HC Deb 25 February 1875 vol 222 cc910-4

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)


, in rising to move, that the Chairman be directed to move the House, that leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Law with respect to manufacturing, keeping, selling, carrying, and importing Gunpowder, Nitro-Glycerine, and other Explosive Substances, said, the subject was brought before the late Government before the great explosion of last year, and one of the first acts of the present Government was to appoint a Committee to consider the whole of the circumstances relating to Explosive Substances, and they eventually produced a Report which he believed to be a most satisfactory one, and on that Report the present Bill was for the most part based. It was a Consolidating Bill, and it proposed to repeal all other public Acts relating to explosive substances, so that all the law on the subject might be contained within the four corners of the Bill. It would consist of four parts. The first would deal with the manufacture, storage, and carriage of gunpowder, and would contain all the main provisions and safeguards hitherto contained in regulations only. Part 2 would deal with nitroglycerine and other explosive substances of an equally dangerous character, the regulations respecting which, instead of being contained in the Bill, would be left to a great extent to the Secretary of State. Part 3 related to administration and the power of inspection, and Part 4 to the legal proceedings incident to the carrying out of the Act. In legislating with regard to gunpowder, they had to deal with the manufacturer and the man who kept a large store magazine; next, with persons, like mine-owners, who used large quantities of powder for the purpose of their business, and kept what might be called consumers' stores. Then came the retail dealer, who was at present almost without legislation. As to the place of manufacture and the large store magazine, the licensing would be left as at present with the Petty Sessions in counties and the local authorities in other cases, subject, in case of refusal, to an appeal to the Secretary of State for the Home Department. One change was made in the law. At present it was found that local authorities were sometimes either too lenient or too strict in granting licences. They were generally country gentlemen. They did their duty to the best of their ability, but had no real knowledge of the dangers to be apprehended, and the best way of preventing them. Following, therefore, the recommendations of the Committee, the Bill provided that before a man applied for a licence he should submit his plans to the inspection of the Secretary of State, who would pronounce whether, in his opinion, considering the nature of the site and other circumstances, the plan proposed was a safe one. Even if his Report was favourable, the local authority would still be able to refuse the licence, having regard to present or future buildings around the proposed site. Such a decision, however, would, as at present, be subject to appeal to the Secretary of State. General rules were provided in part 1 for the safety of the public in the manufacture and storage of gunpowder, and persons carrying on this business would be required to make special rules for the regulation of their workmen. In the case of existing factories, application must be made to the Secretary of State for continuing licences, in order that he might know whore the factory was; but there would be no alteration in the terms of the licence, and the proprietors would, so far, be in exactly the same position as at present. Then, with regard to consumers' stores, regulations would be laid down by means of which upon licence from the local authorities, consumers would be able to keep from 2 cwt. up to two tons. The Bill dealt with retailers on still easier terms. The Government had no wish to put them under any unnecessary restrictions, but it was right that persons who dealt with these dangerous substances should be known, and therefore they would be called upon to get themselves registered by the local authorities. That could be done on payment of nominal fees, sufficient to keep the machinery of registration going. By this means it would always be known where powder was. This dealt with, dealers who were allowed to have up to 200 lb. of powder on their premises at one time, the amount being regulated according to the conditions of storage. Those who kept powder only for their own use, provided it did not amount to over 30 lbs, need not register themselves. Gunmakers would be allowed to have a larger stock of powder in cartridges than was permitted at present. Certain provisions had been inserted in order that gunpowder might be safely carried. It would be absolutely impossible to lay down in a Bill positive rules and regulations for the carriage of gunpowder under every possible circumstance. It was, therefore, thought better to enact that bye-laws should be made for the purpose; but, then, those bye-laws would not be left totally "at large," but what their scope should be would he indicated in the Bill. The second part of the Bill related entirely to all other explosives. It adopted to a great extent the machinery for licences in the first part of the Bill; but, instead of laying down specific rules, it left to the Secretary of State a wide discretion in the matter. There were a great many explosives which did not require to be so stringently dealt with as nitro-glycerine, and suitable regulations and relaxations with regard to them would be found in this part of the measure. The third part of the Bill dealt simply with the administration of the law, or, in other words, with the power of inspection. There would be Government Inspectors who would have certain powers of entry, and there were clauses in the Bill as to their making reports and inquiries in cases of accident. It was made incumbent on the local authorities to see that the provisions of the Act were enforced within their jurisdiction, but they would not have power to enter the large factories. The fourth part related simply to legal procedure for the purpose of putting the Act into force, and gave larger powers to owners of factories and great magazines to eject, if necessary by force, anyone doing anything likely to cause danger of fire or explosion. Those were the main features of the Bill. It was now in print, and in a few days would be in the hands of Members. What he would propose was to take the second reading some time before Easter than to allow the Bill to rest until after the holidays, in order that persons interested in the trade might have a full opportunity of becoming acquainted with its clauses and of making their views on the subject known to the Government.


approved of the mode in which the Bill was drafted. He hoped, however, that, should the Government Inspector refuse to licence any works, his decision should not be considered final, as such a provision might be made a hindrance of trade. He hoped, too, that the rules relating to the transport of gunpowder would not be made too restrictive.

In reply to Mr. GRIEVE,


stated that the Bill would apply to Scotland.


inquired whether the Bill dealt with petroleum?


said, it did not, but that he intended to propose the continuance, for perhaps two years, of an expiring Act relating to petroleum.

Motion agreed to.

Resolved, That the Chairman he directed to move the House, that leave he given to bring in a Bill to amend the Law with respect to manufacturing, keeping, selling, carrying, and importing Gunpowder, Nitro-Glycerine, and other Explosive Substances.

Resolution reported:—Bill ordered to he brought in by Mr. Secretary CROSS, Sir HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON, and Mr. WILLIAM HENRY SMITH.

Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 76.]