HC Deb 20 March 1952 vol 497 cc2712-28

As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

11.30 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power (Mr. L. W. Joynson-Hicks)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

It is not a very long time since we had the Second Reading of this Bill, and hon. Members who are present will recall that upon that occasion my right hon. Friend, in introducing the Second Reading, gave a very fair and, in the time available, a very full description of the Bill to the House.

Since that time it has not been amended substantially in Committee. There has been just one minor improvement of a rather technical character that I bad the pleasure of introducing. It is not necessary, therefore, for me to detain the House upon the Third Reading by any elaborate or detailed statement concerning the contents of the Bill. I know that hon. Members are desirous of participating in the debate, and as my right hon. Friend will be winding up, I simply move the Third Reading formally to enable other hon. Members to speak.

11.32 p.m.

Mr. Harold Neal (Bolsover)

This is an agreed Bill, which the swing of the political pendulum has favourably thrust into the hands of the present Minister of Fuel and Power. It does not give rise to much contention, and my problem at this late hour is, not what to say, but how to say it in the least possible time consistent with clarity.

I confine my remarks in the main to one or two difficulties which are likely to be met after the "appointed day." After 31 years of its operation, miners' welfare has become an indispensable factor in the social and industrial life of the coalfields. It touches the miner at so many points of his life—at the pithead bath, where he performs his daily ablutions and is re-invigorated for his homeward journey; at the medical centre, that takes care of his disabilities; at the institute, where he indulges his sport and fraternises with his friends; and in the educational classes, where he improves his often too inadequate education. All these features of welfare have become inseparable from the normality of his daily existence.

For 31 years, the organisation and control of welfare activities have remained substantially the same. It is not unnatural, therefore, that some miners view with concern the prospect of a breach with the old associations and arrangements that have worked so satisfactorily. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said recently in one of his inspired public utterances that "the British had the distinction of being able to put new wine into old bottles without bursting them." I hope that miners will realise that that is what we are doing by the passage of the Bill. We are providing better facilities by a similar medium of service.

The miner tends to be conservative in everything but his politics, and, conse- quently, it is likely that the new functions of the National Coal Board and the social welfare organisation are likely to be misunderstood. We may as well face the fact that the determination of local trusts and the transfer of funds and property will cause some heartburnings in the minds of those who have devoted their time, energy and experience to the creation and control of these desirable amenities in the coalfields. Colliery welfare now becomes the responsibility of the National Coal Board; but the miner himself must not be allowed to feel that he is left out of the picture.

Consultation, as the Parliamentary Secretary quite rightly emphasised during the Committee stage of the Bill, must be immediate and continuous if friction is to be avoided. The agreement which is given legal effect by this Bill—and as a layman I must say that I find it much less encumbered with legal jargon than the Bill itself—makes provision for special committees at colliery level. It is only permissive, and I could only hope that it was compulsory.

There have always been two sides to the management of pit-head baths and other aspects of colliery welfare, and there should not now be created the impression that there is only one side. Part 1 of the First Schedule defines colliery welfare purposes, and to quote the agreement between the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers: The Board shall assume responsibility for colliery welfare as a normal function of colliery management. I hope that it is not intended by the Minister, or by this Bill, that colliery managers are to take charge of pit head baths, canteens and cycle stores because the colliery manager is pre-occupied with questions of planning, costs, expenditure, and output, among other duties, to say nothing of the statutory obligations laid upon him so far as safety is concerned. He has very little time to take on one more job. May we assume that the Coal Board's responsibility in this field will now be discharged by divisional labour inspectors and their area officers? Could that point be elucidated?

It is certainly more appropriate to those persons than to the colliery manager who has neither the same amount of time, nor the opportunity to undertake this important work. We on this side want this important work to be in the hands of men who can devote sufficient time and attention to it, and we want to see labour directors and area welfare officers selected from the most capable men in the industry. There are now some who are septuagenarians, and we do not believe that such people should be entrusted with these duties. Many of them now fulfilling the work are out of touch with the needs of modern industry, and not acquainted with the psychology of the rising generation of miners. I appeal to the Minister to try to ensure that there is a great care used in the choice of men for this task, for, apart from other considerations, welfare work, if done by the right people, is bound to be transferred into many tons of coal output.

May I refer to welfare for workers in this industry who pass through illness or accident periods, and their re-settlement on returning? The problem of manpower in the industry is all too familiar to be reiterated tonight; there has been an increase in manpower in the present year, but wastage is still far too high. Here is an opportunity, in this Bill, for retaining men in the industry; too often, when a man has undergone an illness or accident and he returns, he gets put into the wrong job. As a consequence, he becomes dissatisfied and disgruntled, he invokes anathema on all and sundry, leaves the industry and is lost to coal-getting for ever.

We cannot afford to lose men in this way, and I hope the Minister will give special interest to this very necessary work. I urge him with all the earnestness at my command, and with all the solemnity of which I am capable, to recognise that one miner retained by this special service will be worth two of the Italians about whom there has been so much criticism in recent debates.

Although the Bill separates the functions and responsibilities of welfare, there is no reason why the two functions should completely diverge. It should be the aim to ensure that there is close co-ordination between the two branches of welfare, and especially in the fields which are likely to overlap. It should be recognised that colliery welfare and social welfare are serving the same ends. Many of my colleagues, ex-miners like myself, have been provided with opportunities of studying mining conditions in other countries, and our investigations abroad have confirmed our belief that no miner works harder than the British miner. After descending pits in foreign countries and watching foreign miners at work, we have always returned with feelings of pride that no country in the world provides facilities for its miners superior to those in this country. We are glad to affirm that this Bill has the capability of continuing and even enhancing that high reputation.

11.42 p.m.

Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)

I think I shall be justified at the outset—although I do not want to strike a discordant note—in lodging an emphatic protest against the Government, or against those responsible for the arrangement of business, putting anything connected with the mining fraternity at the tail end of a long day's business.

I am not blaming the right hon. Gentleman or his Parliamentary Secretary. I daresay they feel as strongly as my colleagues and I do about this putting off to the tail end of a long day's debate matters affecting the vital interests of the mining fraternity. I am one of those who believes in a maxim taught to me when I worked in the pit, "Speak your mind, yet be kind; Give good advice and yet be nice." I want to be kindly and to be nice.

From time to time, particularly in the last two or three years, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House have paid tributes and eulogies to, and have thrown bouquets at, the miners, because of the remarkable job they are doing, but, when it comes to the question of dealing with legislation affecting their everyday lives and social conditions, we are not given the opportunity of thoroughly discussing Measures designed to bring some social and cultural benefits to them. This is the fifth time in recent months on which legislation and Regulations have been tucked away at the tail end of a long debate, and I want to say, in all frankness, that it ought not to happen. I hope the Government will take heed of the warning I have given.

We can rightly claim tonight that this Bill marks another milestone on the long, hard journey that the miners have travelled. I was working at the coal face when the first mining industry legislation was placed on the Statute Book, and I cannot forget those men who, with their vision, determination and their plodding spirit, tried to establish better conditions for the mineworkers.

I think tonight of Bob Smillie, Tom Richards, Enoch Morell and Herbert Smith, of Stephen Walsh from the county in which I live and also of Peter Lee and many others who, in their day, tried to focus the minds of the non-mining public upon the importance of bringing about better conditions for the men who give us the product so essential to this country's prosperity. I know they were ridiculed, for I had the opportunity of working with them all. They have gone to their reward.

I know something of the valiant work they did and of their vision. I know of their determination and here may I take this opportunity as an ex-miner of paying my tribute to those men who, by their vision and determination, made it possible for the mining fraternity to enjoy greater amenities than ever before in their history.

It was my intention, when the Bill came before the House for Third Reading, to give some of the history of these matters, because, after all, it has an important bearing upon this Bill. Many times we tried in every conceivable way without legislation—by deputations, interviews and the use of all the other machinery available to us in the coalfields—to bring about some improvement in the miners' lot, but we failed.

We failed because some of the men who were opposed to us were so stupid and, as we say in Lancashire, "couldn't even see a hole through a ladder." Therefore, we were reluctantly compelled to use to some extent the strike weapon. It is sheer idiocy, in my judgment, for any body of workers, let alone miners, to use the strike weapon to secure what ought to be given to them without any strike at all.

No one on either side of the House can deny the right or the claim of the men in the pits to better social amenities than in years gone by. I am one of those who believes, rightly or wrongly, that if a man elects to earn his livelihood in the bowels of the earth producing a commodity which is so essential, when he is shut out from the health giving rays of God's sunshine, he is entitled to the best amenities when he returns to the surface. I do not think that there is any hon. Member who will deny the miners that right.

The great Mines Act which was the product of the Conservative Party—and I pay tribute to them for it—was not brought forward till a great volume of public opinion stirred them up to the desirability of putting something on the Statute Book which would give the mining fraternity that to which they were entitled. That Act provided for the erection of pit-head baths, and although the original draft of the Bill made those baths compulsory, a provision was inserted before the Bill became law—and that is what we did not like—to the effect that pit-head baths could only be provided if a two-thirds majority of the men decided in favour of them and the total cost did not exceed 3d. per head.

What resulted should be quite obvious to any right-thinking man. At the end of the First World War the then Government were faced with a movement among the workers for increases in wages to meet the sharp rise in the cost of living; and I want to stress that wage demands by the miners at that time were coupled with demands for a fundamental change in the organisation of the industry.

There are few other industries where demands for a fundamental change in organisation have accompanied claims for increased wages. The miners decided to strike, and the Government were forced to agree to set up a commission of inquiry. Much evidence was given before that commission of bad housing, overcrowding and bad working conditions. Every hon. Member knows how the Sankey Commission found in favour of nationalising the industry.

They said that no judicial language was sufficiently strong or sufficiently severe to apply to the condemnation of housing conditions. They made certain recommendatons. The Commission said: It is a matter for careful consideration whether 1d. a ton should not be at once collected on coal raised and applied to improve the housing amenities of each particular colliery district. The Government accepted the recommendations of the Sankey Commission though they subsequently went back on their promise to nationalise the industry, for which the miners had to wait until 1946. Legislation was subsequently introduced to provide for a welfare fund. That was the beginning of the Measure which is now before the House.

At that time there was very strong feeling about the levying of ld. per ton on every ton of coal raised and it was in January, 1921 that the first committee was appointed to administer the fund. That was 30 years ago. District committees were set up consisting of local coalowners and workmen. In 1920 the amount of money contributed was £452,693 and in 1921, £679,998. The scope of the fund in those days can be judged from what was accomplished in improving social amenities in the mining villages and among the mining communities.

It provided 125 recreation grounds and playing fields, 99 institutes, four pit-head baths, 16 hospitals and convalescent homes, district nursing associations and 17 ambulances. I claim for the miners credit that they and their associations have always taken the greatest interest in the administration of the miners' welfare fund.

That cannot be denied. During the 30 years from 1920 to 1950 from the magic penny, as we call it in the minefields, £30,001,088 has been administered by the district and central committees, and I should like to pay my tribute, as an ex-miner, to the wonderful work of the Miners' Welfare Commission in bringing some health and happiness into the lives of the miners.

Up to 1950 we saw the installation of 413 pit-head baths bringing this facility to 479,000 men. Fifty-four new pit-head baths are on the way to provide for a further 60,000 miners. Canteens have been established, and all sorts of other things brought into the communal life of the miner. There are two branches of the Commission's activities which are now being transferred to the Ministry of Health—the hospitals and the rehabilitation centres. How true are the words of my hon. Friend on the Front Bench, who said that two trained miners who have been rehabilitated, restored, and brought back to the pits, are worth more than half a dozen trained Italians.

I know the interest of the right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary, and I know they are bent on doing a good job of work. We want to help them, but I must warn them seriously if they or the Ministry of Health tinker about with our rehabilitation centres there will be a first class row. Rehabilitation of the injured miner is of paramount importance in getting him back to work.

I know that this service is only in the experimental stage, but when we have to face a wastage of over 22,000 a year in the industry it is of paramount importance that we should avail ourselves of every opportunity of seeing that the men who have the misfortune to be overtaken by accident should have the opportunity of rehabilitation and return to their industry.

I could say a lot about education and housing. The Minister has now the opportunity of helping the mining fraternity the objectives in two points of the charter—the building of new towns and villages of a high standard situated at places where miners have increased facilities for social functions, and the breakdown of the segregation of the miners and their families from the rest of the community, accompanied by the provision of adequate transport routes. That is point No. 1a in our charter.

Point No. 11 is the complete reorganisation of health and welfare services so as to put a brake upon the wastage of manpower due to ill-health. The miners are no longer prepared to be a people living apart. They require, and must have, educational and cultural facilities available to other people.

As has been said, this is an agreed Measure. But whether it be a Measure reached by mutual agreement and with the minimum of controversy or not, I say it is no use unless a determination, foresight and dogged spirit are manifested towards it. The Ministry of Fuel and Power and the National Coal Board are now embarking on development in Scotland, in Cannock Chase, in Moseley Common, in St. Helens, in Sutton Manor; and here is an opportunity for the Minister to make these new development areas commensurate with what ought to be. I hope he will not miss that opportunity, whatever opposition he may meet. If we can help him, either from these benches or from the Miners' Union, to overcome any opposition, we shall be only too willing to do so.

Of one thing I am thankful: the money we need to spend on improving social amenities and cultural amenities for the miners does not come from the Treasury. We have not to go to the Treasury for it. That is one pleasing feature, and there will be no complaint on that score.

Although I have not said all I intended to say, I conclude with the hope that the same determination and vision which was contained in the minds of the old pioneers will find its way into the minds of the right hon. Gentleman, of his Parliamentary Secretary and of his Department. If he goes forward with this Bill he will erect a monument in honour to the great pioneers of the Miners' Federation; he will be looked upon as the man who hastened the day when the mining fraternity got what they were richly entitled to. I strongly support the Third Reading of the Bill.

12.3 a.m.

Mr. Thomas Hubbard (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

It may well seem unnecessary to continue for any length of time a debate on a Measure which has not been challenged, but, as I come from the Scottish minefields, I felt that I could not allow the Third Reading to pass without saying a word or two. This Measure means so much. Had it been on the Statute Book 20 or 25 years ago, we should not have been in the position we are in today because of the shortage of coal.

I appreciate that the Minister of Fuel and Power is doing a good job of work. I wonder if he fully appreciates how good it is, and what it Means to the working man in the coalmining industry. I wonder if he realises what it would have meant had it been in operation 25 years ago, during the years when men were leaving the mines at the rate of 20,000 a year—not only because of the low wages but also because of the other conditions.

I wonder if he realises what it would have meant to me, walking home, for miles, in wet clothes on a cold morning and arriving home with my trousers frozen, capable of standing on their own. Look at the effect of that on the health of miners. Look at the effect on my children. Would a man want his sons to continue in an industry of that sort? I feel I am still having to pay the price of that, even today.

I pay my tribute to those who pioneered the welfare work and to those who continued it. I cannot forget the struggle we had at some coalfields to get men to agree to pit-head baths, because they had to pay for them, and because pennies were so scarce that the few coppers for bath and soap meant so much. When we remember, also, that the miner's wife was up sometimes at 4 a.m., and that sometimes the miner came home wet and dirty, often bathed in a tin in the centre of the floor, and that his wife had to spend the whole night drying his clothes so that he could go back to the pit, we realise what this Bill will prevent.

In Scotland there are some areas where there are no amenities whatever. In Ayrshire there is not a single miners' welfare institute, and there are many districts in Fife where there are few or no welfare facilities. One of the biggest obstacles to attracting miners from areas where coal mines have become redundant is the lack of amenities. That is one of the things with which this Bill will deal.

I want to associate myself with what the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) said about the lateness of the hour. It is bad that we should have to apologise for making a speech so late. This Bill will mean more in increased productivity than many of the Measures that have caused long discussion. It is a milestone in the effort to make miners' lives more attractive, and it will not merely benefit the men in the industry but will attract more men to it. Had this been done years ago, what a difference it would have made. We have watched the progress of rehabilitation in Scotland, and have seen as a result of it men who were likely to have spent the rest of their lives in bath chairs going back to work. Anything that will extend that rehabilitation is worth while.

I hope that when we have passed this Measure those responsible for the erection of welfare centres and pit-head baths will co-operate to the full in making these things come true. There will be little use in it being on the Statute Book if the facilities are not provided. I appeal that the fullest co-operation may come from the Government Departments ands local authorities so that we may see some- thing in operation that will benefit the miners.

12.8 a.m.

Mr. Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Heeley)

I should like to support the Third Reading, and congratulate the Minister on bringing in this Bill. It is not the first Bill brought in for the benefit of miners emanating from the Conservative Party. I also want to pay tribute to those people who, in the past, have built up the welfare services, particularly one who worked with me when I was in the mining industry, and who was in this House for many years—the late Mr. Collindridge, whom we were all so sorry to lose during the last Election. If he had been here he would have been sitting on that Front Bench tonight, smiling, and happy to see something being done for the advancement of the people he was always trying to help.

During those difficult years when our coal prices were under-cut by foreign coal, management also went as far as it could in building up these welfare services. Now we see these institutions being handed over to the Coal Board on the one hand, and the social welfare organisation on the other. I hope that they will carry on with the work of former years.

I am particularly pleased to see Clause 7 of the Bill, in which there is special mention of the vocational education trust and vocational educational centres. The mining industry will depend more and more on the building up of those working in the pits from the face to deputy, foreman, agent, and manager. In the past we have lost a number of skilled men, fully trained in management, and we shall have to face a period when it will be difficult to find that kind of trained labour. I hope that the Minister will draw the attention of the Coal Board to its duties under the Clause, so as to provide every opportunity to people of energy and drive who want to progress in their work and take responsibility.

I hope that the fact that this Bill has been brought in by a Conservative Administration and that these powers will be put in the hands of the Coal Board will show that both sides of the House want to see the past rancour of politics taken out of the industry and let the board, management, and miners get down to the job of producing coal.

12.11 a.m.

Mr. Horace E. Holmes (Hemsworth)

I come from the neighbouring county to that of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown), and have been contemporary with him for 50 years; therefore, it is natural that my feelings towards this Bill should follow suit. I agree with his opening remarks, about the Second Reading being brought on late at night. Indeed, a Whip told an hon. Member that he could not speak on it.

I am pleased to follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for Heeley (Mr. P. Roberts), because he came from the same coalfield as me, and his family did great work in this direction before welfare was thought of. When I was on the Conciliation Board, many years ago, I had my first canteen meal at his colliery and it was first-class.

I want to touch on history only briefly, On 2nd April it will be 50 years since I went down the pit at 13 years of age. Then the idea was to sink a pit, build three or four rows of back-to-back houses, put a public-house at one end and a working men's club at the other—I have no bias towards that—and then, when there was a dispute, wonder why the mining community were not men of noble character and high ideals.

Not only that. After they had built such a "beautiful" lay-out they used to surround it with a sulphurous, smoking dirt stack. I remember going to a tea party where a miner was celebrating his 90th birthday, and I asked the reason for his longevity. He said, "I live in that house there. I have been surrounded by that reeking dirt stack all my life. I have had bread, butter, and sulphur for breakfast, bread, cheese, and sulphur for supper, and here I am—90 years of age." That was the kind of approach we saw in the mining industry in my time and I do not call myself an old man yet. I am very appreciative of a Bill of this character being brought in. It is one on which we do not talk about pounds, shillings and pence or about absenteeism. My right hon. Friend on this Front Bench knows what some of us think about the continuous queries on absenteeism.

I see in this Bill something of the cultural side of life being brought to the mining community, something to which they are entitled. I always had, not bitterness, but a feeling against the conditions in which I lived because, inherent in me, were desires for good things—for music, for literature. I can see within the ambit of this Bill, when we get our welfare fully developed on the social side, cultural activities being brought into the mining community to a greater degree than in the past. But even in the past, in recent years because of welfare we have seen grow up musical societies, drama societies, brass bands.

In my own division we have the famous Grimethorpe Band, the famous Frickley Band and the famous Carlton and Monckton bands—all broadcasting from time to time. All these things I can see arising out of this Bill, and when we get the better side of life we shall get a better mentality. I heard somebody say once that you cannot expect noble ideas to come from empty stomachs. Equally, you cannot expect noble ideas to come from drab surroundings.

There were one or two things I wanted to question, but at this late hour I do not propose to do so. However, I want to assure the Minister that although we may have the best possible set up at the national level or at the divisional level, or at the area level unless we get the proper approach at unit level the best scheme will not achieve the benefit desired. This one will be watched not only from the top level, not only from the divisional level, but from the unit level both by management and men.

In my opinion the Bill has come at a time when we have the best relationship between management and men at unit level that we have had in 50 years. I welcome this Bill, and we shall see not only that it becomes an Act of Parliament, not only that it is so many words on a piece of paper, but that it is implemented for the betterment of the mining community of this country.

12.19 a.m.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)

I share the regret of the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) and my other hon. Friends that this debate has come at the end of a long and exhausting day of Parliamentary work. The speeches made on both sides of the House deserve a larger House and a larger public and perhaps more publicity than they will have.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Neal) has seen this Bill through Committee on behalf of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, and he and my other hon. Friends have said the appropriate words about it; and I want to add very little. I had something to do with the origins of the Bill, and before we part with it I want to congratulate the Minister on being able to bring it in and to congratulate all those who have been concerned in its preparation.

The Miners' Welfare Commission did magnificent work. The miners' rehabilitation centres, of which my hon. Friends have spoken, are to me among the most exciting and the most satisfying things I have ever seen in all my life. But this new arrangement is wise and right. As my hon. Friends have said, it is another milestone on the road to the better conditions which we intend to give to those who win our coal. My hon. Friends have described in more graphic language than I can command what welfare means and what the Bill may do to help us to solve the major problem of the mines in the years ahead: namely, keeping up the manpower which we ought to have.

The Bill is founded, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover has said, on an agreement between the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers. The agreement was signed on 24th January last year. The signatures on it were: "Hyndley, Geoffrey Vickers, Will Lawther, Arthur Horner." The signature was almost the last act performed by Lord Hyndley as Chairman of the National Coal Board, and I want—I am sure on behalf of all parties in the House—to pay a heartfelt tribute to the magnificent work which he did for the Coal Board and for the nation. [HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear."]

Lord Hyndley stuck to the job through the first five years of nationalisation. He stayed at his post long after his medical advisers had told him that he ought to quit. He faced and overcame immense difficulties of almost every kind. I am quite certain that he will find other forms of public service to do, but I am quite sure that the country will not soon forget the service which he rendered in a task which was of crucial importance at a crucial time in the history of the nation.

Perhaps the greatest of his achievements was the new relation he established with the miners. It was not for nothing that the miners, at their annual conference, when he made his farewell speech, sang "For he's a jolly good fellow".

When I pay tribute to Lord Hyndley, I must do the same to those who signed the agreement for the mineworkers. During the whole time I was fortunate enough to be at the Ministry of Fuel and Power, the miners and their leaders showed a splendid spirit of patriotism. Their efforts in 1951 saw us through the difficulties of two winters. I am sure that the miners will always respond to the nation's needs. I hope that the Bill will help to make the miners feel that the nation understands the debt it owes to them and that it is resolved that that debt shall be paid.

12.23 a.m.

The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)

I have a good deal of sympathy with what the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) said about the time of our debate today. I, too, feel sad that we could not have had it earlier in the day, but it would not be very useful, particularly at this time of night, to go into the reasons which have led to the particular circumstances we are now in.

I say at once how appropriate it was that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) should pay his tribute to Lord Hyndley for the great work that he did, particularly in connection with the Miners' Welfare Commission. Naturally, I associate myself with what he said.

The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Neal) referred to the conservative nature of the miner's temperament during at least a considerable part of his life. Since I have, on the Second Reading debate, given, quite properly, to the right hon. Gentleman the credit for the preparation of the Bill and the initiation of the discussions which led up to it, I hope he will not mind if I say that it is a Measure in the true Conservative tradition.

What are we doing in the Bill? As everybody in the House has said, the work of the Miners' Welfare Commission has been a very fine work. It has grown up from the small beginnings of what the hon. Member for Ince described as the "magic penny" with perhaps difficulty as to whether there was enough provision for the baths, and so on. It gradually grew and became better and better as the years went by.

Now we have the great change of nationalisation, and it is obviously necessary to make the consequential changes with regard to the welfare work in the new conditions; and, as the hon. Member for Bolsover has said, the only feelings of anxiety are whether it may be too much of a change from the good work done in the earlier days of the Miners' Welfare Commission. But, from the agreement between the Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers, we see how careful everybody has been to make only those changes which were necessary, and to keep as much of the old working as possible. Like the Miners' Welfare Commission, this is to be a joint effort, and although, for financial and other reasons, welfare is largely a matter for the National Coal Board, there will be consultation at almost every level.

There are special provisions for baths and canteens, and although I cannot give the right hon. Gentleman a complete statement about the position of the labour directors and the welfare officers they have been so much in the work from the National Coal Board point of view that, although the Board has not made a statement about the arrangements proposed, it is only natural to think that they will be closely concerned with the work in the future.

It remains only for me to say that this is another milestone in the development of miners' welfare, and, successful as that has been in the past, we can hope that, under this Bill, it will be all the more useful, and glorious, in the future.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.