HC Deb 28 November 1955 vol 546 cc1910-2
7. Wing Commander Bullus

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how many invitations to responsible people, as defined by regulations, to give a home to aged pit ponies which have served their term underground have been extended by the National Coal Board since the regulations were approved in 1950.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

The regulations are designed to protect horses which have reached the end of their working life in the pits from falling into the hands of unscrupulous dealers. The detail of arrangements to comply with the regulations is a matter for the National Coal Board, and I am sure it would supply my hon. and gallant Friend with any further information for which he might ask.

Wing Commander Bullus

Can my hon. Friend explain the apparent reluctance of the National Coal Board to let these aged pit ponies go to responsible people who would see that they have some happy years at the end of their lives?

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

I know of no such reluctance as my hon. and gallant Friend suggests. I am quite sure that if he has any particular case in mind the Chairman of the National Coal Board will be very glad to communicate with him.

20. Mr. E. Johnson

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will make regulations prohibiting the use of pit ponies underground in coal mines for more than 11 years.

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

No, Sir. Fitness for work, as prescribed by the regulations, provides a better criterion than an arbitrary number of years' service.

Mr. Johnson

Is my hon. Friend aware that some ponies have been kept underground far too long, up to 20 or 30 years of age, and will he draw the attention of the National Coal Board to the fact that responsible organisations exist which would give them a good home, instead of their having to be slaughtered, which appears to be the policy of the Board at the present time?

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

No, I would not say it is the policy of the National Coal Board at the present time. If responsible people are available to give horses which are no longer fit for work a good home, the Board readily accepts any offers it receives.

Mr. Hastings

What happens to those pit ponies when they are past work if a comfortable home is not offered to them?

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

If they are past work they are humanely slaughtered.

Mr. T. Brown

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that during the last ten years remarkable progress has been made in the saving of ponies from going underground through mechanisation, and that we are delighted to know that that is taking place?

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

Yes, the hon. Gentleman is quite correct. The number of ponies used in the pits is steadily decreasing.

Mr. Fell

Is my hon. Friend aware that many people will not be altogether satisfied with his answer that if the National Coal Board receives offers to take the ponies it will send ponies to those making the offers? Should it not be the other way round? Should not the Board make greater efforts to find reasonably good homes for the ponies?

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

I do not think there is any doubt that the homes which are provided by responsible people are known to the National Coal Board. There is a number of societies which take a very active interest in this matter and are frequently in communication with the Board about it.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

Could the hon. Gentleman say what the cost would be if the Board looked after the ponies which have served it so well if it cannot find homes for them?

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

I am afraid I could not answer that question, but it would be a very substantial sum.

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