HC Deb 30 October 1957 vol 575 cc215-7
63. Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport

asked the Minister of Labour what is the present position in regard to the employment of Hungarian refugees in coalmining and auxiliary occupations.

65. Mr. H. Fraser

asked the Minister of Labour what is the latest position regarding the employment and training of Hungarian refugees for work in the coal mines; and if he will make a statement of the Government's policy in this regard.

Mr. Carr

I am informed by the National Coal Board that 482 Hungarians are now employed in coalmining and 249 in ancillary occupations. Six hundred and forty-four are still at training centres. The National Coal Board is responsible for placing them in coalmining employment, but the Employment Exchanges of my Department will assist those who may wish to take up work outside the coal-mining industry.

Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport

Is it not a shame that these poor people who have suffered so much should not be allowed to earn the very highest wages and at the same time assist in our national recovery?

Mr. Carr

We would all wish that these Hungarians could have been absorbed into the mines. Equally, we should recognise the efforts which have been made, not only by the National Coal Board, but by the leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers, to get this accepted. Unfortunately, whatever we may think, people cannot be forced in this way.

Mr. Wade

With regard to those who have been trained for the mines and have not been placed, are any arrangements in hand for retraining them for some other occupation, or are they remaining and waiting indefinitely to find employment in the mines?

Mr. Carr

As I said, the number Involved is 644. We must wait a little longer to see what happens as to their absorption before we discuss points of that kind.

Mr. Fraser

Does my hon. Friend consider that if this slow rate of absorption continues, it is unfair both to the taxpayer and to the Hungarian refugees? Will he give the matter more urgent consideration and reach a conclusion on a scheme which, so far, has not been successful on account of the attitude in the unions?

Mr. Carr

We are, of course, considering this matter from all the angles which my hon. Friend and others have mentioned. As I said earlier, in these matters of personal relations, whatever we may regret, we cannot compel people to work with others.

Mr. Blyton

Is the Minister aware that the question of foreign labour in the mines is governed by an agreement of 1945? Am I to take it from what his hon. Friends have said that they want to break the agreement irrespective of what happens in the mines?

Mr. Carr

This is more a question for my hon. Friend than for me. I would repeat that that agreement is well known and that this scheme has had the active support of the leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers.

Mr. Woodburn

Will the Minister not ask his two hon. Friends, whose sympathetic attitude to trade unions would help greatly, to approach the miners concerned and to use their influence with them?

Mr. Carr

Any imputation about the sympathetic or lack of sympathetic interest of my hon. Friends is unjustified in this respect, because this is a matter which we all regret.