HC Deb 05 July 1872 vol 212 cc716-23

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clauses 1 to 4, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 5 (Employment of male young persons in mines).

On the Motion of Mr. PEASE, clause amended, by inserting at the end of Subsection 1— Provided always, That in the case of boys and young male persons whose employment is at such distance from their ordinary place of residence that they do not return there during the intervals of labour, and who do not work more than 40 hours in any week, an interval of not less than eight hours shall be allowed between each period of employment.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 6, agreed to, with Amendments.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 (Penalty for employment of persons contrary to Act).


, in moving the following Amendments:— In page 3, leave out from 'the' in line 3, to 'mine' in line 6, both inclusive, and insert 'any person contravenes or fails to comply with.' In page 5, line 10, after 'Act,' insert 'and in the event of any contravention or failure to comply with any such provision, the owner and agent shall each be guilty of an offence against this Act, unless he satisfy the Court that he had taken all reasonable means for the enforcement of such provision,' said, he proposed in this case also to follow the principle of the Factory Acts, and to make the owner primarily responsible, unless he showed that he had taken all reasonable precautions.

Amendments agreed, to; words inserted.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 9 (Payment of wages at public-houses, &c).


said, it was the intention of the Government to put this clause on the same footing as the clause in the Mines (Coal) Regulation Bill.


said, he inferred from that explanation that the right hon. Gentleman wished him (Mr. Magniac) not to propose the Amendment which he had placed on the Paper; but he saw no reason why the serious evil to which it referred should not be at once remedied in the Bill. He was, therefore, quite resolved to propose the Amendment which stood in his name, and which was in page 3, line 29, after "therewith," to insert— No deduction from wages, or money in the nature of wages, payable to any such person shall be made for the purpose of providing him with medical attendance unless a special rule shall be in force in manner provided by this Act, whereby there shall be secured to him the selection of a medical practitioner out of such a number as it may be deemed expedient to nominate, having regard to the number of persons employed in the mine, and to the locality in which it may be situated. No deduction shall be made as aforesaid as a contribution to any benefit, sick, or accident fund or club unless under a like special rule providing for the publication, in a convenient manner, of the receipts arising from such deductions, and the payments thereout. Many thousands of the miners for the last three years had watched this Bill with a view to getting a remedy for a most crying grievance. He had received scores of letters on the subject, which had been discussed in the newspapers of the country, and the unanimous opinion of the Press was that a most fearful abuse had been exposed. In 1869, when he first took up the subject, a reduction of 1s. a month was made from the miner's wages, and this money was paid to the mines' doctor for attending the miner and his family in sickness. That was an equitable arrangement in itself, and would be highly beneficial if properly carried out. But it had occurred to many managers of mines who had young relations dependent upon them, that the position of doctor to a mine was a very comfortable berth, which might be made the means of taking those young gentlemen off their hands. Accordingly, under the system of which he complained, whereby the selection of the doctor was made independent altogether of the wishes of the miners, it was quite possible that a young gentleman of 15 or 16, without any regard whatever to the bent of his mind, might be sent to walk the London hospitals, and return after a few years a youth of 20, or whatever was the minimum of age, to attend the miners and their wives and their children in cases of accidents, in cases of sickness, and even in child-birth. Doctors were allowed to live four, five, or six miles from the mine, and he was acquainted with an instance in which the doctor lived at a distance of 17 miles. That was a state of affairs which should not be tolerated. But that was not all. It had been publicly asserted at county meetings, and uncontradicted, that these mine surgeoncies had been put up to sale in the profession. For instance, A sold his charge for £200 a-year to B, who sold it again for £100 to C. In fact, a case was said to have occurred in which that had been bought for £80 or £90 a-year which in the first instance had been sold for £300. Did the right hon. Gentleman suppose that no bitter feeling would be excited in the men from such a state of things? He had heard the very strongest language used about managers, doctors, and everyone concerned on account of it. Who was responsible for this injustice it was not for him to say; but the remedy proposed was easy and effectual. Already, in consequence of the publicity arising from his Amendments, he knew of several mines in Cornwall in which the managers having had their attention called to these things for the first time, had made arrangements for placing some such power as he proposed in the hands of the miners. A hon. Member of that House, whose interest in mines was second to none, had lately made arrangements for giving the men the choice of their own doctors. He could instance a mine in which there were three doctors to attend to 600 men—of whom Dr. A attended 400, Dr. B 190, and Dr. C 10. Such a fact as that showed a desire on the part of the men to choose their own doctors; and it was a scandal that there should be any system by which the manager should be empowered to job away the lives of the men under him. He maintained that any man, or body of men such as these, ought to be able to choose any doctor they pleased within the limits of the district. It was objected that a man might choose an incompetent doctor; but why should they? He doubted very much if men would do so in any case, and certainly not as a general rule. It had been also said, that the withdrawal of the wages clause was a reason why the Amendment should not be considered. He could not conceive why that should be a reason at all. This Amendment did not legalize a deduction from wages. It had also been argued that this was minute legislation; but he should be glad to know whether it was more minute than many of the regulations with which the Bill was crammed? It might be urged that a Wages Bill was to be brought in next Session, and that the question might stand over till then; but he would like to know what dependence could be placed on a Wages Bill coming in next Session? Besides, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had stated that the Wages Bill was inapplicable to Cornwall. He, therefore, appealed to the House to support him in his Amendment. He had exposed a great abuse, and had shown that the right hon. Gentleman, by adopting the Amendment, would confer on the miners an immense boon.


said, he was sorry to say that it was from circumstances that had happened within his own personal knowledge that he could confirm a great deal of what had just been stated to the House by the hon. Member for St. Ives. He, therefore, desired to support his hon. Friend in giving to the men the power of selecting their own doctors; but regarded the latter part of the Amendment as unnecessary, and suggested the omission of the words following "the selection of a medical practitioner." If the Amendment were so limited, he should support it.


said, he could confirm every word that had been uttered by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Magniac). The greatest possible abuses existed with regard to medical attendance, some of the doctors residing at long distances from the mines, so that, if an accident occurred, there was much suffering, or even a fatal result ensued, before the surgeon could be brought to the spot. Surely, if there was to be a deduction from his wages for medical attendance, a miner should be able to choose the surgeon who was to attend to himself and his children.


said, he was opposed to this kind of legislation, but if it be deemed necessary he went a great deal further than his hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Magniac), for he objected to any deductions being made from the wages of the men for these purposes. He, however, did not think the question should be raised on the present occasion; and if the Amendment were persevered with, he should feel it his duty to propose to omit from it all the words after the word "attendance;" and it would then read— No deduction of wages or money in the nature of wages, payable to any such person, shall be made for the purpose of providing him with medical attendance.


said, that he entirely concurred with the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down in his objection to raising the question then, because deduction for medical attendance was part of a large question which ought to be treated with reference to broad principles of general application. Some of the mining population had great objections to this, in common with other deductions, and the question was whether, in common with others, it should be forbidden by law. The hon. Member for St. Ives had made a speech full of painful statements, and those statements had been confirmed by other hon. Members who had followed him; but he was mistaken in assuming that there was any legislation which gave masters power to make deductions from wages to pay a doctor appointed to attend the men. There was no such power; the men had always the power to resist such deductions, and it could be only with their consent that such deductions could be made. Although it might be right for Parliament to pass a law prohibiting deductions, even where the men were willing to consent to them, there did not now exist any legal authority on the part of the masters to control the men; the matter was purely one of arrangement between them, and discussion had led, in many cases, to the abuses complained of being remedied. Then, again, it was impossible to consider this deduction by itself; there were many others to be dealt with, and the House would be breaking faith with the colliers if, having postponed dealing with their grievances in this respect to next Session, it were to legislate upon the similar grievances of another class of miners. There was a clause in the Master and Servant (Wages) Bill which dealt with this question of deductions. It was just as applicable to Cornwall as to any other part of the country; and as the Government had undertaken to deal with the whole question of wages next year, he hoped the Committee would not now legislate in a piecemeal manner.


said, he also objected to dealing with the question now, which would be breaking faith with the colliers, who asked for legislation upon it. The case had another side different from that which had been presented to the Committee. There was great difficulty in electing a medical man by the vote of the men. In one case in which it was tried, the men elected the doctor who on the previous pay day had given them the greatest amount of beer, and who, two months afterwards, bolted in debt to all the neighbouring tradesmen. That those who paid the piper should choose the tune was a generally accepted principle; and the mine owners paid the medical men, the miners subscribing only part of the payment. Besides, the owners paid every man who was off work on a certificate from the doctor, and, in some cases, found hospitals for the men; and would it be fair for a doctor appointed by the men to have charge of these hospitals, and to give such certificates? If the proposed Amendment were carried, it would shut up some of the most useful institutions the mining districts could boast of.


said, he strongly objected to the Committee being asked to legislate on this particular point as regarded metalliferous mines, without it legislated at the same time in a similar direction for coal mines. Moreover, how would the Amendment work in a district of 10 miles where there was only one doctor? The practices on the part of medical men which had been referred to by the hon. Member for St. Ives did not exist, he was happy to say, in the North of England.


thought hon. Members interested in these mines, like his hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives, who represented an important mining constituency, were quite justified in pressing the Amendment, notwithstanding that those specially interested in coal mines had left the House, and the Bill relating to coal mines had gone through Committee; and he objected to postponing legislation until next year, because the Government undertook to bring in a Bill on wages, which the contingencies of a year might easily push out of the way.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On the Motion of Mr. BRUCE, Clause amended by striking out in page 3, lines 38 to 41, both inclusive, and inserting— Every person who contravenes or fails to comply with the provisions of this section shall be guilty of an offence against this Act, and in the event of any contravention or failure to comply with the provisions of this section, the owner and agent shall each be guilty of an offence against this Act, unless he satisfy the court that he had taken all reasonable means for the enforcement of such provisions.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 10 to 22, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 23 (General rules).

Amendment proposed, in subsection 4, line 6, to leave out the word "load" and insert the words "produce of the mine in transit exceeds ten tons in any one hour over any part thereof, and,"—(Mr. Pease.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'load' stand part of the Clause."

And it is now ten minutes to Seven o'clock.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again this day.

The House supended its sitting at seven of the clock.

The House resumed its Sitting at Nine of the clock.

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