HC Deb 19 June 1941 vol 372 cc793-4
8. Mr. David Adams

asked the Minister of Labour under what powers boys who, at one time, were engaged in coal mining but had entered other occupations, are being ordered to leave such employment by the Consett Employment Exchange and re-enter the pits; and whether guarantees are being given to such entrants that they will be taught one of the recognised crafts of the industry and not be entering blind-alley employment with the status of labourers?

Mr. Bevin

A few boys at Consett who had secured employment outside the coalmining industry in contravention of the Undertaking (Restriction on Engagement) Order, 1940, were directed by the National Service officer under Regulation 58A of the Defence (General) Regulations to return to coalmining. Persons so directed have the right to appeal to the local appeal board. With regard to the last part of the Question, I have brought to the notice of my hon. Friend the Secretary for Mines the importance of providing adequate training for boys in the coalmining industry, but it would not be practicable to confine the issue of directions to cases in which the boys are to be trained as craftsmen.

Mr. Adams

While thanking the Minister for that Reply, I feel that the matter ought to be pursued further, and I therefore beg to give notice that I shall raise it on the Adjournment.

9. Mr. Gordon Macdonald

asked the Minister of Labour whether in view of the need for increased production of coal, he will give further consideration to the re leasing of men from the Army for the coal industry?

Mr. Bevin

I am not prepared to recommend the release of men from the Army for this purpose, but I am taking other steps in conjunction with my hon. Friend the Secretary for Mines with the object of meeting the requirements of the industry.

Mr. Macdonald

In view of the fact that a number have been taken in the last few weeks whose training has not commenced, will my right hon. Friend consider releasing them, and will he give instructions that no further men are to be called-up from the mining industry?

Mr. Bevin

The numbers taken into the Army in the last few weeks must be very small, because the instruction to call up people was limited to young persons working on the surface only, and if they are employed below ground in their proper capacity, they are automatically reserved. I have taken steps to prevent any calling-up of underground miners, and also taken steps, in conjunction with the Secretary of State for War, to stop recruiting from this industry, with one exception, that is, young men volunteering to become pilots in the Air Force.

Mr. James Griffiths

Is the Minister aware of the desirability of keeping an even balance of age in the mining industry, in view of the fact that so many thousands of young, virile men have gone into the Army that unless younger men come back production will be affected, and will he seriously reconsider this matter?

Mr. Levy

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the chaotic position of the coal industry and that it cannot be very long before some of our munition works may have to close down for lack of coal; and what is he going to do about it?

Mr. Ness Edwards

Is the Minister aware that men are being called up this week from the mining industry?

Mr. Bevin

Coal seems to be a burning subject.

Mr. Levy

It is, but the difficulty is that we have no coal to burn.

Mr. Bevin

Most of the questions that have been put to me ought to have been put to the Secretary for Mines. With regard to the calling-up, I would like to have particulars of people called up recently. It is not in accordance with the facts except in the limited sense that I have indicated; and with regard to the chaotic position in the coal industry, I can hardly be held responsible for that. It is not my Department.