HC Deb 26 October 1932 vol 269 cc982-4

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he is aware that the Muir Edge and Surface Dipping Collieries, Fifeshire, having exhausted their quota, have given notice to terminate the employment of 500 miners, who will be thrown out of work until at least the end of the year, whereas the company has markets for its coal and, but for the quota, the whole of these miners might have remained at work; whether he is aware that similar conditions obtain in respect of the Wemyss Coal Company; and whether he will consider taking some action to prevent such situations arising under the quota section of the Coal Mines Act, 1930?


The Coal Mines Act, 1930, confers no powers on me to intervene in matters of this kind. Under the provisions of that Act, however, a colliery company is entitled, at any time, to apply to the district executive board for an increase in its permitted output. I am informed that since the Wemyss Coal Company, which owns the Muir Edge and Surface Dipping collieries, announced the dismissal of men, it has applied for, and been granted, additional output. Representations were made to me two weeks ago on behalf of the men concerned, and I suggested that if they considered that their dismissal was a result of the quota system they should take advantage of the machinery provided by the Act and lodge a complaint with the Scottish committee of investigation set up under Section 5. Up to the present they have not adopted this course.


Is it not the fact that in the cases referred to in this question, they have the power to make application, and that invariably such applications are sympathetically met by the board responsible?


Certainly, and, further, if they are not satisfied with the additional output permitted, they are entitled to refer the matter to independent arbitration.


Are we to take it from the answer that it was open to the companies to make application for a quota at an earlier period than they did?


The point is that the application has been made since the announcement of the dismissals. The output of the company which owns the pits in question has been greater during the first nine months of 1932 than any other corresponding period before the coming into operation of the Coal Mines Act, and it is within the competence of the colliery company to distribute this output as it may desire over its various pits.


In view of the fact that similar notices have been posted for the same reason at the West Stanley colliery, involving the dismissal of thousands of men, will the hon. Gentleman urge on the Government the vital necessity of getting rid of these restrictions on the export trade.


The point put by the hon. Member, of course, has not been brought to my notice. If he will bring it to my notice, I shall be glad to go into it.


Are we to understand that the Minister has had no complaints from the West Stanley Coal Company?


The hon. Member is not to understand that.


There is already a standing stock of coal in this country of 5,000,000 tons, and will the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether, in the event of the abolition of the quota regulations, any additional men will be put in work?


That, of course, is a subject for debate.