HC Deb 15 February 1915 vol 69 cc894-6

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he can yet indicate the decision of His Majesty's Government regarding the amendment of the Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1908, or its suspension under Section 4, so as to alter the law limiting the output of a miner to eight hours a day, seeing that he is restricted however much he may wish to work his utmost at the present crisis for his country as men in other trades do, or however much manufacturers for the Admiralty and War Office may be prevented from promptly fulfilling their contracts through want of coal to run their machinery?


I have very carefully considered this question. It will, I think, be generally agreed that it would be undesirable to suspend the Act unless the owners and men are satisfied that suspension is necessary in order to enable them to meet the national requirements. An alteration of hours would involve alterations of organisation and arrangements between owners and men, which it would be useless to embark on except with general agreement. I may point out that the difficulty caused by the shortage of labour in mines is already being to some extent met in two ways: advantage is being taken of the provision in the Act which allows one hour's overtime to be worked on sixty days in the year, and men are working more days than is the custom of the industry in normal times. I hope that the owners and the men will confer with one another with a view to taking all possible measures to meet the difficulties that have already arisen. Should suspension prove to be necessary in the national interest, the Government will, I am sure, have the support of owners and men in taking that step.


Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that many collieries are working short time, and that there is, in fact, no shortage of coal, and therefore there should be no necessity for suspending that particular Act?


I do not understand my hon. Friend to say that there is no shortage of coal anywhere. A shortage there is in some parts of the country. In some parts of the country the men are not working full time and in other parts I understand that there is an insufficient supply of coal.