Coal Situation

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

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Photo of Mr William Watson Mr William Watson , Dunfermline District of Burghs

I do not believe that would help very much, although it might help to a certain extent. It would not make any difference at the coalface. After Dunkirk, our coal export trade had gone and there was unemployment in the coal mines with the result that thousands of our young men volunteered for the Forces because they had no alternative. Those are the men who could give us the coal, if required, not the men who have been compelled to leave other industries and go to the mines. That has not met with very much success up to the present; neither has the scheme for the removal of men from the Forces to the pits because a great number of these men were not at the coalface before they went into the Forces. The men who have been coming back were not at the coalface, but were engaged in other phases of the mining industry before enlisting in the Forces. The men required to increase production are the young able-bodied men who left the coalface and went into the Forces during the time when there was so much unemployment in the industry.

I hope that the pit production committees will be a success. When that scheme was brought before the House, I welcomed it. I thought it was the greatest thing that had ever happened in the mining industry. I believed that because of the assurances we had from the Lord Privy Seal that the Government were determined that nothing on the part of the management would interfere with the most efficient working of the mines. I trust that the pit production committees will have an equal say with the management in the working of the mines. That has been stated by the Minister once again in this Debate. I hope that the pit production committees will be made a really effective instrument for getting the maximum output from the mines. I attach a very considerable amount of importance to them, and in this I differ from my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan). I do nor think the pit production committee scheme is a fraud. I think the miners have been given the greatest opportunity I have ever known in connection with the industry of having a say in the management of the mines. The assurance has been given in this Debate that the pit production committees will have liberty to enter pits where there is the least suspicion that they are not being properly worked, and with that power in their hand the pit production committees ought to be able so to organise the mining industry that it will give the maximum output that can be got.

In welcoming that scheme because I thought it would give the miners a great opportunity, I did not believe in a great many of the suggestions that were made. They were propaganda. At the present time there is any amount of propaganda among the miners. It is being tried among the miners in Scotland, but it is not having any effect. The miners will not go to meetings to be told by men who know less than they do about mining what should be done. Consequently, this propaganda is a "wash-out" in Scotland. The miners know more about these matters than those who come to lecture them. They are not prepared to listen to Lord Traprain or anybody else telling them about their industry and professing to know more about it than they do themselves. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire put his finger on the real point when he spoke of the management of the mines. Despite the setting up of the pit production committees—I agree that they have not had time to function very much yet—the managements have the same power and influence and are carrying on in the same way as they did before the change was made. Unless the pit production committee system is made really effective, I believe the position will be just as bad as it was before. I was glad to hear the Minister's assurance that he is personally making himself acquainted with conditions in the coalfields, and is determined that the system shall be a success. I am certain that if we get co-operation between the management and the miners, there is no reason why all the coal that is required should not be produced.