in the Scottish coalfield will be made in the near future.


asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will make a statement as to his policy in regard to the proposed pit closures in Lanarkshire.

The important developments that are taking place in the Scottish coalfields, involving the expansion of production in the Fife and Lothian areas to take the place of pits in Lanarkshire where the coal reserves are exhausted or which are hopelessly uneconomic have been fully described in the statement issued by the Scottish Divisional Coal Board on 28th January last. The general plans drawn up by the Board to promote these developments have been approved by my right hon. Friend.

Will my hon. Friend again consider the question of the great economic upset that this means in the life of Lanarkshire? It is not correct to state that the coal reserves in Lanarkshire are entirely exhausted, since there are over 600 million tons of coal in Lanarkshire. The more closures that take place, the greater the menace becomes to the workers. Will the Minister therefore consider the question of discussing this matter with the local authorities of Lanarkshire and the National Union of Mineworkers?

We realise the implications of this on the social life of the people. As I had said, my right hon. Friend did approve the general plan of the Coal Board, but I ought to emphasise that the timing of the particular closures, and the other matters of detail, are for decision of the National Coal Board after they have consulted the workers, their union and other interests affected. We are of opinion that these matters have been fully discussed, but there is nothing to prevent any interested party from having a discussion with the Coal Board as to the timing of this change-over.

Will the Minister bear in mind that miners' families do not exist by coa1 alone and that the local authorities who will be the receiving agents for those displaced, require to have other industries installed in their areas in order to employ the other members of the miners' families.

I can appreciate the anxiety of my hon. Friends in this matter, but I think it is fair to say that under private enterprise these pits would have been closed without reference at all to anybody and without any of the consideration we are now showing.

Will the Minister say if the representatives of the workers, that is, the trade union officials, approved the closures, and, if they did, why opposition is now being expressed?

As I see it, when the statement was first made there was general approval by the National Union of Mineworkers, and they consulted with the Scottish Board in order to provide an arranged programme of timing this matter, and also to bring it to the notice of the people concerned. I should imagine that hon. Members are anxious about this matter because obviously there is bound to be some social unrest by reason of this very great change-over.

May I again ask the Minister whether he is aware of the position in Lanarkshire at the moment? Is he aware that officials of the National Union of Mineworkers have prevented a huge strike, and that the Coal Board have entirely ignored them and only last week went back on a previous decision which they had taken with the union?

I cannot accept that the Coal Board have done that. They have not gone back on any decision. The fact does remain that whereas the average output is 15 cwt. per manshift in Lanarkshire, there are pits in the other counties capable of producing 30 cwt. per man-shift, and that is the most economical use of manpower in Scotland.

I beg to give notice that I shall endeavour to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.