HL Deb 16 October 1946 vol 143 cc340-1

6.10 p.m.

LORD BARNBY had the following Notice on the Paper: To ask His Majesty's Government whether in view of the latest report of the Minister of Fuel and Power on the critical state of nearby coal supplies, they propose forthwith to ensure appropriate opportunity of employment in mines for those of Polish nationality in or due to arrive in this country, for whom as our most gallant Allies past declarations of His Majesty's Government recorded intentions of benevolent assistance.


My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Barnby I beg to ask the question standing in his name.


My Lords, His Majesty's Government are desirous of enlisting the aid of these Polish workmen in agreement with the National Union of Mineworkers. As no doubt your Lordships are aware, discussions have, in fact, been going on for some months now with a view to bringing 200 Polish workmen who are both experienced and efficient men into the mines for work underground. These discussions have led to the suggestion by the national executive committee of the National Union of Mineworkers that the whole question of introducing foreign workmen into the mines should be postponed until agreement had been reached as to the main heads, and until satisfactory assurances were given on the various points raised by the Union in their proposals for a Miners' Charter. On August 27 they communicated their views to that effect to the Minister of Fuel and Power. Further discussions have been going on, and as recently as October 9 they reaffirmed their views on that matter.

Negotiations are going on and it is hoped that a satisfactory result will be achieved. The Government are naturally anxious that proper safeguards should be provided, and during the course of these discussions assurances have been given by the Minister of Fuel and Power to the National Union of Mineworkers on a number of points. In particular, it has been laid down that the following conditions must be observed. First of all, any Polish workers introduced into the mines must become members of the National Union of Mineworkers. If any of them refuse to do so they will be discharged. Secondly, in the event of redundancy arising in the mines—not very likely in the near future, at any rate—the Polish workers will be put off before British workers. Finally, no Polish workers will be introduced into any particular pit except after discussions and by agreement with the lodge officials concerned.