HC Deb 03 April 1947 vol 435 cc2202-4
31. Colonel Clarke

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what discrepancies there are between the agreement recntly made between the Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers concerning the five-day week and No. 4 of the heads of agreement signed by representatives of the Mining Association and the Mineworkers' Federation at the Ministry of Fuel on 20th April, 1944.

Mr. Gaitskell

The effect, after the primary vesting date, of collective agreements to which the National Union of Mineworkers and the previous employers were parties, is governed by various agreements reached between the National Coal Board and the Union. These agreements expressly provided for early consideration of the application of the principle of a five-day week and the question of discrepancies does not therefore arise.

Colonel Clarke

Is it not a fact that by the agreement referred to, the mineworkers have pledged themselves, in return for the guarantee of a minimum wage, not to raise the question of remuneration or of conditions during the currency of the agreement, and that there is still a year for that agreement to run?

Mr. Gaitskell

Yes, Sir, but there can be no possible objection to a voluntary agreement replacing this one between the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers.

Colonel Clarke

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the agreement was made by the mineowners on behalf of the companies and the public, and can he say whether they have ever been consulted about the tearing up of this agreement?

Mr. Gaitskell

As they are no longer employers, there would be no reason for consulting them.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

Would the hon. Gentleman define what he means by "voluntary"?

Mr. Gaitskell

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is sufficiently master of the English language to realise what the word means.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

As the Minister of Fuel and Power is not present, may we assume that he is only working a three-day week?

32. Lieut.-Colonel Kingsmill

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is satisfied that, if the five-day week comes into operation in the coalmining industry in May next, an increased output of coal can be relied upon, and that the target of 200,000,000 tons of open-cast and mined coal can be anticipated.

34. Sir Peter Macdonald

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if the National Coal Board had formed any estimate of the diminution in the output of mined coal as the result of the coming into operation of the five-day week in May next, and, in particular, if the target envisaged in the recent White Paper can be reached under the new conditions.

Mr. Gaitskell

I will answer these Questions by referring to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power in the House yesterday.

Lieut.-Colonel Kingsmill

Have the National Coal Board approved this or not?

Mr. Gaitskell

They would not have concluded the agreement if they did not approve of it.

Sir W. Smithers

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say what reduction of output is anticipated as a result of this days and hours agreement?

Mr. Gaitskell

That was referred to in detail in yesterday's Debate.

33. Lieut.-Colonel Kingsmill

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether the agreement just arrived at between the Government and the National Union of Mineworkers had the approval of the National Coal Board, or is the agreement one for which the Government accepts full responsibility.

Mr. Gaitskell

The principle of the working week of five days of 7½ hours for coalminers is one of which His Majesty's Government fully approve. The detailed conditions applicable to the five-day week have been negotiated by the National Coal Board with the National Union of Mineworkers and are now embodied in the agreement to which the hon. and gallant Member refers. The National Coal Board will operate the agreement with effect from 4th May.