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

If a pit production committee was discussing the question of production at a particular pit and they had all the figures and data before them, and thought that the inspection of a certain part of a district in a seam would be helpful to more production, not only have they the right to inspect it, but they should immediately do so. We are starting a new thing in the mines. Miners have been clannish and conservative in many ways but if the question is rightly tackled, that should not hinder any progress in that direction. We have heard a good deal about wastage in the mining industry, and there is no doubt that it is very big indeed. With fatal and serious accidents, old age, infirmity, illness and so on there is always a terrific wastage of man-power in the industry, apart altogether from the question of entrants at the other end of the scale. There are between 25,000 and 30,000 men going out every year through one cause or another.

In paragraph 19 of the White Paper it was suggested that for the first time in the history of mining there should be set up a medical services scheme purely for the miners., not merely to deal with the checking certificates of those who wanted to leave the industry, but to deal with rehabilitation and remedial treatment in cases where it was required. Little time was lost before an Inter-Departmental Committee was set up, formed of some of the best men that could be obtained. After not too many meetings but a good deal of hard work their report has been prepared, and I propose to give its outline to the House. I had the honour of acting as chairman of that Committee, and I think this report will show that we have done good work, not merely for the immediate benefit but the ultimate benefit of the mining industry. The subject matter boils down to three heads—service at the pits, service away from the pits, and the checking of medical certificates. It is suggested that in each region there shall be appointed a full-time medical officer, making eight in the regions, and an additional one at headquarters, making 10 in all. I think everyone who knows anything about mining will agree that even in the days when there were 300,000, 400,000 and 500,000 more people employed in the industry than there are today, there was only one full-time medical officer. He is a very able man who has done wonderfully well, but he has had an almost impossible task to survey the 1,900 to 2,000 pits and all the different cases of illness and sickness. It is suggested that there shall be eight full-time regional medical officers and an additional one at headquarters, making 10 in all.