HC Deb 14 July 1881 vol 263 cc835-7

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, If his attention has been called to a paragraph in the Report of the Inspectors of the Metalliferous Mines of Cornwall and Dorsetshire, at page 543 of the Inspectors of Mines Reports for 1880, which runs as follows:— On looking down the list of fines, one cannot help being struck by the fact that most of them are absurdly small. The fact is, a very large number of the magistrates are interested directly or indirectly in mining. Many of them are owners of mining property, and have been troubled by repeated notices to fence dangerous abandoned shafts, and have been thereby put to considerable expense; some, indeed, have been prosecuted for neglecting to attend to these notices; others are shareholders in mines in the district, and, as such, are not disposed to look favourably upon Government restrictions, which they think may interfere with their profits. If the offences had been punished with greater severity, mine agents would have attended to the provisions of the Act with much more diligence. I am convinced that this mistaken leniency on the part of the magistrates leads to a delay in carrying out all the provisions of the Act, and thereby tends to keep up the death-rate from accidents; and, whether he will bring in a Bill this Session to prohibit magistrates who may have a direct or indirect connection with metal mines from sitting on the bench, or in any way by their presence taking part in such mining cases?


, in reply, said, the allegation by the Inspectors that the magistrates, having an interest in mines, inflicted inadequate fines, so as to lead to the non-enforcement of the law, was a very serious one. In the case of the coal mines, that was obviated by an enactment that persons interested at all in mines should not act as magistrates in the case. In the case of the metalliferous mines there was no similar enactment, and that, he was informed, was done deliberately, because it was considered that in Cornwall and other like places, where metalliferous mines abound, it would have been almost impossible to have found any magistrates who were not interested, because it was so common there to have small shares in various mines. But, of course, when that was allowed, it was assumed that the magistrates having such an interest would not allow that interest to interfere with the administration of the law; and, if it was true that that was the case, no doubt, some remedy would be found for it. He should hope that the hon. Member's Question, having called attention to this very serious matter, might tend to cure it; if not, of course, some serious remedy could be applied to it. In answer to the latter part of the Question, he was afraid the present state of Public Business did not afford very favourable hope of introducing a Bill on this or any other subject this Session.


suggested that a Circular of warning might be sent to the magistrates of Cornwall from the Home Office, as had been done in other instances with good effect.