§ 25. Mr. TINKER (for Mr. LEE)
asked the Secretary for Mines whether he is aware that many of the 28,000 youths of the ages between 14 and 16 working underground at the collieries in the country are expected to work on the night shift; that youths of a similar age are not allowed by law to work on the surface at night; whether any of these youths are medically examined as to their physical fitness for working underground; and whether he is prepared to recommend that facilities be granted for placing youths working underground on the same basis as youths on the surface?
§ Commodore KING
I am aware of the facts referred to in the first two parts of the question. As regards the third part, medical examination is the practice at some collieries but it is not compulsory by law. In reply to the last part of the question, I would remind the hon. Member that in 1911 when Parliament passed the Coal Mines Act of that year it was decided that the prohibition against night work by boys on the surface should not be extended to underground work, and that this decision was confirmed by the Washington Convention of 1919 and by the Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children Act of 1920. I am not at present aware of any sufficient reason for reversing this decision.
§ Mr. TINKER
With regard to the subject raised in the latter part of the question, would the hon. and gallant Gentleman be willing to meet a deputation of miners' Members in order to get their views on this matter?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
is there not a new factor in regard to this question which has arisen through the great redundancy of adult labour; and does this not constitute a strong case for prohibiting these boys from entering the pits?