Coal Situation

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

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Photo of Mr Gwilym Lloyd George Mr Gwilym Lloyd George , Pembrokeshire

I will try to get the actual figures for ray hon. Friend. Obviously, no Minister responsible for producing coal would refuse additional man-power. It would make my task, I will not say simple, but a good deal simpler than it is at the moment. But I must remind the House that there are 17,000 more men in industry than there were last year, and that the output is 70,000 tons a week down. I make this point for one purpose only; I want to make it perfectly clear that "more men" is not the whole solution to this problem. An increase in output from the present labour force might be achieved, and can be achieved, by concentration on more productive pits and seams and on the modernisation of methods. This must, of necessity, take time. Not only has the machinery to be manufactured, but very big issues are involved, both human and mechanical, where concentration is concerned. My regional officers are now engaged in making detailed surveys—that is a very important preliminary to anything of this character—and in a number of cases are already discussing details with colliery managements. Further, concentrations within some collieries have already taken place. I say frankly that progress has not been even in all the regions, but I have given instructions that this must be considered as a work of prime importance.

But the anxiety of the House and the country is concerned with the immediate position. That must in the main depend on the increased productivity of the men now in the industry. For the last two years output has steadily declined. I thought it was of the utmost importance that as soon as I had the opportunity I should myself go around to try to ascertain what the reasons were. I have recently been around several of the areas—and I hope very shortly to have seen them all—and I have met over 200 pit production committees. I had a perfectly free and frank discussion with them all. I encouraged them to tell me what they thought about anything, and it was extremely instructive and, I think, will be of great use.

I will give one or two examples of the kind of things which in their minds are responsible for decreasing output. There are many others, but I am just taking one or two. First of all, I found in many cases an extraordinary lack of appreciation of the powers conferred on pit production committees. I was very surprised, and I took the opportunity to explain to them that their position was such to-day that they could take part in advising as to production and that what they suggested and advised would be sent to the Regional Controller. I want to make that perfectly clear again, because the operational control of the mines is invested in me and my Regional Controllers, to whom I delegate my powers. I made it perfectly plain to pit production committees that that was a very different position from what it was at the beginning of the year. I thing my visit was useful for that purpose alone. Here are one or two of the points emphasised. There is the general strain of the war, including——