HC Deb 07 May 1896 vol 40 cc734-6
MR. DAVID THOMAS (Merthyr Tydvil)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware that, owing to the protracted depression in the coal trade, a number of collieries in the Aberdare and Rhondda Valleys have been closed; that, in consequence, several thousand workmen have been thrown out of employment; and that, during the past five years, the wages of over 100,000 workmen engaged in colliery work in Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire have been reduced by nearly 50 per cent. on the standard rates; and whether, in view of the suffering and distress that prevail among the workmen in this great national industry, the Government is prepared to take immediate steps to relieve it, similar to those proposed to be taken to assist the owners of agricultural land?


I am aware that certain collieries have been closed in the Aberdare and Rhondda Valleys because they cannot be worked with profit, and also that a great reduction of wages has taken place during the past five years. The hon. Member, however, will remember that, though the rates of wages have fallen from 57 per cent. above standard in 1891 to about 11 per cent. above standard at the present time, there was a corresponding rise in the five years previous to 1891, and that the present rates are higher than the rates in 1886. I find also that the number of persons employed in coal mines in Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire has increased from year to year, and was greater in 1895 than in any previous year.

MR. C. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)

I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board, whether he is aware that great poverty and distress exist in the county of Northumberland in consequence of the continued depression in the coal trade, notwithstanding the fact that the miners' wages have been twice reduced during the last six months; and, whether, in view of these facts, the Government will take steps to remedy such distress by means of a subvention or otherwise?


I was not aware of the distress referred to in the Question until the hon. Member was good enough to send me a newspaper extract in support of his statement. In the extract I find it stated that the collieries in the county of Northumberland are on the whole well employed. I assume that the Question has reference to the villages of Bebside and Choppington, where, it is stated, there has been much distress in consequence of the number of days that two collieries have been idle. I am glad, however, to find from the same source that assistance has been given by the Northumberland Miners' Association—["hear, hear!"]—and also in money and food by persons in the neighbouring districts. While I greatly regret that there should have been distress in these two villages, it is not in my power to take the course suggested by the hon. Member, [Opposition laughter.]