HC Deb 23 February 1933 vol 274 cc1906-7

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he is aware that, arising out of a stoppage at the Bedwas Colliery, Monmouthshire, in 1930 to 1931, an official of his Department negotiated a settlement under which work was to be resumed and the men formerly employed by the company were to be reinstated and no fresh employés taken on in the meantime; that from time to time difficulties have arisen owing to the action of the company in not adhering to the agreement; that latterly the company have refused to observe the agreement, with the result that another stoppage has occurred and the company have refused to meet the workmen's representatives; that the company state that they were advised by the Department that they could keep the agreement by reinstating the men and then giving them 14 days' notice; whether this advice was given; and whether he will instruct a representative of the Department to endeavour to secure a settlement of the dispute and observance of the agreement in question?


The answer to the first part of the question is "Yes." With regard to the second and third parts, I am aware that successive difficulties of interpretation have arisen, and that another stoppage has now occurred, the alleged reason being as stated in the question. No such advice as is suggested in the fourth part of the question has been given by the Mines Department; and as regards the last part, I would remand the hon. Member that the Department has no power to intervene in disputes of this kind, and only does so upon invitation by both sides. No such invitation has been received from either side in connection with the present stoppage.


Seeing that the hon. Gentleman's Department has been in these negotiations and helped to effect a settlement, is it not up to him to see that the agreements 'are carried out; and, secondly, since he denies that his Department advised this colliery company how they could carry out the agreement and still get rid of men, is not the honour of his Department at stake until that state-men is withdrawn; is he aware that the Department made this definite statement before the executive of the South Wales Miners' Federation and the coalowners; and will he inquire into this matter with a view to having the statement withdrawn?


I cannot be expected to assume that every statement made in a public newspaper or elsewhere is to be taken seriously. As my hon. Friend knows, disputes have been going on in this particular mine from as long ago as November, 1930, and my Department has made continuous efforts at conciliation. This is not a matter that I can debate across the Floor of the House by question and answer, but, if my hon. Friend has any points with regard to the present dispute to bring to my notice, I shall be happy to see him about them.


As the hon. Gentleman says his Department was a party to the settlement, is it not up to him to see that it is carried out?


If there is any lack of carrying out the agreement it is surely the duty of those who think it is not being carried out to call the attention of the Department to it. As I said in my answer, at the moment we have received no representation from either side.


Will the hon. Gentleman send his conciliation officer down to see whether a settlement of this dispute cannot be arrived at, seeing that it is being waged around an agreement that he himself effected?


I should be willing to use any efforts of mine or of my Department in this direction, but the hon. Member will understand that it is not always easy to go down unless there is some desire and some basis for that desire.


Try it.