HC Deb 12 December 1950 vol 482 cc988-1109

3.52 p.m.

Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)

I beg to move, That this House views with concern the inability of the National Coal Board to secure an increase both of production and productivity sufficient to meet the urgent demands of industry, of the rearmament programme, of the domestic consumer and of export, resulting in the necessity to spend scarce dollars, which could otherwise have been applied to provide urgently needed raw materials and believes that the situation is so serious as to call for an outside impartial inquiry into the whole problem of coal supplies in relation to the nation's needs. The House indicated just now, by the care with which we listened to the statement of The Prime Minister, that it is aware of the time of stress and the serious position in which we are living today; and it is in the light of that that I am going to try to move this Motion, which stands in the name of the Leader of the Opposition as well as the names of others of my right hon. Friends on this bench.

Let me start by saying, as I hope to repeat more than once in the course of my argument, that the matter of the coal supplies in this country and of the coal industry in this country is no longer a party matter: it is essentially a national matter. The industry, for good or ill, has been nationalised; and, as far as we on these benches are concerned, we have made clear that we accept that position; and I am going to suggest that it is the task of everybody in the country whatever their position or politics to see how that industry, which is so vital for the future of this country, can be made as successful as conditions allow.

With that in view, quite definitely, we drafted this Motion in terms which we considered were moderate. I confess that I had entertained the hope—all my colleagues entertained the hope, too—that the Government, in the light of the serious condition of the world, might find it possible to agree to the terms of the Motion. What does the Motion say? We start off by expressing concern at the present condition of affairs. I should like to ask whether the country is not concerned, whether the Government are not concerned, and whether there is any hon. Member in this House, on whatever bench he sits, who is not also concerned with the conditions that face us in the coal industry today.

Certainly over the last two years, and, indeed, over the last months, various sections of the industry, and, not least, members of the Board themselves, have expressed concern—and expressed it in no unmeasured terms. I am not going to weary the House today with long quotations, but everyone is aware of the concern about the conditions of the industry that has been expressed by the Chairman of the Board, Lord Hyndley, on more than one occasion over the last few months.

Let me make it quite clear—I do not think it is necessary, but, perhaps, it is just as well, in view of the controversy which has arisen over Sir Eric Young—that I have personally had no communication with him at all, and that what I have to say is not influenced by anything I may have heard or seen of his views or of the Minister's. I think that it would be well to get that out of the way first.

I had hoped, as I say, that Ministers would have expressed their concern, too; or, at least, that they would not have denied their concern. Quite frankly, from the point of view of the country, and from the point of view of the industry at the present moment, I am sorry that the Amendment, which the Minister is, no doubt, going to move, has appeared on the Paper.

[To leave out from "House" to end, and add "considers that an outside inquiry into the work of the National Coal Board will serve no useful purpose at the present time, but would divert the Board and the industry from their urgent task of increasing the output of coal; recognises the response made by the miners to their leaders' call for extra effort and longer working hours; and welcomes the efforts made by His Majesty's Government to ensure the supplies of coal for the needs of the nation, and in particular, the coal required to maintain full employment and the rising productivity of labour."]

I do not want to be unduly controversial, but the effect of the Amendment is to omit the word "concern" and to substitute the word "complacency," and what the Amendment in effect says is that the House views with complacency the failure of the Board and congratulates the Government on the steps they have taken.

We mention "production" and "productivity" deliberately because they are not the same thing. What the country is concerned with above all is, of course, the total production—the amount of coal available to meet our needs. That total production, I suggest, can be obtained in two ways. There are two alternatives. We can either have a large number of men employed with comparatively low productivity, or we can have a smaller number of men employed with a very much higher productivity and obtain the same results. What, unfortunately, as far as I can see, is at present taking place is that the number of men is decreasing and the productivity is not being increased to anything like the extent or at anything like the rate required. Indeed, as I shall say later on in my speech, the Minister himself, in his statement on 20th November, in fact admitted it. He said in effect that the immediate crisis necessitating an import of coal was due to the fact that the increase of productivity over the last year, which was taking place in the early part of the year, had not been maintained later on at the same relative pace.

What are the actual facts? It would be idle to deny, it would be foolish to deny, it would be wrong to deny that progress has been made over the last four years. At the end of the war the coal industry, like other industries, was suffering from the effects of the war—from younger men being taken away, and from a whole host of similar causes. Therefore, there has been a recovery, and we ought to be grateful for such recovery as there has been; but, in the light of the requirements of today, what I am suggesting is that the facts—I do not want to be controversial—the facts are that the recovery has not taken place sufficiently fast.

I am going to suggest—indeed, our Motion suggests—that the reason why the recovery has not taken place sufficiently fast is that there is no agreement in the country, in the industry, or in this House as to the reasons for that delay in recovery, or as to the best methods of securing recovery. Lots of people have got their own ideas, but those ideas do not necessarily meet with approval outside the sections which put them forward.

Let us look for one brief moment at the facts. This year the number of men in the industry is approximately 69,000, and the Minister hopes he will attain roughly 205 million tons of coal. Those are almost exactly the same figures as in 1941. In 1941 there were 698,000 men and output was 206 million tons. That was admittedly a big drop compared with prewar, because in 1937 output was 240 million tons as against 206 million tons. The number of men in 1937 was, of course, greater, but the important thing is that the output per man-year in 1937 was appreciably higher than it was either in 1941 or in this year, although this year shows a slight improvement over last year.

I would mention in passing that we have at last succeeded in persuading the Government Front Bench of the importance of using output per man-year and not output per man-shift. Output per man-shift we find has got back to the average level of pre-war. Naturally it sank during the war, and it has now slightly exceeded the pre-war figure, being 1.19 tons per man-shift as against 1.17, which shows an improvement over the 1.07 tons in the middle of the war but output per man year is still too low.

The important thing in judging whether that productivity is adequate to the needs of today is to remember that, whereas before the war only about 60 per cent. of the coal was cut by machine the figure has now risen to 80 per cent.; and whereas before the war only 52 per cent. was conveyed by machine, today that figure has risen to 75 per cent., or just under 80 per cent. In the last few years the Coal Board have, quite rightly, spent very large sums of public money, running into tens of millions of pounds, on increased mechanism, and what the public want to know—and what I think this House and the country are entitled to know—is why, having regard to that heavy expenditure and that big increase in mechanism, output per man-shift is still only just about pre-war, and why, in the words of the Minister himself, the increase which was taking place earlier this year has now slowed down, to put it no higher.

The contrast with industry is very remarkable. I do not intend to make quotations, but everybody knows that the Government have, quite rightly, been boasting of the great improvement in the productivity of industry over the last few years. Compared with pre-war the increase has been of the order of 30 per cent. The Bulletin for Industry for November quoted an increase for the early part of this year of 8 per cent. compared with 5 per cent. last year.

All that represents a tremendous contrast with what has been taking place in the coal industry. Indeed, as far as I know, the coal industry is the solitary exception—at all events, of those industries about whom figures are published in the Bulletin—in which we find a failure —I put it no higher than that—to attain pre-war production, compared with the big increase over pre-war which other industries are showing. I do not think, therefore that it is unfair to claim that the facts bear us out up to the hilt in the first part of our Motion, namely, that the industry, or the Board, whichever you like, has failed to produce that increased productivity which the circumstances require.

In his statement of 20th November, the Minister gave as one of the reasons for the crisis the fact that the demand of industry for coal had increased very materially. Of course it has. But surely to goodness he is not going to admit that this increase took him by surprise. He is a member of a Government of planners. He and his colleagues have for the last two years been boasting about the increase in industrial productivity.

Mr. James Glanville (Consett)

Hear, hear! And the right hon. Gentleman cannot run away from it.

Mr. Hudson

I am delighted to have that agreement, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will agree with this next thing. In that case, why express surprise that industry requires more coal? Apparently, according to his statement, that was something new and unexpected.

Mr. Glanville

What about the years when men were on the dole?

Mr. Hudson

I suggest that the trouble today is that for the last two, if not three, years, the target set the coal industry has been hopelessly inadequate. That has been the gravamen of the charges that we have made in debate after debate in this House. On one occasion even the Trades Union Congress agreed that the target set the coal industry was too low. Certainly two years ago Sir Charles Reid, in his statement on his resignation, indicated that in his view, with the manpower and the machinery available to the industry then, a figure of 230 million tons a year was not unreasonable.

Today, to be fair to the industry, the figure of manpower is slightly less than it was two years ago, so that 230 million tons a year is perhaps rather more than Sir Charles Reid would use if he were speaking today. But we are dealing with a figure of 205 million tons, the lower of two inadequate targets set by the Survey. The Survey set as the target for production this year 205 to 210 million tons. We shall be lucky if we get 205 million tons, and I suggest that 205 million tons is the figure we ought to bear in mind in relation to what Sir Charles Reid and others thought could be attained, and that it should be somewhere between 210 million and 230 million tons.

Mr. David Griffiths (Rother Valley)

In the drawing-room.

Mr. Hudson

The right hon. Gentleman has got all the figures at his hand, and I certainly suggest that the impression he left on people's minds in his statement was contrary to the fact, for today industry is not using more coal than it did before the war. Before the war the figure was 42 million tons. Last year the figure was 42.1 million tons, and this year it has gone up by the very small amount of 1,600,000 tons. Substantially, industry is not today using directly more coal than it did prewar. In electricity consumption has doubled; it has gone up from 15 million to 30 million tons a year. Consumption in the gas industry has gone up slightly by about five million tons.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power (Mr. Robens)

Surely that is all industrial?

Mr. Hudson

I am going through the points. I am trying to get the facts, and I shall draw conclusions from them in a moment. The figures are given separately for different industries, and I think it will be of convenience to the House in following the argument I am trying to develop if they take the figures separately. To make it clearer, industry qua industry used directly 42 million tons pre-war, and a little more this year—a matter of under two million tons; in the electricity industry, consumption doubled from 15 million to 30 million tons; in the gas industry it went up from 19 million to 23 million tons, something of that order; and the unfortunate domestic consumer came down by no less than 16 million tons, and last year had allotted to him a lower amount than in the worst year of the war.

These difficulties of consumption have taken the country and certainly the Government by surprise. We have heard in successive Economic Surveys what the increased number of generating stations and the increased consumption of electricity were supposed to be for the next five years, and all this increased consumption should have been foreseen and allowed for by the Government planners. Therefore, we get back to what I was saying earlier, that it is not the increased consumption that is at fault; it is the failure to set the necessary high target for the coal industry to take care of the increased consumption of which they boast and which the Government said was due to increased productivity and increased industry in the country as a whole. Now the Government appear to anticipate a shortage both for industry and the domestic consumer.

I now turn to the export side. The last time that I spoke in a coal debate earlier this year, I quoted the figure that we had indicated to the Marshall Plan authorities as being our target for export this year—a figure of 33 million tons. In the published document of the Marshall Plan that was attributed to us as our target of export. The Parliamentary Secretary, in replying to that debate, said that I had got the figures all confused; that was not the real target; and they were really based on the demands of the European countries, which, he said, were grossly inflated.

Mr. Robens

I went on to say that the imports of American coal were grossly exaggerated, as events have proved.

Mr. Hudson

For my purpose, the figure is 33 million tons, and, if what the hon. Gentleman says is true, as late as July, 1948, that figure was published and accepted by implication by the Coal Board in its annual report for 1947. As the figures were so entirely wrong and the demand was so inflated, and the National Coal Board never intended to send that figure of 33 million tons of export, it is a great pity and a little odd, to say the least of it, that it did not put some saving clause on page 116 of the National Coal Board's report for 1947. As hon. Members know, it was published as recently as July, 1948.

I think that we may take it that the country as a whole expected that we would be able to export 33 million tons. Actually, that figure is not going to be reached by half this year, and, so far as one can tell, it is not going to be reached next year. Yet coal is surely vital to the rearmament programme not only of this country but of Europe as a whole. The Parliamentary Secretary himself, in an Adjournment debate, raised, I think, by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Boardman), admitted as much and, of course, it is true; and yet here we are falling down on our promises and expectations of exporting one of the key materials for the rearmament of Europe and for the defence of the West.

The Prime Minister, in his statement just now, talked about the difficulty of raw material supplies which he had been discussing with President Truman. Most of these raw materials, as far as we are concerned, come from abroad, but there is one raw material which we have in unlimited quantity in this country if only we could get it to the surface, and that is coal. It is not only ironic but pathetic that at a time like this, we should be falling down on the provision of what is, after all, vital to the successful defence of Europe. That is what we say in the third part of our Motion.

Finally, I come to the question of dollars. In answer to a Question the other day, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the amount of dollars needed to buy timber for 100,000 houses in this country was 20 million, with a small extra amount for freights. We have been told in the course of debate that one reason why we cannot get that extra 100,000 houses was because the dollars could not be spared. What is the exact figure of tons that the Government propose to buy or to authorise the National Coal Board to buy in America? If it is one million tons or thereabouts and the price is £6 a ton or thereabouts, that is very close indeed to the amount of dollars required to buy timber for 100,000 houses.

We were told that we could not have the dollars to buy the timber for houses, but we provide dollars to buy coal to make good the short fall of the industry. That is the fourth part of our Motion. We view with concern the failure to provide coal, involving the diversion to coal of dollars that might otherwise have been used for the urgent requirements of this country. It has been suggested today, to me at least, that it is unfair for us to have mentioned the Coal Board and to be blaming the Coal Board. It is very difficult to find out who is the villain in the piece. So far as I am concerned, that difficulty has been got over by the Amendment, because one advantage of the Amendment is that the Government claim credit for what they have done, and presumably they also accept responsibility for where, we believe, they have failed.

Therefore, for our purpose instead of "Coal Board" we can read "the Government." We have had innumerable debates; we have criticised the Coal Board; we have made constructive suggestions which have been turned down. We on these benches have repeatedly warned the Government and the country of the narrowness of the margin of coal available. We see it today. It is only a matter of 1,500,000 tons, and yet we are being faced with this crisis. All the Ministers have been complacent and their speeches have lacked urgency. I am not blaming only the right hon. Gentleman because both his predecessors did the same. We are in difficulty today and the country is, too; but it is impossible to get at the facts. We get confusing answers from the Government—and I hope that the House will forgive me for saying it, because it is not meant as a criticism, but owing to the Standing Orders of the House a great deal of the information which we would like to get we are not allowed to get, because we cannot put Questions down which refer to the day-to-day working of the Board.

It is perfectly true that the annual report of the Coal Board contains masses of facts and statistics, but no answers to the questions that are worrying the country today—[An HON. MEMBER: "What are they?"] I am grateful to the hon. Member because I see that I have reached a point in my notes which says "Some of the questions." Well, some of the questions into which we suggest an inquiry would be useful are these: What was the basis for the target set each year for the last few years? We have never been told. There is nothing in the Coal Board report, so far as I know, to tell us. We would like to know how the targets were in fact set. Was it the result of the planner's estimates of consumption or was the basis what the Coal Board thought that, if lucky, they might be able to get?

That is merely putting in another way the question I asked earlier: whether the Government were taken by surprise by the increased consumption of industry the right hon. Gentleman mentioned? Did the National Coal Board protest at the figure of 205 million tons being too low, or, the figure of 210 million tons being too high? How can they reconcile the very low figure of 205 million tons when Lord Hyndley, in an interview with the "News of the World" in April this year, issued a serious warning about what would happen to the country unless we had higher production?

The next question is about the stock position. It was obvious, early in the summer, that the stock position this winter was going to be very tight. Yet, on 18th September, in answer to a Question, the right hon. Gentleman professed complacency. He told us that by the beginning of the winter he expected the stocks to have reached 16½ million tons. Later on, in another interview with the "News of the World," on 25th September, we were told that we were not actually going to get 16½ million tons by 31st October, but that undoubtedly we were going to get this amount a little bit later. It is now a good deal later, and the figure has never reached 16½ million tons—I think we are short by over three-quarters of a million tons at the best. We are entitled to ask and to be told why it was that the Minister continued with these complacent statements.

We now come to the question of imports. What we should like to know, and I think the country is entitled to know, because there are all sorts of rumours floating about, is what was the first date the National Coal Board anticipated that it would be necessary to import coal, and when they first informed the Ministry, either formally or informally, because, to be quite blunt about it, there are rumours that this apprehension was entertained, or this information was given, in the summer, and that it was communicated to the Government and the Government "funked" the issue. I do not know whether it is true, but the country is entitled to know whether it is true or not. The House will remember that, in the Adjournment Debate on 18th September, the Parliamentary Secretary said that the Government did not intend to import any coal.

Mr. Robens

Will the right hon. Gentleman read out the rest of the sentence?

Mr. Hudson

Yes, Sir. It is not the Government's intention to import coal … and while I have no doubt that under a given set of conditions, which I need not at this stage mention, it may he necessary to think about that, all I would say at this stage is that the Government do not propose to import coal."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th September, 1950; Vol. 478. c. 1686.] If these cryptic words have any meaning at all, they rather tend to support the suggestion I have just made, that the Coal Board had warned the Government earlier in the year that imports of coal might be necessary; just as, in the famous case of devaluation, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been warned by many people that it might be necessary to devalue the pound, which did not stop him repeating time after time that the Government had no intention of devaluing the pound, and then coming down to the House and telling us that he was going to do it. The situation is not unlike that.

We should like to know what happened between 18th September, when the Parliamentary Secretary said that the Government were not intending to import coal, and 20th November, when the Minister came down to the House and said that the situation was so serious that the Government would have to import coal. The Lord President of the Council—I am sorry that he is not in his place—at an earlier stage of the Government's life, when he was more optimistic than perhaps he is now, said this at the Labour Party Conference at Bournemouth in 1946: The real problem of statesmanship in the field of industry and economics is to see trouble coming to prevent ourselves getting into a smash. We are determined that we are not going to he caught unawares by blind economic forces under this administration. It would appear, on the surface at any rate, that at some time between 18th September and 20th November, this year, the Government were caught unawares by the results of blind economic forces and compelled, instead of refusing to import coal, to decide to do it.

The next question that requires to be investigated and answered is the relations in the industry. We have been told on numerous occasions by the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister, as well as by Members representing mining contituencies, that the relations inside the industry have improved. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Let us admit that. Let us admit that they have, and there is no reason why they should not have improved. But, despite that, there is widespread evidence that, to say the least, the relations leave a lot to be desired.

Members of the National Coal Board are evidently not too happy, and there are stories that relations are not so perfect as they might be. I am merely putting this forward as statements that are widely made which require some explanation as to whether they are true or not, because so long as one side makes statements we shall not get the truth, and the view of the nation is at least as important as what we on this side think. It would surely be of some advantage for everyone to know what is stopping them from being improved if relations are not perfect, whether it is the National Coal Board, the managers, the mining engineers, or the men in their individual lodges.

One of the reasons—I do not say that it is the only reason—which causes this fall in manpower must be that people are not altogether satisfied with the conditions that exist, in spite of the manifest improvement that has taken place. All I suggest is that we want to find out over and above anything else what is wrong. I am not asking for more than that. The Board. for example—I merely take this as an instance—in one of their recent reports talked about the regret that there had not been agreement on tasks. There must be some reason for that. It is not devilment on the part of the Board or the men. There must be something wrong in the way of assessing tasks.

Then there is absenteeism. I am not going to say it is bad or good, but on the one hand the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he was Minister of Fuel and Power, said that he did not think absenteeism was a very important matter, and that we need not be worried about it. On the other hand, Lord Hyndley is disturbed and the Board is concerned that Lord Hyndley stated that if absenteeism were reduced to some reasonable figure—9 per cent.—the result would be five million or six million tons more. What is the truth of the position? Could it be cured by any reasonable demand or not, because if it could be cured and we got this six million tons as a result, it would be of benefit to the whole country.

The Government referred to increased working hours which the men are giving at the present moment. It is welcome. Everybody welcomes it, but the question really arises, what is going to happen in January and February. If in those two normally bad months there is an increased output, it will be really a cause for congratulation for everyone concerned.

Another question we ought to ask is about manpower. What basis has the Board originally for its 1948 target of 750,000? I see that the labour force was 708,000 early this year and has now gone down to 686,000. I asked the Minister a little while ago if an inquiry had been made into the matter, and he replied that an inquiry was being made. That shows dilatoriness on the part of somebody on the Board. They have known about the reduction in manpower for more than a year, and surely an inquiry into its reasons should have been undertaken long before this. They should have asked, why are we losing men, from what parts of the pit are we losing them, from what districts, and what can we do to stop it? It was not done, but why we do not know.

There is a fall in the number of men at the coal face, but an increase in administrative staff is announced. True the Board say that since there has been reclassification, but in 1947 it was 30,000; in 1949 it has become 38,800. What is the cause for the increase of the non-productive staff?

Mr. Murray (Durham, North-West)

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that there was a ring fence around the mining industry, and that was removed, which was approved by hon. Gentlemen opposite?

Mr. Hudson

Yes, I quite agree. I was in favour of it, because I do not believe that an industry, which is so vital to the nation, ought to be based on what is, in effect, conscripted labour, any more than agriculture, which is equally vital to the nation. We want all fences to be removed as soon as we can. That does not blind us to the fact that there was going to be a problem raised. The problem has occurred, and what we want to know is, how it can be cured. It may be that it is incurable. That is, indeed, a grim outlook. I am perfectly certain that the country would be relieved if it could be explained what was the reason for this drop and what steps can be taken to stop it.

May I say one word about the Amendment? The Amendment suggests that no useful purpose would be served by the holding of an inquiry such as we suggest, because it would divert the Board from the urgent task of increasing the output of coal. The whole gravamen of our case is that the Board or Government have failed to secure an output of coal to an adequate extent. The fact of failure is apparent to everybody, and I should have thought that the National Coal Board would have been the first body to welcome such an impartial inquiry, because, they, like other people—or at least I assume it—want to know what remedies ought to be applied. If they are guiltless in the matter of coal supplies, if they are getting the blame, they need an impartial inquiry to strengthen their hands. If they are in the right in their policy they have nothing to fear. The same thing applies to the Government. We still believe that the suggestion is a good one, having regard to the crisis through which the country is passing.

As to the rest of the Amendment, I cannot believe that the Minister himself drafted it. The reference to full employment must have been drafted by one of the political gentlemen in the Cabinet, and not by the Minister, because it contradicts completely one of the three reasons he gave in his statement of 20th November for the crisis. He said that one of the three factors causing the crisis was full employment. He could, therefore, hardly suggest that we should welcome efforts to create that very crisis. Secondly, the Amendment talks about the rising productivity of labour, whereas the right hon. Gentleman himself said in his statement that one of the other factors was the relatively reduced productivity of the labour force employed in the industry. I cannot believe that he could have agreed to that particular part.

If, on the other hand, by efforts the Government mean their efforts to import coal from America, then what, in effect, the House is being asked to welcome is chaos in the tramp shipping industry. My hon. Friends behind me will have something to say about this subject and about Lord Runciman's reference in another place to the Government's sudden decision to import coal at such a late stage. Lord Runciman stated that if the Government had made their intention known earlier and quietly a great deal of the shipping required could have been obtained without causing the upset which will now result.

What we are being asked to welcome is chaos in the tramp shipping trade, and not only that but the hampering of our export trade, such as the motor car industry, about which reference will be made by some of my hon. Friends later on. Then there is diversion of ships engaged to carry much-needed imports of gear, and, worst of all, there is the use of dollars, which might otherwise have been available to purchase timber for 100,000 houses. This money has now to go on the purchase of coal. These are not things the country will welcome, and they are not things that this House ought to be asked to welcome.

Finally, let me repeat once again that we believe that this matter is a national one. I said at the beginning of my speech that the industry for good or ill has been nationalised, and we as a party accept it. But we are concerned to see that it is a success, and we believe for the moment at all events that it has gone wrong. We believe that we ought to find out what has gone wrong and why.

I am perfectly certain that, in the speeches which they have made in the last 10 years, hon. Members opposite have been perfectly sincere in regard to these matters. Why have the sincere hopes entertained about the plan for taking over the whole of the industry not been realised to the extent that they hoped? I have not the least doubt that Sir William Lawther, President of the National Mineworkers' Federation, was sincere when he wrote to "The Times" in very similar circumstances to those which face us today, in November, 1944. This is what Sir William Lawther said: Offers recently received from America to export coal to this country must have caused many of your readers to take an even more serious view of the position than ever before. It seems almost unthinkable that in our own country, possessing some of the richest coalfields and most skilled miners in the world, the industry under its existing management should have been brought to such a plight that any other country could contemplate Britain becoming a market for its coal production. Surely this will at last spur the Government to review the whole situation in the coal industry so far as ownership and management are concerned. This is the key question. That was written while industry was under private ownership, in 1944. Sir William went on to say: The elimination of private profit would enable every industry depending on coal to obtain all the supplies it requires at prices more favourable than at present, and British coal would take its rightful place in the world market. The general public, too, would be able to obtain its supply at much cheaper prices. I have not the least doubt that Sir William was perfectly sincere when he wrote that, but who can deny that the hopes expressed in that letter have not been realised and are very far indeed from what Sir William—

Mr. Glanville

"Sir Will," not "Sir William."

Mr. Hudson

I am sorry. They are very far from what Sir Will Lawther expected. That is why we ask for an inquiry to find out what can be done.

There is no general agreement about causes. I have no doubt that in the course of the debate we shall hear of many causes of the trouble and many suggestions for remedies. But they will not meet with general assent. Lord Hyndley said in February of this year: Unless the coal industry does a good deal better than it is doing now, the odds against Britain in the struggle for new prosperity will be lengthened. If that was true in February it is more than ever true today. For "new prosperity" we should today substitute "survival." It is because we believe that an impartial inquiry is essential to such survival that I have moved this Motion.

4.44 p.m.

The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: considers that an outside inquiry into the work of the National Coal Board will serve no useful purpose at the present time, but would divert the Board and the industry from their urgent task of increasing the output of coal; recognises the response made by the miners to their leaders' call for extra effort and longer working hours; and welcomes the efforts made by His Majesty's Government to ensure the supplies of coal for the needs of the nation, and in particular, the coal required to maintain full employment and the rising productivity of labour. The right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) has made a very moderate speech and I take exception to very little that he said. I disagree with him on many things, but I think that he has stated his points in a way which the gravity of the hour makes appropriate, and I shall try to do the same. I shall certainly speak with great candour to the House and answer as many as I can of the questions that he put to me. I am afraid that I may speak at more than my usual length, but if so I ask the forgiveness of the House in advance.

The right hon. Member has moved a Motion asking for an inquiry into the working of the National Coal Board. I regard it as untimely. We have offered an inquiry into all the nationalised industries after a period of years. When we made that proposal on 25th October the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) treated it with ridicule and condemned it. We regard it as reasonable and right. At this moment the Coal Board are making an all-out effort to increase their output in these crucial winter months. The miners have, so far, responded in a spirit to which the right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition made a generous tribute a week ago. Last week they got another 40.000 tons, and beat the output of a year ago. Every man, in an administrative or operational post, is working morning, noon and night to try to get more coal. Nothing is so distracting to their work, and could so dissipate their time and strength, as the adoption of this Motion. What useful purpose would be served by its adoption now?

What outside experts would the right hon. Gentleman call in? He has not told us. What could they find out? What business proposals would they make that are not known and have not been made by the very able and very energetic part-time members of the Coal Board—Sir Geoffrey Heyworth of Unilever's, Mr. Hambro of Hambro's Bank and Sir Godfrey Mitchell, of Wimpey's? The truth is that men of varying political opinions and of all parties—and of none —are loyally co-operating together to reconstruct our greatest national industry, on which all other industries depend. If we want unity in the House and in the country, then I say, "Let us give these men a fair chance to do their job." I ask the House to reject the Motion.

Now I turn to the right hon. Gentleman's first accusation, that we have been guilty of a want of foresight in our coal policy this year. We did predict, as he said, that home consumption might go up in 1950 by 6 million tons. I confess that I thought it most probable that the figure would be less, but we put that higher limit because it was possible. In fact, it has been just a little above the higher level of 201 million tons. Does that mean that we have been guilty of lack of foresight in preparing for the needs of these winter months?

We estimated deep-mined output at from 205 million to 210 million tons and opencast at 13 million tons. On both figures we have been wrong. On deep-mined we shall be less than one million tons below the 205 million tons, an error of under half of one per cent. On opencast, thanks to constant heavy rain in the last half of the year, we shall be three-quarters of a million tons below our figure. No-one's fault, but a serious matter. It is almost exactly the total by which our end-October stocks fell short of the target we had set. Even so, the error in our estimate of total supplies is only half of one per cent.

Why then are we in our present trouble? Did we improvidently export more than we could possibly afford? Why, if there was no error on consumption and so small an error on the annual output, are we now buying coal abroad? I shall face that question with great frankness. We hoped in the first half of the year that we should be able to export more coal in 1950 than we shall. We put our export target high, for compelling reasons. Devaluation had just been carried through and we needed foreign exchange. Coal helped us in bilateral negotiations to get the timber and food we urgently required. Our coal was a help to Europe in its struggle for social and economic reconstruction. And in the first half of the year it looked as if supplies would justify our export hopes. Both deep-mined and opencast were doing reasonably well. But in July, our stocks were not rising as we had hoped, so, by agreement with their foreign clients, the Coal Board postponed some deliveries of coal until next year. In October it was clear that opencast production was slipping badly and that we could not reach the end-October stock of 16,500,000 tons which we wanted to have, and so, again by mutual agreement, we postponed some more exports until next year.

But for a new and quite unforeseen development that action would have been enough to see us through. Half-way through October something new began to happen. In the five years since 1945 output per man-shift has gone up by 19 per cent. There has been an average rise of 3.5 per cent., or rather better, every year. A rise of that same order went on through the first nine months of 1950. A 3.5 per cent. improvement on the O.M.S. of 1949 meant an increase in coal output of 45,000 tons a week above the corresponding period of last year. Up to the end of September the average increase was 47,000 tons.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd (Birmingham, King's Norton)

Is that on the face?

Mr. Noel-Baker

No, that is overall. In September the average overall O.M.S. was still 3.4 per cent. above the level of 1949. We expected that in October there would be the autumn upsurge which happens every year. We called on the miners for the autumn drive. They made an autumn drive, but in the middle of October the rate of increase in O.M.S. began to flag. Why that was is anyone's guess. Discontent about a wage award—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."]—a shortage of overall manpower, the psychological effect of Creswell and Knockshinnock; I think all these things played a certain part. In any case, instead of 47,000 tons a week more coal, we were not quite reaching the level of October, 1949. In the first two weeks of November things got worse. We were 70,000 tons a week below last year. O.M.S. was still above the level of 1949 by 2 per cent., but the gap between that 2 per cent. and the 3.5 per cent. that we had expected, if it went on, meant a serious deficit in the winter output from the mines.

Let me state the difference between 3.5 and 2 per cent. in the rate of increase of O.M.S. in a different way. In October and November, 1949, in the autumn drive, the miners got 9 cwt. of coal a week more than they had been getting in the preceding weeks. This year they got 6 cwt. more than they had been getting in the preceding weeks. They had increased their output, but not by so much. If that shortage of 3 cwt. had been simply a relative failure of the autumn drive, it would have been serious enough: it would have meant a loss up to Christmas of more than 500,000 tons. But if after Christmas the curve had not returned to its normal trend, if it went on through the winter at the same rate of 2 per cent. instead of 3.5 per cent., then by April the loss would be far higher—two million tons and perhaps more—and our supplies for industry, power stations, gas works, railways and the housewife would have been gravely short.

It was when we saw that trouble coming at the end of October and in the first fortnight of November, when we were suddenly confronted with that prospect, that the Government decided to reduce exports further, to reduce the coal for bunkers and bunker depots overseas, and to buy some coal abroad. I wish I were at liberty to give the House all the information for which the right hon. Gentleman has asked about quantities, prices, freight rates and the rest, but, unfortunately, the commercial negotiations are still going on and it is in the national interest that I should speak with great reserve. I will just say that the reduction of coal for bunkers and bunker depots overseas will give us 200,000 tons of coal more for consumption here.

The Coal Board have been authorised to purchase up to 1.2 million tons in the United States. There is lots of coal, and qualities are good. Shipping and unloading facilities at the ports would set the limits on the quantities which we could bring in here. We have been offered coal from other quarters, and if it is of the qualities which we want and we need it we shall discuss with those who want to sell it whether it is in our interests to buy. Again, I cannot speak of prices or of freight rates, but I can assure the House that the quantity we propose to purchase for all purposes and from all sources will be considerably less than two million tons, that is, less than 1 per cent. of our annual production.

I am sure that the House will think that we were right in taking these decisions in July, October and mid-November to postpone deliveries of exports, to reduce coal for bunkers and depots overseas and to buy coal abroad as an insurance against a deficit in our home supplies. I believe that the House will feel that in taking that action the Government acted with prudence and with due dispatch. But no one thinks that these measures are the answer to our coal problem. No one—least of all the miner—regards them as anything but temporary expedients and expedients of a most disagreeable kind. There is only one answer to the problem for this winter, for next winter and for the years to come. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we must get more coal. The 204.3 million tons, or whatever it may turn out to be, is not far short of 205 millions tons, but 205 million tons is not now enough.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

It is a long way short of 210 million tons.

Mr. Noel-Baker

It is 2½ per cent. below. In these great affairs 2½ per cent. is not a very great margin of error, although the result is very serious. I say that 205 million tons is not now enough coal for the country. Is that admission a tacit condemnation of the Coal Board? The right hon. Gentleman wanted us to believe that it is. Indeed, his Motion is a declaration that the Coal Board have failed in doing what could rightly have been expected of them about both total output and the productivity of the miner at the face.

In arguing these matters the right hon. Gentleman and most of his right hon. and hon. Friends always start from the assumption that, if nothing else had happened, the return of peace in 1945 should by itself have brought us back to pre-war levels in the output of our deep-mined coal. Nothing could be more unrealistic. If we had not nationalised the mines, far more uneconomic pits would have been closed and far more miners would have left the industry. But, quite apart from that, the right hon. Gentleman totally neglects the harsh facts depicted in the Reid Report; the harsh facts from which the Coal Board had to start. If nothing new had happened, output would not have risen above the level of 1945 but would have fallen even further below the 174 million tons which we were getting then.

Mr. Hudson

I did my best to try to be realistic. I never questioned nationalisation; I simply accepted it. We are not now concerned with hypothetical things which might have happened if we had not had nationalisation. We are concerned with what will happen under nationalisation and not with what might have happened under private enterprise.

Mr. Noel-Baker

That is what I was talking about, what we can expect under nationalisation. I am dealing with the prospects which the Coal Board had before them when they started on their task. The Coal Board say, in their National Plan: Without a drastic programme to reorganise and modernise the mines, output would decline far below the low point of 1945. The "Colliery Guardian," which is, I understand, a journal of high technical repute, endorsed that view recently in a leading article.

Why would the normal long-term trend of output have been downwards, below the level of 1945? A critic of the Coal Board, Mr. Smart, one of the few mining engineers who have written a book about the industry, gave the answer in a work published in 1930. He said: Production costs were steadily growing due to the basic fact that British coal was being produced under increasingly more strenuous conditions, owing to the better and more profitable seams being exhausted, longer underground roads for transport and haulage, and deeper mines being worked. He then gave details of how the seams were getting thinner; how the depth of coal mines was increasing; how the faces were, on the average, a mile from the shaft bottom—which, he said, meant 45 minutes walking time per shift.

Since 1925, the year on which his figures were based, a quarter of a century has gone by; 5,500,000 million tons of coal have been extracted; faces are not a mile but, on the average, a mile and a half, from the pit bottom, with the extra waste of time and effort which that involves. It means that more and more of the best seams have been exhausted, that more and more of those being worked are thin and dirty.

When we talk of more thin and dirty seams some people think that that is an easy alibi. I have some illustrations to give the House. I asked some of my hon. Friends behind me, who come from Yorkshire, to give me a list of the thick seams of good clean coal on which they themselves have worked, and which are now exhausted. That list shows pit after pit, with all the best coal gone. That is in Yorkshire, a new expanding coalfield, with modern mines. I have a catalogue of the seams being worked in two other coalfields—

Mr. Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Heeley)

But is it not true that the old Barnsley bed in Yorkshire, a fine thick seam, which has been worked out to the west, and which runs down to the east, is now being worked extensively by new pits in the Doncaster area?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Many of the pits were working before the war on good seams of coal which are now finished, and the working is very much more difficult. I have a catalogue of the seams being worked in Cumberland and Northumberland. Twelve years ago nearly two-thirds of those seams were three feet thick, or more; today, the proportion is under a half. Altogether in those two coalfields 23 seams are being worked; 17 of them are banded with dirt. No wonder Sir Charles Reid said, in an article in the "Colliery Guardian," in 1949, that we are now in the third phase of British mining.

That is not the only adverse factor which the Coal Board had to face. I will not quote Mr. Smart again and repeat the very harsh words he uses about colliery owners who took great dividends and failed to invest what should have been invested. His language is very fierce. Fifteen years later the Reid Report said the same thing, but in more polite language. There were, of course, good progressive collieries, we all know that, but for many years the industry had been suffering from malnutrition; it had been starved of the new investment it required. On top of that came the compulsory neglect, the inevitable overworking, of the years of war. That is why Sir William Lawther said on 1st January, 1947, that it would be a decade before the industry could be producing the coal we needed and that the immediate need was critical in the extreme.

It is against that background that we have to consider what it was reasonable to hope that the Coal Board would be able to do. Sir Charles Reid published a study on the subject in 1949, a kind of preview of the National Plan. He set certain targets—240–250 million tons by 1965; a rise in O.M.S. to 30 cwt. by then; a fall in costs of perhaps 5s. per ton. He ended his study with this double warning: The task of reconstructing the British mining industry is an immense one, which will take years to near achievement. That was written in March, 1949. And again: It would be wrong, however, to suggest that the industry could quicken the pace of reconstruction and rationalisation to reach a figure of higher productivity at an earlier date; indeed, it may be said that the suggested output per manshift of 30 cwt. in 1965 is optimistic. It was because those things were true that the Reid Committee painted so gloomy a picture in their Report. It is against the background of those facts and warnings that we must consider what the Coal Board have achieved. They have had four years. They have stopped the downward trend of output below the level of 1945. They have increased the total output by 30 million tons above that level —nearly half way to Sir Charles Reid's target of 1965, which was an increase of 66 million tons to 240 million tons. They have increased output by 30 million tons already in their first four years. They have increased output per man-shift by 19 per cent.—from 1.00 ton to 1.19. On Sir Charles Reid's timetable O.M.S. today should be 1.14, and he said that that was a timetable which we could not expect to hurry. The average for this year is 1.19, and last week it was 1.22.

The right hon. Gentleman has said that that is a poor return for the heavy capital investment which the Board have made. I think that the Board have done fairly well on capital investment—

Mr. R. S. Hudson

Do not quote me wrongly. I did not say that it was a poor return. I said that what we ought to know was whether it was an adequate return.

Mr. Noel-Baker

I think I shall show that on the investment made it is a very adequate return. I think that the Board have done well on mechanisation, haulage and the rest. But do not let us get out of focus what they have done. It is best measured by the horse-power available at the pits. In 1946, it was 2,600,000 h.p.; in June, 1950, it was three million. That is a good advance, but it is not the total revolution which some people suggest.

Let me make another comparison on productivity. Between 1927 and 1938 mechanisation at the face increased by 36 points—from 23 per cent. to 59 per cent. Output per man-shift increased, according to the Reid Report, by 11 per cent. Since 1945, mechanisation at the face has increased by 5 points—from 74 per cent. to 79 per cent. Output per man-shift has increased by 19 per cent. And in 1949, for the first time for 15 years, costs have began to fall.

From those facts I draw two conclusions. The first is that the management of the mines must be at least as good as it was before the war. The second is that the charges in the Motion against the Coal Board, on productivity as on total output, completely break down. But the good work of the Coal Board does not change the basic fact which I have admitted—that the expansion of industrial demand, the needs of full employment, are beating the recovery of coal. As Sir Charles Reid said, reorganising coal from the disorder of 1945 is a long, slow and costly business. When the war ended industry was more efficient than when the war began. It had more modern machinery, higher demands for power, and investment in the re-equipment of a factory is a rather quick affair. There has been very heavy investment in new machinery in recent years.

I did not understand whether the right hon. Gentleman was arguing that our present coal position is not the result of full employment. He did not try to challenge the figures which I have used, that excluding house coal, our consumption in 1950 has been 22 million tons more than it was in 1945 and 35 million tons more than it was in 1938. I have often used those figures; the right hon. Gentleman has never challenged them, and he did not challenge them today. Full employment has enormously increased the demand for coal, and industry's increased demand for coal is beating the rate of increased output from the mines.

The answer is that we must get more coal—and more coal this winter. When I met the miners' leaders the other day I gave them a target from now until April next of 50,000 tons a week above the output of a year ago. The first measure they took was to call on the miners to do more overtime and Saturday working. The House knows the miners' prompt and admirable response. But I made it quite clear, let me assure the right hon. Gentleman, that what we needed was not just an effort up to Christmas only. We need a larger output right through the winter months. I asked the miners to go on with Saturday working, to stay every day and fill off the faces, to improve attendance in areas and pits where absenteeism is high.

Let me say a word about absenteeism. There is a lot of loose talk in some quarters of the House, and very widely in the Press, about miners' absenteeism from their work. There is no valid comparison of any kind to be made with absenteeism before the war and now. Before the war the recorded overall rate of absenteeism was 6.5 or thereabouts. This year, to date, on average it is 11.96. But our sickness and injury rate today is 7 per cent. The sickness rate in the mines is no higher than it is in other quarters. The miners are not using sickness as an excuse to stay away. The injury rate is backed, as to 90 per cent., by medical certificates from doctors. The rate is 7 per cent., more than the total rate before the war.

What is the answer? Every one of my hon. Friends behind me can give the answer. Before the war miners were forced by poverty to go back to work before they were really well. There is no question that that is true. The only problem that the House has to consider is one of 5 per cent. of voluntary absenteeism, or rather less. If a miner takes one day a month off from his work that comes to 4.3 per cent. per annum. Does no hon. Member of this House never take one day a month off from his work? Can anybody say that a man who is down a mine is doing wrong if he takes one day a month off? I am not encouraging him to take it—very much to the contrary. But let the House remember this: the miners get one week's holiday with pay; a lot of them take two weeks, the second at their own expense. That accounts for six of the 12 days which I have mentioned.

There is something to be done about absenteeism. I have told the miners' leaders that I hope they will do it. Owing to tradition and owing to the fact that before the war the pits worked three days in summer and five in winter, in some pits, in some places, in some areas, on some days absenteeism is much above the average, and it is there that the miners and the managements must try to cut it down. I asked the Coal Board, on their side, to ensure that no avoidable stoppages of work should happen in the mines, that the managements should increase their efforts to keep their machinery in operation, to secure the full co-operation of the men, and to remedy, so far as might be, any grievances the men feel. They assured me that they would make a strong appeal to all their staff, that they would take every step they could to enable their area general managers and all their mining engineers in the production line to concentrate on an immediate increase in production. They said that they were certain, and so am I, that the managements would loyally respond.

I asked the Coal Board to close no pits unless they are absolutely certain that an immediate and substantial increase in coal production will result. Perhaps I may give some facts about the closing of pits. Between 1913 and 1946 nearly 1,500 pits were closed in Britain. Between 1940 and 1946 the number was about 200. In the first three years of nationalisation the number was 88. This year the Board have closed 13 pits and opened 10. In the pits closed in 1950 the average output per man year was about 180 tons compared with 293 tons for the country as a whole.

Mr. Grey (Durham)

Will the Coal Board re-open some of the pits that have already been closed?

Mr. Noel-Baker

That is a question for consideration, and one which I could not answer here. It is a question of day-to-day administration, and it must be discussed with the National Union of Mineworkers. If my hon. Friend has any suggestion to make on that matter I will certainly put it to the Board.

There is another way in which we could get more coal this winter and that is by the accelerated opening of more sites for opencast mining. The result, of course, will depend upon the weather, but it might give us an extra quarter of a million tons during the winter months. However, we need measures which will increase output not just during 1951 but in later years. One measure which will give relatively quick results is the opening of drift mines. Drift mines are a gamble, but they may give big returns in production fairly soon. The Board have urged every division to make a special effort to develop drift mines wherever the geology makes it seem worth while.

But there is only one way in which we can be certain of getting more coal; that is by having now and for the next few years more miners than we have got today. Of course, it is far harder to get more miners and it is far harder to keep them, in conditions of full employment, than it was before the war. No man is forced now by hunger to go down a pit, and for my part I am very glad, but we must have more miners, and on one point I admit that our estimates have been seriously wrong. The fall in manpower at the face in proportion to the whole has been greater than we expected. The error is only 3 per cent., but the result on output was serious. Sometimes, for lack of numbers, men cannot be upgraded to the face. Sometimes, even, men have to be brought back from the face to work on other jobs. This year, as the right hon. Gentleman said, the loss of manpower has been 22,000 men.

The Government have agreed with the Coal Board that a vigorous effort shall be made on this vital matter. Our hope is not only to check the wastage, but to increase our manpower by 22,000 by the end of 1951. The Board will intensify the efforts they have been making to reduce their losses. They will try personal persuasion—not in the manager's office where the man thinks he is on the mat—but personal persuasion on every man who says he wants to leave. They are considering now discussing with the unions other measures to this end.

Thousands of miners have left the pits to join the Forces. The Government have decided that the Service Departments shall suspend their efforts to obtain recruits in the mining areas, and that miners who volunteer will be urged to remain in the pits on the ground that they are there performing national service of a vital kind. The Government will help in any other measures to increase recruitment. The Ministry of Labour and the Coal Board are jointly undertaking a new and intensified campaign to get more men. Such a campaign gave good results in 1947. We hope it will give good results before this winter is over. In any case it will be carried on vigorously right through 1951.

Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman with reference to the number of men who have been called up from the mines into the Forces? Can he say what numbers are involved over a year, and what the expectation is in the coming year?

Mr. John Arbuthnot (Kent, Dover)

Also related to that, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if the miners who have already been called up and are in the Forces will be returned?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I cannot answer the last point. The numbers who have been called up as reservists are relatively small. The large numbers are those who have volunteered to join the Forces as Regulars. I cannot give a total figure, but it is measured in thousands. As I have said, the Government hope that this campaign of the Ministry of Labour and the Coal Board will give a real result during the winter, but in any case it will be carried on right through 1951.

As I have often told the House, one of the difficulties which the Coal Board have to face is the shortage of houses in places where output is expanding and where more miners are required. The Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Works are doing everything they can to use the available resources to build houses for miners. In some special areas a substantial increase in coal production depends on bringing in more miners, and that can only be done if houses are there. If it is found in those areas that enough houses for this purpose cannot be built quickly enough by the local building resources then the Government will take exceptional measures to supplement them. I can give the House no actual figures today, but I hope to do so very soon.

Mr. Arthur Colegate (Burton)

On that point, is the right hon. Gentleman quite certain that the houses in many colliery villages are occupied only by people who go down the pit?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I could not give any such assurance.

Mr. Colegate rose

Mr. Noel-Baker

I cannot urge the Coal Board to start wholesale evictions. We believe that the measures I have described will give a real result but, in addition, the Ministry of Labour jointly with the Coal Board are beginning a vigorous campaign to recruit Irish workers for the mines. Special care will be taken to ensure that only men who are suitable for the mines will come. Hostel accommodation is being improved to house them. I hope we may get substantial numbers before the winter ends.

The introduction of Italian miners is less straightforward. The use of workers from other nations sometimes makes social problems of various kinds, but in other industries and in many pits those problems have been solved. I see convincing proof of that when I go down the mines. I find Polish and other miners who are doing very well. The Coal Board have been discussing with the N.U.M. proposals to bring some Italians here. The N.U.M. oppose the introduction of "green" Italian labour but, fortunately, there are available considerable numbers of trained Italian miners who have had experience in Belgian mines, are no longer working there, and are at present unemployed.

If any of those men were brought here they would not, of course, be sent to places where there are lots of workers. They would be sent to pits where labour is so short that the man cannot be upgraded to the face. So, if they came, they would help upgrading. They would help British miners to go to better jobs in the pits, with higher wages, and they would certainly increase production, too. I have high hopes that good results may come from the talks between the Coal Board and the N.U.M. I have urged all these measures on the miners' leaders because in my deep conviction they are in the true interests of the miners themselves. I repeat that only as we get greater numbers, can the younger men be upgraded to the face. Only greater numbers will offer the opportunities for promotion which we want everyone to have.

There are other ways in which both this winter and in the next few years our coal position can be substantially improved. We must save coal in every way we can. I do not propose a campaign to substitute fuel oil for coal—oil supplies and prices are much too unsettled—but I have removed the restrictions that remained on the use of fuel oil. That may save—it is a guess—perhaps 100,000 tons of coal this winter. In five years it may save one million tons.

I propose to every industrialist and private citizen the most rigid economy throughout the winter in their use of coal. Every hundredweight they save will help to get us through. I have written to every area electricity and gas board asking them to give the fullest help in this economy campaign. I hope that everybody in charge of offices and factories will do the same. I believe the industry can save 2 per cent. of its electricity consumption without any loss of output, simply by switching off heaters, motors and lights when they are not really required. If they cut consumption by 2 per cent., it would save 100,000 tons of coal up to April.

If people in offices and at home could save 5 per cent. of the electricity they use—and I am sure they could—they would save a quarter of a million tons of coal. If housewives could use 5 per cent. less gas, burning it one minute less in 20, they would save 400,000 tons of coal. And to get those savings no one in shops or in offices or at home need be cold or hungry or live in darkness. They need only exercise a little care and forethought, and I believe they will.

Efficiency in the use of coal is even more important than economy. I urge, as I have done on the leaders of industry this year, that all engaged in industry and commerce should study the efficient use of the coal they consume. A lot of progress has been made in the last few years, but the waste is still enormous. An untrained stoker on a Lancashire boiler plant may waste per day as much coal as a miner can dig, simply because he is untrained. My Ministry provides stoker demonstrators to all who call them in.

Two million tons of smoke and soot go up into the sky and fall on the country every year. Nearly all of it is due to bad stoking or inefficient grates, and every ton is waste. My Ministry's mobile testing units have visited many big industrial plants this year. On the average they have effected a saving of 22 per cent. in the fuel used. One big and most efficient firm, after it had had the unit, closed two boilers out of three in summer and one in winter. We are adding 12 units to the four which we had before. A firm which insulated the roof of a big factory, at a cost of £8,000, saved 625 tons of coal in the following year. The new efficient household stove gives as much useful heat from 19 cwt. of coal as the old-fashioned pre-war grate gave from 34 cwt. Here is an immense field for future progress, measured, I believe, in millions of tons, and I have asked my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to devote his great abilities to its development. My colleagues in other Departments have promised him their full help. I believe that we shall do something this winter. In five years, we shall do much more.

We are in difficulties about coal for the reasons which I have explained fully. I reject the charges that we have been guilty of lack of foresight and that the coal board have failed in the great task they have undertaken for the nation. They and their staff and workers have, in four years, achieved big results. Next year we need more coal than we have had in 1950. We mean to get it by the measures I have described—by Saturday working; by better attendance, I hope, especially at the face; by stepping up this winter's opencast production; by more drift mines; by stopping wastage of manpower from the pits; by checking, if we can, the flow of miners to the Forces; by a drive for more recruits in Britain; and by bringing workers from Ireland and, perhaps, from Italy as well. We can save more coal, and more and more as each year goes by, and we mean to save it. I believe that the Coal Board, the management and the miners, by willing co-operation, by toil and sacrifice, will see us through this winter and will help us to a brighter time for the coal industry in years to come.

Mr. Assheton (Blackburn, West)

Is not the Minister going to give the House his view on the serious shortage of domestic coal in the north of England and other parts of the country? He has not said one word about this most serious question.

Mr. Noel-Baker

I have frequently told the House that I would try to allow more domestic coal to be supplied this year than last. We have so far delivered rather more than one million tons extra to the household market this year.

Mr. Assheton

The right hon. Gentleman has not given more than one bag of coal a week in Blackburn.

5.33 p.m.

Mr. Maclay (Renfrew. West)

The Minister has given a very full and, undoubtedly, a very interesting survey of the whole position in the coalfields and of the present coal crisis. I do not propose to attempt to deal with the greater part of his speech, which covered coal production, manpower, and other all-important aspects of the present situation, with which other hon. Members are more competent to deal than I, but there is one part of the Minister's speech which I propose to try to tackle. If I am not as moderate as was the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) in opening the debate, the reasons for this will emerge as I develop my remarks.

As the Minister spoke, my heart sank and sank. His whole speech was reminiscent of the old business of crisis, expedient, crisis, expedient, and so on. The Minister gave admirable reasons, I know, why we are now in trouble, but the fact remains that this is another crisis which is being met with another expedient: that of importing coal from abroad. I propose to deal with the question of where that course is leading us, and with the major implications, not only on British shipping, but on world-wide shipping, of the Government's decision to import coal from abroad. It is only right, as I am talking about shipping, yet again to declare an interest in the subject, and I apologise for inevitably having a certain amount of knowledge about what this decision of the Government means.

Before I get down to details, let me revert to the beginning of the Minister's speech. He seemed to refer with some satisfaction to the reasoning which he or the Government went through from September onwards. He took it stage by stage, attempting, apparently, to show that the most careful planning, the most careful study of figures, and the most careful thought, were given at all stages, culminating in the decision announced here on 20th November to import coal.

In all this careful planning, did anybody by any chance remember that if the worst happened—apparently, it was in the minds of the Government that they might have to import coal—ships would be required to carry the coal to this country? Was there any contact throughout the early months, when the difficulties were beginning to become apparent, with the Minister of Transport? Had the planners forgotten, perhaps, one absolutely vital element in any national plan which might be necessary owing to a developing coal crisis?

I have some very humble experience of planning and I say without hesitation that, even accepting the fact that we have a nationalised coal industry and a Government of planners, and that we must do something about it—I agree with the right hon. Member for Southport that we must tackle this problem wisely—I simply do not believe that the planners will ever stop making just the kind of miscalculation and mistake which they have made on this occasion in dealing with one aspect of the crisis—that of shipping. Just how serious the position is, I propose to develop.

Let there be no mistake about it. When the Government told us on 20th November about their decision to import coal they made a statement which has had vastly disruptive effects on the whole pattern of international shipping throughout the world. That may sound exaggerated, but that is what my speech is about, because there is a moral to be learned from this. That moral will, I hope, become apparent before I finish. The first question which I am bound to ask is whether it was not obvious many months ago that the coal situation this winter was bound to become dangerous. Reference has already been made to Questions by the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), who was heavily sat upon when he suggested, three months ago, that it might be necessary to consider importing coal. As far back as July of last year, I asked a Question myself about stocks in the Gas Board areas. I did so because I had received warnings from certain areas that people were worrying about stocks. This situation has been developing for a long time.

I should like to sketch briefly, the picture of the world shipping position, which should have been in the minds of the Government and of the planners in watching the whole coal situation. This situation, I must assume, was within the full knowledge of the Minister of Transport, and I wonder whether there was any contact on these matters between his Ministry and the Minister of Fuel and Power, or even with the Cabinet, for that matter. Here is a position which was well known throughout the world to every merchant and to anybody who has to import or export goods.

In the early months of this year the post-war building of new tonnage had produced very nearly a balance. The supply of ships was coming very nearly in balance with the demand for them, and freights were beginning to fall. The position had hitherto been too strong, and a much more healthy state was being achieved. There might have been a certain flexibility in the shipping market, but all that disappeared the minute hostilities broke out in Korea.

The position became infinitely worse as soon as the rearmament programmes of the free democracies got under way. The result was that by the end of September, or even earlier, the shipping market was again extremely tight. Every available ship in commission was being used on some essential purpose and that was the situation which existed when the Minister made his statement in the House of Commons on 20th November. I would like to remind hon. Members of exactly what he said: With due regard for the essential needs of shipping, they are reducing the coal supplies for bunkers, and for bunker depots overseas.… As a further measure of insurance, the Government have instructed the National Coal Board to buy some coal abroad."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th November, 1950; Vol. 481, c. 40.] Those are two very simple sentences. On the first sentence, about bunker depôts overseas, the Minister subsequently said, in a written answer to a Question on 27th November: … I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport that discussions with the shipping industry and the overseas bunker proprietors are now taking place, in order that this reduction may be made without any dislocation of shipping services."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1950; Vol. 481, c. 116.] That is an absolutely inconceivable statement. How could this decision to stop the export of bunker coal to depôts abroad and to cut down the supply of bunkers to ships, British or foreign, in British ports, be achieved without any dislocation of shipping services? Even allowing for quick drafting, that is a wrong statement and the awful thing is that the Minister may believe it at this moment, and others may believe it. That is the purpose of this speech; to point out that these things cannot be done without far-reaching effects.

That decision has meant that when a ship leaves this country, instead of going out bunkered for a round voyage, that is, to take her out to her loading port and bring her back, she must only ship enough bunker coal to take her to a foreign loading port. Then, if she is a coal-burner, she must ship enough coal abroad not only to bring her back to this country but also to take her back to a foreign port, and that means that a substantial amount of vital cargo space is lost. A quick estimate of the average bunker space needed suggests that as a result of this decision, it will be necessary to employ 13 ships to do what 12 ships would otherwise have done in bringing imports to the United Kingdom.

Then, again, I wonder if the planners thought of the second effect of the Government's decision, namely, the stopping of the supply of bunker coal to bunker depots abroad? Normally most tramp ships go out to their foreign loading ports more or less in ballast, without cargo and load cargoes to bring back to the United Kingdom or the Continent of Europe, or to perform what are called cross voyages. Bunker coal for depots abroad is carried practically without serious disturbance of the effective use of ships for other purposes. There is only the loading and discharging time which is lost because the ships are going past the bunker depots anyway; but now that all stops. Now, not only have our ships to go out empty all over the world, but they will have to load heavy ballast, which is a wasteful and slow process, if they are to get across the North Atlantic in the middle of winter. Further, the bunker depots will have to be filled from other sources of supply—

Mr. Harold Davies (Leek) rose

Mr. Maclay

May I finish this part of my speech? The only obvious source of supply must be from South Africa or North America, and it will not be possible to get ships free for that. They have to be dragged off useful voyages with imports and exports and that is quite a different thing from the normal pattern of trade. That is the second result which has happened because of the decision on supplies for bunkers and bunker depots.

Then we come to the third part of the Minister's statement: As a further measure of insurance, the Government have instructed the National Coal Board to buy some coal abroad. What was the effect of that on the world shipping market? The Minister was, naturally, cautious, but what he did in that simple sentence was to serve notice on the whole world—because the cables move very fast with news like this—that the British Government was a buyer of coal, that the British Government needed ships to carry the coal and would need these ships within a very short period after the announcement, because the critical winter months lie directly ahead.

In other words, anyone else who wanted coal or ships must move fast to get them. That is precisely what happened. The Governments of Italy, Belgium and, I understand, of Germany and of Eire leapt into the market at once and are chartering, and have chartered, ships and have bought coal in competition with the British Government. When Governments move it is extraordinarily like elephants getting loose in an egg collecting centre. The splinters that go out from their clumsy movements spread all over the world and are quite unpredictable in their consequences.

The Minister was cautious in what he said about quantities and source of origin, but people are fairly quick at seeing the obvious when it is told to them. He said, in answer to Questions on 20th November, that the total quantity of coal required would not be very much, only a part of one week's production in this country. It does not require very complicated mathematics, and I hope mine are right, to discover that even one day's production in this country is about 550,000 tons. Five hundred and fifty thousand tons may be only one day's output, but it represents about 70 ship loads and I do not remember, in any pre-war period, any merchant going to the Baltic Exchange, or wherever merchants go, and suddenly telling the world, "I am in the market for 70 ships, which have to be available in a very short space of time."

Mr. Hubbard (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

Does the hon. Gentleman remember that the equivalent number of ships was left standing idle at the "Tail of the Bank," near his constituency, before the war?

Mr. Maclay

Of course I do, but I am dealing with the immediate situation. I should be delighted to tackle that question, but I do not think the House would appreciate it at the moment.

Seventy ship loads represents one day's output, but if it were two days, representing 140 ships, it would become an astoundingly heavy demand on an already over-strained market. I cannot believe that the right hon. Gentleman realised this when he said it. The result has been a quite unprecedented and sudden demand for tonnage in large quantities. We cannot yet estimate how much—quite apart from the fact that the Minister has not given any figures—because the disruption is going on and has all sorts of consequences, which we cannot estimate. That demand is on top of an already over-tight market, which is straining every nerve to find ships for essential materials, imports and exports, and for the Korean supply problem and all the materials which have to be moved about the world in conformity with the new rearmament programme of the Western nations.

The consequences are totally unpredictable—I am not giving anything away because anyone can read this in any of the shipping papers. For that matter it can be obtained from "The Times." Ships are being withdrawn from the import of grain and of ore and are being taken off liner berths. I am told by my hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett) that the motor industry is having the greatest difficulty in finding tonnage to carry exports to Australia, New Zealand and Vancouver. The reason is that the liner companies have given up certain ships which otherwise would be carrying these highly valuable exports, in order to put them on the coal service. One bright spot—

Mr. Harold Davies

I think that the hon. Gentleman is painting the picture rather darkly, but every kind of tramp steamer is not able to act as a collier, and the number of colliers is one of the limiting factors. It is not true that all merchant shipping can be used, and I hope that he will emphasise that.

Mr. Maclay

That makes the position worse.

Mr. Davies

No. I want the argument to be straight, clear and honest.

Mr. Maclay

I am trying to be frank about the whole matter. I want to correct what the hon. Member said. In case of absolute need almost any ship can be used provided that she is not a highly specialised ship like a refrigerator ship. Any tramp ship which can get across the Atlantic is perfectly suited to the carriage of coal. If I took the hon. Member's point any further, it would merely strengthen my own argument.

The hon. Member tempts me to mention this point with a little hesitation, because statistics are not too easy to get. The 140 shiploads I have mentioned is obviously a minimum requirement—the total quantity must be more than that—and it does not sound a great deal, but hon. Members must realise that the total number of ships in the whole world which are suitable for this type of work probably do not exceed between 2,000 and 2,500. Therefore, the strain of this Government operation, imposed on top of this extremely tight freight market, is very heavy indeed. I hope that I have made my point clear.

This is not merely a question of the Minister presenting us with an accomplished fact, a great deal of which we have to accept. We are bound to criticise and to hope that such a situation will not arise again. We hope that the Motion will be carried and that a full inquiry will be instituted into all the relationships involved in the coal industry. I hope that it will include the relationships between the Ministry of Fuel and Power and other Ministries which are vitally concerned in the ultimate implications of a coal crisis. I doubt if a satisfactory relationship can ever be achieved.

I wish to conclude by being quite frank. One of the results of this abnormal demand for tonnage on an overstrained market has been a very sharp rise in freight rates. It has been exaggerated in some sections of the Press. It is not as high as early reports indicated, but charges have risen sharply. This type of rise in freights does good to nobody except the speculator and the irresponsible. It is the last step which the British shipping industry want. When we have a world shipping market coming back into reasonable balance where the efficient operator has a chance to do a proper job and to rebuild and re-establish the British Merchant Marine in the face of strong foreign competition, do not imagine for one moment that the British owners like to see freights forced up by a sudden demand for tonnage such as we have just experienced.

The freight market is international. It cannot be held down by the act of any one Government, any one ship owner or any group of ship owners. It reflects the measure of urgency of need of different industries and different nations for materials and manufactured goods which they must have. The whole highly complex structure and very delicate mechanism has been hopelessly upset by what was—and I say this with all due respect for a Minister for whom, personally, I have considerable regard—the quite remarkably ham-handed action of his Department and the Government in the time and the form of the announcement they made on the coal crisis.

5.54 p.m.

Mr. Murray (Durham, North-West)

Hon. Members in all parts of the House will agree about three considerations today, namely, that this is an important debate; that men are leaving the mines; and that we do not want to import coal. The vital question for the National Coal Board, the National Union of Mineworkers and for this House is how best this problem can be solved. I realise that the Government were compelled to make an early and most unpleasant decision when they discovered that men were leaving the mines and that our coal production was falling.

I say to the Opposition that if they had paid as much attention to the problem of why men are leaving the mines as they have paid to the resignation of Sir Eric Young, everybody might have been a good deal better off. I sat in this House and listened last week to all kinds of questions from the Opposition about the resignation of Sir Eric Young. We can well afford to lose Sir Eric Young. He is only a man and if he died we should have to carry on without him. We can better afford to lose him than to lose coal producers in this great industry on which our country depends.

Many reasons have been given in explanation of why men are leaving the mining industry. There is one simple answer. It is without any frills and it stands out a mile. Miners are leaving the industry because they are satisfied that they can get better jobs elsewhere. We may as well face the facts. The award of the tribunal was very depressing and greatly disappointing to the lower paid workers. I meet these men every weekend in my constituency, and I know that to be a fact. The National Coal Board and this House must realise sooner or later that the miner is only human. When he looks around and sees that there are better opportunities and better wages and conditions in jobs where there is plenty of light and fresh air and a lower accident risk, he decides that there are better ways of earning a living than working in a coalmine, and he makes up his mind to leave. Every hon. Member of this House would do the same in similar circumstances.

I have here a note from an old mate of mine, Billy Stilling. He used to work as a "marrow" with me in the pit. He was a good and regular worker. I never knew him to be a slacker, but this pay note records that he worked for Brandon Colliery C Pit as a conveyor loader underground. It shows that he lost a shift one day because the bus left just too soon for him to catch it. He had four shifts and he took home to his wife £3 11s. in wages and 4s. in rent, a total of £3 15s. If the Coal Board or even this House think that they will get miners at that price, they are living in a fools' paradise.

The time has come when the Government should make a top priority job of work in the mines. This work should be ranked with the Armed Forces of the Crown. We are in a serious position. The Government have given incentives to persuade men to join the Services, and I understand that they are getting the men. I know, as the Minister emphasised today, that miners are leaving the industry to join the Services. That strengthens my argument immensely. Proper incentives must be given to ensure a sufficient labour force for this industry. Coal is still the basis of our economy, whatever anybody says, and without miners we cannot get coal. Without coal the whole of our domestic and international economy would come tumbling down like the house that Jack built. Therefore, the Government and this House must remember that the miner is always in the front line, and that the battle with nature is going on daily. The miner's work is dirty, dangerous and difficult, and two recent disasters have certainly provided plenty of evidence of that fact.

I hope the House will pardon me for referring to a recent event that happened in County Durham—the flooding of Little-burn Colliery. This colliery is in my own constituency; in fact, it is close to my own home. I know the House is always ready to listen to such cases. On Thursday, 30th November, at 1.30 a.m., 36 men entered this pit, and, at 2.30 a.m., the river Browney, running with a very heavy swell, uprooted a tree close to where a heavy fall had taken place in the pit some time before. In the twinkling of an eye, the river swiftly rushed into the workings of the mine. Tom Burke, a workman 44 years of age, and his mate—or his "marrow," as we call them in Durham—Tom Drennon, who is 67 years of age, immediately saw the danger to their 34 comrades working further in.

Without any thought for themselves, they rushed forward to warn them, but the river was rising too quickly and they realised that, if they went forward, everyone would be lost. The river by this time was carrying forward huge baulks of timber, planks and props, and Burke and Drennon decided on retreating and fighting their way back to the telephone box. Immediately, Burke gave instructions to all the men to withdraw at once, telling them to proceed to the surface by means of a very difficult return airway. A National Coal Board official told the lodge secretary and checkweighman, "That man Burke should have a medal as big as a frying pan for the heroic work he has performed this morning."

By this time, the river had spread to the Brandon Colliery and the New Brancepeth Colliery, and, if I may say so, in the days of private enterprise, every one of these collieries was under different ownership. Over 400 men had to be withdrawn at these two collieries, and this happened on the morning of 1st December, when 578 men were out of a job. Thanks to this Government and to the fact that we now have a National Coal Board, by the morning of Monday, 4th December, all the 578 men had been placed in a job, which would have been certainly impossible under private enterprise, because all the pits were under different firms. As a matter of fact, they would not have been interested. In less than a week, dams were put in, and the course of the river was changed, and, at the moment, no water is running into that pit. This task would never have been attempted by private enterprise.

Much has been said in this House about the miners not being satisfied with the National Coal Board. Mr. Poole, the lodge secretary, told me last week end that this pit was just one hig happy family under the National Coal Board, and I hope the Minister will take note of this. The men's only "grouses" concerned the lower-paid workers. I hope this pit will be reopened in the near future, and I hope the House will not feel that I have in any way transgressed in taking up time in order to tell this story. This incident might easily have been a third terrible mining disaster this year but for the marvellous courage, sacrifice and devotion of Tom Burke, his mate and others, by whose efforts all lives were saved, for which we are truly thankful.

I now turn to the important question of importing coal, and I do not want to be misunderstood on this matter, because I have very strong convictions about it. It is obvious to everybody that, unless we produce coal in sufficient quantities to meet our own requirements and also allow a reasonable level of exports, the standard of life of everybody in this country will certainly be in peril. I want all the coal possible to be produced from British mines. That is where I start, and I want it to be definitely understood. I do not think for a moment that the solution lies in the importation of coal. We have a local saying in the North of England, expressing ridicule, in which we talk of bringing coals to Newcastle. If I had to make a choice as between importing a few thousand trained Italian[...] miners—and I understand that there are 10,000 trained Italian miners—and importing American coal, I would bring in the trained miners under necessary trade union safeguards. Quite definitely, we want that extra production, and we want it quickly.

I think the Minister was right when he made reference to the National Coal Board and the closing of pits. I think the Board has been too hasty in closing many pits, and this has had an adverse effect upon the industry. Importing coal, to my mind, is far too costly and uneconomic, and the money spent in this way could very well be spent and to greater advantage by giving incentives to our own men who are making production possible at the present time.

We want to use the Italian miners and also find work and promotion for our own chaps, many of whom have been waiting for promotion. By that means, they would increase production and they would increase their own earnings, thus doing two good jobs at one and the same time. To import coal from America will cost dollars, and this will automatically reduce other important imports and tend to reduce our standard of living, which is the very thing we are all trying to avoid.

I think the British miner is the salt of the earth, and I also think that he is one of the greatest patriots in this country. I am reminded, however, that no society is perfect, and that there are black sheep in every family. There will always be a certain degree of absenteeism, but I have no hesitation in saying that it should be reduced to the absolute minimum. I think the Tory pin-pricking on this subject cannot be justified and that hon. Gentlemen opposite would be well advised to drop it. I do not think that 4½ per cent. of voluntary absenteeism is excessive for the mining industry, but I suggest that a national appeal on the radio, to be made either by The Prime Minister or the Minister of Fuel and Power, would have a good result.

May I remind the House, and especially hon. Members of the Opposition, that the shortage of manpower is not confined to the mining industry in this country alone, In Hungary, and I do not think that country is run by a Labour Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, Communists."]

That is why I said it; I expected it would get a cheer. In Hungary, M. Rakosi, speaking to the National Congress of Miners in Budapest, said: The migration of miners from the pits is serious. There is far too much absenteeism and sham sickness. M. Rakosi took comfort in the fact that the problem was the same all over the world. In both France and Germany, there is a shortage of coal, and in France they are two million tons down on stocks. It is also reported that face workers are leaving the pits, and Germany is similarly placed in that respect. Whatever country we may select, and wherever coal is produced, there are troubles.

In conclusion, I wish to ask the Minister four points. The first is with regard to a bonus production scheme as an incentive to the datal worker. Many of these men work and co-operate with the piece workers. That means that they must work very hard, and if they halt production is affected. I believe that these men are suffering a real injustice which should be removed. Secondly, can the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary tell me what progress is being made with the pumping arrangements in South-West Durham? There is a lot of valuable coal in that area which the nation could very well do with. A fair amount of interest is being taken by the general public in this matter.

Thirdly, can the Parliamentary Secretary state whether any sporting events are to be held on Wednesdays during this great emergency? Will he bear in mind that if such sporting events are allowed, the sole purpose of this effort will be defeated? Fourthly, is the Parliamentary Secretary satisfied that there is plenty of face room at the present time for all piece workers in the pits? I have raised this matter before, and I am not quite satisfied about this point. I wish to tell him that if there are too many face workers in the pit, if there are no places for those men to work in, or even if they have to work double, the curious thing is that output per man-shift will automatically be reduced. It always has been so.

I should be very pleased to have an answer to these questions because I believe they are of great importance to the immediate problem which confronts us today. I wish to end by saying that I think this House owes a debt of gratitude to the miners for the great effort they are making at the present time to produce all the coal we need and for giving up their pleasure each Saturday for this purpose.

6.13 p.m.

Mr. Raikes (Liverpool, Garston)

The hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Murray) must not complain if we on this side of the House criticise. It is our duty to make any constructive criticism we can, and I think hon. Members opposite will agree that I do try, as far as I can, to be fair in my criticisms. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister has covered a pretty wide field, and I propose to deal point by point with a number of issues which he has raised. There are, however, one or two matters on which I think we are in agreement, and I believe in covering first those things on which we are agreed before discussing what is more controversial.

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion of giving special priority for housing, and I would remind him of one particular issue which I think is important. On Merseyside today, there are something like 3,000 general labourers out of work. I believe that a good many of those men would go to the pits if they could get houses. A few have been to the pits in the past, but they found that they were not on the priority lists for houses in the pit areas. They made the long journey from Liverpool to the pit and back again at night. I am convinced that special priority for housing would produce a certain number of genuinely unemployed, decent workers who would be prepared to work in the mines at the present time.

We all agree that the situation facing us today has two implications. From a short-term point of view, we are handicapped by the knowledge that with rising consumption, falling manpower, and, apart from the spurt made during the last few weeks, falling production, not only have we been compelled to import a small amount of coal, but very probably we are heading for a serious crisis somewhere about next February if we have a hard winter.

The long-term point of view is even more serious. If production tends to continue to fall, together with a fall in man- power, by next year, the demands of industry for coal must, I think, be greater than they are this year. We have as yet barely touched the rearmament programme, and unless, when that programme is in full blast, we have a very considerable increase in coal production, either the rearmament programme is going to be crippled or the export trade will have to be cut out practically in its entirety.

That is a very grave situation indeed. Our task today is to decide, not merely whether the Minister has made a certain number of comparatively small errors in regard to production and consumption in the year 1950, but whether, in fact, the whole set up of the National Coal Board in its present form is producing, or getting produced, the amount of coal which could be produced with every effort being made and with a full use of existing machinery. That is the real point.

With regard to that issue, I wish to make one comment in which, I think, I shall be in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman. Reference was made to Sir Eric Young. I entirely agree with what my right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) said in opening this debate—that he was not going to use any of the ammunition in that case. I am old-fashioned enough to believe that there is a dispute—a public dispute in this case—between a Minister of the Crown and an employee of a public board, just because the Minister happens to be on the other side from myself he is not of necessity in the wrong.

It is very clear from all the correspondence in this case that whatever the views of Sir Eric Young may have been about the way in which the structure of the Board worked, it appeared to be his obvious intention to stay in that job as long as he could. Sir Charles Reid and Mr. Hunter resigned in 1948 on a matter of principle regarding the structure of the Coal Board, and if I quote them, as I shall, in the course of my speech, I shall give full weight to their views, but I shall not give the same sort of weight to the views of a person who has retired in the circumstances in which Sir Eric Young has retired.

Now we come to the real issue. As I understand it, from what the Minister has said, he takes the view that any inquiry now into the working of the National Coal Board would be untimely. I think his case really amounts to this. He said that since nationalisation, we have had a very considerable increase in production, that we have increased output from 181 million tons in 1946 to 204 million tons in 1950, and that, in spite of falling numbers, output per man-year will be slightly higher than it was in 1938. I think it will be something between 294 and 295 tons per man per year.

While it is true that production has increased by 23 million tons since nationalisation, in view of the vast increase in mechanisation during the last 10 or 12 years it would be astounding if we were unable to produce more coal with fewer men. I would remind the Minister, too, that so far as figures per man-year are concerned, even today with mechanisation increased—I will come to management later—from 60 to 80 per cent., that output per man-year will still be lower than in any year between 1937 and 1941 inclusive, apart from the year 1938, and sharply lower than in the year 1939. I would also emphasise that with the extra machinery it is a depressing picture when one finds that in 1938 we had 227 million tons and in 1939 231 million tons, whereas in 1950 the most we are going to reach is 204 million tons.

Mr. John McKay (Wallsend)

When the hon. Member talks about output per year per man, is he allowing for the fact that prior to nationalisation, men used to work 12 days a fortnight, or six days a week, and miners had no week's holiday and, therefore, the manpower comparison is absolutely useless when the conditions of work are not the same?

Mr. Raikes

If the hon. Member's point means anything, it means that if it is easier and quicker to get into the pits now than it was before, one ought to have a greater output per year than we have now. I am obliged to the hon. Member. Sometimes help comes to us from the most unexpected quarters.

Mr. Hubbard (Kirkcaldy Burghs) rose

Mr. Raikes

I have no doubt that I shall be interrupted further and I welcome interruptions, but I hope that there will not be too many, if hon. Members can help it, because I have a little more to say and I do not want to keep out other speakers. However, I shall be glad to give way to anything relevant.

Mr. Hubbard

Has the hon. Member not forgotten to allow for man-hours? Does he not differentiate between manpower and man-hours? Has he not forgotten to allow for the number of hours the men work?

Mr. Raikes

We shall deal with that question in a moment when we come to the question of output at the coal face per man-shift. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes. We have two yardsticks by which we can consider how production stands. The first is the output per man-year, which in point of fact is the more important, because it shows the number of tons of coal per man that are raised in the course of a year. The second is the output per man-shift, with which I also propose to deal, which shows to some extent whether the men, and particularly men at the face, are making the fullest possible use of their machinery. I shall not labour the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) but, after all, production in almost every other industry in the country, except in the building trade, has jumped above the pre-war figure.

I come now to the point of which the Minister made a good deal—the question of output per man-shift. The important figure in connection with output per man-shift is really the figure of output per man-shift at the face. It appears that the output per man-shift at the face is higher than any other figure the Minister can give, as compared with pre-war. The output per man-shift at the face is somewhere about 3.11 tons up to the last figures we had this year, which I think is a record in the history of the mining industry, or at any rate a record for many years.

Let us analyse that a little further. I am trying to be fair in all my figures. The output per man-shift at the face again is affected and helped by extra machinery in the pits. I think we shall all agree on that. It is interesting to note that the Minister quotes Sir Charles Reid always when he happens to agree with him, but if the Minister had taken his advice in 1948 and the Motion before us had been accepted in 1948, the position of the coal industry might be very different today from what it is. When he resigned in 1948, Sir Charles Reid said: We are not getting the advantage of the new machinery installed. To justify the increase in the use of machinery there would have to he an output of four tons per man-shift at the face. That is an output nearly 20 per cent. greater than the present output per man-shift at the face. I merely quote the Minister's own "quotee " on that particular issue. If Sir Charles Reid is right, it means that with the present mechanisation we should be back to pre-war production roughly speaking.

The Minister's predecessor and the Coal Board bear out Sir Charles Reid's warning in 1948 in a rather curious way. The House is aware that in 1947 the National Coal Board produced their plans for coal production for the next four years under the Marshall Plan allocation. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary has taken the opportunity of explaining that the needs of importing countries under the Marshall Plan were greatly exaggerated, but that does not affect the point. The point is what the Coal Board thought in 1947 they could produce in the years ahead by way of deep-mined coal.

Under their plan, they aimed at 200 million tons of deep-mined coal in 1948 —they almost reached it—210 million tons in 1949, and 220 million tons in 1950. It seems to me that both the figures of the National Coal Board three years ago and the estimates of Sir Charles Reid when he resigned in 1948, because he said the structure of the existing Coal Board was impossible, expressed the opinion that we should get at least 15 million or perhaps more than 15 million tons per year more than in fact we obtained in 1950. If that is so, there must be something wrong in the structure of the Coal Board and in the way in which the industry is being worked at present. The difference between 204 million and 220 million, or 225 million as Sir Charles Reid perhaps suggested, is very large indeed.

I do not want to go into the question of absenteeism but, on this subject, there is one point to which I should like to call the Minister's attention—and, again, I want to be absolutely fair. The figures for absenteeism are better this year than they were last year. They are roughly 11.96 as against 12.34 last year. Last year, however, the Coal Board took the very drastic step, which may have been justified but certainly was drastic, of sacking somewhere about 8,000 men from the pits for persistent absenteeism. That had some effect, but it is not very cheering to note that, in spite of this action, the absenteeism figures for this year are still higher than those for 1948, the year before the Coal Board took the drastic step to which I have referred.

Finally, on this issue, I think the Minister and the Government are inclined to be rather too optimistic about the tremendous upsurge of a happier spirit in the pits. I am not saying for one moment that the miners desire to return to the old régime. I am not advocating that they should return to the old régime. But do not let the Government fall into the fatal error of supposing that, because they have a new set-up, it is providing all that the miners hoped or expected from it. I will give only one quotation, and it is one which I think ought to be given. It is a quotation from a Mr. Vaughan, who was spokesman for the 47 miner delegates at the National Coal Board's summer school in 1949. I do not suppose for one moment that he is a hard-bitten Conservative. Speaking on behalf of the delegates, he said: It is true to say we do not know where we stand nor in what direction we are going. Our confusion is all the greater because we expected nationalisation to produce a very different set of affairs.… Two-and-a-half years later this fund of good will has now largely dried up. It does not need us to get together to point this out. It is common knowledge that things are drifting.

Mr. Harold Davies

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way to me; he is usually very kind in doing so. We must be fair to this colossal organisation, which has a capital of £400 million. It took 20 years to build I.C.I., with £80 million capital and another 20 years to build Unilevers, with £70 million capital. There is nothing wrong with men at a Coal Board summer school criticising their own organisation. That is the strength of the Coal Board—that men can now criticise and hit out firmly. It helps us to get results.

Mr. Raikes

The hon. Gentleman must take my quotation in the context in which I gave it, which is that, when hon. Members talk of a new spirit in the mines, we have to recollect that at the summer school we were told that the good will of two-and-a-half years ago has "largely dried up." It seems to me that there is a different implication in those words than merely a little mild criticism about things which have not gone as well as they could. It was said by a man speaking on behalf of miner delegates from the N.C.B. to their summer school.

That ties up with the two main points I have made. First and foremost, on both the calculations of the Coal Board in 1947 and the calculations of Sir Charles Reid in 1948, production is many million tons below what it should be in 1950.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

Conditions have changed.

Mr. Raikes

Conditions have changed, alas; that is possibly one of the reasons why we are moving this Motion today. My second point is that although there was a new spirit—and I allow that there was a tremendous fund of good will—to begin with—insufficient use has been made of that new spirit in the difficulties which we face at present. In the first year, 1948, we saw an increase of 10 million tons over 1947. With new machinery coming in and all the other improvements, one would have thought that there would have been a tendency for the rate of increase to grow. But next year the increase was six million tons over the previous year, and in the following year the increase was two million tons. If we are to follow that average of a fall of four million tons in the rate of increase, then next year we shall have 202 million tons produced.

Those are facts which we have to face and, in connection with them, I regret two things about the Minister's attitude. I regret what I think I may fairly call the over-confidence he has shown at a time when the Coal Board, on the other hand, have been showing rather a spirit of defeatism. Secondly, he has not even mentioned in the course of his speech today whether he thinks that full use is being made of the existing machinery in the pits, because I believe that is the key to the whole future of the coal industry. I say that for these reasons. As the years go on I do not think we shall see an enormous number of men pouring back into the coal industry. More and more it will be an industry for men who, in a sense, will be engineers working the new machinery. I can foresee the day when half a million men in the coal industry should be able to provide the full needs of the nation and of exports. Those men will have to be well paid, of course.

The trouble today is that the managers are very much snowed under with paper. They have far too much paper work and are not sufficiently down the pits. Further, we need the men in the industry under some wide degree of decentralization[...] working closer together than they have ever done before, instead of drifting, as we have done, into an enormous centralised Board in which no effort at all is being made towards decentralisation. That is the great problem. If we can return once again to that conception of the personal touch we shall see a big increase in the production per man at the face. I am convinced that if we do that we shall solve the problem, but if we do not do it, if we somehow merely bring more men back into the industry without making better use of the new machinery. coal will became scarcer and dearer.

I shall conclude, because I have spoken long enough this evening. I am not being offensive when I say that I believe the trouble is first what I am tempted to call the Minister's over-optimism and the lack of judgment which he has shown in his speeches about exports and about stocks time after time—in March, July and September of this year. More important even than that, is the complete failure of the Coal Board, which is losing confidence in itself, to tackle the day-to-day work. That is why I support my right hon. Friend's Motion. That is why I believe we need an inquiry now, and out of the inquiry we might produce something not only of help to the miners but of hope to the nation in which we live.

6.40 p.m.

Mr. Hubbard (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

According to the speeches so far made by Members of the Opposition it would seem that they do not sincerely believe in their Motion, and that they ought to be moving a Motion to de-nationalise the coal mines. At any rate, all the criticisms seem to centre on the allegation that all the troubles that have descended on the coal industry are the direct results of nationalisation and the working of the National Coal Board. If they were honest they would say they now wanted to de-nationalise the industry. They dare not do it, of course.

The House is always interested, however, in what the hon. Member for Garston (Mr. Raikes) has to say on this subject, because we know he speaks with a great deal of information. I would, however, tell him, when he refers to what a student critical of the Coal Board and of the industry had to say, that he was then speaking of someone who was taking advantage of circumstances that did not exist in the industry before it was nationalised.

I should like, moreover, to remind the hon. Member that if we are to get results we shall have to get away from the theory of coal production to the practice of it. It is so easy to stand up in this House and make speeches, or quote speeches and articles in newspapers, about the tons of coal we ought to be able to produce. It is very different when we get down to the actual practice of getting the coal. We can draw blueprints, and make estimates about the number of tons of coal that ought to be produced; but if we are to solve our problem we must understand the difficulties the industry has been up against and the difficulties that the miners employed in the industry are facing.

I agree that it is a long-term problem. Nineteen out of every 20 industries in this country are dependent on coal. That is so not only now, or in the next months, although this is a dangerous time, I agree; but the whole continuing economy of the country is dependent on coal, and I imagine we should better serve the industry if we tried to understand the difficulties that have been met during the last few years. Nineteen out of every 20 industries in this country are dependent on coal, and, no matter what academic language may be used here or eslewhere, the main problem is to get the miners to produce the coal.

I do not think for one moment that everything under the National Coal Board or under nationalisation is perfect. It is far from it. But I have never at any time heard my right hon. Friend or his predecessors say that everything connected with the nationalised industry ought to remain unchanged. On the contrary, this nationalisation is something new, and we must learn by trial and error in this case as we have had to do in many others.

I am worried about whether or not my right hon. Friend has convinced his fellow members of the Government that the industry should get the first priority. I am also worried whether or not there is enough control at colliery level with regard to some difficulties. I am worried whether, in fact, mining machinery is receiving the priority it ought to be receiving. I feel disturbed sometimes when I hear of how work is being held up at the collieries merely for the lack of machine picks. We want an assurance from my right hon. Friend tonight that this industry is, in fact, getting the priority it needs and that it must have if we are to get out of our difficulties.

At the end of the day we come to this question of manpower. We must all be worried about the 22,000 men who have left the mines during the last year. That is a problem which is affecting us all over the country. The figures in Scotland are alarming. For every 13 men who enter the industry 60 have left it. There must be a reason for that. If this debate is to serve a useful purpose we must try to understand the reasons for that. There is no doubt about it that when uneconomic mines have been closed and miners have been declared redundant in those areas, they have not been attracted to mining in other areas as the Government expected that they would.

When those mines have been closed down, and where, under the provisions of the Distribution of Industry Act, other and more attractive employment is available, the miners have gone to that other employment—even in the mining areas. We are losing hundreds of skilled workmen for that reason. Therefore, something has to be done to put an end to the closing down of these so-called uneconomic mines if we are not able to transfer the men who thus become redundant to other mines or coal-producing areas.

I am sure the miners are pleased that the control over their movement from the industry has been removed. Miners ought to be as free as anybody else to choose what employment they will follow. In those circumstances, and instead of having control of engagement orders, the alternative is to make the mining industry attractive. I am quite satisfied that we could remove the difficulties which make the job unattractive. For instance, at the present moment miners are being asked to travel long distances to be engaged in coal mining. Workers who are doing other work pay fares limited to 3s. a week. Miners who travel to their work in the mines have to pay 9s. and 12s. and 15s. a week. When they get to the mines, they discover they are to pay for the very light by which they work. I can imagine the great protest there would be in this House if something were deducted from Members' salaries for the lights above us here. I can imagine the protests there would be in any other form of employment if the workers in it had to pay for the light by which they work.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

Would the hon. Member say, for I am not quite certain, whether the miners who travel the long distances do so in public transport, or whether the transport is provided by the Coal Board?

Mr. Hubbard

Probably by public transport. The point is that they have to travel long distances in buses. I shall have something further to say about that at a later stage. For the moment I want to continue my argument about making the job attractive.

There is the question of absenteeism. I feel sure that the figure of 4½ per cent. is not quite right. There is a maxim, "Never absent, never late." So far as the mining industry is concerned, if one is late one is absent. In other industries, if a man arrives late by one minute or by 10 minutes or by half-an-hour[...] he can still be employed in his job for the day. But if, for any of a multitude of reasons, a miner happens to arrive at one minute behind time he is then absent for the whole day. I do not think sufficient regard is paid to that fact.

Personally, I believe that miners start too early in the morning. If a miner has to start work at six o'clock and has to travel a long distance to get to work, he must be up at four o'clock, and so must his family. A miner's job is a hard, continuous job all day; it is heavy work, and to do it he needs seven to eight hours sleep in order to be fit to carry out that heavy job. So if a man has to start work at six o'clock and be out of bed by four a.m., he ought to be in bed at eight o'clock on the night before. Others in his family do not have to go to bed so early, so that means that he is not able to get to sleep at that hour. Perhaps, more than one member of the family is a miner, and perhaps they start work at different times on different shifts; and in those circumstances it is impossible for miners in the same household to get all the sleep that they need at the time they ought to have it in order to be 100 per cent. fit for their jobs.

I think it would lessen the chance of absenteeism, if those on the coal producing shift could start at eight and finish at 4.30 instead of 2.30. They would be much better able to continue with the hard work they are doing. The worker who starts at two o'clock must go down the mine immediately after he has had his main meal of the day, whereas if a system of later starting were adopted, he would have to begin work at about four o'clock and could get some healthy exercise before going down the mine. The night worker must start at ten o'clock, which means that he has to prepare for work at eight o'clock in the evening, and so loses all the amenities of family life; but with a new shift rotation he would not require to start until midnight and could enjoy better amenities at home. Those are the sort of things we must do to make this industry more attractive than it is. There is a multitude of problems to be taken into consideration.

We ought not to be apologising for our miners today, and in no circumstances do I propose to do so. Since the extended hours agreement the men in the Scottish coal fields have produced about one-and-a-half million more tons per year. Although the miners in Scotland comprise only one-eighth of the total manpower, they have contributed one-quarter of the total increased production as a result of the extended hours agreement. The country is not told that sort of thing. Those men ought to be complimented on that. Yet, although the Scottish coal miners have made, and will continue to make, this great contribution, their wages are 2s. 2d. per shift lower than the average wage for the miners of this country. That is a problem the Minister will have to solve. In a nationalised industry it is very wrong for men to be paid less than those in other districts who are doing the same type of work. Obviously, men are not likely to be attracted to an industry in which there are such differential conditions.

Another difficulty in connection with the transference of miners from so-called redundant areas to areas such as Fife is the lack of welfare and amenities. I know that throughout the County of Fife they are setting up new areas and building special houses for miners, but when the miners arrive they find no shops, no picture houses, no welfare, and no amenities whatsoever. Something must be done about that, because people cannot be uprooted from an area in which such amenities are provided and transferred to an area in which there is nothing for them to do when they come home from work, except to look out at the bleak countryside. I understand that in Ayrshire there is not one welfare institution. I know that one of the difficulties about building welfare institutions is that it competes with the building of houses, but the mining industry is so important that every assurance ought to be given to miners to encourage them to continue to be miners.

If we do not overcome either the short-term or the long-term crisis, and if the Opposition were successful tonight in defeating the Government on a Motion which is more than a question of bringing down the Government, but is a question of bringing down the country—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Hon. Members opposite disagree, but if we do not overcome this coal crisis we shall all go down. This is not the occasion for making debating points, and I call attention to the seriousness of the problem instead of indulging in academic argument. Without increased coal production there can be no increased production in any other industry in the country. More than ever we depend on the export of our goods to bring in raw materials. If we fail in that there will be unemployment. That would solve the coal shortage. There would be no shortage of coal then, but the country would have lost all that we have fought for in the past.

So that the House may show an interest in the job that lies ahead of us, let us concentrate on encouraging the only people who can produce coal rather than wondering about the behaviour of certain members of the Coal Board, or asking theoretical questions about how much coal ought to have been produced. The hard fact is that not enough coal is being produced, and until we get more miners we shall not produce sufficient coal, and if we do not do that, we shall all go down together

6.55 p.m.

Mr. Edgar Granville (Eye)

The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. Hubbard) has just delivered an eloquent speech. He speaks with a great deal of experience and knowledge, and I am sure he found an answering echo in all parts of the House. There can be no question but that the hon. Gentleman has fully recovered from his indisposition, and I am sure we are all glad to sec him in his place and hear him speak on a subject on which he has such great knowledge.

This is the third debate we have had on this subject since the election this year. On the first occasion, in March, there was a Division; in July there was no Division; and I do not think that the Minister can complain at the tone and temper of the speeches made in this debate. I missed the contribution of the right hon. Member for Bournemouth, East, and Christchurch (Mr. Bracken), who always enlivens these discussions, and I am sure we all wish him a speedy recovery.

I thought that the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) made a serious case, which must be fully answered by the Government. At the same time, my view is that we are, and must be, debating this problem today in something of a vacuum, because in the present economic position of the country it is impossible to debate coal alone and to forget everything else. A great deal will depend on the statement The Prime Minister is to make on the fundamental problem, which becomes increasingly difficult every week, of the world supply of raw materials, and also the question of armament production in this country, which was referred to by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Raikes). I believe that we are within sight of a system of urgent priorities for the supply of raw materials and manpower for the capital investment programme, certainly in the coal industry. If that is so, it seems to me that this Motion is, as the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy said, an academic Motion.

I was not sure whether the right hon. Member for Southport was making a case under the heading set forth by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in March, in the debate on the Gracious Speech, of no factious or fractious opposition. In any event, this is not the occasion on which to divide the House of Commons on a Motion of this sort, and so far as all the Liberal Party is concerned, it is our intention to abstain. We think that is rather more important today in the present financial situation and in the economic crisis with which this country is to be faced, than to turn the House of Commons into an annexe of the Tory Central Office for electioneering purposes.

Mr. Osborne (Louth)

Are all the Liberal Members agreed on that?

Mr. Granville

Yes. I should be very interested to see if all the Conservatives are agreed on the line which they are to take when they go into the Lobbies. That does not say that anybody, so far, in this debate has expressed complete satisfaction with the proposals of the Government to import coal from the United States. No one has expressed satisfaction of the present activities of the Coal Board or of the power cuts which are at present a severe burden in certain parts of this country upon industry. The hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong.

Mr. Robens

The hon. Gentleman may say anything he likes, but the fact is that it is not shortage of coal that causes power cuts.

Mr. Granville

The hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but when the right hon. Gentleman was making his speech he referred to coal in industry and mentioned electrification.

Mr. Robens

If the hon. Gentleman wants to get it right, I will tell him that there is a large increase in coal used in power stations which is directly attributable to industry, and, therefore, the coal consumed in the power stations is as good as coal used directly in industry.

Mr. Granville

I do not know if the hon. Gentleman heard the whole of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He made a special point that the conservation of coal should apply to industry, domestic consumers and the rest; and I refuse to believe that it has not some relation to the coal industry that we are not able to carry out the full programme at the present time of rural electrification, which many of us, certainly on these benches, are most anxious to see.

I say, frankly, that I was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman announce in his speech, in reply to the right hon. Member for Southport, that measures are to be taken to protect the domestic consumer. I cannot think that the decision to import coal can be altogether divorced from that point of view. It is vital to the morale of this country to see that we are not left in a crisis if we have a hard winter. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will go forward with the proposals or suggestions which he has made to preserve the supply to the domestic consumer.

The right hon. Gentleman also made an announcement, which is of great importance, with regard to outside labour. He mentioned that the Government are negotiating for Italian and Irish labour. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is satisfied that they will be able to make provision for housing if, as the hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Murray) said in his speech, a number of these Irish and Italian are miners moved into the coal areas. I think that the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs really put his finger on the whole problem because, as I have said, I believe that we are to see a revolutionary system of priorities and controls with regard to the allocation of vital. strategic raw materials, and in the end, as the hon. Gentleman said, that will come down to manpower and production at the coal face.

I think that we must have incentives. One representative of the miners after another gets up in this House and makes suggestions to the Government about incentives. Is there any reason why they cannot be carried out? The hon. Member made a series of proposals again tonight. If that is absolutely vital to the situation with which we are confronted—the economic situation, which will be critical in 1951—is not it obvious that the Government have to face up, once and for all, to the problem of a national wages policy?

Many miners do not want their sons to go down to the coal face—the hon. Gentleman knows this probably better than most of us on this side; of course they do not; why should they when they can go elsewhere and get more amenable jobs at equal or higher rates of pay? But I think that must make the miners of this country a corps L'Élite in our planned economy. We must give them incentives, houses, adequate holidays with pay, and a wage which will justify their going into this industry.

A great deal has been said by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Raikes) about mechanisation, but let us be realistic about this. I think that the area or divisional boards have done a great deal. A lot of initiative on mechanisation has come from the divisional boards. But the Motion talks of the demand for armaments, the demand for exports to keep up the export trade, and, by implication, the building of houses as well on the home front. We cannot have all these things today and a full policy of mechanisation.

The priorities are not there, and we have not the production available. We have not the priorities or the sanction in our capital investment programme. I was very interested, when discussing this problem with an eminent scientist in the United States of America, in hearing him say, "If I wanted to make my career" —and he happened to be engaged in this particular field—"I would come to your country and make it." I said, "You stagger me; why?" He said, "Because you have the most compact coalfields in the world, and you can organise them into the finest system of utilities and light and power supplies." But, he said, "You need an enormous capital investment programme." That is the right hon. Gentleman's problem—how to get that carried out in the available time.

I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary—who likes to reply during the debate and at the end of the debate; he will have the opportunity of being rude more times than other people—to tell us a little more than the Minister did about the proposed dollar purchases. Are they to be made under any arrangements of the existing ramifications of Marshall Aid? I do not know, but The Prime Minister may have discussed this on the other side of the Atlantic. Are we, in fact, paying dollar currencies for this as an ordinary commercial deal, or will it come into any arrangement under the various schemes for Marshall Aid? Will this be considered as raw material in the armament programme? Can the hon. Gentleman give us explicit information as to whether we are spending money on coal that we could spend on timber for the building of houses?

A great deal has been said about decentralisation, and reference has been made to the resignation of Sir Eric Young. Everyone wants to see decentralisation. It is very important to get intimate contact with the pits, but let us not lose sight of the fact that the Coal Board are responsible for policy and must take heed of the criticism that is made in this House and elsewhere. The Opposition are asking for an inquiry to be made. I should have thought that a continual inquiry was going on at the present time, by the House of Commons, the Minister and—

Mr. Osborne

And nothing happens.

Mr. Granville

There is a continual inquiry going on by organised labour, and even by the well-briefed hecklers from the Tory Central Office. If Members of the Opposition were to find themselves sitting opposite and had to face the present economic and foreign affairs situation, they would be aghast at any suggestion of a roving inquiry. My advice to the Government is that they should make their own inquiries and, for goodness' sake, get on with the job.

7.12 p.m.

Mr. M. Philips Price (Gloucestershire, West)

I hope the House will bear with me for a few minutes while I raise a somewhat different aspect of the fuel crisis through which the country is passing. We have been discussing questions concerning production and the economic and political considerations which arise there-from. As the debate has shown, some of these questions have been rather controversial, although it has been an objective discussion on the whole. Far be it from me to suggest that what we have been discussing up to now is not extremely important and vital to the country. But there is another aspect of this problem which is less controversial.

I am Chairman of the Parliamentary Scientific Committee, which is an all-party organisation, and we are especially interested in how to save coal. Scientific research has placed in our hands weapons which are not being fully utilised. The public are inclined to look upon scientific inventions as something which will do extremely exciting things. When we first became aware of the immense possibilities of the use of atomic energy, the public began to think that we might be able to do away altogether with the use of coal and other fuels.

But I would call attention to the fact that so eminent a scientist as Sir Henry Tizard has warned us that, even if considerable strides are made in the practical application of atomic energy from uranium, it will take at least 20 years or more before atomic energy can give us much benefit, and certainly nothing like the benefit which would come from economy in the use of our existing fuels. That is a very important statement. The importance of this question of economy in the use of coal is also shown by what Oliver Lyle has to say in a pamphlet entitled "Efficiency." He calculates that by the proper use of fuel-saving appliances as much as 80 million tons of coal can be saved a year.

Robert Foot, who has conducted a similar investigation, takes the view that £217 million worth of fuel could be saved. The fact is that our present use of coal is extremely wasteful. Professor Simon, thermodynamics professor at Oxford University, has produced a table showing that open fires are only 15 per cent. efficient—in other words, 85 per cent. of the coal is being wasted—that closed stoves are 40 to 50 per cent. efficient, and that central heating is 70 per cent. to 80 per cent. efficient. Our overall fuel efficiency today is such that some scientists think we could save, if all the fuel-saving methods were adopted, half of the 200 million tons of coal we consume a year.

But I do not want to overpaint the picture. It is an ideal solution to suggest that all known fuel-saving appliances could be used. The fact is that these appliances would cost an enormous amount of money, and the outlay would be greater than the economies obtained. But there was a letter last Thursday in "The Times" from Oliver Lyle in which he pointed out that by using what is known as the "back pressure" system for steam production in certain industrial processes, a saving of £100,000 a year could be effected for a one-time outlay of only £120,000. This is something which is obviously much more practicable. There are also people who take the view that if the brick industry used a certain class of insulated brick, a coal saving of between 25 per cent. to 50 per cent. per annum could be effected, while at the same time providing better conditions for the workers in the industry.

The worst offender in this respect is the electric fire. I put a Question to the Minister yesterday, in which I asked what could be done to restrict the use of electric fires that are extremely wasteful in fuel, and I have already had letters from irate people, mostly outside my constituency, to the effect that I am suggesting that old people should be deprived of heat and light during the winter. What I am suggesting is nothing of the kind. Those who have these fires must go on using them at a time like this. What I was suggesting is that measures should be taken to discourage their future use and encourage other methods which are more efficient. There are, of course, quite a number of other means which can be used.

There is another difficulty which we have to face in connection with the production of fuel-saving appliances. I know these mean more steel, and that is a bottle neck at the moment. However, I would suggest that in the matter of priorities for steel, these utensils should be high on the list, because I am certain it will help the national economy tremendously. Today I received a letter from a manufacturer in my constituency. In the Forest of Dean we are not only coal producing but coal consuming and there is a manufacturer who is producing a special kind of stove which will save fuel. He will probably have to shut down because he cannot get the steel for these stoves. So I suggest to my right hon. Friend that perhaps steel will be put high on the list of priorities for this purpose. My belief is that we should use all the resources science has given us to help us in this crisis. I hope my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will be kind enough to deal with some of the points I have raised.

7.21 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Colegate (Burton)

I do not propose to detain the House very long, nor do I intend to indulge in pinpricks. Like the hon. Gentleman the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Murray), whom I always admire for his sincerity and common sense, I think it is quite ridiculous to discuss coal on the basis of whether we are or are not in favour of nationalisation. The mines have been nationalised and we have to make the best of them. It is for that reason that we on this side of the House have put forward the Motion which stands on the Order Paper.

Most of the speeches which have been made in this debate have, in effect, been a demand for an inquiry into the working of the coal industry. Take the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. Hubbard), whom we are all delighted to see back again. What did he say in his excellent speech? He said we wanted less theory and more practical experience. He questioned the policy of closing mines which were alleged to be uneconomic, and, at the same time, of purchasing coal from abroad, which is clearly uneconomic, and probably more uneconomic than the closing of the alleged uneconomic pits. He went on to deal with a number of points about actual conditions of work. That was very sound.

I speak from practical experience. Someone suggested earlier that people should not speak in this debate from theoretical knowledge. I am speaking from practical knowledge, and particularly from experience of how to attract men to the coal mines. That is where an inquiry comes in, because in my opinion the key to the whole position is the position of the pit manager. Complaints which I have received—and I have had many—is that the manager today has not sufficient scope to do what he wants to do. He is not allowed to exercise his initiative, and he has to go through a whole series of references to other people before he can undertake what he wants to do. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is no good denying it, because it is generally admitted.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

The hon. Member said he was speaking from practical experience. Could he say what his practical experience is? I understood from that remark that he actually worked at the pits on the coal face.

Mr. Colegate

I never said anything about the pits. I said that I was responsible, as a director of a colliery, for attracting men to the pits. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Let us avoid this policy of pin-pricks. If we are to come through this crisis we have got to listen to the accumulated experience and knowledge of everyone here who has anything to do with the coal industry. I maintain—it can be ascertained from the Managers' Association whether I am speaking the truth or not—that the manager, who is one of the king pins at the present time in the industry, is not allowed to exercise his own initiative.

As an example of what I mean I should like to tell of what happened at a colliery with which I was connected. From a certain village we had an average of 70 men working in the colliery. Then the attendance started to fall off, and in a short time the number was fewer than 50. What did the manager do? He rang me up on the question and then he went up to the village and saw some of the wives of the men as well as some of the men themselves. It turned out that the times of the trains on the light railway, which brought these men to their work, were altered without consultation with the men or anybody else. The new times were most inconvenient. The men were leaving mining and going to other industries, because the arrangements were hopelessly inconvenient for them in getting to the pit. We approached the local bus company, but they could not help us. We then bought a couple of buses and within three weeks we had the 70 men back in the mines, because the buses were run to suit their convenience. That is the type of problem which a manager has got to face.

Mr. Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)

If I may refer to an earlier point made by the hon. Member, did he say that the Managers' Association had stated that the average pit manager was frustrated?

Mr. Colegate

I said that the average pit manager, according to my information, has not sufficient scope in exercising his own initiative in removing difficulties.

Mr. Snow

I thought the hon. Member said "the Association."

Mr. Colegate

I said that if hon. Members did not beieve me, I would refer them to the Managers' Association when they would find out that what I am saying is right, or so I am informed.

A great deal has been said about incentives and, of course, we must give good incentives. But there is the question of mining conditions. It is not merely a question of money but, as the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy pointed out, the conditions in the mines are equally important to the miners. It is there that the local manager can do far more than any coal board in the question of amenities, and such things as the bus service which I mentioned.

The same thing applies to absenteeism. If there is regular absenteeism at a pit, then it will be found that the pit is badly managed. That is one of the things we want to see to, and one of the things that will be considered if this inquiry were held. This is not an inquiry into the Coal Board. A number of hon. Members have said we want such an inquiry, but we are asking for nothing of the kind. We are asking for an impartial inquiry into the whole of the coal industry. The inquiry will include coal and many other things besides.

The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price), referred to inventions not being sufficiently utilised. How are we to find out about that unless we have an inquiry? He himself asked for an inquiry. There is the question of the supply of electric fires and apparatus and the lack of co-ordination to secure economy in the use of electricity. One can hardly go down the main street of any town without seeing a blazing window or two, with advertisements asking us to buy washing machines, for example. The Minister should look into this matter. I am sure the public will understand if some sales have to be stopped. The Minister spoke about seams and collieries going out of production, but new collieries and new seams are coming into production. A great deal has been done in that respect.

Mr. Hamilton (Fife, West)

Can the hon. Gentleman say, roughly, what period it takes between beginning to sink the shaft of a colliery and the actual production of coal?

Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)

Does the hon. Member who asked that question realise that all these shafts were started and completed by private enterprise?

Mr. Colegate

I should like to mention the Nottinghamshire coalfield, which was developed from the year 1900 onwards and is one of the finest coalfields in the world, with admirable garden villages and equipment. That was not developed in a day. The Minister has failed to mention that there have been several discoveries lately. Does anyone realise that there is a coalfield from Cheshire under North Wales, which will be developed and greatly enlarged in the future?

It is clear that if we are to get the coal industry back to what it was in 1913, when it was producing 300 million tons and when we exported 84.9 million tons—

Mr. Hamilton

Of poorish coal, too.

Mr. Colegate

I wish we could avoid these foolish interruptions. Hon Members should forget that kind of thing and get down to the question at issue, which is that of enabling the coal industry to make its proper contribution to our standard of life and the provision of exports by full production. That would not only be of great advantage to ourselves and to the nations of the world who usually buy our coal, but it would enable us to maintain our national position.

7.35 p.m.

Mr. Neal (Bolsover)

We have listened to an interesting speech from the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Colegate). I hope to mention some of his arguments during my speech, but I want to deal, first of all, with the speech of the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson). I regret that the right hon. Gentleman is not in his place. He put on record one or two statements which should be contradicted from this side of the House, and to which I shall refer in my opening remarks. The right hon. Gentleman discharged a difficult task with admirable skill. I do not think that the test team in Australia will encounter a more sticky wicket than that on which the right hon. Gentleman was batting this afternoon, because he said singularly little about real remedies to get us out of our difficulties.

The right hon. Gentleman is the first person I have ever heard in this House referring to "output per man-year." In coal debates he is always returning to that description. When the output figures per man-shift overall and at the coal face are too favourable to mention, he conveniently uses figures concerning the output per man-year. Today, he made comparisons with the 1945 output per man-year. Incidentally, all the official statisticians refer to those figures as "output per wage earner." In making the comparison between 1941 and 1949 to support his argument, the right hon. Gentleman apparently thought that he was using favourable and fair figures. I submit that the real comparison is between now and 1938, the year before the war, when there was no interruption by war conditions. The output per wage earner in 1938 was 290.4 tons. while the output this year, reckoned on the first 47 weeks, will come out at 291 tons, which is an admirable increase during the past few years.

Despite the paucity of his arguments, the right hon. Gentleman was supporting a Motion for an inquiry. It tickles the sense of humour of hon. Members on this side of the House to suggest an inquiry into the operations of the Coal Board, because the history of the industry is cluttered up with inquiries and commissions, most of the findings of which the Tories never implemented. To enter into another inquiry at this period in this publicly-owned industry will teach us nothing that we do not already know. A feature about this debate which strikes me as particularly significant is that nationalisation, as such, does not appear to be on trial. We have not heard an argument from any Opposition speaker that the pits should be handed back to private enterprise. Doubtless, in their lonely moments of clarity, the Tories agree with Lord McGowan.

Colonel Lancaster (South Fylde) indicated dissent.

Mr. Neal

The hon. and gallant Member does not agree with Lord McGowan? I was just about to tell him what Lord McGowan said. It was: If the Tories had got back to power in 1945 and the mines had not been nationalised, we should be producing 100 million tons less per year than we now are.

Colonel Clarke (East Grinstead)

Will the hon. Gentleman read the sentence before that which he quoted? If he has not got it, I have.

Mr. Neal

So far from—

Colonel Clarke rose

Miss Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

Be fair.

Mr. Neal

So far from being a failure, nationalisation has not yet been adequately tried.

Miss Ward

The hon. Member is frightened.

Mr. Neal

Private enterprise had 100 years to manage the industry. Is it to be expected that the ravages of war can be overcome and all the other troubles solved within the first five years of public ownership? Bad as the position may be, and bad as the Opposition may describe it, this year we shall produce 30 million tons more than we did in 1945, and that is no mean achievement.

Doubtless, in moving their Motion, the Opposition are prompted by the presence of the so-called coal crisis. If it is a crisis, it is different from all the crises which have upset the industry in the past. The reduction in output over recent months is not a matter of surprise to many of us who are familiar with the industry. The plain fact is that we have not sufficient trained men to get the coal which the country needs. In the 47 weeks of this year there has been a reduction of 22,000 men on colliery books and 8,000 of those were coal-face workers. If these losses had not been sustained, the estimated lower output figure of 205 million tons in the Economic Survey for 1950 would easily have been achieved.

Neither the Government nor the Coal Board can be blamed for the circumstances which led to the Minister's statement on 20th November. There is, after all, an underlying optimism about the situation. Our difficulties are partly created by greater consumption. There is more industry using power, more gas and electricity is being consumed in the homes of the people, and fuel is now made available to the poorest of the population. The full employment policy of the Labour Government has produced a social phenomenon. There are nine men for 10 men's jobs. It is the first time that modern industry has had to contend with such a problem. In the past the pits were well fed with manpower because there was no other work in the mining communities. The coal owners had a land monopoly and prevented any other industries from competing for the potential labour power of the mining industry. Transport facilities have improved. The ring fence has been lifted. All these things have created manpower difficulties. Today, some men—I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to take note of this—are leaving the industry for higher wages elsewhere. I was credibly informed the other day that men who have been earning £5 a week in the mines have been leaving to earn £20 to £25 at an atomic energy plant in the North of England. It is not surprising that men should leave the coal industry in such circumstances.

Mr. Nabarro (Kidderminster)

The hon. Member says that the miners are earning only £5 a week, but is he aware that figures published last week showed that the average coal-face worker is earning £9 13s. a week?

Mr. Neal

The hon. Member is about as inaccurate on this subject as he is about opencast coal production. No matter what publicity there may be about the high wages which the miners are earning, two-thirds of the men in the industry take home less than £6 a week.

Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)


Mr. Neal

There are short-term and long-term remedies for dealing with the situation. As to the former, I believe that the prerequisites for an immediate increase in output are Saturday working and reduced absenteeism. I am acutely conscious of the fact that discussions will soon begin between the National Union of Mineworkers and the National Coal Board to solve these difficulties and I do not want to say anything which may prejudice those discussions, but if the Minister of Fuel and Power is to get the extra 50,000 tons a week which he mentioned some incentives to production will be necessary. I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Murray), in urging that a bonus should be paid to miners for Saturday working. It could be paid on condition that the recipient had qualified for the previous five-day bonus. The result would be much better attendance than we are getting at present.

Mr. P. Roberts

Would the hon. Member be prepared to relate that bonus to output?

Mr. Neal

This is, of course, a matter for the National Union of Mineworkers and the Coal Board—

Mr. Roberts

It is a good idea.

Mr. Neal

Whether it is an attendance bonus or an output bonus I do not mind, but there must be an incentive of this sort to increase Saturday working. Another thing which would improve Saturday output would be a shorter working day on Saturday. That has been suggested from these benches before, without making any impression on the Minister. I know that there is an element of risk in having a shorter working day on Saturday. Some coal-faces might not be clear, and it might result in some interruption of the cycle of work for the following day or two, but the risk would be worth while if we were able to get thousands of tons of coal more.

If there was a shorter working day on Saturday the Minister would find the miners making an all-out effort in order to give them time to get to their sports. With all the seriousness and the solemnity of which I am capable, I put this forward as one of the main incentives to increased output on Saturdays. I would, however, warn the Minister that he must not expect a return to a permanent six-day week in the mining industry. Miners living in mixed communities see their neighbours working a five-day week in factories. I do not complain about the miner who experiences nostalgia for the sunshine on Saturday and wants to enjoy his sport like other workers.

I believe that there will be a continuance of the upsurge in output which we are now witnessing until Christmas, but what about the weeks after Christmas about which the Minister expressed perturbation? The production of coal in the weeks after Christmas can only be improved by adding to the incentives which the miners are receiving. An important matter is wages. I have already said that two-thirds of the men in industry are receiving less than £6 a week. Only the other day we read in the newspapers that unskilled men in the motor industry were earning no less than £7 0s. 7d. a week. In these vital days are motor cars more valuable than coal?

Something must be done to appease the lower-paid workers in the industry. There was a good deal of frustration following the recent wages award. Rightly or wrongly many of the men had been led to expect that they would get two shillings a day increase, and many of them received only 8d., and their feelings about wages are very keen. The Coal Board have to secure the co-operation of the whole of their workers if output is to be increased. I hope that these considerations will be borne in mind by the Parliamenetary Secretary when he replies to the debate.

Turning to absenteeism, I am glad to see that it has shown a marked tendency to decline in recent weeks. But, as has been pointed out by previous speakers, the overwhelming majority of miners are doing a good job and are attending their work regularly. There are, however, a minority who are not even qualifying for the five-day bonus. I heard of an area where, the other week, 25 per cent. of the men did not qualify for the bonus. It is a pity that that minority should bring all the rest of the miners into ill repute. It is not fair that all miners should be branded as "workshy" because a few of their number are not doing their job. I appeal from this House to that minority to help to make their contribution towards meeting the country's needs in these vital months.

Among the long-term remedies required a more permanent solution must be found to stop the decline in manpower. In the fall in the number on the colliery books this year of 22,000 the heaviest wastage has been among young men of from 18 to 21 years of age. We need in our pits men with the health, strength and vigour to produce the coal that is needed. I hope that the Minister will examine the reasons why there is such a wastage in those age groups.

Juvenile recruitment shows a promising increase. In the first 44 weeks of the year 13,000 juveniles were recruited, an increase of 600 on last year's figures. I am, however, very sceptical about those figures. I should like to know how many of those juveniles are remaining in the industry. I heard one of my industrial colleagues say recently that today every school boy carries a white collar in his knapsack. The grammar school boy, the public school boy, does not go to the pits for a job. Why not? There is a dignity about manual labour that should not be despised. Mining calls for energy, courage and skill, and it ought to be attractive, provided, of course, that there is sufficient security of tenure and that reasonable guarantees of security are assured to those engaged in the industry.

I have never been able to understand why the mining communities should be expected to provide all the labour for the pits. Why should the non-mining areas not make their contribution, also? Many of us on this side of the House began our pit training years ago at the fireside, listening to the experiences of our fathers and elder brothers. We were familiar with the nomenclature of the pits before we started work. All that has gone now and if it is ever to return the rewards of this industry must be made sufficient and commensurate with the dangers which miners have to undergo.

We have heard today a proposal by the Minister about the introduction of Italian labour. We learned that there are from 10,000 to 15,000 Italians available for work in the coal industry, men who, it is said, have had experience in Belgian mines. I wish to make it quite clear that I am not speaking for the National Union of Mineworkers when I say that I am definitely opposed to any introduction of Italian labour. The introduction of European voluntary workers two years ago was by no means an unqualified success. Eighteen thousand Poles were brought into the pits, and only 12,000 of them remain there. I hope that the latest proposal will be the last resort to improve the manpower position in the industry.

I wish to make an appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary concerning the men in the industry who are being made to stop work at 65. Many of those men, with experience of the industry, wish to continue at work. It seems to be so contrary to the policy of the Government, who are asking people to defer their retirement, that those men, who want to continue at work, should be prevented from doing so. It is a pity. If I had to return to work in the pits—an hon. Member opposite smiles, as though he thinks that is a remote possibility: I can assure him that if I had to return I could cut more coal than he could—I should prefer to have working in my team a man of 65 years of age, with normal retention of his physical capacity, than a couple of Italians who did not understand or did not want to understand what to do. I hope that those men of 65 years of age will be given a chance to continue in employment.

Safety is a well-worn subject in these debates, but I make no apology to returning to it. Whatever we are spending on safety it is not enough. In my constituency, two months ago, there occurred one of the most appalling disasters in recent mining history. At Creswell Colliery 80 men lost their lives in that disastrous fire. I shall never forget the scenes I witnessed there that week. I cannot find a mother in that village who wants to send her son to the pit. We can pay what wages we like, but if, at the end of it, a horrible death awaits them recruits for the industry will not be forthcoming.

It may be that all the suggestions I have made require money to implement them. But even if they were to require a subsidy there would be nothing unusual in that. In 1921 the industry was subsidised to the extent of £10 million; in 1925–26 it was subsidised to the extent of a further £23 million; and during the war, from 1942 to 1946, the privately owned coal industry was publicly assisted to the further extent of £27,500,000. Pounds, shillings and pence are sometimes meaningless symbols if the objects are justified in national safety and well being.

This country must make a success of its coal industry if it is to survive as a great nation. Coal is still the cheapest form of heat production known to science. It is the only raw material that we have in great quantity. In this island prosperity lies beneath our feet. The responsibility lies upon the nation as a whole to provide the men and the means to win it.

7.59 p.m.

Colonel Lancaster (South Fylde)

The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Neal) said at the beginning of his speech that he was surprised that nationalisation was not in question today. There was never any suggestion that we on these benches would adopt that attitude. What we are concerned with is whether the system under which nationalisation has been applied is likely to secure for us the coal we need. I have attended a great many coal debates in this House during the last 12 years or so, and I say frankly that I have never listened to one in which hon. Members on both sides of the House have spoken with a greater sense of restraint, or indeed contributed more effectively, than they have done today.

I believe that everyone is seized of the fact that we are approaching a very grave crisis, unlike the crisis which arose in 1947, because this one gives us cause for much greater concern. Not only is national recovery at stake, not only may there be domestic distress; more important than that, our rearmament programme may be jeopardised. In the light of that situation, hon. Members have contributed to the best of their abilities, and I want for a few moments to add my contribution on a slightly different line from that which has hitherto been discussed. It is one with which I have dealt on past occasions, and if on this occasion I go even more deeply into the question than previously, I hope hon. Members will forgive me.

To me this is a matter of vital importance, and since I have made very definite claims and have made some public statements, I feel under a sense of responsibility to justify my view on the whole question. To get this matter into proper relationship, we must go back to the early days of nationalisation. Hon. Members will recollect that although the Bill to nationalise the mines was passed in the summer of 1946, it was only a matter of six weeks before the end of that year when the decision to create vesting day on 1st January of the following year was made. Although, no doubt, a good deal of preliminary work had been done in the intervening months, in fact during those six weeks a great many important decisions had to be made in regard to organisation, administration and personnel. It is hardly to be wondered that during those very hurried six weeks a good many fundamental mistakes were made. I shall refer in detail to these matters later on, but that is the background of the position which we have to consider today.

Something happened at the beginning of 1947, and what happened I consider is fundamental to the problem which we are now discussing. To the eternal credit of the present Minister of Defence having made a number of mistakes, he subsequently freely admitted them. We on these benches opposed the vesting date very strongly and said that it was too early, and the right hon. Gentleman at the time said that the co-operation, good will and enthusiasm of the men would more than make up for the hurried manner in which the whole organisation was being assembled. As I say, he subsequently acknowledged that a good many fundamental mistakes had been made. During his successor's time little, in fact, occurred to rectify the original mistakes.

As hon. Members know, we had the inquiry under Sir Robert Burrows. What in fact occurred, perhaps we on these benches may never know, but not a great deal was decided. The Minister was wrong when the other day he said that the Coal Board was no longer functional, because four members of the Coal Board preside over their separate departments, and to that extent the Coal Board does remain functional. As far as the present Minister is concerned, as has been freely acknowledged in a good many speeches today, he started off on the wrong foot. When he spoke to this House in July he did so with a degree of optimism which later events have shown to be wholly unjustified. We can forgive him that; but not only has he spoken with his degree of optimism, but I think personally that in doing what he did again today—namely attempting to assess the situation on the false premise that 1945 was an important date—he got a great many of his ideas misconceived.

It is no good going back to a period at the end of a long war when the industry was lacking in steel and equipment, when a great number of Bevin boys had been introduced into the pits, and when there was the usual run-down which occurs after a war. If we are to form a basis of comparison we must take some earlier date when conditions were more stable and where we can reasonably equate what happened in the past period with what has happened today. We have got to see this thing, and see it whole.

The National Coal Board were by no means heirs to the "poor bag of assets," as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster described the railways. A good deal had been happening in the coal industry. The period between the wars can be described as one where mechanisation and intensive mining was getting well under way, and during the latter decade, the period just before the war, a great deal of research and experiment was occurring, not only in this country but throughout the world. The results of that research work and those experiments were available to the National Coal Board when they took over.

Mr. Hamilton

How does the hon. and gallant Gentleman reconcile that part of his speech with the findings of the Reid Report and the fact that the industry was substantially subsidised between the wars?

Colonel Lancaster

There was no question of any substantial subsidy during the period which I am discussing, and I have never contended in this House that all was right with the coal industry. All I am saying is that a great deal of research occurred in this industry not only in this country but throughout the world, and whoever has been responsible for the coal industry of this country during the past four years has had the advantage of that research. Hon. Members familiar with coal mining will be aware of the great advances which have occurred.

There have been great strides in power loading in this country through the MecoMoore system; in the matter of pneumatic stowage; a revolution in underground haulage with the introduction of locomotives, either diesel oil or battery operated; skip winding; and the introduction of drifts and slopes with the attendant pneumatic conveyors. There has been a great deal of improvement in surface machinery, particularly with regard to washeries, and, as hon. Members are no doubt aware, we have made considerable strides in freezing water measures, boring and prospecting and matters of that sort. All these improvements represent a great advance, and if we fail to turn them to advantage we must consider whether or not the system which we have set up is the right one. But that does not enter into the question of nationalisation. What we are concerned with is the system under which nationalisation is being applied.

To go back to the period when the Coal Board was set up, in my submission two fundamental mistakes were made. The primary mistake was in having a functional board at the centre. That mistake reflected itself in the whole system and organisation throughout the industry, including the divisions and areas. The second, and equally fundamental, mistake was in making the heads of the divisions the executive heads of their divisions. They were men who had not the necessary experience and knowledge to do the job which they were given to do. I have talked about this before, and I am devoting a few minutes to these mistakes now to show what I believe has been their ultimate effect.

As hon. Members know, there were set up eight divisions and, under them, 48 producing areas. When the men in charge of those producing areas—the area general managers—took over, they had an immense task. They had to do a whole number of things which very many of them had never done before; they had to answer a lot of questions many of which were strange to them. They each had as their immediate superior a man who was not versed or trained in that particular field of productive administration, and consequently they had to answer those questions themselves. The result was that the strain on those men was very real. So real was it, in fact, that the Coal Board recognised that something would have to be done. They introduced administrative officers and a system of production officers under each area general manager.

What was the effect of that? I think it is fair to say that when the industry was handed over in 1947, there were probably of the order of between only 130 and 150 men who were capable of controlling an output of a million tons or more and who had the experience and technical knowledge to do that job. There were not many more suitable men than that in the whole of the industry. But 48 men became area general managers, and another 48 had to be sent to help them. In addition, a number of men went to each division as production directors, assistant production directors, deputy chairmen, and the like, and, of course, a handful or so went to London. If we take the sum total of 48, plus another 48. a score or more at the divisions and a few in London, there are not very many left out of the 130 or 150 I have mentioned. Yet the sub-area points—that is, the points where coal is produced—had to be manned with what was left of that very limited number of men.

As hon. Members know, the general organisation of the industry is 48 areas, divided mostly into about four sub-areas, which in some cases represent two, three or more pits with a production of a million or so tons. If that sub-area point, the point where the coal is produced, cannot be manned with proper technical ability, then a weakness begins to be seen in the system; and any system which strained available technical ability as did this system, was doomed to failure. That is what has happened.

All those various men are embodied in this very involved structure, all doing a hard day's work and putting their hearts into their jobs, but immensely immersed in paper, with a very centralised bureaucratic machine working on them from day to day, with paper coming down on them in a steady stream, all of them doing a great deal of work which keeps them away from the main work which the coal producer has to do in and about his pit. This system is so involved that the actual point of production lacks the men who are needed.

What has happened is that there have had to be upgraded men who previously, under any system, would not have been considered experienced enough to deal with a production of the order of a million tons. There is at this production point a very real weakness, a weakness which is inherent in the existing system. If I and others of my hon. Friends, and Sir Charles Reid and men of that calibre, all say the same thing, I believe that we are fully justified this afternoon in saying that there must be an inquiry into the situation.

There are of course a great many other aspects of this matter on which one could dwell. I want for a moment to deal with two matters which have been discussed at some length. One is the question of recruitment. I should not be very worried if the number of men in the industry, which is falling, were falling under a regulated basis, but it is not doing so, it is going too fast. Too many men are leaving and have left too quickly. That position has to be reversed. I believe far too little attention has been paid to recruitment. Of necessity, a great deal of time has been taken up in all ranks of the National Coal Board in producing the coal plan and in doing 101 other things, but I believe that the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell)—who is not here today—was right in 1941 when, as Secretary for Mines, month after month he put his finger on that point and said that we must never disregard recruitment. But we have done so and that is one of the reasons why there has been this very rapid run down.

In regard to absenteeism, the tragedy is that it is worse in the high producing districts. It is among the coal face workers in the high producing districts that it is highest. I do not say that necessarily as a criticism, but the fact is that it is very real, and if the standard was on the same level throughout the country there would be an addition of the order of 3 million tons a year raised. As hon. Members have said, we cannot be highly critical of a man who absents himself every so often. We would be very unwise and unreasonable to be so critical, but, as many hon. Members quite rightly have said, there is a hard core of men who absent themselves unreasonably and are doing more than their share to bring the whole industry into disrepute. We should be wrong if we did not mention that fact.

Five years ago this House welcomed the Reid Report. They recognised it as the work of a number of men who were in a sense politically detached. They were experts and technicians in their own field and with a very competent secretariat they brought out what I think was acknowledged by everyone to be a first class report. We wish today that the development and extension of all the recommendations of that report were getting well under way and that we could see the fruit of their endeavours. But we must recognise quite clearly that something is radically amiss when we find that all the senior members of the Reid Committee have left this industry and of the very highly specialised secretariat one man did not join and the other is leaving at the end of this year.

We know that the chief production officer of the Coal Board has left—I am not going to enter the controversy of whether it was right or wrong, but we cannot ignore the fact that he and Sir Charles Reid have left. These men's interests and loyalties lie wholly in this industry. I am sure they are not actuated by political bias in one direction or another, but the fact is that they are leaving it. They must be leaving for some reason—

Mr. Glanville

What is the reason?

Colonel Lancaster

There is a sense of frustration and I believe they recognise, as Sir Charles Reid pointed out very clearly, that the system by which they are trying to run this industry is wrong and they have not been able to get their point of view accepted.

Mr. Glanville

Surely the Reid Report was issued when private ownership was rampant in the industry.

Colonel Lancaster

That has nothing to do with it. I am trying to point out that these men in these high executive positions, who obviously can do more than anyone to affect the future prosperity of this extractive industry, are disgruntled and are leaving, and there must be a reason. I submit that the reason is not far removed from that which I have stated time and time again. I believe the system under which nationalisation is being run is the wrong system. I believe, therefore, that my party are abundantly justified in asking this evening that the whole matter should come under review.

8.20 p.m.

Mr. Iorwerth Thomas (Rhondda, West)

I have listened with a great deal of interest to the whole of this debate and I have gained the impression that those who have spoken have been dealing, in the main, with what I consider to be the superficial questions arising from this crisis. They have ignored the fundamental factor which has reflected itself not only in the present crisis. The far-reaching effect of the trend which has manifested itself during the past 12 months will, if allowed to continue, bring this important industry into a greater and rapid decline.

The cause of this crisis is a symptom of our economic growth and expansion. It is not in any way a sign of decay or decline. We much regret this crisis of falling output and failure to reach estimated targets. The proposals made this afternoon are purely matters of expediency. We are temporising with what should be a question of permanent importance. I claim that not sufficient attention has been given to the real problem, which is that of manpower. I do not want to bore the House by quoting figures, but it is evident, from the estimated figure of 750,000 which was the target for 1948, and the present figure of nearly 690,000, that there is a shortage of 60,000 men in this industry.

We can talk as much as we like about the implementation of the Report of the Reid Committee and the application of mechanisation, but unless the men are available to operate the machines it will be a waste of capital investment. Not only are the numbers employed in the industry declining, but the physical quality of those employed is declining. This is most important. In the early twenties there were 170,000 men employed who were under 20 years of age. Today there are only 50,000 people employed in the industry who are under 20 years of age. Side by side with that, the average age of the mineworker before the war was 36, and it is now 40. More dangerous still is the fact that the average age of the face worker today is 40. So that, within these figures, we see the inevitability of a sharper decline in the manpower of the industry because of the age groups which I have indicated still in the mines.

The question which this House has to answer on behalf of this nation—and if it is not answered tonight, there will come a day when it will have to be faced in its true perspective—is how we are going to arrest the further decline of manpower in this important key industry, because if this industry declines the whole economic fabric of this nation declines as well. Consequently, we must apply bolder measures if we are to recruit the required manpower into this industry.

What are the odds against this recruiting? First of all, for the next three years, we have to compete with the rearmament programme. We all know from experience of the past war that men from the mining valleys had a taste of war production and the wages that went with it, and some of these men today would like to go back to those golden days once more, if they could be given the opportunity. So we have to compete with the rearmament programme, not only for the available labour on the market, but also in trying to arrest the movement of men in the lower wage groups who are being attracted to nearby rearmament factories.

The second point which I have indicated is the inevitability of a higher inci- dence of wastage due to the higher age groups, which leads me to refer to the most important coal area in this country —the South Wales coalfields. We have read in the Coal Plan about the potentialities of this area and of its importance to our export trade. When we realise how important the export trade is to the surpluses of the National Coal Board, the importance of South Wales is seen as having a dual purpose.

With regard to the wastage of manpower in South Wales, there is a factor the effects of which are really unpredictable. There are in the mines in South Wales 6,000 men who have been certified as suffering from pneumoconiosis, and who have been certified since 5th July, 1938. This means that 6,000 men who have been certified as suffering from pneumoconiosis, have gone back to the mines in South Wales. Consequently, there again, we have the inevitability of a potential wastage in a very short time. Quoting a figure from the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) in the debate on Welsh Affairs last week, I would add that during 1951, 13,000 men in South Wales coalfields, some now employed in the mines and some outside, will be reexamined by the medical board. There, again, we have a vast potential of manpower that will at some time or other inevitably leave the mining industry.

How are we going to arrest this decline? How are we going to stop this wastage? In order to deal with a fundamental question, we must come down to fundamentals. We must disregard the glamourous appeal we see on the hoardings and advertising boards up and down this country. I think that money expended in this way is a frivolous waste of the finances of the industry. We cannot attract men into the pits by putting up such posters. There is only one way in which this can be done.

We must remember that the miner is a human being with his human virtues and his human imperfections, and we must give the men employed in the mining industry top priority in all things and in all matters. How is that to be done? One has to live in a mining valley in order to realise the reaction in the minds of the lower paid men in the industry as the result of the recent tribunal award on wages. The tribunal recommended that £3,500,000 should be divided among the lower paid men in the mining industry. They said, "We realise the justice of their claim, but because "—and this is a very important point—"the mining industry has not the available surplus, they cannot have any more."

When the N.U.M. met the National Coal Board on the question of holidays with pay, the answer they received was, "We recognise the justice of the claim put forward by the men in the mining industry, but because of the non-availability of a sufficient surplus, we cannot grant it." The same sort of reply will be given to the miners when they ask for their pensions. Therefore, we must come down to the fundamental principle of financing the nationalised industry. If the mines are owned by the nation, then the nation should accept a certain degree of financial responsibility.

If we read last year's report of the National Coal Board we find this very significant trend in the minds of the members of that Board. They say that of the available surplus for this year—and nobody knows what it may be—£13,000,500 will, first of all be paid to the Minister, that £12 million will be devoted to wiping out the deficit of 1947, and that several millions of pounds will be set aside under the provisions of the Act in order to build up a reserve with which to finance the capital investment programme for the next 15 years. Does the House consider this fair to the lower paid men in the industry? We must remember—and this is the important point —that we shall only be able to recruit face workers from the ranks of the existing lower paid men.

Last night I spoke to men in the pit in the Rhondda Valley. There are men there, day-wage men, who are hanging on at the colliery hoping to become face workers at some time or other. We must hold this kind of strategic reserve in the mining industry, apart from considering further recruitment. Is it fair that the lower-paid man in the industry must have his wages depressed and must have his condition remain static because it is to be the policy of the Coal Board that three-quarters of the £620 million to be spent on mechanisation and modernisation in the next 15 years is to be financed out of the resources of the industry itself? That is a very unfair imposition to place upon the shoulders of these men who are showing a ready and willing response in this crisis.

If the British nation can find, as it did yesterday, the necessary millions to reclaim the hillsides and the mountain tops under the hill farming policy; if this nation needs potatoes and wants to establish and reconstruct agriculture and reclaim it from the decline which took place many years ago, what is unjust or immoral or unethical about the nation accepting a certain amount of financial responsibility for the capital investments of the Coal Board for the next 15 years?

What the Coal Board is doing in this programme is to reclaim lost coal areas, just as the Minister of Agriculture is reclaiming marginal land. They are setting deeper shafts to reclaim marginal seams. In view of the fact that recently people have had millions of pounds in increases in salaries, and salaries have not been depressed because of the absence of a surplus, I ask the House to look at the fundamentals and to realise that if we are to save ourselves from economic decline and if this House wants to arrest the drift from the mines and wants to recruit new manpower, then it must follow the lines I have suggested. It must assist the coal industry financially until such time as the plan now published is in full operation.

8.38 p.m.

Mr. W. Robson-Brown (Esher)

There are two things that have impressed me about the present position in the coalfields. One has been the great heartening effect of the contribution of the miners in working on Saturday mornings. The other has been the outstanding contributions of hon. Members on both sides of the House who have the responsibility of speaking for the coal industry.

A successful future of the coal industry lies with certain fundamental issues. The first is a new wage structure for the industry, based on the realistic assessment of the position and having sympathetic regard for the lower-paid workers. I also believe the future of the industry calls for the reorganisation of the Coal Board and, with it, greater and more direct responsibility to this House.

It would be better for us and better for the industry if the Minister of Fuel and Power were not compelled to be also the Minister of coal defence. I also believe that the status of the miner himself and the conditions of his family and his home life and the home he lives in must be improved far beyond what they have been in the past. Anybody who has lived, as I have done, in the coal mining villages of Great Britain and South Wales will know precisely what I mean. The mining communities are entitled to special priority in these matters.

I was very glad to notice that the national Press has paid the same attention to the effort of the men on Saturday mornings as they did to the unofficial strikes. That is a tendency which is good for us, good for the men and good for the nation. I believe that a contribution towards the rehabilitation and strengthening of the coal industry would be broadminded leadership from the miners' leaders—leadership of the class and the kind we have heard from the opposite benches tonight: straight, frank and honest speaking. Equally, there should be the same kind of broad-minded leadership from the mines management. A reorganisation of the industry, with a special appreciation of, and emphasis upon, the need for decentralisation, and the placing of responsibility upon those who know and understand at the pit head —that is, the management, together with the men, who know and understand at the pit face—would ensure the fuller cooperation and the sense of dignity and comradeship which is absent from the industry today.

There should be less scope for the michief-maker and the agitator in the pits. I have a feeling—and I would be less than sincere if I did not say this—that perhaps today there is a greater element of that type in the mining industry than in other Industries in the country. The reasons are not far to seek. The industry's past record gives great opportunity for that kind of sentiment. I hoped and believed that, with the advent of nationalisation, all the mistrust and suspicion of the past would be dispelled and that there would be introduced a new era of confidence, understanding and trust between the Coal Board and the men on the coal face but, unfortunately, that is not as apparent as it should be.

I am not sure whether the next point I shall make is within the debate, but I suggest that there should be a complete revision of P.A.Y.E., not only in the coal industry but throughout the whole of industry, because I believe that P.A.Y.E. is one of the root causes of absenteeism, of the lack of interest, lack of effort about which complaints are so often made on both sides of the House. So long as men are looking at their wage packets and assessing how much of them they will have to pay in Income Tax—and deciding to take two or three days off—so long shall we have this large percentage of absenteeism not only in the coalfields but over other sections of industry. I suggest that the Chancellor of the Exchequer might give serious consideration to a review of the operation of P.A.Y.E.

One thing we need is to take politics out of the coalfield. In my opinion, and in the opinion of the majority of my colleagues, our coalfields, being the property of the nation, it is the responsibility and the duty of both sides of the House to see it is a first-class asset to the nation, making a maximum contribution to the economic welfare and betterment of the people of this country and, in particular, of the men in the industry. I thought that the hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Murray) put his finger on the spot in every point he made about the wastage of manpower in the industry and about the reasons why men are not going into the industry today, and why those who are in it are leaving.

Anyone who believes that by enticement or by exhortations to the miners, we shall produce one more ton out of the pits is making a very big mistake. I do not believe that talking will bring out the coal. We can bring it out by reducing the complicated problems of today, which are well known to all of us who have any knowledge of the coal industry, to simple honest terms and by finding plain, honest solutions to them. I had hoped to dwell on this at some length, but I cannot do so because of the little time available to me. That is the reason why we have put forward this Motion tonight.

When the Coal Board was formed we placed upon their shoulders a Herculean task of tremendous scope and tremendous responsibility such as had never been placed upon the shoulders of any group of men in this or any other country at any time in modern history. I would say[...] also, that, unfortunately, we hamstrung those people from the very beginning by the unwieldy, cumbersome and over-centralised machine that we expected them to operate. I say, and with conviction, that the Coal Board in the fields of education, welfare, and recruitment have done a splendid job, the value of which has not yet been fully assessed; and on the commercial side there is no criticism I could offer. The simple reason for this is, I believe, that in those matters they have been allowed freedom of action; they have had less Civil Service interference, and there has been more autonomy in the divisions.

I am one of those who believe that the nationalisation of coal has come to stay, that coal is of vital necessity to the nation, and that on our success in producing it our very future depends. I give it my support, with one proviso, and one proviso only, which is this: that in our wisdom we realise that in the past few years we have gained a great deal of experience in the handling of big groups of men in other nationalised industries and in other sections of industry, and surely we can now review the position with regard to the nationalisation of coal, not with any carping criticism of party politics, but to see where the defects are and how they can be remedied.

What we must ensure, above all, is that the industry is not suspect and not unpopular, that it has dignity, and that it presents to the young men going into it opportunity, and not only opportunity but dignity as well. On the management side we should see that the people there are allowed to operate without being hampered by a whole army of experts—statisticians, theorists, and economists, and all types of people who, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Fylde, South (Colonel Lancaster) said, cause the management to have to spend too much of their time at their desks and not enough at the face. I have the greatest faith that, with the combined efforts of both sides of the House, we can resuscitate this industry for the benefit of those engaged in it and for the benefit of the nation at large.

8.48 p.m.

Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)

As the debate goes on I think the case of hon. Members opposite for what they call an outside, impartial inquiry becomes so thin that it is vanishing altogether. It was very difficult to see it at any time.

I think that if we were to take some of the suggestions that have been made tonight—and not from one side of the House only—and implement them, it would be a very good beginning. I wonder if we are not inclined to neglect the obvious in this problem of coal getting? Are we not trying to run away from the simple fact that we are not going to get the men to do the dirty, dangerous, uncongenial work of coal-getting for £6 a week. Even though they were not working when they went to the pits, we are not going to get men to go out at those ungodly hours of the morning and upset the whole rhythm of their households—as has been explained by other hon. Members in this debate.

I am very glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas), with his great knowledge not only of technical mining but of the miners, gave the Coal Board every encouragement to be a little less conventional in their attitude to the balance sheet. The truth is that when we think things are going relatively well in the coal mining industry, we push into the background the simple, fundamental needs of the men we want to work in that industry. All our Press and publicity say how wonderful it is if the Coal Board in its early years can show profits, pay for new machinery, pay Profits Tax to the Government, and pay compensation to the old owners. Quite clearly, we shall not keep men in the pits if we apply that type of economics to the present situation. That is a very simple point to begin with, but it has been made again and again by the men and women who best know this industry. We must give a better wage to the lower paid men in the industry.

A second very obvious point is this. It is an encouragement to a policeman to go on being a policeman, if he knows he is to get a pension at a certain age, as it is an encouragement to a teacher, and all sorts of other good people doing good and useful jobs. But how can we expect intelligent men to continue to give their loyalty to the coal pits when they know perfectly well that as they get older and their strength declines they will be able to earn less, and yet they have not yet been given the special incentive to stay in the industry. They cannot look forward to an industrial pension. If we were living in an ideal community it might be said that there ought not to be special industrial pensions. The right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) laughs. He looks very cosy at the present moment. He does not seem to be worrying about the problem of pensions, but I assure him we are and the men in the coalfield are. The time is now overdue for an industrial pension to encourage young men to go into the industry and older men to stay in the industry.

The hon. and gallant Member for Fylde, South (Colonel Lancaster) talked, as he always does, with a great deal of technical knowledge on this subject, but I wonder whether his technical knowledge is not misted over in these days with a great deal of nostalgia. I do not want to sound brutal, but again and again he gave the impression that there were only about 100, or probably 200, men in the whole of Great Britain who can handle the technical problems of mining. I respectfully disagree with him. There are as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it. The Coal Board and the technicians and others co-operating in this great industry deserve much more credit than they have yet got for the brilliant technical job they are doing.

The hon. Member for Esher (Mr. W. Robson-Brown) spoke of the frustration of managers in these days, and of how wonderful it was in the old days when, if men were not being brought to the pits in comfort, the manager said "All right, boys, I will buy you a few buses"; and when if the men thought they had not a pleasant canteen at the pit head they had only to whisper into the ear of a nice manager and everything was laid on for them. What nonsense. One of the most tragic features of the mines in the old days was not only the fear of the sack hanging over the heads of the rank and file, but the fear of the sack hanging over the head of the manager as well.

Even when the manager was a good intelligent humane fellow he had over him the general manager who was all the time interested simply in profit making. In the Hilton Main colliery in the Cannock area, to mention only one of many, there is a management with a real love for the job, men of skill now getting a real opportunity, with machinery such as they have never had in their lives before. These first-rate managers are now having a chance in the pits such as they never had in the past.

I must be careful not to overrun my time, but there is just one point which I select to make out of the many others I have noted down. I am greatly distressed at the tendency to think that, because we have not any unemployed ourselves who can be driven to or kept in the pits, as they were in the old days, by starvation, we can bring into this country unemployed miners from other lands. The miners are good internationalists; they are good fellows, and I am very proud of the right of asylum that this country gives. I hope that we shall always try to bring in from abroad as many people as we can accommodate in our social life and economy. But if we are going to have a future for mining, which we must have if we are to survive, mining must be a prestige job; and if we are going to bring in too many of the penniless, of the unemployed and the rejected of other nations, then we shall have to pay the price by some of our own best blood getting out of the pits.

I say that the miners, both individually and in their unions, have been very cooperative about bringing in foreign labour, but those of us who grew up in the mining villages know that we shall hold men in this industry not by conditions underground—we are never going to make good conditions underground because the more coal-cutting machinery that is introduced the more noise and dust, and we lose one kind of discomfort underground only to get another kind—but, if we are serious about the future of this industry, we have to give our most solemn attention to the conditions of the miner in his home and in his community. If he enjoys his home life and enjoys the community life and comradeship of his village or town, we shall keep him there.

Therefore, I hope that when we are discussing mining life we shall remember that these men we are discussing are not machines, and that there is a lot that we have not yet done about wage adjustments, working conditions, pensions and other such obvious facts. [HON. MEMBERS: "Houses."] I am just coming to housing. If there is one thing more than any other which I hope that we shall concentrate on doing, it is to see that additional priorities are given, not only for houses in the mining areas, but for schools, clubs, concert halls, churches, playing fields and all the things which make a really stimulating and prestige community.

I do beg that this House will not play with the problem of providing additional social facilities for miners but will face up to the fact that if we are to have extra capital expenditure in the coalfields we cannot at the same time be asking extra for everybody and everything else. That is very obvious. While we do not want to go too much back into the past —and I cannot at this hour—we might remember that irresponsible men in public life have talked, as the leaders opposite talk, of half a million steel houses, without the slightest reference to the material for making those houses, and I think that it is about time that we have either an explanation or an apology from them for misleading the public. [Interruption.] As usual hon. Members opposite are anxious to shoot but they are not good in their aim.

I shall take one minute more to say that it is about time that we had either an explanation or an apology from hon. Members opposite for telling the people of this country that if we build 750,000 houses, every family can have a separate home, because I find this is breaking the temper of many good people. [Interruption.] That happens to be an objective statement of fact. Hon. Members opposite know that housing is one of the most serious problems not only of our economic life but of our social and domestic life. You talk very cynically and in an irresponsible manner about half a million steel houses in 1945. You talk about better homes for everyone. [Interruption.] You are making a lot of noise, but you are not making sense. We had another sly reference today by the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson), who spoke as if all that was needed to give houses to the miners was to spend 20 million dollars on importing timber. If Members opposite do not know the answer to that, I shall be glad to give it to them on another occasion.

I have been side-tracked from my main point. I know that I promised not to take very long, but since I have obviously not made myself clear to interrupters opposite, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I shall take just one minute more. I have been sidetracked from this solemn issue of providing, not only homes, but social amenities in the milling areas to a greater extent than is being done at present. When Members opposite cheat on this subject—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] When Members opposite cheat on this subject—[HON. MEMBERS: "What about the Minister of Health?"] You use figures, but you do not explain them when you are wrong, as you have been wrong on these major figures.

Earl Winterton (Horsham)

Address the House.

Miss Lee

You do not apologise for them.

Earl Winterton

On a point of order. How much longer is the hon. Lady to be allowed to break every rule of the House? Instead of addressing the House, she is addressing you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, with a number of insults, saying that "You ought to be ashamed of yourself."

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

I am sure that the hon. Lady does not intend what she is saying in the heat of the moment, to be insulting.

Miss Lee

May I apologise to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker? I did not want to speak so long, but, after all, this is one of the most important aspects of the debate. We have to keep intelligent young men in the coal industry, and we shall do that, not by making a miner's life pleasant underground, because we shall never be able to do that, but by attending to such matters as wages, pensions and safety conditions, and above all by giving the miners a community life of which they can be proud. Let us do that and not just talk about it. Let us pay the price for it, which means that Questions cannot be put down on the Order Paper tomorrow asking for more of everything for everyone else, everywhere, at the same time.

9.4 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd (Birmingham, King's Norton)

I am sure that the House, from a human point of view, will have appreciated the loyalty of the hon. Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) in making a fierce defence of the Minister of Health.

Miss Lee

On a point of order. Are Members so lacking in seriousness on this subject that all they can do is merely imitate the mentality of Hitler?

Mr. Lloyd

I am very sorry that the hon. Lady took my remark amiss. I did not mean it in any discourteous way, as I think the House will have appreciated. I do not want to follow her into the housing question.

Miss Lee

Why not?

Mr. Lloyd

There was one point in the earlier part of her speech on coal with which I very much agree, and another point with which I cannot agree. I felt a great deal more sympathy with what she said about lung diseases arising from greater mechanisation. I agree with her that you do not get a complete gain from mechanisation. What is gained in respect of hard physical labour is often lost in the form of insidious dangers to the miner himself. When I had something to do with the mines some years ago I found that the lung diseases were more particularly confined to the anthracite areas and the hard coal districts, whereas I am horrified now to learn that the danger is beginning to spread into other areas. With that part of the hon. Lady's speech I have great sympathy.

On the other hand, I think the hon. Lady was rather hard on my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Fylde, South (Colonel Lancaster), in criticising him so much for saying there was only a limited number of highly skilled mining engineers in the country, and rather taking the view that he was the only person adopting that idea. The Reid Report called attention, right at the beginning of all this work, to the serious dearth of highly skilled mining engineers in the country, and said that that would be one of the main difficulties we would have to face.

I think it may be said that we have had a rather unusual coal debate today, because, although the coal situation is worse than it has been for quite a time, there has been a good deal less heat in the debate than is customary. I have no doubt that one of the reasons, indeed, perhaps the main reason for that, is the gravity of the international situation, which is in all our minds, and which always affects the House to the extent of bringing us closer together irrespective of party.

It is true, as the Minister of Fuel and Power himself said, that my right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) opened the debate with a very moderate speech. If I may emphasise one particular point which my right hon. Friend made in opening, it was that he was approaching the problem from the position that nationalisation had come to stay. I have wondered sometimes whether all hon. Members on the benches opposite have paid sufficient attention or absorbed the position of this party as expressed by my right hon. Friend and incidentally, as put forward at the last General Election. It seems to me even today, although in a rather minor key, that they have been trying to fight the battle of nationalisation over again.

If they would take more notice of what is, after all, a relatively new position by this side of the House, I feel that they would not be bound to take every criticism that we make of the coal situation or of the National Coal Board necessarily as an attack on nationalisation as such. In those circumstances I believe that we should have in our debates more of the kind of atmosphere which I notice nearly always is created when my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Fylde, South, is speaking from his great knowledge as a mining engineer, and when hon. Members on the other side from the mining areas are also speaking.

The Minister of Fuel and Power, a few days ago, in the north of England, said that we were "in a jam." I should like to ask the House to follow me for a few minutes in considering how we have got there. In his speech this afternoon the Minister said that things had been going relatively well for the first six months, and that, in particular, production, both of open-cast and deep-mined coal, was running rather satisfactorily and according to plan. I think he is quite correct in saying that. I should like for a few moments to examine the early part of this year, from the point of view of the plan that was put forward by the Coal Board and the Government at the beginning of the year.

I want to say at once, to remove any possible misunderstanding, that this is a form of practical planning with which I am in complete sympathy. I saw it in operation during the war—in fact, the practice grew up during the war. A careful estimate of what was called "the coal budget" was made at the beginning of the year. It was regularly revised month by month, with all the aid that modern statistics can give. Changes in the situation were brought forward every month, as were any factors that had begun to move adversely. Reckoning up what the alteration would be at the end of the year gave an opportunity for taking remedial action at once. A very high level of skill was reached in this matter. Sir John Anderson was the Minister in charge, in association with the Minister of Mines, who had the assistance of the present Foreign Secretary and of Lord Leathers. I believe that the plan was of very great assistance to us in handling the stringent coal situation during the war. Therefore, I am wholly in favour of this method with regard to coal.

Lord Hyndley announced in mid-January that the Board were planning 205 million to 210 million tons of deep-mined coal in 1950 which, with 13 million tons of open-cast coal, would give a total productivity of from 218 to 223 million tons. He based the estimate upon two assumptions, the first of which was that the average output per man-shift at the face would be between 3.12 and 3.19 tons. As an average over the whole year that could be achieved but it would be higher than the year before. The second assumption was that manpower would fall during the year by about 9,000 men, which would give at the end of the year—that is, just about now —a total figure of about 700,000 men in the mines.

In March, the Economic Survey went further into these figures and gave a consumption estimate from 199 million to 201 million tons. The reason given for that increase over last year was that the temperatures during last year had been higher than usual and it was felt that if the weather reverted to normal an allowance for increased consumption had to be made. Exports to bunkers, the Survey estimated, would be from 19 million to 22 million tons. I would like the House to observe that the Survey commented that the Board's main manpower problem was to secure sufficient manpower for the pits, particularly in Yorkshire and the Midlands, where productivity was higher and costs were lower.

I would ask hon. Members to put themselves into the position of those who were responsible for the coal problem at the end of the first quarter of the year, in the light of the figures which I have just given. We find that, as the Minister said, production was running within the planned estimate. It is true that it was much nearer the lower of the two estimates, but it was higher than the year before. Consumption was also higher than the year before, but was still running within the planned estimate, although it was running towards the higher of the two estimates. If we delve a little further into the matter we find some cheering features. Output per man-shift at the face was rising satisfactorily. It had gone up to 3.11 tons as against only 3.01 in the year before, in that particular period. Exports were up 43 per cent.

On the other hand, there was one very disquieting feature, particularly in view of the case that had been made in the Economic Survey. In 13 weeks the industry had lost 6,200 men. About 3,000 of them were from the very productive districts mentioned in the Survey, and 3,000 of them were face workers, That is, during the first 13 weeks almost two-thirds of the total number of men estimated to be lost from the industry during the whole of the year had gone.

I do not want to weary the House by going into detail with regard to the figures for the second quarter of the year. The same trend continued. Production was running along at the lower of the two estimated rates and consumption was running along at the higher of the two estimated rates. The output per man-shift was up, but not up enough to look as if Lord Hyndley's target for the year as an average figure would be reached. The decline in manpower continued. Indeed, by 27th May the industry had lost as many men as Lord Hyndley had estimated would be lost during the whole year. Therefore, the House will see that it looked by then as if the rate of loss of men in the industry, which the Survey had said was one of the most important features of the coal estimates, would, on average, be twice what had been estimated.

For the convenience of the House I have tried to present the matter in terms of quarters, but, naturally, the Government would be watching the matter month by month and, indeed, week by week and if these matters were being examined regularly and carefully, as was done month by month during the war, it is difficult to understand why the danger signals did not show much sooner than they appear to have done from the speeches and the actions of the right hon. Gentleman. In that case the Government would have been able to take remedial action very much sooner. The reduction of exports and the freeing of fuel oil have come—if I may put my case moderately—a bit late, and even now we do not know whether the importation of coal will be in time to stave off a serious crisis in the new year. I suspect that that will depend not on anything that the right hon. Gentleman or anybody else can do now but upon the weather.

I do not know whether the war-time practice of a regular consideration of the coal budget month by month has been abandoned or not, but if it has I suggest that it might well be restarted because it is of great value to the Minister of Fuel and Power to have a body of Ministers in the Cabinet who are fully alive to the urgency of the problem and can assist him in getting urgent action at an earlier date than would otherwise be possible. Also, is it not a fact that the figures which I have tried to analyse to the House this evening seem to show that we are engaged in a kind of race between rising output per man-shift and a declining labour force, and that at present it looks as if the output per man-shift is not rising fast enough and that the labour force is declining too quickly?

We welcome, of course, the measures which the right hon. Gentleman announced this afternoon. He gave us news of quite considerable measures: a real attack on the problem of the drift mines, speculative as it may be but giving considerable possibilities; more miners, he declared, were necessary and he announced a big campaign to get more miners; special measures with regard to housing in the mining areas; Irishmen to be brought over into the mines, and even trained Italian miners to be brought in.

These add up to measures which must be of considerable importance, but the question which we are entitled to ask is: If these measures are now considered by the Government to be valuable, why were they not adopted much earlier in the year? It is not just now that the need for coal has suddenly become urgent. Ministers and also the Coal Board have been telling us for months how urgent the matter is. Lord Hyndley, every few months, makes a speech the theme of which is that "Things cannot go on like this." It is rather a pity that we have to get into what the Minister himself describes as a "jam" before we take measures of the kind of vigour announced by the right hon. Gentleman today.

We agree with the Minister in welcoming the effects of the recent appeal by the miners' leaders and the response that appears to have been forthcoming. But we also agree, as everyone in the House will agree, that the test is not now, but after Christmas when the "bull" weeks are over. In the mining industry that is well understood.

Perhaps the House will allow me to put a point which runs slightly counter to what I have just said. I have a feeling that there is really something a little unhealthy in a position where, in order to get the coal, continual appeals have to be made. I feel that an industry would be more healthy if its morale and production were being secured by the healthiness of the productive and human relations in the pits and in the districts, rather than needing this continual stimulus of great national appeals from big national personalities.

I could offer to the House some observations about particular mining subjects like absenteeism, certain types of production, and some of the ideas of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Fylde, South, but I do not intend to do so, for two reasons. When I was Secretary for Mines, 10 years ago—I do not pretend in any way to be an expert on the industry—I went, through the courtesy of many hon. Members opposite, down many pits. I learnt just enough to know that the layman must be exceedingly cautious in laying down the law to mining men. Ever since then I have approached these matters with a very great degree of caution. Rather than lay down the law myself, I have been inclined to look for guidance from others who have longer experience.

But when one tries to look for guidance one gets into rather deep water, because there come, for example, from Lord Hyndley, continued speeches on the theme that "Things cannot go on any longer like this." From time to time in the local Press we see reports by local officials of the Coal Board saying that absenteeism has risen to an alarming height. Then, of course, we have appeals from time to time by the leaders of the miners. For the laymen—and laymen constitute, after all, the majority of the House— it makes a deeply perplexing and worrying picture. One gets the feeling that there is something profoundly wrong.

In that mood, any serious student naturally turns to the big landmarks of recent mining history. During the last few days I re-read the Reid Report—a great State paper—fair in many ways to the difficulties of the past, but laying bare ruthlessly the weaknesses in the structure of the pre-war industry, and giving also chapter and verse for an inspiring new reform. We all remember with what enthusiasm the party opposite adopted the Reid Report and made it the material basis of their policy of nationalisation.

We can also realise with what enthusiasm Sir Charles Reid, so much the author of this great plan, entered into his work in the National Coal Board. Yet it was not so very long afterwards that his hopes faded, and he resigned from the Board. He did so, curiously enough, so aptly for our discussion tonight, because he was convinced that the Board was constructed upon wrong principles. He was still in favour of nationalisation, however. He was convinced it was constructed on wrong principles and he resigned in the end, because the Government refused to give him an independent committee of inquiry into the workings of the Board.

Quite frankly, I can understand, and I suppose every party man in this House can understand, the difficulty the Government were in in agreeing to an independent inquiry at that time. The Coal Board had not been set up very long. It would have looked as if there had been a failure in their great policy of nationalisation. But, although we can understand it, on this side of the House we must still condemn it and I suspect there may he many on the other side of the House today who may wish they had agreed to an independent inquiry at that time, because the situation today might be very different.

I am sorry that the Government, once again, have rejected the independent impartial inquiry which we have suggested today. The Minister said earlier today that he regarded it as untimely because the Coal Board were engaged in an all-out effort for production. May I remind him that the Reid Report—which was a far more comprehensive piece of work than we would imagine necessary for this new committee today—was produced in a short time in the great crisis of war, when the coal situation was just as stringent as it is today. I do not believe that an inquiry need necessarily interfere with the constructive work of the Board.

As for it being untimely, the Lord President of the Council has told us that every seven years we may have an inquiry into the nationalised industries. Is there any magic in that figure of seven? I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman coming into his place. I recollect that when I was a Governor of the B.B.C. the question of the date on which the inquiry into the B.B.C. should be held was not settled by the Government like the law of the Medes and Persians, but that there was a discussion on what would be the best date. Why should there not be a discussion as to what would be the best date for such an inquiry as we suggest?

Is there so much between us? The right hon. Gentleman says seven years, but by next July the Board will have finished its job and the contracts of the full-time members will expire. It will be five years since the Board was set up. Would it be such a very great change to have the inquiry after five years, in preparation for a period of five years, rather than seven years considering that when the new Board comes into being it will then have to implement the big new national plan which recently has been published? Would it not be a good thing to have this inquiry now in order to clear the air and to prepare, in a proper manner, for the new Board to take on its job?

Earlier in the day we had a statement from The Prime Minister on the foreign situation. Everybody was pleased that the immediate outlook was somewhat better than it had seemed last week, but we all know, from our experience of the Korean crisis earlier in the year, how, to the layman, it seemed to get better and then much worse and there is no guarantee that we are out of the danger. Our whole debate today has been coloured by that fact. But nobody has yet mentioned the question of the preparation of the coal industry for a war emergency.

I was Secretary for Mines in the months immediately before and after the outbreak of the last war. I took part in the measures for preparing the industry for war and in carrying them out immediately after the war started. There is no secret about them. There is no secret about what must be done. First, we must be prepared to increase exports to our European Allies. We must make preparations against the interruption of rail traffic due to air raids. We must make preparations against the diminution of the flow of sea traffic owing to the convoy system coming into operation. As hon. Members know, a great part of the coal for the electricity and gas works of London has to come down the East coast, and the immediate effect of going into convoy is to reduce that flow.

Therefore, we must get the highest possible level of distributed stocks throughout the country. If we are to make proper provision we have to consider, as in the end we did later in the war, laying down, in addition to the ordinary stocks, special Government dumps of coal, distributed as nearly as possible to the points of consumption. What is really needed is a resilient production and good distributed stocks. Also, if one can possibly have it, one needs a thoroughly comfortable level of domestic coal consumption which, in an emergency, can be cut to provide an extra reserve for essential needs. Having said that, I need say no more to show that everybody knows outside this country, and what we seem to have forgotten, that at present we are in a thoroughly unbalanced condition—

Mr. Harold Davies rose

Mr. Lloyd

I am sorry. I would give way, but the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that there is little time available.

I conclude by saying that I have referred earlier to the fact that my party, at the General Election, did not oppose nationalisation as such. I do not think that the House, on all sides, has appreciated that however much heated talk there may be on either side, the formal position of the two parties on the question of this industry is now closer together than it has been for a very long time.

Ought we not to take advantage of that fact, see whether we cannot get a solution of this problem of the organisation of the coal industry which might allay controversy, take it from the political limelight, under which it has suffered for too long, and put it into a position where it can be an industry which can quietly get on with its job?

9.33 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power (Mr. Robens)

However much I may disagree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for King's Norton (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd) on many of the comments he has made tonight, there is one point with which I agree wholeheartedly. That is that this debate on the coal situation has been of the highest tone in my experience while at the Ministry of Fuel and Power. It has been a very good debate indeed. If this represents a change on the part of the Opposition, we on this side of the House will welcome it.

The right hon. Gentleman said that criticism of the National Coal Board is not necessarily criticism of nationalisation, Really, we shall have to have a little more co-operation from hon. Members opposite before we are prepared to accept that. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) went in great detail, quarter by quarter, through the coal budget. It is perfectly correct. We still have the same arrangement and the budget is regularly looked at so that changes can be made if circumstances alter. In point of fact, the changes were made.

The only flexible part of the coat budget is, of course, the export trade. We cannot, obviously, cut down the amount of coal to industry—to the power stations and the gas works. It is impossible to reduce the amount of coal for the domestic consumer, because it is already 15 million tons less than it was pre-war. There is a limit to what can be done. [Interruption.] Well, if hon. Members want a serious answer to this debate, I am prepared to give it, but, if they want the kind of reply which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Bracken), whose absence we all regret, usually gets, that is all right. If the tone of this debate is to be continued —and I can assure all those hon. Members who have not been here all the time that it has been conducted on a very high tone—if that is what hon. Members want, well and good, but if it has to end up in a "free for all," there is plenty of time and we can have a "free for all," and everybody will have a good time, but it will not be very beneficial in regard to the matters which we are discussing.

We cannot cut down the amount for the domestic market, because, goodness knows, it is low enough already, and, therefore, the only flexible part of the coal budget is, of course, the export programme. In point of fact, as the right hon. Gentleman was saying, these events —or these trends—were showing themselves in the middle of the year, and he agreed that the first quarter showed a trend in accordance with the budget.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I said the manpower fall was very much heavier than the budget indicated.

Mr. Robens

I shall come to that shortly, but the right hon. Gentleman did, generally, say that the trends in the first three months of the year were in accordance with the budget.

Subsequently—it was in July—the first step was taken by the Government to cut exports, which is the only part of the coal budget that is flexible and can be cut at all. It was a very serious step for the Government to take—to decide to import coal at all—and no one recognises the seriousness of that decision more than the Members of the Government who had the responsibility of taking it. The right hon. Gentleman who opened the debate, tried to suggest, by reading an extract from a speech which I made in the House, that I had said that it was not the Government's intention to import coal. Subsequently, at my request, he read the whole of what I said, and I think he will agree that I said "unless a change in the circumstances necessitated it." What I did say in September was that we were not, at that stage, going to import coal, but, if there were a change, then, obviously, it would have to be considered. [Interruption.] Well, it is all in HANSARD, and, if hon. Gentlemen cannot do anything else, at least they can read. It seems to me that they will read in HANSARD a fair record of what took place in the House.

Of course, one could go on slashing exports to the point at which we could get through, without having to import coal, but the fact was that, from January to September, the average increase in coal production was 47,000 tons in a week— all the way through from January to September. It was only in October when the change first began to reveal itself. In October, the tonnage production levelled up with the amount that was produced in the corresponding period of the previous year, and, towards the end of the month, it began to fall very rapidly. In the early weeks of November, it had fallen by 82,000 tons a week.

That was a very great change in the production trend in a very short period indeed, and the Government lost no time in making the statement which they did make and taking the decision that was taken. On 17th November, in order to ensure that, at all costs, industry in this country should be kept going during the vital months of January and February, and as an insurance, it was decided that it was very necessary to import a quantity of coal. My right hon. Friend and the Government, having felt it was necessary, as an insurance against adverse weather conditions, and, perhaps, against other bad trends in coal production, and as an insurance against disaster overtaking this country industrially, agreed on two million tons as the maximum amount that should be bought.

Surely, that was the right decision. No hon. Members opposite, I think, have said that we should not have imported the coal. They complain of the reasons for which we imported coal, but it seems to me that in the broad general statement I have just made, the reasons are self-evident. There is plenty of evidence in the speeches of hon. Members opposite, and if they would re-read HANSARD for 1947, when we had those debates, they would find plenty of evidence of their then saying, "Why did not you import coal when you knew this was coming?" Now that we have imported coal, that is wrong. But hon. Members opposite cannot have it both ways.

The hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay), said it caused shipping difficulties. Of course it does when we suddenly have to find ships in which to bring the coal, but that does not mean to say that those difficulties are insuperable. In point of fact, full consultation took place the whole time between my right hon. Friends the Minister of Fuel and Power, the Minister of Transport and other Cabinet colleagues. I understand that the chartering of ships is proceeding quite smoothly and quite satisfactorily in spite of all the very difficult circumstances that obviously arise when a great deal of shipping is required for this purpose coupled with the requirements of Korea to which the hon. Gentleman referred. But these difficulties, as I say, are not insuperable.

The hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) whom, apparently, I offended—and I am very sorry if I did; he was a little cross with me at one time—asked whether this coal would be paid for by Marshall Aid dollars. That is a matter for the United States Congress when it is dealing with the purposes to which Marshall Aid shall be put. At the present moment, coal imports into Europe do not qualify for Marshall Aid dollars.

I am bound to say something that I did not particularly want to say, because the right hon. Member for King's Norton, and the hon. and gallant Member for Fylde, South (Colonel Lancaster), both made the point that men well experienced in the mining industry, as Sir Charles Reid and Sir Eric Young undoubtedly are, have, in fact, resigned from the National Coal Board because they feel frustrated and as a general criticism of the N.C.B. organisation. No one has gone deeply into the controversy between Sir Eric Young and my right hon. Friend, and I do not propose to do so, but I am bound to make the short point that the Board's annual report for 1948, which was published in July, 1949, had in it a very spirited defence of the Board's organisation. Sir Eric Young was a member of that Board, and was thus a party to the report.

I go further and say that I understand that no proposals for changing the structure of the Board's organisation have ever been put forward by Sir Eric Young to his colleagues on the Board. I do not propose to say anything more about the controversy, and I am sorry—[Interruption.] I could say a good deal more. [HON. MEMBERS: "Say it."] Strangely enough, we on this side have some sense of common decency towards people, and it is not my function tonight to enter into this controversy, but merely to reply as shortly as I possibly can to the points raised by hon. Members opposite. As far as Sir Eric Young is concerned, I do not propose to say any more about it.

The hon. and gallant Member for Fylde, South, said that the system of the Coal Board—and this is all the argument as to why we have not produced more coal—strained the availability of technically trained men. Of course the resources of mining engineering talent were strained by the immensity of the tasks which were so long delayed and which had to be done when the industry was nationalised. The men promoted to area general managers may well have been severely taxed. If the suggestions that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has made in pamphlets and speeches in this House for years were adopted, they would have a very much more difficult task before them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Murray), has spoken about incentives for miners and he was anxious for a reply to specific questions. He wanted to know whether a bonus production scheme could be arranged as an incentive to day workers. As he knows, there is a bonus scheme already. There is no reason why there should not be bonus incentive schemes, but it is not the job of His Majesty's Government to negotiate schemes of that nature with the N.U.M. It is the job of those appointed to manage the coal industry and the National Union of Mineworkers, on behalf of the men. They are entirely free to negotiate this kind of thing and, if they agree, to have some sort of incentive scheme.

My hon. Friend referred to the question of sporting events being held in mid-week. It is perfectly true that sporting events, Doncaster Races, Newcastle Races and so on have affected attendance. I do not think we can keep referring to this question of stopping mid-week sports because miners and industrial workers go to them, when, in point of fact, they can go to the movies and they can look at their newspapers and, during Ascot week, they can see women dripping with furs and men looking as if they had walked out of Burton's window, crowding in their hundreds at the race meetings. What do hon. Members think the effect of that is on the miner when he sees it? Where is the moral right of hon. Gentlemen opposite and their friends who usually are attending these things to go to the miner when he is absent from his job—

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd rose

Mr. Robens

I have not time to give way. I would point out that there is one hon. and gallant Gentleman who once missed the boat because he was at a race meeting. This question about race meetings and midweek sport is important, and it seems to me that if we are to abolish sport in the industrial areas so that the men cannot go, it would be a good thing if we did it all over the country.

Time is getting short and there is a good deal I wanted to say, although I have not been able to say it because of the unruliness of the House. A good deal has been said about absenteeism, and it is perfectly true that if we could reduce the rate of voluntary absenteeism it would make a very great difference to total production. All the miners' leaders, all the miners' Members in the House and all responsible people in the mining industry have, in season and out of season, talked to the miners at their lodge meetings, in their clubs and at meetings and have stressed the fact that they should cut down voluntary absenteeism to the very lowest figure—and, in point of fact, with some success.

But it is no use looking at the total of absenteeism and saying that that is the number of people away from work who ought to be at work. We must take away the percentage which is verified by a medical certificate; and if there is any one unwise enough to say that people can get medical certificates too easily, it seems to me that that is a gross reflection upon the medical profession and not upon the miner who is given his note. If we deduct involuntary absenteeism, which is supported by a certificate from a medical man, and look only at voluntary absenteeism we see that, in point of fact, there has been a steady decrease in voluntary absenteeism from 1946, when it was 8.37—and I am speaking of the overall figure—to this year when it was 5. This question of absenteeism is not confined to this country, of course, and if anybody is interested enough to look up the figures he will find that the problem affects coalfields throughout the world.

What has happened to absenteeism? One hon. Member referred to some dismissals which have been made and one right hon. Gentleman, in making a speech in the country the other day, referred to the large number of people who had been dismissed as if he were suggesting that the Coal Board should perhaps not have dismissed them. In 1949, 8,000 people were dismissed out of the industry, many of them for absenteeism, for bad conduct and for other things. Thus, the Coal Board have taken disciplinary action to cut down absenteeism, and the colliery consultative committees have done a first-class job in interviewing those who are persistent nonattenders and warning them to do better. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Neal) who said it was quite wrong to blacken the character of hundreds of thousands of first-class, decent, honest citizens who are miners, for the sake of a small percentage who may be persistent absentees.

I am very sorry indeed that I have to turn over the pages of my notes so quickly. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] They all represent information. I have no doubt hon. Members opposite will be very pleased when I have finished altogether, but if they will bear with me for another five minutes they can then have the excitement of going through the Division Lobby and seeing whether they have won.

The suggestion has been made that productivity is not what is might be. The fact remains that productivity in the industry has been steadily increasing. Of course, we shall not be satisfied until we reach the highest state of productivity, but the fact remains that the tendency to reduced productivity has been going on for years and it was something of an achievement of the industry that, at a point, the decline was arrested and from that date we have seen a very steady increase in output, reckoned both in output per man-shift and output per man-year.

Let me conclude by saying something rather different from replying to the points which have been raised. No matter how we may argue about absenteeism and output per man-shift, and no matter how we juggle with statistics, the real problem of this industry now and in the future, until such time as the whole of the pits are properly modernised, and when new sinkings are producing coal—and, after all, it may be anything from six to 10 years before we are going to get real production from new sinkings on a substantial scale—the real problem is one of manpower. It is all very well hon. Gentlemen opposite ejaculating inarticulate groans from time to time, but the fact is that until they are prepared to send their sons into the pits, they have no right to take the line that they do in relation to manpower—just as though one were going to stand behind men and drive them into the pits to get coal.

The fact is that we are faced with a phenomenon—if hon. Members like— that we have never had in this country before. We have now got the position in which men are not driven into the pits because there is not other work for them to do. They have, in fact, got other jobs to which they can go, and that makes an entirely new set of circumstances. I remember—and older colleagues of mine will remember it better—that in the old days of the Socialist Party, at our meetings, we always used to get a heckler who, when we painted a picture of the new life that there would be in the Socialist State—and which is coming—used to ask, "Who is going to do the dirty work under Socialism?" We have reached that point in the coal-mining industry, and the fact is that the wages and conditions for the

miners are not the only factor in the matter at all.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee), that in point of fact, the miner is as much interested in the conditions under which his wife and children live as he is in the conditions in which he works in the pit. Miners, generally speaking, do not grumble very much about the geological conditions in which they work. They are prepared to take that. But they are not prepared to go on living in the hovels in which they have been housed in the past. [Interruption.] This noise, of course, comes from hon. Gentlemen who want to keep this debate on a high tone. I do not think some of them have got as far as the sixth form in point of manners. In my constituency—and this is the case in all mining constituencies—[Interruption.] It is not the problem of the Minister of Health. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] There are hovels in my constituency that have been there for upwards of 100 years, provided by the former owners. If they had done their job, things would have been different today.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 284; Noes, 298.

Division No. 11.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Aitken, W T. Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Dodds-Parker, A. D
Alport, C. J. M. Bullock, Capt. M. Donner, P. W.
Amery, J. (Preston, N.) Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Douglas-Hamilton, Lord M
Amory, D. Heatheoat (Tiverton) Burdan, Squadron Leader F. A. Drayson, G. B.
Arbuthnot, John Butcher, H. W. Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n) Duncan, Capt. J. A. L
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Black[...] Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Dunglass, Lord
Astor, Hon. M. Carson, Hon. E. Duthie, W. S.
Baker, P. Channon, H. Eccles, D. M.
Baldock, J. M. Churehill, Rt. Hon. W. S. Eden, Rt. Hon. A.
Baldwin, A. E. Clarke, Col. R. S. (East Grinstead) Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Walter
Banks, Col. C. Clarke, Brig. T. H. (Portsmouth, W.) Erroll, F. J.
Baxter, A. B. Clyde, J. L. Fisher, Nigel
Beamish, Maj. T. V. [...] Colegate, A. Fletcher, W. (Bury)
Bell, R. M. Conant, Maj. R. J. E Fort, R.
Bennett, Sir P. (Edgbaston) Cooper, A. E. (Ilford, S.) Foster, J. G.
Bennett, R. F. B. (Gosport) Cooper-Key, E. M. Fraser, Hon. H. C P. (Stone)
Bennett, W. G. (Woodside) Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)
Bevins, J. R. (Liverpool, Toxteth) C[...]addock, G. B. (Spelthorne) Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.
Birch, Nigel C[...]anborne, Viscount Gage, C. H.
Bishop, F. P. Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Galbraith, Cmdr T. D. (Pollok)
Black, C. W. Cross, Rt. Hon. Sir R. Galbraith, T. G. D (Hillhead)
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells) Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Gammans, L. D.
Boothby, R. Crouch, R. F. Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh)
Bossom, A. C. Crowder, F. P. (Rulslip—Northwood) Gates, Maj. E. E.
Bower, N. Cundiff, F. W. Glyn, Sir R.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Cuthbert, W. N. Gridley, Sir A.
Boyle, Sir Edward Darling, Sir W. Y. (Edinburgh. S) Grimston, Hon. J (St. Albans)
Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan Davidson, Viscountess Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)
Braine, B. Davies, Nigel (Epping) Harden, J. R. E.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. de Chair, S. Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. De la Bére, R. Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)
Brooke, H. (Hampstead) Deedes, W. F. Harris, R. R. (Heston)
Browne, J. N. (Govan) Digby, S. Wingfield Harvey, Air Codre. A. V. (Macclesfield)
Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E) Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight) Scott, Donald
Hay, John McKibbin, A Shepherd, W. S. (Cheadle)
Head, Brig. A. H. McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.
Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C. Maclay, Hon. J. S. Smith, E. Martin (Grantham)
Heald, L. F. Maclean, F. H. R. Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Heath, E. R. MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.) Smithers, Sir W. (Orpington)
Henderson, John (Cathcart) MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty) Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)
Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Snadden, W. McN.
Higgs, J. M. C. Macpherson, N. (Dumfries) Soames, Capt. C.
Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Spearman, A. C. M.
Hill, Dr. C. (Luton) Manningham-Butler, R. E. Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)
Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Marlowe, A. A. H. Spens, Sir P. (Kensington, S.)
Hirst, Geoffrey Marples, A. E. Stanley, Capt. Hon. R. (N. Fylde)
Hollis, M. C. Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Stevens, G. P.
Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich) Marshall, S. H. (Sutton) Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)
Hope, Lord J. Maude, A. E. U. (Ealing, S.) Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Hopkinson, H. L. D'A. Maude, J. C (Exeter) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Hornsby-Smith, Miss P. Maudling, R. Storey, S.
Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence Medlicott, Brigadier F. Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Howard, G. R (St. Ives) Mellor, Sir J. Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)
Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Molson, A. H. E. Studholme, H. G.
Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T. Summers, G. S.
Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury) Sutcliffe, H.
Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull. N.) Mott-Radclyffe, C. E. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J. Nabarro, G. Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)
Hutchinson, Geoffrey (Ilford, N.) Nicholls, H. Teeling, William
Hutchison, Col. J. R. H. (Sootstown) Nicholson, G. Teevan, L. T.
Hyde, H. M. Nield, B. (Chester) Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Hylton-Foster, H. B. Noble, Comdr. A. H. P. Thompson, K. P. (Walton)
Jeffreys, General Sir. G. Nugent, G, R. H. Thompson, R. H. M. (Croydon, W.)
Jennings, R. Nutting, Anthony Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Johnson, Howard S. (Kemptown) Oakshott, H. D. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Jones, A. (Hall Green) Odey, G. W. Thorp, Brigadier R. A. [...]
Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W. Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D. Tilney, John
Kaberry, D. Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Touche, G. C.
Keeling, E. H. Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.) Turner, H. F. L.
Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge) Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare) Turton, R. H.
Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H. Osborne, C. Tweedsmuir, Lady
Lambert, Hon. G. Peake, Rt. Hon. O. Vane, W. M. F.
Lancaster, Col. C. G. Perkins, W. R. D. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Langford-Holt, J. Peto, Brig, C. H. M. Vosper, D. F.
Law, Rt. Hon. R. K. Pickthorn, K. Wakefield, E. B. (Derbyshire, W.)
Leather, E. H. C. Pitman, I. J. Wakefield, Sir W. W. (St. Marylebone)
Leggs-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Powell, J. Enoch Walker-Smith, D. C.
Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.) Ward, Hon. G. R. (Worcester)
Lindsay, Martin Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Linstead, H. N. Profumo, J. D. Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Llewellyn, D. Raikes, H. V. Watkinson, H.
Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton) Rayner, Brig. R. Webbe, Sir H. (London)
Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Redmayne, M. Wheatley, Major M. J. (Poole)
Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Renton, D. L. M. White, J. Baker (Canterbury)
Lockwood, Lt.-Col J. C. Roberts, P. G. (Heeley) Williams, C. (Torquay)
Longden, G. J. M. (Herts S. W.) Robertson, Sir D. (Caithness) Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Low, A. R. W. Robinson, J. Roland (Blackpool, S.) Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, E.)
Lucas, Major Sir J (Portsmouth, S.) Robson-Brown, W. (Esher) Wills, G.
Lucas, P. B. (Brentford) Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Roper, Sir H. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Lyttelton, Rt. Hon O. Ropner, Col. L. Wood, Hon. R.
McAdden, S. J. Russell, R. S. York, C.
McCallum, Maj. D. Ryder, Capt. R. E. D. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. s. Sandys, Rt. Hon. D. Mr. Drewe and
Savory, Prof. D. L. Brigadier Mackeson.
Acland, Sir Richard Bing, G. H. C. Champion, A. J.
Adams, Richard Blenkinsop, A. Chetwynd, G. R.
Albu, A. H. Blyton, W. R. Clunie, J.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Boardman, H. Cocks, F. S.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Booth, A. Coldrick, W.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Bowden, H, W. Collick, P.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Cook, T. F.
Awbery, S. S. Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Cooper, G. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Ayles, W. H. Brockway, A. Fenner Cooper, J. (Deptford)
Bacon, Miss A. Brook D. (Halifax) Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Peckham)
Baird, J. Brooks, T. J. (Normanton) Ccve, W. G.
Balfour, A. Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Brown, George (Belper) Crawley, A.
Bartley, P. Brown, T. J. (Ince) Crosland, C. A. R.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Burke, W. A. Crossman, R. H. S.
Benn, Hon A. N. Wedgwood Burton, Miss E. Cullen, Mrs. A.
Benson, G. Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S) Daines, P.
Beswick, F. Callaghan, James Dalton, Rt. Hon. [...]
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Carmichael, James Darling, G. (Hi[...])
Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Woolwich, E.) Castle, Mrs. B. A. Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Jeger, G. (Goole) Rankin, J.
Davies, Harold (Leek) Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.) Rees, Mrs. D.
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Jenkins, R. H. Reeves, J.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Johnson, James (Rugby) Reid, T (Swindon)
de Freitas, Geoffrey Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Reid, W. (Camlachie)
Deer, G. Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham,S.) Rhodes, H.
Delargy, H. J. Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Richards, R.
Diamond, J. Jones, William Elwyn (Conway) Robens, A.
Dodds, N. N. Keenan, W. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Donnelly, D. Kenyon, C. Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Driberg, T. E. N. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. J. (W. Bromwich) King, H. M. Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)
Dye, S. Kinghorn, Sqn Ldr. E. Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Kinley, J. Royle, C.
Edelman, M. Lang, Rev. G. Shackleton, E. A. A.
Edwards, John (Brighouse) Lee, F. (Newton) Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly) Lee, Miss J. (Cannoek) Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Shurmer, P. L. E.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Lever, N. H. (Cheetham) Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Lewis, A. W. J. (West Ham. N.) Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Lewis, J. (Bolton, W.) Simmons, C. J.
Ewart, R. Lindgren, G. S. Slater, J.
Fernyhough, E. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Field, Capt. W. J. Logan, D. G. Smith, H. N. (Nottingham. S.)
Finch, H. J. Longden, F (Small Heath) Snow, J. W.
Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) MacColl, J. E. Sorensen, R. W.
Follick, M. McGhee, H. G. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir F.
Foot, M. M. McGovern, J. Sparks, J. A.
Forman, J. C. McInnes, J. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Fraser, T. (Hamilton) Mack, J. D. Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.
Freeman, J. (Watford) McKay, J. (Wallsend) Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Freeman, Peter (Newport) Mackay, R. W. G. (Reading, N.) Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Vauxhall)
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. McLeavy, F. Stross, Dr. B.
Ganley, Mrs. C. S. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith
Gibson, C. W. McNeil, Rt. Hon H. Sylvester, G. O.
Gilzean, A. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Taylor, H. B. {Mansfield)
Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Mainwaring, W. H. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Gooch, E. G. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Greenwood, Anthony W. J. (Rossendale) Mann, Mrs. J. Thomas, I. [...] (Wrekin)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Wakefield) Manuel, A. C. Thomas, I. R. (Rhondda, W.)
Grenfell, D. R. Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Grey, C. F. Mathers, Rt. Hon. George Thurtle, Ernest
Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) Mellish, R. J. Timmons, J.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelfy) Messer, F. Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Griffiths, W. D. (Exchange) Middlelon, Mrs. L. Tomney, F.
Gunter, R. J. Mikardo, Ian Turner-Samuels, M.
Haire, John E. (Wycombe) Mitchison, G. R. Ungoed-Thomas, A. L.
Hale, J. (Rochdale) Moeran, E. W. Usborne, Henry
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Monslow, W. Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Hall, J. (Gateshead, W.) Moody, A. S. Viant, S. P
Hall, Rt. Hn. W. Glenvil (Colne V'll'y) Morley, R. Wallace, H. W.
Hamilton, W. W. Morris, P. (Swansea, W.) Watkins, T. E.
Hannan, W. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.) Webb, Rt. Hon M. (Bradford, C.)
Hardman, [...] R. Mort, D. L. Weitzman, D.
Hardy, E. A. Mcyle, A. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Hargreaves, A. Mulley, F. W. Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Harrison, J. Murray, J. D. West, D. G.
Hastings, Dr. Somerville Nelly, W. Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edinb'gh, E.)
Hayman, F. H. Neat, H. White, Mrs. E. (E. Flint)
Henderson, Rt. Hon A. (Rowley Regis) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon P. J. White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Herbison, Miss M. O'Brien, T. Wigg, George
Hewitson, Capt. M. Oldfield, W. H. Wilcock, Grcup Capt C. A. B.
Hobson, C. R. Oliver, G. H. Wilkes, L.
Holman, P. Orbach, M. Wilkins, W. A.
Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Padley, W. E. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Houghton, Douglas Paget, R. T. Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Hoy, J. Paling, Rt. Hon Wilfred (Dearne V'lly) Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Hubbard, T. Pannell, T. C. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, N.) Pargiter, G. A. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Hughes, Emrys (S Ayr) Parker, J. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen. N.) Paton, J. Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Hynd, H. (Accrington) Peart, T. F. Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Hcyton)
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Poole, Cecil Winterbottom, I. (Nottingham, C.)
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Popplewell, E. Winterbottom, R. E. (Brightside)
Irving, W J (Wood Green) Porter, G Woodburn, Rt. Hon A.
Isaacs, Rt. Hon G. A. Price, M. Philips (Gloucestershire, W.) Woods, Rev. G. S.
Janner, B. Proctor, W. T. Wyatt, W. L.
Jay, D. P. T. Pryde, D. J. Yates, V. F.
Mr. Pearson and Mr. Collindridge.

Question put, "That the proposed words be there added."

The House divided: Ayes, 298; Noes, 284.

Division No. 12.] AYES [10.12 p.m.
Acland, Sir Richard Field, Capt. W. J. McGhee, H. G.
Adams, Richard Finch, H. J. McGovern, J.
Altu, A. H. Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Mclnnes, J.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Folli[...]k, M. Mack, J. D.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Foot, M. M. McKay, J. (Wallsend)
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Forman, J. C. Mackay, R. W. G. (Reading, N.)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Fraser, T. (Hamilton) McLeavy, F.
Awbery, S. S. Freeman, J. (Watford) MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)
Ayles, W. H. Freeman, Peter (Newport) McNeil, Rt. Hon H
Bacon, Miss A Gaitskell, Rt. Hon H. T. N. MacPherson Malcolm (Stirling)
Baird, J Ganley, Mrs. C. S Mainwaring, W. H.
Balfour, A. Gibson, C. W. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Barnes, Rt. Hon A J Gilzean, A. Mallalieu, J P W (Huddersfield, E.)
Bartley, P. Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Mann, Mrs J
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J Gooch, E. G. Manuel, A. C
Benn, Hon. A N Wedgwood Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Marquand, Rt. Hon H A
Benson, G Greenwood, Anthony W. J (Rossendale) Mathers, Rt. Hon George
Beswick, F. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Wakefield) Mellish, R J
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Grenfell, D. R. Messer, F.
Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Woolwich, E.) Grey, C. F. Middleton, Mrs. L
Bing, G. H. C. Griffiths, D (Rother Valley) Mikardo, Ian
Blenkinsop, A. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly) Mitchison, G. R
Blyton, W. R. Griffiths, W. D. (Exchange) Moeran, E. W
Boardman, H Gunter, R. J Monslow, W.
Booth, A. Haire, John E. (Wycombe) Moody, A S
Bowden, H. W. Hale, J. (Rochdale) Morley, R.
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M Hall, J. (Gateshead, W.) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S)
Brockway, A. Fenner Hall, Rt. Hn. W. Glenvil (Colne V'lly) Mort, D L
Brook, D. (Halifax) Hamilton, W. W Mcyle, A.
Brooks, T J (Normanton) Hannan, W. Mulley, F. W
Broughton, Dr. A. D D. Hardman, D. R Mcrray, J. D.
Brown, George (Belper) Hardy, E. A. Nally, W
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Hargreaves, A. Neal, H.
Burke, W. A. Harrison, J. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon P J
Burton, Miss E. Hastings, Dr. Somerville O'Brien, T.
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Hayman, F. H. Oldfield, W. H.
Callaghan, James Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Tipton) Oliver, G. H.
Carmichael, James Herbison, Miss M. Orbach, M.
Castle, Mrs. B. A Hewitson, Capt. M Padley, W. E.
Champion, A. J. Hobson, C. R. Paget, R. T.
Chetwynd, G. R Holman, P. Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Dearne V'lly)
Clunie, J. Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Pannell, T. C.
Cooks, F. S Houghton, Douglas Pargiter, G. A.
Coldrick, W Hoy, J. Parker, J
Collick, P. Hubbard, T. Paton, J.
Cook, T. F. Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, N.) Peart, T. F
Cooper, G. (Middlesbrougn, W.) Hughes, Emrys (S Ayr) Poole, Cecil
Cooper, J. (Deptford) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Popplewell, E.
Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Peckham) Hynd, H. (Accrington) Porter, G.
Cove, W. G. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Price, M. Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Proctor, W. T.
Crawley, A. Irving, W. J. (Wood Green) Pryde, D. J.
Crosland, C. A. R. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A Pursey, Comdr. H.
Crossman, R. H. S Janner, B. Rankin, J.
Cullen, Mrs. A. Jay, D. P. T. Rees, Mrs. D.
Dames, P. Jeger, G. (Goole) Reeves, J.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Jeger, Dr S. W. (St. Pancras, S.) Reid, T. (Swindon)
Darling, G. (Hitlsboro') Jenkins, R. H Reid, W. (Camlachle)
Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.) Johnson, J. (Rugby) Rhodes, H.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Richards, R.
Davies, Harold (Leek) Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham,S.) Roberts, A.
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Davies, S O. (Merthyr) Jones, William Elwyn (Conway) Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
de Freitas, Geoffrey Keenan, W. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Deer, G. Kenyon, C. Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)
Delargy, H. J Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Diamond, J. King, H. M. Royle, C.
Dodds, N. N. Kinghorn, Sqn. Ldr E Shackleton, E. A. A.
Donnelly, D. Kinley, J. Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H.
Driberg, T. E. N. Lang, Rev. G. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Dugdale, Rt. Hon J. (W. Bromwich) Lee, F. (Newton) Shurmer, P. L. E.
Dye, S. Lee, Miss J. (Cannock) Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Ede, Rt. Hon J. C Lever, N. H. (Cheetham) Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)
Edelman, M. Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Simmons, C. J.
Edwards, John (Brighouse) Lewis, A. W. J. (West Ham, N.) Slater, J.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly) Lewis, J. (Bolton, W.) Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Lindgren, G. S. Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W) Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Snow, J. W.
Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Logan, D. G. Sorensen, R. W.
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Longden, F. (Small Heath) Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir F.
Ewart, R MacColl, J. E. Sparks, J. A.
Fernyhough, E
Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.) Turner-Samuels, M. Wilkins, W. A.
Stokts, Rt. Hon R. R. Ungoed-Thomas, A. L. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Strachey, Rt. Hon. J. Usborne, Henry Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Vauxhall) Vernon, Maj. W. F Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Stross, Dr. B. Viant, S. P. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith Wallace. H. W. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Sylvester, G. O. Watkins, T. E. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield) Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.) Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) Weitzman, D. Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Huyton)
Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare) Wells, P. L. (Faversham) Winterbottom, I. (Nottingham, C.)
Thomas, George (Cardiff) Wells, W. T. (Walsall) Winterbottom, R. E. (Brightside)
Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin) West, D. G. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A
Thomas, I. R. (Rhondda, W.) Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edinb'gh, E.) Woods, Rev. G. S.
Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton) White, Mrs. E. (E. Flint) Wyatt, W. L.
Thurtle, Ernest White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E) Yates, V. F
Timmons, J. Wigg, George
Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G. Wilcock, Group Capt. C A B TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Tomney, F. Wilkes, L. Mr. Pearson and Mr. Collindridge.
Aitken, W. T. de Chair, S. Hutchinson, Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)
Alport, C. J. M. De la Bere, R. Hutchison, Col. J. R H. (Scotstoun)
Amery, J. (Preston, N.) Deedes, W. F. Hyde, H. M.
Amory, D. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Digby, S. Wingfield Hylton-Foster, H. B
Arbuthnot, John Dodds-Parker, A. D Joftreys, General Sir G
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Donner, P. W. Jennings, R.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Douglas-Hamilton, Lord M. Johnson, Howard S. (Kemptown)
Astor, Hon. M. Drayson, G. B. Jones, A. (Hall Green)
Baker, P. Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L W
Baldock, J. M Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Kaberry, D.
Baldwin, A. E. Dunglass, Lord Keeling, E. H.
Banks, Col. C. Duthie W. S. Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)
Baxter, A. B. Eccles, D. M Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H.
Beamish, Maj. T. V H Eden, Rt. Hon. A. Lambert, Hon. G.
Bell, R. M Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Walter Lancaster, Col. C. G
Bennett, Sir P. (Edgbaston) Erroll, F. J. Langford-Holl, J.
Bennett, R. F. B. (Gosport) Fisher, Nigel Law, Rt. Hon. R. K
Bennett, W. G. (Woodside) Fletcher, W. (Bury) Leather, E. H. C.
Bevins, J R (Liverpool, Toxte[...]h) Fort, R. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A H
Birch, Nigel Foster, J. G. Lennox-Boyd, A T
Bishop, F. P. Fraser, Hon. H. C. P. (Stone) Lindsay, Martin
Black, C. W. Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale) Linstead, H. N
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C (Wells) Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M. Llewellyn, D.
Boothby, R. Gage, C. H. Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)
Bossom, A. C. Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok) Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Bower, N. Galbraith, T. G. D (Hillhead) Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Gammans, L. D. Lockwood, Lt.-Col J C
Boyle, Sir Edward Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh) Longden, G. J. M. (Herts. S.W)
Bracken, Rt. Hon Brendan Gates, Maj. E. E. Low, A. R. W.
Braine, B. Glyn, Sir R. Lucas, Major Sir J (Portsmouth, S.)
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G Gridley, Sir A. Lucas, P B. (Brentford)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. Grimston, Hon. J. (St. Albans) Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.
Brooke, H (Hampstead) Grimston, R. V (Westbury) Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O
Browne, J. N (Govan) Harden, J. R. E. McAdden, S. J.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge) MoCallum, Maj. D
Bullock, Capt. M. Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.) McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Harris, R. R. (Heston) Macdonald, Sir P (I. of Wight)
Burden, Squadron Leader F. A. Harvey, Air Codre[...] A. V (Macclesfield) MoKibbin, A.
Butcher, H. W Harvey. Ian (Harrow, E.) McKie, J. H. (Galloway)
Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n) Hay, John Maclay, Hon. J. S.
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Head, Brig. A. H. Maclean, F. H. R.
Carson, Hon. E. Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon Sir C MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.)
Channon, H. Heald, L. F. MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S. Heath, E. R. Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)
Clarke. Col. R. S. (East Grinstead) Henderson, John (Cathcart) Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)
Clarke, Brig. T. H. (Portsmouth, W.) Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W Maitland, Comdr. J. W.
Clyde, J. L. Higgs, J. M. C. Manningham-Buller, R. E.
Colegate, A. Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Marlowe, A. A. H.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Hill, Dr. C. (Luton) Marples, A. E
Cooper, A. E. (Ilford, S.) Hinehingbrooke, Viscount Marshall, D. (Bodmin)
Cooper-Key, E. M. Hirst, Geoffrey Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)
Cor[...], Lieut.-Col. U (Ludlow) Hollis, M. C. Maude, A. E. U. (Ealing, S.)
Craddock, G. B. (Spelthorne) Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich) Maude, J. C. (Exeter)
Cranborne, Viscount Hope, Lord J. Maudling, R.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Hopkinson, H. L D'A Medlicott, Brigadier F
Cross, Rt. Hon. Sir R. Hornsby-Smith, Miss P. Mellor, Sir J.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence Molson, A. H. E.
Crouch, R. F. Howard, G. R. (St. Ives) Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.
Crowder, F. P. (Ruislip-Northwood) Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)
Cundiff, F. W. Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.
C[...]thbert, W. N. Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) Nabarro, G.
Darling, Sir W. Y. (Edinburgh, S.) Hudson, W. R. A (Hull, N.) Nicholls, H.
Davidson, Viscountess Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J. Nicholson, G.
Davies, Nigel (Epping) Nield, B. (Chester)
Noble, Comdr. A. H. P Sandys, Rt. Hon. D. Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Nugent, G. R. H. Savory, Prof. D. L. Thomton-Kemsley, C. N.
Nutting, Anthony Soott, Donald Thorp, Brigadier R. A. F.
Oakshott, H. D. Shepherd, W. S. (Cheadle) Tilney, John
Odey, G. W. Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W Touche, G. C
Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D. Smith, E, Martin (Grantham) Turner, H F. L.
Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Smithers, Peter (Winchester) Turton, R. H.
Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.) Smithers, Sir W. (Orpington) Tweedsmuir, Lady
Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare) Smyth, Brig J. G (Norwood) Vane, W. M. F.
Osborne, C. Snadden, W. McN. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Peake, Rt. Hon. O. Soames, Capt. C. Vosper, D. F.
Perkins, W. R. D. Spearman, A. C. M. Wakefield, E. B. (Derbyshire, W.)
Peto, Brig. C. H. M. Spenoe, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.) Wakefield, Sir W. W (St. Marylebone)
Pickthorn, K. Spent, Sir P. (Kensington, S.) Walker-Smith, D. C.
Pitman, I. J Stanley, Capt. Hon. R. (N. Fylde) Ward, Hon. G. R. (Worcester)
Powell, J. Enoch Stevens, G. P. Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.) Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.) Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.) Watkinson, H.
Profumo, J D. Stoddart-Soott, Col. M Webbe, Sir H. (London)
Raikes, H. V. Storey, S Wheatley, Major M. J (Poole)
Rayner, Brig. R. Strauss, Henry (Norwich S.) White, J. Baker (Canterbury)
Redmayne, M. Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray) Williams, C. (Torquay)
Renton, D. L. M. Studholme, H. G. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Roberts, P. G. (Heeley) Summers, G. S. Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, E.)
Robertson, Sir D. (Caithness) Sutoliffe, H. Wills, G.
Robinson, J. Roland (Blackpool, S.) Taylor, C. S (Eastbourne) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Robson-Brown, W. (Esher) Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Teeling, William Wood, Hon. R.
Roper, Sir H. Teevan, L. T. York, C
Roper, Col. L. Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Russell, R. S. Thompson, K. P. (Walton) Mr. Drewe and Brigadier Mackeson.
Ryder, Capt. R. E. D. Thompson, R. H. M. (Croydon, W.)

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.

Resolved: That this House considers that an outside inquiry into the work of the National Coal Board will serve no useful purpose at the present time, but would divert the Board and the industry from their urgent task of increasing the output of coal; recognises the response made by the miners to their leaders' call for extra effort and longer working hours; and welcomes the efforts made by His Majesty's Government to ensure the supplies of coal for the needs of the nation, and in particular, the coal required to maintain full employment and the rising productivity of labour.