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Coal Miners (Earnings)

Volume 892: debated on Monday 12 May 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy what were the average gross earnings per week and the number of days worked per week for coalface and surface workers in National Coal Board pits in each of the years 1970 to 1974, inclusive.

I have asked the Chairman of the National Coal Board to write to the hon. Member on this matter.

Can the Minister perhaps be a little more forthcoming and tell us whether there has been any increase in output to match the increase in earnings which, subject to confirmation, I understand has taken place? Can he tell us in particular whether there is any likelihood of the target for coal mined this year being met?

The increase in productivity has been the highest for two years. When the hon. Gentleman receives the reply in detail, he may want to put other questions arising from the information he receives.

Is my hon. Friend aware that that answer will be well received by Labour Members? Does he agree that, given the nature of the work involved and the usefulness of that work, the increase in earnings is both justified and deserved?

Many people throughout the country, apart from those associated with the mining industry, would probably agree with the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend.

When I replied to the question of the hon. Member for Bromsgrove and Redditch (Mr. Miller), I omitted to say that it looks as if the target will be met this year.

Although everyone recognises that there should be proper rewards for this high-risk industry, may I ask whether the Under-Secretary agrees that the competitive power of coal could be seriously eroded by excessive wage demands? What advice would he give to the NUM branches at this time as they prepare for the July conference on their next pay claim?

It would be unwise for me to advise the miners on what they should do and what kind of discussions they should have at their annual conference. No doubt Members on the Government side and Members on the Opposition side will continue to give them information. Part of my mission as I traverse every coalfield is to impress upon miners—and it is well taken—that increased productivity means a larger slice of the cake and will assist the country in its fight back to economic recovery, because it affects the balance of payments.