HC Deb 20 November 1941 vol 376 cc437-9
22. Mr. Daggar

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that through the Abertillery Employment Exchange three ex-miners, employed on important war work were recently requested to accept employment in the mines in Staffordshire, employment unsuitable as the ages of these men varied from 55 to 57 years of age; and will he take steps to prevent men similarly situated from being put to such unnecessary inconvenience?

Mr. Tomlinson

The requirement in these three cases was withdrawn as a result of medical reports. I regret any inconvenience to which the men were put and can assure my hon. Friend that every effort is made to avoid the transfer of men who are not physically fit for mining work. At the same time I could not accept the suggestion that men over 55 are necessarily unfit.

Mr. Daggar

Is my hon. Friend not aware that there is an enormous difference between the mining of coal in South Wales and in the pits to which I refer? Men at that age are not capable of undertaking work in the deep mines in the North. Will he undertake to see that this manager is denied authority to put these men to unnecessary inconvenience?

Mr. Tomlinson

I will undertake to inquire into that aspect of the question, which is different from the general question with regard to the age of 55.

Mr. Mathers

Would it be possible for the Ministry to warn a man who is going to be required to go back to the mines, in order that, if he feels unfit, he may, before he loses the job he is working at, have an opportunity of proving his unfitness?

Mr. Tomlinson

A warning is always given. I think the difficulty is that too much warning is given.

Mr. Mathers

I can give instances where there has been no warning at all.

23. Mr. G. Macdonald

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is satisfied that the tribunals set up to deal with the refusal of men to return to the coal industry have the necessary mining knowledge to deal with the refusal of men to return to certain specified jobs?

Mr. Tomlinson

Appeals by miners against directions to return to the coalmining industry are heard by local appeal boards consisting of an independent chairman and two representatives of employers and workers respectively who may be assumed to have a practical knowledge of industry but not necessarily of the mining industry. It is not practicable to arrange that the members of the boards should themselves have technical experience in every industry with which they may be concerned, and technical evidence when necessary is best provided by means of witnesses.

Mr. Macdonald

Will my hon. Friend and his right hon. Friend consider whether it is possible, rather than sending a man back to a specific job, to send him back to the industry where he can take a job by arrangement between him and the management?

Mr. A. Bevan

In the event of medical referees acting in this matter, have any instructions been given to them to search only for certain physical ailments; and is it not desirable that there should be miner members of these tribunals, because they know the nature of the work that the miner is expected to do?

Mr. Tomlinson

It is always desirable in connection with boards dealing with a particular industry that somebody in connection with the industry should be on them, but these boards are so widespread that it is impossible to cover them all in the direction suggested. With regard to the other part of the Supplementary Question, I will have inquiries made.

Mr. Stephen

Is any compensation given to men who are compelled to go back to the mines and lose their health in consequence?

Mr. Tomlinson

I cannot say.

Mr. Lawson

Do I understand that there is to be no representative of the miners on these boards, and is my hon. Friend aware that to compel older men who have been out of the pit for years to return is a serious matter and is as cruel as it is to send aged animals back?