HC Deb 12 February 1872 vol 209 cc232-50

, in moving for leave to bring in a Bill to consolidate and amend the Acts relating to the regulation of Mines, said, he regretted the delay of a measure so important as the one under notice, which had been in the possession of the House for two successive Sessions, and might have been proceeded with, had it not been the will and pleasure of the House to devote its attention to questions of greater political importance; at the same time, he hoped that the delay would be compensated for by the improved provisions of the Bill tending to secure the lives of the persons coming under them. For the last five years, from the date of the Report of the Select Committee on Mines, and the subject of accidents occurring in them, Parliament had been engaged, under two different Administrations, on great political subjects; it was to be hoped that they were now entering upon a cycle of questions of social importance of a narrower but of very great interest. The present Bill he thought an instalment in that direction. It would be unnecessary, and, indeed, unpardonable in him, who had twice had the task of introducing this measure to the notice of the House, to recapitulate provisions which were well understood by every hon. Member who took an interest in the question. He would, therefore, content himself at present by bringing under the notice of the House those changes in the Bill which he thought it his duty to propose. The end of last Session left the Notice Book very full of Amendments suggested by hon. Members of great knowledge and experience in the art and processes of mining. Since that time also, the workmen, who were specially concerned in the matter, had held frequent meetings, at which they had discussed the Bill as it had been laid before the House, and other measures which they held to be conducive to their own safety and advantage. He had given the most careful attention to all that been suggested, and had embodied in the present Bill all the improvements of which he believed the subject susceptible. Its scope was somewhat larger than that of the former measure, including as it did not only coal and ironstone mines, but also stratified iron mines, shale mines, and, at the express recommendation of the Inspectors, mines of fire-clay. With respect to the employment of boys, he left the Bill in the same position as that of last year, with the single exception that he proposed to apply, as far as possible, to mines the principle of the provisions of the Factory Acts. Last year he proposed that boys of 10 years of age should be employed on the half-time principle, or that they should be allowed to work only a limited number of days in the week; but he thought it better now to introduce a more elastic system, and offer the alternative of six half-day's work, where it could be usefully adopted. With respect to children under 13 years, the day's work was reduced from 12 hours in the last Bill to 10 hours in the present. With regard to education, the provisions of the former Bill remained practically unaltered. Many questions had been raised on the subject of the payment of wages; but while retaining some provisions with reference to the payment of weekly wages and of deductions, he thought it better that the many incidental questions which had been raised upon the subject should be dealt with in a Bill which would be shortly introduced by the Government for the amendment of the Truck Act. There were was one important alteration which he had made, not without great hesitation, but the united voices of the workmen were in favour of the change. Hon. Members who had sat with him on the Select Committee would recollect how strongly it was urged by the workmen who lived in districts where the coal was measured, instead of being weighed, that there should be one uniform system. There was much, no doubt, to recommend the proposed alteration; but the objection to it was, that in some places it would involve great expense and many difficulties in carrying it out. In Lord Ellesmere's mines, for example, it was shown that if the system were changed, it could only be done at an amount of expense which it would be hardly fair to impose. The Bill, therefore, proposed generally that weighing should be adopted; but wherever special inconvenience and exceptional expense would be involved in the substitution of the new system, the Secretary of State, on the report of the Inspector, might allow an exception to be made. He had also adopted the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Lancaster), that there should be one uniform ton, and he had decided that in every colliery the standard should be the imperial ton; and he did so in the belief that it would tend to do away with many inducements to fraud which prevailed under the existing system. The next point was with respect to double shafts. Of course, wherever coal was worked two shafts were sunk; but the question was, what constituted the communication between them? The communication kept up between the shafts was, in many cases, very nearly illusory. It was now proposed that this communication should be at least 4 feet wide and 3 feet high. He now came to a point to which he attached very great importance—the provisions of the Bill relating to accidents. Every year the average of deaths in the year amounted to 1,000, besides casualties of more or less gravity, which were four or five times that number. Any hon. Member who had carefully scrutinized those accidents, the prevalence of which they all deplored, would see that they arose for the most part, not, as was commonly supposed, from explosions, which depended more on the system of ventilation adopted, and, therefore, upon the action of the manager and his agent, but from other causes, which were more under the control of the men themselves, and that these accidents arose in great part from the absence of proper discipline. He saw the other day stated in a newspaper, that it was notorious that the most fatal accidents were caused by explosions arising from insufficient ventilation, which was entirely owing to the ignorance of the managers. Such a statement was not only a falsification of fact, but was calculated injuriously to mislead, as it might distract the attention of persons occupied on the question from the real point on which the law might receive amendment. These explosions led, no doubt, to very fatal consequences, but the average of deaths produced in that way was only about one-fourth of the whole that occurred in collieries. In 1870 the number of deaths from all causes was 991, and of these only 185 were due to the effect of explosions. While the general average was somewhat about 22 per cent, in some years deaths from this cause did not exceed 10 per cent, while in one year, an exceptional one however, the deaths rose as high as 43 per cent. The greater proportion of accidents in mines, however, was owing to the want of a vigorous discipline throughout the works. Last year there were 411 deaths, besides innumerable accidents of a very grave character, arising from the falling in of the coal and masses of stone in the process of working. It might be said that the only protection from those accidents must be found in the care and discretion of the colliers themselves; but that was not so, for if the colliery were properly overlooked by those who had the management of it, the colliers would be forced to take precautions for their own preservation. It was the opinion of the Inspectors, moreover, that if a greater degree of responsibility were thrown on those who had the management of the collieries, a great saving of life would be effected. He would ask hon. Members to reflect what was the ground for the interference of Parliament with the question. As a general fact Parliament was very loth to interfere with the mode in which any trader conducted his business; but when there was a business which necessarily involved great danger from loss of life, then Parliament thought proper—and he thought it was justified in so doing—to step in and see that proper precautions were adopted. He did not believe that even if the utmost care was taken by the best and most liberal owners, the most skilful managers, and the most careful workmen, accidents could be entirely prevented. At the same time, he held that there was a certain amount of life capable of being saved, and Parliament would think it its duty to provide that the operations of mining should be conducted with as many precautions and as much security as the nature of the occupation permitted. It was well, therefore, that certain general rules should be laid down, and that owners and agents should be held responsible for seeing that these rules were carried out. He would propose in the Bill that in every colliery a manager should be appointed by the owner—of course, if so desirous, the owner might appoint himself—whose name must be registered. At present any breach of duty of which a manager might be guilty was punished by a fine of a very small amount, which was almost invariably paid by the master. Neglect of duty by a manager, which led to any accident short of death, was not punishable by law at all. Many managers had been found guilty of manslaughter by coroners' inquests, but almost invariably the Bills had been thrown out by the grand jury, and he doubted, however gross and patent the negligence, whether in such a case there was a single instance in which a true bill for manslaughter had been returned. The law, therefore, provided very little security for life as far as the manager was concerned; and yet of all the officers connected with the colliery, he was the most important. Now, what steps would be taken to secure a more careful discharge of duty, so that the responsibility might be real instead of nugatory, as experience had shown it to be? He proposed, as he had stated, that every owner of a colliery should name a manager, who should be registered, and by that means vested with real responsibility; and, further, that every manager who had not entered upon his duties before the passing of the Act should be subjected to examination. He did not propose that the present managers should be examined, but that all those were acting as managers before the 1st of January, 1872, and up to the passing of this Act, or who had so acted at any time within five years for not less than a twelvemonth, should be obliged to take out a certificate. The examination of future managers would be locally conducted, and would be of a strictly practical character. But though he did not propose that the present managers of collieries should have to undergo examination; yet, in the event of any charge being brought against them of incompetency, drunkenness, or gross negligence, they would be liable to lose their certificates altagether, or for a limited time. If charges of a serious nature were brought against a manager, it might be in the power of the Secretary of State, as in the case of the misconduct of the captain of a vessel or a railway official it was in the power of the President of the Board of Trade, to order an inquiry to be conducted by competent persons. The Bill provided that an inquiry might be conducted by competent persons, such as a stipendiary magistrate, a county Court Judge, or a barrister named by the Secretary of State; and the Court might decide that, in consequence of misconduct, the manager might be deprived of his certificate altogether, or suspended for a limited time. [Mr. LIDDELL asked if the Bill constituted an examining Board.] The examining Board would be constituted by the Secretary of State. It would be a Local Board, composed generally of an Inspector and some person practically acquainted with the mining of the district, and especially with the duties expected from a manager. It seemed to him that colliers had the same right to protection as travellers by railway or by ships. He now came to the general rules, which he would submit to the acceptance of the House. The first of these was with respect to the roofs and sidings of the roadways and working places. He proposed, for the first time, that the obligation should be thrown on the owner, agent, and manager, that the working places should be kept in proper condition. He was aware that there was a great variety of opinion on this subject; but he knew himself that in some places the owners did take care that the workings were kept in a proper state of stability, and wherever the owners had taken the matter into their own hands there had been a reduction in the loss of life and the number of accidents. He was therefore of opinion that a great step would be taken towards the saving of life, if this responsibility were thrown on the owners, for what was good for one part of the country in that respect, must be equally good for the others. Another rule, introduced for the first time, involved restrictions in the use of gunpowder. There was no cause of late years which had led to more explosions of gas than the misuse of gunpowder; in fact, a very large proportion of deaths was due to the rash use of gunpowder by incompetent persons. The use of gunpowder facilitated the working of coal; but, on the other hand, it presented the coal in a very shattered and inferior condition. It was not, however, for mercantile or economical reasons, but with a view to the safety of life, that he proposed in the first place that no powder should be used, except in cartridges; and that none should be used, even in cartridges, in mines in which, under the special or general rules, the use of the safety-lamp was proscribed. It might be used in those mines for blasting rocks, but not unless under the direction of competent persons. Another general rule, embodying the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Ayrshire (Sir David Wedderburn) required the ventilation of the mine to be inspected every day before the work began, and in every well-managed colliery that was now done. Another general rule which he would propose was based upon a suggestion of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), and would provide for the inspection of every part of the colliery, as well as of the ventilation, once in every 24 hours. Another duty of the manager would be to see that, in case of apprehended danger, the men whose safety was imperilled should be at once warned and withdrawn from the mine. It was further provided that the persons employed in a mine, might, from time to time, or once a month, at their own cost, employ two of their number to inspect the mine, accompanied by any one the manager might choose to name, and that they should be empowered to examine every portion of the works, and satisfy themselves that these works were in a safe condition. A practice similar to this was already in force in the best conducted mines in his own neighbourhood; indeed, the men who undertook the inspection were paid for it by the masters; and, if they detected any source of danger in the workings, instead of being blamed they were rewarded by a payment of money. All that the Bill said was, that the inspection should be made if the men thought it desirable. He had also adopted another suggestion of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire, that there should always be some one in attendance at the shaft to raise up those who were in the mine, because accidents had happened in mines when there had been no one at the pit-head, and those who were in the mine were thus exposed to danger from which they might have been more promptly rescued; at the same time, there was a provision for the more efficient covering of the men, when ascending or descending the shaft. He was afraid the next proposal he would name would excite opposition, in spite of all he could say for it. When he introduced the Bill at first, in 1870, he adopted the recommendation of the Select Committee that in the general rule requiring owners, managers, and agents to provide such ventilation as would render the mines safe, the words "under ordinary circumstances" should be omitted. It was objected on the part of the employers that the omission of the words would place them in a different position from any of their fellow-subjects, and would put it upon them to prove a negative which, it was said, was incapable of proof. That was the reason why the words were inserted. But, in fact, all rules alike were capable of being enforced only "under ordinary circumstances." For instance, it was required that an abandoned part of a mine should be securely fenced off. Suppose, on an owner or an agent being summoned, it was shown that the fence was not secure, but had been broken, it would always be open to them to show that the defect was owing to no fault of theirs, that there had been a sudden fall of rock, or that the fence had been interfered with by a mischievous person. It was said that the case was different when an explosion occurred, because an explosion was so violent in its character, and shattered everything so completely, that all evidence of the cause of an accident often disappeared, and it became impossible to say whether at the time of the explosion the ventilation was or was not sufficient for the mine "under ordinary circumstances." In his opinion, this view of the case was untenable. It would be open to the employer in this case, as in others, to say that the ordinary state of his mine was a state of sufficient ventilation, and, when he had shown that, it would be deemed a sufficient defence. He would not be driven, as had been asserted by many coal-owners, to prove what were the causes of the accident. If he could show that the general supply of ventilation was sufficient, then no court would convict him, and it would be assumed, as a matter of course, that the accident must have been due to some temporary derangement of the workings over which the master had no control. They knew that all collieries were subject to these temporary derangements, which were not under the control of the master; and he had the best legal authority for saying that in these cases all the masters would have to do would be to show that the general ventilation of the colliery at the time of the accident was in a satisfactory condition. That being the case, it seemed to him to be important that the words "under ordinary circumstances" should be removed, because they imposed on the prosecutor the duty of showing that "ordinary circumstances" existed at the time of the explosion. From the occurrence of an explosion it ought to be assumed that there was deficient ventilation, and then it was for the owner to prove that he had taken all reasonable means to secure sufficient ventilation. There were probably as many fatalities upon roadways in collieries as there were from explosions; and in the opinion of the Inspectors, the precautions hitherto taken to prevent accidents on these roadways were insufficient, such accidents often arising from attempts to cross from one side of the roadway to the other, in order to reach a man-hole, the man-holes being not always on the same side of a tramway: the Bill, therefore, proposed that in future all manholes should be on one side of the roadway only where the trucks are moved by an engine. Another general rule would require guides and signals in every shaft more than 20 yards in depth. He might add that it was the opinion of the Inspectors that, when the Bill passed, new special rules should be issued at all collieries; and the Bill provided for this. The inspection of mines, again, was a matter of great interest, and one which the House must be prepared to deal with. Originally but one Inspector was appointed. In 1855, when the number of mines had considerably increased, the number of Inspectors was raised to six, and there were now 12. Even that number was utterly insufficient to inspect the collieries as the factories were now inspected; but it never was the intention of Parliament that they should be so inspected. Colliery Inspectors were intended to be consulted in cases of danger, to proceed to pits which were reported to be ill-conducted, and to attend the investigations that followed accidents, and to secure generally the observance of rules that were imposed; but it was obvious it never was intended that the state of every mine should be minutely examined by an Inspector. Whether the number of Inspectors was sufficient or not was a fair question for argument, even adopting the theory upon which inspection had hitherto proceeded; but many colliers asked for such an extension of inspection that every mine would be thoroughly examined and reported upon once a quarter, and that there should be a Minister of Mines to attend to these reports, and generally to control the mines of the country. It was utterly impossible to adopt that suggestion, unless the Government were to take upon them the responsibility for the management of the mines; and such a proposition was not only opposed to the policy of Parliament, but was really opposed to the interests of the men themselves. What was wanted was constant, vigilant, daily, and almost hourly inspection by the persons most interested in the safety of a mine—that was, the men, the agents, and the masters, to whom an accident brought loss or ruin. The Bill, however, did make some provision for the enforcement of such inspection. It created in the manager a new and responsible officer; it made his future career dependent entirely upon vigilance and continued attention; it enabled the workmen to appoint men to examine the state of the works. Such self-acting machinery was infinitely preferable to any other machinery. Suppose there were, as proposed, quarterly inspection by Inspectors, between one inspection and another causes of danger might be multiplied. Accumulations of gas, and similar dangerous circumstances arose in far less time than three months, and the safety of a colliery depended, not upon examination once a quarter, but upon daily and hourly examination by responsible persons; and such examination this Bill proposed to give. With all deference to those who proposed to carry inspection further—who were entitled to be listened to, and who were right in proposing the adoption of that which they thought most conducive to safety—he honestly believed that in this respect they were mistaken, and that the course recommended by the Government would be more advantageous to the men than the inspection which they asked for. He would not, at present, state what extension of official inspection the Government were prepared to propose; but they were prepared to make the number of Inspectors more proportionate to the number of collieries; but he must say that they were altogether opposed to transferring the responsibility of the colliery owners and managers to the State. It was unnecessary to go into other portions of the Bill, which, in points of detail, would be found more complete than former Bills; and, with these explanations, he would conclude by asking leave to introduce it.


said, that he had listened to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman with great attention, and he was bound to acknowledge that he appeared to have taken very great pains with the Bill. At the same time, everyone must admit that a vast deal of new matter had been introduced into the measure, and, indeed, matter which had not been before Parliament before. With respect to that portion of the Bill, he must reserve to himself due time for consideration before he would attempt to make any observations upon it. At the same time, there were two main features in respect to which he would make some remarks—namely, with reference to two great causes which seemed to constitute the main evils from which arose the enormous loss of life that occurred in mines, and which the right hon. Gentleman had alluded to—the accidents on the roads, and the loss of life resulting from the use of gunpowder. He was very much afraid that the remedy suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, that wherever it was possible the use of gunpowder should be entirely prohibited, would not operate beneficially. In point of fact, he apprehended, in many cases, such a provision would be extremely mischievous. It had been laid down as a principle that gunpowder should never be used where the safety lamp was in use, and he was very much afraid that the operation of such a provision would be that the men would use naked lights in order to enable them to have the use of gunpowder, and thus the very provision preventing the use of gunpowder in parts of the mine where the safety lamp was now in use would have the effect of causing accidents. He would press that point earnestly on the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. He had been connected with the management of mines for upwards of 30 years, and he had invariably directed that in every colliery where there was the slightest chance of explosion from the accumulation of gas the men should never neglect the precaution of using the safety lamp. He believed, therefore, that this very provision, preventing the use of gunpowder, would actually increase the danger. He spoke with great confidence on the point, and he believed that his view would be endorsed by every practical miner in the country. He quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that the indiscriminate use of gunpowder was a serious evil, and caused the loss of a great many more lives than was supposed, and he had often been called in to accidents where it appeared to him that the use of the naked light had been adopted for the sake of economy. He believed that in process of time some improvement would be hit upon which would obviate the indiscriminate use of gunpowder, and the consequence would be that there would not be nearly so many explosions. But, however that might be, he had, from long experience, come to the conclusion that there would be no safety from accidents so long as naked lights were used. Whether gunpowder were used or not, they would always be a source of danger. Then he came to the second point: the number of accidents which took place on the roads. In speaking of the use of timber, the right hon. Gentleman had said that the great bulk of the accidents arose from it. Now, in the North of England they had practised persons who placed the timber, and afterwards carefully removed it; but in other parts, and especially in Wales, every workman put in his own timber, very often in an unskilful and unworkmanlike manner, and what he said was, that if proper means were taken to place and take away the timber, much greater safety would ensue. He would not occupy the House with respect to minor questions, such as weight, and so on; but he must say that in the North of England the weights and measures had been found to be uniformly just. He quite admitted that at present there was some inconvenience in respect to the tribunals which existed, but there would be much greater in those to which the right hon. Gentleman proposed that owners and managers should submit. There could be no question that if the men were to be permitted to inspect the mines, there must be some guarantee with respect to their fitness, ability, and character. That, however, was a matter of detail which might be arranged; and it was perfectly true that occasionally the most useful men in the mines were illiterate, and the manager of one of the mines in the Aberdare district had told him that some of the best of his men were those who could neither read nor write. He thought that the examination of the mine by the men themselves could do little harm, and might be productive of good. There was, however, one provision which would be extremely objectionable, and that was, that the men might appoint two or more among themselves, if desirous of so doing, for inspecting the mine. They must be very careful how they interfered in the discipline of the mines. They must remember that often they had to direct 500 or 600 men and boys who were out of sight and control, and if men were placed in such a position that they had to decide questions of price, there would be considerable danger. He did not wish to say a hard word of anyone; but it very often happened that collieries were endangered through the operations of the men. While there might be some things in the Bill which would need alteration, still they would be modified in Committee in a manner that would be acceptable to the country.


, while admitting that there was much in the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department in which he fully concurred, protested against the attempt made by the right hon. Gentleman to throw on the House the responsibility of the measure not having passed last Session. Many hon. Members, in common with himself, for the last two or three Sessions, had been most anxious that such a Bill should have been proceeded with, and, after all that had passed, he thought it rather unfair that it should be thrown in their teeth that the House was responsible for the delay which had occurred. The right hon. Gentleman had been urged by public appeals, in private interviews, and in every possible way, to proceed with the Bill, or to withdraw it and have it introduced in the House of Lords; but he was unwilling to take that course, hoping still to be able to go on with it. He was glad, however, to hear from the right hon. Gentleman an admission that if last Session had been taken up with sensational measures, the Government were now determined to press forward practical and useful measures—they were to have a cycle of measures of social reform, to use the words of the right hon. Gentleman. No one would rejoice at that more than he did. He must say that the provisions of this Bill showed that the right hon. Gentleman had given his mind to the subject in as practical a manner as possible. He was glad to find that the right hon. Gentleman intended to commence the cycle with so practicable a measure, and though the Bill might be open to improvement in some particulars, still there was much in it which would meet with universal acceptance and give great satisfaction. One of the improvements made, as to which there could be no dispute, was in regard to measure versus gauge; and it was also, he thought, most important that, with regard to weight, imperial measures should be established as the standard. With regard to managers of coal pits, he was glad to find the right hon. Gentleman had adopted the suggestion of the hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh. He believed as much good would arise from their examination as from the examination of captains on board ships. He entirely approved the provisions of the Bill with regard to ventilation. In lieu of a force of Inspectors to guarantee the personal inspection of the mines—on which the miners had strongly insisted in Committee—the proposition had been accepted that there should be a sort of record kept open to the Inspectors of the daily state of the mines, and he had put an Amendment on the Paper to that effect. He was glad that the right hon. Gentleman had omitted the words which used to be in former Bills, "under ordinary circumstances." Other words, which he did not exactly recollect, had been agreed upon by the representatives of the mine owners and of the miners; and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would think it advisable to introduce these words in the Bill. He did not exactly gather from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman what number of hours a boy might be made to work per week.


If he worked throe days a-week, the hours would be 10 hours a-day; if six days a-week, he would work six hours a-day, or 36 hours a-week.


presumed there would be provisions in the Bill relating to education.


Yes; up to a certain age.


said, he apprehended, with regard to the question of penalties, that the manager would be the person who was responsible, and a question had been raised as to the equality of the penalties between the mine owner and the miner—that they should both be liable to the same description of penalty. It would be manifestly unfair that the owner of a mine who might be in Rome should be held responsible for an accident in his mine in England. The person held responsible should be the responsible manager, named by the owner, and that was a provision which he should like to see introduced into the Bill.


said, he wished to take the earliest opportunity of expressing his satisfaction that the Government had lost no time in producing this most important measure, in view of the state of public feeling on this question, and he knew from a telegram which he had received that afternoon that the large body of the coal owners in the North of England shared in that satisfaction. With regard to that public feeling he only wished that, in treating this very difficult, intricate, and technical matter, the amount of public knowledge was equal to the amount of public feeling on the subject. As representing a most important mining district, he knew the great difficulties of the question, and he could assure the Government every assistance that could be fairly expected would be given with a view to make the measure as perfect as possible. The coal owners of the North of England were not only willing, but anxious to assist in passing a reasonable measure; but, as there was a considerable amount of new and important matter in the Bill—while there was no wish for delay—it was necessary that the new matter should be carefully sifted, and therefore he hoped reasonable time would be given for considering it. He was glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department intended to travel in the old road of inspection, and that he had banished the wild idea of interfering with the responsibility of owners to the extent of appointing sub-Inspectors, which really meant inferior men. So long as the selection of Inspectors rested on the responsibility of the Government the greatest pains would be taken to select the best and most competent men, but the number of Inspectors was simply a question of pounds, shillings, and pence. There was nothing in the existing law to prevent any additions to the present staff that might be necessary, if only the Treasury would sanction such increase. One matter which would require careful attention was the new proposal about examining managers. It was quite clear that the responsibility of selecting managers ought to rest on the owners of the mine, and he was not prepared to say that the responsibility should be diminished, but at all events the mine owners should have a voice in the composition of the examining Boards.


said, he was unwilling that all the approbation of this Bill should come from the other side of the House, and he must therefore thank his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department for the great care with which he had considered this measure. It was rarely the case that delay produced such improvements as justified the temporary neglect of the evils to be remedied, but in this case it had. He might mention one or two points of improvement. There was the sharpness with which responsibility attached to the owners and managers of mines, and the definite responsibility of the registered manager. He was glad that the Home Secretary did not intend largely to increase inspectors, for had he done so he would have diminished the responsibility which he now sought to create. He was very glad that his right hon. Friend had seen his way to adopt the suggestion he had made two years ago with regard to the certificates of managers. Objections were made to the certificates of merchant captains, but their examination had been found most beneficial, and led to a great saving of life and property, and he had no doubt a similar result would follow in this case. He approved of omitting the words "under ordinary circumstances." They were dangerous words, which might lead to great neglect of duty on the part of managers. For example, it was well known that explosive gases came more freely out of coal in a low state of the barometer, and, in such a case, increased ventilation was necessary. Would, however, a sudden fall of the barometer be characterized as an extraordinary circumstance? A manager of a mine, like a ship captain, was of no use unless he could adapt his management to circumstances which cease to be "ordinary." In short, so far as they had the Bill before them, it was a great improvement on the measure of last year, and likely to contribute largely to the safety of life and property.


said, he wished to know when the Bill would be in the hands of hon. Gentlemen, and whether its provisions would recognize the difference between the Durham and Yorkshire seams of coal? Provisions which would suit the thick seams of Durham would not be quite so well adapted for the thin seams of Yorkshire.


hoped that the responsibility of the mine owner would not be diminished in any way. No doubt there were some owners who would spare no expense to secure safety, but there were others whose responsibility rested on them so lightly that to save themselves from a small and necessary outlay they would expose the lives of a couple of hundred men to imminent peril. He was in a pit some time ago where an underground manager was employed at a salary of 25s. per week. Of course such a man was without the technical knowledge necessary for the right discharge of his duties, and was employed to save a more expensive man, and the result was that there was an explosion afterwards in the pit, and nearly 200 men, most of them the fathers of families, lost their lives. How was such a case to be met? He quite admitted it would require a large staff of surveyors to go into every pit, but a number of sub-surveyors might be appointed under their control, and when an application was made by a given number of men employed in any particular mine, it should be the duty of the district surveyor to make an inspection of the mine. He hoped a power would be reserved to the miners to apply to the Government Inspector to have their mine surveyed whenever they believed it to be in a dangerous condition.


, with reference to the case last put by his hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll), said, it would certainly be the duty of the district Inspector, on the representation that a particular mine was in a dangerous condition, to visit it and ascertain whether the representation was correct or otherwise. If he did not, he would be guilty of a neglect of duty. "With regard to the question put by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) he hoped the Bill would be in the hands of hon. Gentlemen in a few days, and it would then be found that children employed between the ages of 10 and 13 years could only be employed on the half-time system. One observation he would make in reply to his noble Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho). He seemed to think it very hard that the owner of a mine should be held responsible for accidents, because he might be at a distance. He could see no difference whether the owner were at home or at a distance; but if it came out with reference to a special case on investigation that preventive measures were pressed on the owner over and over again without success, he and not the manager should be held responsible.

Motion agreed to. Bill to consolidate and amend the Acts relating to the regulation of Mines, ordered to be brought in by Mr. Secretary BRUCE and Mr. WINTER-BOTHAM.

Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 29.]