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Volume 478: debated on Wednesday 25 October 1950

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asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what action he is taking to stop the fall in manpower in the mines disclosed in the recent figures issued by his Department; and to what extent it is estimated that this fall has already affected output.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service and the National Coal Board are together primarily responsible for recruiting manpower for the mines.The National Coal Board have greatly improved the wages of the miners. They have contributed 4d. a ton to the Miners' Welfare Fund, and have approved the expenditure of £9 million for pithead baths and canteens. By the Ladder Plan, they have offered training and scholarships to 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. Young men are exempt from military service for so long as they remain in the mines. Special efforts are being made to check the wastage of manpower which has occurred in recent months.Housing remains a difficulty, especially in the expanding coalfields, but I am working with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health to overcome it wherever possible.With regard to the second part of the Question, the estimate given in the Economic Survey for 1950 was that, allowing for the declining trend in manpower, the output of deep-minded coal would range from 205 to 210 million tons. It now seems likely that the output for the year will be nearer the lower than the higher of the two figures mentioned in the Survey. This is in part due to the fall in manpower. But it is impossible to assess the effect of one of the many factors which influence the level of output.