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asked the Secretary for Mines whether in the event of the mineowners refusing voluntarily to meet the representatives of the Miners' Federation, any machinery exists which could be utilised for compelling the owners to meet the men's representatives; and, if so, whether it is proposed to invoke such machinery?
asked the Secretary for Mines the present position in the coal industry with regard to the mine-workers' demand for an increase in wages; and what steps the Government are taking to bring the two sides together?
asked the Secretary for Mines in view of the threatened stoppage in the coal industry, whether he will, having regard to the disastrous effect this would have on the industrial life of the nation, call the representatives of both sides to discuss the issues involved?
As I have already stated in this House, the Government would welcome the establishment of some form of machinery for the discussion of wage issues on a national basis, and both I and my predecessors in office have done all we could to this end. It is obvious, however, that to be effective, such machinery must command the confidence and support of both sides in the industry. The coalowners have consistently maintained an attitude of resolute opposition to any form of national machinery for this purpose; and hon. Members will, no doubt, have seen in to-day's newspapers the letter which the Secretary of the Mining Association addressed yesterday to the Mineworkers' Federation, in which the Association's position is fully explained. In view of the coalowners' attitude, I can at present see no way of bringing the two sides together. During the last few days, I have had meetings with the representatives of both owners and miners, and I have found on both sides the most sincere desire to avoid the disaster of industrial conflict. I am still in touch with them, and in these circumstances I am unable at present to say anything further.
In view of the importance of the subject, could not the hon. and gallant Gentleman indicate to the House what course of action he proposes to take to bring about a meeting between these two national bodies? His reply seems to indicate that he is considering the matter, but I suggest that at this moment it would be better to know from the Secretary for Mines what action he proposes to take to get a meeting.
If the coal owners maintain their resolute attitude not to meet the Miners' Federation representatives, will the hon. and gallant Gentleman intimate just what steps the Government are likely to take to avoid an industrial stoppage?
Is the Minister aware that there has been an Act upon the Statute Book for nearly five years? The miners have been very patient in the face of very low wages, and are they not entitled to some lead from the Government as to what steps they are going to take in order to implement the law?
In view of the fact that the owners indicated yesterday that they are not going to do this, and that the whole thing has reached an end, what are the Government going to do? Are they going to allow it to drift?