Absenteeism (Miners)

Oral Answers to Questions — Fuel and Power – in the House of Commons on 8th September 1942.

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Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether his attention has been drawn to a recent assertion made by the North-Western Regional Controller of Fuel and Power that the Government proposed to deal with absenteeism among miners by inflicting harsher and more immediate punishment; and why, in view of the fact that prosecutions, fines and imprisonment of miners at the instance of the Minister of Labour have failed to secure an increase of production, he has sanctioned this policy?

Major Lloyd George:

I have seen some Press reports of the statement referred to, but I can find nothing in them to justify the expressions used by the hon. Member. The Regional Controller informs me that he made it clear, in the course of his statement, that persuasion will be used to the maximum extent, and that there is no intention of using more drastic means unless persuasion proves hopeless. As proposed in paragraph 18 of the White Paper on Coal the Essential Work (Coal Mining Industry) Order, 1942, is being amended. Absence from work without reasonable excuse will in future be a direct offence under Regulation 58a of the Defence (General) Regulations. If, after full inquiries by an Investigation Officer of my Department, it is clear that any person has been absent from work without reasonable excuse and has not proved amenable to persuasion, a recommendation will be made to the National Service Officer that proceedings should be taken against him.

Photo of Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

Does the right hon. and. gallant Gentleman deny the assumption in the Question that the Fuel Controller made this statement, and will he bear in mind the suggestion that the miners are the last people in the world to increase production as the result of threatening them with harsh treatment?

Major Lloyd George:

I am satisfied that the statement of the Controller does not warrant the expression used by the hon. Gentleman. It is not a question of harsh treatment at all; it is a question of persuading a man that it is his duty not to absent himself without reason. Only if persuasion fails will other steps be taken.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

Is no consideration given to the fact that in many cases sections of men are laid off by the employers and that there is never any mention of any kind of treatment directed towards the employers?

Major Lloyd George:

I assure the hon. Member that under the existing arrangement that cannot happen.

Photo of Mr Arthur Molson Mr Arthur Molson , High Peak

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power, whether he will give figures showing the increase, or decrease, of absenteeism in miners during the week after the retrospective payment under the Greene award was made and in all subsequent weeks?

Major Lloyd George:

The weeks immediately preceding and following that in which the retrospective payment was made were at the height of the holiday season, when unfortunately absenteeism is usually at a high rate among miners not actually on holiday. It it difficult, therefore, to discover any relation between absenteeism figures and the making of the payment. The absenteeism figures for the five weeks preceding the making of the award itself and for a similar period following it were 10.47 and 9.74 per cent. respectively; while the figure relating to shifts worked per man in these periods rose from 5.19 to 5.36, and that relating to shifts lost fell from 6 of a shift to 58.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

Has there been a change in policy? Some weeks ago information with regard to absenteeism was denied on grounds of security. Is there now a change of policy?