HC Deb 21 July 1919 vol 118 cc916-8

(by private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether he has received information that owing to the calling out of the pumpmen in the Yorkshire coal area many mines in Yorkshire are being flooded; what the situation now is, and what steps the Government have taken to meet this grave situation?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Lloyd George)

As the House is aware a strike has been going on for some days in the Yorkshire coalfields. The question at issue is one of piece rates, on which the Mining Conference last week passed a resolution that all men should remain at work, pending a meeting on the subject between the Government and the Miners' Executive, which has been arranged to take place on Thursday.

The last twenty-four hours have witnessed, as the hon. Member (Mr. Kennedy-Jones) stated, a grave, and I think I may say an unprecedented development in this dispute. Unfortunately, the miners on strike in Yorkshire have called out the pumpmen and enginemen, and thus many of the mines in that district are at present suffering from the rise of the water, and are threatened with destruction. As far as information is at our disposal, the present situation is as follows:

At fifty-eight mines, the regular workmen on the pumps are continuing at their duty.

At eighty-five, pumping is entirely stopped.

At thirty-five, the pumping is being worked by the officials of the mines.

At twenty, where the water is necessary for public use, pumping is being continued by arrangement.

Three mines are already entirely flooded.

Twelve others are likely to be flooded within a day or two.

It is obvious that these circumstances create a very dangerous situation. Some of the Yorkshire mines would be ruined in a very few days by flooding. Others would be thrown out of operation for a long period.

The Yorkshire coalfield has an output of 35,000,000 tons a year, which is the second largest in the Kingdom, and many industries are dependent upon it.

In view of these serious consequences, the Government was compelled yesterday to send men from the Fleet to aid in pumping the mines. To-day the Minister of Labour has sent a message to the Mining Federation asking what action they are pre-pared to take to induce the regular pumpmen to resume their duty. If they return to work, the men sent up by the Government will immediately be withdrawn. Until this happens, the Government will take every means in their power to save the mines, and will afford every protection to those who are, willing to render help.

The Government has asked the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cam-bridge to proceed immediately to Yorkshire to make all necessary arrangements to co-ordinate the efforts of the community in overcoming this new and serious menace with which it is faced in the destruction of these mines.

I venture to appeal to the whole community in Yorkshire to support him in this endeavour. The action which has been taken by the miners in that district has not only jeopardised their own means of livelihood, but also threatens with disaster everyone in the district in which they live.


May we take it from the right hon. Gentleman that the statement in the Yorkshire Press this morning that the dispute is settled, is not correct? I have seen the "Leeds Mercury" this morning.


We certainly have received no information to that effect; quite the contrary, so I am informed by my right hon. Friend (Sir R. Horne).