HC Deb 05 July 1872 vol 212 cc708-16

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

On the Motion of Mr. BRUCE, the following new clause was agreed to, and ordered to stand part of the Bill:— (Prosecution of offences.) No offence against this Act shall be prosecuted except by an inspector under this Act, or by the permission of the Secretary of State; and in the event of any contravention or failure to comply with any of the provisions of this Act, or any general or special rules in force there under, in respect of which contravention or failure the owner, agent, and manager are each guilty of an offence against this Act, unless he satisfy the court that he had taken all reasonable means for the publication and enforcement of such provisions or rules, the inspector shall not institute proceedings against any owner, agent, or manager who satisfies the inspector that he had taken all reasonable means as aforesaid.

MR. BROWN moved, after Clause 5, the insertion of a new clause, providing that no boy under the age of 13 should be employed in any mine to which the Act applied below ground, unless he had obtained a surgical certificate from a person qualified to give such certificates for the purposes of the Factory Acts. He thought labour of this kind was degrading to boys below the age of 12 or 13 years.


said, he must enter his indignant protest against the notion that manual labour was degrading to a boy. It was far more degrading to live upon the labour of others.


explained that he had not alluded to manual labour in general, but to a particular kind of labour to which boys of tender age ought not to be subjected.


said, it was difficult to draw a hard-and-fast line as to age; but he thought at 12 years of age, a boy might have laid a good foundation of education without getting into habits which would unfit him from gaining a livelihood by manual labour. He should certainly give his vote against the proposed clause.


said, the object of the clause was that a surgical certificate should be given in the case of boys under 13 years of age; but it was impossible in a clause of the kind to create the necessary machinery to give effect to the proposition of the hon. Member. For that purpose a great many other clauses would be required to be added to the Bill.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

MR. F. S. POWELL moved, after Clause 10, to insert the following new clause:— (Penalty to enforce attendance of children at school.) The parent, guardian, or person having the custody of or control over any child employed in or above ground in connection with any mine to which this Act relates shall cause such child to attend school, in accordance with the regulations of this Act. Every such parent, guardian, or person who wilfully fails to act in conformity to this section shall be liable to a penalty of not more than twenty shillings for each offence. (Sec. 7 and 8 Vic. c. 15, s. 38, and 30 and 31 Vic. c. 146, ss. 4 and 15.


said, he decidedly approved of the clause. Indeed, he hardly knew the reason why it was omitted from the Bill in the first instance.

Clause agreed to, and ordered to stand part of the Bill.

MR. LIDDELL moved to leave out Clauses 25 and 26, for the purpose of inserting a series of new clauses, providing that, for the granting of certificates of competency under the Act, Boards of Examiners should be constituted in the various districts under the superintendence of the Secretary of State, consisting of nine members, one appointed by the Secretary of State, three to be practical engineers, and three to be mine owners, elected by mine owners of the district, and two working miners, elected by the working miners of the district. The great object of the clause was to provide a proper machinery for the examination of managers of mines. The manager of a mine should be a person of great physical energy and powers of endurance and considerable tact, with a patient and conciliatory manner towards the men. He must also possess great knowledge of the district. His first and essential duty would be to provide for the safety of the pit; but he would have much more than that to do. He would have to make all the bargains with the men and settle the rates of payment to be made for work done. The position, therefore, required a combination of qualities which it would be difficult to obtain by any examination. He was not wedded to the wording or the machinery of the clauses, except as affording a basis on which they might discuss this important question.


said, he had supported his hon. Friend the Member for South Northumberland in moving the omission of the 25th clause on a former occasion. The Committee then came to the conclusion that the selection of the Board of Examiners ought not to be wholly left in the hands of the Secretary of State. The great point was to have the Board thoroughly representative in its character. No doubt the owners should be represented; mining engineers should also be on the Board as well as those employed in mines. The difficulty would be to obtain a proper representation of the miners. He proposed to reduce the number of representatives at the Board to seven, of whom one should be named by the Secretary of State, two by owners of mines, two by mining engineers to be named by the local institutes of mining engineers, with two persons employed in any mine in the district nominated by the mining engineers, to represent the working mines. The Board would thus fairly represent the various interests, including the local, and within a certain period of three or five years he should say every one with a seat at the Board should have a certificate himself.


believed, although there were three plans proposed, the only wish was to select the best Board of Examiners in order that certificated managers might be persons of thorough knowledge of the work and capable of carrying it into effect. As he thought that four would be a far better number of examiners than either seven or nine, he would suggest, as an Amendment of the Notice he had placed upon the Paper, that— For the purpose of granting certificates of competency under this Act Boards of Examiners shall be constituted under the superintendence of a Secretary of State in the various districts to which inspectors shall be appointed, and every such Board of Examiners shall consist of four members, one thereof a person appointed by a Secretary of State, one practical mining engineer, and one mine owner, appointed by a Secretary of State upon the nomination of the mine owners of the district as after mentioned, and one miner of the district appointed by a Secretary of State upon the nomination of the miners of the district as after mentioned.


said, he could not think that four would be a sufficient number. A great many persons would have to be examined, and therefore it would be necessary to have a reasonably large number of examiners. The hon. Member for South Northumberland's plan, which was approved by the representatives both of the mine owners and the men, was, in his opinion, that which was most worthy of adoption, and he did not think there would be any difficulty whatever in the mode of election.


said, this was one of the most difficult questions involved in the Bill. He could not conceive a Board of Examiners less calculated to do the work well than a Board of nine brought together in the heterogeneous manner which the hon. Gentleman approved, and would suggest that a Board representing masters and men should nominate Examiners for the approval of the Secretary of State. If the whole number was not to be brought together when an examination was to be conducted, the very object of the clause would be defeated, for that object he understood to be that there should be a representation of all the interests concerned—scientific, proprietary, and mining. None of the propositions which he had seen would carry out effectively the object which the Bill had in view. There was no clause providing that the managers of the underground works should have a certificate of competency, and he considered that a great omission. Perhaps it would be as well if the right hon. Gentleman would consider the suggestions which had been thrown out, and prepare a clause embodying them.


said, he adhered to the opinion which he expressed at an earlier period of the Sitting—namely, that the mining Institutes, which were perfectly independent bodies, should have the nomination of the Boards of Examiners; for if the election was to be made by the miners, the matter would become very complicated, there being then over 350,000 persons who would be entitled to vote. In that case, he certainly thought the machinery of election would be too cumbrous. He thought they might safely leave to the Institute of Mining Engineers—branches of which existed in almost every mining district— the selection of the examiners, the Secretary of State, who would have to confirm the selection, being aided by the Inspectors of the district as to local details. He should suggest that the Local Mining Institute should select three persons to conduct the examination. In conclusion, he thought that in compliance with all the Petitions from the miners on the subject, every manager should hold a certificate.


said, no difficulty was experienced in the North of England in the election of delegates by masters and men to treat upon trade disputes, and there would be no difficulty in each colliery sending a representative for the election of the examiners.


said, that he had spoken to persons representing the miners respecting the proposition of the Home Secretary, having reference to the appointment of Boards of Examiners, and they had assured him that there was no objection on the part of miners to that proposition. What they wanted was a perfectly independent body, from which the examiners should be selected, and he had every reason to believe that mining engineers were perfectly independent.


said, he could not agree with the suggestion of the Home Secretary, and much preferred that of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. G. Hardy). Neither could he agree with the noble Lord opposite (Lord Elcho) respecting the independence of mining engineers. In his opinion the majority of them were not independent, because they were, in a great measure, dependent on the coal owners by whom they were employed. He did not wish to say anything against mining engineer institutions; but they were composed of any gentlemen who wished to belong to them, and, as a matter of fact, numbers of practical engineers were not members of such associations. In many instances they were nothing more than debating societies, and the members could go away when they thought fit, but mine owners and miners could not. It was the owners and workmen who were really interested in the election of examiners, and, as far as he was concerned, he was not prepared to delegate the duty to other persons. He thought, also, that the nature of the examination should be defined, because otherwise there was great danger that it might be too theoretical and would not secure practical men who could carry on a mine safely.


said, he was of opinion that the elective principle in the case of a body of examiners was so far of importance that it would tend to preserve the local peculiarities of the several mining districts, and the mining institutes would, he thought, form a very good body for the selection of local examiners. But although it was necessary to preserve local peculiarities, it was not expedient to run too much in the groove of those peculiarities. In the various mining districts into which the country was divided there was the greatest difference in the number of accidents of the same character which occurred in some as compared with others, and it was therefore, he maintained, the duty of the Secretary of State to see that general knowledge was brought to bear on the peculiarities of a particular district, either through the agency of a general examiner representing the public or an Inspector appointed by the Government. He agreed with those who contended that the examinations should be practical in their character; but to exclude from them scientific knowledge would be to ignore the whole progress of science in its application to industry. The lamp of Sir Humphrey Davy was, for instance, the result of pure abstract investigation.


thought that many of the proposals which had been suggested would secure a good examination, but signified a preference for that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford. While not wishing to speak disparagingly of scientific education, he argued in favor of the great advantages of practical knowledge on the daily conduct of mining operations.


expressed his intention of supporting the proposal of the hon. Member for South Northumberland. He could not for a moment agrees with the Home Secretary's proposition. He admitted that it was a most difficult question, and expressed his belief that by far the best method of appointing managers was that which was adopted at present; but, at the same time, as there was to be a change, the working classes would not be satisfied unless they had a strong voice in the election of certificated managers. Scientific men might be all very well, and they might be very able men; but they certainly did not make good servants. He would, however, suggest that the number of working miners on each Board should be three instead of two.


thought the proposal of the Government satisfactory, and preferred that the appointment should be vested in the Government rather than an irresponsible body. He would suggest that the Board might be constituted of one-third owners, one-third engineers, and one-third working miners.


expressed his willingness to withdraw his Amendments, and thought his hon. Friend the Member for South Northumberland would see that it was impossible to carry out his Amendment without any machinery. Mining institutes were not merely scientific, but consisted of practical men; and he concurred in the proposition of the Secretary of State, supposing it to be modified in the way suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford.


was of opinion that the best way of preventing accidents in mines was to leave the matter as much as possible in the hands of the mine owners, making them responsible.


said, he would withdraw the Amendment he had placed on the Paper.


said, the practical discussion which had arisen fully justified his having submitted his proposal to the Committee. He was ready either to divide on his proposition or to withdraw it, according as it might be the pleasure of the House; but if he withdrew it he trusted some provision would be proposed by the Home Secretary based on the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Oxford University.


did not think the nomination of the Board by an irresponsible body would be satisfactory. But if nomination by institutes were accepted he hoped it would be from the council, not from the individual members of those bodies. However the Board of Examiners might be appointed, there should not be less than three examiners; and a working miner should be a member of the Board, or otherwise the men would not be satisfied.


hoped his hon. Friend (Mr. Liddell) would not divide the Committee, but follow the example of his hon. Friend the Member for South Durham and withdraw the clauses.


also hoped the clauses would be withdrawn. The Secretary of State would be responsible for the working of the Act, and it would be his duty to put the proposal in a workable form before the Report.


hoped that the right hon. Gentleman in any clause he might frame would have special reference to the concluding portion of the clause proposed by the hon. Member for South Northumberland. It was most desirable that the nature of the examination should be clearly defined.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedules agreed to.



said, he wished to take that opportunity of doing an act of justice to a number of gentlemen who had acted as delegates from colliers in the North during the discussion of the measure. In consequence of representations which had been made to him (Mr. Bruce), he had complained—and felt himself justified in complaining—of the course they had taken in regard to the Bill, considering that from all the districts of the country the colliers had sent up Petitions to that House, and Memorials to his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, and himself, praying, in the strongest terms, that the Bill in its entirety should pass. He confessed himself deeply disappointed when he found that, with respect to some of the most important clauses of the Bill of which the colliers had expressed their approval, their representatives in London were quoted as opposed to the proposals of the Government, and he drew particular attention to the fact that their consent had been obtained to the insertion of words which, in his opinion, went far to destroy the legislation proposed for the protection of children, and also for the protection of the colliers themselves from accident. He asserted on that occasion that he had been informed that they would withhold their support from the Government with respect to the general rules, on condition that they obtained payment by weight instead of measure. Now, he had been assured by those representatives—and he certainly was inclined to place entire confidence in the statement—that any opinion they expressed was conditional on the course they sanctioned being adopted by the Government, and that their wish was, as far as possible, to adhere to the proposals of the Government. They also stated that with respect to the supposed arrangement by which one clause was put against another, they only made that mode of arrangement when they conscientiously believed that Government was about to abandon their proposal to lay the burden of proof on the employers.


said, that the difficulties attending this measure would have been very much greater if an understanding had not been come to, and if they had not acted upon the principle of "give and take." He should be sorry to hear anything from his right hon. Friend discouraging to the system of arbitration, which so many people wished to see, established, and he hoped the system would be carried further. With respect to the miners, everyone who had been brought into communication with them would bear testimony to their conciliatory but firm demeanour.


said, he wished to know when the right hon. Gentleman proposed to take the Report, as several matters were to be discussed on that stage?


said, he proposed to take the Report on Tuesday, and, if necessary, the Bill could be re-committed. It would be impossible to put the Amendments on the Paper earlier than Monday night.

Preamble agreed to.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Tuesday next, at Two of the clock.