Coal Situation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 1st October 1942.

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Photo of Mr Tom Smith Mr Tom Smith , Normanton

The hon. and gallant Member is not going to have it all his own way. Nobody is disparaging this effort, but the hon. and gallant Member knows what the trouble has been for six or eight weeks. That is why some of us did not go. [An HON. MEMBER: "Tell the House why."] The hon. and gallant Member knows why. He would do far better to let the matter stay where it is until the Minister is able to reply to him on the next Sitting Day. After all, my right hon. and gallant Friend is the Minister; I am only the Parliamentary Secretary. I do not mind saying that I have spent nearly the whole of my life in and around mining, and I claim to be perhaps as tolerant as any Member in this House, and when I make up my mind in regard to a thing and I know that I am right, Bostock's elephants would not move me.

With regard to the other point made by the hon. and gallant Member, relating to pit props, anyone might imagine that since the Ministry was created there has been no discussion about pit props. As a matter of fact—and on security grounds one cannot say all that one knows about this matter—it was one of the first things that I had to tackle with the aid of the best experts in the country. The question of wood and steel and alternatives and all that sort of thing was gone into, and my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), who was Secretary for Mines, was on these committees. If my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Buckrose has any information with regard to pit props and will let me have it, I will see that it is examined, but for heaven's sake do not assume that nothing has been done with regard to it.

For the last two or three years in particular I have taken a fairly active part in coal Debates, usually from the opposite side of the House, and although my hon. Friend the Member for Gower and myself may have differed on occasions about what should be done, nevertheless, both of us know the mining industry; we are the closest of friends and are prepared to co-operate to the fullest extent in order to get what we want in the interests of the country. He rather excelled himself to-day. It was an excellent speech. I have not a word of disagreement, as he knows, because I said all the same things myself some time ago with regard to manpower, pit production and our own experience in the pit. I agree wholeheartedly with him. May I say one thing and one thing only? He knows that I cannot give the figures with regard to the stocks at the present time, but the position is not quite as bad as he may have given the impression. I am sure he will take from me that assurance, but nobody connected with the Ministry of Fuel and Power will disagree with Members in all parts of the House in pressing for adequate man-power in the pits. All that has been said about the need for an adequate labour force at the coalface we know to be true, but there will be another occasion, on the next Sitting Day, to discuss that, and none of us attached to the Ministry will disagree with what has been said. Under the White Paper—and whatever my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan) may think, the coal plan was the decision of Parliament—my right hon. and gallant Friend's task is to carry out what is laid down in this coal plan. It may not be a perfect plan.