HC Deb 24 October 1935 vol 305 cc295-7
66. Mr. McKEAG

asked the Secretary for Mines whether in the event of the mineowners refusing voluntarily to meet the representatives of the Miners' Federation, any machinery exists which could be utilised for compelling the owners to meet the men's representatives; and, if so, whether it is proposed to invoke such machinery?

69. Mrs. WARD

asked the Secretary for Mines the present position in the coal industry with regard to the mine-workers' demand for an increase in wages; and what steps the Government are taking to bring the two sides together?


asked the Secretary for Mines what action he proposes to take to assist the initiation of wage negotiations in the coal-mining industry?


asked the Secretary for Mines in view of the threatened stoppage in the coal industry, whether he will, having regard to the disastrous effect this would have on the industrial life of the nation, call the representatives of both sides to discuss the issues involved?


As I have already stated in this House, the Government would welcome the establishment of some form of machinery for the discussion of wage issues on a national basis, and both I and my predecessors in office have done all we could to this end. It is obvious, however, that to be effective, such machinery must command the confidence and support of both sides in the industry. The coalowners have consistently maintained an attitude of resolute opposition to any form of national machinery for this purpose; and hon. Members will, no doubt, have seen in to-day's newspapers the letter which the Secretary of the Mining Association addressed yesterday to the Mineworkers' Federation, in which the Association's position is fully explained. In view of the coalowners' attitude, I can at present see no way of bringing the two sides together. During the last few days, I have had meetings with the representatives of both owners and miners, and I have found on both sides the most sincere desire to avoid the disaster of industrial conflict. I am still in touch with them, and in these circumstances I am unable at present to say anything further.


In view of the importance of the subject, could not the hon. and gallant Gentleman indicate to the House what course of action he proposes to take to bring about a meeting between these two national bodies? His reply seems to indicate that he is considering the matter, but I suggest that at this moment it would be better to know from the Secretary for Mines what action he proposes to take to get a meeting.


If the coal owners maintain their resolute attitude not to meet the Miners' Federation representatives, will the hon. and gallant Gentleman intimate just what steps the Government are likely to take to avoid an industrial stoppage?


I submit to the hon. Gentleman that when I am in the course of discussions with both parties as at present, I do not think it is really wise for him to press me at Question Time.


Is the Minister aware that there has been an Act upon the Statute Book for nearly five years? The miners have been very patient in the face of very low wages, and are they not entitled to some lead from the Government as to what steps they are going to take in order to implement the law?


Has my hon. and gallant friend had reports from the districts, because there is machinery by which they can meet together by districts?


I assume that it is common knowledge that there is district machinery for the district settlement of wages, but, of course, that is not in question at the moment.


May we not ask the Prime Minister whether he is prepared to stand by and allow this dispute to drift into a national stoppage?


Will any miners who wish to continue working pending these negotiations be protected?


In view of the fact that the owners indicated yesterday that they are not going to do this, and that the whole thing has reached an end, what are the Government going to do? Are they going to allow it to drift?


May we ask the Prime Minister whether, now that the mineowners maintain their resolute attitude not to meet the Miners' Federation, it means in effect that the miners can hope for nothing? Is the Prime Minister willing to apply economic sanctions to the mineowners to prevent industrial war?


The hon. Gentleman has had as much experience in these matters as I have, and I am convinced that nothing I can say at this

Accidents at Hilton Main Colliery.
Period. Number of Deaths. Non-fatal Accidents.
Number of Persons seriously injured. No. of Persons disabled for more than three days.
1932 5 223
1933 2 8 209
1934 1 10 252
1935 (to date) 2 5 Not available.

The number of persons killed and injured per 100,000 manshifts worked was 59 in 1932 and 1934 and 58 in 1933.

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