HC Deb 01 July 1952 vol 503 cc223-4
19. Sir E. Keeling

asked the Minister of Labour on what date or dates it was decided to debit to the Treasury instead of to the National Coal Board the cost of bringing miners from Italy.

Sir W. Monckton

In February, 1951.

Sir E. Keeling

Was not this a departure by the last Government from a principle which they laid down, that the coal industry should be self-supporting and not financed by the Treasury?

Sir W. Monckton

I think that the change made in February, 1951, was in view of the grave difficulty at that time of getting recruits for coal mining, and it was thought necessary to make this special arrangement.

Mr. Jennings

Is not it a fact that this item is a proper debit against the National Coal Board and that we should be given some better reason than the Minister has given for putting the cost upon the Treasury?

Mr. Shinwell

Is not it true that this was a Government decision and not a decision of the National Coal Board, although the National Coal Board acquiesced in it? If the Government decide to ask the Coal Board to undertake the task of bringing Italians to this country to work in the mines surely they must accept the financial responsibility, in particular when they should have known better than to undertake such a task?

Sir W. Monckton

I should like to point out that the decision to make this payment was a Government decision, but it was taken in February, 1951, so it is one for which I cannot accept responsibility.

Major Lloyd

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell the House that this cost was in fact incurred—as were the obligations—because of definite promises from the miners' organisations that they would employ these men?

Mr. Lee

If this is agreed to, would not it be proper for the textile and agricultural industry, who also take these people from abroad?

Sir W. Monckton

I am only concerned with the decision of the last Government—which I thought I was putting clearly before the House—that in the special circumstances it was thought necessary to make this payment on that occasion. I do not want to go further than that.