11. Mr. Davidson
asked the Minister of Labour how many miners have been transferred during the past year from the mines to other work; and what steps are being taken to meet the demand for workers in the mines in view of the need for greater coal production?
§ Mr. Bevin
Following the loss of the Continental markets there was heavy unemployment in the mining industry. I consulted with the industry and my hon.
313 Friend the Secretary for Mines as to whether steps could be taken to utilise these unemployed miners at that time in the mining industry, and as no opportunity was found for their use, I transferred considerable numbers of them to other industries. Complete figures are not available. In view of the new situation that has now arisen, I am in consultation with my hon. Friend the Secretary for Mines and with the production Departments regarding the return to coal mining of men who have left the industry.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will take every step to ascertain the exact number of miners who have been transferred and who are still engaged in other work; can he say whether it is true that there has been a decrease of 10 per cent, in employment in the mining industry in one year, and will he say whether his attitude is definitely against the taking of miners from the Army back to this nationally important industry?
§ Mr. Bevin
In the first place I must point out to the House that, owing to the long unemployment of these miners, we went to enormous expense to train them for other industries, and there are other bottleneck industries where, if I took them away I should immediately create difficulty For instance, if I proceded to take miners whom I have trained as drop forgers from that employment I should immediately hold up aircraft production. The same thing applies to other industries, and great care has therefore to be used in this matter. There is also the position of the men to be considered. We have now stopped men being taken away from the mining industry, under the Essential Work Order, but I have asked the production Departments to go carefully through their lists and to return men wherever they can. I have gone further than that. If there is a falling-off in the coal trade at the end of the summer from some cause or another, it is not my intention to allow these men who go back to be stranded. I must put them back into the industries from which they are taken in order that their services can be used. With regard to the Army—
§ Mr. George Griffiths
On a point of Order. Will it be possible for the Minister 314 to continue his statement on the mining question at the end of Questions?
Further to the point of Order. While I fully recognise that neither a Minister nor an hon. Member is entitled to make a speech during Question time, as the Minister had just reached what is to many of us the most important part of his answer, namely, that dealing with miners who might be released from the Army, may I ask if he could be allowed to finish that part of the answer?