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Volume 477: debated on Monday 17 July 1950

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asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what steps are being taken by his Department to increase the manpower in the pits that come within their control.

The National Coal Board have greatly improved the wages of the miners. They have contributed 4d. a ton to the Welfare Fund, and have approved expenditure of £9 million on the construction of pit-head baths and canteens. By the ladder plan, they have offered training and scholarships to thousands of men in the industry every year. In each coalfield, their divisional board, in close association with the Ministry of Labour, conducts a campaign to recruit men of the right kind. Housing remains a major difficulty, especially in the expanding coalfields, but the Board are working with the Ministry of Health to overcome it wherever they can.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when the developments that are now proceeding reach the point we expect them to reach there will not be sufficient manpower to man the pits which will be opened? Further, is my right hon. Friend satisfied that all the steps that can be taken are being taken to improve the manpower situation?

As I said on Thursday last, the Coal Board are not anxious about the long-term manpower position, but do need more manpower now. I think the publicity and the recruiting campaigns have been vigorously and well conducted, but if my hon. Friend has any suggestions to offer I shall be glad to have them.

Will all the improvements put forward by the Coal Board lead to cheaper coal for the consumer?

Yes, Sir. That is already happening. There was a fall in cost last year, and I hope that will continue.

What about the case of thousands of oncost workers? Wages are at present at a maximum of £5 15s. but do not seem to be doing very much to attract labour to the pits.