HC Deb 25 October 1949 vol 468 cc1137-8
23. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Minister of Labour what action he is taking to check the decline in manpower in the coal industry.

Mr. Isaacs

The decline in manpower in the coal industry is due to increased wastage rather than to a decrease in recruitment. My Department is continuing to do everything in its power both to encourage recruitment to the industry and to prevent the loss of workers who can make a useful contribution to coal production.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Is it not a fact that none of the target figures in the last three Economic Surveys that proposed an increase in this industry's manpower has been reached, and that a decrease has now set in? Does that not arouse in the right hon. Gentleman's mind the possibility that his system of a ring fence round this industry is thoroughly unsound?

Mr. Isaacs

No, Sir, I think it rather proves the contrary. [Laughter.] I will amend that. I am sure it rather proves the contrary. So far as wastage is concerned—"wastage" is not a good word—it is due to men leaving the industry, but there is not the need for the number that was anticipated because of the increasing use of mechanical devices, which are taking the places of men.

Mr. Frank Byers

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that the Control of Engagement Order, therefore, is now a permanent part of Socialist policy?

Mr. Isaacs

It does not mean anything of the sort.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in Scotland the question of manpower in the mines is closely related to the question of housing in the mining areas? Will he look into the whole question of the shortage of building labour in Scotland to make sure that the people who work at the mines have somewhere to live?

Mr. J. Langford-Holt

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that this ring fence round the industry is not, in his opinion, deterring men in any circumstances from entering the industry?

Mr. Isaacs

I said I am quite sure in my own mind that it is having no deterrent effect in the industry.

Mr. Fernyhough

Will my hon. Friend assure the House that if any young Tory Members want to work in the mines they will find no obstacles in their way?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Does the supplementary answer to my supplementary question indicate that the right hon. Gentleman is dissatisfied with this decline in the manpower of this industry, and if it does not, can he tell the House what steps he is taking to arrest it?

Mr. Isaacs

The hon. Member must not put a question which can be answered both ways at once. The answer which I have given is that we do not consider the declining manpower to be so serious in view of its relation to the increase in mechanisation.