HC Deb 02 March 1937 vol 321 cc154-5
Mr. Cape

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Labour whether he can give any information about the prospects of reopening the Whitehaven Collieries?

The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Brown)

Negotiations between the Nuffield Trustees, Special Areas Reconstruction Association, Limited, Coltness Iron Company, Limited, Whitehaven Collieries, Limited, and the Lowther Estates, Limited, have resulted in an agreement being arrived at whereby a new company will be formed immediately to work the Whitehaven Collieries. This is a large colliery undertaking in West Cumberland which ceased operations in October, 1935, causing unemployment to nearly 2,500 people who formerly worked at the mines. The Coltness Iron Company, Limited, which has wide colliery and other interests in Scotland, in Warwickshire and in South Staffordshire, has agreed to become responsible for the management of the Whitehaven Collieries, and the new company will be under its control. The effect of the arrangement will, I anticipate, be that in a large measure the problem of unemployment in Whitehaven will have been solved and the hope of prosperity restored to the town and district.

Mr. F. Anderson

Has a definite agreement been arrived at, and, if so, how many men are likely to be immediately employed?

Mr. Brown

I understand that repair work will commence at once, and the company inform me that they hope within four months to be employing 400 men, rising to 1,000 at the end of the year, and then to get back to full production.

Mr. T. Williams

In the event of an expansion in coal sales, will this not mean the closing down of some other colliery?

Mr. Brown

The hon. Gentleman knows that that by no means happens.

Mr. H. G. Williams

Is there not an acute shortage of coal at this moment?

Mr. Garro Jones

While appreciating aid from any source, may I ask what element of enterprise has been brought in by the Nuffield Trustees which could not have been brought in by the Government at an earlier stage?

Mr. Brown

If the hon. Gentleman will put that question down, a good deal of information will be given.