HC Deb 19 March 1974 vol 870 cc826-8
2. Mr. Biffen

asked the Secretary of State for Employment on what date the coal industry settlement was notified to the Pay Board; and what subsequent comments have been received from that body.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Michael Foot)

The coal industry settlement was notified to the Pay Board on 13th March 1974. The Pay Board advised me that, in accordance with its statutory duty, it was considering whether to impose a restriction on the remuneration of the employees concerned under Section 7 of the Counter-Inflation Act 1973.

Mr. Biffen

Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that to keep the settlement within the Counter-Inflation Act he will be obliged to issue an order under Section 8? Can he further confirm that it will be open to the House to seek to annul such an order, and therefore it is open to those who resent his action to secure a debate on the Floor of the House?

Mr. Foot

Perhaps I may first apologise to the hon. Gentleman for not having been present when he made his speech yesterday. I should very much have wished to be here had I not had another engagement. As far as I know, no such order has to be issued. If I am wrong about that, I shall certainly find out about it quickly, no doubt; but I do not think I am wrong. As we gather that the settlement was unanimously approved in the House, I do not think there is any more to be said.

Mr. Evelyn King

Having regard to that settlement, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of his constituents who work at the coalface are now earning double the wage that my constituents who are agricultural workers are earning? Does he regard that as fair? Will he use his efforts, either by the relativities procedure or in any other way, to see that a greater degree of justice is obtained throughout England?

Mr. Foot

I certainly have the strongest sympathy with the agricultural workers. I am eager to look at their case along with that of many others, but I cannot recall that I had the assistance of the hon. Gentleman when some of us were protesting against the freeze of agricultural workers' wages a few months ago.

19. Mr. Tugendhat

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the total cost, under the terms of settlement of the miners' dispute, of the payment of £1 per week extra to those who had not had qualifying experience of underground working as recommended by the Pay Board's relativities report.

Mr. Booth

There was no separate extra payment of this kind in the settlement which can be costed. The Pay Board's Report on the Relative Pay of Mineworkers (Cmnd. 5567) recommended increases costing £52.5 million to underground workers and to ex-underground workers who, by reason of unfitness, are obliged to take work on the surface. This was in addition to the National Coal Board's existing offer of £45 million. The cost of the final settlement was £108.5 million.

Mr. Tugendhat

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that it is underground working which is the distinguishing feature of work in the coal industry? Why, therefore, were those who work underground or who have worked underground not given special treatment compared with others?

Mr. Booth

Certainly underground working is a peculiar feature of mining—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—in peace time. Although the NCB made a stage 3 offer, which made no distinction between underground workers who came to the surface due to illness and those who had always worked on the surface, the addition recommended by the Pay Board, as the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, was £3. When the matter came for final settlement, however, it was an agreement between the board and the NUM which raised to £32 the settlement both for surface workers who were ex-underground and surface workers who had worked only on the surface.