§ (1) For every mine there shall be appointed by the manager in writing one or more competent persons (hereinafter referred to as firemen, examiners, or deputies) to make such inspections and carry out such duties as to the presence of gas, ventilation, state of roof and sides, checking and counting the number of persons, and general safety, as are required by this Act and the regulations of the mine.
§ (2) A fireman, examiner, or deputy shall be required to devote his whole time to such duties as aforesaid (hereinafter referred to as his statutory duties), but this provision shall not apply in the case of a fireman, examiner, or deputy in—
- (a) any mine in which the total number of persons employed below ground at one time does not exceed thirty; or
- (b) any mine in the counties of Durham or Northumberland; or
- (c) any mine exempted by the inspector of the division on the ground of the special circumstances of the mine;
§ Provided that any duties assigned to or undertaken by any fireman, examiner, or deputy in addition to his statutory duties shall not be such as to prevent him carrying out his statutory duties in a thorough manner; and if any question arises whether any additional duties are such as to prevent him carrying out his statutory duties in a thorough manner, that question shall be decided by the inspector of the division, whose decision shall be final.
§ (3) The district of a mine assigned to a fireman, examiner, or deputy shall not be of such a size as would prevent him from carrying out in a thorough manner all such duties as aforesaid.
§ (4) A mine in which there is a contravention of this Section shall be deemed not to be managed in conformity with this Act.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The next Amendment in the name of the hon. Member is apparently in the wrong place. It may be intended to go in somewhere else.
§ Mr. ATHERLEY-JONES
Perhaps I may be allowed to move it in another form in which it can be grammatically and logically read into the Clause. I beg to move to insert, in Sub-section (2), paragraph (c), after the word "mine" ["circumstances of the mine"], to insert the words,and a deputy's hours in Durham and Northumberland shall not exceed eight hours from bank to bank.This is an Amendment of very considerable importance, and one which, I hope, will receive favourable consideration from the Government. I may say at once to my hon. Friends around me that, although I have confined the application of this provision to the counties of Northumberland and Durham, I personally have no reason whatever to object to its extension beyond those counties and to make it generally applicable throughout the mining centres of England, Scotland, and Wales. The reason why I thought to confine it to these counties was that I thought I was following the line of least resistance, but I 1410 rather gather that it will prove to be the line of strongest resistance. The House is perfectly conscious of what the duties of firemen are, and I need only make this observation, that undoubtedly these duties are, next to those of the manager or under-manager of the mine, the most important and most responsible of any duties of any person or persons in the mine. These officials are responsible for the condition of the roads and working places; they are responsible for their freedom from gas, and for the proper timbering of the roof, and they have many other duties of a scarcely less important character to perform. We have got established an eight hour day generally in mines for underground workers. The intention of those who co-operate with me in this matter is not, from an economic point of view, either to promote or to argue the question of eight hours in a mine. We make this proposal in the interests of safety, and we believe it is imperative in those interests that the number of hours which firemen work in the mines should not exceed those in which they are able to perform their duties with full physical vigour and alertness. We think that eight hours is a sufficiently long period for a man to work these onerous and responsible duties. I do not believe that this will affect the economy of the mines. I have gone into the matter carefully, and I will not weary the House with figures or calculations. But when I refer to the economy of the mines I mean the financial aspect, and I am told by both employers and employed, who have knowledge of this matter, that it can be adjusted without any additional expense, or any supplementary rearrangement of the conditions of work in the mine. If I am right in that I anticipate hon. Members opposite will raise no objection. On the contrary, I think I may hope for the assistance of the representatives of the mine-owners in effecting this reform. It is purely a case of safety, and on this ground I ask for their co-operation and assistance. I am told that the Home Office have given assurances on this matter which are at any rate encouraging. [Mr. Masterman dissented.] At any rate I hope that the Under-Secretary will allow this matter to be discussed as an open question, and, if the Government oppose it, that they will do so only by way of speech. I may inform my hon. Friends behind me that it is my intention to alter the form of my Amendment so as to make it generally applicable throughout England.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
I think the Amendment would best come in in Sub-section (2), after the word "manner" ["statutory duties in a thorough manner,"] and then it will read "nor shall he be employed for more than eight hours from bank to bank in any twenty-four hours."
§ Mr. ATHERLEY-JONES
I am willing to accept that. I will then move in Subsection (2), after the word "manner" ["statutory duties in a thorough manner"], to insert the words "nor shall he be employed more than eight hours from bank to bank in any twenty-four hours."
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I take it my hon. Friend will have surmised that it is quite impossible for us to offer Government support at this stage. When the Bill was first introduced into Committee I made a special appeal to both sides of the House not to attempt to re-open generally the most difficult question of the Eight Hours Act. That was promised, with one solitary exception, and the appeal was loyally responded to by both sides of the House—by representatives of the Miners' Federation on the one hand and by representatives of the Mining Association, who held equally strong views, on the other hand. I knew that if we once commenced to tinker with that Act, which has only been in operation two or three years, there would be very little chance of getting a Safety Bill through this Session. This Amendment rips up the Eight Hours Act from top to bottom, and its adoption would make complete chaos. Under the Eight Hours Act it was specifically settled that the hours of deputies and firemen should be nine and a-half, and that was because, in the Coal Mines Act, 1887, there was a provision—which I hope we shall re-enact in the Coal Mines Act of 1911—a provision in Clause 63, which specifically declares that inspections are to be made by firemen or deputies before the workmen are allowed down in the mine, and within a period not exceeding two hours immediately before the commencement of the working shift. On that provision the whole deputy system of Northumberland and Durham was organised, and if you upset it, as you would do by this Amendment, I really do not know what would 1412 happen. When we come to amend the Eight Hours Act we may be able to devise some scheme whereby this number of hours, which I grant is rather long, may be lessened. No doubt these officials in that respect have a grievance as compared with the eight hours worked by other workers, but that grievance would have to be dealt with in a very different fashion from this clear prohibition limiting them to eight hours and leaving no one apparently to do the work of inspection in the one and a-half hours before the men go down, unless it be done by doubling the staff of deputies, or indulging in perpetual contraventions of the Act. The coal mining industry at the present moment is in a sufficiently disturbed condition, and I cannot take the responsibility of advising this House, at this stage of the discussion upon a Safety Bill, to add a new and very serious bone of contention to a very difficult question.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
I spent two months upstairs on this Grand Committee, and I can confirm what the hon. Gentleman has just stated. It was almost an accepted maxim on both sides of the Committee that no matter should be introduced which in any way interfered with the Eight Hours Act. I hold a very strong opinion about the Eight Hours Act, and as to its result, but as it was clearly understood in the Committee that this Bill only dealt with provisions for insuring safety in mines, and that nothing which appertained to the Eight Hours Act was to be considered, and the Government were extremely loyal in that sense, we on this side accepted that arrangement and loyally acted up to it. I was rather surprised that the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Atherley-Jones), who was on the Committee, should now come down and cast this bombshell into the House. If the hon. and learned Gentleman desires to create a heated discussion as to whether or not the Eight Hours Act has been a success, and whether or not it has caused a very great addition to the price of coal, and great friction amongst the men and the masters, he cannot do better than move this Amendment. I trust that he will see that in his anxiety to shorten the hours of labour he is departing from the understanding agreed upon upstairs, and that it would be advisable to withdraw the Amendment. Although we differed on a good many points, we had a most amicable discussion in Committee, and it is to be hoped the same feeling will 1413 prevail in this House during the Report stage. Seeing that hon. Members below the Gangway opposite do not want to introduce foreign matter I trust the hon. Member will withdraw this Amendment.
§ Mr. T. RICHARDSON
I think the Under-Secretary is under a misapprehension when he speaks of deputies being under the absolute necessity of working nine and a-half hours a day in order to make the inspection which is necessary according to the Eight Hours Act. As a matter of fact in Durham County the hours of the deputies under that Act are eight hours plus one winding. The reason why the Amendment as it originally appeared on the Notice Paper was placed there, was because the actual arrangement in Durham was eight hours plus one winding, whereas the Act of Parliament said that the firemen's hours were not to exceed nine and a-half hours. The deputies have made representations to the miners' representatives on the Grand Committee and in this House, and they submit that there is no need for them to come under the nine and a-half hours' regulation. They are able to meet all their obligations with the working which is in actual operation now, and they do not see any necessity for the nine and a-half hours to apply to Durham deputies. To say that it shall be nine and a-half hours gives the management the right, if there are special circumstances, to call upon these deputies or firemen to remain for nine and a-half hours. It is of importance that the House should know that it is not essential for the ordinary working of the mine that they should have to go on working nine and a-half hours. I regret very much that the Under-Secretary should have taken up the attitude he did, and I shall certainly support the Amendment.
§ Sir CLIFFORD CORY
I would point out to the last speaker that, as the Amendment stands in the altered form, it does not apply to the deputies in Northumberland and Durham only, but that it applies to the whole country. His remarks as to the firemen who do nine and a-half hours' work do not apply to the whole country. This question should be dealt with in an Act amending the Eight Hours Act. It was carefully discussed when that Act was being passed, and it was decided, owing to the peculiar duties of the firemen and deputies, that it was desirable that the management should be allowed to keep them down nine and a-half hours. This is 1414 not the place to deal with that question, and I trust the Under-Secretary will hold to his guns.
§ Mr. W. E. HARVEY
The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) has introduced matters into the Debate which should not have been introduced. The question, of course, is the working of the Eight Hours Act. There is some evidence I am now going to give on that. I happened to be at an election in Manchester, and I saw on a lorry a big bag of coal, which was supposed to represent our present system; and there was also a little bag of coal, which was supposed to represent the working of the eight hours' system; and it was stated that the prices were going up 5s. per ton.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
What has that to do with the Amendment? This Amendment relates solely to a limited class of people: it does not relate to all coal mines.
§ Mr. W. E. HARVEY
I was referring to the hon. Baronet's remarks about the cost of the Eight Hours Act, and I want to show that the price of coal has not gone up, but that it has been reduced.
§ Viscount CASTLEREAGH
I think it is very unfortunate that the question of the Eight Hours Act has been brought up at all. I accept what the Under-Secretary has said with regard to the Mining Association and the Miners' Federation. The undertaking was loyally adhered to in Committee, and in proof of that I may say that no Amendment on this point was put before the Committee upstairs.
§ Viscount CASTLEREAGH
There was an understanding between Members on both sides. This Amendment was not brought forward on the Committee stage. The hon. Member brings it forward on Report. I think it will be most unfortunate if the question of hours is brought in at all.
§ Mr. ATHERLEY-JONES
So far as I am aware there was neither undertaking nor understanding. If there was an undertaking or understanding it was performed by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and persons other than myself.
§ Viscount CASTLEREAGH
It was within the general knowledge of the Committee. If any hon. Member represents a constituency in Durham he should realise that the Eight Hours Act has not been an unqualified success in Durham. If he endeavours to rake up difficulties of this kind it will only increase the difficulties with which the owners and the men are faced.
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and negatived.