HC Deb 05 March 1952 vol 497 c427
47. Mr. Fernyhough

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence to make a further statement with regard to the releasing of miners still in the Forces.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence (Mr. Nigel Birch)

As the hon. Member is aware, over 3,000 ex-miners have been released from the Forces to resume employment in the industry. Any extension of last year's scheme, in particular one to cover men who entered a regular engagement before 1st January, 1949, would result in the loss of experienced Regulars who cannot be spared. Such men are vital to the build-up of the Forces if these are to be able to meet their increasing commitments.

Mr. Fernyhough

There are still 30,000 miners in the Forces. If we are to win the cold war we have to win the coal war, and if we are to win the coal war we have to have more miners. Will the Parliamentary Secretary not therefore look at this again and see that these men who can get the coal which the country vitally needs are given an opportunity to do so?

Mr. Birch

There has been no change of policy under the present Government and I think the recruiting figures for the miners are much more encouraging lately. I cannot give the undertaking.

Mr. Fernyhough

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that a few weeks ago the Prime Minister promised that he would reconsider this matter? From the way he spoke I expected a more favourable reply.

Mr. Thomas Williams

Is not the reply that the Parliamentary Secretary has given this afternoon very discouraging to the case for accepting Italian workers in the coal mines when British coal miners are not allowed to come back and produce the coal?

Mr. Langford-Holt

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that it is a sound policy to call up in peace-time those who are not required to be called up in war-time?

Mr. Birch

No miners are called up for National Service.