§ MR. BURT (for Mr. MACDONALD)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, If he has any information as to the latest colliery disaster at Apedale, North Stafford, and if it was caused by the firing of a shot in a mine giving off large quantities of gas; whether, considering that Mr. Wynne, the Inspector of the district, used the following words in his Report of 1875:—I have year by year pointed out the farce of using locked lamps where the most dangerous of all lights—blasting—is allowed; and therefore, the awful responsibility, sanctioning a course that leads to such losses of life, rests on other heads and not on mine;and that in another Report on the subject of blasting the same year, he says—I do not concur in the opinion it should be left to the miners and the mine owner until another terrible calamity befall us, and the public tell us we think more of the convenience of trade than of the safety of the workmen employed in the mine,he will bring in a Bill to amend the law on the subject of blasting in the mine, or whether he will support a Bill brought in by a private Member on the subject?
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
Sir, I have seen the Inspector this morning. I am sorry to say that this accident resulted in the death, I think, of 22 men; but it is impossible, owing to the mine having taken fire, to recover the bodies for a considerable space of time. One consolation I have from the Report of the Inspector is this—that the owners of the mine have done everything they could to secure proper ventilation and discipline in the mine, and no expense has been spared by them in making all the mines with which they are connected as safe as it was in their power to make them. I have no doubt, from the conversation I had with the Inspector, that the accident will turn out to have been caused by the use of gunpowder in a mine of a fiery character; and I am bound, in justice to Mr. Wynne, to say that he has for many years upheld the opinion that the use of gunpowder in fiery mines is dangerous, and ought to be discontinued. There is a great difference of opinion amongst Inspectors on that point; but many of them are 203 gradually coming round to Mr. Wynne's view. I cannot help thinking that the people are apt to forget that, as we get deeper in mining, we get into mines of a more fiery character, and that the dangers which are now to be encountered in the working of mines did not exist when, the mines were not of such a fiery character. I think it is a point worthy of most serious consideration whether or not measures should be taken to prevent, in fiery mines, the use of gunpowder for blasting. I am bound, however, to say that there is great difference of opinion on the subject, not only amongst Inspectors but owners of mines; and the miners themselves—so far as I can form an opinion—are very much opposed to legislation of this kind. All I can say at the present moment is that the subject is worthy of very serious consideration. In the case of an accident that happened not very long ago, I sent down Mr. Maule, a gentleman of great experience, to attend the inquiry, and he made a report strongly commenting on the use of powder in these mines. I propose to send him to attend the inquest in the present instance, in order to see whether his opinion is confirmed, or whether he sees any reason to change it. I should be very glad indeed if any discussion could take place on the Motion in order that it may be fully inquired into, so that persons connected with mines and others might have the fullest opportunity of offering their views on the subject; but I cannot say that I will support any particular Private Bill until I have had an opportunity of seeing what that Bill is. If, however, any hon. Member thinks right to introduce a measure, or to propose a Motion on the subject, I shall only be too ready to give it my consideration.