HC Deb 08 August 1890 vol 348 cc256-7
MR. BURT (Morpeth)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been drawn to the following cases of prosecution under the Metalliferous Mines Regulation Act, reported by Mr. Willis, Inspector of Mines for the Newcastle district:— In the first case a complaint was received by me relative to the very inadequate ventilation of the Fletcher Pit of Postlethwaite's Moor How Iron Ore Mines. I had an inspection made of the mine, and it was reported to me as being in a deplorable condition as to ventilation. In No. 12 company's working place candles burnt very dim; men had to fix candles in a slanting position to enable them to see. In Nos. 2 and 6 company's place first candle lighted went out when fixed vertically; second candle died out in five minutes when fixed vertically. In No. 3 company's place candle burnt very dimly. In No. 9 company's place candle died out in one and a quarter minute when fixed vertically. The cases were heard before a full Bench, who dismissed them without giving any reason for so doing. The second case was very similar in all respects, only, if possible, the mine was in a worse condition. The case was heard at Whitehaven, and resulted in a penalty of £1. and whether, in consequence of the state of the Law relating to metalliferous mines, the Government will undertake, next Session, to introduce a Bill to remedy the evils complained of?


Yes, Sir; my attention has been called to these cases. The failure to obtain a conviction in the first case is not, in my opinion, due to any imperfection of the existing law, and it is difficult to understand how the magistrates, on the facts before them, arrived at their decision. In the second case I am also of opinion that the tine imposed was manifestly insufficient. Should the opportunity arise for me to introduce a Bill, which is already in draft, amending the Metalliferous Mines Act, it will be matter for consideration whether it should not contain an enactment similar to that in the Coal Mines Regulation Act, whereby Justices interested in mines are precluded from adjudicating on mining cases.


Were not some of the Magistrates who tried the case directly interested in the matter?


I have no official information to that effect.