HC Deb 21 November 1946 vol 430 cc1001-2
19. Squadron-Leader Sir Gifford Fox

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power If he will state the number of miners connected with coalmining who get free coal; the total quantity so supplied for their own use per anuum; what proportion this is of all coal extracted from the mines; why the amount allowed is equal to four times the annual ration for the ordinary household; and what steps will be taken to make the amount of the free coal equal to the quantity rationed to the ordinary consumer.

Mr. Shinwell

About 530,000 persons connected with the coal mining industry receive free or concessionary coal. Approximately 420,000 of these men are men directly engaged in coal production, the balance being other employees in coal mining and its ancillary industries. Last year the quantity of coal so supplied was 4,600,000 tons, or about 2½ per cent. of the total quantity of saleable coal produced. The amount of free or concessionary coal supplied to miners is governed by district wage agreements and varies considerably from district to district. The arrangements now in force will clearly fall to be considered by the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mine-workers as part of the general review of wages and conditions of employment which they have agreed to undertake.

Sir G. Fox

How long has the Minister been in favour of a privileged class, whereby miners' households get 10 tons of coal a year, compared with the ordinary ration in my constituency? And not only that but this privileged class black market their surplus coal.

Mr. Shinwell

I only take note of what the hon. and gallant Member said about the miners black marketing the coal they receive. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman cares to sustain that allegation, no doubt he will produce the evidence.

Mr. W. J. Brown

May I ask the Minister for an assurance that there is no "closed shop" of entry into this profession in respect of anybody who wants to join it?

Mr. Shinwell

I am afraid that the closed shop is an obsession with the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Holmes

Is the Minister aware that no free coal is supplied to the miners, and that the minimum wage has a deduction made from it for the cash value of the coal supplied?

Mr. Shinwell

The hon. Member is correct. It is quite a mistaken idea that miners receive free coal. When the coal is paid for, it is wages in kind.