HC Deb 08 February 1911 vol 21 cc277-8

asked if the right hon. Gentleman would at once appoint a strong committee, including some of the hon. Members of this House who are experts in coal mining, to make careful inquiry as to the cause of the terrible explosion at the Pretoria mine in Lancashire, in which explosion over 300 men lost their lives?


I am most anxious that a thorough investigation should he made into the cause of this great disaster, but such a committee as is suggested would not possess the necessary powers of summoning witnesses, requiring production of documents, entering the mine, etc., unless special legislation were passed for the purpose. Under the Coal Mines Regulation Act, however, a competent person can be appointed by me to hold an investigation, with full powers, and I have accordingly appointed Mr. Redmayne, the Chief Inspector of Mines, to conduct a special inquiry. It will take place as soon as possible after the conclusion of the coroner's inquest, which is now proceeding.


Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to the statement made by witnesses at the inquest that they have refrained from making complaints against the state of this mine because they fear their employment might thereby be endangered, and will the right hon. Gentleman consider whether he ought not to take steps to protect such witnesses at the forthcoming inquiry?


Every effort will be made by the Chief Inspector to get at the truth, and I cannot believe that there will be any difficulty in obtaining full evidence.


Will the court the right hon. Gentleman proposes to set up on this occasion have power to protect witnesses who give evidence before them?


I cannot believe that the witnesses will be in in any danger from stating the truth. I am certain that if any such case were brought to the notice of the Government or the House effective action would be taken.