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

It is rather high. It is estimated that if the minority were working as many shifts as the majority, the output of these collieries would be increased by 4 per cent., and if these collieries represented the whole country, that 4 per cent. would mean an additional 5,000,000 tons for the rest of this coal year.

In dealing with the question of absenteeism, a step of great importance has been taken in that absenteeism is removed from the jurisdiction of pit production committees. Of equal importance has been the alteration in the Essential Work Order to bring the coalmining industry into line with other industries by making absenteeism a direct offence under Defence Regulations. This Amendment became operative on 17th September. The policy laid down in the White Paper has been carried out, and investigation officers have been appointed in the regions. I have been in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour with a view to simplifying the machinery for dealing with absenteeism. I am satisfied that the alteration of the procedure will reduce delay in dealing with these cases and give the results which the whole industry desires. It is too early to estimate the effect of the steps which have been taken, but the reports which reach us indicate that there has already been an improvement in this very important matter. During September also there was a very welcome improvement in output, and I am glad to inform the House that the output last week was 4,137,000 tons, the highest figure, with one exception, since December of last year. The total represents an output per man of 5.82 tons, a figure which had not been reached since last March.

A satisfactory feature is that eleven of the districts have reached their standard tonnage. Last week it was only seven, and I hope very much that we shall be able to start a second eleven next week. The House, I am sure, would like to know that I intend to publish in future, on a fixed day each month, the total output figures for the whole country during the preceding month, with a statement showing the percentage of the standard tonnage reached in each district. This will enable the House and the country to follow the trend of production and to know how far each district has gone towards achieving its tonnage.

To sum up, I am satisfied that if everybody concerned puts his back into it, we shall wipe out our deficit of 11,000,000 tons. With what we can expect to get from domestic and industrial consumption I think it can be achieved without hardship or difficulty. The indications which I have seen this month show that by a concentration of output on the part of those who have not so far been doing their share we shall be able to bridge this gap. I am perfectly satisfied about that.