HC Deb 11 November 1943 vol 393 cc1266-7
20. Mr. Cocks

asked the Minister of Labour what progress has been made in devising a scheme for directing young men into the mining industry which will avoid any discrimination between different classes; and whether he accepts the principle that until such a scheme comes into operation the practice of directing surface workers against their will to underground work will be suspended?

Mr. Bevin

The matter raised in the first part of the Question is under consideration. The answer to the last part of the Question is in the negative. As I have informed the hon. Member, I cannot treat the movement of a worker from one job to another in the industry as if it were the same thing as compulsory recruitment from outside the industry.

Mr. Cocks

Even if the Minister cannot recognise the principle, will he suspend the practice, in view of the fact that there is a far greater difference between surface work and underground work than there is between work in one department and work in another department of a factory?

Mr. Bevin

That raises a very big question—which I am sure my hon. Friend would not like to have to settle—in connection with the Miners' Federation. Their claim has been all through that "in and around the mines" is the mining industry.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay

So far as the first part of the Question is concerned, does responsibility lie with the right hon. Gentleman or with the Minister of Fuel and Power?

Mr. Bevin

I am the agent of the Minister of Fuel and Power, giving the actual directions; but he determines who shall go below ground.

Mr. Sloan

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of these people engaged on surface work do not in any circumstances go below ground? Why should they be treated differently from the others?

Mr. Bevin

I can only repeat that Members ought not to speak with two voices, one outside the House and the other inside. The claim is that "in and around the mines" is the mining industry, and I have not heard the Miners' Federation go back on that.