HC Deb 27 February 1911 vol 22 cc18-20
Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS (for Mr. Thomas Richardson)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, on the occasion of the Whitehaven colliery disaster, the mines inspector for the district, who was on the spot and had descended the mine several times, was not allowed to report on the disaster, the report being prepared by the chief inspector of mines; whether there is any precedent for this; and will he state the reason for such action in this case?

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Churchill)

A formal investigation of this disaster was held by the Chief Inspector of Mines, under my direction, in pursuance of the special powers given by Section 45 of the Coal Mines Act, and in accordance with the requirements of the Statute, a report of the investigation was submitted to me by him, and has been published. In these circumstances it was not necessary to instruct the district inspector to make a special report under Section 44 of the Act. The district inspector, who was responsible for the inspection of the mine where the disaster took place, appeared as a witness at the investigation, and gave in evidence the results of his examination of the mine, and a full statement by him is printed at the end of the Chief Inspector's report. There have not been many cases in the past in which formal investigations have been held under Section 45, but in the case, for instance, of the Hamstead disaster, the course pursued was the same.

Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS (for Mr. Thomas Richardson)

asked whether Mr. Atkinson, the mines inspector for the Newcastle district, included in his annual report for 1907 two reports upon explosions occurring at Benwll and Whitehaven; whether the report was returned with a request that the comments on those two explosions be deleted; whether Mr. Atkinson refused to make any alteration; and whether, as a result, the reports on the two explosions were published as special reports, edited by the chief inspector of mines without consultation with the writer of the reports, and so altered that they were not substantially the reports of the inspector whose name they bore?


The hon. Member has been misinformed. No such request was made. The inspector included in his annual report for 1907 reports on the accidents mentioned. As these reports—contrary to the rule and practice of the Department—were of enormous length, and included a mass of irrelevant matter, he was asked to revise them with a view to bringing them more within reasonable limits. He was unwilling to do this, and the Chief Inspector of Mines, at the request of my predecessor, prepared a report based on the material collected by the district inspector, which was presented to Parliament and published under the Chief Inspector's name. I may add that unnecessarily lengthy reports are not only contrary to the principles laid down by the Committee of this House on Publications, but tend to defeat the object for which these reports are made, which is to bring home clearly and forcibly to managers of mines and others the causes of disasters and the precautions that ought to be taken.


Will the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that nothing in the nature of comments upon these two particular disasters was excluded when the bulk of the reports was cut down?


Certainly. I have no other wish than that Parliament should know everything material for forming a judgment about the cause of these explosions. I never should attempt to shield any person who might be responsible. I have not compared the report in detail with the full report submitted by this inspector at that time, but I will make it my business to do so.


Were those comments of such a character as might have prevented the occurrence of a disaster two years after?


I must ask for notice.