HC Deb 24 July 1941 vol 373 cc1066-8
The Secretary for Mines (Mr. David Grenfell)

I wish, with the permission of the House, to make a statement regarding the provision of pit-head canteens. On this matter, I recently asked the cooperation of the Miners' Welfare Commission, the Chairman of which is the right hon. and gallant Member for Central Nottingham (Sir F. Sykes). The Commission with its organisers have done a great deal of preliminary work and canteens have been provided or are under negotiation, giving accommodation for 450,000 miners. The service provided depends on the choice of the miners and the accommodation and other facilities available and the aim before the Commission has been to provide something immediately and to improve upon it later. Colliery owners have, as a rule, readily co-operated with the Commission and many existing colliery buildings have been made available for use as canteens, including some part of the accommodation of pit-head baths. I hope and expect to have the help of other owners where canteens have not yet been provided. The Welfare Commission has made grants towards the cost of equipment. In order, however, to meet cases where existing buildings are not available, the Welfare Commission have now decided, subject to the authority of the Government being given, to make grants from the Miners' Welfare Fund in suitable cases towards the cost of providing or adapting buildings. These proposals are under consideration, and I hope that approval will shortly be given.

Mr. T. Smith

While thanking my hon. Friend for his interest in this matter, may I ask him for an assurance that money will be available for this purpose without having to levy the miners for it; and will he also keep in mind the fact that while canteens have been introduced in collieries, there are still some coalowners who are not very enthusiastic?

Mr. Grenfell

I hope that sufficient funds will be available. The purpose of this announcement is to acquaint the House with the intention of the Miners' Welfare Commission. Governmental sanction will have to be given, and I expect that there are sufficient funds available to cover the whole ground. I do not think any question of that kind will be allowed to hold up the scheme.

Mr. Gordon Macdonald

Will the Secretary for Mines keep in mind the fact that this matter has now been delayed for many months and that further delay will be dangerous to the success of the scheme? Will he also bear in mind the importance of the provision of canteens as an element in the question of coal production?

Mr. Grenfell

That is one of the reasons why I have made this announcement today. I have been in communication with the Minister of Food to-day, and I have told him that we shall have not only the accommodation available, but also the supplies of food.

Mr. Evelyn Walkden

Is it the intention of the Welfare Commission and the Mines Department in the carrying out of the final scheme to see to it that every miner has the opportunity of securing a good, wholesome, hot meal at the coal mine each day?

Mr. Grenfell

As I have already said, the choice of the kind of supplies to be made available will depend largely on the wishes of the miners in the locality. Not all miners want the same things. There are differences of habit and differences of circumstances. The tastes of the miners will be consulted, and, as far as possible, they will be given whatever they would prefer.

Mr. R. J. Taylor

Is the Minister aware that in Northumberland they are now beginning to provide the miners with meat pie, and while a meat pie may be a very good thing in itself, does the Minister consider that it is adequate to meet the miners' demand for a real meal?

Mr. Grenfell

I have already said that the choice will be left very largely to the miners, and as far as supplies are available, they will be given all the additional nourishment that can be provided.