20 MARCH 1942, Page 2

To Increase Coal Production

In a debate last Tuesday the House of Commons showed itself keenly alive to the gravity of the situation in the coal- mining industry. Up to the present the mines have contrived to meet the needs of industry and private consumers, but unless something is done during the coming summer we shall not have supplies adequate for the increased requirements of next winter. Reduced domestic consumption will help, but that is not enough. There are three other possible means of improving the situation, and the position is so serious that all of them should be adopted. One is to improve the internal organisation of the industry. Large-scale reorganisation is out of the question in war-time, but with the help of technicians and the goodwill of the trade unions measures can be taken to increase production. These the Government are exploring. The second need is to reduce wilful absenteeism, which, if it could be entirely ended, would solve the whole problem. But it is only fair to the miners to remember that in some cases absenteeism is due not to slackness but to strain, and that fatigue tells far more upon the older men, who are now the preponderant element among mine- workers, than upon younger men. That brings us to the third point. Some 70,000 of the youngest and most efficient miners have been withdrawn into other industries and the Services. The situation has reached a degree of seriousness when it is really outrageous that the Army should refuse to release any of the men who are indispensable to the mines and therefore indis- pensable for the production of munitions. On this point there was singular unanimity in the House of Commons.