HC Deb 06 April 1943 vol 388 cc489-90
40 Mr. Dobbie

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power (1) on what authority he has issued the instruction for youths who work at pit tops to be directed to underground work in the mines;

(2) what rights of appeal a youth who works at a pit top has against a direction to proceed to underground working; and is the pit production committee consulted before such direction is issued;

(3) whether he will take into consideration the position of lads who are employed at pit tops and are compelled to proceed to underground in the mines with a view to giving them the same option of choice, between service with His Majesty's Forces or the mines, as is given to lads in other forms of employment?

Major Lloyd George

In giving directions, under powers conferred upon him by Defence Regulation 58A to ensure the most efficient use of the man-power available in the coalmining industry, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service acts in close consultation with me. I have asked him to use his powers in appropriate cases to direct to underground employment surface workers between the ages of 18 and 25 at the date of registration, in order that men who are physically fit and whose work on the surface could be done by older or less fit men might relieve the serious shortage of underground workers. Pit Production Committees are not asked as a general rule to give advice on the cases appropriate for the receipt of directions, but those directed have in every case an opportunity of appeal to local Appeal Boards established by the Ministry of Labour and National Service. In view of the shortage of man-power in the underground occupations and in the age groups to which I have referred, I am not prepared to suggest to my right hon. Friend that such men should be free to choose between work underground or service in His Majesty's Forces.

Mr. Dobbie

In view of the fact that it has not been the general practice prior to the war, and in view of the terms of imprisonment to which young men have been sentenced and the great resentment that has been caused in mining areas, and of the danger of making criminals rather than miners, will not the Minister again consider the question?

Major Lloyd George

I do not think I could do that. It is of the greatest urgency to get men to work underground, and I cannot see in these days, when people are sent all over the world, that any real hardship is suffered by people being asked to go underground.

Mr. E. Walkden

Where lads have been attending technical colleges and training as craftsmen and engineers, is it not reasonable that they should be afforded the opportunity, if they wish it, to join the Royal Air Force, as many of them desire to do?

Major Lloyd George

We shall need more of those very technicians. We have not a surplus at the moment.