HC Deb 23 March 1927 vol 204 cc375-7
35. Lieut.-Colonel Sir FREDERICK HALL

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that the Tilmanstone, Kent, Collieries Company have given 14 days' notice to their 900 enployés to terminate their engagement owing to the difficulty the company experience in transporting coal from the pit-head to Dover on reasonable terms; and whether his Department propose to take any steps to try to prevent this stoppage?

The SECRETARY for MINES (Colonel Lane Fox)

I have been asked to answer this question. I am aware of the circumstances referred to. The company, I understand, are convinced that they cannot make the colliery pay its way, unless they can reduce expenses of transport by means of an aerial ropeway to Dover Harbour. An application for the necessary rights was made to my Department under the Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act, 1923, and was duly referred to the Railway and Canal Commission Court for decision. The Court, however, have refused the application. and though, I understand, they intimated that they would be prepared to consider the matter again if it were brought before them in a different way, my Department have no power to initiate any action.


Is it not a great pity that 900 men should be thrown out of work because the Railway and Canal Commissioners decline to allow the construction of this ropeway? Does not the hon. and gallant Member think a ropeway would materially reduce the costs; and may I ask whether he will not do anything to assist in this matter?


The hon. and gallant Member must not criticise the decisions of the Railway and Canal Commissioners.


Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the screens of this mine are over a railway, and will nothing be done to get reduced rates from the railway?

Colonel LANE FOX

As the hon. Member knows, negotiation has been going on of that point, and I hope very much that we have not heard the last of it. Anyone who reads the judgment will realise that it is possible that further action will be taken


On a point of Order. May I say that the last thing I wanted to do was to criticise a ruling of the Railway and Canal Commissioners, but I was desirous that, if possible, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman should do something to mitigate this evil, so that these men should not be thrown out of employment?


Could the right hon. and gallant Gentleman tell the House the main reason. for refusing this application?

Colonel LANE FOX

I think the hon. Member had better read the judgment. It is a very long judgment, and many reasons are given, and I do not think it would be wise for me. to single out one. I can assure the hon. and gallant Member for Dulwich (Sir F. Hall) that anything we can do to help in this matter we sha. I do, but I have no power.


Seeing that the Secretary for Mines says he has no power to hold an inquiry into the stoppage of this pit, I want to ask whether the Minister of Labour has any power to hold an inquiry?


I am not certain that any dispute has arisen that would cause me to consider having a Court of Inquiry. Certainly there is as yet no case where I could exercise that discretion.


Does the Minister of Labour consider that there is no dispute when 900 men are given notice? Would not that be a dispute?


I think the hon. Member is imagining a dispute in this case.


Is not the real cause of the possible termination of these workmen's contracts the cost of royalties and wayleaves which are charged at present and which the owners cannot pay?

Colonel LANE FOX

No, Sir. That reason has not been given by any responsible person, as far as I have heard.