HC Deb 15 July 1957 vol 573 cc748-50
19. Mr. Ridsdale

asked the Paymaster-General how much the annual production of coal has increased since 1951; and if he will express the increase on a percentage basis.

Mr. Maudling

Total coal production in 1956 was virtually identical with that of 1951.

Mr. Ridsdale

Is the Paymaster-General aware that this compares with an increase in wages of 30 per cent. and capital investment of over £350 million? Is he aware how desperate pensioners and those living on fixed incomes are feeling when they see this lack of productivity? It is that lack of productivity, and not because they wish to see less wages paid to the miners, that is making those people desperate over the rise in the price of coal.

Mr. Maudling

I think it is a very serious matter that, despite the increased investment in the industry, coal production was virtually stationary between 1951 and 1956. The fact is that the increase in output per man shift was outweighed by longer holidays, by increased absenteeism and by higher disputes losses, although there was a rise in the total labour force. In the first five months of 1957, we have seen what results can be obtained from this increased mechanisation, and I hope that after the present transitional period following upon the abolition of the bonus shift condition is over we shall see a resumption of the very encouraging trend of the first five months of this year.

Mr. Robens

Would it not be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to run a small class for a number of his hon. Friends in order to teach them some of the facts about coal production? Is it not the case that output per manshift has increased and that, therefore, productivity has increased and that the amount of manpower in the pits is a variable factor? Is it not also the case that just so soon as all these Questions and Answers are published in the newspapers in the mining areas they are likely to lead to more difficulties and not less?

Mr. Maudling

I am at the disposal of the House to provide information to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides, and it appears that there is a good deal of inquiry being made from both sides. I think that I should repeat once again these facts. Between 1951 and 1956, despite a slightly increased labour force, despite increased investment—and despite an increase in the output per man shift, I quite agree—we did not get any increase in output per man year, which is the vital figure: but in the first five months of 1957 we saw what could be done; I believe that in the next few months we shall see a return to that.

Mr. P. Williams

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us regret the poor wages that were paid to miners in years gone by, but welcome the payment of adequate wages now, and would greatly welcome a further increase in wages if it were commensurate with an increase in output?

Mr. Maudling

I think that there will be general agreement with that proposition.

Mr. J. Griffiths

In order to be fair to all concerned, would the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House that the fall in output per man year was due to the fact that last year, for the first time, miners had a fortnight's holiday, and state whether he or any hon. Member opposite objects to miners having two weeks' holiday with pay? Further, will he arrange for those of his hon. Friends behind him who put these Questions a visit to the coalfields so that they may be informed of the miners' views?

Mr. Maudling

I have referred to both of those points; to the fact that the miners had a fortnight's paid holiday, and to the pleasure with which I would arrange such a visit.

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