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Batu Arang (Dismissed Coalminers)

Volume 526: debated on Wednesday 7 April 1954

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53.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware that the township of Batu Arang, Malaya, depends entirely upon one coal pit; that 800 men from this pit have been dismissed since October; that 300 more have now been given notice, and that this township is likely to become a depressed area; and what steps are being taken to find alternative employment for these men and to supply them with unemployment pay while they are without work.

I am aware that Batu Arang depends mainly on one coal pit, but some inhabitants also earn money by growing vegetables for sale. My information is that only 450 men have been paid off since October, and that most of these have found other work. The company is now paying off 300 more men in batches, and efforts to find work for them are being made, through the employment exchange and by other means. Some are reluctant to take work elsewhere and are expanding their market gardening; and the company is at present allowing them to remain in occupation of their quarters and land. There is no unemployment insurance scheme, but there is a public assistance scheme. The question of giving relief work, should this become necessary, is under consideration.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is the only colliery in Malaya, that its two chief customers are now turning to means of obtaining power other than coal, and that the result will be that this colliery area will become distressed unless something is done to help? Will he keep his eye on this matter to see that these men do not fall into distressed conditions and that assistance is given to them if they should become unemployed?

If the hon. Member will consider my answer he will see that we have the matter in hand and are quite prepared to give relief if it should be necessary.