Orders of the Day — Economic Position

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th July 1952.

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Photo of Mr David Griffiths Mr David Griffiths , Rother Valley 12:00 am, 30th July 1952

No, I do not accept that. It is true that the policy of those days was to work the good, healthy, rich seams. Now, we are having to work decadent pits and much more difficult seams. Before the war, therefore, everything was in favour of greater output and the comparison is a very unfair one. Manpower, however, is a difficult problem and I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will use his endeavours to enable us to get the 20,000 men of whom the industry is short.

The output has increased, and it has increased considerably, much more since nationalisation than could ever have been anticipated. I recall that in my maiden speech, before vesting day, I told the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Minister of Fuel and Power, together with hon. Members on my own side of the House, that it would be a physical impossibility to achieve any material increase of tonnage within five years. But what have our men and boys done? They have increased output by 30 million tons, with very little additional manpower, and not because of the advantage of machinery.

There is one important factor that is not acknowledged, even by some of my hon. Friends, let alone Members on the Government side. In the last three months of 1951, the reason for the increased output—much more than could have been anticipated or hoped for—was that in October 13.4 per cent. was overtime. If the miners had worked only their normal shifts, the output would have been much worse. In November, the figure was 13.9 per cent. In December when they are getting ready for Christmas and New Year, and which we call "bull weeks," it was 17 per cent. In January it was 13.6 per cent., and in February, 13.7 per cent.

It is a physical impossibility to maintain that. These men and boys cannot continue working overtime at the speed at which they are now working and are expected to work. We have to supplement by more manpower and better machinery and we have to give all power to the elbow of the National Coal Board.

In passing, I may remark that this afternoon I heard the noble Lord making his maiden speech in another place, and a very good contribution I thought it. He eulogised the efforts of the miners since he became Chairman of the Coal Board, but he has invariably had nothing but slander from hon. and right hon. Members on the Government benches. If we are to survive we have to export more coal. We are as anxious to get that coal as is any hon. or right hon. Member opposite. Anything we can do to revive, increase and stimulate that effort we shall be only too willing to do, whether as trade union leaders or politicians. That is our ambition in life and always has been. I am satisfied it always will be, particularly so far as I am concerned. I want the well-being, not only of the miners, but of the nation and all the working class of the world.

Coal was mentioned by the Chancellor as the primary need for the benefit and well-being of the State. It is very 'readily said that a lot of our men are making £12, £14, £16 and £20 a week, but much of it is due to overtime. There are a very small minority getting such large wages. What about the by-workmen and surfacemen getting £7 0s. 6d. and £6 1s. 6d. per week, gross'? There is a large percentage and if we put it in the region of 70 per cent. we would not be far wrong.