HC Deb 16 December 1936 vol 318 cc2465-519

3.47 p.m.


I beg to move, That this House, in view of the advance that is taking place in housing, in health, and in hygiene, is of opinion that pit-head baths have become an urgent necessity for all mining communities and, recognising the limited resources of the Miners' Welfare Committee and its inability under present conditions to cope with the demands being made upon it, expresses the opinion that the Department of Mines should immediately institute an inquiry on the best method of amplifying the finances at the disposal of the Committee and thereby ensure that pit-head baths will be established as a recognised part of the equipment of the mines of this country. I suppose there is no Member of this House who has not, at some time, come into contact with mining problems or taken part in mining discussions of one kind or another. I think I can also say that there is not a Member here who has not at one time or other expressed his high regard for the miners and his concern about the hard and arduous character of their occupation and the inadequate wages paid to them. While we may not get agreement on many of the issues which arise in relation to the mining industry, I think, despite the Amendment to my Motion which appears on the Order Paper, we should be able to secure unanimity on the question of pit baths being a recognised part of the equipment of all up-to-date collieries. I have here the report of an investigation made into this question in 1920 by Mr. Edgar L. Chappell and the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Lovat-Fraser), and I am interested in the fact that there is a foreword to this report by the late Robert Smillie, an old Member of this House and a well-known leader of the miners. In this foreword he says: The authors of this hook have approached the subject in exactly the same manner as they approached the question of the housing of the working classes. With them, it is the all-important question of hygiene, elimination of drudgery, morality, appreciation of life, beauty which really matters. If we consider the changes which have taken place in mining communities we can see the growing urgency of this question. In many mining villages a transformation is taking place. The very worst of the houses of the old type are disappearing. Not all the old houses and not all the old villages have yet gone, but, as I say, the worst of the old type are going, and in most cases local authorities are striving to put schemes of one kind and another into operation in order to change the character of the homes provided for the miners and the character of the mining villages. Many striking contrasts can be seen in the mining villages, if one visits them. You see in some the old rows and the old houses, and in other parts of the same village you see the beginnings of what might be called a model or garden village, but if you go into the old homes, as many of us have gone on many occasions, you will be struck by the labour put out by the housewife in order to keep the home clean and bright.

From early morning, when the men go out to the pit, the housewife will be working hard, cleaning, scrubbing, and polishing, and it is remarkable, in view of the handicap in some of these miners' rows in the oldest type of houses, to see the striking character of the cleanliness that is evident in them if you pay a visit in the daytime. I have often heard City people who have visited mining villages pass the most appreciative remarks about the domestic character of the womenfolk there. But after they have laboured all the forenoon to get the house clean and tidy, in the afternoon, coming off the four o'clock shift, there may be a husband, or a son, or two or three sons, and they come into the house carrying with them their wet, sodden clothing, thick with coal dust and all kinds of damp. There is one large apartment, and in some cases a bedroom adjoining, but the main apartment is the living room, and in this room the clothes have to be taken off and hung up to dry, with all the coal dust and gases affecting the conditions of cleanliness in the home. No one who has not had experience can realise the enormous labour this means to the women in miners' homes, but they have got to undertake it day after day.

I am sure hon. Members on all sides of the House will understand the eagerness with which a miner's family or any working family goes from an old type of house into a new type of house, with the modern advantages which it possesses. Those advantages arc not many, but nevertheless there are certain modern advantages, and if you take the new house that is becoming a feature of our mining areas and industrial districts, you will see that when a miner's family gets into one of them, if there was energy directed towards cleanliness and brightness in the old house, it is even more apparent in the new house. I have often heard it said that cleanliness is beautiful. If that be so, then you get real beauty in some of these miners' homes and particularly in some of the new homes. I tell you, they literally shine with the labour that is put out to get them into that condition, and are we going to say that we will get the local authorities to provide opportunities for new, and clean, and healthy homes, and then force the miners to come from the pits and carry all this refuse with them into these homes? Surely there is no hon. Member in any part of the House who would be prepared to tolerate that for a moment longer than was absolutely necessary.

I have heard it said, or I have read in the Press, that the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) is a bricklayer and has quite an opinion of himself as a bricklayer.


He does not do much now.


I have no doubt that when the sun is shining and the air is clear, and all the omens are favourable, he will be an exceptionally good bricklayer, but when the dark clouds obscure the sun and the omens are towards stormy weather, I am afraid his bricklaying will not call for very much praise. I have heard the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) called "Farmer George." You cannot imagine the bricklayer I have mentioned or "Farmer George" going in at the front door of his own house and through the hallway into the drawing room, carrying all the plaster and marks of toil with him. If either of them did, I am sure there would be a domestic crisis that would send him scurrying for cover. If we consider the argument as applied to such cases as I have referred to, surely we can see to it that in more essential cases care is taken to provide that the refuse from the pit shall not be carried into the homes of the miners.

I make an appeal to hon. Members on behalf of the wives and the mothers. They deserve our consideration. We should always be prepared to appreciate their qualities, and we should see that whatever we can do we shall do to make their toil easier and to guarantee that the work which they do to brighten up the home is appreciated, not only in the mining areas, but here also. Therefore, I make my first appeal on behalf of the wives and the mothers. For their sakes, I ask for the immediate installation of pit baths at every working pit in the country. But we do not only have the mothers to consider; we have also the children to consider. The children in mining areas, like children in all working-class districts, are subject to all the dangers that arise from inclement weather and are subject to the fact that they have to go out very often without a sufficiency of good clothing on their bodies or of good food within their bodies. We are taking up now, through the various Departments, ways and means to try to cope with infantile mortality and with diseases and troubles among the children. The Ministry of Health is responsible for clinics of one kind and another, and we are supplying milk in our schools, which is something for which the present Secretary of State for Scotland exhibited very great zeal when he was Minister of Agriculture.

We are trying in many ways to make things safer and better for the children, but we are not doing enough. We have only made a start, and we have very much farther to go, but here, right before us, there is a danger facing the children that we can immediately remove. I have been affected, as all Members of this House and people throughout the country have been affected, by the stories that have been told about the "quins" and the care that has been taken of them. Those five children are growing up bright, bonny and healthy. But there may be five children in a miner's home, though not all born on one day. They deserve every bit as much care as any other children, whether the "quins" or children in any other home. Here is a danger being taken right into their midst. You may have a child a few months old, or it may be a year or two years old, and that child may be affected by one of the epidemics that go round about in a mining home, such as influenza, measles, or some other trouble that is common to children. The father is forced by the exigencies of the situation to go into his home carrying with him this coaldust and dirt. The damp, sodden clothes have to be hung up to dry. In the report of this investigation we read: The clothes are often soaking and covered with mud and coaldust. They soil everything they touch. The wet and dirty garments must be dried and sometimes mended, and the big fires which have been prepared for boiling the water have to be maintained or renewed. One of the Scottish miners' leaders, in his evidence before the Royal Commission on Housing in Scotland, said: From my own experience as a miner, I have known my wife to rise as often as six or seven times in the night time and turn my clothes when I was working in a wet place, and we had to inhale the steam rising from these clothes all night. Upon this the Commissioners commented: When it is remembered that the steam given off by the wet clothes may include injurious mineral fumes, it will be seen that the risk to the health of the children is very great when the kitchen (which is also the chief sleeping apartment) is used for this purpose by day and night. The Commission stated: The risk to the health of the children is very great. We should take whatever steps are necessary to free the children from this danger, right from this moment. No time should be lost in saving them from the menace.


I have read very carefully the terms of the Motion, and I would like to know from the hon. Member whether he wants first the inquiry referred to in the second part of the Motion, or the pit-head baths before the inquiry.


I want the pithead baths at the earliest possible moment and I want the Mines Department to inquire how the fund of the welfare committee can be amplified in order to provide baths at the earliest possible moment. Presently I shall suggest how the money can be supplied. The inquiry could be immediately set on foot and the money immediately raised, and the installations could be immediately proceeded with. When I use the term "immediately" it is understood that I am speaking in a relative manner.


Which does the hon. Member want first, the inquiry as to whether there is need for amplification of the funds of the Welfare Committee, or the pit head baths?


I will make it clear even to the hon. and learned Member, although that may be a difficulty. There are not only the mothers and the children to be considered, but there are the miners. The miners have to work in wet places. They come up from the pits soaking. Then with their soaked clothes on they have to travel for a mile or two miles or three miles in order to get home. It is an almost intolerable position in which to place any man. I am certain that any hon. Member here if he had to go through the experience just once, would have no hesitation whatever in working for a change. Let us see what the investigation found in regard to this matter. They described the miner going to work on a winter morning. He has a dreary walk, sometimes through lanes and along field paths which are nothing better than a series of pools of water and soft slush. By the time he reaches his destination, in bad weather his garments are often sodden with rain and mud. "Very rarely is any provision made for drying the clothing," they say. And then they state: At length his day's toil is over. He leaves his working place, travels again along the main roads to the pit bottom and is conveyed to the surface. The sudden transition from a temperature of 65 or 70 degrees Fahrenheit to an outside temperature possibly below zero makes him shiver, and the warm damp glow of his body gives way to an unpleasant sensation of clamminess. Having recovered his top garments, he starts on his homeward journey, repeating in reversed order the same stages as he passed through in the morning. As his body is exhausted with his day's toil, however, he is now less fit to face the inclemency of the cold and wet weather, and the discomfort and roughness of the journey than he was eight or nine hours earlier. The hardships and severity of these journeys in winter may be gathered from the fact that the caps of the miners sometimes become frozen to the hair of their heads while the water-sodden legs of their trousers are covered with icicles. Can hon. Members visualise men walking home in that condition or the danger to the health of children that is threatened by men having to undergo such an experience? When I hear expressions of sympathy for the miners, I ask are they to be forced a day longer than is necessary to endure such experiences? Here is a letter I received from the Secretary of the Dundonald branch of the Fife, Clackmannan and Kinross Miners' Union: On behalf of the workers employed at Lady Helen Colliery, Dundonald, Cardin-den, Fife, I have to inform you of the very urgent need for baths at this colliery. At the present time there are 360 workers employed at this pit, 50 per cent, of whom travel a distance of from three to four miles to and from their work every day. Almost 60 per cent. of these workers are working under very wet conditions. That is what is going on all over the country. In winter weather it is all right if you are well wrapped up in comfortable clothing, if you have a comfortable club or home where you can rest and get recreation, but think of the middle of the night or the early morning, when miners come off a shift and have to trudge mile after mile in freezing weather and have these heavy, dirty and sodden clothes on their backs. On behalf of the miners who have to endure these conditions, I demand that we take the most urgent steps to get baths at every pit-head.

I want now to say a word or two about the position that exists and to present the problem. The Welfare Fund was instituted by the Mining Industry Act of 1920, which imposed a levy of a 1d. a ton on the coal industry. Later the levy was reduced from a 1d. to a ½d. Without going into any detail I can state that in 1935 the output levy of a ½d. a ton produced £483,353, the royalty levy of a 1s. in the pound produced £176,000, and the interest on money lying unused in the Welfare Committee's Fund was £77,235, making a total of £736,588. It was competent for the committee to allocate money for and to instal pit-head baths, but from 1920 to 1926 only £121,463 had been allocated for baths out of a total of £4,500,000. The 1926 Act imposed upon the Central Committee the specific duty of securing as far as reasonably practicable the provisions of pit-head baths at all coal mines and required that the proceeds of the royalty levy should be used for that purpose. The 1934 Act laid it down that a sum would be added to the fund that came from the 1s. on the royalties, providing a total of £375,000 annually for the purpose of installing baths. That is the fund that the Welfare Committee now has to work for baths. This sum of £375,000 is allocated to the districts in proportion to the amount that comes in from those districts to the general fund.

I do not want to go into details as to the installations that have been carried out throughout the country. I want to get at the problem that confronts us, and the best way to do that is to take my own particular area, West Fife. Other speakers can bring out the particular features affecting their areas. According to the particulars I have been able to get pit-head baths have been installed in the following pits in Fife: Lockhead, with accommodation for 802; Blairhall, 704; Devan, 616; Dysart, 864; Lumphinnans, 608; Aitken, 912; Minto, 840. Installations under construction are: Michael pit, 2,552; Bowhill, 1,512; and Blairhall extension, 352. Installations in preparation are at Wellesley pit, 1,800; and Brora, 24. Here is the difficulty: There have been applications received by the central Welfare Committee from the Lindsay pit, which employs 608 men; from the Valleyfield pit, 573 men; Kinglassie, 528 men; Glencraig, 1,260; men; Lochore, 812 men; Fordell, 319 men; Cowdenbeath, 286 men; and Tillicoultry, 69 men. Applications for baths have been received from these pits. The Lindsay pit put in its application on 1st March, 1930, more than six years ago. The Valleyfield pit put in its application on 2nd February, 1931; Kinglassie, on 7th December, 1933; Glencraig, 26th September, 1934; Lochore, 28th August, 1935; and so on.

What has the Welfare Committee done? It tells us that as things stand now, with these installations under construction and the installations in preparation in Fife, Fife is absorbing this year very much more than its share of the fund. Each district gets a share in relation to the amount that it is supplying to the general fund. So the Welfare Committee says that the work that is now being carried on is all that can possibly be done in Fife until 1938, and that another installation will be made in 1938. It is too early to say at which pit the installation may be made. Some of the pits that I have enumerated have been waiting for six years, and all of them are undergoing the unnecessary hardships to which I have referred, affecting not only the miners, but the health of their wives and children. All these pits have voted upon the question, and by a practically unanimous decision have decided for pit-head baths, but they are told that another installation will not be made until 1938, but that it is too early to say which pit will be chosen. It will be 10 years before this series of applications is overcome. Are we going to condemn the miners in these pits to endure these hardships for another 10 years? The miners have urged this question upon me. Many hon. Members have expressed surprise that I should raise such a question when I had an opportunity such as this; they seemed to think that I would make a start with smashing the Constitution.


My difficulty is to know why the hon. Member wants an inquiry when one has already been held. Will he tell us what information that we have not got he expects to get from another inquiry?


I will tell the hon. Member. We are interested in the lives of the miners and the welfare of their womenfolk and children. I would not be a revolutionary if I did not concern myself with them. The miners in my constituency are demanding that something should be done. They are not satisfied with the inquiry of 1934. It is not going to give them the baths they want for another 10 years. I have here a copy of a letter from Newmills written to Mr. Stedman, Secretary of the Miners' Welfare Committee, in which the writer says: I have been requested by the workmen employed at Valleyfield Colliery, belonging to the Fife Coal Company, to write you and ask when baths are likely to be erected at that colliery. I was also asked to state that some of the sections in this colliery are very wet, and others are very dusty, and the men are of the opinion that these conditions warrant baths to be erected as soon as possible. The answer is that they will be erected in 10 years time if we are satisfied with the inquiry of 1934. I have another letter from Glencraig, which says: I am instructed by the members of Glencraig branch of the above union to draw your attention to state of affairs at colliery re pit baths. We took plebiscite in March, 1934; result of same; for 993, against 4. Instructed Minister of Mines about same through Mr. Adamson, late secretary of above union. We were then notified that there was no claim from the Wilson and Clyde Coal Company till October, 1934, which delayed our application. You might try and press for our advantage on behalf of above members. They will not get pit baths for 10 years unless we have an immediate inquiry. The Welfare Fund has an annual income of £375,000 which the committee does its best to spend in the most effective way in the construction of baths. I have no fault to find with the committee. I believe that it is working as energetically as possible within the limit of its means, but a peculiar situation arises in connection with it. The committee originally had the whole of the funds, and four-fifths went out to the districts and one-fifth was retained for general purposes in connection with welfare. Then £375,000 was taken away from the General Fund for baths. This means that the General Fund for welfare has become much less, and as they send four-fifths of the fund to the districts, they are left with much less than they hitherto had for general welfare. All the time the administrative expenses are increasing and the staff is increasing. This situation brings all kinds of criticism against the committee which the committee does not deserve.

We want to take the control of the installation of baths out of the hands of the committee and place it in charge of the Mines Department. We want the Department to utilise the £375,000 by capitalising it at once instead of utilising it each year for 10 years. I want the Mines Department to take up this matter now. When the railway companies wanted to reconstruct their railways they asked for a loan and cheap money, and the Government backed a loan of £27,000,000. Why cannot the Minister of Mines go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and ask for an interest free loan to the amount of 10 years' income of this fund? That would mean a loan of £3,750,000. The inquiry that would have to take place in connection with it could be very short and the work could be got on with quickly. The income of £375,000 for the fund could be used each year to repay the loan. No one would lose on the loan and it would result in one of the biggest and best national work schemes that could be put into operation.

I ask the Minister of Mines to make an inquiry with which the Ministers of Labour and Health are associated. The urgent need exists, and it is a crime against the miners if we delay a moment longer than is necessary. Unemployed men are all over the country ready to go on the job. Is the Minister of Mines prepared to consider capitalising that income so that unemployed men can be given work? The Minister of Labour would approve of that. Will he do it so that the women can be saved from unnecessary drudgery, so that the homes may be bright and clean, and so that the children may be saved from the risk of disease? The Minister of Health would approve of that. I ask the Secretary for Mines to take this up, so that some of the sympathy which is often expressed for miners may be shown in a practical way. Do not let us delay. If ever there were a works' scheme that would give a large measure of satisfaction, this is one. I am asking that a great and useful community shall be considered, and that anything that we can do will be done to wipe out this blot, not on the miners, but on those of us who have the opportunity and the responsibility for making a reform which none of us should hesitate to put our hands to. I commend the Motion to the House.

4.27 p.m.


I beg to second the Motion.

I do not intend to cover much of the ground which the Mover has covered. He began his speech by drawing attention to the condition in which the miner is when he leaves his work, and the need for enabling him to go to and from his work in a much more comfortable condition than he does at the present time where no baths are provided. We have to realise that this question is not in the position in which it was some years ago. Something has been done, but we on this side of the House complain is that enough has not been done, and is not being done. The battle of the baths has been fought and won. Nobody is prepared to deny nowadays that baths are a necessity and ought to be part of the colliery equipment. When I recollect the beginning of this agitation, my mind carries me much further back than the legislation that has been passed. I remember the time when there were few advocates of baths at the pit-head outside an organisation called the Women's Labour League, and I want to pay my tribute to the work that was done by that body to popularise the need for baths at the pit-head long before the question reached this House. The agitation was carried on outside by the workers, and it was carried on mainly in the interests of the women. There is one name in particular that comes to mind when we are discussing this matter, that of Katherine Bruce Glasier, who did an extraordinary work in stirring the women to an agitation for pit baths. Only after the agitation had been carried on outside for many years did it reach the Floor of this House.

It was first dealt with here in 1911, when we passed a Coal Mines Act, in Section 77 of which there was the first legislative enactment for the provision of pit-head baths. That legislation made it obligatory upon colliery owners to provide baths. There was to be a ballot of the men, and if two-thirds of those taking part in the ballot were in favour of baths, it was the duty of the colliery owners to provide them. There were certain restrictions. If a colliery employed fewer than 100 men baths need not be provided. If the cost of maintenance was more than 3d. per week per man, then, again, baths need not be provided. It is not surprising that little was done until the next Measure came before this House in 1920. In the interval we had passed through the War, but there was another thing besides the War which kept back the installation of baths, and that was a very considerable body of opposition from the miners themselves. Let us be perfectly frank about it, and I speak as a miner. The miners themselves were very hostile to the idea of baths at the pit-head. I can remember occasions when Bob Smillie, a man to whom my hon. Friend referred earlier, has spoken at miners' meetings which were enthusiastic about all the other subjects, but when Bob Smillie, who was keen on pit-head baths, referred to the need for the miner leaving the dirt at the pithead before he went home, there were no cheers; very often jeers instead.

But 1920 changed the situation to a very considerable extent. The legislation passed in that year created the Mines Department, set up the welfare scheme, and made provision for the welfare levy and other matters in connection with miners' welfare apart from baths. It is interesting to follow the legislation which has been passed by this House dealing with this matter, which shows the progress which has been made and explains to a considerable extent the reason for the Motion before us. As I say, the Mining Industry Act, 1920, set up the Mines Department and gave us the Welfare Fund. Section 20 of that Act is a very interesting one, because it explains the scope of the Welfare Committee's activities. It states: There shall be constituted a fund to be applied for such purposes connected with the social well-being, recreation, and conditions of living of workers in or about coal mines and with mining education and research. It gave extensive powers to the Welfare Committee, and I am pleased to say that the committee, with the limitations which were placed upon it, has done excellent work since it has been in existence. That Act gave us a fund which was raised by an output levy of 1d. per ton, and the committee which was appointed under that Act consisted of five persons, one representing the owners, one representing the Miners' Federation, and three assessors who were appointed by the Minister of Health, the President of the Board of Education, and the Secretary of State for Scotland. That was the first Miners' Welfare Committee.

Then we come to the Act of 1925. The first scheme was to be in operation for only five years, and the Act of 1925 gave us another five years' grace and increased the number of the committee from five to seven, there being one additional representative of the Mining Association and another of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. In the next year, 1926, there was another interesting development. An Act passed then really gave us our baths fund. It created a, definite fund to be used for the provision of baths at the pit-head. Hon. Members who are not connected with mining constituencies need not think that we have come to the House with great schemes calling for a large expenditure of public money. We have not come asking for public money, the provision has already been made, and if it is unsatisfactory it can be improved under Acts of Parliament which have already been passed. The Welfare Fund was created out of the 1d. per ton on output, but the baths fund was created by the imposition of a levy on mining royalties. The sum of 1s. in the pound on mining royalties was to be set aside for baths at the pit-head. By the 1926 Act, we had again a change in the number of the members of the committee. An additional representative was given to the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, and one for those who were called upon to pay the mining royalties.

Then we come to the Act of 1934. Reference to that is made in the Amendment. I want to ask the hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. L. Jones) whether he is so very proud of at least a part of that Act. It is true that it extended the period of operation of the scheme for another 16 years, and that was all to the good, because it gave an opportunity for planning ahead, but there was one Section in that Act which reduced the output levy to the Welfare Fund from 1d. to ½d. and I doubt very much whether that is a change in the law for which the hon. Member feels that he can take a great deal of credit. At any rate it was not a change in the interests of the Welfare Committee or of the miners, and the reduction was bitterly opposed by the miners. There was another important Section in that Act. Like most of the Acts we get from a Tory Government there were some good things in it and some bad, and the next Section was a particularly good one. Section 3 stabilised the baths fund at £375,000 a year. It gave the Welfare Committee power to take from the general fund money for the purpose of making up the baths fund to £375,000 a year.

Therefore, the Welfare Committee have two specific duties to perform. They have to supervise the general work of the district welfare committees in regard to recreation—and I am pleased to say that a considerable sum has been spent on recreation—and education, health provisions and research. All these things are supervised by the Welfare Committee in addition to looking after the provision of baths at the pit-head. My hon. Friend has already referred to what happened to the Welfare Fund in order to make up this £375,000 for baths. Those of us who are keen on baths are prepared to agree to the sacrificing of the general fund to a certain extent. It is unfortunate, but it has to be done. It would have been very much easier had the Government in 1934 allowed the levy to continue at 1d. per ton. So long as that levy was kept intact there was a substantial sum with which the Welfare Committee could not only carry on the general work under the scheme but make provision for baths as well. Had that sum remained intact this Motion would have been unnecessary, or to a large extent unnecessary, because while a levy of 1d. per ton was imposed the Welfare Fund had an income of round about £1,000,000 a year, and with that the committee could do a considerable amount of work.

The reduction to ½d. reduced the income to between £400,000 and £500,000 per year, and now that a demand for baths is coming from all parts of the country the Welfare Committee find themselves crippled in their work. In order to make up the £375,000 the Welfare Committee had to take from the general fund £173,216 which in addition to the £25,000 interest and the sum from mining royalties made up £375,000. All that was received from the royalties levy during 1935 was £176,000, and I submit that that is not sufficient to erect baths in 25 mining districts in Great Britain, and that there is a case for this Motion. It may be that it is open to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Secretary for Mines to say whether or not the sum should be increased. That would require legislation, because it was said in the Act of Parliament that £375,000 a year was to be spent on the provision of baths. A sum of £173,000 has had to come out of that amount which, we say, should be reserved for other purposes which are required in the mining areas. It is not enough to provide baths at the pit-head. In fairness to the Welfare Committee it must be said that a great deal has been done in the provision of halls, institutes, recreation grounds and other improvements in the condition of affairs in the mining areas. Up to 1935, £3,314,222 had been accumulated in the baths fund, and that fund has been used for the provision of baths in various parts of the country.

It is interesting to glance at the figures in connection with the welfare part of the work, apart from the baths fund. Since the Welfare Fund was instituted in 1920, nearly £12,500,000 has been collected. It is to the credit of the coal-owners that the amount which has had to be written off is comparatively small. It is only fair to say that the coalowners have joined with the men in trying to make the scheme a success. I believe it is the general feeling that they have wanted to make the scheme as much a success as possible. This afternoon we are trying to get an understanding between the two sides as to how this work may be speeded up. While baths have been provided to a considerable extent since 1920, about one half of the number of miners in this country have not yet been provided with bathing accommodation. It is true that over 300,000 miners can go to pit-head baths and make themselves clean and respectable before they go home, but there are between 700,000 and 800,000 miners at work in this country, and from the comparison of these figures we may see how much remains to be done before all the miners can have an opportunity of bathing themselves at the pit-heads. I hope that a scheme will be devised, and that the Department of Mines will take the matter into serious consideration and endeavour to have more bathing accommodation provided.

According to the report of the Welfare Committee for 1935, there were 194 installations, accommodating 258,984 men, and 538 women; 17 more installations were planned, to accommodate nearly 21,000 men and 54 women. In addition to that there were 33 installations, for 24,663 men, which had not been provided or built with the aid of the Welfare Committee. Some of those were probably started before the existence of the welfare scheme, in some cases by more enlightened coalowners who wished to make provision for their men being bathed at the pit-head. Those figures give us a total of only 244 baths for just over 300,000 men, and in view of the number of miners employed they mean that half the work is not yet done. If we go on at the present rate, it will be ten years before baths are provided at some of the collieries. The Miners' Welfare Committee realise their shortcomings and, in the report to which I have already referred, they say that there is a large unsatisfied demand for baths. It is the duty of this House to find ways and means of meeting that demand.

With regard to the men's contributions, they make no complaint about contributing what is required in order to run the baths and make them a success. The men are provided with soap, towel and the water required, and they pay a contribution. It is interesting to note from the report of the Welfare Committee that only two colliery companies bear the whole of the cost. We make no complaint about that, nor do I think that the miners complain about the charge which is made. In many cases they contribute from 2½d. to a 1s. The biggest number contribute 6d. a week, which is deducted from the men's wages for the baths service. There are 67 installations to which the men contribute 6d. per week, and I believe they do not grudge it. The owners also make their contribution and in many cases give the steam, electricity and coal for heating the water, and in some cases they even contribute cash in order to make the baths a success.

When we look at the men's side of the matter we see the biggest change. I have referred to the hostility which existed among the men to bathing themselves at the pit-head. At the time to which I referred, when the women particularly were carrying on the agitation, you would hear men saying quite seriously that it was a very bad thing for them to have their backs washed every day because it weakened their backs. That was on a level with the coal-owners' argument that children had to be taken into the pits young, in order to get the stoop that was necessary for the work. Where baths are provided, we are told that 90 per cent. of the men are willing and anxious to use them. In some places there are not enough baths and more accommodation is required, not always in the form of cubicles in which the men can wash themselves. This is true at some of the baths erected during the last few years, and now found to be to small to meet requirements. Of the men employed, 90 per cent. use the baths; it may be that some of the older ones still stick to their prejudices and refuse to do so, but on the whole the scheme has been a. success. The fact that colliery after colliery is balloting in favour of pit-head baths is creating a problem of ways and means of getting the baths erected in the speediest possible way. On the financial side, the baths have been 'a success. The Committee tell us that up to the end of 1935 there was a credit balance of over £41,000, the result of the successful running of these baths.

The Act of 1911 said that where there were fewer than 100 men employed at a colliery, it was inadvisable to erect baths, or if the lease of the colliery was to expire within 10 years. There may be something to be said for that, but the Welfare Committee is facing the provision of baths at collieries where there are only 126 men employed. Their activities give us hope that sooner or later there will be baths at almost all the collieries in the country. There are very few collieries where fewer than 100 men are employed, and the Welfare Committee are tackling the job of providing baths at the comparatively small collieries. I would warn the Secretary for Mines—and I hope that he will pass the warning to the Welfare Committee—that there should be no proposals for making the smaller installations consist just of a common bathing room without cubicles. I thought the last report indicated that these smaller installations should have an open bathing room where men could go to bath themselves, and not the present system of a separate cubicle for each man. We want no prejudice raised on the part of the men about using pit-head baths, and no step could be taken that would lead in that direction more effectively than to ask the men to go into a big hall where each of them would bath himself just as he could.

The arrangements that have been made up to now are splendid. The men come from their homes in the morning with their comfortable home clothes on, and they go into the pit-head baths where they take off their clothes. Then they pass into that part of the chamber where their pit clothes are. Their clothes have been there during the whole night, or the whole day, as the case may be, and are dry. In most cases the clothes were wet, if not from working in wet places, then with sweat. Few miners to-day do not sweat a considerable amount before the end of their shift. Such men can now put on dry clothes before they are required to go to their shift. If it is the other way round, they leave the pit and go int othe part of the building where their pit clothes are put into a locker. Each man has a locker to himself and his clothes are hung up in such a way that they are dry before they are required again on the next shift. The miner goes into a cubicle where he can have a shower bath and can make himself as respectable as any Member of this House. After a few minutes he can come out a new man, and a great deal better for having had a shower bath. Then he goes into the chamber where his home clothes are, and in a few minutes he comes out like the gentleman he is. There is no going home in an omnibus, tramcar or train, afraid to touch anybody and with everybody afraid to touch him.

I urge that consideration on the Minister for the following reason in particular. Colliery companies in the past, when they put down shafts, erected a certain number of houses—perhaps 200 or 300—round about the shaft, thus giving us our colliery village. To-day the colliery companies are not troubling so much to build houses for their workers, but are leaving that job to the local authority, and the result is that we have men travelling four, five and six miles to their work, by tram, omnibus or cycle, so that the provision of baths at the pithead is more than ever required. It was all very well when the colliery village was round about the pit, and the man could get from his work to his home in five or ten minutes at the outside, but, now that the men have to travel these long distances, bathing accommodation is all the more urgently required. I hope the result of this discussion will be that a way will be found to complete this provision.

The Motion asks for an inquiry as to how the sum of £375,000 can be augmented in order to provide baths at the pithead. I am not prepared to support the contention of the Mover that this matter should be taken out of the hands of the Welfare Committee and placed in the hands of the Mines Department; I want it to be kept in the hands of the Welfare Committee, and the money to be placed in the hands of the Welfare Committee, so that they may go on with the construction of baths as speedily as they possibly can. At this time, when money can be borrowed at a comparatively low rate of interest, why should we have to wait eight or ten years before baths can be provided at some of these collieries? A scheme ought to be devised, as is suggested in the Motion, for raising a sum of money, to be placed in the hands of the Welfare Committee, that will be sufficient to provide bathing accommodation at the collieries for that portion of the mining population who are not yet provided with it. In addition to the actual provision of baths, canteens are required. It is true that in some of the later bath schemes canteens are provided, and, now that men are travelling, as I have already said, long distances to their work, it is a great boon to them if they can have a cup of tea or coffee or something else before they go to their homes. I suggest that that matter should be inquired into as well, because undoubtedly, where canteens are not provided, the baths are not as good and efficient as they otherwise would be.

Despite the fact that there is an Amendment on the Paper, I hope we shall find both sides of the House in thorough agreement as to the necessity for such schemes. The only question that appears to separate us at the moment is whether this fund of £375,000 should be allowed to drag on for a number of years, or whether within a comparatively short time, say four or five years, all the collieries in Great Britain that require to be provided with baths should have them provided. I hope that the Motion will be carried unanimously, and that we shall find the Minister sympathetic. The statement of the Mover is perfectly true that to-day men are going home from the collieries in a condition in which they ought not to be allowed to go home. Certainly the housewives know the great difference that it makes when their men come home from the pit bathed and in clean clothes, and I hope that the blessing which has been conferred upon some will be conferred upon them all before many years have passed.

5.7 p.m.


I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from "House," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: while appreciating the great advantages to the mining community resulting from the provision of pit-head baths, is of opinion that the report of the Departmental Committee of Inquiry which resulted in special provision for the financing of pit-head bath construction by the Mining Industry (Welfare Fund) Act, 1934, provides the House with full and sufficient information on this important subject. Let me say at once that there is very little in the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Motion with which I am in total disagreement. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), in putting his Resolution before the House, devoted the bulk of his time to convincing the House of the need of providing baths for workmen at the location of their employment, and most of his arguments in favour of pit-head baths might very well have been applied to the provision of baths for all workmen, whether on building operations, in steelworks, or anywhere else. I have been keen on the provision of pit-head baths from my early days, and no one who knows a colliery district, who has friends among working miners, who may have relatives among colliers, can fail to realise what a terrible disability it is to a miner and to the members of his household if it becomes necessary for him to take his bath in the kitchen at home, very often in front of members of his family and his little children. Those who know anything about the miner's life, the miner's home, his habits or general conditions, cannot for a moment be opposed to this general scheme of pithead baths.

I was rather surprised that the hon. Member for West Fife gave so little credit to the work already accomplished by the Welfare Fund Committee in the provision of pit-head baths. I am glad that the Seconder of the Motion filled in that gap, because anyone who is really interested in this question and has helped in the development of this pit-head baths programme during the last few years must have been impressed, in the first place, by the wonderful enthusiasm of the Welfare Fund Committee, and, furthermore, by the excellent co-operation that has always existed between the mineowners and the miners' representatives in connection with this scheme. I was very interested when the Seconder of the Motion referred to the prejudice of miners themselves against pit-head baths. I know, and my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) will know, that in our own home county of Carmarthen the opposition to pit-head baths was terrific among some of his old school friends and mine, but it is amazing how this prejudice has gradually disappeared. The report of the Welfare Fund Committee for 1935 gives the figures which the Seconder of the Motion quoted. Unfortunately, those figures are only from 1930 to 1935, but it is satisfactory to all who are interested in this particular piece of social welfare work to know that, while in 1930 only 83 per cent. of the bathing accommodation provided at pits in this country was being used by the miners for whom it was provided, by about the end of 1934 the proportion had increased to 90 per cent.

Anyone who is interested in welfare work generally, whether among miners, steelworkers, or any other body of workers, must have followed with great interest the reports of the Miners' Welfare Fund Committee. I read those reports annually, and I can say that they differ very much from ordinary blue-books inasmuch as they appear to be very human documents. What is the latest information? Reference has been made to 1911 and 1912, but let us realise that this pithead baths programme itself, apart from the propaganda which preceded it, only started nine years ago, and the 1935 Report of the Welfare Fund Committee shows that the total credits of the Baths Fund from the date of its institution until the end of December, 1935, amounted to the vast sum of £3,314,222, while by the end of 1935 the sums allocated for pithead baths built, under construction, or in preparation at that date, amounted to £3,277,000 odd; and probably, if we had the figures up to the present date, we should find that between £3,500,000 and £3,750,000 has been set aside for this purpose. I was rather surprised that neither the Mover nor the Seconder of the Motion, when they were dealing with the expenditure on pit-head baths, referred to the substantial sum which has also been contributed to the fund from the district funds. If to the figure of £3,277,000 are added the grants made from the district funds, which, after all, represent welfare money which has come from the same source as the rest—


Are they not already included?


I do not think they are; indeed, I am satisfied that my hon. Friend has made an error. He will, however, be able to check the report, and I expect he will have an opportunity of speaking later. If, to the figure of £3,277,000, one adds the grants from the district funds, which amount to £423,000, one finds that during the last nine years £3,700,000 has been taken from the Welfare Fund and spent on pit-head baths. If the figures for 1936, even up to the end of November, were available, I think it would be found that nearly £4,000,000 has been spent on baths. The Departmental Committee appointed by the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) thoroughly investigated this question, and made excellent recommendations. That is accepted by the miners' representatives as well as by those of the mine owners. Arising out of that report the Mining Industry (Welfare Fund) Act was passed in 1934. It enacted that the Welfare Fund Committee should appropriate, in 1934 and succeeding years, from the proceeds of a levy such sum as would, together with the proceeds of the royalties welfare levy for each year, amount to £375,000, which was to be applied to providing pit-head baths. The hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Watson) referred to the fact that the levy on royalties produced only £176,000. I really cannot see what bearing that has on the development of pit-head baths, because by the 1934 Act power was given to the Welfare Fund Committee to take from other funds to make up the total of £375,000, and the figure for 1935 included £176,000 from the royalty levy, £25,784 from interest on balances and £173,216 from the output levy. The 1934 Act provided for this welfare work a statutory minimum fund of £375,000, and that was the first time the miners were assured of a statutory minimum for this purpose.

I should like to remind the House of the developments that have taken place during the last few years. I am surprised that the Mover of the Motion did not show what had been accomplished. The greater part of his speech would have done very well 10 or 12 years ago if he was trying to convince a House of Commons totally opposed to the whole idea of pit-head baths.


Whether it was said 12 years ago or not, everything I say is going on now. The miner goes home in wet clothes and his wife has to undergo all the difficulty and trouble. The question is how to get more money.


All I suggest is that it was a good propaganda speech advocating pit-head baths on the assumption that everybody was against him, but he gave very little credit for what had already been accomplished under the scheme. Up to 1935 accommodation had been provided for 248,000 people. In December, 1935, accommodation existed for 395,000 workpeople employed in or about mines. The hon. Member for Dunfermline pointed out that out of the miners' welfare levy accommodation has been provided for 284,000 people. The difference between that and 304,613 is made up by baths provided from other funds. The Welfare Committee in its report for 1933 visualised pit-head baths for 750,000 miners. I suppose the miners' representatives would be the first to-day to express doubt, in the present state of the industry, whether that may not be too high an estimate of the number for whom baths would have to be provided. From calculations that I have made I am satisfied that by the end of 1938 accommodation will be provided for a minimum of 450,000 mine workers.


I gave the names of seven pits in West Fife which have applied for installations, but the Welfare Committee say that Fife has been overspent and they cannot promise another installation until 1938.


If I suggest that by the end of 1938 baths will be provided for only 450,000, I am admitting that there will be many still unprovided for. I am not disagreeing with the hon. Member as to what will happen in his constituency. I admit that there is a growing demand amongst miners for more pit-head baths. The 1935 report of the Welfare Committee says that they experienced difficulty at first in persuading collieries to have baths, but to-day there is a large unsatisfied demand which is becoming more and more pressing, and I agree that there is that pressure. What are the factors which make quicker progress difficult? There is the statutory minimum of £375,000, but there are substantial amounts available in the district funds which could not be put to better use than for baths, and one is very glad to see that there is a growing tendency among district committees to devote substantial sums to this purpose. I am very glad to see that the central committee has decided to speed up its programme and has decided to exceed the amount of £375,000. I am satisfied that, while it may not accomplish all that we should like to see, the step taken by that committee is going to speed up construction during the years 1937 and 1938.

The hon. Member for Dunfermline gave the numbers employed in the industry as between 700,000 and 800,000. The last official figure given was, I think, 752,000. I do not think it will ever be necessary to consider that as the number of workpeople employed in coal mines in the future. All the evidence, unfortunately, points to a decreasing use of coal and a decrease in the numbers employed. When the Welfare Committee have to face the question of the extension of their pit-head baths programme, obviously they will have to consider not only the state of the collieries and the demands for coal, but also the standpoint of the closing down of less efficient pits, the effect of quota on the coal mines, and the threatened policy of compulsory amalgamations in the coal trade. Modern legislation tends to conserve or close down certain pits, to work the most efficient ones and to locate coal production in smaller range. In the 1933 report of the Welfare Committee the position is stated very carefully when they say this: Before we embark on any baths scheme we require to be assured that not only the mineral resources of the pit give a sufficient expectation of life, but also that it is likely to survive in face of the exigencies of output regulations and of amalgamations, a problem which naturally gives us no little anxiety just now. Obviously, conditions during the last two years have been such, with the developments taking place, central selling, tightening up of output regulations, and amalgamations, that the position is more difficult still. I am satisfied that the progress made in the provision of pit-head baths, while not satisfactory to me, is at any rate reasonable when we consider the difficulties that the coal industry has been facing during the last few years. The report of the Departmental Committee on the Welfare Fund contains evidence of a very searching inquiry made in 1931. The excellent reports of the Welfare Fund Committee, together with the annual reports of the Chief Inspector of Mines, bring the information on the matter of pit-head baths right up to date.

I move this Amendment not from want of sympathy with pit-head development or with the programme for its development—I appreciate the pressing need for more baths—but I am satisfied that the Welfare Committee are making reasonable progress in providing them. The district committees, by making grants from the district funds, are showing increased interest in the movement. The continued increase in output, for the year 1935 over 1934 and for 1936 over 1935, gives justification for expecting substantial increases in the income of the Welfare Committee. Even in 1935 the income was up to £76,000. With the complete information available in the Departmental Committee's report, plus the annual reports of the Welfare Committee and the increased or improved financial position of the coal industry generally, I suggest that the work of the Welfare Committee should be allowed to proceed without further interruption, and it is in that spirit, and not in any spirit of antagonism to the scheme generally, that I submit my Amendment to the House.

5.35 p.m.


I beg to second the Amendment, and I do so fully appreciating the importance and desirability of pithead baths. After having worked for 34 years in and about collieries, and having gone home hundreds of times in the condition which the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) described, I naturally appreciate the importance and desirability of pit-head baths, and I am sure that every Member of the House desires to see pit-head baths erected at such a speed that facilities will soon be provided for all miners who wish to take advantage of them. But the question before the House is not whether pit-head baths are desirable—it is not the importance of pit-head baths at all—but whether it is advisable for the Ministry to institute an inquiry in order to improve the finances of the fund so as to speed up the erecting of more pit-head baths. That is the question, and the answer depends upon two other questions. First of all, is the progress made in pit-head baths satisfactory, and if so, the other question does not arise, but if not, the next question naturally is, has the Ministry all the information necessary at their disposal to improve the finances, if they deem it advisable, of that particular fund These are the two questions upon which an inquiry depends.

We have heard the history of pit-head baths. The Seconder of the Motion referred to the first Act of Parliament which dealt with pit-head baths, the Act of 1911. That Act, as he rightly said, made it compulsory upon mineowners to erect baths, provided there was a certain majority of miners in favour of pithead baths, and also that they were prepared to shoulder half the burden of their maintenance. There was a proviso that the upkeep should not be more than 3d. a week, which made the Act of Parliament absolutely worthless, and it is significant that from 1911 to 1920 there was not a single pit-head bath erected under the Act. The Seconder of the Motion paid a great tribute to the Women's League for popularising pithead baths. I want to pay tribute to another section of the community as well—to those few coalowners who, before there was any compulsion at all upon them, erected baths for their workers. In 1920, when the Welfare Act was passed, there were 10 pit-head baths in existence in the country, all of which had been erected voluntarily by certain coalowners, and these people must be regarded as the pioneers of pit-head baths at a time when pit-head baths were unpopular with the workmen.


I should like to put the hon. Member right by telling him that there were pit-head baths in this country 60 years ago, provided by the mineowners themselves.


I am dealing with those which were in existence in 1920. Since then I understand that another four pit-head baths have been built by voluntary effort on the part of coal-owners. It should be remembered how unpopular pit-head baths really were. Not only were they unpopular among the miners themselves, but even sonic of their leaders had not been convinced that erecting pit-head baths was the best method of utilising the Welfare Fund. The Act dealing with the Welfare Fund was passed in 1920, and it mentioned pithead baths as one of the objects for which the fund could be utilised. Although it was mentioned in that Act, up to 1927, when the 1926 Act came into operation, only 18 pit-head baths had been erected, despite the fact that the income of the fund at that time averaged something like £1,000,000 a year. We find in 1927 this position: There were 18 baths erected under the Welfare Fund, providing accommodation for 17,857 men, and also 14 baths erected by the owners, providing accommodation for 6,000, with the result that, when the 1926 Act came into operation, the accommodation that existed was for only 94,000 miners.

What has been the result since that time? We have had a tremendous increase in pit-head baths. It is true that the 1926 Act established a special fund for them and that that improved matters considerably, but from, 1927 to the end of 1935 we had increased the accommodation from 24,000 to 304,613 miners. This shows that accommodation had been provided at the rate of 35,000 a year during those eight years. If we take the year 1935 on its own, we find that the achievement during that year was considerably greater than during any other particular year. According to the Welfare Fund report the baths completed during that year numbered 14, providing accommodation for 18,540; baths under construction 26, providing accommodation for 39,846; and baths planned, with money allocated 17, providing accommodation for 20,966. Consequently, the work in connection with pit-head baths for the year 1935—new baths completed, under consideration and planned—amounted to 57, providing accommodation for 79,316.

I think that everybody must admit that this is a considerable advancement upon previous years. Although we would all like to see pit-head baths put up as soon as possible, if this rate were maintained, in a, very few years we should have the accommodation of pithead baths provided for all the needs of the miners. The Welfare Committee have their reservations, and there are a large number of collieries which have seen their best days and have not a very long life before them, and it would be folly to erect pit-head baths at collieries which will not survive for more than five or six years. Taking all these things into consideration, the progress that has been made has been very satisfactory indeed. We have, as the Mover of the Amendment said, reasons to believe that the Welfare Committee will speed up the erection of baths. In the report we find these words: At first we experienced difficulty in persuading collieries to have baths, but those erected so proved their value that to-day there is a large unsatisfied demand which is becoming more and more pressing. We have, therefore, given serious consideration to the possibility of speeding up the building work, and we have taken steps to increase the number of baths to be built in the next two years or so by regulating our commitments in relation to the cash balance instead of the balance of credits over allocations. In addition the report states that several district committees recommend the use of some of their district fund money to supplement the baths fund. The very fact that the Committee of inquiry which reported in January, 1933, based their finances upon the output of 200,000,000 tons, which is at least, 20,000,000 tons less than what it is at the present time, shows that they under-estimated their finances. The fact that £77,000 more than was anticipated had come to the funds of the districts enabled them to make a contribution to the baths fund if they so wished.

It may be said that that progress, although very good, is not as good as we want it to be, but I would remind the House that it is only four years since the Committee reported. The report was issued in January, 1933, and we are nearly in January, 1937. The Committee went extensively into the whole question, and before voting for the establishment of a new Committee I should like to know from those who are asking for an inquiry what information they expect the inquiry to obtain which is not already available. We know what the levy for the Welfare Fund amounts to. If it is the contention of hon. Members opposite that the levy ought to be doubled, then the Ministry will know exactly what doubling the levy would mean. If, on the other hand, it is intended to increase the levy on royalties, that could be easily calculated. The facts are already at the disposal of the Ministry. If they come to the conclusion that it is inadvisable to augment the fund from any further burden on the industry itself and they think it advisable to subsidise the industry, they are in a better position than anybody else to know how to do that.

I submit that no case has been made out for demanding an inquiry on this question, because all the information necessary is at the disposal of the Ministry at the present time. There is one further matter to which I would refer. I am anxious to know what is going to take place with regard to the levy on mineral royalties after the unification of mining royalties. When the Government take over the royalties, is the Welfare Fund to be assured of the same contribution as it gets at the present time? I should be much obliged if the Minister would tell us what are the intentions of the Government on that point.

5.49 p.m.


I am glad that the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) has brought this question forward and given us an opportunity of debating it. I support very strongly the Motion as it stands, and I have listened carefully to the two speeches in favour of the Amendment to try and find out why it was placed on the Order Paper. As far as I can find out from the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. L. Jones) his contention is that the further inquiry is not necessary because under the quota system fewer men are being employed every year in the coal trade. I presume thrfor that, although he admitted we are not getting pit baths quickly enough, his idea would be that we should let the number of men come down to fit in with the number of baths. If the question was as simple as that one might argue in favour of it. What the quota has done in so many cases has been that men have been working shorter time at certain pits, and we have to realise that fewer men, because of mechanical mining, are employed in certain pits. Nevertheless, those same pits, those holes in the ground, remain just the same, and the need for the pit baths belongs to the pit itself and not to the number of men who may be employed there. A pit employing a total of 1,000 men might shrink to 500 men, but you would still need the pit baths, and you cannot assume that the problem could be solved in the way suggested.

The hon. Member—and I must admire him for his cleverness—avoided letting the cat out of the bag, but the hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Rowlands) did so slightly. One has a fear that the reason why the Amendment was put down was that perhaps the levy for welfare might go up to 1d., whereas it has come down to ½d. Anyone who has had anything to do with this pit baths question realises that there has been a considerable change in the situation. At one of the pits with which I am concerned we have a pit bath which is now being finished, but there are four other pits where we have not baths. On the first occasion it was with the greatest difficulty that we could get the idea accepted because, as the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Watson) pointed out, there were many fears on the part of the men. It used to be said that you might get nystagmus from washing the back of your neck. There were all sorts of fears, and the men did not like the baths at first, but we find that that attitude has change and there is now a 100 per cent. demand. We have now a demand from all the other collieries, and that demand is so clear that it ought to be satisfied.

It is undesirable that there should be men living alongside each other, some of them working at pits where they have the advantage of baths and others at pits where they have not baths. Those who have the advantage of the baths are fully convinced of the value of them and their demand, as I say, is now practically 100 per cent. but, unfortunately, the finance which was provided for by the former committee is inadequate to deal with the demand. I am on the Welfare Committee and I know what is happening there and the difficulty there is in finding the money that we require to put up the baths, because we are definitely told that there is not sufficient money available. Since the inquiry was held circumstances have changed, and the time is now ripe for another inquiry to see what can be done. I agree with the hon. Member for Dunfermline that it will have to be done by capital expenditure as a whole and not merely as this yearly arrangement is going on at the present time.

To-day if you want to set up baths it takes a long time, but if baths were provided at practically every pit it could be clone at less capital cost. The demand for an inquiry ought to be granted, and I am certain that if the lion. Members who support the Amendment would go into the question carefully and see how the demand for baths is concerned with the difficulty of finance they would not press their Amendment to a Division.


Will the hon. Member try to answer the question that I put to the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher)? What fresh information does he expect to obtain from the further inquiry which is asked for in the Motion?


The inquiry is needed because the demand has altered so much, and because the finance of £375,000 which was laid down before is not sufficient to deal with the demand. An inquiry is important. A point has been raised about the shrinkage of the number of men in the pits, but that does not affect the issue. It is not simply a question of providing for 750,000 men, but of providing for the pits themselves. A great deal of information might be got through an inquiry, especially as opinion has changed so much in the last three or four years.

5.55 p.m.

The SECRETARY for MINES (Captain Crookshank)

We are much indebted to the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) for raising this matter. It involves great human issues of importance to anyone who has the interests of the mining industry at heart. We are also grateful to the hon. Member for the very handsome tribute that he pays in his Motion to the general system under which we live. I hardly expected from the Communist party the statement: "In view of the advance that is taking place in housing, in health and in hygiene." That is a perfectly general statement in regard to our national affairs, and I am very grateful to the hon. Member for it. He argued, and the point has been further dealt with by the hon. Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Sir H. Seely), for an inquiry on the best method of amplifying the finances at the disposal of the Welfare Committee, in order that pit-head baths may be established as a recognised part of the equipment of the mines of this country. The speeches that we have heard since the speech of the hon. Member have taken it for granted that everybody wants baths and that their popularity is unquestioned. If that is the case I am very glad that it should be so, but it has not always been the case. The hon. Member who seconded the Motion pointed that out. Leaving aside the Act of 1911, it is interesting to note that in the period between the passing of the 1920 Act and 1026, when the funds available for welfare under that legislation amounted to some £4,500,000, only some £120,000 was spent for the purpose of baths.




I hope the hon. Member will not interrupt me.


You are misrepresenting the position.


No. What I am saying is irrespective of who might have spent the money. It would have been possible to have spent more money on pit-head baths at that time and I am only trying to show the wonderful change that there has been in the general outlook on this question. I think the hon. Member opposite himself pointed out that only some £120,000 was spent on baths in the period from 1920 to 1926 to which I have referred, during which some £4,500,000 was used for welfare work. There has been a gradually increasing demand for baths. In the years 1927–29—this is information which is in the Welfare Committee's Annual Report for 1933—only 34 per cent. of the Committee's offers for this purpose were accepted. To-day the situation is different. In 1932–33 the proportion of the offers made which were accepted rose to 74 per cent., and now I understand that the acceptance of a proposal is virtually automatic. That is a great change that has come about, and I welcome it. In saying that, we ought to realise that the mining community owe a debt of gratitude to the Welfare Committee and their staff for all that they have done in this direction. In the early days they were faced with a much less satisfactory response than they get now.

I do not propose to go into figures in detail except as to the position in which it is at the moment. The number of baths provided by the Miners' Welfare Committee up to 10th November of this year were, opened 182, building 34, a total of 216, with accommodation for 287,000 persons. Over and above that there have been or are being tendered for before the end of the present year 25 more baths, or a total of 241 baths built, building or being tendered for. It must be recognised that building and opening a pithead bath is a somewhat slow process, and in the Committee's report for 1935 hon. Members will find some of the difficulties which inevitably occur, and which would occur even if there were ten times the amount of money available. Diffi- culties arise which are outside the control of the Welfare Committee altogether. For instance, water supply which may be difficult to obtain, the disposal of drainage may have to be negotiated with local authorities, then negotiations are often necessary with regard to the transfer of the site of the baths, and terms have also to be settled with regard to the supply of electricity and steam; and when you have a scheme in what appears to be its final form it sometimes happens that alterations have to be made owing to changes in the colliery company's policy or because more lockers are required than have been provided for. The provision of pit-head baths is not a matter of five minutes.

The object of the Motion is, I understand, that there should be an inquiry as to whether there is sufficient money available. On that point may I say that since 1934 there has been £375,000 a year going automatically into the Baths Fund, and building contracts have been placed up to that amount. But a long period elapses between the starting of a contract and the time when the final payment is made, and that means that there is a considerable cash balance on the Baths Fund account available in the hands of the Welfare Committee. As is stated in their report for 1935, the Committee have therefore had under consideration the speeding up of the programme by making use of this cash balance. They have come to the conclusion that it would be possible to place contracts up to the value of £600,000 a year for each of the next two years instead of £375,000 a year. Worked out in terms of pithead baths I am informed that the result of this decision is that in addition to the figures of 182 baths opened, 34 building and 25 tendered for by the end of this year there would be added by the end of 1938 about 40 baths for which negotiations have already been started, and some 55 further baths, negotiations for which have not yet been started. This would bring the total by the end of 1938 up to, say, 336 baths with accommodation for some 425,000 persons. That envisages considerable acceleration. The expenditure concerned runs into rather big figures.


Is that any satisfaction at all to the great masses of miners who are pleading and begging for these baths and who will not get them for many years to come?


I would not say for many years. It means that in the next period the total number of baths provided will accommodate some 425,000 persons, whereas the present number of miners for whom there is this accommodation built or building is 287,000. That is an increase of some 138,000 miners.


Will you tell me where you are going to get this £600,000 from?


In part it is the unexpended cash balance which the Committee have at the moment. There has always been at their disposal a large sum which has been allocated but not actually expended. The hon. Member need have no fears as to the financial purity of the transaction.


Does it involve taking a larger grant from the general welfare fund?


Not as I understand it. They will be spending at a greater rate, indeed, I think it would allow them to provide baths at about-the maximum speed possible. It will be recognised that there is an economic limit of speed at which you can build. If you suddenly start an enormous emergency programme one inevitable result is that there will be shortage of many things which you require, and then the costs will rise. I think that the Committee who have had 10 years' experience are satisfied that the rate they have in mind, ad expenditure of £600,000 per annum, is towards the maximum from the point of view of economic development having in view the planning of buildings, the design of suitable buildings and questions of maintenance and management, and, above all, possible changes in the industry. They are satisfied that they can work at this rate to the best advantage of everybody concerned.

The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) suggested that we might get more money by capitalising the income. The figures I have given show that it is not a shortage of money which is holding up the programme. If at this moment you had any number of millions of pounds of money at the disposal of the Miners' Welfare Committee for pit-head baths they would not be able to spend it at more than a certain rate. The rate of expenditure is governed by being able to make proper arrangements and deciding where the baths can be most suitably built and various other details. If the income were capitalised this would involve interest charges under the system under which we are living at present, and, therefore, there would be some addition to the cost on that ground. Probably the Committee could hardly make use of any larger figure than they have in hand at the moment. The other reason for an inquiry presumably is that we have not all the information at present that is necessary. The hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Rowlands) has pointed out that if the contention is that the levy should be raised or doubled the information could quite easily be calculated from the figures which are at our disposal. That is true. The Welfare Committee has an enormous amount of information on this subject and so has my Department.

One of the things which has emerged from the Debate is the co-operation which now exists between mineowners and mineworkers on this subject. That is a good reason why there should be no further inquiry. There is now a Joint Consultative Committee for the Coal Mining Industry, and if coalowners and mineworkers are in such hearty co-operation on this subject then, obviously, if they thought that something further should be done they would have made representations. It must not also be forgotten that the Miners' Welfare Committee itself has on it a large majority of persons connected with the mining industry. The Miners' Welfare Committee consists of nine persons; an independent chairman, two independent members, two persons who can speak for the Mining Association, one for the royalty owners, and three representing the Mineworkers' Federation. If it was lack of money which was holding up the programme no doubt we should have heard from this committee. The three representatives of the Mineworkers' Federation, headed by their President, if they had thought that representations should be made, or that there should be a demand for an inquiry, would have made those representations.

If the matter is pressed to a Division I shall support the hon. Member against a further inquiry because I think all the information is available. The Committee as I have said is proposing to speed up its annual programme during the next two years from £375,000 to £600,000. The Departmental Committee which reported in December, 1932, and went into the matter most carefully, if they had thought it necessary to make different representations in regard to the sum of money to be allocated for pit-head baths, they could have done so; it was open to them to have done so. The recommendation of the committee was that, owing to the present economic depression, the output levy should be reduced to ½d. per ton of coal raised. As a result of that, the amount available in the districts out of which grants might have been made was reduced. The committe further recommended that the levy should be continued for twenty years, but if and when the financial state of the industry permits, the amount should be increased. That recommendation was accepted at the time, and still holds good. When the general financial position of the industry permits, the question can and will no doubt be opened. I am not so sure that this is the moment at which it would be wise to reopen the question of the levy. I think most of us who desire to see the general financial position of the industry improved would say that the first and most important thing at the moment—in accordance with the general policy accepted during the last year—is to try to bring about circumstances which will enable an improvement to take place in wages position in the industry. That is the paramount question at the moment. However, the recommendation of the committee stands, and if and when the financial position of the industry permits, the recommendation still is that the amount should be increased. The amount referred to is not the amount of the Baths Fund as such, but the general amount out of which more might or might not be devoted to this particular purpose.

We are indeed grateful to the hon. Member for raising this matter, and I am sure the Miners' Welfare Committee will be, for, after all, the Committee are glad to hear expressed in this House in all quarters feelings and opinions which they cannot get in any other way. No doubt the points which have been made in this Debate will be carefully considered by the Committee. Here let me make it clear that the Secretary for Mines has no statutory responsibility in the way of enforcing anything. The Committee is an independent statutory body, composed, largely—in the proportion of six to nine—of representatives and spokesmen of the industry itself. My statutory function is to see that they do not spend money on things which are not covered by legislation passed in this House. Therefore, the whole question of pit-head baths is one for the Committee to deal with at their own discretion, and I am sure they will appreciate what has been said in the House this afternoon.

In conclusion, let me repeat that it is not really a shortage of money that is holding up any programmes. That is shown by the decision which has been taken to increase the rate of building during the next two years, with the result that accommodation is to be provided for a total of some 425,000 persons. I do not think I need reply to the other points that have been raised, for I know that other hon. Members wish to speak; but if in the course of the Debate any questions are asked for which an answer is required, either the 'Welfare Committee will reply to them, or I shall see that answers are sent through my Department.

6.20 p.m.


The only pleasing thing revealed by the Minister's speech is the fact that there is to be a speeding up in the building of pit-head baths in 1937 and 1938 to the extent of £600,000. That shows the folly of the reduction of the welfare levy, for if that levy had not been reduced there probably would not have been any need for the Motion which is on the Order Paper to-day. Personally, I am glad that Motion has been moved, for it enables us to see what is in the minds of hon. Members. It has drawn forth an Amendment which, in essence, calls for a standstill policy, and implies that the present policy regarding the building of pit-head baths is sufficient. There is no hon. Member who would to-day take the position that we should not build pit-head baths, but apparently some hon. Members are prepared to take the position that the present speed of building them is sufficient, owing to lack of money. Let me say frankly that if there is a desire on the part of hon. Members and the Government, there are no difficulties that could not be surmounted in order to meet the needs and requirements of the miners and their wives in this country.

It is no use saying that the water supply, questions of drainage and the exact site of particular pit-head baths are difficulties which delay and prevent to any very great degree the erection of pit-head baths in some particular area. If there were a real desire to build these baths, the difficulties could be overcome, and if hon. Members were sincere, they would help us to overcome the difficulties. As a matter of fact, if they were really sincere, many of the difficulties would not arise as we find them arising to-day. Some people may be pleased with the progress made in the building of pit-head baths, but let us examine the position. In Durham, according to a report which I have read, there are 16 baths built and three in course of construction; that is to say, 19 pit-head baths in a county in which there are 200 collieries. It is true that some of those collieries are closed at the present time, but 19 pit-head baths in Durham is not a reasonable proportion. When we look at. the position in the whole of the country, on the basis of the figures given by the Secretary for Mines to-day, the total is 241. That is not a satisfactory number after 10 years of welfare work, and again it proves that the reduction of the levy was an act of real folly.

I wonder whether hon. Members opposite ever consider this problem from its real standpoint. The hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Rowlands) spoke of having actually worked in mines over a long period of years. In that case, he must know the difficulties that exist in the colliery villages. I think every hon. Member will agree with the spirit in which the Motion was moved and seconded. We had a portrayal of family life and of the mother having to provide baths in one living room for the male members of the household who are working in the pit, which creates very great difficulties and does away with a great amount of the comfort that the other members of the household ought to enjoy, in addition to making the work of the mother extremely arduous. All that is not past history, but something which is happening at the present time. When those things were being related to the House, they brought to my mind my own experiences. At my own home, there were five who worked in the pit, although fortunately my time was very short, and my mother had to provide baths for and look after five male members, who had to bathe every day when they came home. She was not one of those superstitious women, but believed in seeing that the backs were really washed, and did it herself. I sometimes wonder how much more real enjoyment we should have got out of life had there been a pit-head bath at the colliery in which we worked and she had been able to avoid all that slavish work. As a matter of fact, at that particular colliery there is no pit-head bath to-day.

There is another fact to which I would like to draw the attention of hon. Members. There is not a Member in the House who, after a day's work in the pit, would like to have to crush into a bus and probably go three or four miles before getting to his home. In those buses one sees tired men corning from the pit, having to stand up, holding a strap, because they will not occupy a seat owing to their feeling that if they do so their dirty clothes will make it difficult for the other passengers, or, if they sit down, the other people will not like to do so because they want to keep their clothes clean. Those are some of the things that must be borne in mind when we are pressing for a speeding up in the building of pit-head baths. I remember that the first time I ever saw a pit-head bath was at Atherton Colliery in Lancashire, and I was very much impressed by it. The next time I saw one was in Germany. The striking thing is that in collieries where these baths exist, the men go to work in a reasonable way and return from work in a reasonable way. They are like ordinary citizens, and not like some foreign extract that has got into the country by mistake. They are what we would call real men in the fullest sense.

Reference has been made to there having been a good deal of improvement in the sense that many miners now live in council houses. That is another important point which we should bear in mind when we are talking about the speeding up of the building of pit-head baths. The old colliery row was a dismal sort of place for people to live in. Many miners now have the opportunity of occupying council houses, which are much better and much healthier, and we ought to maintain the pleasure of living in those houses by having less dirt taken into them, which would be the case if there were pit-head baths at the collieries. It is true that there is an all-round desire for these baths to-day. We do not want expressions of sympathy, as we have them from time to time, but we want a movement to be set on foot whereby the needs of the miners and their wives shall be made known, and those who are not enjoying these things now shall have the opportunity of enjoying them very soon. Those who are enjoying them are deriving such great benefits from them that others are naturally wanting to follow and have the same sort of privileges and benefits.

For these reasons, I hope the hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. L. Jones) will not press his Amendment. I do not want to see the House divide on a question of this sort. There is not much difference between us. I believe we have all the information that is necessary in regard to pit-head baths and the need for them, and from that point of view I do not think it is necessary to have any inquiries made. The point is that hon. Members on this side of the House, like the hon. Member who moved the Motion, arc anxious that every possible thing shall be done to see that any imperiments in the way of the development of pithead baths is removed, so that our people may have the earliest opportunity of enjoying the benefits of those baths. The miners of this country, through the Welfare Fund, have been responsible for improving the social amenities of the mining areas to a tremendous extent. They have erected institutes, constructed welfare grounds, and have done all kinds of things which in the ordinary way would have to be done by local councils and others responsible for the social life of those areas. The miners out of the welfare money have been doing this great work throughout the country. We now ask that Members of this House should agree unanimously that whatever impediments there are in the way of the miners themselves and their wives and children receiving this benefit should be removed at the earliest opportunity.

6.31 p.m.


I know that Scottish Members are anxious to leave this question and to get on to the consideration of a Scottish problem, but I wish to intervene in this discussion in order to bring one or two matters to the attention of the Welfare Committee. I know that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Secretary for Mines has no power to tell them what to do, but he has influence with them, and if I interrupted him earlier, I only did so lest he might unwittingly misrepresent the views arid the feelings of the miners on this question. I understood him to say that if the miners were dissatisfied with the progress which was being made, they had representatives on that committee and could put their point of view before the committee through those representatives. What I had in mind was that the miners of this country, with all the strength at their command, urged upon the Department, upon the Government, and upon this House not to commit that crime of taking off the halfpenny. I do not think there is a single coalowner who would say that that halfpenny per ton is a matter of life or death to him. It is a trivial addition to the cost, 85 per cent. of which, I would point out, is borne by the wage fund of the industry. But when the men were putting forward the plea that the half penny should not be taken off we could not get the owners to join with us. In many respects in the administration of this fund the owners have given the fullest co-operation and the men have responded, but I do say this—that I thought it was a mean and petty thing for the owners to do to take that halfpenny away, and it was a mean and petty thing for the Government to give it to them.

The Secretary for Mines referred to the fact that the halfpenny had been stabilised for a long period, for something like 20 years, I believe, with the proviso that if the circumstances of the industry improved so as to warrant reconsideration, the question could be reviewed. Since the committee sat, the mining industry has come to this House and has received what amounts to monopoly powers for the disposal of coal inside this country. I know that the export trade is still in the doldrums. It is fighting for its existence and we have been pressing upon the Government, upon this House, and upon the nation the necessity for assisting the export trade. But the inland trade in coal is more profitable today than it has ever been at any time in its history. Look at the papers to-day. Even in the poor districts of South Wales we have a company declaring a profit, though it has not done so for 16 years, and a big combine which practically owns South Wales has declared an interim dividend. I say that in those circumstances the coalowners ought to volunteer to give this halfpenny, and that is why we on this side have a right to ask for an inquiry.

What is the position? No one is satisfied with the rate at which baths are being provided. It is true, and much has been made of the fact, that for many years the miners themselves were hostile to this proposal. It was the hostility of ignorance. It was the hostility of men who did not understand, and of women who feared the innovation. I was one of four brothers working in a mine and I remember the rush home to be first for the tub. I know that many of the older generation viewed the idea of pit-head baths with a good deal of hostility but that hostility due to ignorance has now gone. It was not the coalowners who removed that ignorance. It may have been that, here and there, in a few cases the coalowners were pioneers, but the pioneering work in the main was done by this Labour movement and by the Miners' Federation, and all the legislation that we have had has been in consequence of pressure by the federation and not of voluntary action by anybody else. The Welfare Committee is dissatisfied with the progress which is being made with the provision of baths. The demand, by far, exceeds the supply and it is essential that the supply should be kept up to the demand. The report which has been given to-night by the Secretary for Mines of what the committee propose in order to accelerate the programme, shows that they are not satisfied with the present rate of progress. What my hon. Friend the Mover of the Motion has urged is not an inquiry into the need for baths but an inquiry into the one simple question: How can we find more money in order to get more baths? There is no need for a long inquiry. There is no need for a Royal Commission and a lot of fuss and bother to inquire into that question.

Let me suggest one way in which it could be done? The hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Rowlands) put a point to the Secretary for Mines who did not reply to it and I put the same point to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, not in order that he may give me a reply where he did not give a reply to an hon. Member on his own side, but in order to support the argument for an inquiry. The fund for pit-head baths is derived from a levy upon royalties and certain allocations from the general output fund to make a minimum of £375,000 per annum as a fund for baths. That levy upon royalties will be the subject of discussion and controversy very soon because the royalties, we are told, are to be unified. At the moment this levy is a levy upon the royalty owners. The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows that the Government propose in six months' time, or 12 months' time, or at some time in this Session, to introduce legislation as a result of which there will be no individual royalty owners. The State will become the owner of the royalties. Are we not entitled then, to ask whether the State, as owner of the royalties, will be satisfied that the present levy is all that is wanted for this purpose?

What is going to happen when the royalties are nationalized? When the State becomes the royalty owner, we presume that the State does not intend to make a free gift to the coalowners but that the revenue which is subject to this levy will in a few short months become the property of the State. Then it will be open to the State to make its contribution towards the amenities of the miners. We who represent the miners do not intend to sit by and see the royalties, having been made State property, being used to hand a gift to the coalowners. We shall claim that the miners are entitled to the first bite from whatever is saved. In view of the fact that royalties are to be unified we are entitled to say to the Mines Department and the Government, "If you are anxious for the provision of more pit-head baths, here is an opportunity of substantially increasing the fund, and meeting the increased demand for baths."

On the question of administration the Secretary for Mines said that even if all the money required were available, the rate of progress was subject to limitations—that it was not only a question of money but of other factors as well. I raise a point in that connection which has been raised outside this House. I do not expect a statement from the Minister upon it to-night, but I think it a matter to which reference should be made. I speak as one who has been for 12 years connected with a district committee, and who has been for three years vice-chairman of the South Wales district welfare committee, and I say that there is considerable apprehension at the way in which the funds and the work of the Welfare Committee are being centralised in London. I am not making any charges but I think it my duty to express a fear which is growing among those interested in this work. Had I spoken earlier in the Debate I would have asked the hon. and gallant Gentleman to give us some figures. What is the number of the staff of the central Welfare Committee now as compared with five years ago? What is the number in employment in the industry? What are the administration costs of the Welfare Committee? Are they increasing? Is this complete centralisation the best way of handling this problem and administering the fund?

I appreciate what the hon. and gallant Gentleman had in mind, namely, that we have on the central committee staff in London a certain number of architects. They design and plan every scheme for baths. They make out the bills of quantities in every case and supervise all the work so that the erection of pit-head baths in South Wales, in Northumberland, in Durham, and everywhere else in the country depends upon that staff in the office in London. Therefore, the rate of progress in the provision of baths is the rate at which that staff can work. People with far more knowledge of the question than I have believe that if the work were decentralised, so that it would not be a case of having a few architects or surveyors working at the problem in London but of having a larger number, even if they only worked part time at the problem, working in the districts, the progress which is being made could be enormously accelerated. I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will convey to those concerned the growing apprehension which I have expressed as to this bureaucracy. The local committees in each district have done noble and marvellous work—both owners and men—and I am expressing a general view when I say that they have been cut out and ignored and that there is a tendency for the whole of the funds and the administration to fall into the hands of a nest of bureaucrats in London. I feel that I am entitled to express that fear to the hon. and gallant Gentleman.

There is another point which I wish to make concerning my own district. I come from the anthracite coalfield where there are very few shafts, and in the last five or six years we have been menaced and are still menaced and I fear will continue to be menaced by that terrible disease which, rightly or wrongly, is known as silicosis. There are committees of workmen and employers engaged on the task of trying to prevent the growth of this disease. We are told that once a workman has contracted it there is no cure. What we have to do is to try to find out how to prevent the disease being contracted. Among other things there is a general tendency for our men to live further and further away from the pits. We have a new pit to which the men travel 28 miles in the morning, and they have to travel 28 miles home again. It is a common thing for men to travel to work three, four or five miles, in omnibuses, on bicycles, or on motor bicyles, and very often they have to walk, if their circumstances are hard.

The men work in our anthracite mines 7½ hours, and they sweat at the end of it. They have to ride in what is called a carriage up the slant in the teeth of a current of air. Coming out exhausted by their day's work, riding in a carriage up an intake right in the teeth of weather such as we have been having, with snow, or sleet, or rain, or bleak winds, and then travelling in buses, two, three, or four miles, or walking, or cycling, or motor cycling a mile or so, the consequence is that every day there is a danger of a chill that might lead to pneumonia, to bronchitis, or to use the new word for a chest disease, to emphysema. Medical practitioners state that if an anthracite miner, 50 years of age, who has for years inhaled dust, which sticks in the lung and perforates it, contracts double pneumonia, he has not got the slightest chance of living through it. To contract pneumonia is to meet certain death. The lungs are so torn and fibrous with the dust that men so exhausted after years of hard work contract a chill under the worst possible conditions. They then have to walk, or cycle, or go by bus afterwards, so that the mortality from pneumonia and emphysema is alarming. That, I know, cannot be entirely met. It is a very big problem, and I know that there is a medical research committee inquiring into it, but it is certain that some of that risk could be avoided if these men went from the pit straight to a bath at the pit-head and then travelled home.

Our coalfield is one of small collieries, with 200, 300, or 400 men to a pit, and for some reason the central committee in London have a horror of giving a bath unless there are at least 1,000 men employed. In this anthracite coalfield there are 50 pits, and there are at present only two pit-head baths, and three are now being provided. I believe that, on the grounds which I have indicated, the anthracite pit is the coal pit that has the strongest case of any in this country for pit-head baths. I hope, therefore, that my few words will have afforded added reason why the Motion should be adopted. The hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. L. Jones) and I were born in the same town. His people were tinplate and steel people, and mine were miners, just by the accident of birth. He has been brought up in the anthracite area, and I am sure that if he could hear the appeal which I am now making in the name of 25,000 anthracite miners who are running this terrible risk, he would withdraw his Amendment and ask the Secretary for Mines to accept the Motion. Its technique may be wrong. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), like myself, is a new Member and may not have framed his Motion in the proper way, but I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite to accept its intentions. I urge him to accept the Motion on the understanding that he and his Department and the Government should set about to find ways and means by which money can be found to provide for this, one of the most urgent needs of the miners in these days.

6.50 p.m.


I should like to join with the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), who has just sat down, in asking the Mover of the Amendment whether he would consider its withdrawal. I quite agree that the terms of. the Motion are not such as we can all subscribe to in their entirety, but I think it is important that those of us, on both sides of the House, who represent mining districts should give the impression to the country that we want to promote the erection of pit-head baths in all areas and at all collieries where it is practicable. Though I quite agree about the terms of the Motion, it seems to me that the Amendment does not really offer very great advantages if it is pressed and carried to a Division.

There is only one thing that I would like to say in relation to the general problem. I would like, first, to say a word on behalf of the work which is done by the officials operating in London for the Central Miners' Welfare Committee. Ever since I have had anything to do with a mining area, I have taken as real an interest as an outsider can in the establishment of pit-head baths, and I think it was the year before last, when I felt that there were one or two difficulties in the way of the establishment of baths in my own division, that I sought the help of the Central Miners' Welfare Committee, and I received it in full measure. I asked whether it would be possible for someone to survey the whole of the collieries operating in my division to see what we could do and what work, in addition to pit-head baths, could be undertaken by the welfare committee, and the response that I got from the officials was very encouraging and deserving of all praise. In fact, in the Parliamentary division of Wallsend, including quite a large mining district, we have recently had some extraordinarily fine developments, in the starting of pit-head baths at some collieries, in the building of pavilions, and in general support.

It seems to me that the way in which we could best serve the interests of the promoters of social welfare at the pits would be for those who represent mining divisions, both from the employers' point of view and from the trade unions' point of view, to talk a little more about the work that has been done. One of the difficulties, of course, about the establishment of pit-head baths, as hon. Members above the Gangway here know very well, has been that sometimes the very conservatism of the miners themselves prevents them from giving the encouragement necessary to the district welfare committee, and it is only through the joint work of miners' leaders, who know the value of pit-head baths, and of men in the districts where pit-head baths have been established that we can overcome the objections which some collieries have to voting in favour of these baths.

I intervene in this Debate, really, only to ask my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment to consider withdrawing it on the understanding mentioned by the last speaker, because I feel that both the supporters of the Government and the Opposition are desirous of seeing as much use as possible made of the funds which are available. I do not think for a moment that if there were an application made for the establishment of pithead baths, there would be any difficulty about obtaining the necessary funds. There is plenty of money in the fund, and all that is required really is the combination and co-operation of all those people who have the interests and the social welfare of the miners at heart. I should like it to go forth from this House that in a matter of this kind we can unite. It does not really matter about the terms of the Motion, so long as we in this House understand the basis on which it is passed, and so I add my words in an appeal to the hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. L. Jones) to withdraw his Amendment.

I think sometimes the employers might consider encouraging their men to consider their own interests more than they do, and in the same way I think the trade unions might sometimes make it a little easier in the colliery districts when they come to the discussion of the terms on which the management of pit-head baths is to be carried out. I hope my mining friends will forgive me—I am not going into details—but any of them who know my part of the world will probably realise that the trade unions do not always make it as easy as they might, and sometimes the employers do not press forward with their side of it as quickly as they might. I hope that this evening we shall unite on the understanding that this is just an expression of opinion that in this matter nothing should be left undone that can be done in the mining districts. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) has chosen a most valuable subject for to-night's discussion.

6.57 p.m.


I think that all the miners' representatives who have spoken have spoken from their own experience. We want pit-head baths because we ourselves, when we were at the pits, did not have any baths, and you know the value of a thing if you have never had it. I have served on a district committee, one of the biggest district committees in the coalfield, for 12 years, and so I know something about the district work, and I want to pay my tribute here to the unanimity with which both owners' and workmen's representatives worked on those welfare committees. They were not similar to other committees on which I have worked for many years. I used to call the welfare committee a round table committee, but when I went through the door of the committee dealing with price lists as between district owners and district workmen, I used to say, "Now we are going into the war." They were the same men, sitting in the same room, discussing price lists one day and welfare the next, but you would think they were not the same persons at all. When we were discussing welfare work we pooled our brains for the welfare of the miners and their wives and children, and, as far as the industry is concerned, those were in my experience among the happiest times I had in it.

Some hon. Members have given us their experiences at home. I am one of a family of 10, seven lads and three girls. Six of the lads worked in the pit, and one did not, and as the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said, there used to be a scramble at home as to who should get the hot water first, be-case the water had to be heated on the kitchen fire in a pancheon. There were sometimes six pantheons of water heated, because you could not follow your brother in the same water, for it was like soup when he had finished. That is going on yet. When I look back on those days, when my mother got out of bed at 4.30 every morning and did not go back until 11 o'clock at night, and had all this water to boil, I wonder at the amount of work she got through and the number of years she lived. I honour her every day of my life when I think of the amount of drudgery she had to perform as a miner's wife. With all the progress that we have made, cannot we see that the pit muck is left at the pit, which is its proper place, and not taken to the miners' homes?

The reason there was so little spent on pits at first was because there were so many other amenities that were required in the districts. Anybody who remembers reading in the evening papers the evidence given at the first Commission in 1919—when Robert Smillie was a member, and the vice-president of Scotland, I think it was Robinson, gave evidence about housing conditions in Scotland—will remember how we read those accounts as if they were a Wallace novel. People all over the British Isles asked if that really was the state of things in the mines. The Sankey Commission brought in a penny levy for welfare. I believe the Miners' Welfare Committee has helped to bring more temperance into the mining districts than all the preaching of teetotalism. I have seen it in my own district. I was the representative of 29 pits, and if the men had had 25 years ago the bowling greens and other amenities which they have now, instead of investing their money in John Smith's brewery at Tadcaster many of them would have had a hearth of their own.

The Secretary for Mines said that little had been spent. We are spending more out of the district funds for baths now, when we have less in them, than we did when we had more, because we have been enabled to get some of the other amenities. He said, "We are speeding up." Before I left South Yorkshire we had a priority list for pit-head baths long enough to continue until 1941, and we had to send circulars to the pits asking them not to make application because the list was so long. I have been looking at the 1935 report. I went into the Library to look at it, and while I put it on one side for a few minutes the hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. L. Jones) I found had been studying it. He has really stolen my powder, and I have only a bit of gas left. We have in South Yorkshire accommodation for 69,639 men, but there are over 100,000 men working in the pits. We still have some pits where 4,000 men are working that have not one bath.

I ask that the central committee will not push forward their theory that one big bath will do for the men as they come out of the pit. We want every man to be able to have a shower bath in seclusion. When baths were first introduced it was complained that there was not sufficient privacy, and the miner today still wants privacy. I hope the Minister will emphasise that to the central committee. Before the hon. Gentleman came to the Department we got instructions in the district committees to give priority to the pits which had a life of over 20 years. If the pit had not a life of 20 years it had not the chance of a cat in the bottomless pit of getting an installation. The next condition was that the pit had to have a life of 15 years; and the third was that men living a long distance from their work were to be given preference over those who lived close to the pit. The district committee strongly resent the idea of centralising everything.

When in 1934 the halfpenny was taken off, instructions were sent to the district committees about what they could and could not do. The South Yorkshire Committee told the central Committee that they could take the work over themselves, that we would not submit to 100 per cent. dictatorship from the centre. That was the answer to the growing centralisation of the staff, and the tremendous expense that has been caused. In 1925 the staff numbered eight; in 1930 it was 64; and in 1935, 80. The central staff in London cannot see as well as the district committee what is needed. Yet the staff in 10 years has risen from eight to 80. The expenditure in 1925 was £3,430; in 1927 it was £8,300; and in 1935, £40,222. I make the same appeal as the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), and I ask that the centralisation of this work should be kept under observation so that we shall be able to know what we are getting for the £40,000. Are we getting the goods or not? Could the goods be delivered as well by laymen in the district?


May I put a question to the Minister.


If the House consents.




Is the Minister prepared to give an undertaking that he will consult with the Welfare Committee, and with them work out a scheme covering all the applications now before the Committee, so that each of the pits will have some idea whether or when they are likely to have an installation? That is not tying him to any particular period.


I am certainly prepared at all times to consult the Welfare Committee. I have only just heard the details, but as long as the hon. Member is prepared to leave it to me to get the general sense of what he said I have no objection. If that is what he means by the inquiry in his Motion, I am much obliged to him for clarifying it.


In view of that reply, I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


Does the hon. Member for West Fife wish to withdraw his Motion?


I have replaced the Motion by my question.


I think the idea is that the Motion should be accepted by the House on the explanation of the hon. Member as to the kind of inquiry he wants.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House, in view of the advance that is taking place in housing, in health, and in hygiene, is of opinion that pit-head baths have become an urgent necessity for all mining communities and, recognising the limited resources of the Miners Welfare Committee and its inability under present conditions to cope with the demands being made upon it, expresses the opinion that the Department of Mines should immediately institute an inquiry on the best method of amplifying the finances at the disposal of the committee and thereby ensure that pit-head baths will be established as a recognised part or the equipment of the mines of this country.