The Miners' Welfare Fund was set up under the provisions of the Mining Industry Act 1920 s.20. It was to be used for purposes approved by the Board of Trade and administered by a Miners' Welfare Committee in the interests of "the social well-being, recreation and conditions of living of workers in or about coalmines". The committee was appointed by the Board of Trade in January 1921. It included representatives of the Mining Association of Great Britain and the Miners' Federation and, after 1926, of persons liable to pay coal royalties (mineral rights duty), together with non-voting assessors from the Board of Education, the Ministry of Health and the Scottish Office.
The fund was raised from a levy, initially a levy of ld per ton of coal produced, and after 1926 a levy of five per cent of coal royalties. Between 1920 and 1951 more than £30 million was spent. It was used for various purposes: pithead baths, clubs, institutes and recreation grounds; colliery canteens; non-mining education, including university scholarships; health, including rehabilitation centres for injured miners; and research, mainly into safety in mines. The committee worked through district committees and in close co-operation with the Mines Department of the Board of Trade, which from 1925 housed an advisory technical staff financed by the committee.
Under the Mining Industry (Welfare Fund) Act 1939, the committee was replaced by an incorporated commission vested with all the committee's powers and empowered to hold and convey property.
The Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946 left the commission in being, but the statutory duties of the National Coal Board to make arrangement for the welfare of its employees overlapped with those of the commission.
The commission was, therefore, empowered to act as the board's agent in the provision of colliery welfare services, and the National Miners' Welfare Joint Council was established, consisting of all commission members and two representatives of the board. An executive organisation served both sides, but was housed, staffed and administered by the board. The district welfare committees of the commission were replaced by more broadly representative joint welfare committees, which co-operated with the board's own consultative councils at divisional and area level.
The commission was abolished under the Miners' Welfare Act 1952. Its welfare functions were divided; colliery welfare, covering pithead baths and canteens passed to the National Coal Board, and social welfare to the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation.