HC Deb 03 March 1886 vol 302 cc1849-70

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, its object was to protect the lives of workmen in coal mines, and also to enable them to guard their own interests by having officials who should be independent altogether of the control of the mineowner. The first proposal in the Bill had reference to the check-weigher, and provided that in future the check-weigher should be appointed by a majority of the workmen, and should really be the independent representative of the workmen. In the 18th section of the Act it was provided that the person appointed as check-weigher must be in the employment of the owner of the mine. What was wanted by this Bill was that the check-weigher should be altogether independent of the influence which the mineowner would bring to bear on a person in such a position. He proposed that the appointment by the men should be only after a meeting, duly convened after the usual notice had been exhibited at the place where such notices were generally placed. In certain cases, he was given to understand, it would be inconvenient to have such a regulation, as most of the meetings were convened by word of mouth; but, in regard to a small matter of that kind, he should be glad to accept any modification that might appear good to the House. Next, he wished to secure that the mines should be inspected monthly. At present the inspection of mines was certainly not what it ought to be; for they were practically seldom inspected until after some terrible accident had occurred. The Inspectors had the right to carry on such a system of inspection as should secure reasonable precautions against accidents and loss of life; but, as a matter of fact, the inspection of mines was not, as he had said, by any means what it should be; and everyone concerned with mining must feel that some such provision was necessary in order to meet the reasonable expectations of the men. The proposal in the Bill was not precisely that made by the miners themselves. As he was aware, the Miners' Conference in Birmingham, assembled in Council on January last, recommended that the inspection should be made every three months. Of course, it was very plain that if they insisted on the inspection of every mine in the country every month they would have materially to increase the staff of Inspectors, which would involve a considerable expense. The question of expense, however, ought to be no bar to a salutary change; and it might be easy to devise an arrangement, according to which only those mines specially reported to require frequent inspection would be inspected once a month. Many experienced miners said that there ought to be no practical difficulty in the inspection of each mine once a month; and the only difficulty, therefore, appeared to be that of expense in the appointment of additional Inspectors; and as to that, it would be better to expend a large amount in order to prevent calamities such as occurred from time to time, involving what was considered to be a preventible loss of life. Then he wished to secure the assent of the House to a modification of the Act of 1872, with regard to what was known as dangerous working places—as, for instance, a place where there was likely to be an interruption of ventilation and an accumulation of gas through a fall of the roof. By the Act it was provided that in places where there was dangerous accumulation of gas no lamp or light should be used other than a locked safety lamp. He wished to provide that in what was known as fiery mines no light other than the locked safety lamp should be used in any working where it might appear that a temporary derangement of the means of ventilation might occur, and that such working should be deemed a dangerous working place. The next proposal was that the men should not be treated in a way that at present smacked very much of the old tally system. In many mines in the far north there was an established practice, on the part of employers, of keeping in their own hands a sum equal to a miner's week's wages, which the men called "lying" money; and if the men needed money they were obliged to ask for advances, which were made at a considerable interest. The men were bled in a very unfair manner by the making of these so-called advances while money was owing to them; and the Bill proposed to put a stop to the withholding of the wages that were due, and that where advances were made no money should be charged for such advances. By the next clause he proposed that the Weights and Measures Act of 1878 should apply to all mines, and to repeal the Saving Clause, which had hitherto permitted the use of "the measures and gauges ordinarily used in such mines." This was necessary to assure the men from many a loss, which at present they had to complain of, by reason of the irregularity of the standard of measurement. The last clause in the Bill was that which proposed that firemen should be examined and certificated by Inspectors. The duties of firemen in regard to the lives of hundreds of thousands of men employed in mines could hardly be overestimated in respect of their responsibility, or the immense danger that might occur by their negligence or want of qualification; and, therefore, he proposed that every fireman should be recognized as qualified, and be certificated by an Inspector. This might not be a comprehensive measure, but it dealt with points on which legislation was urgently needed, and he hoped it would receive the assent of the House. He moved the second reading of the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Arthur O'Connor.)


in moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said, he did not deny that there were matters in the Bill with which it was desirable Parliament should deal, and that there were matters in the Act which eminently called for modification. He doubted, however, whether the hon. Member (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) was sufficiently versed in the subject; and it was hardly possible, he thought, for one Member to combine in himself the qualifications necessary for dealing with every subject; but, above and beyond that, there was now before the House a Bill by the late Home Secretary (Sir R. Assheton Cross), who was peculiarly able to deal with this subject, which, if it did not contain all the matters which the Bill of the hon. Member did, could easily be amended in that direction, if it was thought desirable. His great objection to the Bill was as to the manner in which it was framed. It professed to be a Bill amending the Mines Regulation Act. It dealt with several subjects that formed the subject-matter of that Act; but it did not deal with them by way of specific Amendments, and laid down new regulations without explaining how far they were intended to amend the present Act, or how far they were to be new provisions in addition to them. The force of that observation would appear on a consideration of Clause 2, dealing with the appointment of check-weighers. He was not prepared to say that they could possibly leave the matter as it stood now; but that was a subject which was dealt with in the Bill of the late Home Secretary. The hon. Member proposed that the check-weighers should be appointed by a majority of all the workmen; but there were at every mine a number of men who were not paid according to the output, and under the Bill these men might attend the meetings and vote, although they were not in any way affected by the check-weigher's duties. He was certain a clause of this kind would give rise to all sorts of difficulties. He suggested that any such provision should be by way of amendment of the Act, as was proposed in the Bill of his right hon. Friend the late Home Secretary. His next objection to the Bill was to the proposal to examine the mines at least once a month. He could hardly imagine anything more fatal to a proper inspection of mines than a rigid rule of that kind. Such a proposal was not the way to secure satisfactory inspection; and he thought hon. Members who represented the miners were perfectly conscious of that. It was not at all true that Inspectors only inspected mines after accidents had taken place. What he would suggest was this—that if an Inspector was worth anything he ought to know what mines required to be watched with strictness and what mines could be dealt with more leniently. He believed the proposed periodical inspection would do more harm than good, because it must necessarily diminish the responsi- bility of mining managers; and as to the practice of holding wages back during what the hon. Member called 'lying time," it certainly did not exist in Lancashire. The proper mode of securing efficient inspection was to secure thoroughly competent Inspectors, who should be left to carry out the inspection, subject to proper rules framed at the Home Office. He did not think it was necessary to deal with the question of ventilation, because the matter was already adequately safeguarded; and the point intended to be guarded against by this Bill was really provided for by the Act. He also objected to the provision that no firemen should be appointed without a certificate of qualification. The last clause of the Bill showed that its author was not familiar with the subject. He doubted the value of the extension of the system of certificates to persons holding minor offices. He asked the House to reject the Bill, on the ground that it was not a carefully-framed measure calculated to carry out the objects aimed at.


in seconding the Motion for the rejection of the Bill, said, the object in view was safety; but he believed the measure would have an exactly opposite effect, because it substituted for the responsibility of the manager, who was resident on the spot and was constantly there, the responsibility of the Inspector making a fitful inspection once a month. He thought, however, the number of Inspectors ought to be increased, because many of them had districts which were too large. The coal mines of this country were a terminable annuity, and an annuity which was terminating at an ever-increasing rate; and it was very important that the Inspectors should have a complete knowledge of their districts, so that they might know what coal was wasted, and thereby lost to the nation. Therefore, he thought there should be an inspection of all mines once a year; but the proposal to have them inspected once a month would make mining in this country perfectly unsafe. He hoped when the Mining Commission reported working with naked lights would not be allowed in any mine of a kind that could be regarded as fiery. The proposal that firemen should pass an examination was unnecessary—that should be with the manager. He considered that the Bill ought not to be passed, because such clauses as were beneficial were contained in the measure which was going to be brought forward by the late Home Secretary, and what remained ought not to be touched till the Royal Commission upon Mines had made its Report.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Tomlinson.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

MR. J. WILSON (Houghton-le-Spring)

said, that as one of the Members representing the opposite side to the hon. Member who had moved the rejection of the measure he thought he might say a few words, and add something, not, perhaps, of so eloquent a nature as those who had preceded him, but of a practical nature at least to the discussion. He belonged to a class (the miners) which had received very large benefits from the Mines Regulation Act of 1872. They recognized the worth of that Act, and had felt its benefits. Still, at the same time, being acquainted with its working, they were able from their position to realize the defects in it. The necessity for the amendment of that Act was, he thought, very apparent. They considered that the number of accidents still taking place in their mines—accidents not arising so much from explosions, but arising from the every-day occurrences due to unskilful and neglectful operations—was too large. The hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt) had given a number of statistics of the accidents which had taken place in their mines for 10 years ending 1884; and he found from that Return that the total number of men who had been killed by these accidents was no less than 11,165. The percentage was as follows:—41 per cent of these deaths resulted from falls—every-day occurrences; 22 per cent were caused by explosions; and 36 per cent were miscellaneous accidents. He thought that was an appalling fact taking place in their midst, and one sufficient of itself to induce hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House to devote their minds to the amendment of this Act in order to secure the safer working of the mines. He was very much obliged, as a miner, to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) who had introduced this Bill. He was only sorry that his learning and aptitude to take hold of the general working of the Mines Regulation Act was not backed by the advantage—which, he admitted, might have been somewhat hardly acquired—of having worked for two or three years in a mine himself, in order that he might have been better acquainted with the technicalities of the subject. But he felt sure of this—that the miners of the country and their cause, through his advocacy and the advocacy of all those who had taken up the subject, would be far better known and appreciated than they had been, and that they would not be looked upon as a sort of "bugbear," as they now sometimes were by men who were ignorant of them. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would forgive him, however, if he ventured to point out one or two facts in order to show that the Bill did not go as far as the miners would like it to go. He was at one with him in the distance which the Bill went in relation of check-weighmen. What it sought to give them was perfectly just. All they asked was that the man who weighed the materials the production of which formed the miners' living should be their servant; that they should have the providing of him and the judging of him. As it was at present, this man must be amenable to the firm, and might be discharged, as men had over and over again been discharged, for very frivolous causes. He ventured to think that if the hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection of the Bill (Mr. Tomlinson) were to become a member of the Union of which he was a member, and would take part in that Union, and give them the benefit of his learning, he would find he was quite outside with regard to the way and the manner in which he looked at this point.


said, that he did not object to the principle of that portion of the Bill. He only maintained that the form in which it was dealt with in the Bill of the late Home Secretary was better, and that that form had better be adhered to.


said, he had not the slightest doubt that if a man took a child under his care he would consider that that child was the best. He had no hesitation in saying that he thought the proposal before them was the better of the two. But the Bill did not go far enough in that direction. He held that a law which governed a man in his work ought not, legally, at any rate, to govern him when away from that work. The House would scarcely credit it that in this country, which was noted for law and justice, a check-weighman had been turned away from his work, and the miners deprived of the services of a man whom they trusted, simply because he went where he had no right to go—namely, into the manager's garden, and took away two apples. He was not at one with the hon. Member in his proposal for the inspection of mines once a month. He had worked in the pits. The last work he did in the pit was as a pit Inspector, and he could assure the House that it took a week to carefully examine that mine as it should be done. Therefore, he thought that a period of a month was rather too short a lapse of time between one inspection and another. But he agreed with the general principle of the proposal. He should wish now to add a few items which he would like to see incorporated into any measure that was brought forward. He would like the Bill to prohibit entirely the employment of all women either in or about mines. He had no doubt that civilized and sensitive ears—those of men touched with humanity, who were not acquainted with the working of mines—would be astounded when he said that there was in one county alone—that of Lancashire—working about the mines, doing work fit only for the muscular and strong hands of men, no less than 1,172 women. He believed that it was a woman's place to do much more delicate work than that. As a workman speaking on behalf of workmen, he said that no Act would be complete which did not prohibit entirely the employment of female labour in this obnoxious work. The charge of taxing the earnings of the men he was glad to say did not apply to Durham and Northumberland. He thought it only fair to say that he did not know a single instance of this kind happening in those parts; but if it were done he thought that any Bill which was passed should prohibit the practice, especially remembering that the owner usually had a week's money lying on his hands. Another thing which was important was this. They wanted in any new Mines Act that might be passed the appointment of a Minister of Mines. If he was not detaining the House with his maiden speech—as he was passing through the baptism of oratory which all of them would have to in this new Parliament—he would like to say this, that the mines of this country wore becoming very gigantic enterprizes; and with all deference to Home Secretaries, past, present, or future, he held that the man who had the charge and inspection of mines should be one who did not need instruction from miners, but who was technically instructed himself. With regard to providing further against the risks peculiar to mining operations, he believed that there were mines in the country where it was not safe to use gunpowder. There had been cases where explosions had been traced clearly to the shot fired; and he, therefore, thought the time had arrived when the science of the country should be devoted perhaps a little less to the arts of warfare, and more to the peaceful application of its resources to the safety of life, and to providing some means whereby the production of the coal which was so necessary to life should be as safe as possible. If the second reading of the Bill was passed, he had no doubt that in Committee the amendments he had suggested would be incorporated; and if the Government took upon themselves to bring in a measure, he hoped they would see that the propositions brought forward by the miners were reasonable, and such as ought to be accepted.


said, he had not had the advantage of working in a mine, like the hon. Member (Mr. J. Wilson), nor did he claim to have an intimate knowledge of this subject; but his constituency contained a good number of colliers, and having taken the trouble to ascertain their views, he had come to the conclusion that they had many solid grievances which ought to be redressed, and which the Bill would do something to remedy. With regard to check-weighers, miners undoubtedly suffered a great deal, and he agreed with the effort being made to introduce fresh arrangements in regard to them. As to the other clauses of the Bill, the hon. Member who introduced the measure (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) had himself admitted that they wore somewhat crude, and did not meet the necessities of the case. Monthly inspection would cause considerable expense, and therefore he suggested that the inspection should be quarterly, except in the case of dangerous mines. He agreed with the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. J. Wilson) as to the inadvisability of employing women at all in mines. There was one point which had been entirely omitted in the discussion which was of serious interest to the miners, and that was that the relatives and those connected with the colliers killed in accidents in the mines should be allowed to appear before the Coroner and make statements, in order that the proper verdicts might be arrived at. He conceived it was quite open to hon. Members of the House to support the principle of the Bill, even while they wished to introduce Amendments; and it was in that spirit that he desired to support the second reading. Ho trusted the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. J. Wilson) and the other hon. Members who represented mining constituencies, would believe that there were many of the occupants of the Opposition Benches who were as desirous as any of advocating the claims of men who were following such a dangerous and hazardous occupation as that of a coal miner.


said, as far as he understood the Bill, it commanded his approval and support. In the past there had been much difficulty ill appointing and keeping check-weighers, who were frequently removed from their posts through endeavouring to do their duty by the men. For most trivial causes they had been taken before magistrates and dealt with summarily. Some owners gave perfect liberty of meeting to their colliers; others did all they could to prevent meetings. In one case it was desired to call a meeting at the pit's mouth—a practice to which many proprietors and managers did not object, but which others did all they could to prevent. The check-weigher, not being at liberty to call the men together verbally, stuck one notice on his back and another on his breast, stating that the meeting was to be held. This was considered an instance in which the weighman had "otherwise misconducted himself," and he had to leave and seek work elsewhere. What the men wanted was to be in a position to get the men they wanted to do their work as check-weighers at the pit bank, so that the manager might not have the power to prevent them selecting whom they liked for the pit bank, whether they were employés of the said colliery or not. A case was tried at Chesterfield in which the men contended for this right. The question was fully raised, but the result was that the men lost the day. The miners wanted to be represented by a man who would see that justice was done to all concerned by looking after the weight, and preventing undue deductions from the men's wages. The deductions which the masters' weighers might make from the totals of the men's gettings were a very serious matter, and there were collieries in which the deductions had amounted to 7,000 tons a-year. In some cases the men had very little power indeed to protect themselves against wrongful deductions. Then, in regard to inspection, he was one of those who thought there ought to be more inspection than they had at the present time; but there could not be more with the present number of Inspectors. In Yorkshire there were only three Inspectors for 422 mines, and it was impossible for them to properly visit these mines if they were ceaselessly occupied night and day, and had clerical duties to perform and inquiries to attend; but he was glad to be able to add that the work that was done was very well done, and there was nothing to complain of. But there ought to be more Inspectors, and they ought to be able to pay surprise visits, without sending notice to managers or anyone else. He did not believe that inspection could be worth much when it was known when it was to take place, and at stated times. The inspections should take place without either the owners or the managers of mines knowing when they were about to be held. The instructions that were issued by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross), when he was at the Home Office in 1872, had produced the best results. The clause of this Bill relating to dangerous places was, he believed, unnecessary, because the case was provided for by the Act of 1872. The system of withholding wages and lending money on interest did not prevail in Yorkshire, and he should have liked to have heard where it was done. He approved of the Weights and Measures Clause. The utmost difficulty was found in getting Inspectors of Weights and Measures to go to collieries to inspect the machines and test them. At present, most of the Inspectors of Weights and Measures stated that they had no power to go to the machines on the pit banks and examine and test them under the Act of 1872; but this was a mistake—that Act did give them power in that necessary direction. He knew from correspondence with the Board of Trade that the Inspectors of Weights and Measures had such powers under the Act of 1872. There were, however, only a few mine owners who willingly submitted their weighing machinery to inspection; and he thought he might mention in that hall—he begged pardon, in that Assembly—the name of Mr. Superintendent Hall, of Wakefield, who did his duty without being asked or compelled to do so. It often happened when gas abounded in mines that it was not reported, and when explosions took place the hidden dangers from the gaseous mines were never brought to light. There were certain mines which were well known to be dangerous mines, where one would not be allowed to carry a small naked light. He considered that in all mines there should be employed day by day duly qualified and competent overmen and firemen to examine them; and the overman or fireman, whether of a mine, or of a given district in a mine, should be a man competent to write out his own report and sign it, and so be responsible to the manager of the mine for it. The miners also wanted a change in the certificated manager, so that he might be free of some agent placed above him—some controlling power who required the manager to manage the mine in accordance with his wishes and instructions. The certificated manager of a mine ought to be made responsible for what was carried out in it. Then the under manager should have a second class certificate, and be held responsible for what took place under his direction; but the second class certificated manager not to be considered the certified manager of the mine. In some mines it was usual to use extreme caution, especially in regard to small lights, which were not allowed unprotected in those mines; yet it was very curious that while those naked lights were not permitted in such mines, shots were often fired which caused a flame of 30 yards in length. They required blasting in all such mines prohibited, and if anyone violated the Act of Parliament a common informer should be allowed to take up the case, as under the present Act the workmen could not initiate any prosecution, whilst the colliery owner and manager could do so without the sanction or intervention of the Home Secretary. The mine owner could proceed against any miner whom he liked, and the miners ought to be put upon the same footing as their employers in this respect. Again, the miners wanted power to enter the Coroner's Court, and not be subject to the permission of the Coroner. The Coroners very often insulted the miners when they attended their Courts. Their duty was to attend the Coroners' Courts, and so help, in giving evidence, to bring about a knowledge of the true cause of death, which was a public duty. In conclusion, he would say that he agreed with many portions of the Bill now under discussion, but it did not go far enough in the directions he had indicated. He trusted that the Government would take up the whole question, with the intention of dealing with it at as early a day as possible. That being so, he hoped that there would be no division on the Bill, and that the hon. Member (Mr. Tomlinson) would not persist with his Amendment.


said, he had introduced a Bill of his own relating to the same subject, but he did not look with the smallest jealousy on the Bill now under consideration. On the contrary, he looked upon the hon. Member (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) who brought it forward as a fellow-worker in the same cause, and he should be glad to cooperate with him in order to secure the safety of those who were engaged in this dangerons occupation in the working of the mines. They had heard two speeches from hon. Gentlemen who had been engaged in mines, and with whom he sympathized very much. In regard to the use of blasting powder, especially in dangerous mines, that was a question which interested him extremely when he was at the Home Office, and he made a great many inquiries about it. But he found at that time that the opinion of the Inspectors and of the men themselves was very much divided, on the point. In consequence of that division of opinion, he had applied to the Royal Society for the opinion of scientific experts, and a Commission appointed by it had been considering the subject for the last six or seven years. They promised him before he left Office that the Report should be shortly placed in his hands; and he engaged when he had an opportunity of studying it to carry out its object as soon as possible. The matter had now passed into other hands; but when the Report was presented, on that point and also as regarded an improved mode of lighting mines, he promised the Government his hearty support of any measure framed in accordance with the recommendations of the Commission. He hoped there would not be any measure of a drastic kind until the Report was presented, which might be this week or next. The Government might say if they were going to introduce a Bill that the other Bills ought to be withdrawn. He was of a different opinion. When the Government Bill was introduced there might be a good deal of discussion upon it, and when there was a question with which they could deal shortly and simply it would be very dangerous to put off a settlement. The inconvenience of having a great many Bills on the same subject during the same Session was as nothing compared with the loss which might follow if the chance of settling some important point was missed. He sympathized with all that had been said about check-work, and he also had some provision in his Bill for dealing with the matter. He entirely agreed with those who held that inspection ought to be frequent, and that the Inspector ought to come without notice, so that the owner should not be able to make any alteration in consequence of expecting the Inspector's immediate arrival. But he did not think there should be a monthly inspection. The country would not consent to have such an army of Inspectors as would then be required, and the work would not be done so effectually. Only a month before he left Office he tried to induce the Inspectors to have more inspections. He knew the miners were very anxious that the managers should have certificates, and that was a point well worthy of discussion in Committee. He should be very glad to see precautions taken to secure the services of proper and efficient men to carry out the important duties of firemen. Ho hoped the Government would allow this Bill to be read a second time. [Mr. BROADHURST dissented.] What the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Broadhurst) meant by that shake of the head, he (Sir R. Assheton Cross) did not know; but for his own part he should certainly vote for the second reading; and he hoped the Government would do so also, for they could have no reason to oppose it, unless they had a Bill of their own of a larger scope, and, if so, he hoped the House would hear of it this afternoon. Besides, all knew how crowded the Order Book became later in the Session, and they ought to take advantage of the present time, and not lose this bird which they had in their hands for two in the bush. He hoped he would not be out of Order in suggesting that they should read this Bill a second time before a quarter to 6, when discussion must cease, and then allow his own Bill (the Coal Mines Bill), which stood on the Orders, and which also dealt with another branch of the subject, and one which he considered very important, to be read a second time.


said, he thought it was unfortunate that the hon. Member for Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) had not made the Bill apply to metallic mines as well as coal mines; but he (Sir Joseph Pease) had no doubt it was competent so to amend the Bill in Committee that that omission would be remedied. He sometimes thought that people did not sufficiently reflect what the figures with respect to accidents in mines meant. The Bill was intended to help that which many of them interested in mines were very anxious to secure—the protection of the miners in the pursuance of an arduous and almost necessarily dangerous calling. The hon. Member for Durham (Mr. J. Wilson) had referred to a number of fatal accidents in coal mines. It was his (Sir Joseph Pease's) lot once to be present at one of those colliery accidents, and any sight more appalling it was impossible to conceive. When you stood at the pit's top and saw body after body handed over to the poor mourners, and witnessed the wounded handed over to the doctors, it was one of the most distressing scenes that could possibly be imagined. Those were the accidents which it was their duty most carefully to guard against. The Bill before the House went some way in that direction, and it was the duty of the House to help forward that object in every way. As regarded the check-weighmen, he thought the House would certainly sympathize with the desire of the miners that the check-weighers should be absolutely their servants. It was not the miners' interest to have a bad check-weighman. Their interest was to choose an honest man. He had some experience in these matters, and he must say that the instances in which complaints had been made against check-weighmen were very rare. He maintained that it was the duty of the miners to choose for that office the most honest man they could find; and if it happened afterwards that he did not give satisfaction, they ought to be able to remove him and put another man in his place who would do his duty honestly. If the hon. Member who brought in the Bill had a little more practical knowledge of the subject ho would not have suggested once-a-month inspection. A great deal had been said about inspection; but he thought it would be a mistake to relieve the mine owners themselves of all responsibility in this matter. While there should be full inspection and every effort made to insure the safety of the miners, he held that nothing could be more dangerous than to leave everything to the Inspector. There were many hundreds—he might say thousands—of men who were able to be their own Inspectors; but in saying that he did not mean that they should do away with the Government inspection, which was, of course, a very good thing, and he (Sir Joseph Pease) was in favour of it provided it did not go too far and relieve the miners of all responsibility. As an illustration of how the miners might be relied on to exercise their own judgment with regard to the safety of the mine in which they might happen to be employed, the hon. Baronet cited the ease of a number of miners declining to go down into a pit on the ground of its dangerous condition. On that occasion the men were proved to be perfectly right. It was that sense of responsibility that he wished to retain. With respect to payment of wages, he considered that, as a matter of fact, all wages were due at the end of the day on which the labour was done, and any other system of payment was a matter of mutual arrangement. Then, as to Coroners' Courts, he strongly urged that the representative of the deceased miners should be allowed to be present at the inquiry. Evidence of a very important character affecting the lives and limbs of the miners was often elicited at these inquiries. As regards the Report of the Royal Commission to which the late Home Secretary (Sir R. Assheton Cross) had referred, he (Sir Joseph Pease) trusted that they would not have to wait for the Government measure, which might not be produced for years. The best thing for the House to do would, in his opinion, be to accept the present Bill, and remedy in Committee any imperfections that might now disfigure it.


said, he was glad to see, on both sides of the House, such a desire to amend the Mines Regulations Act of 1872. For his own part, he might be allowed to express his personal thanks to those hon. Members present who had taken part in the passing of the Act of 1872; and he would beg also to express his thanks for the class to whom he had the honour to belong—namely, the mining class of the community—especially for two very important provisions that were inserted in that measure. The first provision was that referring to the ago at which children were permitted to be employed in mines. For his own part, he began to work in the mine at the age of nine years, and only left it when it was the will of the constituency that he should be returned as their Representative at St. Stephen's. The other provision to which he alluded was that which gave to the miners the power to examine and inspect the mines for themselves, so that they might be assured, as far as it was possible to be assured, that due regard was had to the safety of life and limb by the management. However, as time rolled on, it was found that the Act, though excellent in many points, was yet defective in others, and he was glad to think that even the late Home Secretary (Sir R. Assheton Cross) had acknowledged that the Act contained many anomalies which he was endeavouring to remove by a Bill of his own. The object which he (Mr. Fenwick) had in view in rising was—seeing that there was a generally expressed desire to amend the Act of 1872—to urge that the Government should give the House some information as to their views, and the attitude they intended to assume, not only towards the measure now before the House, but in regard to the Bill of the late Home Secretary. That right hon. Gentleman now admitted that it would be a wise thing if the Government would give the House the assurance that the Act of 1872 should now be amended. What he (Mr. Fenwick) wanted to know was, whether or not the Government were prepared to take the two Bills as the basis of a comprehensive measure? He was confident, if the matter could be fairly and properly talked over, the Government might produce a measure that would satisfy both sides of the House, and give general satisfaction to the mining community.


said, he was not one to talk out the Bill, for he entirely approved of it as a whole, and the sooner the existing defects were remedied the better. He thought it would be impossible to inspect mines monthly, as it would require quite an army of Inspectors to perform the duty. He considered that it was out of the question to lay down a hard-and-fast line that an inspection should take place once a month. Then, the use of powder was an extremely difficult question, on which there were many opinions, and the working miners themselves were as much at variance in their opinions on this question as other people. He referred, in proof of his assertion, to a deputation of minors from his own county, the members of which were opposed to the abolition of the use of powder, and he argued from this that a good deal of information was required to be collected upon this point before any satisfactory legislation thereon could take place. He hoped that the Report of the Royal Commission, when it came to be issued, would give some information on this subject which would be of a valuable character. As to the question of certifying firemen, he looked upon it as much more important that firemen should be practical men rather than scientific men; but this was a point which he thought might be dealt with without any great difficulty. As to the employment of women in mines, he entirely concurred with the principle of the provision for their non-employment, He believed he was correct in saying that in Wales women were not employed in mines at all—at least, if there were any, he had never seen them; and he thoroughly agreed that they ought not to be so employed. From long experience in the House, he advised that a second reading of the measure should be taken, no matter what the promises of the Government might be. He had known many good measures lost through their being postponed with the view of the Government taking the question up and legislating upon the matter in a fuller and more satisfactory manner than could be done in a private Member's Bill. The intentions of the Government, no doubt, were very good; but when the pressure of Business came upon them, and time was growing short, the promised measure was too often abandoned of necessity, and a remedial measure, which, though perhaps not perfect, would have been very useful, was lost. He did not wish to see such a result here, and he, therefore, hoped the Government would accede to a second reading.


said, the hon. Member for Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) had raised a very useful discussion on this Bill, and he was glad that he had introduced it. He (Mr. Burt) said that, however, rather because he thought it indicated that they might expect the hon. Member's support in any measure affecting the interest of the working miners than because he regarded this as an adequate or satisfactory measure. The Bill itself, he (Mr. Burt) could not vote for as indicating anything like a settlement of the mining question. It simply touched the rim of a very large, wide, and complex subject. It was very well known that the late Government intended to deal with the general subject of inspection of mines, and he had no doubt that his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Broadhurst) would be able to say whether the present Government intended to introduce a measure with the same object. He had had a Question which he was going to put to the Home Secretary (Mr. Childers); but he had seen the right hon. Gentleman privately with regard to what the Government meant to do. A Royal Commission, of which he (Mr. Burt) had the honour to be a Member, had been sitting for a very considerable time. He was sorry that they had not up to the present been able to report; but the Commission had inquired more steadily and completely into all questions relating to mining than these had ever before been inquired into, and the Commission would report in a very short time. In fact, it was no secret that a considerable portion of the Report was already in print. He trusted, therefore, that the Government would take this opportunity of stating what they meant to do on the subject; and if they were prepared to deal with it in a thorough way, and in a way which only a Government could deal with a large public measure of this kind, he would advise his hon. Friend (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) to be satisfied with the discussion he had raised, and to take the opportunity of introducing any Amendments that might be wished into the Bill of the Government. He entirely approved of the clause in the Bill before them relating to check-weighmen. The only objection the working miners had to the present Act was that they were not allowed absolute liberty of choice. Their choice was limited to men in the employ of the same firm. The miners objected to that restriction, and wanted to have absolute liberty to select any person whatever to fill the position of check-weighman. He would not detain the House any further, as he was anxious to hear the views of the Government.


said, the only reason why the Government had not expressed their views on this question at an earlier stage of the proceedings was their desire to hear a very full expression of opinion upon the subject by those hon. Members who were most capable of giving an opinion, and were mostly interested in this class of legislation. With respect to the Bill of the hon. Member for Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor), he need not assure him, nor need he assure the House, of the deep and earnest sympathy which the Government felt for the working miners of Great Britain. At the same time, there were parts of the Bill which did not appear to commend themselves without reserve to the Government. With regard to the clause which had reference to the Weights and Measures Act applying to the machinery used in the weighing of coal, he believed he was speaking correctly when he said there was no necessity whatever for the extension of this clause; that the present law already applied to all weights and measures, whether in mines or in factories, that had to do with the decision of the amount of wages for any particular labour performed either by workmen or work-women. Then, with regard to the fixed periods of visits for Mine Inspectors, he thought his hon. Friend (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) had probably not been a workman in the sense in which his hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Fenwick) and he himself had been a workman for the greater part of his life. What workmen always viewed with the greatest amount of pleasure was the visits of the manager or foreman who would keep regularity, because when they got rid of him they knew they were perfectly free to indulge relaxation until the recurrence of the next visit. Gentlemen who were the most objectionable wore the foremen or managers of irregular habits, one upon whose visits they could never depend for a moment, and the consequence was they were in a constant state of labour and uncertainty.


said, he did not propose by his Bill that the visits of the Inspector should be at fixed times, or that notice should be sent to the mine owners.


said, he noticed that; but he thought that was an instruction always given to Inspectors without any express instruction in an Act of Parliament. Indeed, a man who would want information of the necessity of not announcing his visit would be a man absolutely unfit for the discharge of such important duties. With regard to the question of check-weighmen, he thought he was speaking the mind of the Government when he said that the Government quite saw the necessity of some relaxation in regard to this subject the check-weighman was a person as clearly in the employment of the miners themselves as the miners were clearly in the employment of the mine owner; and, therefore, working miners should have considerable liberty in the field for selecting this very important person. In respect of the question of the policy of the Government in regard to the Bill under discussion, he had to say that the Government viewed with considerable favour the wise attempts to amend the Mines Regulation Act in this and some other directions; and he, therefore, wished to assure the hon. Member (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) that he must not regard them in any way as opponents to his Bill. There was an important feature in the demands of the miners which the hon. Gentleman had altogether overlooked, and that was the question of the presence of the relatives at Coroners' inquests, and the demand of the right and power to put questions as to the cause of death. That was what many of his hon. Friends in mining districts regarded as one of the things that was of the utmost importance.


said, that his hon. Friend (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) was quite willing to accept Amendments dealing with these points.


said, he was not challenging the hon. Member's objection to have it inserted, but was pointing out its great importance. With regard to the Royal Commission, he had the authority of the Government to say that the Report would be issued within a week, and that one of the first works of the Home Office would be to prepare a measure in the light of that Commission, having regard to other demands made from other directions, and, in the meantime, would wish that a Bill of this description, if it should pass its second reading, which they would certainly not oppose this afternoon, that the Committee stage should be placed at such a date that would give them opportunities between now and then of preparing and submitting their proposals to the House. If the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) would accept that view, he should be very glad indeed, on behalf of the Government, not to proceed further in the debate. He might also state that the Government would take precisely the same course with regard to the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir R. Asshcton Cross).


said, the promoters of the Bill were willing to accept the intimation just made, and would postpone the Committee stage of the Bill for a month.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Wednesday 31st March.