§ 11. Mr. Nabarro
asked the Paymaster-General for what reasons coal production has fallen by 5 million tons in the first half of 1958; how much of that loss is attributable to further increases in absenteeism from 12.84 per cent. to 14.22 per cent.; and, having regard to the grave consequences of continued decline in output and increased absenteeism, what steps are being taken to remedy matters.
§ Mr. Maudling
There has been a fall in demand, and production has been kept in reasonable balance by restrictions in recruiting and by the stoppage of Saturday working and limitation of overtime. Absenteeism in the coalfields continues at a high rate but has been fairly constant for some months.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Does my right hon. Friend view with equanimity the present fall in coal production at a rate of 10 million tons in a full year? Is this not likely to lead later on to a recurrent shortage of coal for domestic purposes and further to undermine what opportunities there may be for rebuilding Britain's tattered coal export trade?
§ Mr. Maudling
I certainly do not view with equanimity the continued rate of absenteeism in the coalfields, but the fact is that a good deal of reduction in production has been the result of deliberate 7 policy, such as reducing recruiting and limiting overtime, which has been brought in by the Coal Board in face of the reduced demand for coal and the very large stocks which are piling up. I think that my hon. Friend is slightly over-anxious on that side of the matter.