§ MR. MACDONALD
, in rising to call attention to the appalling frequency of disasters in mines, and to move that—Inasmuch as the history of mining disasters during the last twenty-seven years proves that many of them have resulted from the culpable neglect of well-known provisions in Acts passed for the safety of those employed in Mines, it is expedient that the Government should at once take steps to see that the inspection ordered by the Mines Act of 1872 be rigorously enforced. That should the powers contained in the above-named Act he insufficient to meet the necessities of all cases, the Government ought to introduce without delay a measure that will;said, he, from his own experience in connection with mines, was entitled to speak with some authority on the subject; he had also obtained all the information he could from foreign countries. [The hon. Member then proceeded to review the course of legislation upon the subject from the Act of 1850, which first appointed Inspectors of Mines, down to the Act of 1873, which was now in operation.] In that Act, the rule which was first laid down in the Act of 1855, and repeated in subsequent enactments— namely, that the gases in coal mines should be diluted, and thus rendered harmless, was re-affirmed. For himself, he had most perfect faith in the Act of 1873, and if one or two necessary additions were made to it, he believed it would, if properly carried out, be a perfect measure and prevent the occurrence of these terrible disasters in mines. For the legislation which had been adopted with respect to mines at various times, the miners were especially indebted to Mr. Ayrton, Mr. Charles Neate, Sir George Elliot, Lord Elcho, Lord Kinnaird, and Lord Shaftesbury, whose names would always be regarded by them with feelings of deep gratitude. That good results had attended legislation was shown by the fact that whereas in 1850, when the output of coal was only 50,000,000, tons, about 1,000 lives were lost; in 1877, when the output had increased to 68 nearly 134,000,000 tons, the lives lost did not exceed 1,200. If the death-rate had gone on increasing in the same ratio since 1850, it would by this time have amounted to 3,000, while 14,000 or 15,000 would have been permanently injured. There was yet a great loss of life which ought not to be; but, at the same time, there could be no doubt that the Mines Acts had been highly beneficial. It was not to be inferred that he looked upon these Acts as being ineffectual, but he desired that they should be made more effectual. It had been said that it was recklessness, want of care, and want of skill, on the part of the workmen themselves which led to mining disasters; but he would refer the House to the Mines' Inspectors' Reports, showing what Inspectors and juries said about the causes of accidents. Having quoted from these Reports at some length, the hon. Member said he would challenge the Home Secretary, or any other Member of the House, to dispute his assertion, that in the 27 years during which the Reports had existed, up to 1876, in the case of accidents, where more than two persons were killed, over 3,000 persons altogether had, according to the Reports themselves, lost their lives through neglect attributed by juries or by Inspectors to recklessness on the part of the owners and managers. He would assert further, with perfect confidence, that in the case of accidents where the persons killed were under two, 3,000 more lives had been sacrificed during the same time from the neglect of managers or those in charge of the mines. What was the cause of this frightful sacrifice of human life? It was because the mode of inspection was in a large degree illusory. The public were under the impression that the Colliery Inspectors, to whom large salaries were paid, were engaged in a work which would have the effect of rendering miners tolerably secure of their lives while pursuing the dangerous avocation in which they were engaged from day to day. No greater delusion could possibly possess the minds of men. It was stated by an Inspector (Joseph Dickenson, Esq.), who was examined before the Select Committee in 1866, that he wished it to be understood that he only visited a mine when he had information. Now, information could only be had from two parties—the mine owner or the miner. He had never heard, in all his experience, 69 of a mine owner sending for an Inspector to take note of anything wrong; and with regard to the miners, until the issue of the Home Secretary's Circular, they had had very little confidence in this system of inspection. Now, his contention was, that if the law were carried out, and the gas diluted as it ought to be, the accidents which had occurred would have been rendered impossible. Mr. Wynne, a good, judicious, active, and intelligent Inspector, stated in his Report that the Deep Pit accident, in which 54 lives were lost, occurred in consequence of the employment of an utterly incompetent manager. Yet that manager had a certificate, and for all he knew was a manager still. He had himself attended the investigation into the cause of the Blantyre accident, and witness after witness stated that there had been an utter disregard not only of the special, but of the general rules. Inspectors had complained that their directions were not carried out. He asked, why should not the Inspectors see that their directions were carried out? It was to the disregard of those directions that the loss of life was attributed in many of these cases, yet no efforts seemed to have been made to see that the directions were observed; and therefore he concluded that the system of inspection was, to a large extent, illusory. He repeated, that until they had inspection more complete and more thoroughly effective, they would never have things better than they were now. Inspection had done great good, but inspection should be more effectual. He did not wish in any way to take the management out of the hands of the mine owners; but the Inspectors ought to go more frequently into the mine, as he was sure if they did so the condition of the mine would be more satisfactory. It was, however, contended by some that it was not the want of due inspection, but rather the recklessness of the workmen themselves, which was the cause of so many of those accidents. Now, under the Act of 1872, the mine owners were compelled to have special rules for the conduct, guidance, and discipline of their workmen, and to a breach of those rules was attached the penalty of a fine of £2, or a calendar month's imprisonment. If the rules they made were adequate—if, then, those rules were properly carried into effect, recklessness must, he maintained, be speedily put down, and 70 if life were sacrificed, it was because they were not made sufficiently stringent. It was said that to make them more stringent would be to take away the liberty of the subject; but no man, he contended, should be allowed to be at liberty to imperil the lives of hundreds of his fellow-creatures. In his view, at all events, everything should be done in the way of precaution rather than that those lamentable scenes should occur, which in the course of his life he had so frequently witnessed. The Act of Parliament was nearly all that could be desired. What was required was that its provisions should be thoroughly enforced with respect to ventilation and more complete inspection. The Inspectors ought, he thought, to be called upon to make weekly or monthly Reports, in which a full statement should be given of the visits which they paid to mines, and the condition in which they found them, and blasting should be prohibited in fiery mines. The Home Secretary might perhaps say that a large number of men liked that mode of working; but was he prepared to admit the right of men to destroy one another? He was prepared, as far as the men were concerned, for military discipline, or for examination on entering a mine, as in the case of powder mills, if it were necessary, for the prevention of calamities. Chiefly and in particular he asked the Government to prohibit blasting in fiery mines; for what was the use of precautions with regard to lamps while blasting, which might at any moment dislodge and fire a magazine of gas, was permitted? A state of things was tolerated which was not becoming to the present condition of civilization and knowledge. Another precaution he asked for was walling-up for the prevention of the accumulation of gas in "goaves." He also wished to call attention to the extreme lightness of the penalties for negligence. At present he could only describe them as frivolous, and it would be necessary, not only to make them substantial, but to see that they were enforced. In the case of wholesale loss of life, the fines had been known to be no more than 2s. 6d. for each man killed—far less than a costermonger would have to pay for knocking a person down in a London street. There was also another part of the Inspection Act to which attention should be paid. In the year 1872, after 20 years' agitation, provision had been made by which the 71 certificate of a manager might, if necessary, be cancelled; but under that 32nd clause, though more than 200 accidents had occurred since 1872 in which, the managers ought to have been prosecuted, that had been done only in two cases, and both of them were dismissed. He was confident that there would be a great change, if the provisions of that clause were more generally put into operation. Again, Clause 61 provided that where an owner, or manager, or workman did that which caused bodily injury, he might be punished by imprisonment either with or without hard labour; yet, so far as he knew, no one had ever been prosecuted under that clause, though in all probability there had been numberless occasions for prosecution. He would draw the attention of the Home Secretary to the fact that the Chief Inspector of Mines was opposed to the prosecution of managers, and wished to know if the same spirit pervaded the whole body of Inspectors? If the Inspectors took their opinion from the Chief Inspector, they ought to be told this. The intention of the Legislature had been frustrated by the neglect in carrying out this measure for the safety of the men. If it were the fault of the magistrates, then he was sorry that they had not a higher respect for the lives of those who followed this hazardous occupation. If he had spoken warmly, it was because he felt keenly on the subject, having seen whole villages devastated, as he believed by neglect. He would entreat the House to consider the question earnestly and carefully, for the voices of widows and fatherless children cried out for protection. He would also remind the House that they were standing between the dead of Haydock Mine and those who might be placed in a similar position at any moment. The living called upon them to take action. He wished to express his thanks to the present Home Secretary for what he had done in the matter; he had done far more than any of his Predecessors. He had also expressed himself more freely, and he implored him to see that the Act was enforced with great strictness, so that the lives of their sturdy mining population might not be destroyed as they had hitherto been. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.
, in seconding the Resolution, said, that the subject was one of great importance, and that one of the saddest chapters in the history of British industry was that which told of disasters in connection with mines, presenting, in the midst of peace, almost the terrors and carnage of the battle-field. Certainly, the House had never been indifferent to the necessity of meeting the difficulty. Again and again Committees had inquired into the subject, and Acts of Parliament had been passed in order to mitigate the dangers of mining—Acts which had been attended with the best results, as the percentage of loss of life, whether compared with the quantity of mineral raised or with the number of men employed, had considerably diminished. One of the best Acts ever passed was that of 1872, and if that Act were strictly enforced, very little necessity would exist for new legislation. Never had the position of Home Secretary been filled by a man who was more anxious to enforce that Act than the present occupant of that Office. He felt very much indebted to that right hon. Gentleman for the instructions he had lately issued to the Inspectors, and he believed that very great benefit would accrue from the stricter carrying out of the existing law. He did not desire to utter any wholesale condemnation of the action of the present Inspectors. Whenever he had occasion to personally call their attention to the Acts rot being carried out properly, or to dangers in particular mines, he had always received from them every courtesy and consideration; and, speaking of them generally, he believed they were anxious to discharge conscientiously and energetically the important duties which devolved on them. But there certainly had existed among the Inspectors what he held to be a very vicious theory as to the mode of carrying out inspection. Many of them did not feel it at all incumbent on them to examine a mine unless they were specially sent for, or unless an accident had occurred. The instructions recently issued by the Home Secretary would, he hoped, remove that delusion, and convince the Inspectors that it was their duty to examine a mine, whether they were sent for or not, and whether an accident had or had not happened. Again, when managers had been proved to be negligent, and when there was 73 primâ facie evidence that they were incapable, he thought it would be well that their certificates should be suspended or cancelled. Anyone at all acquainted with the circumstances of the Blantyre Colliery explosion, would know that in that case there had been the grossest negligence and constant violations of the Mines Regulation Act; and if ever proceedings should have been taken to mark such misconduct, surely that would have been a proper instance for doing so. Examples should be made, whether by prosecution or by the suspension or cancelling of managers' certificates, where grave and manifest negligence had been shown. The Inspectors referred to the fact that the workmen did not avail themselves, as they might do, of the power given them by the Act to examine mines. For himself, he was sorry that the men did not adopt that course more frequently. But the examination of a large mine involved a great amount of time and labour; and it was, perhaps, hardly to be expected that a workman would undertake such a task. That provision of the Act had, therefore, not been carried out, except where the workmen were well-organized, and they deputed some of their own body to make the inspection. In certain cases this had been done satisfactorily, and he had never heard of any unpleasantness having arisen between the men and their employers in consequence. He did not wish to palliate the shortcomings of the workpeople when Parliament had given them the power to look after their own safety, and he hoped that part of the Act would be more strictly carried out by the men than it had been hitherto. Turning to the consideration of what further should be done, they came to a more difficult matter than criticism of the present law. They should, however, he thought, be careful not to pass without inquiry any general and sweeping enactments without regard to the peculiarities and circumstances of particular districts. Influential organs of the Press had recommended that the safety-lamp should be adopted throughout all the mines of the country, and that blasting should be altogether abolished. Such a course would not only be unnecessary, but would be even mischievous in its effect. Let him illustrate that by reference to the calamity which had occurred 74 in the Haydock Mine. At Haydock the safety-lamp was in general use, and blasting was strictly prohibited; and yet one of the most disastrous explosions ever recorded in the history of their mining industry happened there the other day. It was not necessary to abolish blasting altogether, for, in many mines, blasting was just as safe as it would be in that House. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh at his way of putting it; but what he meant was there was no risk of explosion from blasting except where there was fire-damp, and that was the point under consideration. Explosions were not the only or the chief element of danger which the miner had to encounter. Upwards of 28,000 lives had been lost in mines since 1851, and over 6,000 of them had been lost through explosions; while upwards of 11,000 had been lost through falls of stone and coal. As a practical miner, he did not hesitate to say that if they enforced the general adoption of the safety-lamp, with the miserably insufficient light it yielded, they would greatly increase the dangers arising from causes other than explosions. He thought that in certain parts of the country it might be desirable to abolish blasting altogether; and, as a general rule, blasting should be entirely prohibited wherever it was absolutely necessary that the safety-lamp should be used. It was absurd to hedge about a small flame of less than one inch, and to deal recklessly with a flame which might be hundreds of times as great. After every thing had been done, however, which science could suggest and skill could execute, and after the miners had become careful and intelligent, still mining must remain one of the most dangerous occupations that a man could follow. That, however, afforded the strongest reason why they should do all they possibly could to guard the lives and lighten the burden of those who followed an occupation so laborious and hazardous as that of mining.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "inasmuch as the history of mining disasters during the last twenty-seven years proves that many of them have resulted from the culpable neglect of well-known provisions in Acts passed for the safety of those employed in Mines, it is expedient that the Government should at once take steps to see that the inspection ordered by the Mines Act of 1872 be rigorously enforced:
That, should the powers contained in the above-named Act be insufficient to meet the necessities of all the cases, the Government ought to introduce a measure without delay that will,"—(Mr. Macdonald,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
SIR GEORGE ELLIOT
said, he had listened with great interest to the able speeches which had been made by the hon. Members for Stafford and Morpeth. Setting aside, for a moment, what some might have thought an exaggeration on the part of the hon. Member for Stafford as to the causes of negligence, he might say that he remembered many of the accidents to which he had referred—for instance, Ince Hall Colliery, near Wigan, and the Oaks Colliery, and the Lundhill catastrophes. In the first case, it was not quite true that the management was censured by the jury. However, he did not intend in any way to oppose the inquiry or to differ from the versions given by the hon. Member for Stafford. From time to time the power given to the Inspectors had led to a great reduction of mischief, and he thought there was no exaggeration in the statement of his hon. Friend, when he said that if the Mines Regulation. Acts had not been in operation the death-rate would have been very much greater than it was now. He was very much struck with the statements which had been read out by the hon. Member for Stafford, and it was a very peculiar point, speaking from experience some 40 or 50 years ago, that the accidents mostly took place in Northumberland and Durham. Afterwards, they took another direction—namely, into South Wales. They then occurred in Yorkshire, and finally found their way to Scotland. His own theory was, perhaps, a curious one; but he maintained his own opinion on this point was correct. It might be interesting to shortly explain it, though not quite pertinent to the argument. But they would find the workings from the surface down to a pit of the depth of 400 or 500 feet were, comparatively speaking, not dangerous at all. From 500 down to 1,000, 1,100 or 1,200 feet, he called the zone of greatest danger; and when that depth was passed, there was again less danger in working the coal. He had found 76 that to be the case in many of the pits in Wales; and he ventured to say, if a record of accidents were taken which had occurred below 500 feet down, and those at a depth of 1,100 feet or 1,200 feet, it would be found that two-thirds of the accidents had happened within, the zone, and neither above or below it. The object he had in mentioning this was, that it might be necessary in revising or considering any further regulations to put in certain stipulations, so that this point might be considered with a view of placing a limit on a more special supervision on what he called the zone of danger. The hon. Member for Morpeth, in a speech to which he had listened with great pleasure, and who had spoken, as usual, with such good sense and good taste, referred to the subject of inspection; but he could not entirely agree with him. He had, however, come to the conclusion that the object of insisting upon this minute inspection was simply an impossibility when looked at from a practical point of view. They required an Inspector to examine coal mines so minutely as to be able to know, direct, and control the general management and ventilation of collieries. That was not possible, as it would not be in the power of anyone to do so. He remembered when he was managing one of his own collieries some years ago—the Usworth—an Inspector came and examined the colliery, and in the course of the examination he made a suggestion, rather a peremptory one, that such and such alteration ought to be made in the ventilation. It happened that everything he suggested to him were the very things he had himself tried previously, and as they had failed, he had been obliged to have recourse to the means then in operation, and which were far superior to the method suggested. This, then, showed that it was impossible for an Inspector, who only visited a mine occasionally, to understand what were the best precautions to be taken as well as the manager of a colliery, who was constantly in attendance. He believed that if too stringent measures were enforced it would only hamper the inspection of mines to a very great extent, and he therefore considered that the making of inquiries by Inspectors from time to time, as to where they were, what they were doing, and requiring proper returns 77 and statements to be made and prepared, would have a much better result. He now came to the next point, which was one which he had been for years acquainted with. He meant the proposition whether coal should be worked by means of gunpowder or by other means. The use of gunpowder simply meant the application of a naked light, which was of itself a great source of danger. He knew that what he was saying would be much criticized, and he was aware, also, that if what he was about to suggest were adopted would affect anyone prejudically, it could not be more prejudicial to anyone more than to himself. These, however, were the convictions he had arrived at, after considering all the circumstances of the case—that the best remedy he could suggest was that naked lights or fires should not be used where inflammable gas existed. If this were not done, accidents would occur from time to time, and one great protection for the miner would be lost. Then another factor in these accidents was this—that mines were now much deeper than they were formerly. Thirty or 40 men were then in a pit; there were now hundreds employed. Where such large numbers were employed, it was impossible to provide against individual carelessness. He had an accident in the colliery within the last two months, where a man endangered the lives of his fellow-men by the most simple inattention to an obvious duty—namely, putting an India-rubber band beneath the glass cylinder of the clanny lamp. As the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt) very properly remarked, after everything was done for safety, mining was still a very dangerous employment. It had been stated in that House, that the Mines Regulation Acts had enhanced the cost of the getting of coal by 1s. or 1s. 3d. per ton. Some of the managers had informed him that the Mines Regulation Acts had cost a considerable sum; but he told them that when they alleged that all the increased cost was due to the Acts, he denied the accuracy of their opinion, and told them that they must look elsewhere for the increased cost. What he should like the Government to do was to have a Royal Commission appointed to ascertain how much the Act had increased the cost of production, and how much. The abolition of blasting in fiery mines would probably increase the cost to 78 the consumer; but he agreed with the hon. Member for Morpeth, that in coal mines where there was a great amount of gas, there was no other remedy than the prohibition of the use of gunpowder. There were other remedies which might be used advantageously; but the remedy that he would pledge his honour and his professional opinion and experience to that House, as best conducive to the safety of the miner, was the abolition of gunpowder in fiery mines.
§ MR. LYON PLAYFAIR
The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Macdonald) has done good service to the cause of humanity in drawing attention to accidents in mines, some of which have recently been of appalling severity. No doubt, he is right when he contends that all accidents of this kind are preventable, and, therefore, that they ought to be prevented. Any breach by man of a law of nature is punished with inexorable severity. If a man loses his balance on the top of a precipice, the earth has no bowels of compassion, and by its gravity, assuredly will drag him down and mangle him at the bottom. So is it in mines. There are certain scientific conditions for safety, and when these are kept there is perfect security; but if one of them is broken, the destruction of the miner is swift and sure. The laws under which fiery gas explodes are perfectly known. The dilution with air, which renders it harmless, has been as accurately measured as science and practice can require. Science has given to us, in the safety lamp, a means by which you can pass through explosive mixtures with perfect safety. I have spent hours in a mine, after an accident, in passages filled with explosive gas, with a sense that great care would afford me security. But no sane person ought to trust to this means of safety, except under constant vigilance, for a quick and sudden current of air, or an accidental rupture of the gauze, renders the lamp useless. When the fiery gases begin to flicker inside the safety lamp, that ought to be taken as an immediate warning that the main condition of safety—efficient ventilation—is in a bad state, and it should at once be rectified. Neglect of this precaution is said to have been the cause of the great Blantyre explosion. Yet, with all our knowledge and means of safety, appalling accidents still occur. As they are preventable, and ought to 79 be prevented, on whom should we fix the responsibility? There are two classes primarily responsible. The employers are responsible for all the means of safety under their control, for the winding gear, for the upholding of the passages and other means of communication, for efficient ventilation of the mine, and for the good state of the safety-lamp. The miners, on the other hand, are responsible that they use all these appliances with intelligence and caution. If the miner sits on the cage so carelessly, in the ascent or descent, that he tumbles over, he, and not the employer, is in fault. If the miner leaves open a ventilating door which he should have shut, or if he unscrews his lamp, or pokes a hole in it in order to light his pipe, and an explosion follows, the employer can have no share in this responsibility. Surely, then, it is clear that the relative responsibilities of employer and employed should be sharply defined, and that each should be punished for an infraction of means of security devised for the safety of all those occupied in a mine? Clearly, the two chief factors in carrying out measures of safety are the employers and employed, and nothing whatever should be done to lessen their several, or, it may be, mutual, responsibilities in the eye of the law. But the terms of the Motion of the hon. Member for Stafford introduces another factor, upon which he would place a chief reliance. He attributes the accidents in mines chiefly to the negligence with which Government inspection is enforced. To my mind, the exaltation of this factor is very likely to lessen the value of the two more important factors—the immediate responsibilities of the employers and employed. Certain powers have been given to the Executive Government to see that well-known measures of safety and good discipline shall be carried out in each mine. A neglect of these forms a proper subject of inspection and prosecution. But no Government inspection can be nearly so effective as the constant immediate responsibilities of employers and employed. The rupture of one wire in the gauze cage of a safety-lamp is sufficient to cause an explosion. What system of inspection can provide against that? The slamming of a door, which may divert the current of air from the fiery facing of coal, when 80 it is oozing out gas at every pore, may produce an explosion. How can Government inspection provide against that? The more that you increase Government inspection, the more you lessen individual responsibility. It is the latter which we should do everything to augment. But personal responsibility is of little value, unless it is guided by intelligence. One single man, by his ignorance, may imperil the safety of a whole mine. Do we do anything to augment that intelligence? The State has made education compulsory, but it does not adapt that education to a working man's requirements. Some higher and specific subjects are attached to schools, in order to induce a brighter intelligence; but they are cast in such a rigid mould, that no teacher can adapt them to the requirements of his pupils. Passes in grammar or geography will never tell a miner what is the nature of air and its movements, so as to produce ventilation, or inform him of the character of fiery gas which is the evil spirit that infests his workings. And so I have seen, when I acted as a Commissioner on Mining Accidents, underground men, responsible for the whole ventilation and safety of a mine, who could not tell me what air was, and who were absolutely ignorant of the nature of the fire-damp which scorched miners, or of choke-damp which suffocated them. I see that the deputation of miners who waited on the Home Secretary the other day admitted this gross ignorance, and asked him to secure knowledge on the part of such men. But how is knowledge to be had when it is not taught? A free grant for such useful knowledge in many districts, instead of grammar, would soon extend it so that knowledge might become power for the prevention of accidents. It is by doing everything to promote the exercise of intelligent watchfulness and care on the part of the employers and employed, that we must look for the lessening of accidents in mines. Government ought to enforce the general rules of safety, as provided by the Act, but should not accept a detailed responsibility which it cannot possibly discharge. But it may do much to promote an intelligent acquaintance with the well-known laws which are necessary for public safety; and when it has given an opportunity in primary and secondary schools for these laws to 81 be learned, then it would be a duty of the State to enforce a knowledge of them on every officer who is charged with the measures of safety.
§ MR. KNOWLES
admitted that the question which had been raised did not concern that House, or the mine owners and those employed in mines alone, but the whole country. There was more coal raised in this country than in all the other parts of the world put together, and in their coal supply lay, to a great extent, the secret of their greatness; and, comparatively, he did not think the number of casualties occurring in the course of mining operations was greater, or as great, here as in other countries where the same industry formed part of the national life. Nothing could be accomplished in the way of preventing accidents except by the co-operation of employers and employed. He was not one who had ever thrown cold water upon inspection, and he quite agreed that if they had more Inspectors it would be better. He believed that inspection in the past had done an enormous amount of good. It could not be denied that they were making progress. He recollected when he was working in the mine himself that women were employed in the mines. The question of ventilation had always been a difficulty. In 1850 he had taken part in an effort which was then made to have an adequate amount of ventilation, and some people who took a great interest in that matter thought it was impossible to have it at all times. He contended they had Inspectors in every mine. In a large mine he had no doubt there were 12 Inspectors. The firemen and others were all Inspectors; but if the Government thought fit to increase the number, he should be glad to see it done. The suggestion as to the extent to which the safety-lamps should be used was an important one. In consequence of the small light it gave there was not a good chance of examining the roof and fractures in the coal, and hence accidents arose. At the same time, he would say that no man ought to have the right to work where it was not safe to have a naked light and to blast. They met with great difficulties, however, in consequence of the great depth, and all mines made gas at one time or another. They had an accident near Bolton some time ago in a mine which was considered 82 to be perfectly safe, and which, he believed, was perfectly safe up to the time of the explosion. The men worked with naked lights, and they blasted coal, but every one of them was killed. That accident was, he had no doubt, due to a sudden outburst of gas. Unfortunately, if an explosion should occur in a well-ventilated mine, the consequences would be much more serious than in an ill-ventilated mine. If examination were made, he thought it would be found that since the last Act was passed, and since they had had heavy ventilation, the explosions had been of a much worse character than formerly. Bitter as the pill might be to swallow, they would have to consider the question of doing away with blasting altogether, and also with the use of naked lights. Their first consideration should be to protect the lives of their workpeople, no matter at what cost, and in saying this he believed he was speaking what was the sentiment of the whole of the coal owners. The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Macdonald) said that the managers ought to be brought into Court whenever an accident occurred; but he deprecated such a proposal, as it would involve a censure on individuals in cases where they might be wholly free from blame. The result of such a course would be that very soon there would not be one reliable manager of a mine left. They should remember that managers and coal owners were not infallible. The occupation in which they were engaged was a very dangerous one, and he believed that in circumstances of great difficulty they did their best. The men engaged in mines would, he was convinced, compare favourably with a like number of men of any other occupation. Where there was good and strict discipline there was little or no recklessness. For the last five years he had not had occasion to call any collier in his employment to account for striking a match, lighting a pipe, or doing any other act which might occasion an explosion. Hard things had been said of mine managers, but they should remember that these men were formerly workers in the mines, and were selected for their position on account of their special fitness, skill, and good conduct. Then, again, an owner invested in a mine £50,000 or £100,000, and it was simply preposterous to think that either manager 83 or owner would be so negligent as the one to bring ruin upon himself or the other to leave himself open to a criminal prosecution. If the Home Secretary and the House thought it desirable to have the subject investigated by a Committee, both owners and managers would afford them every facility to make the inquiry complete and satisfactory He believed they would also heartily co-operate in the carrying out of any scheme by which life and property would be rendered more secure than they now were.
MR. J. COWEN
said, he thought the Members of the House who interested themselves in the promotion of the Mines Regulation Act of 1872 had every reason to congratulate themselves on the success of that measure. It had not accomplished everything that some of its warmest promoters expected from it, but it had achieved a great deal; and worked, as it would be in the future, under the rules that the Home Secretary had just drawn up for the guidance of Inspectors, it would, no doubt, produce better results in the time to come. He thought the House, and the country too, ought to be congratulated on the improved tone of the discussion which took place on this subject. Everyone familiar with mining legislation could not fail to be struck with the different spirit that now pervaded the speeches on both sides of the House, with that which pervaded them when those measures were first introduced. The fears then entertained as to the consequences likely to be produced had proved to be fallacious, and the good results were acknowledged by all. Casualties in mines occurred from three causes. First, there were accidents that were unpreventable. No skill, or science, or art, could stop them. Under certain conditions that were unknown and inevitable, sad catastrophes took place. Others occurred through the ignorance or indifference of the owners and managers. Others, again, through the recklessness and carelessness of the workmen. But he believed that these two latter kind of accidents were greatly exaggerated. They were not nearly so numerous as was generally supposed. It should always be recollected that a miner went to work with his life in his hand. A coal owner by his carelessness risked his property. He could not insure himself against accidents. A man might buy a ship, insure it, send it to sea, and 84 sink it, and perhaps be a gainer in consequence. But they could not insure a mine, and everyone who lived in mining districts knew numerous incidents where men had been ruined through accidents in their collieries. They might make up their minds, therefore, that under any circumstances, even the most favourable, they would always have accidents in these undertakings. The public were only excited on this subject when they received intelligence of some terrible explosion. It should be recollected, however, as his hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt) had said, that the number of people killed by explosions was, comparatively, much smaller than those killed by the ordinary working of mines, such as the falling of the roof, and other unavoidable causes. The number of persons thus deprived of life was considerable; but the circumstances usually excited little commiseration, as they came two or three at a time, and not in scores or hundreds. But even that was not the worst of it. There were hundreds and thousands of men who met with accidents, who, though not killed outright, were maimed for life, and whose calamities were never heard of. The Home Secretary received a list of the persons who were absolutely killed, but he received no return as to the number of men who had their backs injured, their ribs squeezed in, or their legs broken—men who were carried home alive, who might live for a few weeks, a few months, a few years, but who were useless to themselves and a burden to their relatives. It was some provision for these men that ought to be made. They had a Society in the North of England—the Miner's Provident—and he believed the records showed that one out of every six members in a year received more or less injury in the pits. It had been calculated, upon very good authority, that something like 20,000 miners in a twelvemonth were injured in the pursuit of their employment. What he would suggest to the Home Secretary was, that a provision should be made for the families of these men, and for the men themselves, when they could not continue their work. By the imposition of a tax of, say a farthing a-ton, or half-a-farthing a-ton on all coal raised, and by the men themselves agreeing to contribute a certain percentage of their wages, a fund might be accumulated that 85 would provide for all contingencies, and prevent the constant appeals to the public for help that were now made for the miners after a calamity. The fund in Northumberland had been successful. What he desired was to simply take that principle, and apply it to the whole nation. They had a precedent for it. Many years ago the keelmen on the river Tyne—men who were employed in carrying the coals from the staithes to the ships—had a fund of this kind established. The late Lord Brougham (then Mr. Brougham) and the late Lord Abinger (then Mr. Scarlett), and others, interested themselves in passing a Bill through Parliament that imposed a farthing a-chaldron on all coals that were shipped in the Tyne, and 8d. a-tide on the men. This fund, for years, was the support of disabled watermen, and was highly successful. By the altered circumstances of commerce the trade had decayed, and the fund was abolished. But the principle that underlay it might be fairly applied to mining operations generally. The mine owners would not suffer by it, because the farthing a-ton would ultimately come out of the consumers' pocket. The public would not be injured, because the poor rate would be lessened in consequence; and the men, by contributing to it, would feel that they were doing something towards their own comfort and independence in infirmity and old age. He would make still another suggestion. It was observed that accidents in coal mines seldom came singly. When there had been one, two or three always succeeded it. There was every reason to believe that these casualties were occasioned by some sudden and great change in the atmosphere. Whenever a cyclone or circle of storms visited this country, they frequently produced a series of mining accidents. What he would suggest to the Home Secretary was, that he should telegraph to the different mines in the country in the same way as he telegraphed to the different seaports an indication of a coming storm or change in the weather. The publication of this meteorological information had been of great service to seamen, and he felt satisfied that if like care were taken in giving similar warnings to mine owners and managers, that some, at least, of the explosions might be avoided. What might be only a piece of inoffensive carelessness one day when 86 the weather was fine, might the next day, on account of the difference in the atmosphere, be the cause of a serious catastrophe. If the miners were called upon to give additional care when the weather was threatening, then some of the accidents might be prevented, or their severity lessened. One observation further he wished to make, and that was with respect to the use of blasting powder. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for North Durham (Sir George Elliot), that the use of blasting powder ought to be prevented in fiery mines. He also agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth, that wherever safety-lamps had to be used blasting ought to be prohibited. But it would be folly to discontinue blasting in all mines, especially in cases where they could use candle openly, and where there was no gas. They might blast whole coal without danger. It was when they began to blast the pillars in the "broken," that there was the greatest risk. They talked about the additional costs that the Mines Regulation. Act had thrown upon the production of coal; but if Parliament made up its mind to prohibit absolutely, and under all circumstances, the use of blasting powder, they would find that they would entail upon the consumer a vast deal greater charge than ever the Mines Regulation Act had heretofore imposed. He also desired them to remember that by preventing the use of powder, they would greatly increase the labour of the miner and the hardships of his occupation. The use of powder might be reckless, but regulation was one thing and prevention another.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, the country ought to be proud of men such as the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Macdonald) and the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt), and his two hon. Friends behind him, who, having begun life as practical miners, had raised themselves to the position which they now occupied. Those who had any share in the passing of the Mines Regulation Act of 1872 must be gratified at the testimony which had been borne by those hon. Gentlemen to its value as a piece of legislation, and that all that was necessary was that it should be put into operation. He had always held that the principle of a periodical inspection of mines was perfectly sound, and he was glad to hear that a reduction of loss of life had followed; but there 87 were so many mines, that it was impossible to look either for a thorough or for a daily inspection, but only for such as would give practical effect to the Act. He had seen the special instructions issued by the Home Secretary, and he felt that all that could be done without fresh legislation should be tried first; and, of course, if that proved insufficient, the right hon. Gentleman could take further steps for the attainment of his object, with the full knowledge that the House would support him in all that he might think necessary for the benefit of the mining population.
§ MR. PLIMSOLL
ventured to make a call upon men of science to do what they could for the prevention of accidents in mines. Parliament had done its duty by passing Acts to insure all due precautions being taken, and if scientific men could suggest some means by which accumulations of fire-damp might be traced, or made visible, it would be a great boon. It appeared to him quite possible that some chemical means could be found to make the presence of the gas visible, and he saw no reason why the scientific difficulty need be considered insuperable.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, that he was extremely glad that this subject had been debated, and nothing rejoiced him more than the tone in which the discussion had been conducted; for it showed, at all events, a common feeling among employers and employed, and all connected with mines, that everything should be done that could be done, either by legislation or otherwise, for the purpose of reducing, as far as possible, the danger to the workmen in mines. So far as that went, he was grateful to the hon. Members who had spoken for strengthening the hands of the Secretary of State in carrying out the work in which he had been for some time engaged; and he could not treat the debate as an attack, either upon the Government or himself. The hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt) had been good enough the other day to introduce to him a deputation, from whom he had learned that the Mines Act was being worked in a satisfactory manner. Therefore, he did not think that the Motion on the Paper was in the least a reflection on the Government. With respect to the practical question of what could be done, the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Macdonald) 88 went a good deal into the early history of the loss of life in mining operations; and also, with respect to later times, he had shown that, although accidents were much less frequent than formerly, there were still sufficient to direct attention to the subject, and to prove the need of further action to reduce the loss of life in these operations. It was not his (Mr. Assheton Cross's) desire to lay undue stress on what had already been done, nor could he contend that enough had been achieved. But it was right that it should be known that the Mining Acts that had been passed had been very successful, and had materially reduced the loss of life. If they looked at the Reports of the Mining Inspectors for the present year, they would find that, taking the decade from 1851 to 1860, the loss of life from explosions had reached 82 in the year. That was the number of accidents, not of deaths. In the next 10 years—1860 to 1870—the average was 56. Further, if they took from the time of the Mines Regulation Act—namely, the beginning of 1873 to the end of 1877—they would find that the average had been reduced to 44. The result, therefore, was that, in the first 10 years he had taken, the accidents causing one or more deaths were 82, and since the passing of the Act they had been only 44. That showed, at all events, a considerable reduction. Again, if the number of deaths caused by accidents, and not the number of accidents, were taken for the same period—from 1851 to 1860—the average each year would be found to be 244. In the next decade, the average was reduced to 226; and, since the passing of the Mines Regulation Act, the average had been still further reduced to 99. Thus, since the passing of the Act, the number of deaths had been reduced from 244 to 99. That was a great step in the right direction, and it became a much greater step if they took into consideration the increased number of people employed in mining operations. They must also consider what fell from the hon. Member for North Durham (Sir George Elliot), and which, to his mind, had a very great deal to do with these accidents—namely, that they had got down to the dangerous zone. They were not now working the same class of mines as in the first decade; but a much more dangerous class was being worked in many parts of the country, 89 and also, probably, worked without those persons who were engaged in the mining operations knowing of the danger which they were incurring. Taking that into consideration, they would find that, in the first period he had taken, the ratio of persons employed to each death was 1,008, and in the second decade, it was 1,400. That was a considerable difference. He did not wish to press too much on figures; all he desired to show was, that from 1851 to the present time, there had been a great reduction in the number of deaths, and in the number of accidents causing deaths—a very large reduction when the increased number of people employed in mines was considered. He only hoped that when the Act had been enforced for a few more years, they might be able to reduce that number considerably below its present rate. The deputation, introduced to him by the hon. Member for Morpeth, spoke of several points on which they thought the Mines Regulation Act ought to be strictly enforced, and he entirely agreed with them. When he first came into Office that Act was handed over to him by his Predecessor, and required very carefully looking into; and the longer he had been in Office the more he had been impressed with that fact. He did not think he should be charged with not having put the Act into force to a greater extent than it had formerly been. There had not been, to his knowledge, any serious accident in regard to which he had not sent down a special person to inquire at the inquest into the cause of death. He only mentioned the point for this reason, that it was curious to see in how few cases he had been able to institute a prosecution. He had always sent down the most independent man he could find to the inquest; and, except when he first came into Office, and when he admitted that he was not quite so much alive to the working of the Act as he had since become—in every single case since, he had given absolute instructions that wherever a prosecution could be instituted, criminally or otherwise, it should be done. In the result, he was bound to say that they were very seldom able to prosecute; but, whenever they could show actual criminal negligence, a prosecution had been instituted. The hon. Member for Morpeth and the hon. Member for Stafford, in common with the deputation, 90 were of opinion that very great care ought to be taken with regard to the certificates of managers. He entirely agreed with that; he looked upon the certificates of managers of mines precisely in the same light as the certificates of the masters of ships, licensed by the Board of Trade. He thought that wherever there was any negligence by which the master of a ship could have had his certificate taken away, the same rule ought to be followed in the case of a negligent manager of a mine. The result had been, that in the instructions which had been issued the Inspectors—and he could not act without a report—had every one of them a special notice, that if they saw there was such negligence as in their opinion would warrant a prosecution in the case of a certificated manager of a mine, they must give information to the Home Office in order that an immediate prosecution might take place. The hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt) had said that there was a difficulty about Inspectors, because an Inspector might go to a mine one day and find it perfectly safe, yet a sudden explosion might occur in it—perhaps the next day, or the week after it had been inspected—and something very serious might occur. Therefore, the hon. Member for Morpeth, and the deputation, expressed some doubt whether inspection as now carried out would protect the owner of a mine. His answer was that he did not think inspection would protect the owner of a mine, except in this respect—that if the mines were constantly inspected, the Report of the Inspector would be primâ facie evidence before a jury that the owner and manager had taken proper precautions. But if it were proved, also, that the owner or manager of the mine had been guilty of carelessness, he would be equally liable whether or not the Inspector had gone over the mine. When they came to the case of inspection, he agreed with what had been said in the course of the debate, that they must rely mainly for the operation of the Act upon the responsibility of employers and employed; they must rely, so far as the Home Office was concerned, upon inspection, but not too much, because the Inspector might go into a mine one day and report it safe, and the week after it might be in a totally different condition. What he meant to say was, that no number of 91 Inspectors they could possibly have could inspect all the mines and all the workings in mines. It was within the knowledge of everyone that was at all acquainted with mines, that it could not on any day be told from what quarter danger would come, or whether a mine would continue safe one single day. But the duty of the Inspectors must be to see that the special rules were right, that the general rules were carried out, and that the general discipline of the mine was right and proper. He quite agreed that there had been differences of opinion among Inspectors as to what their actual duties really were. Some of them he knew had expressed the opinion that they were not to visit a mine unless there had been some accident there, or unless they had been sent for either by the workmen or someone else. That view he entirely repudiated, and, in the result, he had thought it better to issue consolidated regulations from the Home Office to the Inspectors, which would state as clearly as could be the views of the Home Office as to their duties. Those regulations stated that, first of all, it was the duty of an Inspector to visit and inspect a mine on invitation; next, on complaint; and, inasmuch as miners were apt to shrink from volunteering information for fear of giving offence to their employers, the Inspectors should pay attention even to anonymous complaints, provided that they were not on their face incredible or unreasonable. Further, wherever the information proceeded from—a private or anonymous source—he should be careful so to conduct the inquiry that it should not point to his informant, or lead to his becoming known, when he had received neither invitation nor complaint; but from information—such as from time to time could not fail to come to him in the course of the regular discharge of his duties—he had reason to believe that the mine was not satisfactorily conducted, or was not in accordance with the Statute. In the above cases the Inspector would not send notice of his intended visit, if, in his judgment, it was likely to frustrate the object of the inquiry. In addition to these inspections, which were imperative, and other inspections which the Inspector might take the opportunity of making when he had to visit a mine for the purpose of transacting other business—as inquiry into an accident, or 92 arranging for the establishment of special rules—it would be the duty of the Inspector to devote whatever time he could spare to the inspection of those mines where he thought it most likely to be of service, such inspection to be above ground and below ground, and without notice. The liability to an official inspection at any time, without warning, might be a most effective guarantee against abuse; and an unexpected visit from an Inspector was none the less beneficial because he found nothing of which to complain. The Inspector, therefore, should make a point of arranging his business, and that of the Assistant Inspector, with a special view to secure as large an amount of time as possible for these casual inspections. It was in the confidence that Inspectors realized and conscientiously discharged this obligation, that the Secretary of State had abstained from requiring each Inspector to send in a periodical Report of the business done on each day. But this dispensation made it the more necessary that an Inspector, in drawing up his annual Report, should, for the satisfaction of Parliament and the country, state enough to show that this most important part of his duties had been habitually and effectively carried out. For that purpose, the Inspector would keep a record of his visits to all the mines which he inspected, and of the result of each inspection. Those were the Rules which had been issued for the information of Inspectors, and he did not think that inspection could be carried further than was laid down by them. Then, so far as the competency of the managers was concerned, whatever circumstance came to the knowledge of the Inspector which should lead him to the opinion that an inquiry ought to be made under Section 32 of the Mines Regulation Act, it would be his duty to make application to the Secretary of State. The hon. Member for Morpeth and the hon. Member for Stafford had alluded to the use of safety-lamps and to operations by blasting. He quite agreed that it would be wise—wherever it was necessary to do so—to use the best safety-lamps that could possibly be employed. But it should not be forgotten that there was danger from the falling of the roof, and there could be no doubt that the number of accidents from that source was greater than those 93 from explosions. They must not, therefore, come to the conclusion that because it was insisted that everybody carried a safety-lamp, all the danger would be got rid of; for, in some cases, instead of preventing danger, the tendency was to increase it. The question of introducing the safety-lamp must be treated with discretion. With regard to blasting, that was a very different question, and he was aware that there had been a great difference of opinion amongst Inspectors on that point. Some of the Inspectors held a very strong conviction that blasting ought to be given up in what were called fiery mines. No one would say, however, that blasting ought to be given up in every mine. In some mines it would be a great deal safer to blast than in that House, and would not produce such dangerous consequences. In several cases which had come under his notice, he had pressed on the owners of collieries—for he had no power to interfere further—that they should give up blasting by gunpowder in fiery mines. But he had known in many instances that the objection to the discontinuance of blasting came not so much from the masters and colliery owners as from the men themselves; because, where blasting was employed, a much greater quantity of coal could be obtained in a shorter time. What he said to the deputation the other day, and which he thought ought to be fairly considered, was, that in all cases where the mine owner was unwilling that blasting should be employed, the men ought to make no objection. If objection on the part of the men should cease, he did not believe there would be much on the part of the owners to the discontinuance of blasting. With respect to what had fallen from the hon. Member for North Durham (Sir George Elliot), he did not think that the cost of getting the coal without blasting would be very much increased. So long as blasting was carried on in the fiery mines, it was obvious that the danger must be greatly increased. Why was it that in those dangerous mines the men were compelled to have safety-lamps? Because it was not thought right that a candle or naked light should be used. But if a wretched farthing candle could not be trusted, why could a great stream of light from blasting be allowed? It was inconsistent to prohibit the farthing 94 candle and to permit the blast. He did not think that at the present moment it would be necessary to appoint a Royal Commission, because the Government had called the attention of mine owners throughout the country to the subject, and before another Session he hoped to have their opinion upon it. Attention had been very much drawn to the question for more than 12 months, and opinion was gradually ripening upon it. Having spoken something with regard to the duties of Inspectors, and of colliery owners, and of certificated managers, he would now say one word about the men themselves. Whatever inspection there might be, whatever regulations might be laid down, however careful owners and managers might be, they must not rely upon Inspectors, or managers, or employers, but upon the employed. All were engaged in one common business and one common trade; there was a common danger, and no Inspectors, and no care on the part of the colliery owners or managers, would be of any avail unless there was a reciprocal attention on the part of the men. They must not endanger others by breaking rules to gratify themselves, nor must they put their fellow-workmen in jeopardy by their carelessness; for, if they did not take precautions, no power, no care, on the part of anyone else, could prevent accidents. With respect to the working of the Explosives Act, which was passed some four or five years ago, he might say that it had worked incalculable good. It had prevented many accidents, but only because the most stringent possible regulations were laid down by it for the workmen themselves. He only mentioned this for the purpose of showing that mining, being a dangerous operation, every precaution must be taken on the part, not only of mine owners and managers, but of all employed in the working. He agreed with what had been said by the hon. Baronet the Member for North Durham, that the mining operations in many parts of the country were now penetrating a dangerous section. This was particularly the case in the Scottish coal fields, on which the Blantyre explosion occurred not long since. That district was one of those where those engaged in mining operations ought to be especially careful; and it was important that colliery owners and workers should 95 be informed of the danger they were incurring, and he hoped that they would take the necessary precautions for avoiding the recurrence of such a terrible accident as the Blantyre explosion. He entirely agreed with what had been said by the right hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh (Mr. Lyon Play-fair), that not only should reliance be placed upon employers and employed, but that a very great gain would be achieved by instructing those persons of an ordinary rank of life, who were forced into positions of great responsibility, in the nature of the particular dangers which not only themselves, but all employed under them, incurred. So far as he was concerned, that suggestion should be acted upon. With the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) he also agreed. Whether practical or not he could not say; but it was certainly desirable that men of science should direct their attention to the discovery of some means of obtaining special warning of the pressure of gas in mines. No doubt, also, what had been said by the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen), as to atmospheric influence being of great importance in mining operations, was also correct. He would not trouble the House further, but would only ask the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Macdonald), after what had passed, whether he proposed to take a division on the subject? He had called the attention of the House to the matter, and had raised a debate which, he was sure, would be satisfactory to him and other hon. Members interested in the subject. He must say that the object and intention, not only of the Government, but of the whole House, was to reduce the loss of life by these particular accidents; and by a division the hon. Member would only throw an implied censure upon those who were engaged in carrying out the working of the existing Acts. The hon. Member might rest assured that, so far as he had anything to do with the Home Office, he would take care that the future regulations that might be made would be in the direction of those at present in existence, and that everything that was possible would be done to insure the safety of life and property amongst those who were engaged in what must always be a most dangerous avocation.
§ MR. HUSSEY VIVIAN
expressed the satisfaction he felt at the remarks which had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, in all of which he entirely agreed. The debate on the whole was the best he had ever listened to on the subject, showing, as it did, the practical knowledge of this important question possessed by many hon. Members of the House. He did not at all wonder at the interest with which the House regarded the matter, because colliery accidents were of a terrible character; and if, by legislation, they could in any way suppress or reduce them to a minimum, the House ought certainly to adopt measures to bring about so desirable an end. For many years he had taken part in every Committee and every Bill in reference to lessening these disasters, and it was certainly very pleasing to find, from the figures given by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, that the Acts which had been passed had conduced to the saving of so many lives. He believed more might be done by the stringent carrying out of the Mines Regulation Act. If, in future years, it should be found that other arrangements might be made for further reducing the loss of life, by all means let them be adopted. He must confess, however, that he could not agree with the suggestion made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll). The hon. Member appeared to think that better chemical tests for gas in mines were required; but he (Mr. Hussey Vivian) would remind the House that the tests for gas were of the most delicate character. Anyone who, like himself, had seen gas tested in mines, could not but feel that this was the case; and, therefore, he did not think it would be of much use to look in that direction for an improvement. He entirely coincided with the remarks which fell from the hon. Member for Newcastle-on-Tyne (Mr. J. Cowen). He (Mr. Hussey Vivian) thought the House ought to turn its attention to insisting on a fund being provided for the support of widows and children of those who were killed by these terrible disasters; and he urged on the Home Secretary the desirability of passing an Act with such a provision in it. He felt sure that employers as well as employed would gladly support any such measure, because it might be depended upon that so long as this most dangerous 97 business was carried on, so long would they, from time to time, be liable to these frightful calamities. The great point, therefore, to be thought of was, if these calamities did occur, that those who were left destitute owing to them should not suffer in consequence of the loss of the breadwinners. Therefore, he impressed upon the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary the necessity of adopting such a measure as had been shadowed forth by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen). Without entering into details, he must say that there could be no question that safety-lamps ought to be employed in every mine where gas existed. He had always caused them to be used in mines where he was interested, and he could safely say no practical difficulty had arisen there from. The question of blasting was certainly one of extreme difficulty. It was quite clear that the ordinary men ought not to be allowed to blast for themselves, and that special men should be told off to fire all shots. The absolute prohibition of blasting was a question of extreme difficulty; and, before any rules could be laid down in such behalf, a great deal of consideration would have to be given to the whole subject.
§ MR. MACDONALD
desired to say a word or two, and if he were out of Order, he craved the indulgence of the House while he did so. One thing he would say of the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Knowles), he differed with him in toto. As for the effect of his question that he had put, he would only say further, that so long as the good people of Stafford enabled him to hold a seat in the House, he would continue to put such questions if the need required it. [Mr. ASSHETON CROSS: Hear, hear!] He could not agree with the remarks of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) and the hon. Member for Glamorganshire (Mr. Hussey Vivian) in favour of a fund being provided by the State to meet the distress caused by such disasters. He preferred such events being met by the providence of the people rather than by the funds of the State. He desired to protect men from loss of life; but if that unfortunately came about, he preferred them to meet the wants of their family by their own foresight and thrift. Considering the regulations which the right hon. Gentleman 98 the Secretary of State for the Home Department had drawn up, and the assurances he had given that the whole subject should not escape his careful consideration, he (Mr. Macdonald) would follow the advice of the right hon. Gentleman, and ask leave to withdraw his Motion.
§ Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Committee deferred till Monday next.