HL Deb 15 November 1966 vol 277 cc1172-3

2.38 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the National Coal Board have now agreed that the expensively equipped Bevercotes colliery shall be worked for only five days a week; and whether this is in accordance with Government policy on productivity.]


My Lords, the National Coal Board announced on October 31 that Bevercotes colliery would be operated under existing national wage agreements. The Board considered that five-day working at the pit was preferable to further delays. However, on November 10 the National Union of Mineworkers proposed that the special arrangements previously discussed, but on which agreement had not been possible, should be modified. The new proposals are for eighteen shifts to be worked each week, including three shifts at weekends. The Board are giving immediate consideration to them. The Government hope that more intensive working of expensive capital equipment will thus prove possible. The lessons expected to be learned from the new techniques to be used at this experimental pit may have far-reaching effects on further improvements in productivity in the coal industry, which is in accordance with the Government's policy of encouraging increases in productivity throughout the economy.


My Lords, may thank the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for that Answer which conveys a great improvement on the position that we knew before he made that statement? May I ask the noble Lord whether he agrees that we cannot afford to install extremely expensive machinery which is then not fully used?


Yes, my Lords, but this is a revolutionary experimental plant, and as the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, will be aware, with revolutionary techniques of this kind it is much easier to solve the technical problems than to solve the human problems relating to them. The important point is that this new agreement has been, or is likely to be, achieved. We shall get started, and from this we expect very great improvements to flow throughout coal-getting.