HC Deb 26 July 1869 vol 198 cc685-6

said, he would bog to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department a Question, of which he had given him private notice. Some two years ago a Committee was appointed to inquire into the subject of accidents in mines, and he presumed that it was in consequence of the Report of that Committee that Government this Session brought in a Bill consisting of two parts —the first intended to prevent accidents in mines; the other dealing with the question of education, and the age at which children should be admitted into the mines. A few days ago his right hon. Friend announced that he intended to drop this Bill, so that there would be no legislation on this subject. And yet it was only in the month of June last that sixty persons were killed; and only the other day any person who opened a newspaper must have been shocked to see that between fifty and sixty men were burnt, crushed, or choked to death in a mine. Now, he wished to ask his right hon. Friend, seeing that the number of accidents was so great, and it was admitted that they could be prevented by legislation, Whether it would not be possible during the present Session to pass, at least, the preventive part of the Bill; or, if that were not possible, whether it would not be within the power of the Government, even under existing Acts, to make the Inspection of Mines more complete and efficient by increasing the number of Inspectors? If this were not done then eighteen months would elapse without any legislation being possible. He also wished to ask whether any special inquiry would be instituted into the late accident, with a view to guard against similar accidents for the future?


said, in reply, that the part of the Bill to which his noble Friend referred—that relating to accidents—was by far the largest part of the measure, and that on which most Notices of Amendment had been given, so that he had no hope of passing such a Bill during the present Session. But, moreover, he must say that while he had seen with grief the accidents to which the noble Lord referred, he must remind him that it was not to any deficiency of legislation that those accidents were to be attributed. Those accidents arose from the neglect of proper ventilation, and if inspectors were to be appointed to see that the ventilation was efficient in all our mines—especially at this dangerous season of the year—an addition of 500 inspectors would be absolutely necessary. The Government had never undertaken to inspect collieries so as to put them in a state of security. What they did was to appoint inspectors to examine the mines when there was reason to suppose they were in a state of insecurity; and it was impossible that that duty could be efficiently performed unless there was regular communication between the workmen and the inspector. He regretted to say that the existing Act had failed mainly from this want of communication. Notice of the insecure state of a mine was not given to the inspector in proper time, so that an inspection might take place. He could not, therefore, give his noble Friend any hope of an increased number of inspectors to ascertain the state of all collieries. As to a special inquiry, he had to state that an inspector was always sent down to the place whore an accident happened, and if it was thought necessary that an additional inspector should be sent down in the present instance it would be done.