MR. KENYON&c.) (Denbigh
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether it is true that Mr. Martin, of Prestwich, has been appointed Inspector of Mines for South Wales; and, if so, whether that gentleman is well acquainted with the Welsh language?
THE SECRETARY OF STATE (Mr. CHILDERS) (Edinburgh, S.)
I will answer this and the following Question of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Glamorgan (Mr. A. Williams) at the same time. I will first explain to the House that the Inspectors of Mines, 14 in number, are appointed by promotion from the office of Assistant Inspectors, of whom there are 19. Recently an Inspector of Mines stationed in South Wales, who could not speak Welsh, died. He had under him two Assistant Inspectors, both of whom speak Welsh. It became necessary to select a successor; but while there were three efficient Assistant Inspectors of 13 years' stand- 1299 ing, who were fully competent for the post, the senior Assistant Inspector, who speaks Welsh, had only three years' service, and had not had sufficient service for promotion. I was, therefore, unable to make him an Inspector over the heads of efficient men so much senior to him; and I appointed Mr. Martin, who had 13 years' experience as Assistant Inspector. I am of opinion that, where it is practicable and fair to promote a Welsh-speaking Assistant Inspector to a Welsh district it should be done; but power to speak Welsh, especially when the two Assistants can do so, is not the most important qualification for an Inspectorship. The South Wales district is the most dangerous of all, and requires for its supervision great experience; and my consideration for the safety of the miners prevailed over my desire to satisfy the very natural wish for a native Inspector. I may be allowed to repeat that Mr. Martin will have under him two Welsh-speaking Assistants; so there need be nothing to prevent those colliers who cannot speak English from making known to the authorities any complaints or suggestions that they may have to make. The late Inspector, who discharged his duties most efficiently and, I believe, to the satisfaction of all, did not, as I have said, speak Welsh. I may also say that I propose to consider the advisability of appointing a Welsh Assistant Inspector in the place of Mr. Martin, so that a sufficient supply of Welsh - speaking officers may be kept up for future promotion.
§ MR. KENYON
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, whether he will take steps to see that Mr. Martin may pass an examination in Welsh in six months' time?
§ MR. WILLIAM ABRAHAM (Glamorgan, Rhondda)
asked, Whether it was not the fact that within the last few days the right hon. Gentleman had received Resolutions from various bodies of Welsh colliers, representing from 1,000 to 12,000 or 13,000 workmen, protesting against the appointment of a gentleman to the Chief Inspectorship of Mines in South Wales who was not conversant with the Welsh language, and who for that reason they considered to be unable to fulfil efficiently the duties of an Inspector of Mines in Wales; whether 15 out of 16 Members of that 1300 House, being Representatives of Welsh mining constituencies, had also, during the same time, protested against the same thing, and had memorialized the right hon. Gentleman with a view of trying to get him to reconsider the appointment and to cancel the same; and, whether, in view of the deep feeling of regret and disappointment now existing in the Principality respecting that appointment, he would endeavour to meet the wishes of the people and of their Representatives by cancelling the late appointment, and appointing instead some gentleman who was conversant with the language of the great bulk of the Welsh colliers?
I do not think my hon. Friend could have heard my answer. I distinctly said that I thought it desirable, where it was possible, to appoint a Welsh-speaking Inspector to a Welsh district, but that other considerations were important—namely, the safety of the men, and that I could not undertake the responsibility of appointing to the most dangerous district in the Kingdom a gentleman of three years' experience over the head of a gentleman of 13 years' experience. I can only say that I abide by my answer.