HC Deb 27 February 1947 vol 433 cc2266-8
73. Miss Jennie Lee

asked the Minister of Fuel and. Power if he will make a statement on the desirability, or otherwise, of miners working at the coalface on Sundays.

80. Mr. Hollis

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power why miners were prevented by decision of the West Midland Coal Board from working on a Sunday at Cannock Chase.

Mr. Shinwell

I am sure the House would wish to join with me in expressing appreciation of the magnificent gesture made by the miners in various parts of the country in volunteering to work on Sundays. There can be no doubt that at a time of crisis Sunday working is advantageous from the national point of view whenever this is practicable provided, of course, that there is no reduction in attendance on week days. As a long-term arrangement, however, it might lead to a diminution of output. In many districts of the country it has not been possible to organise Sunday working during the present emergency because transport facilities to carry away the coal could not be improvised under the prevailing weather conditions. Moreover, normally, maintenance work must be carried out on a Sunday. The decision, whether or not Sunday working is practicable is one for the National Coal Board. In the case of Cannock Chase, I am advised that the Board did not decide against Sunday working, but arranged to find employment in connection with maintenance work for any who volunteered to work underground. Though some mineworkers had expressed themselves in favour of Sunday working, the Board had received no request on behalf of the local branch of the National Union of Mineworkers.

Miss Lee

Is the Minister satisfied that the reason why there should be coal-getting in Wales on Sunday but no encouragement in the Cannock area was purely a matter of transport facilities? May I further ask him if he will send a copy of his reply to the members of the West Midland Regional Board to teach them proper standards of courtesy in dealing with miners?

Mr. Shinwell

The officials of the Coal Board will no doubt have this statement made available to them As regards the difference between the position in the Cannock Chase area and South Wales, it is all a matter of transport, and over and above that, these matters must be left to the people on the spot to decide. I must say that however fine and magnificent this gesture to work on Sunday was, it was not a practical proposition unless we could be assured that the men will work regularly throughout the week.

Mr. Bowles

As there is a certain amount of anxiety in my own constituency that the fact that the miners worked on Sunday might give the Government the impression that they could always do it, will the Minister give an assurance that the miners are not, in so doing, jeopardising the five-day week?

Mr. Shinwell

It must be clearly understood that mine workers do work on Sunday all the year round on maintenance and necessary repairing, or otherwise the shifts could not start on Monday. That is known to all concerned in the mining industry Therefore. Sunday work is not desirable for the purpose of winding coal. We must content ourselves with winding Coal on six days of the week. As to the effect on the five-day week, this is now under negotiation.

Major Haughton

Are we to take it that the whole policy of Sunday working is a question for the Coal Board?

Mr. Shinwell

All these questions are matters for the National Coal Board, who are now entrusted with the care of the mining industry.

Mr. Walkden

Is it not fairly true to say that the conditions which might make working on Sunday practicable or possible vary from pit to pit and district to district and that there can be no general policy?

Mr. Shinwell

The final word I have to say in this matter is that these questions must be negotiated, if they are to be discussed at all, as between the National Coal Board, on the one hand, and the National Union of Mineworkers, on the other.

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