28 MAY 1954, Page 4

Sir Hubert Houldsworth did his best to put a good

face on it, but there was no disguising the fact that the National Coal Board's report for 1953 was disappointing, to say the least. Fro" duction dropped, for the first time since 1947. The hourlY output of workers at the face dropped. Only in absenteeisn't was there a notable increase. The report says that the Board had hoped that some of the output that would be lost through extra holidays would be regained by better attendance at other times of the year. But the Board was disappointed, and in the first part of the year attendance was in fact lower than in most years since the war. The nationalised coal industry is coming badly out of its trial and the chief responsibility lies with the man at the face. Last January a wage increase was negotiated for day wage men on the understanding that production would be increased by two and a half per cent. (five million tons) this year. So far there has been no sign at all of an increase. More and more money and concessions for the same amount Of work '(or less) seems to be the principle operating in the Pits. Until this is put aside the Board will be ,fighting a losing battle. Its programme of capital expenditure is getting ahead at last and the list of technical improvements and innovations Is impressive—but all this, together with the various schemes for the social welfare of miners, will count for little if the man in the pit persists in his present attitude. The past eight years have seen the miners become the highest paid group in industry. They have been flattered and cajoled and given one concession after another. Society has paid its debt to them ad they ought now to start paying their debt to society—or at least to ask themselves whether they really want to drag their nationalised industry into complete failure.