HC Deb 02 July 1896 vol 42 cc573-607

, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, said he did not think it necessary to occupy much time in justifying its introduction. The year before last a Royal Commission on Coal Dust in Mines, presided over by his right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Colonies, made certain suggestions to increase the safety of life in mines, and the former Home Secretary introduced a Bill on the subject which unfortunately did not obtain a Second Reading. If that Bill was necessary, they had had during the last 12 months very sad demonstration that they ought to do what they could to make some further regulations if possible to diminish risk and loss of life in coal mines. Though the Bill of his right hon. Friend opposite did not obtain a Second Reading in the House it was much discussed by colliery owners and workmen in all parts of England and Scotland, and certain arrangements were come to between their representatives which had been extremely useful to the Home Office in framing this Bill. The principal difference in this Bill from that of his right hon. Friend was that it did not propose the constitution of a central board. The House would remember that in the Bill of last year there was a proposal that after fiery and dusty mines had been certified as such there should be an appeal to a central board in London, and if a mine had been proved to be fiery and dusty it should be under special rules as to management, which should be subject to arbitration under the general Act. The proposed central board was the result of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, but at the same time a somewhat cumbrous way of arriving at the formation of special rules. It was not popular with either owners or workmen, and he therefore did not repeat the proposal in this Bill or propose that there should be district boards in the various districts, which appeared to him to be a still more expensive method of arriving at what they desired to reach. He had adopted the proposal as to special rules, and the Bill proposed to give the Secretary of State certain powers to impose, amend, and modify special rules under the general Act and greater power than he possessed at that moment with regard to lamps, explosives, and the mode of using and storing them, the number of persons to be permitted to remain in the mine, watering or damping the mine, and general precautions for the prevention of accidents. These proposals had been criticised, and he had been asked why he proposed to take powers to make special rules, whereas there might be held to be sufficient power in the Secretary of State under the general Act. He was advised that there were certain new provisions which were strongly recommended by the inspectors, the propriety of which would be acquiesced in by all familiar with the subject, but could not be made the subject of special rules, considering the general rules were statutory regulations in an Act of Parliament against which special rules made by the Secretary of State ought not, without special statutory powers, to prevail. He would take the example of one of the general rules which provided that no further hole for putting in a shot should be bored within 6 inches of a hole where a cartridge had been inserted and had missed fire. The inspectors had agreed in recommending that this should be altered to 12 inches. He hoped the House would agree with the proposed method of arriving at special rules, subject, of course, to appeal under the general Act. The other provisions had reference to providing for abandoned mines, which touched a very important question indeed, and also dealt with inspection and the use of explosives. There were two clauses in the Bill dealing with checkweighing. They really dealt with the question of arrangements as to wages, and they were not, he admitted, material to the Bill. He had considerable doubt as to whether or not he ought to introduce them; but he followed the excellent example of his predecessor in attempting to clear the law, which was in such a state that no one but a lawyer could understand it. ["Hear, hear!"] There were conflicting decisions, which were extremely embarrassing to anyone who had the administration of the law, or who had to make himself acquainted with the law, and those difficulties were not diminished but increased by fresh conflicting decisions by eminent lawyers as to what the law was. He hoped, therefore, that the House would be disposed to consider favourably this attempt to make the law clear in reference to so important a matter. ["Hear, hear!"] Very early in the existence of the Bill he gave a promise that it was not his intention to persevere with the check-weighing clauses, and from that promise he did not feel himself at liberty to withdraw. Therefore at a subsequent stage of the Bill he proposed to withdraw Clauses 3 and 4 of the measure, and leave the Bill one dealing exclusively with safety in the mines. Having had the opportunity of seeing those who were interested in this question from the points of view of the owners and of the men, there appeared to be very little difference between them, and between them in the aggregate and the Home Office. He had gone carefully through the Bill. He had considered the objections and suggestions made to him from many quarters, and, without labouring the details of the Bill, he might say with reference to Clause 2—representation on arbitration—he should be ready to adopt a clause agreed to between the owners and the representatives of the men with reference to the election of those representatives in arbitration cases. With reference to Clause 5, he should be prepared to make it more definite and the scale in Clause 6 might be more accurately defined. As regarded the first paragraph of Clause 7, it had never been the intention of the inspectors, upon whose advice this clause was drafted, that there should be that immoderate demand for inspection, which meant impracticability, and the words "the condition of which may affect the safety of persons working in the mine" were intended to be limiting words. If those words were not sufficient, the words "adjacent to the roadways and working places" might be introduced, to indicate what were the places which ought to be inspected, when inspection was necessary. Clause 8, to which he attached considerable importance, gave powers to prohibit certain classes of explosives. Objection had been made that it was a very strong power to put into the hands of the Secretary of State, and it had been suggested to him that it ought to be under a special rule which should be subject to arbitration. But he hoped the House would support him in the view that it was rather in the direction of a general rule, about which there was a large amount of evidence pointing to the fact that scientific and practical men would in a short time agree as to the nature of the explosives that should be used in the mines. The Bill was not a very ambitious Bill; but he hoped that it devised some useful and practical method for saving life in the mines. He proposed, when the Bill was read a Second time, to refer it to the Grand Committee on Trade; and from what he had heard he confidently relied on assistance from all quarters to make it a good and effective Measure. ["Hear, hear!"]

MR. H. H. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)

said he desired to re-echo, as far as he could, and reinforce the appeal which the right hon. Gentleman had made to the House to read the Bill unanimously a Second time. It was impossible to exaggerate the urgency of the dangers with which the Bill dealt. It was not until the investigation by the Royal Commission presided over by his right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Colonies was completed that the difference of opinion which had previously existed amongst experts as to how far coal dust was an effective cause of colliery explosions was finally set at rest. But since the completion of that Commission, amplified and extended in other countries as well as our own, he did not believe there was any difference of opinion worth considering at all on that point; and we were now rapidly coming round to the view that not only was coal dust an effective means, but was far more than any other means the cause of dangerous and disastrous explosions in our mines. The existing law—the Act of 1887—was wholly inadequate to deal with that particular form of danger, for the simple reason that at the time the Bill was prepared the attention of experts was directed to dangers arising from gas and falls of roof; and the danger of coal dust had not yet been accurately gauged. It appeared to him the moment the Report of the Commission was presented, containing in an authentic form evidence to sustain those conclusions, that it was the duty of those responsible for the administration of the mining laws to invite the attention of Parliament to the matter and to place upon the Statute-book more effective safeguards for the lives and limbs of our mining population. Accordingly, having taken all the pains he could to ascertain the feelings of those interested in the matter, he laid before the House last year a Bill of which this Bill was in some respects a copy and in other respects a development and an improvement. It was a matter of very great regret to him and to all his late colleagues that they had not been in a position to carry that Bill into law before Parliament was dissolved last year. But the fault did not rest with them, nor, indeed, did it rest with anybody. The cause of the delay consisted in the fact that representatives of the owners and representatives of the miners were anxious to meet together to discuss in confidence the questions raised by the Bill, and he decided to postpone the Second Reading of the Bill in order that when it came before the House the House might be able to approach its consideration with some unanimity of opinion, and thus improve its chance of passing into law. That was the only reason why the Bill of the late Government had not been placed upon the Statute-book. He was glad the subject had been taken up by the right hon. Gentleman opposite in the spirit which they expected from him, and that the right hon. Gentleman had placed in the Bill a series of provisions which, if they passed into law, would, in his opinion and in the opinion of everyone who had studied the matter, have the effect of saving hundreds of lives which were at present exposed to avoidable dangers in mines. He agreed that the Bill ought to be referred to the Standing Committee on Trade, where it could be discussed with more detail and with greater advantage. It differed from the Bill of last year in the omission of the provision which that Bill contained for the creation of a central board. He had inserted that provision in his Bill in deference to the recommendation of the Royal Commission, which came, he thought, unanimously to the conclusion that it was desirable to have such a board for the purpose of defining and scheduling the mines of the country and dangers of mines to which this special legislation ought to be applied. But he was against the creation of that new authority, having in view the expense it necessarily involved and the possibility of delay in its working, unless it was an expedient that was absolutely necessary. The more this matter was discussed with the representatives of the owners and the men, the more it was found that on both sides there was a great indisposition to this central authority, while there was no similar unanimity as to whether or not it would be desirable to substitute local hoards in the coal mining districts. In those circumstances he thought the right hon. Gentleman had been wise in leaving out the provision which might complicate the proceedings and engender unnecessary delay. The proposed procedure by special rules followed his own proposals; but he had always felt strongly the objections to this mode of procedure. Although special rules might be laid down after the most careful deliberation and consultation with all the persons concerned and the highest experts, yet a single mine owner, who chose to make factious and unnecessary objections, might compel the Secretary of State to proceed to arbitration; and in rules of this kind arbitration was a most costly, cumbrous, and dilatory proceeding, and often had the effect of postponing the operations of the rules for months and even years. When he was at the Home Office a series of special rules were proposed for a South Wales district, and the owners—he would not say unreasonably—referred the case to arbitration. That arbitration went on for months; huge costs were piled up on both sides; and in the end some of the rules had to be abandoned, others were the subject of compromise, and the whole arbitration proceedings were rendered nugatory. He could not help fearing that that unhappy precedent might be followed in the future, and that provisions which were urgently necessary for the protection of life might, be postponed; but the difficulty was to suggest any other course. This was interference of the most drastic kind with the way in which these large industries were carried on; and it was impossible to deny that the persons affected were entitled to be heard before provisions which might be inapplicable to particular cases were brought into effect. He had sometimes thought that the end might be attained if the procedure provided by some of the provisions of the Factory Acts were adopted; and if rules of this kind made by the Secretary of State were to come into force after having been laid on the Table of both Houses without any objection being taken to them within a certain not excessive period of time. That course would give publicity; it would give the interests concerned an opportunity of being heard; and it would obviate some of the more serious dangers of arbitration. As to the special rules themselves, they were to deal with matters which the investigations of the Royal Commission had shown to be of the most vital importance—the description of the explosive to be used in the mine, the persons allowed to remain while shots are being fired, and, most important of all, the watering and damping of mines. The inquiries of the Commission had shown that it was quite possible to lay down rules which would not impose excessive expense on the mine owner. In many of the most dangerous mines every precaution which the Secretary of State could suggest under these powers was now being observed, and accidents were there very rare. Therefore he could not suppose that the imposition of these precautions would be a hardship. He entirely agreed with the Home Secretary that power ought to be taken to act independently of special rules—to prohibit the use of explosives of a certain class in mines, after due notice, if the Secretary of State were satisfied that it were likely to be dangerous. Science could now discriminate between those classes of explosive agents which could be safely used and those which could not; and in a vast number of instances the prohibition of explosives at improper times and in improper places would be a power of infinite advantage to the mining community. As to the promise of the right hon. Gentleman to omit all those provisions which did not come within the category of life-saving or life-protecting provisions, he must say he viewed with regret, the disappearance of the clause which dealt with checkweighing. ["Hear, hear!"] The state of the law on that subject at the present time was nothing short of scandalous. When he was at the Home Office he used to take opinions from the Law Officers on the subject; and as the Law Officers changed frequently he got a great variety of opinions. [Laughter.] He believed that one of the first steps of the present Government was to take the opinion of the new Law Officers, and that the opinion of those gentlemen differed in every fundamental point from that of their predecessors. [Laughter.] He did not say that with the view of casting any reflection on the professors of the law. [Laughter.] It proved that a law, in reference to which it was possible for the most skilled and expert, advisers to take such diametrically opposite opinions in the course of a few years, was not in the requisite state of clearness. ["Hear, hear!"] These differences of opinion among the Law Officers had been paralleled by the differences of opinion among the Judges in Court. He did not believe there was any mine owner in this country who at this moment knew whether the system of deductions observed in his mines was legal or illegal, and whether he was not, by carrying on a system which might even have been agreed to between master and men, exposing himself to daily penalties. ["Hear, hear!"] The law being admittedly in that condition, it was regrettable that an attempt to make it clear, such as was contained in Clause 3, had to be abandoned. It was a clause which had been the subject of much misapprehension outside, and he hoped that, if not in the present Session, then in subsequent years, such modifications as had been shown to be necessary might form the subject of a separate enactment. ["Hear, hear!"] But he agreed that the chances of this Bill ought not to be imperilled by the introduction of disputable matter which was extraneous to its primary purpose—the protection of life. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman would have with him the universal approval of all concerned in abandoning for the time being those particular provisions, and in asking the House to concentrate its attention on what was so necessary for the safety of the mining population. He hoped the House would respond to the right hon. Gentleman's appeal, and give a speedy Second Reading to the Bill that it might be sent to the Standing Committee. [Cheers.]


said that every one would approve the principle of the Bill; but he had listened with regret to the statement of the Home Secretary announcing that Clause 3 was to be dropped. He found that the men who were engaged in the colliery industry were strongly opposed to the dropping of the clause. A very favourable opportunity was presented for disentangling the complications of the law; and if this opportunity were lost it was not likely that it would recur during the present Parliament. After any question had been the subject of legislation it was very seldom that it was taken up again in the lifetime of the same Parliament. According to the clause itself deductions could not be made unless the men and masters were agreed, and the deductions must be reasonable according to the judgment of the tribunal before whom the case was taken. He understood that the Bill was to be sent to the Committee shorn of these clauses, and that, therefore, the Committee would not have an opportunity of discussing their merits. Why not allow the Committee to discover the weak points of the clauses if there were any? The Debates on trade Bills which took place in the Committee were almost void of Party feeling, and not more than one or two sittings need be occupied in the discussion of the clauses. If after discussion they were found to be very controversial they could be dropped. Rather than drop the clauses now, he was almost inclined to advise that the Bill should be dropped and brought in next Session.


thought the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down spoke for a very small portion of the people he represented when he said they were in favour of proceeding with the clause respecting deductions. The hon. Gentleman, no doubt, heard the Home Secretary say that certain meetings were held last year between the coalowners' and workmen's representatives at which matters affecting this Bill were agreed to. It was a strange testimony to the position the hon. Gentleman had taken up that this clause was about the only one which the owners' and miners' representatives were not agreed upon.


Will the hon. Gentleman say why the late Home Secretary introduced a similar clause?


said the late Home Secretary did so without the sanction of the representatives of the workmen; if he had consulted them before doing so, they would unquestionably have advised him not to introduce the clause. Dealing with this question of deductions, and looking at it with a practical, and not a legal eye, he desired to say that if he were in favour of the deductions as stated in the Bill, he should certainly have approved entirely of the decision of the Home Secretary to drop the clause, because a more unworkable clause was never, in his opinion, put into any Bill. Looking at Sub-section (b) of the clause, with his knowledge of a mine—and he did not know much about anything else—he found that, not only was the agreement as to deductions to be sanctioned by mutuality between employers and employed, but it was to have due regard to the nature of the mine and to all the circumstances connected with the place.


That could be put right in Committee.


said he was speaking now of the Bill as it stood, and he was assigning a reason why the House should approve of the withdrawal of the clause. It was impossible for any court outside a mine to give a decision except after a thorough investigation of the men's work took place. He was sorry to hear the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Seton-Karr), disregarding the lives of the workmen, say that he was prepared on account of this little controversial matter to see the Bill deferred for another year.


I said nothing of the kind.


said he understood from what the hon. Gentleman stated that he was inclined to see the Bill withdrawn for this year.


said the hon. Gentleman was putting a construction on his words which he never intended they should bear.


continuing, said that in his opinion the Home Secretary had taken not only a wise course but a very humane one in withdrawing the clause relating to deductions, and in devoting his attention entirely to that which would save life in our mines. The late Home Secretary said that the result of the Commission on Coal-dust was to draw the attention of the country to the danger of the presence of dust in our mines. There were certain men in the House who for 16 or 17 years had been trying to convince Parliament of the danger that lay in dust. It had been the lot of some hon. Members to be mixed up in these matters. From the year 1880, when, at Seaham 175 men lost their lives, those hon. Members had been trying to prove to scientific men, who had turned a deaf ear to them, that the real danger in mines, so far as explosion was concerned, lay in the dust that accumulated on the timbers and ledges of the mine. But the Home Secretary had said that during the last 12 months this teaching had been enforced. It was quite true, and he was entirely at one with the Home Secretary, that it was quite time that the Government should say what explosives should be used in the mines of this country. His experience was that so long as they had an explosive that would emit flame, where the dust had been allowed to accumulate, so long would the lives of the miners be in danger. In Somerset two explosions had occurred in mines in which no gas had been found. With regard to the late explosion in Durham through which 20 men lost their lives, the manager of the mine would tell them that gas had not been seen for many years in the mine, and the testimony at the inquest at Brancepeth showed that the mine was not a dry and dusty one. Not a single workman, or manager, or expert would say that the mine was dry and dusty. The appearance of the place where the explosion took place proved that the men had been watering but had not watered high enough. Therefore if in a mine that was not dry and dusty, where gas had not been seen for years, an explosion took place, what was the teaching? It was this, that it was time that some authoritative body should take it in hand, to say how explosives were to be manufactured and what kind of explosive was to be used. He also gave a general approval to that part of the Bill which related to plans being provided. He believed that in many cases lives would have been spared if that provision had been in force. The Bill embodied as nearly as possible the points on which the mineowners and the workmen had come to any agreement; and he had been sorry to see the House occupied for days and weeks on matters of very much less importance, and which might safely, and properly, and justifiably have been put aside. They had been playing at politics while lives had been lost on every hand. Why, he asked, should the clause relating to checkweighmen be withdrawn? The present Act of Parliament gave workmen power to appoint their principal checkweighmen, and all the Bill did was to provide that when a checkweighman was ill or away from work, they should be allowed to appoint a substitute. The conduct of certain districts had forced this on the attention of the country. In his county the men were allowed to appoint a substitute, and that was the case wherever there was mutual agreement. He had never heard such an immoderate demand as was put forward in the clause relating to inspection. It would mean, even in the modified form suggested by the Home Secretary, that a man would be occupied three or four hours every day inspecting the work. It would be a grand thing if the House would pass this Bill with the controversial clauses eliminated.

MR. W. E. M. TOMLINSON (Preston)

said the Report of the Explosives Committee had not been a dead letter, although no legislation had been passed. It was within his knowledge that mining engineers had applied themselves to that report with a view to adopting the Committee's suggestions so far as they were applicable to particular cases, and he had no doubt that much had already been done in consequence of the Report to diminish the danger of mining operations. With regard to the proposal for proceeding by special rules, he hoped the suggestion of the late Home Secretary would receive careful consideration by the Standing Committee. Special rules might be passed which would have the effect of superseding the general rules embodied in the present law. That was a very serious thing, especially when it was remembered that every person connected with the management of a colliery carried on his work under a criminal liability, not only for his own acts but for the acts of every one employed in the mine. It was admitted that in many cases the formation of the special rules would load to arbitration, and the umpire was to be the County Court Judge of the district. There was to be no selection by the Home Office of judges whose knowledge of mining questions would give them a facility and aptitude for dealing with these special questions. That was an important matter, and they ought to consider whether it would not be better to adopt the plan proposed by the late Home Secretary. He regretted as much as anyone that the so called contentious clauses were not to be discussed, but it would be a great pity if the safety part of the Bill were lost by reason of the difficulty in dealing with these other clauses. He hoped the Home Secretary would give a reasonable hope of expectation that an early opportunity would be found for dealing with these difficult clauses. It was as much in the interests of the workmen as of the employers that the subject with which they dealt should be put on a stable and satisfactory basis.

*MR. R. B. HALDANE (Haddingtonshire)

, said he approved of the course taken by the Government, because he feared that at this late period of the Session the Bill would otherwise be lost. If the Bill had been brought in earlier he should have been desirous of seeing checkweighing and deductions carefully considered, because he could not help thinking that some of his hon. Friends beside him, who represented mining constituencies, were a little too fond of speaking as if they represented the whole of the mining industry of this country. They, in Scotland, had not got these comfortable deductions which had been arranged in Durham, Northunberland and North Yorks. They were exposed to attempts, some of them very remarkable attempts, to get round the policy of the Mines Regulation Act, as expounded by the House of Lords, by means of devices which might or might not be legal, but which at any rate were not clearly covered by the present law, and the Home Secretary had put into Clause 3 a provision which certainly would have been most useful to them, and he suspected would have been extremely useful to some of the constituents of his hon. Friends. This clause proposed, among other things, that an agreement to vary wages in accordance with the amount of slack, coal dust, and other materials which were brought up by the miner, should be void as being contrary to the principle of the Bill. Hon. Members would appreciate the meaning of that if they realised that the Act of 1872, and the Act of 1887 which took its place, constituted the Miners' Charter, and they provided that miners were to be paid according to weight and according to weight only, and that they were to be paid according to the weight of the materials got. The matter could not be gone into, however, without considerable difference of opinion, and therefore he was willing that it should be omitted. He congratulated the Home Secretary upon the introduction of a clause which gave him absolute power to prohibit any explosive he might consider dangerous. A Government inspector had made a series of researches into the explosive quality of the dust of the principal seams in the country. An explosion of coal dust had occurred which led to a great loss of life, and which might have been avoided if the Home Secretary possessed the power which the clause proposed to give him. He was glad that the clause had not the qualification of arbitration, because the Secretary of State was the most competent person to exercise discretion in a matter of this kind. He trusted that if the Bill passed the right hon. Gentleman would be able to get such scientific knowledge on explosives as would enable him to frame rules more drastic than any they had at present. He did not see why it should not be the rule in every pit that spray should be used to water the coal dust, and he would like to see that enforced by Act of Parliament. The proper body to judge about special rules was the Home Office in the first instance, and then the House of Commons, upon the Table of which these Rules might be laid.

MR. J. WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)

said he must give the Home Secretary great credit for his desire to pass the Bill in its entirety when there were a great many conflicting views held in regard to it. While he and others did not propose to offer any serious objection to the Second Reading, there were certain clauses which were absurd and impracticable. One of them was the clause relating to the inspection of mines and roadways. He did not believe it would be impossible in Committee, however, to frame a clause which would make it practicable for the roadways in use and travelled by the men and possibly one or two roadways at the airways, to be inspected. He did not agree with the hon. Member for Haddingtonshire entirely in some of the suggestions he had put before the House. These arbitrations were extremely costly affairs, and if the mine owners had very often been successful in their arbitrations it was because they had had right and justice on their side. The Secretary of State would do well to bear in mind that even with the non-contentious clauses there would have to be very full discussion in Committee. Care must be taken with regard to the classification of mines. He would reiterate what he had said at a previous stage, that no mineowner would go into arbitration without very good cause. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not in Committee oppose the suggestion which had been made with reference to Clause 8. The state of the coal trade was one of extreme depression at the present time—[an HON. MEMBER: "Why"?]—because of foreign competition, the vast amount of bounties, and the state of the coal rates at shipping ports. Our shipping rates were much too high. He expressed his desire to assist the right hon. Gentleman in passing this Bill through Committee with the modifications which he had referred to.

On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval.

MR. B. PICKARD (York, W. R., Normanton)

whose opening remarks were interrupted by an ineffectual Motion to count the House, said he had no intention of standing for long in the way of the Second Reading of this Bill. He thought the Home Secretary was undoubtedly right in dropping the clauses which were considered contentious. He had always endeavoured to co-operate in any legislation which would have the effect of saving the lives of the workmen in mines. He considered that any Member of the House who, with a knowledge of the number of men who were annually killed and injured in mines, did not support any Bill which would in any case prevent accidents, would be committing a serious error of judgment. Although he would like to see a far more comprehensive Measure than this, at the same time he was convinced that there were some things in the Bill which, if passed into law, would assist in preventing loss of life and serious injury. With regard to those Members in the House who had a commission to speak against the Bill, he was pleased to find that the Member for Preston was willing that it should go to the Standing Committee.


denied that he had any commission to speak against the Bill. He was as anxious as anybody in the House that everything should be done that could be done to prevent accident.


said he was pleased to hear that the hon. Gentleman had no such commission. With regard to Clause 3, which was to be left out, he maintained that the mining community, apart from one or two districts in Scotland, did not wish for it. It was purely a matter for some local collieries in Scotland. He was sorry that the Home Secretary did not propose to assume more stringent powers with regard to damping. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would refuse to undertake that the subject referred to in Clause 8 should be treated as a matter for arbitration. If anything could be done to strengthen the Bill without jeopardising it he should be glad.

SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)

said that as one who formerly occupied the position of Home Secretary, and who now represented a large population of miners, he wished to congratulate the Home Secretary on the introduction of this Bill, believing that it would prove to be one of the most important, if not the most important, Measure that the Government had brought forward. There had been that evening general agreement among the representatives of the various interests concerned in mining. He trusted that the same harmony would prevail in the Grand Committee, and that there would be no disposition to delay the Bill in any way. The time at their disposal was now short. If the Bill were to meet with opposition, or even if any attempt were made to alter it extensively in Grand Committee, it might be placed in great jeopardy. They must remember that it would have to come back to that House, and that it would then have to pass through the House of Lords. He trusted, therefore, that no unnecessary points would be raised in the Committee. It was a matter for regret that it should have been found necessary to drop some part of the Bill. What remained was the minimum of what was required, and it ought to be regarded as the irreducible minimum. If it should be found possible to strengthen the Bill it would be desirable to do so, but, as he had said, every care must be taken not to jeopardise the Measure.

*COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)

said he joined in hoping that the Home Secretary would be able to pass all the clauses relating to safety. He was quite sure that the hon. Member for St. Helen's, when he spoke about dropping the Bill, had no idea of jeopardising the lives of any persons. Many able lawyers thought that the powers in Clause 1 were latent in the Act of 1887. He hoped thought the legal officers of the Crown would see that Clause 1 did not limit the present power of the Home Secretary. There were some points in the Bill which might require some discussion, but he did not think they were very great. He regretted very much that Clause 3 had been dropped. He thought it would probably never be agreed upon until the miners and employers met and arranged it, and he believed there was a wholesome wish on both sides for fair play. The legal decisions that coal dust, if brought to the surface, must be paid for as coal, was most remarkable. What would be said if a builder who agreed to pay so much for sandstone, and got sand instead, was told that it was part of the material contracted to be got? It rested with the lawyers to set that straight. As to Clause 5, he thought important faults or throws ought to be recorded. He held that the present law was sufficient for abandoned mines, there should be a period of 10 years in which the plans should be open to the inspectors to secure safety. If they were open to the public a use might be made of them which would be unfair to the mine owners. As to the clause for inspection, it required defining. As to Clause 8, he thought the Home Secretary should have power to at once suspend the use of an explosive, subject to the rules of arbitration, so that an explosive might not be tabood by a partisan scientist. He hoped the Bill would be rapidly brought forward, and become an Act.

SIR JAMES JOICEY (Durham, Chester-le-Street)

expressed his gratification at the fact that the Bill had met with so much approval on both sides of the House. Legislation of this kind had no terrors for the best mine owners in the country, but it was required in order that others might be made to conform to the standard which they set. The late Home Secretary had explained that he was very much in favour of having all special rules laid upon the Table of the House. He should himself prefer a continuance of the present system, because these special rules were highly technical, and any error in connection with them might have most serious consequences. It was better, therefore, to leave them to be dealt with by experts. The Government, he thought, were acting wisely in dropping Clause 3. It was said that Clause 4 was a trivial one, but his experience was, and probably that of the whole of the owners in the northern counties, that instead of the checkweighman being a disadvantage he was positively an advantage to the employer. The checkweighman was one of the most intelligent workmen, and he could not understand why there should be any objection to a substitute being appointed in case of the checkweighman being unable to attend. The workmen found in ordinary practice that it was neither to their interest nor to the interest of the owners that men should be appointed who were not likely to work amicably with the owner. He had found that if a checkweighman caused disputes with the owners on trifling matters, he did not long occupy the position to which he was appointed by the workmen themselves. He considered that Clause 7, as it stood at present, was quite impracticable; there was scarcely a single part of the mine which might not be brought under this clause. He was, therefore, glad to find that the clause was to be altered. As to Clause 8 and explosives, he said from his own experience that it caused great anxiety to most owners as to what explosives they should use. It was found that experts varied in their opinion as to the safety of explosives. One manager supported one kind of explosive while the manager of the adjoining mine supported another, and he had had a great difficulty in coming to a conclusion as to which was the safest and best explosive, to use. If the Government chose to take the responsibility from off the shoulders of the owners he did not think that the owners would seriously object. Sometimes owners had a difficulty in enforcing a particular explosive on the workmen themselves, because the workmen had been accustomed to use a particular kind of explosive which they knew how to work, and which they preferred to work to that which the mineowner considered to be less dangerous. He had known of serious disputes arising in cases where owners had tried to enforce the use of an explosive objected to by the men. It would, therefore, be a great advantage to the mineowners to have some decided opinion from the Home Office, so that they might be able to enforce the use of an explosive without any difficulty, and one which the Home Office considered to be the safest for the mine. No Measure that had been submitted to the House during this Session would, if passed, give greater satisfaction both to the owners and to the miners than this Bill


said that his hon. Friend the Member for the Normanton Division had spoken of this Bill in civil terms, but appeared to think that it was not deserving of the commendations passed upon it. He thought that there had been a good deal of exaggeration with reference to the Bill. After all it was a very small Bill. The object sought to be attained in the first clause, for example, could in the opinion of many lawyers be accomplished without any Bill at all, and merely by an amendment of the existing rules. The Home Secretary said that he had not the power to alter the rules, but he thought that the answer which the hon. Gentleman gave that day was less confident than the one he gave a few days ago, when he thought that he could not make rules to the effect of Clause 1, because they would be inconsistent with the statutory rules. But the contention of the lawyers was that the right hon. Gentleman could make such rules, because they were in addition to rather than in substitution of them. This Bill was a very small Measure indeed, and carried them but a little way. The hon. Member for St. Helens was right in one portion of his contention, when he said that if they passed this Bill they would not get another during the present Parliament. It was, therefore, parting with a great deal to allow this Bill to pass when the miners of the country had proposals of legislation which went far beyond the scope of this Bill. He asked hon. Members who wished to take an impartial view of the question to compare the provisions of the Miners' Conference Bill with the provisions of this Measure. This Bill contained nine clauses, two of which were to be dropped. Of the remaining seven, two were practically not in the Miners' Conference Bill; but there was more hope of saving life by the passing of the Miners' Bill with the addition of the two Government clauses than there was by the passing of the present Measure. On the whole, however, the miners accepted the situation. They had made up their minds that it was better to accept this Bill than to refuse it. Amendments to this Bill had been prepared, but they proposed to take the advice tendered by the Leader of the Opposition and not to move them; so that the Amendments which he had prepared would not be placed on the Paper. Would the owners he prepared to take the same course? It was late in the year; and if this arrangement was adopted the Bill could easily pass through the Standing Committee.

*SIR JOHN JENKINS (Carmarthen Boroughs)

did not agree with the right hon. Baronet that this was a small Bill. On the contrary, he regarded the Bill as a very important one. He should have been glad if Clause 3 had been retained, so that it might have gone before the Committee and been fully discussed there by practical men, for, in that case, he thought it not improbable that such Amendments might have been suggested as afterwards to render the clause workable and acceptable to the House. He re-echoed the congratulations offered to the Home Secretary on the courage he had shown in bringing this Bill forward. ["Hear, hear!"] There could be no doubt that many mine-owners were not as keen in regard to the dangers of mining as they ought to be, and did not properly provide for the safety of their workmen. He was sorry the third clause was omitted, as in South Wales there was a custom known as the sliding scale, which for many years formed the basis upon which the rate of wages paid was fixed. It had worked satisfactorily, and Clause 3 was intended to legalise this arrangement. Still, the Measure was in the interests of the miner, and he hoped that no obstacle would be presented, either in Committee or in the House, to its passing into law as soon as possible. ["Hear, hear!"]

MR. J. G. HOLBORN (Lanark, N.W.)

said he felt bound to express regret, in the name of the miners of his own constituency and of the West of Scotland generally, that the third and fourth clauses of the Bill had been dropped. The miners recognised the importance of those clauses, because they dealt with matters which very closely affected them, and with regard to many of which grievances existed. There was nothing in the work of the miners which caused more heartburning and dissatisfaction than the differences in connection with checkweighing. One of the keenest of those grievances on the part of the men was that there was no facility for checking or testing the weighing machines, and it was to be regretted that this and some other technical matters of working detail, which were of much importance to the fair and smooth working of the industry, were not dealt with in the Bill. He gladly recognised, however, that the primary object of the Measure was to still further protect the miner, and he hoped it would pass without delay. ["Hear, hear!"]


said he should not have intervened in the Debate but for certain remarks made by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. The right hon. Gentleman indicated that there was antagonism between masters and men in this matter. He believed that was entirely wrong. He did not believe there was any feeling of antagonism whatever between the two classes in the great coal industry. ["Hear, hear!"] The interests of both were really the same, and he always regretted to hear, in discussion on questions such as the present, remarks made which were calculated to produce controversy and differences. [Hear, hear!"] He held it to be a paramount duty on the part of the House of Commons to do all it could, by way of legislation, to protect the health and life of the miner, and therefore he much regretted that the Home Secretary had been compelled, through the necessities of the hour, to withdraw the third and fourth clauses. He hoped, however, that the matters to which those clauses referred would be dealt with in another Bill at a time not far distant; and if the Home Secretary could give the House some assurance to this effect it would greatly facilitate proceedings in the Standing Committee. He was glad to find that the right hon. Gentleman had had the courage to insert a clause in the Bill dealing with the question of explosives. He had undertaken a great responsibility in doing so, for the matter was one of enormous importance, and he only hoped the House would give the right hon. Gentleman all the powers he sought, in order to act in the interest both of life and property. [Cheers.]


also expressed regret that it had been found necessary to drop the two clauses referred to, for they were of great importance to the men especially, as had been already said, in regard to the very sore point of checkweighing. The question of deduction was also an important matter to the men; it was the cause of much injustice and ill-feeling, and those and other cognate matters would have to be dealt with sooner or later in justice to the miner. Nevertheless he welcomed the present Bill, weakened though it was by the omission of the third and fourth clauses, as a further step in the protection of the coal miners, and he sincerely hoped that every facility would be given to enable the Measure to pass into law this Session.

*MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)

congratulated the Home Secretary, knowing the anxiety which the Bill had given to the right hon. Gentleman, on the reception it had mot with in all quarters of the House. ["Hear, hear!"] With regard to the question of deductions, he expressly said, when he interpolated a remark in the course of the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, that he did not speak as a lawyer. But he did speak with more than 35 years' practical experience of this industry behind him. He endorsed emphatically what fell from the hon. Member for Mid Durham, who spoke from the point of view of the miner, upon this question—that that clause, as it was now framed, was absolutely and entirely unworkable. He was very glad indeed that the right hon. Gentleman had acceded to the suggestion made to him some months ago to drop certain portions of the Measure. He did not at all hold with the opinion of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean that because these portions were not dealt with this year they would not receive the attention of the House during the present Parliament. He thought they might well be brought forward in a Bill next year. As to the matter of explosives and shot-firing, which were really at the root of the whole matter, Clause 1 of the Bill seemed to him to be of the most vital and valuable nature. He was entirely at issue with the Member of the Forest of Dean when he called this a very little Bill. He believed that, even if they stripped it of what he might call the economical matters and left only the provisions with regard to the safety of life and limb, the Bill would be the most valuable Measure they would have passed this Session. If he had any complaint to make it was that the Government did not let them have it before Easter, so that they might have more ample opportunities of considering it. He hoped that when the Bill went to the Committee upstairs the Homo Secretary would resist all Amendments and suggestions which would in any way tend to weaken and impoverish the Bill. He would warn the right hon. Gentleman that the unanimously favourable reception of the Bill that night by no means implied that all its dangers were over. Therefore he did hope the right hon. Gentleman, when he got the Bill upstairs, would keep hold of its provisions, and would strengthen rather than weaken them. He hoped, too, he would take care that the First Lord of the Treasury afforded him an early opportunity of taking the sense of the House upon it on Report. Then he felt satisfied that, when the question that the Bill be read a Third time was put from the Chair and carried unanimously, as he hoped it would be, they would have placed on the Statute-book a Measure inferior to none in its importance to the labouring population of this country.


desired, as a representative of a constituency in which there was a very large number of miners, to add his humble testimony and gratitude to the Home Secretary for the pains he had taken with this Bill. He entirely agreed with the remark of his hon. Friend opposite that the Bill was a great step in advance, and they recognised with gratitude the great advantages which were held out to them by its provisions. The right hon. Gentleman had shown considerable courage in carrying the Bill as far as he had done in spite of the considerable opposition of both sides of the question. There were private opinions upon the advisability of dropping the third clause. The miners in his district were in favour of that course, but the coalowners would have wished that the clause should have been continued in the Bill. Personally he thought the right hon. Gentleman had exercised a very sound discretion in dropping the clause. He trusted that later on they would have a still greater advance in this matter, and still further benefits conferred upon the working population engaged in, perhaps, the most hazardous industry in the country. He believed the Bill was a safe and wise one so far as it went, and, though it was not perfect, it should receive his complete and cordial support. The right hon. Gentleman had effected a very great advance in the direction they had all desired for many years—that of greater protection for the life and limbs of the miners, especially in the county he represented.

MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)

trusted the right hon. Gentleman would have the courage, when the Bill reached the Committee stage, to eliminate practically all the Amendments from the masters' and men's side, and ask the Committee to accept only his own Amendments in the direction of slightly improving the Bill. If he did that there was no reason why the Committee should he engaged more than one day upon the Bill. Considering the lateness of the Session, and the necessity of the safety clauses in the Bill, he thought that, on the whole, the Home Secretary had pursued the line of least resistance in dropping the clauses he had indicated. He was prepared to admit with the Member for the Forest of Dean that it was not an ideal Bill, but then they did not live in an ideal world, and they were not Members of an ideal House of Commons. All he could say was that he trusted the Bill was the premonitory symptoms of a better Bill, if not next year the year following. The Member for the Forest of Dean said with truth that under theoretical conditions the Bill of the Miners' Conference was a better Bill than this. He agreed, but the miners were not in office, and the Government were. The Government had had to deal with a complex and difficult subject, with a varying opposition from all the interests that were affected by it. He sincerely trusted the Home Secretary would take notice of one or two discordant notes that had proceeded from his own side of the House. From his knowledge of the hon. Members for St. Helens and Preston, he found that what they hinted or whispered was generally stage thunder when they got upstairs in the Committee room. He hoped the two hon. Gentlemen would have engagements elsewhere when the Bill reached the Committee. If that were so, so much better for the Bill. If they were not then inclined to take a holiday, his suggestion to the Home Secretary was that he should give them a hint to do so. He did not agree with what had been said by an hon. Member representing a Scotch constituency as to the unwisdom of dropping Clause 3. He believed that the Bill, minus the dropped clauses, would, perhaps, be enough to get through, considering the lateness of the Session, whilst if they were to consider Clause 3 upstairs the Measure would be jeopardised. He emphasised, as to Clause 3, what had just been said by the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division. He put it in this form. However good an Act of Parliament might be for the regulation of any industry, it was practically futile and useless unless it had the semblance of the workmen's organisation at their back to see that that regulation was carried out. His suggestion to the Scotch miners was that they should plank down their bawbees for a Trades Union and up would come coal and wages. Whilst, if they did not do that, then they would permanently suffer from the disadvantages they now laboured under, and that was the lack of organisation such as Durham and Northumberland had had for many years. With regard to Clause 1, good as it was, he regretted that it was to be subject to an appeal to an arbitration court, under the conditions defined in Clause 53 of the Mines Regulation Act of 1887, which, he contended, would considerably minimise some of the advantages of the special rules mentioned in the clause. He objected to special rules of this kind being subject to an arbitration court at all. It seemed to him that the Homo Office, after having consulted its inspectors and scientific experts, ought to bring their special rules up to date in the light of practical experience and scientific evidence, and there ought not to be any appeal against the special rules when the latest inspectorial and scientific evidence had declared those rules to be the best available for the industrial conditions they were to govern. He regretted extremely that the Home Secretary had not attached sufficient importance to flooding as well as to shot-firing, to gunpowder and to dangerous and gaseous mines. The hon. and gallant Member for the Ince Division of Lancashire had said he thought Clause 5, as to a plan for abandoned mines, was a bit too strong. But no one who had read the account of the Audley pit disaster, in which, owing to Hooding, 77 miners lost their lives, would think that the clause with regard to plans of abandoned mines and workings as a bit too stringent. In that case the manager was under the impression that he was 80 yards from the face of the old working when he was not more than from 10 to 20 feet at the outside. That showed the necessity for not only having plans of workings that had been recently abandoned, but also as far as practical and geological conditions permitted, of all the old workings in the neighbourhood of any pit. Whilst he admitted the wisdom of dropping Clause 3 until there had been presented to the House of Commons a practically unanimous view both of masters and men, as to what they desired Parliament to do with regard to deductions in general, he could not see the reason why Clause 4 was deleted. He put it to the Home Secretary that if men were good enough to be elected to an arbitration court under this Bill, they were good enough to elect a deputy checkweighman to take the place of a checkweighman who, for any cause, was absent. As a matter of fact, the greater ought to include the less, and it seemed to him a more important duty for miners to elect a representative to sit in the arbitration court than for them to elect a deputy checkweighman. It was casting an aspersion, inferentially, upon the deputy checkweighmen for them not to he elected precisely in the same way as the chief checkweighmen were, and he trusted the Home Secretary would see his way to rendering into law what Durham and well-organised districts had carried out in practice for a number of years. He urged the right hon. Gentleman not to whittle Clause 7 away in any respect, nor to minimise the powers of inspection. As to Clause 8, he agreed with the hon. and gallant Member for the Ince Division on this particular point. If a mine was of such a character that one had to be very careful as to the explosives that were used, it seemed to him unnecessary that a month's notice should be given from the Home Office to the owner of that mine as to the character and disappearance of the explosives that caused explosions. If there was reasonable grounds for suspecting danger, the Home Secretary ought to have power under this Bill to at once suspend the use of any dangerous explosive, and should not be compelled to give a month's notice. That brought him to his last point, and he wished to supplement what had been said by the hon. Member for Haddington as to the necessity for more money being spent in practical experiments with coal dust and every phase and ramification of mine operations under every conceivable circumstance. He re-echoed the opinion of that House, and of the mining population generally, when he praised the last experiments conducted, not only by Mr. Hall, but by Dr. Haldane, who deserved credit for the disinterested researches he had made into this whole question. He did not see why one or two mineowners should not be subsidised for the use of entirely worked-out mines, so that practical experiments could be conducted with a view to prevent some of the lamentable accidents which now occurred simply because they spent more money in testing cordite cartridges in one year in order to send men to "kingdom come," than they had spent in 50 years in trying to save 50,000 miners who had been killed. He urged the Home Secretary not to be influenced by the hon. Member for Falkirk, who had said that the coal trade was in such a condition that it ought not to be seriously interfered with, and that there ought not to be too much inspection, restrictions, and supervisions, which would result in England suffering from foreign competition. That was the same old cry that confronted Ostler, Sadlier, and Lord Shaftesbury when they spoke in that House 50 or 70 years ago. But in this case, with regard to coal, it was less true that of any other industry that could be quoted. Why did the hon. Member for Falkirk not give figures? If he had given them figures between the years 1883 and 1895, they would have found that their output of coal had jumped up from 163,000,000 tons in 1883, to 190,000,000 in 1895. That was not an indication either of declining trade or foreign competition affecting them. If the hon. Member had gone from the amount to the value of the coal produced, he would have found there was no reason either for anxiety or despair. Again, if he had taken the number of tons raised by English miners on higher wages and shorter hours as compared with what Belgian, French, and German miners raised, he would have seen that while the English miners raised 347 tons per man in 1883, the German miners raised 270 tons per man, the Belgians 171, and the French miners 189. In 1895 the figures showed that while the English miner produced 283 tons per man, the German miner produced only 250, the Belgian miner 175, and the French miner 205. Forty per cent. of lives which were lost in mines were preventible, and in fifty years five millions of people had been injured because the Home Office lacked courage to pass legislation in the face of monetary considerations. He looked upon miners as the bravest men in the army of industry. They had been clamouring for years for the protection of which this Bill gave them an instalment, and he hoped the Home Secretary would not budge a single inch, and that if any alteration was made in the Bill it would be in the direction of further protection. ["Hear, hear."]


, submitted that the Mines Regulation Act, under the administration of the Home Office, had done a great deal in safeguarding life and limb. A few figures of the experience of the Miners' Permanent Relief Society in South Wales proved that. In the five years between 1885 and 1890 the percentage of fatal accidents per 1,000 members was 3.93, and from 1888 to 1895, 3.63. Turning to the non-fatal accidents there had been a diminution. The percentage was heavy, but an improvement had been shown, and the improvement was due to the action of the Home Office. The Home Secretary was wise in withdrawing for the present Clauses 3 and 4. He hoped they were only withdrawn temporarily, because on their merits they were well worth consideration. In South Wales they had a sliding scale which had done a great deal of good. It was started in 1875, so they had had 21 years experience of its working, and employers and employed had agreed upon certain terms which had proved satisfactory. Wages had been revised on five different occasions—in 1880, 1882, 1887, 1890 and 1892, and it was on the revision of 1892 that the arrangement between employers and employed now existed. The agreement took into consideration the amount of wages and the other economical conditions which had been alluded to, and it had averted strikes during the whole of the 21 years. He appealed to the Home Secretary not to postpone sine die the consideration of economical questions which were well worthy his consideration and that of the House. The over weighting of the Bill with Clauses 3 and 4 might, as he had said, lead to the Bill being lost this Session, and he himself joined in the universally expressed desire that this Bill should be passed, if not in its entirety, that part which the Home Secretary thought he could pass. He hoped he would not postpone the other clauses indefinitely, but would give some kind of pledge that they would be considered at an early date. ["Hear, hear."]

MR. J. M. PAULTON (Durham, Bishop Auckland)

said the primary object of the Bid was to secure additional safety for miners, and the withdrawn Clauses 3 and 4 were not exactly within the scope of that object. He joined heartily with the approval that had been expressed, on both sides, of the Measure. His own constituents in Durham would welcome anything that tended to increase the safety of the occupation in which they were engaged. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street seemed to be under the impression that Clause 8 was intended to give the Home Office power to decide which was the best and safest kind of explosive to be used. He did not think the clause was intended for any such purpose. It was intended to meet the pressure which had been brought to bear on the Home Office by inspectors as to the desirability of prohibiting the use of certain dangerous explosives. The Bill was evidently the outcome of much careful thought, consideration, and examination, and he heartily joined in thanking the Home Secretary for bringing in the most useful piece of legislation of the Session.

MR. THOMAS BAYLEY (Derbyshire, Chesterfield)

said the Bill had been drafted with great skill and judgment, and if it were carried into law it would undoubtedly be the means of saving hundreds of lives which would otherwise be sacrificed in the mines. He thought, however, that the Bill would be more effective for its purpose did it contain the clause of the Bill introduced by his right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean, providing that every jury appointed to inquire into a colliery accident should contain at least three persons who were or had been practical miners, and that no person connected with the mine in which the accident happened should be upon such jury. It was not the well-managed collieries that had anything to fear from legislation of this character. It was in the carelessly managed collieries—the collieries that were not efficiently handled—that the Bill was designed to make mining operations less dangerous to life and limb by careful supervision.

MR. C. E. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)

said he had been asked by the miners of his constituency to express their gratitude to the Home Secretary for his Bill, and to say that whilst they would have preferred a Measure of larger dimensions, such as the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean, they were willing to accept this Bill for what it was worth. The Leader of the House suggested a few nights ago that whatever Bill was brought in by the Government would be described as the worst possible Bill imaginable. The friendly reception given to this Bill by the Opposition showed how unfounded was that statement. It proved that every Bill brought forward by the Government for the benefit of the community would receive the support of the Opposition.

*SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)

joined in the congratulations to the Home Secretary for having introduced the Bill. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman had been obliged to omit one of the clauses, but as the rest of the Bill was so valuable and so likely to save many of the lives of a very worthy class of workers, there was consolation in the thought that the dropping of the contentious portion of the Bill would increase the prospects of its passing into law. He was sorry that more of the time of the Session had not been devoted to the passing of useful social legislation of this character, which tended to decrease the liability to accident of a hardworking and praiseworthy portion of the community which followed a dangerous calling, and he thought that one of the pieces of legislative work which the Home Secretary would be able to look back upon with satisfaction was the passing of this Bill. There had recently been some interesting researches as to the causes of explosions in mines, and if the Home Secretary could encourage such enquiries he would not only make his work more useful, but he would create one more cause of gratitude to his Department for its efforts in saving life among the workers of the country. The Bill was worthy of the hearty reception which it had received from all sides.


hoped that the House would now give the Bill a Second Reading, and expressed his gratification at the reception which it had been accorded on both sides of the House. It was by no means a new Bill, but was constructed on the lines of the well-considered Measure introduced by the right hon. Member for East Fife. As to the much more elaborate and complete Measure alluded to by the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, if earlier in the Session the Government had introduced a Bill of 30 or 35 clauses, there would not have been the same chance of its passing as he hoped there was of this Bill of seven or eight clauses. The Debate had convinced him that he had come to a prudent decision in asking the House to leave out Clauses 3 and 4. He was sorry that the question with which Clause 3 dealt could not be settled now. It ought to be settled; and perhaps the fact that this clause had been proposed and that the uncertain state of the law had been made clear might possibly bring those concerned on both sides of the question to some agreement on this most difficult point. As to Clause 4, he had never intended to say that it was in any respect controversial. It had been agreed to by masters and men; but it was not directly concerned with the saving of life, and it was, therefore, more logical that it should be withdrawn from the Bill. He hoped that the Amendments which he would be able to propose in Grand Committee on the various points which had been mentioned would meet with general acceptance. ["Hear, hear!"]

MR. T. D. BOLTON (Derbyshire, N. E.)

appealed to the Home Secretary to consider the terms which had been put forward on behalf of the workmen, It was very desirable that those overtures should be fairly considered. The colliery proprietors had great power and would be strongly represented on the Grand Committee, and he hoped that they would seriously take to heart the recommendation and advice given to them, so that this Bill, which would be to the advantage of owners and miners alike, should become an Act of Parliament. Many of the colliery proprietors sat on the Ministerial side of the House, and they should remember that the Government would get great credit for passing the Bill. He hoped they would, as far as possible, shorten discussion in Committee. As representing a labour constituency, he could with justice thank Her Majesty's Government for having brought the Bill forward.

MR. J. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)

said that such discussions as that which had taken place would greatly facilitate progress in Grand Committee and on Report. Clause 1 referred solely to the question of safety, and he thought the Home Secretary should not make the special rules subject to arbitration. They should be laid before Parliament in the ordinary course. They were quite different rules from those in the Coal Mines Regulations Act. Judging from the feeling in Scotland, he thought the Home Secretary had exercised a wise discretion in dropping Clause 3. Clause 4, however, might be allowed to stand. That clause simply related to the checkweigher, and it was not likely it would be opposed by either the representatives of the masters or the men, seeing that all it provided was that the men should be allowed to appoint a substitute in the absence of the checkweigher, and that the checkweigher should have some shelter in bad weather. There was certainly nothing in the clause which was in the slightest degree contentious. As to Clause 8, he thought it was very reasonable that the Home Secretary should have the power to prevent, by regulation, any particular explosive being used in a mine.

SIR F. MILNER (Nottinghamshire, Bassetlaw)

said he welcomed this Bill as he would welcome any Measure which would tend to safeguard the interests of those engaged in a laborious industry, He, however, rose particularly to express his regret at the decision to drop Clause 3. He had received from mineowners in his division expressions of the very strongest disapproval of the decision of the Home Secretary, and he was afraid his correspondents would not be satisfied with the explanation the right hon. Gentleman had given. They felt their interests had been altogether neglected. It seemed to him that the clause was amply safeguarded against any possible abuse. It was a purely enabling clause, and could not be put into force unless both employers and employed agreed it was right and proper it should be used. He, therefore, thought the mineowners had every reason to feel that their interests had been neglected by the dropping of the clause. Its retention might have added somewhat to the contentiousness of the Bill, but it could not have prevented the Bill from becoming law this Session.

*MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Notts, Mansfield)

congratulated the Home Secretary upon the introduction of the Measure, and the House upon the time which had been afforded for the very instructive Debate which had taken place. He had observed with great satisfaction that whereas in regard to another Measure affecting the interests of the miners there had been a difference of opinion on the part of the miners' representatives, hon. Gentlemen had to night been almost unanimous in expressing a willingness to accept this Measure. On the whole, a spirit of conciliation had been manifested on both sides which augured well for the future. He suggested the propriety of dealing with the Mining Regulation Bill, to which the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had referred. It contained some valuable and reasonable provisions, and he hoped that the facilities which the Government were being allowed for the passing of the present Bill would encourage them to deal at a fitting time with the larger though not more important Measure.

MR. EMERSON BAINBRIDGE (Lincolnshire, Gainsborough)

as a member of the Royal Commission whose recommendations formed part of the basis of the Bill, desired to express his strong approval of the Measure. As one of the largest colliery owners in the kingdom, he asserted that the colliery owners themselves did not require further legislation to cause them to be more careful in promoting the safety of their mines. The legislation in reference to coal mines had been so remarkable and so well fulfilled in the last thirty years that he questioned whether there was a single industry in the country where safety was more thoroughly watched and cared for. He challenged the representative of any other industry to point to a case where, as in the case of coal mining, the workmen themselves were called in to aid the owners and managers to promote safety. It was a common practice among colliery owners to ask the miners to aid them in watching over the safety of the men by sending round miners themselves to inspect the mines, and their recommendations were always very carefully noted and observed. He suggested that the justice or otherwise of Clause 3 should be left to the consideration of the Committee, and if, as he believed, it only sought to put into the law what had been the accepted custom, it might reasonably be retained in the Bill. It was not generally known that hundreds of pounds had to be spent in machinery to move the dirt that was brought out of the mine with the coal. He hoped the clause would be further considered.

Bill read the Second time.

SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY moved, "That the Bill be committed to the Standing Committee on Trade, etc."

Motion agreed to.