Coal Industry (Manpower)

Oral Answers to Questions — Employment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25 October 1949.

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Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames 12:00, 25 October 1949

asked the Minister of Labour what action he is taking to check the decline in manpower in the coal industry.

Photo of Mr George Isaacs Mr George Isaacs , Southwark North

The decline in manpower in the coal industry is due to increased wastage rather than to a decrease in recruitment. My Department is continuing to do everything in its power both to encourage recruitment to the industry and to prevent the loss of workers who can make a useful contribution to coal production.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

Is it not a fact that none of the target figures in the last three Economic Surveys that proposed an increase in this industry's manpower has been reached, and that a decrease has now set in? Does that not arouse in the right hon. Gentleman's mind the possibility that his system of a ring fence round this industry is thoroughly unsound?

Photo of Mr George Isaacs Mr George Isaacs , Southwark North

No, Sir, I think it rather proves the contrary. [Laughter.] I will amend that. I am sure it rather proves the contrary. So far as wastage is concerned—"wastage" is not a good word—it is due to men leaving the industry, but there is not the need for the number that was anticipated because of the increasing use of mechanical devices, which are taking the places of men.

Photo of Mr Charles Byers Mr Charles Byers , Dorset Northern

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that the Control of Engagement Order, therefore, is now a permanent part of Socialist policy?

Photo of Mr George Isaacs Mr George Isaacs , Southwark North

It does not mean anything of the sort.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in Scotland the question of manpower in the mines is closely related to the question of housing in the mining areas? Will he look into the whole question of the shortage of building labour in Scotland to make sure that the people who work at the mines have somewhere to live?

Photo of Sir John Langford-Holt Sir John Langford-Holt , Shrewsbury

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that this ring fence round the industry is not, in his opinion, deterring men in any circumstances from entering the industry?

Photo of Mr George Isaacs Mr George Isaacs , Southwark North

I said I am quite sure in my own mind that it is having no deterrent effect in the industry.

Photo of Mr Ernest Fernyhough Mr Ernest Fernyhough , Jarrow

Will my hon. Friend assure the House that if any young Tory Members want to work in the mines they will find no obstacles in their way?

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

Does the supplementary answer to my supplementary question indicate that the right hon. Gentleman is dissatisfied with this decline in the manpower of this industry, and if it does not, can he tell the House what steps he is taking to arrest it?

Photo of Mr George Isaacs Mr George Isaacs , Southwark North

The hon. Member must not put a question which can be answered both ways at once. The answer which I have given is that we do not consider the declining manpower to be so serious in view of its relation to the increase in mechanisation.