HC Deb 13 February 1929 vol 225 cc401-2
54. Captain FANSHAWE

asked the Attorney-General if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the employers at the Nine Mile Point Colliery, owned by the Ocean Coal Company, offered terms to their employés, on or about 3rd November, 1928, which were adjudged by the Umpire, decision 5,672/1928, to entail a breach of the Coal Mines Act, 1908, as amended by the Coal Mines Acts of 1919 and 1926, and that these terms were not withdrawn until 25th January, 1929; and what steps he proposes to take?

The SECRETARY for MINES (Commodore Douglas King)

I have been asked to reply. For details of the case I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour on the 6th February. As the terms of employment to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers were rejected by the men, no question of a breach of the Act arises.


Will my hon. and gallant Friend say whether his Department keeps closely in touch with the Umpire, so that if the Umpire gives any important decisions of this nature with regard to his Department immediate investigation is made to see whether, if an offer is accepted, a breach of the law actually takes place?

Commodore KING

The Umpire is in close touch with the Ministry of Labour, and I am always in touch with my right hon. Friend's Department on all questions affecting the mining industry.


May I ask that this point should be made perfectly clear? Supposing the employers make proposals to the men which are illegal, is the Department to take no interest in the industrial action that may follow those proposals?

Commodore KING

No, Sir. My duties as Secretary for Mines are laid down in the Coal Mines Act and other Acts. The duty is there laid upon the Secretary for Mines of administering the Act. If there is no breach of the Act, there is no necessity for the Secretary for Mines to interfere.


Is it not a breach of the law to attempt to coerce men to violate the provisions of the Coal Mines Regulation Act; and, if it is a breach of the Act, will the hon. and gallant Gentleman prosecute these owners?

Commodore KING

No, Sir, it is not a breach of the Act. It may be illegal in other ways—I do not know—but it certainly is not a breach of the Coal Mines Act.


Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the terms offered by the mineowners in 1926 were a breach of the Act of Parliament, and that the Government endorsed that by passing the Eight Hours Act?


Will the Government assist in giving the same publicity to breaches of the law by the coal-owners as they do in other cases?