HC Deb 21 June 1872 vol 212 cc26-9

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Preamble be postponed."


said, he wished to receive some explanations from the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary before proceeding further with the Bill. When the Bill was brought forward in 1870, the Amendments suggested by the Mines Association stood in Ms (Mr. S. Hill's) name on the Paper. Those Amendments embodied arrangements of existing differences between masters and men which had been come to at a meeting under the presidency of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire. In 1870 the Bill was dropped, and in 1871 there was a similar result. In the present Session, when the Bill was about to be brought forward, it was thought advisable that all the difficulties likely to arise should be thoroughly considered by the three parties most interested, with a view to see how far those difficulties could be removed, so that the measure proposed might have the full assent of the House, and might not take up time unduly in its discussion. Accordingly, a Conference of the coal-masters, represented by the Mines Association, and of the men represented by Mr. Macdonald, was held at the Westminster Palace Hotel, and the Home Office was represented there by the Mines Inspectors, Mr. Dickinson and Mr. Wynne. These representatives of the three interests concerned held meetings for five days under the presidency of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire; every question that arose was fully discussed, and at last an agreement was come to on all points, with one or two minor exceptions. The Report on the subject was very fully considered, and finally delivered at the Home Office on the 23rd of March. It was not without some surprise, therefore, that he saw, when the Bill was again printed, that on some of the most vital points the original measure remained unchanged, and that the Home Secretary had not adopted the agreements come to between masters and men upon full consideration. The points to which attention had been especially called were those with reference to certificated managers and certain general rules. Clause 15 of the Bill referred to wages, and might be called the wages clause. When matters were discussed between the masters and men there was a Master and Servant Bill before the House, and it was agreed that the 15th clause should remain in the Bill, lest anything should happen to the Master and Servant Bill; but if that Bill was to be proceeded with, then that this 15th clause might be struck out. He thought that some explanations on the points to which he had adverted ought to be given by the Home Secretary before proceeding further.


expressed a hope that the Home Secretary would not delegate his authority to any body of men. Whatever might be the opinion of the Coal Owners Association, he could state from personal communication with the miners, that many of the Amendments were not in accordance with their wishes.


said, that he had nothing to complain of in the statement of his hon. and learned Friend, except that he had somewhat overrated the authority given to the Inspectors. They were certainly not ordered to attend, but a request having been made that they might attend the deliberations of the Conference, he was perfectly willing that they should. When the Amendments were brought before him, he carefully guarded himself against saying anything further than that he would give them his best consideration, and his hon. and learned Friend could not allege it as a grievance that he had not done so, seeing that he had adopted about 15 of them. The question of wages was a very important one, and could not be properly discussed in this Bill. He hoped the Committee would resist any alteration in the law until the whole question could be discussed, whether this Session or next year, and he believed that both labourers and employers would be unwilling to see any alteration in the law till that question had been far more fully discussed than it could possibly be in this Bill.


said, he had no desire to claim greater authority for the Conference than it really deserved, or to override the functions of the House; but there was in that Conference a very full representation of masters and men; these Amendments had been most fully and carefully considered, with an earnest desire to come to a settlement upon them; and, therefore, they came before the Committee at least with a primâ facie case in their favour.

Motion agreed to; Preamble postponed accordingly.


Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 (Commencement of Act).

MR. BRUEN moved, in page 1, line 11, after "operation" to insert "in England and Scotland;" and in line 12, after "seventy-three," to insert "and in Ireland not until the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-four." The object of the Amendment was to postpone the operation of the Act in Ireland until the 1st of January, 1874.


said, he would admit that there was a fair ground for postponement in the case of Ireland, but thought that the postponement should be for a year only, instead of two.


asked whether there was to be any provision for the inspection of coal mines in Ireland? He believed there were no inflammable coal mines in Ireland, whatever other inflammable materials might be found there.


said, that, only one-fifth of the accidents which happened in coal mines were caused by explosions; four-fifths resulted from other accidents caused by the want of proper overlooking and discipline; and it was to provide for such cases that many new provisions were introduced into the Bill. Hitherto, Ireland had not been, included in these Acts; but the Government had received communications which satisfied them that Ireland should now be included. The work of inspection would be very light there; but ample employment would be found for one Inspector. He would move to amend the Amendment by inserting 1874, instead of 1875.

Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

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