§ 30 and 31. Dr. Stross
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power (1) whether he has noted the rising incidence of pneumoconiosis in North Staffordshire; what explanation is available; and what action is being taken to safeguard the workers who are exposed to risk;
(2) whether he has noted that of the 435 cases diagnosed as suffering from pneumoconiosis in the North Staffordshire coalfield. 361 were advised they might continue at work; and whether he will state what is meant by the use in his regulations of the term approved dust conditions, under which such work is performed.
§ Mr. Aubrey Jones
I am advised that the increasing number of cases of pneumoconiosis now being diagnosed in North Staffordshire is due to an increasing awareness of the disease rather than to any increase in the number of miners now contracting it. Indeed, many of the miners now presenting themselves for the first time for examination contracted the disease many years ago.
Experience has shown that some miners who are suffering from the disease can safely continue to work underground, provided dust is not excessive and many of them prefer to do this rather than leave the pits.
I am glad to say that measures for suppressing dust have been much improved in recent years, and I can assure the House that constant efforts will continue to be made by the National Coal Board and Her Majesty's Inspectors of Mines to improve them still further. I am writing to the hon. Gentleman at greater length on this matter.
§ Dr. Stross
May I, in the first place, thank the right hon. Gentleman for the long and very interesting letter which he has sent me and which I have already received?
1336 May I ask two short questions? First, will the right hon. Gentleman answer the point made in the communication that I sent to him, by the Secretary of the North Staffordshire miners, where the view is expressed that more capital expenditure is needed now in order to improve and modernise the old pits? Secondly, is it not true that the present frontiers which we describe as approved dust conditions can be pushed further forward, and will the right hon. Gentleman bear this matter in mind?
§ Dame Irene Ward
Can my right hon. Friend give an assessment of how much per man year coal ought to have been increased with the increased capital expenditure? That is a question which I have been trying to get answered by my right hon. Friend's predecessor.