HC Deb 05 February 1941 vol 368 cc927-9
39. Mr. Tinker

asked the Secretary for Mines whether his attention has been drawn to the closing of the St. George's Colliery, Tyldesley, Lancashire; whether he has had information of this from the colliery company; and can he say what steps he proposes to take to prevent the closing down of collieries?

The Secretary for Mines (Mr. David Grenfell)

I am informed by the colliery company that in view of the local shortage of man-power they decided to close this pit and to concentrate production at other pits in the neighbourhood. I understand that the representatives of the men were consulted; that employment at neighbouring pits has been offered to all concerned, and that suitable arrangements are being made for the men's transport. A falling off in production should thus be prevented. Wherever the Mines Department can usefully intervene with the object of keeping collieries in production, suitable steps are taken; furthermore, my hon. Friend will remember that a scheme was recently approved under which a levy will be made to ensure that collieries which may be required to resume production at a later date shall, wherever possible, be maintained in a condition to do so.

Mr. Tinker

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is great concern in Lancashire about the closing of pits, and does he not agree that before any pit is closed in that county, or anywhere else, the Mines Department ought to be told of the matter and to decide whether it is right to close the pit or not? Will my hon. Friend take steps to see that no colliery is closed without his consent?

Mr. Grenfell

My hon. Friend knows that the intention here is to make better use of the man-power available in Lancashire, and the company claim that production will not decline but will increase as a result of this action.

Mr. Tinker

Before any colliery is closed, will my hon. Friend take power to say whether or not it shall be closed?

Mr. Grenfell

I doubt whether I have power to say whether any colliery shall close or not, but I want to be consulted before a pit is closed down.

Mr. Shinwell

If we are to concentrate on the most efficient units of production in the coal industry, ought it to be left to private interests to determine it? Should it not be part of an organised plan prepared by the Department?

Mr. Grenfell

My hon. Friend knows quite well that if there is any difficulty experienced in working owing to lack of material or man-power, or for any other cause, it is the business of the colliery to inform my Department. In this case that was done, and the plea for the change was that there would be better production by concentrating production in the other pits.

Mr. Gordon Macdonald

In regard to man-power, will my hon. Friend consult with the Minister of Labour on this question, because it is a serious question in other collieries in Lancashire?

Mr. Grenfell

There is a very serious problem of man-power in Lancashire, and I welcome the co-operation of anybody and everybody to bring more labour into production in Lancashire. I should like very much to get men brought to that coalfield. It is a fact that the number of men engaged there has declined very seriously during the last two years.