- (1) No lamp or light other than a locked safety lamp shall be allowed or used—
- (a) in any seam, where the air current in the return airway from any ventilating district in the seam is found normally to contain more than one half per cent. of inflammable gas; or
- (b) in any seam (except in the main intake airways within two hundred yards from the shaft) in which an explosion of inflammable gas causing any personal injury whatever has occurred within the previous twelve months unless an exemption is given by the Secretary of State on the ground that on account of the special character of the mine the use of safety lamps is not required;
- (c) in any place in a mine in which there is likely to be any such quantity of inflammable gas as to render the use of naked lights dangerous;
- (d) in any working approaching near a place in which there is likely to be an accumulation of inflammable gas;
- (e) in any place where the use of safety lamps is required by the regulations of the mine.
- (2) Where in pursuance of this Act or the regulations of the mine the use of safety lamps has been introduced in any part of a ventilating district it shall not be lawful to use naked lights in any other part of the same ventilating district situated between the place where such lamps are used and the return airway, except when the use of safety lamps in that part of the district was introduced as a temporary precaution, and the conditions are not such as to render necessary the introduction of the use of safety lamps throughout the district.
- (3) Where in pursuance of this Act or the regulations of the mine the use of safety lamps has been introduced otherwise than as a temporary precaution against apprehended danger in any part of a mine, no lamp or light, other than a safety lamp, shall subsequently be allowed or used in that part without the sanction of the inspector of the division, which sanction shall not be withheld unreasonably, and any question as to whether such sanction has been unreasonably withheld shall be determined in manner provided by this Act for settling disputes.
§ Mr. BAIRD
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1) (a), after the word "any" ["in any seam"], to insert the words, "ventilating district of a."
The object of this Amendment is to localise the area of a mine in which open lights may be used. Some portions may be quite safe, while in other portions it may be undesirable to use naked lights. When the point was discussed in Committee 1446 the Under-Secretary promised to consider the question. I trust he will be able to see his way to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
This Clause was really made by the Committee, and by unanimous agreement—I do not think there was a Division—it was determined that if in the return airway of any ventilating district of one mine there was normally more than half per cent. of inflammable gas, the whole mile should have safety lamps. The Clause was produced largely because of the strong opposition taken to the mixed lights system. The suggestion was made that in view of recent discoveries there was really very little security if there was inflammable gas in one ventilating district. An explosion might be started and spread through the whole mine in all the ventilating districts. In consequence of representations very strongly urged by the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Markham), and accepted by the whole Committee, we decided that if any ventilating district in a mine was showing a normal half per cent. of inflammable gas there should be safety lamps in the whole mine. I would suggest that the verdict of the Committee should be upheld.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Colonel HICKMAN
I beg to move to leave out paragraph (b).
The paragraph as it stands obliges the use of safety lamps in a mine where the slightest accident has occurred during the previous twelve months. It appears to me that it ought not to depend on the character of the accident that has taken place, but rather on the quantity of inflammable gas remaining in the mine whether or not safety lamps should be used. They might have a very slight accident, indeed, such as a man's whiskers being singed, and they would be obliged, to the great detriment of the men working in the mine, to use safety lamps instead of naked lights. In many cases the men would find great difficulty in carrying out their work efficiently with safety lamps, as compared with the ease with which they now work with the naked lights, and unless it is absolutely necessary, because of the amount of gas in the mine, it would be a great pity to oblige them to use safety lamps simply because there might have been a small ignition in the mine. I beg to move.
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
I beg to second the Amendment. I am very anxious indeed that we should have a further opportunity of impressing upon the Government the views of practically all the Scottish miners on this question. They are very anxious indeed to have this Sub-section either deleted or substantially modified. When the Clause was discussed in Committee, it was carried only by a majority of one. There was also this singular fact that the deletion of the Clause met with the approval of practically all the representatives of the miners and, with one notable exception, of the mine-owners also. That shows that those who, after all, are chiefly concerned about their own safety, and those whose chief interest it is to avoid such accidents as might arise, were united, and they are the best judges as to what policy should be adopted in this matter. I should like to say that we are agreed that it is necessary to have safety lamps in the mines wherever necessity dictates it. That is the view represented by those who voted for the deletion of this paragraph (b). But we do say if you put in these lamps—as you will in this Sub-section in time practically in every mine throughout the country—you are thereby introducing considerable additional risks, and it is uncalled for at the present time.
I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that this Clause 32 already does deal very fully under the other Sub-sections and paragraphs with the question which we are discussing, that of the prevention of accidents underground from explosions. In paragraph (a) you have provisions made in regard to ventilation. In paragraph (c) you have power given in the mines to place safety lamps where there is likely to be any such quantity of inflammable gas as to render the use of naked lights dangerous. Paragraph (d) also gives very considerable power in regard to the placing of safety lamps in any working approaching near a place in which there is likely to be an accumulation of inflammable gas. Paragraph (e), taken in conjunction with the other Subsections which deal with the question of ventilation, Clauses 29 and 30, and also Clause 66, which permits of the withdrawal of men from the mine where the atmosphere is in a dangerous condition, appeared to many of the Committee amply to safeguard the situation. I should like to point out that the exemption which is included in the Clause at present, that given by the Secretary of State on the 1448 ground that on account of the special character of the mine the use of safety lamps is not required, hardly meets the case, because it is extremely difficult for the Secretary of State to discharge a responsibility of that character by picking out or selecting individual mines in a district such as the West of Scotland. You have there the same character in the mines, and also the same views expressed in a large portion of the district. I should like to add further that in Scotland there is unanimous testimony among the miners themselves in favour of naked lights.
In Scotland we have 71.8 per cent. of naked lights against 8.4 per cent. in England. There is also a strong view expressed that these lamps avoid serious risk to the miner which would otherwise arise from the use of safety lamps, because of their portability, and because of their great illuminating power. The naked light gives something like four times the amount of the light of the safety lamp. It is thought also—and I think with some reason—if you had safety lamps introduced into the mines where it is not absolutely essential that they should be, that the ventilation of the mine would not be sufficiently considered. That is a matter of importance to those working underground. I do not propose to trouble the House with all the figures which were produced in support of our view in Committee. But I would like to say that the last ten years has shown how favourably situated Scotland is with regard to accidents as compared with other parts of the United Kingdom. That was proved to the Committee by reference to the total figures in Scotland, where the average to the total output was 15.93, and the accidents from the three main causes—death by explosions of gas, falls of the roof and sides, and haulage—was only 13.48 per cent. of the total.
Since the discussion in Committee we have had the figures for 1910. These later figures are very important because they show that our contention was sound. They are stronger for our case than were the figures of the ten years previous. These statistics for 1910 show that Scotland contributed 16.56 per cent. of the total output of the United Kingdom, and that the total deaths from all causes underground were only 11.40 per cent. of the total. There were 185 in Scotland, against 1,622 for the United Kingdom. If we test it again by the question of deaths 1449 from haulage, which, after all, is a matter which is closely associated with good lighting in pits, you find that in Scotland there were only, out of a total of 285 deaths in 1910, there were only twenty-nine in Scotland—a percentage of 10.14. If you take the total number of persons in Scotland injured or disabled for seven days we have 10.30 per cent., whereas if you take the proportion according to the output we should have had some 9,178 more men who should have been injured during that period. I think these figures are themselves fairly conclusive. But I should like also to refer to the fact that we in Scotland have a very large proportion of accidents caused by falls of the roof and sides, and also from haulage. Take the Report for last year. Of 185 deaths the inspector (Mr. Walker) tells us that there were eighty-nine falls of the ground, fifty-four falls of the face, twenty-nine deaths from haulage, and only thirteen from explosions of firedamp or coal gas.
That brings me to a very important point in connection with this Bill—that is, the question of ventilation, which is dealt with in many previous Clauses. I do think that, the true remedy which would permit the omission of this paragraph would be to secure that adequate ventilation was secured in the mines. We have special reference made to Mr. Walker's Report. On page 11 of that Report mention is made of the precautions which are taken in Scotland in regard to ventilation. Where naked lights are used he has found that by securing that certain special regulations should be carried out there has been no necessity for introducing a system which involves the giving up of naked lights. In fact, he has made it quite clear on page 11, dealing with the question of explosions—That many of these accidents, as will be seen by the figures given in Appendix (1), are due to carelessness and disregard of elementary precautions by officials and workmen. I hope I shall be able in future years (continues Mr. Walker) to report that by better ventilation, and the exercise of forethought and care, that ignitions of gas have been done away with.In other words, if we secure better ventilation we shall not be in a position of requiring such a paragraph as that proposed. I think that is a striking fact. Further, in those districts where safety lamps have been most used we have had the largest number of serious disasters due to explosions of gas. In Scotland there has not been an explosion due to naked lights in a pit causing the death of ten persons for the last thirty years. I do hope, having regard to the strong feeling expressed in 1450 the Committee, and having regard to the number of those in Scotland who feel strongly on this subject, that the hon. Gentleman will see his way to meet us on this point and give us some undertaking that he is prepared to delete the paragraph, or to modify it in such a way as to meet the views which have been expressed.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I very much regret that I cannot entirely agree with the views put forward by my hon. Friend who has just sat down. We have now reached one of the most important points in the Bill, and one which gave rise in the Committee to a very large and important Debate. I rise to speak as one of those who, after the most careful consideration, came to the decision that it was right to support the paragraph which it is now proposed to omit. I want very briefly to state why I cannot entirely agree with the views which have been put forward to-day. The justification for the Clause in the form in which it now appears in the Bill is that without it there may be serious explosions which cannot be guarded against, in mines, and that these will result in the most serious loss of life. The Royal Commission gave careful attention to the point, and presented what, I believe, was a unanimous report on this question. The Royal Commission affirmed in the plainest language that such a provision as this was necessary. The Royal Commission went on to consider the point that my hon. Friend has referred to as to whether the introduction of safety lamps would mean an increased number of accidents from other causes, such as the falling of roofs, and that Commission, after considering that, and making expert inquiries, records its opinion that there is no ground for the supposition that the introduction of safety lamps would mean danger of accidents and an increase in them in other directions and from other causes.
I have not only to refer to the Report of the Royal Commission, but I have to refer to the Report for 1910, issued by His Majesty's Inspector of Mines for Scotland. I refer to this report particularly because my hon. Friend gave a number of statistics. I want to quote some figures from this report, and to call the attention of the House to the fact that in 1910, as a result of eleven accidents caused by naked lights there were thirteen deaths, and as a result of seventy explosions caused by the use of naked lights there were injuries sustained by no less than ninety-six persons. My reply to the statistics that have been quoted is that it is clearly established 1451 that the use of naked lights in certain dangerous mines means an annual death roll, and a considerable annual roll of persons injured. The percentage of these accidents in Scotland is far higher than in mines where safety lamps are used. The introduction of safety lamps in certain mines means that these accidents, practically speaking, are brought to an end. It is urged that they are brought to an end at the cost of an increase in other accidents, that the explosions are brought to an end at the cost of an increase of accidents from such causes as falling roofs. I have already quoted the Royal Commission to show that that is not so. An examination of the statistics of the whole kingdom shows that such a result does not follow the introduction of safety lamps. The melancholy fact is indeed established that in Scotland the percentage of accidents from other causes than explosions is higher than the percentage in other parts of the kingdom. In considering statistics, too, I would remind the House that it is hardly fair, at least, I will not say fair, but it is hardly adequate, to take the percentage of accidents to the quantity of coal produced. We require the percentage of accidents to the number of persons employed underground. My remarks have been based upon a most careful consideration of the statistics drawn up on that basis. Therefore, the case for this Subsection is, I think, clearly established.
I want briefly to refer to the only possible objection which I think has been raised against it, namely, that an explosion in the mine, although it may result in accidents to some person working underground, may be of such a trivial description as not to warrant the introduction of the safety lamp. I think there was a great deal of point in that objection. There may be a trivial explosion, which does not show the position of the mine generally is unsatisfactory from the point of view of the presence of gas, and might lead to the introduction unnecessarily of safety lamps. I plead, therefore, not for the omission of this Clause, which I would strongly oppose, but to inquire whether it is not possible to reach the object we have in view—there is no difference in principle—that is, the safety of the men. One hundred miners in Scotland lose their lives or are mutilated annually, and I ask the House to consider whether, by the alteration in this Sub-section, and not its omission, we 1452 may not reach the end in view, and meet the objections properly urged against it, and institute such a condition as will ensure that safety lamps will only be introduced when the condition of the mine really warrants it. I think in that way the end we all have in view will be accomplished. I shall, at a later stage of the proceedings, suggest that if we apply certain tests to this class of mine, not tests as to what may prove to be trivial and slight explosions, but tests repeated at due intervals, we shall establish beyond doubt whether or not the conditions existing are such as to warrant the introduction of safety lamps.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
It is rather a waste of time to argue that in the presence of inflammable gas naked lights should not be used. That is not in dispute. The question is this Sub-section, and whether it is better protection or diminishes the existing precautions. The House must remember that this Sub-section must stand by itself. It is an alternative condition and not accumulative, and, therefore, before you examine what is to take place if this Sub-section remains as an enactment, you are to suppose under paragraph (a) you have not more than one-half per cent. inflammable gas specified in paragraph (c) "in any place in a mine in which there is likely to be any such quantity of inflammable gas as to render the use of naked lights dangerous," and in paragraph (d) "in any working approaching near the place in which there was likely to be an accumulation of inflammable gas, and either condition existing will prescribe the use of safety lamps." In these circumstances, what possible use can there be to inquire whether the condition is limited to a time where there has been no accident. It is clearly an unscientific ground to confine your attention to that. It is a ground that may be described as a lack-of-confidence ground. As a sentimental reason to search for, I should like to know what the Under-Secretary has to say, but I thing it right to say that I think the danger of these words of Sub-section (b) is this: It is no use going in search on sentimental and unscientific ground because the words in paragraph (c) and (d) are already so wide that they must cover all possible cases that can exist to render the use of safety lamps necessary, and therefore the danger is that the tribunal before which the construction of these words must come, as to the existence of inflammable gas or the probable cause for the use of safety lamps, 1453 are so obscure, that the tribunal has difficulty in coming to a decision. Their attention may be diverted to seeing whether within twelve months you had any accident and whether there is any ground for protected lights. You therefore diminish the amount of your security, and you take away from the security you have in the wide and searching words of paragraphs (c) and (d) on lines that are scientific.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
The right hon. Gentleman asked me a question. I think the criticism in his last words are based upon a misapprehension of the meaning of the Clause. In the words of paragraph (b) as it now stands in the Bill, there is no tribunal at all in the matter. The words are the same as the words we used when we ask for accidents to be reported in a later Clause in the Bill. It does not mean we are in any doubt as to whether there is an accident in the mine, but automatically it is reported to the inspector, and if (b) remain in the Bill then automatically and not subject to any tribunal the same thing would be put in force. The right hon. Gentleman asked perfectly legitimately and fairly the question, "Why, with the presence of the qualifications (c) and (d), we also require (b)"? It is because of the inadequacy as reported by our inspectors of the working of (c) and (d) that we keep (b), and because in a succession of cases there have been men killed and injured by naked lamps used in mines, and because in a succession of cases we tried to obtain under (c) and (b) the introduction of safety lamps in these mines, and in a succession of cases we have been told the conditions were not such as to warrant the inspectors to make that order. Let me take the most prominent example which occurred since this Bill has been under discussion. In a mine in Scotland an accident took place recently to the injury of certain men owing to the use of certain lamps. Nothing was done, and in the year that followed there were 723 reports of cases of gas in this mine. In the same months another accident took place owing to the use of naked lamps, in which, I think, one man was killed and a man and a boy injured. A month after that our inspector examined this mine and found that naked lamps were still being used. He took a test prosecution to the Court, and the Court ruled there was no necessity for safety lamps in this mine. Under any kind of test in the world, so long as any inspection is to go on, there 1454 ought to be safety lamps in that mine, and if there were the lives of the men would be safe.
As to the whole question of naked lamps as against safety lamps in this particular class of mines unaffected by Clause 32, I do not want to repeat the arguments or revive the controversy going on through the whole of the mining world since the introduction of this Bill, and fought out at great length in the Grand Committee, in the various technical papers and by the various deputations, but I would say this to the House. This is a question in which there is hopeless disagreement amongst all classes of men thoroughly familiar with all the conditions. Each side produced statistics, and each think their statistics convincing, but I view both classes of statistics as entirely unconvincing, because they cover such wide fields of variation. They do not prove the particular point that their advocates try to make them prove. The question was fully argued before the Royal Commission, and the Royal Commission came to no conclusive resolution, but they came to the conclusion that they found no reason to suppose that where safety lamps were used in mines there was a larger percentage of other types of accidents either from falls or haulage than where safety lamps were not used. Against that conclusion we have the fact already stated in this House that upon this particular point the representatives of the miners in the Miners' Federation were solid against the Home Office suggestion, and I believe in Scotland the mineowners and men alike are solid against the introduction of safety lamps.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I have no representation from the other side, whereas I have had strong representations not only from those who represent the owners, but those who represent organised labour in the mining districts of Scotland who are very strong against this particular class of light in the mines in which they deal. There is equal solidity of opinion, however, on the other side in connection with all this work of the Home Office. My hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield, in a most important speech delivered before the Committee, gave a long series of statements made by inspectors of the Home Office, examined every single inspector without any exception, was in favour of the substitution of safety lamps 1455 for naked lights, wherever there is any danger of the presence of gas in the mine; they fully take into consideration and recognise the possibility of other accidents and all that can be said in favour of a better light given by the naked lamps. I agree there is some point of criticism of Clause 32 (b). It has been stated that the test as to whether there has been any personal injury whatever is not really a satisfactory test of the presence of gas, and it was because of certain cases which were advanced, including the case given by my hon. Friend, that we put into the Bill in Committee the proviso (b) in the latter part of Clause 32, which will allow exemption by the Secretary of State. Strong exception has been taken to that proviso. On the one hand, it is held to be a benefit, but there is not a guarantee that it will be so. On the other hand, our inspectors, and I think the Secretary of State, would feel great reluctance to make this particular discrimination in a Bill designed for safety. The case which was advanced, and which I think ought to be met, is a case where, for example, in a mine for forty years there has been no serious accident. Owing to the presence of gas in a corner in that mine there is slight danger, but it does not do much harm, and it is submitted that it would be very unfair to put in safety lamps in the whole of that mine.
Various alterations were suggested, and I promised to consider this matter before the Report stage, but I have found no satisfactory solution. One suggestion was that we should allow more than one system to be established, but that was very unsatisfactory. If any modification of Clause 32, paragraph (b), is to take place, I should be rather inclined to accept some such modification as that standing in the name of the hon. Member for Mid-Lanark not to make the number of accidents the standard, but to take as the test the standard of the presence of gas. You may have gas present for many times in a mine without an accident, and yet you might have one accident which would kill not one man, but perhaps 100 men. Another class of mine which I promised to consider was the class represented by the hon. and gallant Member for Wolverhampton (Colonel Hickman), and it relates to the thick coal seam of South Staffordshire. The hon. Member for Dudley (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen) has approached me on this point, and the Royal Commission 1456 makes a specific recommendation in regard to it. They say that they could not recommend the introduction of safety lamps on account of the peculiar conditions under which the fixing is worked, and we have put in words to allow the Secretary of State to give an exemption. I submit to the Committee that we are not prepared with the expert advice we have to accept the removal of this particular Sub-clause unless we can put something satisfactory in its place. The experience we have had as reported by the inspectors is that Sub-clauses (c), (d) and (e) did not meet the case in the old day. There have been repeated ignitions—I prefer to call them explosions—and they have caused the death of ten, twelve, or fourteen men each year. Although they may be able to boast that the condition of these mines is such that they have avoided any big explosion, if you add up the total you find that in ten years over seventy men have been killed in Scotch mines through naked lights, and that makes up very nearly the same death roll reached by some of the explosions we have had in this country. We recognise that it would be unfair in mines with a clean record for many years to put safety lamps in on account of a casual accident owing to the existence of a pocket of gas, but we want power to deal with those mines I have mentioned where they are obviously still able to defy the other provisions of the Act with regard to the introduction of safely lamps. Where we cannot obtain a conviction for prosecution where gas is being given off in dangerous quantities and where men are killed by what has been called ignition, I think we should be unfaithful to the position which the Secretary of State holds as the guardian of the safety of the miners if we did not deal with these cases. If the House can give us some Amendment in the event of our finding a repetition of gas existing in those mines from time to time without any explosion at all, and under those conditions we may be able to insist on safety lamps going into those mines, we might be able to make an arrangement, but if the House is unwilling to give such an Amendment I shall be compelled to vote for the retaining of the Clause as it stands at the present time.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
No one can complain of the position in which the Under-Secretary to the Home Office has left us. In South Staffordshire, where we 1457 have a thick coal seam, what has been suggested is of great importance to us. We feel in mines like that, when you work a thick coal, the introduction of safety lamps instead of naked lights does infinitely more harm than good, and would cause more accidents. The safety lamp cannot throw the light upwards, and unless you have some method of lighting up the top of the mine you are bound to have, through falls of the roof, a good many more accidents than you have now by the use of naked lights. In a district like that there are no real explosions in the ordinary sense, although you occasionally get what is called a "burn." You may occasionally get someone hurt by the explosion of a small pocket of gas; sometimes fatal accidents have occurred; but so far as I have been able to ascertain from employers and from the men, they will certainly be subjected to far greater danger if safety lamps are introduced in lieu of naked lights. Having regard to this fact, I must earnestly press upon the Government, in the interests of the safety of the men, either to agree to the leaving out of this Sub-section, or else to insert some words such as the Under-Secretary has suggested.
You ought to specifically leave out of this provision the thick coal found in districts like South Staffordshire. I cannot speak from any experience of the Scottish mines, but from the facts put before me I imagine very similar conditions obtain to what is the case in South Staffordshire. As we are all animated with one object, and that is to get the greatest condition of safety we possibly can, I think it is most undesirable that we should have a Clause like this, which, in the opinion of many people, will compel the use of safety lamps in a great many mines where they will do more harm than good. I am aware that the Under-Secretary has inserted in this Sub-section certain words which would enable the Home Office to give an exemption in certain cases. The words are:—Unless an exemption is given by the Secretary of State on the ground that on account of the special character of the mine the use of safety lamps is not required.I fully recognise that the Under-Secretary is animated by the desire to leave out these particular mines, but I am told by the people in the district that they do not think these words go far enough. What will happen? The Home Secretary must be advised by his inspectors, and I 1458 do not believe there are many inspectors, and probably there are none who would be willing, in view of all the difficulties and dangers and changes that take place in mines, to state on their own authority that the use of safety lamps is not required in those mines. We believe that those exemptions which were put in for our benefit will be inoperative, and the result will be that if in any one of those mines there happens to be a slight explosion within twelve months it will be necessary, under the Bill, to introduce safety lamps. We think that will do greater harm than good, and I most strongly urge the House to leave out Sub-section (b) or further amend it so as to make it perfectly clear that in special cases of this sort the use of safety lamps will not be required.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
In rising to join in this discussion I feel that I have never been in a more unenviable position, and I do not think the position of any Government has ever been more cowardly than the position occupied by the Government with regard to the proposal. This Government seems to be a Government which has more regard to votes than to the interests of the people they profess to serve. The position is a very extraordinary one. We discussed this Bill upstairs in Committee, day after day, and it left the Committee, as the Under-Secretary told us, as the Bill of the united Committee, and we were all agreed on that basis not to oppose the Bill, but to give it every facility in passing when it came back to this House. But what has happened in the meantime? A most remarkable change has come over the Government. I am not going to read the speeches made by the Under-Secretary. I feel convinced that there is no stronger advocate for this Clause in the House than the hon. Member, but being a member of the Government he is placed in a false position in the speech he has already delivered to the House. I do not know what the position may be, but from the statement the hon. Member made in Committee, and made to me at the Home Office during the period when this Bill was being negotiated, no one was more strong and more anxious to see this Clause pass than the Under-Secretary, and now at the last moment, for electioneering purposes only, and no other, the Government are going to destroy what is one of the most useful and valuable Clauses of what we term a 1459 Safety Bill, in order that the Scottish Members may not be alienated from His Majesty's Government.
What is the position of Scotland on this matter? We have had a combination of all the Scottish Liberals who have been log-rolling in the lobbies during the last few days, and they are here to see that the interests of Scotland are protected. I am going to trespass on the time of the House I fear for some time, and I am going to show, not by words of mine, but by the words of the inspectors of mines, that Scotland to-day is the one part of the United Kingdom more backward, and more antiquated in its methods, and where more accidents occur in the mines, owing to the antiquated methods adopted, than any other part of the kingdom. I am going to show this from the reports of the inspectors themselves. Why has this combination been entered into? I am told one of the chief reasons people are against this Amendment is that it is an interference by England in the affairs of Scotland. We have enough Scotch Government in this House already, and I think the poor Englishman, at all events, might have something to say when we have an Amendment down which has the effect of omitting Scotland altogether. An hon. Member on the other side of the House said to me not long ago, "If this Bill is to pass, I become a Scotch Home Ruler." If he had to put safety lamps into his mine he would become a Home Ruler for Scotland.
On the merits of the question itself there are no two sides at all. There is the side of the people who want to make money, and who want to make it at the expense or the lives of the people who are making it for them. There is not a single one of the Government Inspectors in the United Kingdom, men who have spent their whole lives in attending to the safety of those who follow the occupation of a miner—and there is no finer body of men in the world than the inspectors of mines in this country—who is not opposed to the use of naked lights where gas is present. I think they are a little better acquainted with the facts than the hon. Member, who has probably never been down a mine in his life. The whole body of inspectors are unanimous. Every one of the inspectors of mines the Home Office has spread about the whole of the United Kingdom is in favour of this Clause, and opposed to the use of naked lights where gas is present. You are going to throw over all your technical staff and the report of all the chief witnesses who 1460 gave evidence before the Royal Commission, and you are going to take action due to log-rolling in the Lobbies, independent of the merits of the question. You are taking this action, first, because certain powerful interests in Scotland are opposed to this measure, and, secondly, on account of the ignorance and prejudice of the workmen themselves. As to the ignorance and prejudice of these poor workmen who know no better, the House has many times in its long career taken steps to protect men who in their ignorance do not understand the scientific questions which lead to explosion. I cannot go through one four-hundredth part of the evidence given before the Royal Commission, but I will take the evidence of the leading inspectors. The chief inspector, I might say, in his Report this year merely confirms what he has time after time stated in previous reports:—While you allow mines to be worked where inflammable gas is given off in small quantities, explosions will occur and loss of life will result.Let the House remember all these explosions can cease. There is no question about that. All these explosions, due to naked lights, which in recent years have caused such an appalling loss of life, can cease. The only question is whether other accidents will occur, and on that question the Royal Commission found that all the evidence available tended to prove exactly the contrary. How is the House going to arrive at its decision? Those who come up from the lobbies and who take no part in the discussion are going to vote according to the Government order—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"]—in exactly the same way as you do. We are all tarred with the same brush. When hon. Members are going to troop up and vote on this question I want the House to ask itself this simple question, and to put to itself this common-sense proposition: On what basis are you going to vote? You are not going to vote on the merits of the question at all. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is not going to rise and controvert the facts; he admits them. On what evidence, therefore, are you going to vote? What do your inspectors say and what do the Royal Commission say? Where is your evidence upon which you base your alteration? It is purely, solely, and only a log-rolling policy for votes. The House in deciding this question must, if we are not going to be mere machines and vote according to order, come to some decision, at all events, on the merits of the question. This is not a party question. 1461 Why we should make this matter a party question I cannot for the life of me understand. Sir Henry Cunnynghame, who as hon. Members are aware is now at the Homo Office, was Chairman of the Royal Commission. Mr. Atkinson, who was one of the chief inspectors of districts, stated, in reply to question 5803:—Do you think safety lamps ought to be more largely employed than they are?—Yes. I think the general Rule 8 is a very weak rule, being based on the likelihood of the presence of gas, which is a matter of opinion. The saner rule would be one requiring safety lamps to be used in all mines where fire damp had ever been found, but mining opinion is not advanced enough for such a rule. All concerned are willing to take a certain risk in order to be able to use naked lights.Does not this rule somewhat follow the same principle as giving a dog his first bite?—That is so; it is a compromise. It is not the rule that I wanted, but it was the best I could get at the time.Up to recent years the principle has been that you had to give the dog his first bite, and, after you had done that, then the question arose whether safety lamps ought or ought not to be put in the mine. Mr. Martin, His Majesty's Chief Inspector of Mines in South Wales, was asked this question:—In the case Mr. Abraham referred to, you gave advice which was not accepted?—Which was not acted upon,Several times Mr. Robson and Mr. Gray gave advice to the manager at Llest as to the introduction of lamps when the men had been burned?—I can give you instances myself without going to Llest.There the advice was not accepted, and they had an explosion in which nineteen men were killed?—Yes, I believe so.There was a very strong feeling in the locality amongst the workmen against the introduction of lamps?—I cannot speak as to that, but I would imagine it to be so.He was then asked again:—Do you think inspectors have sufficient authority at the present time conferred upon them by the Act of Parliament?—Perhaps not in some respects, but I am not very much in favour of inspectors having too much power. It is far better to lay down what is to be done in the Act of Parliament.[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I agree, and that is what I am asking for now, and the hon. Baronet is going to vote in the other Lobby.Everybody knows where they stand, and the inspector has power to intervene if these regulations are not carried out.It was put to you to-day, that in one case the inspector of mines had advised the use of safety lamps, the manager refused, and an explosion took place?—Yes.Do you think inspectors ought to have power to enforce the use of safety lamps where they fear there is a real danger?—Yes.Mr. Walker, the Chief Inspector for Scotland at the present time—an admirable Englishman, who has been sent up to Scotland, and is going to bring them at an early date up to a better standard—who 1462 came from the Durham district, was asked this question:—What do you say with regard to the use of safety lamps in general Rule 8?—As a rule we have had no difficulty in getting safety lamps introduced where it has been necessary—that is at Durham—but I think the rule should state, where gas has been found in a coal mine, lamps should be adopted afterwards.For how long?—For ever. The fact you have had gas shows you it might be there again. That is the danger signal, and it may occur at any time in that mine.What would be your test of the quantity of gas?—It is difficult to say the quantity, because I think any quantity of gas is dangerous; any indication of gas is indicative of danger.Mr. Cunnynghame: If there is any indication of any gas on any lamp, you think they ought to have safety lamps always?—Yes.If you have not safety lamps, what other indication would you have?—You would have an ignition or injury to a person. I mean on gas being detected.The Chairman: Where gas has been detected, even in small quantities, you say for ever afterwards the mine ought to be worked only by safety lamps?—That is my opinion.Then we had Mr. Gray, an inspector in Scotland, and he was asked:—If you had a rule to say that whenever gas has appeared in a mine that then safety lamps should be always used, those explosions Mould not have happened?—That would be so.You would be content, if gas had been found in a mine, for the next year or so, that safety lamps should be used, and that if during that time there was no appearance of gas, then they might be discontinued?—No, I think once introduced they should remain.I thought you said you would have them only for a year. Do you think they should remain for ever after when once introduced?—Yes, I think so.Then we had Mr. Robson, another inspector of mines. He said this, in reply to a question:—You go as far as to say that wherever fire-damp is found in any infinitesimal quantity, however infinitesimal, the mine thenceforth ought always to be worked with safety lamps?—That is what I mean. I say that whenever you get fire-damp, you must put in lamps.Do you mean fire-damp of infinitesimal quantity? If you like to put it that way. I want to get rid of these terms, such as 'indicative of danger' and other terms that have been introduced and which you can ride a coach and four through. You had better keep to general terms.—If you say in mines broadly where fire-damp has been found, I think it will be right.I will just give one quotation from the late Mr. Stokes, an admirable inspector of the Midland district. This is what Mr. Stokes said in answer to question 9621:—The miners have always objected to the use of safety lamps on the ground of increased danger from falls of roof and side. I have occasionally placed before them statistics showing that such anticipated increase was groundless. I took a group of six mines, some of them with bad roof, where they worked eight years with candles. They raised, roughly speaking, 5,000,000 tons. The deaths from falls were thirteen during that eight years, and the tons per life lost 371,640. This group of six mines in consequence of the heavy explosion had to go under safety lamps. I then took another period of eight years during which time they worked with safety lamps, and they raised nearly the same quantity of coal, and only had but 12 deaths, the tons raised per life lost 1463 being 391,000. Therefore the safety lamps beat the candles by one death in eight years. The same group of six mines in the eight years when they worked with candles had fourteen explosions, fifteen injured, and forty-six killed. Then they worked with safety lamps during the next eight years and there was no explosion and not a single person was killed or injured. It that is not a strong argument for working with safety lamps I cannot rind a stronger one.That is Mr. Stokes's evidence. I think the House will admit that the whole of the inspectors are unanimous on the point. What is the opinion of mining men other than people from Scotland and from the Swansea districts? What is the opinion of the best mining engineers in this country? Take the view of the late President of the Institution of Mining Engineers, one of the greatest mining authorities in this country. He says that the use of safety lamps should be made compulsory where gas is found. He was asked, "Are you of opinion that the use of these lamps should be compulsory whether there is gas or not?" and his reply was, "Yes, that is my opinion"; and he added that when once these lamps had been put in they should never be taken out. Mr. Pilkington, from Lancashire, held the same View, and many other mining engineers concurred that where gas had been found safety lamps should always be employed. What did the employers think about it? The secretary of the Mutual Indemnity Society in Lancashire stated that the rule was that safety lamps should be used whether or not gas was found in the pit, and he suggested that they were not going to pay compensation to people who did not choose to put safety lamps in their mines. But when it comes to compensation for human life another attitude is at once adopted.
It was alleged in the Committee that Scotland occupied a different position altogether to any other part of the United Kingdom in the coal trade. It only occupies this position, however, owing to the fact that the natural conditions are much more favourable in Scotland than they are in many of the coalfields in England and Wales. To compare Scotch coal mines with South Wales coal mines is to compare the impossible, because in Wales the conditions are infinitely more dangerous than they are in Scotland. What are the facts about the death rate? The average production of coal in these islands is 260 tons per person employed. You can get far more coal in Scotland per man employed, and therefore it is necessary to take the death rate, not per ton, but per thousand persons employed. On that basis how does Scotland come out? The hon. Member 1464 opposite argued that Scotland occupied a fairly high position. I submit that that is not so, and that the facts show that Scotland last year exceeded the average of the whole of the United Kingdom. That average per thousand persons employed was 1.7 for the United Kingdom, and for Scotland it was 1.49, Scotland being much lower apparently. But then a further investigation was made. There was the small gas coalfield in Cumberland, where, unhappily, a deplorable explosion took place at Whitehaven, by which a large number of lives were lost. There was also the explosion at Hulton last year. These brought up the death rate in those two districts to 6.7 per thousand persons employed. You come down to the northern coalfield in the county Durham, and there you find the lowest death rate for any county in the United Kingdom. It was .88 per thousand employed. In the Yorkshire coalfield the figure was 1.09. In Lancashire and Cheshire 1.8, in the Midland coalfields 1.19, in North Wales 1.99, and in South Wales 1.58. Last year, owing to the explosions at Hulton and Whitehaven, the rate was much increased, but still on the actual merits of each coalfield Scotland had as high a record if not worse than other districts.
I am not going to say that where gas has not been found in a mine that mine ought to be worked with safety lamps, but when inflammable gas has been found, then from that time forward the use of safety lamps should be insisted upon. What you are asking under this Clause is that if a man is injured during the course of his calling, whether his arm is broken or his body mutilated, or whether he be only slightly singed, that mine where an explosion of inflammable gas has taken place shall not be worked except with safety lamps for a period of twelve months. There is an Amendment on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Mid-Lanark, and really, when I read it, I failed to understand what it meant. It seemed so perfectly ludicrous that I came to the conclusion that the hon. Member did not know what he was talking about. What is this proposal. It is to introduce the words—
(b) in any ventilating district in which the percentage of inflammable gas in the general body of the air in any part of the district has, on not less than six occasions within the previous twelvemonths, been found by an inspector to be two and a-half or upwards.
1465 That is to my mind a marvellous state of affairs. Up to the time of the Report of the Royal Commission the standard was that where water appeared in the cap of the safety lamp the men were to be withdrawn. It was an established rule, and has been so for years. Yet we now have the Miners' Federation coming to the Home Office to complain that that standard is not sufficient. The standard is 1½ per cent. in safety lamp mines. The hon. Member says now, "Not If per cent. but 2½ per cent. in the naked light mines." We have already provided in the Bill that if there is 1½ per cent. in naked light mines, then that mine must be worked with safety lamps, but the hon. Member, in his desire to please the Scottish miners, wants 2½ per cent., and he will allow mines to be worked where there is 2½ per cent. of inflammable gas, though they are being worked with naked lights.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The only desire is that where there is 2½ per cent. the men must be withdrawn. The proposal does not interfere with the provisions of the Bill. The men must be withdrawn when 2½ per cent. is found and safety lamps must be used when they are working.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
If they were withdrawn they would only be withdrawn dead; they could not withdraw themselves. If the hon. Member would take the trouble to read the results of the experiments at Newcastle-on-Tyne a fortnight ago he would notice that associated with coal dust even at 1½ per cent. there were practically 50 to 60 per cent. of ignitions, while at 2 per cent. 100 per cent. of ignitions took place.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I desire to point out to the hon. Member that Clause 66, Sub-section (2) reads:—For the purposes of this Section a place shall be deemed to be dangerous if the percentage of inflammable gas in the general body of the air in that place is found to be two and a-half or upwards, or, if situate in a part of a mine worked with naked lights, one and one-quarter or upwards.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
That has nothing to do with the naked light line but with the safety light line. When you get to 1¼ per cent. you have to withdraw the men. That is the standard of withdrawal. Now you are going to make it 2½ per cent. with a naked light. It is perfectly ludicrous. I 1466 should like to read to the Committee what Mr. Walker, the Chief Inspector for Scotland, said in his report issued last week:—The Scotch lamp, carried as it is in the men's caps, is a distinct danger, as the flame of it comes in contact with the accumulations or feeders of gas, however small they may be. The frequency with which these ignitions occur has, I am afraid, made both officials and workmen regard them as being trifling and of little consequence, whereas in districts where the majority of mines use safety lamps, an explosion of gas is looked upon as a reflection on both the management and the workmen. The latter is the spirit in which such ignitions should always be regarded, as, apart from the danger of the explosions causing serious loss of life and injury to the workmen, the dicipline is always better in mines where every precaution is taken to prevent the ignition of even the smallest quantity of fire-damp, and accidents from other causes are thereby prevented. The frequency with which these ignitions have occurred in this district is not creditable to anyone connected with mining,—That is strong language for a Government inspector—and I hope the matter will be thoroughly investigated and such measures taken"—No doubt he was there referring to Parliament—as will materially reduce the number of accidents occurring from this cause.What was the number of accidents last year? In Scotland there were nine fatal accidents due to naked lights. There were eleven deaths due to naked lights and eighty-seven persons were injured, some of them very seriously and some being maimed for life. The evidence given before the Royal Commission showed there was a deplorable state as affected Scotland, not only in regard to safety lamps, because the same tale runs all through. When we come to Scotland we find that things are not, at all events, up to the standard. I ask the House to take note of these figures. They are given by the Royal Commission and relate to the explosions in Scotland. They do not call them ignitions, they call them explosions. In the years 1906 to 1907, 2,050 people were injured, many of them having their eyes blown out. Two hundred and ninety-six people were killed. How many of these were in Scotland? You cannot get rid of the fact that Scotland produced only 14 million tons out of the total production in 1907 of 280 million tons. Out of a total of 296 deaths due to naked lights Scotland had 97; out of the non-fatal accidents, 1,016 persons were injured in Scotland, while in England and Wales, with five times the output, had only 999. The argument of the Scotch people has been: "If you work with safety lamps you will got more falls from roofs and sides." The 1467 same argument was used in South Wales. When the question was raised before the Royal Commission we were told on every side that "if safety lamps are put in here you are going to have a calamity in the way of falls from roofs and sides." As a matter of fact it was all unfounded, and there were no falls. The Royal Commission, found in fact that:—After careful consideration of all the evidence that has been placed before us, we think there is some force in the argument that the naked light has some advantage over the safety lamp on the ground of its giving better illumination, but we do not think it follows that the replacing of naked lights by safety lamps is calculated to increase the accidents from falls of ground. The available evidence tends to prove that this is not the case. Where a naked light is used the miner no doubt forms the habit of ascertaining the safety of the sides and roof by his eyesight rather than by his ears, but when he is provided only with a safety lamp he is bound to depend mainly on sounding, and for this reason perhaps he is disposed to exercise the greater caution.There are, moreover, dangers in the use of naked lights which do not exist in the case of safety lamps. For instance, in naked-light mines a number of accidents occur from the ignition of explosive by sparks from naked lights. In the two years (1907–8) for which statistics are available, there were 133 such accidents, causing the death of seven persons and injury to 136 persons. The use of naked lights also seriously increases the risk of underground fire, and in this connection we may refer to the recent disaster at the Hamstead Colliery in Staffordshire, caused by the use of candles.8.0 P.M.
The Scottish Members before the Committee upstairs produced as evidence two small mines, one producing 120,000 tons and the other 150,000 tons, which I described as tinpot collieries—a remark which apparently gave great offence to the Scottish Members of the Committee. It appears to me to be ludicrous that when you are dealing with millions of tons of output they should, after careful selection, select these two collieries and put them forward for the purposes of comparison. The number of deaths, in mines where safety lamps are used, due from falls has been no more. Safety lamps are used in the deeper mines which must of necessity be more dangerous than the surface mine. I will take the case of the Mansfield colliery, which has the largest output at one pit in eight hours of any mine in the world. The general manager of that colliery said in his evidence before the Royal Commission that in a colliery in Yorkshire which had been worked with naked lights for twenty-three years gas had hardly ever been reported, and suddenly one morning the place blew up, and sixty-four lives were lost. That taught him a lesson which will never be forgotten. I can go on quoting. There is no evidence in the volumes of the Report of the Royal Commission justifying the use of naked lights in mines. The only reason it is done, 1468 is that where safety lamps are put in place of candles the men require more money, which represents approximately 1d. to 2d. per ton. The Clause means this, that where a man has been killed in a mine you only say you shall not kill another man for a period of twelve months. The Government have allowed the dog to have his first bite, which they ought not to have allowed. The action of the Government in this matter has been more than contemptible. They had their Clause in the Bill, why did they not stick to it? I have got several speeches of the Under-Secretary in which he said time after time, that this Clause was essential. It has been the great fight in the Bill. What have we now at the last moment? We have had all this log-rolling—it is going on now—by the Scottish Members. It is going on at present while we are in here, and when we come to vote on this question these Gentlemen, who have not had an opportunity of hearing any one side of the discussion, will vote according to which way the Government wants them to.
Really I think, even at this late hour, there might be some death-bed repentance on the part of the Government. My right hon. Friend is new to the Home Office. He goes there with the best wishes of us all. He has been associated with a mining constituency, and he knows in a great measure the needs and requirements of people in mining districts. I know that he, at all events, being new to the place, cannot be expected at so late a stage to have entered into the merits of the question. But who has taken the responsibility of going back on this Clause? I think we are entitled to ask that. Is it the Cabinet as a whole or on whose responsibility is it being taken? I cannot believe it can be the Under-Secretary, because he has fought so strenuously for this Clause. He has done his best at every stage of the Bill. It was with amazement that I was told last night, "We have beaten the Government. They have given in on account of the Scotch Members, who have squared them." Really my right hon. Friend has shown admirable courage in another office which he occupied. He has been a strong man and if he had been here as a strong man to deal with this question he would have fought it as a Cabinet question, and won it. Will he tell us whether it is the Cabinet who have done this or whether it is 1469 due to pressure from the Scotch Members? He is far too wise to open his mouth. This Clause is worth all the rest of the Bill. I do not care for anything else in the Bill except this and the electricity Clause. I trust that when the Home Secretary has heard the facts now, as he has not heard them before, he will throw over these Scotch gentlemen who have been bringing all this backstairs influence to bear on the Government, and give a straight vote in accordance with the evidence in his Department, the evidence of the inspectors of mines and all the best thought in this country. In France, in Germany, and all over the civilised world, with the exception of America, where human life is of no value, there is a standard of withdrawal of 1 per cent., and no naked lights are allowed at all. When we are talking so much about adopting the scientific methods of Germany, the right hon. Gentleman would do well to turn his attention to that point. I see he has in his hands a report, published by the Miners' Federation, of a meeting that took place at Stirling, and I suppose he will quote certain words in which I refer to this matter. He will probably say, "You said you would give such exception in a case where a mine had been worked for forty years." I said that. I said I had not considered the case, but where there was a case where a mine had been worked for forty years without any explosion, there might be a question for investigation, but after thinking it over I came to the conclusion that I was wrong to have made the statement and I withdraw it. The Amendment was put in at my suggestion, but that is not what we are striking out now. The Scotchmen want to strike out the whole Clause, and if you do not strike it out the Scotchmen could not work their mines with safety lamps.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. McKenna)
As I did not have the advantage of taking part in the Committee stage of the Bill, I have not intervened before in the discussion to-day. We all recognise the great knowledge, the sincerity, and the real desire that my hon. Friend has to ameliorate the condition of miners, and to promote their safety, therefore we excuse him if he is carried away a little by his feelings and uses language which I think the whole House must agree goes somewhat beyond the mark. He charges the Government with being 1470 cowards, with being more than contemptible, and with being guilty of a logrolling policy, and in support of those statements he has no more evidence than a speech of the Under-Secretary an hour ago. What did my hon. Friend say? He repeated his support of paragraph (b). He stated the arguments in defence of it, and recognised that there had been considerable opposition on both sides of the House raised against it, and he went on to say that unless a satisfactory substitute could be found for paragraph (b) he would have to support it. That statement is the ground upon which my hon. Friend charges the Government with being worse than contemptible, with being cowards, and with having adopted a log-rolling policy. I am afraid my hon. Friend and I understand langauge in a somewhat different sense. The position that the Under - Secretary took in the matter was a very simple one. It is obvious that there are alternative methods of discovering whether a mine is likely to have such an amount of inflammable gas in it as to require the use of a safety lamp. My hon. Friend (Sir A. Markham) pours great scorn on paragraph (b) as it stands, because it allows the dog one free bite, and he considers that bad. What is the alternative? An alternative method of discovering whether a safety lamp is required or not is by measurement of the amount of gas. That is the method proposed by my hon. Friend (Mr. Whitehouse). The hon. Gentleman (Sir A. Markham) has himself disclaimed a proposal in the Bill to compel the universal use of safety lamps and he is not entitled now to defend himself behind that point. What is the third alternative which he suggests the Government ought to adopt? He says, "I think the one free bite is bad, and I do not like the system proposed by the hon. Member (Mr. Whitehouse) under which the amount of the inflammable gas is periodically measured." When driven now, he says the right thing is no naked lights.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I suppose on the same principle that he is very fond of the Government. I do not think he has been fair 1471 to the proposition of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whitehouse). Whether his percentage is too high or too low is another point, but his system is that you should proceed by measurement rather than by the principle of giving a free bite. For myself, I prefer paragraph (b), though I am not going to say for a moment that the question is free from difficulty. The Under-Secretary warned me—he knows the Bill better than I can possibly know it—that this would be a subject of great difficulty, and I have done my best in consequence to inform myself fully on the subject. I came to the conclusion that paragraph (b) is the best method, but I do not think the subject is so free from difficulty that I should be justified in asking those who support the Government to go into the Lobby under what is known as the pressure of the Government Whips. My hon. Friend referred to what was stated in the Committee, but he did not really give an exact account of what his speech was. I will quote his words in order to show that the subject is not free from difficulty:—Last night I had an interview with the general manager of a large concern in Scotland whose mines I had been down. He pointed out to me that for forty years they had never had a man seriously injured or a fatal accident. 'It does seem hard,' he said, 'that in this case, where they have never had a bad accident in that long period, they should be forced to adopt these safety lamps.' Now I think there is a case for argument in that. I am not sure whether the Amendment meets a case like that where you have a mine which only occasionally, very rarely, has an accident, and where there is no accumulation of gas.So that my hon. Friend, who is admittedly a great expert himself, agreed that in those mines where accidents are extremely rare, or where they are not very serious in character, it would not be wise to press the conditions of paragraph (b). I go further than my hon. Friend, although he is a much greater expert in the matter than I can possibly be, and I say for myself, upon the evidence that I have received, that I am firmly convinced of the value of paragraph (b), but I am equally convinced that there is very strong expert opinion against it.
§ Mr. McKENNA
It is not so easy to dispose of a great country and its experts, and I certainly do not propose to do so. The inspectors are unanimously in favour of paragraph (b), but many of them go a good deal further.
§ Mr. McKENNA
He comes from England. I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield wishes to take a purely anti-Scottish view. The inspectors go further than paragraph (b). Some of them go so far as to say that no naked light should be used in any mine. We are acting on their recommendation in that matter, and therefore I suggest that the opinion of the House should be taken on the question of the retention of the first part of paragraph (b) without any regard to party ties. Personally, I shall vote for the retention of paragraph (b) as it stands, and I hope that many hon. Members on this side and on the opposite side will go into the lobby with me. I hope we shall win, but if, on the other hand, I fail to retain paragraph (b) through a majority deciding against the first part of the paragraph, I shall then support my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Lanark (Mr. Whitehouse), who has given notice of an Amendment. I do not commit myself to the exact words of the Amendment, but I shall support him in a proposal which would give some security which I think is not sufficient, but which others think is sufficient. I have referred only to the first part of paragraph (b). I think the second part of the paragraph which gives discretion to the Secretary of State should be retained. We all know very well that there are mines in South Staffordshire where, owing to the particular circumstances, we should probably be doing more harm than good if we insisted on safety lamps. Therefore the discretion must be left to the Secretary of State to deal with cases of that sort. I do not suggest that the Debate on this matter should come to a close now, but when we divide it should be understood that if the paragraph (b) is not retained, then we who represent the Government would give our support to an Amendment somewhat like that of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Lanark.
§ Colonel HICKMAN
Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that if this Amendment in my name goes to a Division, and the Clause is struck out, he will introduce another Clause in its place?
§ Mr. McKENNA
My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Lanark has an Amendment down which will retain the second part of the paragraph.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The question put from the Chair was, "That the words 'in any' stand part of the paragraph."
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I understand that, as the second part stands now, it is a safeguard in such places as South Staffordshire. Does the right hon. Gentleman say that it is the intention of the Government to exclude these mines from the operation of the Sub-section?
§ Mr. McKENNA
The Royal Commission has a recommendation in regard to these particular mines. In their Report, at page 137, they say:—The use of naked lights also seems to us an advantage in very thick seams, such as those in Staffordshire, where the extra, illumination given by the naked light is an advantage in examining the roof.The Secretary of State would exercise his discretion in regard to those particular mines.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
I can scarcely allow the remarks made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield (Sir A. Markham) to pass unnoticed. He scolded very severely Scottish Members for what he called log-rolling in that they made representations to the Home Office in favour of the deletion of this Sub-section. He accused the Scottish Members of representing ignorant men in this matter. The Scottish Members represent the absolutely unanimous view of those engaged in mining in Scotland. Here we have a Coal Mines Bill designed to confer safety on those occupied in the mining industry of Scotland, and yet we are imposing on those miners something which they say is useless to them. It is the unanimous view of those engaged in mining in Scotland that there would be more accidents if naked lights were withdrawn than if they are allowed to continue. They are not ignorant men. They are intelligent men who have represented these things at Westminster. Moreover, the accidents which take place in Scottish mines will probably be less in future, because under this measure better conditions of ventilation will obtain. Under these conditions, therefore, safety lamps will be less necessary. If 71 per cent. use naked lights today, they will use them in future under the conditions of the measure we are now considering. Statistics have been quoted 1474 in regard to the number of accidents from explosions. I maintain that they are absolutely useless unless you can compare, say, five years' experience of naked lights with five years' experience of safety lamps in the same mine. I am disposed to allow the mine owners and the miners of Scotland to be judges in this matter, and not to impose on them regulations and conditions which they say are absolutely insufferable. They are not ignorant men without any experience of safety lamps. If they had no experience, the House might impose these lamps upon them, but having had experience of both lights they have decided that the danger would be greater with safety lamps. I am prepared to leave the matter to them. The hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield referred to a report of Mr. Walker, inspector of mines for Scotland. Mr. Walker, in the whole of that statement, only detailed conditions and rules for the safety of miners in mines where naked lights are used. After giving the lists of rules and regulations, he winds up:—Many of the accidents, as will be seen from the description given in appendix (1), are due to carelessness, and disregard of the rudimentary precautions by officials and workmen. I hope I shall be able in future years to report that, by better ventilation and the exercise of forethought and care, ignitions of gas have been done away with—that is in mines that have used naked lights. So that if the hon. Member had read on he would have seen that Mr. Walker was giving rules and regulations which, if observed, would have rendered mines where naked lights are used comparatively immune from accident.
§ Mr. BAIRD
I particularly wish to answer some of the remarks of the hon. Member for Mansfield, who attacked all the Scottish owners, none of whom were present. The introduction of the question of cost was a matter which it was agreed to exclude by all Members and all parities. As the hon. Member thought fit to introduce that question in an exceedingly, I do not like to say offensive but exceedingly wrong, manner, I think we are entitled to hear the other side of the case. I told him that I was going to attack him and I hope he will return. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] I do not like to say hard things of people when they are not present, and therefore I hope he will return. In addition the hon. Member quoted a great many figures, proving, as he thought, that Scotch mines were carried under most unsafe conditions, and that it was necessary to introduce the use of the safety lamp. It does seem a 1475 strange thing that hon. Members opposite, who are such strong supporters of Home Rule, and believe that people in every part of the United Kingdom should be allowed to manage their own affairs, when they find that all sections of opinion in Scotland, masters and men, unanimously desire to maintain a system which they consider to be the safe system, should seek to impose on Scotland a system which they in Scotland consider a less safe system. The figures quoted by the hon. Member for Lanark were extraordinarily striking, and if they only had been quoted with the same amount of vigour and zest as was displayed by the hon. Member for Mansfield, they would have had a far greater effect. But the main fact is, whether you take the basis of number of men employed or output, coal mining is carried on in Scotland under conditions which are safer than in any other part of the British Isles.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
If the hon. Member refers to page 153 of the Chief Inspector's Report of last year he will find that the deaths in the Scottish field are bigger than in any other fields.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
Quoting figures for one year is really worthless. In a case of this kind figures must be spread over a large number of years.
§ Mr. BAIRD
I entirely agree. I did not want to produce figures that have been already quoted, and I was only replying to the hon. Member. In the year 1909, whereas the total output of Scotland was 15.93 of that of Great Britain, the deathrate from explosions was only 12.2 of the total. Those figures go right through the whole thing. There is no possible cause 1476 why anyone should advocate one view or another except that he imagines it is going to produce good. The hon. Member for Mansfield attacks the Scotch coal-owners on the ground that they objected to the use of the safety lamp because it was going to cost money. I regret that he should have introduced this subject. The hon. Member should have recollected that people who live in glass houses had better not throw stones, and that he, as is well known, is largely interested in some of the largest and most up-to-date mines in the country, and that when he says that Scotch coal-owners are afraid of the cost he lays himself open to the charge that this legislation is bound to close down a certain number of these mines in Scotland that are not up to date, and that this attack will certainly be to his benefit and the benefit of the mine in which he is personally interested. That is a complete answer to what he has said. I did not desire to bring up this question, but I feel bound to do my best to defend the men who are not here.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I am not interested in any coalfields nearer Scotland than South Yorkshire. Does South Yorkshire compete with Scotland? The two are perfectly distinct.
§ Mr. BAIRD
The hon. Member must know perfectly well that if the output of Scotland is diminished it is to the benefit of the coal-owners in other parts of Great Britain. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If that is not so, perhaps the hon. Member will say why? It is to the benefit of the up-to-date mines that what he calls these tinpot mines should be closed. I should not be opposed to them being closed if keeping them open meant working under unsafe conditions, but it is impossible to show that the proposals of the hon. Baronet will make mining safer in Scotland, and, on the contrary, all Scotsmen think that mining will become less safe. I venture to remind him of the very striking support of the continuation of naked lamps which came from Mr. Smiley, who cannot be accused of having any bias in favour of the owners. Mr. Smiley has three sons working in pits where nothing but naked lights are used, and if he thought it was dangerous he would not have his sons working there. At the same time it will not be denied that a man who has the interests of the men at heart, as opposed to the owners—it is impossible to separate the interests of the two, but if it is possible, if there is any man anxious for the interests of the men as against the 1477 owners, it is Mr. Smiley—does not the hon. Member imagine that if this plan were going to be a benefit to the working man Mr. Smiley would not be in favour of introducing safety lamps? The hon. Member cannot quote any man of standing in Scotland as in favour of this change. Many other Members say that because a certain system is adopted in Yorkshire therefore it must be adopted in Scotland. But it strikes me that we here shall be incurring very great responsibility if we are to impose upon the men who go down the mine legislative conditions which, without the slightest exception, they say will conduce not to safety, but increased danger. I had hoped that the hon. Member for Fife, who spoke so well and with such authority in Grand Committee, would have given us the benefit of his experience in this discussion, because, after all, experience is worth a good deal more than theory, and we have had nothing but theory so far on both sides of the House. Everybody knows that experts are obstinate people, and no one is more obstinate than the hon. Member for Mansfield (Sir A. Markham). If the Government are prepared for a compromise on this subject, and prefer that the paragraph should be deleted, I understand that whatever way the Division goes, the Government are prepared to accept the Amendment. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."]
§ Mr. McKENNA
I stated that for myself I should vote for the retention of paragraph (b), but I did not propose to bring any party pressure to bear on Members, who would vote according to their own wishes, without regard to party ties. If paragraph (b) is deleted from the Bill, as to judge from those who have spoken it probably will be—[HON. MEMBERS: "Not at all; we have kept silent."]—then we shall support with the whole strength of the Government an Amendment similar to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Lanark.
I disagree with my hon. Friend below me on this occasion, and I shall support the retention of the Clause for this reason. In the first place, I think it would be a very great misfortune that any person interested in collieries, as I am should help to pass anything which 1478 would be likely to operate against the safety of the men's lives. I say that with a clear conscience, because although I represent a certain number of miners in my Division, they are not at all an overwhelming power. I know a good deal of miners, and I think it would have a very bad effect if we supported anything considered to be against the safety of the men. The Clause as it stands, unless exemption is given by the Secretary of State on account of the special character of a mine, requires that safety lamps shall be used, but where exemption is given the safety lamp is not required. That seems to have been forgotten in the whole of this Debate. In the mines where there is a very thick seam naked lights may be allowed, if the inspector thinks that can be done and the Secretary of State grants exemption. I do hope that hon. Members will remember the pledge the Home Secretary has given as regards the very thick seams, where extra light is necessary, but I, for my part, if there is the slightest doubt about the safety of the lives of the miners, shall certainly support the retention of the paragraph.
Sir HENRY DALZIEL
It is advisable that we should rightly understand what is the meaning of the vote we are about to take. As I understand the right hon. Gentleman, he is going to leave the question of paragraph (b) to the House. No Government pressure will be brought to bear and the right hon. Gentleman will recognise the decision. If paragraph (b) is deleted, I understand it is still his intention to support with modification the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Lanark. If Sub-section (b) is retained, is it the policy of the Government to support the Amendment of my hon. Friend, with any modification he considers necessary.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
My understanding of the statement of my right hon. Friend is not that. My understanding is, that if the House decides to retain Sub-section (b) the Government will accept the decision, and retain Sub-section (b) as it stands, and not Sub-section (b) as amended. I understand, if defeated in this Division, and if Subsection (b) be retained, it is the policy of the Government to stand by their Bill and not accept amendment. On the other hand, if Sub-section (b) be deleted, then it is intended to insert in its place the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Lanark.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The position is perfectly clear. If paragraph (b) be deleted on this vote, the Government will support an Amendment similar to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Lanark. If, on the other hand, the first words of the paragraph are retained, then we should have to consider any subsequent Amendment that might be moved. My statement only went to the point that if paragraph (b) is deleted, the Government will support an Amendment similar to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Lanark.
§ in the discussion because we want the Bill to become law.
§ Mr. RIGBY SWIFT
May I also call the attention of the House to the fact that there are some of us on these benches who have not yet said anything on this question, but it must not be taken that everybody on this side is in favour of the deletion of this Clause. Personally I am in favour of it standing as it is. I think it carries out the expressed desire of the Bill making for safety in coal mines, and I shall certainly go into the Lobby with those who are in favour.
§ Question put, "that the words; 'In any' stand part of the paragraph."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 154; Noes, 43.1481
|Division No. 404.]||AYES.||[8.45 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Hackett, J.||Pollard, Sir George H.|
|Abraham, Rt. Hon. William (Rhondda)||Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton)||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds.)||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Aitken, Sir William Max||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Alden, Percy||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E.)||Raphael, Sir Herbert Henry|
|Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A.||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Rawson, Col. Richard H.|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Haworth, Sir Arthur A.||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Hayward, Evan||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Richards, Thomas|
|Barton, William||Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon)||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Henry, Sir Charles S.||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Brace, William||Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Higham, John Sharp||Roche, John (Galway, E.)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Hinds, John||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Houston, Robert Paterson||Rowlands, James|
|Butcher, J. G.||Hudson, Walter||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Hughes, S. L.||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Hunt, Rowland||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool. W. Derby)|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Illingworth, Percy H.||Sanders, Robert A.|
|Cassel, Felix||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Cawley, Harold T. (Heywood)||John, Edward Thomas||Sheehy, David|
|Clynes, John R.||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Cotton, William Francis||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts., Stepney)||Snowden, Philip|
|Crean, Eugene||Jowett, Frederick William||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Crooks, William||Joyce, Michael||Stanier, Beville|
|Crumley, Patrick||Keating, Matthew||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Kellaway, Frederick George||Summers, James Woolley|
|Doris, William||Kilbride, Denis||Sutton, John E.|
|Doughty, Sir George||King, J. (Somerset, N.)||Swift, Rigby|
|Du Cros, Arthur Philip||Kirkwood, John H. M.||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rid, Cockerm'th)||Thomas, J. H. (Derby)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Levy, Sir Maurice||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||Lewis, John Herbert||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Elverston, Sir Harold||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Wiles, Thomas|
|Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead)||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Foster, Philip Staveley||M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Furness, Stephen W.||Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worc, N.)|
|Gardner, Ernest||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Gastrell, Major W. H.||Neilson, Francis||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Gill, Alfred Henry||Neville, Reginald J. N.||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Gladstone, W. G. C.||Newdegate, F. A.||Yate, Col. C. E.|
|Glanville, H. J.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|Goldman, C. S.||O'Sullivan, Timothy||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Goldstone, Frank||Palmer, Godfrey|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Greene, Walter Raymond||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Armitage and Mr. Wadsworth.|
|Gretton, John||Pointer, Joseph|
|Adamson, William||Gibson, Sir James Puckering||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Anderson, Andrew Macbeth||Gulland, John W.||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Hall, Fred (Dulwich)||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Baird, J. L.||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Barnes, George N.||Henderson, J. M'D. (Aberdeen, W.)||Sykes, Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Hodge, John||Tennant, Harold John|
|Benn, W. (T. H'mts., St. George)||Howard, John||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Hunter, William (Lanark, Govan)||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Jardine, E. (Somerset, E.)||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Macpherson, James Ian|
|Clough, William||M'Callum, John M.|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John||Millar, James Duncan||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Colonel|
|Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy)||Munro, R.||Hickman and Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen.|
|Dawes, James Arthur||O'Grady, James|
Question, "That those words, as amended, be there inserted in the Bill," put, and agreed to.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I beg to move in Sub-section 1 (b), to leave out the words "seam (except in the main intake airways within 200 yards from the shaft), in which an explosion of inflammable gas causing any personal injury whatever has occurred within the previous twelve months," in order to insert instead thereof the words,Ventilating district in which the percentage of inflammable gas in the general body of the air in any part of the district has on not less than six occasions, at intervals of not less than a fortnight, within the previous twelve months, been found by an inspector to be two and a-half or upwards.I feel that it is especially urgent in view of the last Division that I should make clear the position of myself and my Friends in this matter. There is no point of difference between us and the hon. Baronet (Sir A. Markham). We are anxious to secure by the best means possible the safety of our mines. I need only say that I gave to the object aimed at in the original Sub-section, my most strenuous support during the proceedings in Grand Committee. But it may be that there is an even better way of securing the end we have in view than the limited proposal in the Sub-section before us. The proposal in my Amendment substitutes a definite test for the existing proposal, which is simply that safety lamps are to be introduced when an explosion has occurred in the previous twelve months and resulted in any sort of injury whatever. I pointed out when the hon. Baronet was speaking, that at present the law provides that men shall be withdrawn in safety lamp mines when 2½ percentage of gas is found. The hon. Baronet very properly observed that they had to be withdrawn in naked light mines when a percentage of 1¼ was found, and he rather ridiculed the proposal I am now making. In 1482 naked light mines it frequently happens that men are withdrawn when there is a far greater percentage of gas than 1¼. Changes in the condition occur very rapidly, and it may be found on trial that as much as 3 per cent. or even more of gas exists. I do not attach vital importance to the precise form of the Amendment as it appears on the Paper. It may be that the House will feel that a percentage of 2½ is too high. I should raise no objection whatever to the percentage being reduced to 1¼ or to any other point that the House thought proper. But I suggest that a definite scientific test is possibly better than an arrangement under which no definite test exists. For instance, under the Sub-section as it stands there might be an explosion due to the presence of gas in a pocket of the mine, but which would not necessarily show that there was gas to a dangerous degree in the general body of the mine, and it might in consequence be one of those cases so strongly urged by representatives of the mining industry in Scotland where safety lamps would be introduced without adequate cause. I am suggesting a basis for an Amendment which would give security to miners in all dangerous mines, ensuring that in all such mines safety lamps should be introduced, and which in some respects would be an improvement upon the Clause as it stands. I therefore earnestly hope that the Government will consider the spirit of the Amendment and give it their support.
I can only repeat, with all sincerity and earnestness, that I stand here to plead that we should take the most scientific means possible for the safety of the men who work in our mines. Under existing conditions, and it might happen under the Bill as it stands, men are withdrawn from the mines because a certain percentage of gas is found to exist; but that does not mean 1483 that safety lamps have to be introduced. The gas is dispersed and the men go back to work with naked lights. Thus you have the continually recurring danger of men being allowed to work with naked lights in a mine in which a sudden recurrence of gas may result in a most serious disaster. In the interests of the safety of the miners, I plead that a scientific test should be applied to mines in which naked lights are now allowed. If by the application of this test gas is found to recur on a given number of occasions or under given conditions, the mineowner would be required to introduce safety lamps. I beg to move.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
In seconding this Amendment, I want to say that I am approaching this question entirely from the standpoint of the safety of the men that I represent. I am quite as anxious to secure the safety of the lives and limbs of the mine workers of the country as is the hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield. In this attitude I am supported by the whole of the mining population of Scotland. While I am dealing with the fact that I am supported by the whole of the mining population of Scotland, let me say that the miners of Scotland are not what the hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield has described them as, "as a lot of ignorant men who have given no consideration to this question that we have under discussion to-night." The miners of Scotland have given due consideration to this question, and what they are afraid is that if we have the introduction of safety lights into the mines, which are dealt with by the particular portion of the Bill that we are now discussing, that the increase in the number of accidents from other causes will be out of all proportion to any saving that might be effected by the safety lights.
Many figures have been quoted both by the Mover and Seconder, and by some of those who have replied to them, and the figures of both one party and the other have been called very seriously in question. One of the speakers suggested that to take the figures on the tonnage of production was not a true basis. I want to point out that one of the leading Home Office officials, in giving his evidence before the Royal Commission, based his figures on the output of coal, so that if one of the Home Office officials did that, surely it cannot be very seriously called in question. I might just quote from those figures with a view to replying to some of the figures that have been quoted by the 1484 hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield. He tried to make out that the percentage of accidents in Scotland was very much higher than it was in other parts of the Kingdom. According to the figures which I have before me, and which were given by Mr. Delevingne before the Royal Commission, the three principal causes of accidents produced the following results: From explosions of gas for England and Wales the average was .33 per cent. for the years 1901–6. The average for Scotland only amounted to .20. From falls of roofs and sides the percentage of accidents in England and Wales, calculated, of course, on the output, was 2.09; while for Scotland it was 1.98. In haulage accidents the percentage for England and Wales was .81, while for Scotland it was only .52.
This shows clearly and distinctly that, taken on the basis of output, according to the figures given to the Royal Commission, Scotland occupies in the matter of percentage of accidents a very superior position to England and Wales. In order not to minimise the point which has been put by the hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield that that was not a true basis on which to take a percentage of accidents, I have here also the percentage of accidents for 1909, calculated on the basis of the number of persons employed. I think the hon. Baronet gave the figures for 1910. While doing so he actually admitted that Scotland was rather in a favourable position. But he began to give some explanation as to a large explosion having taken place in one of the English districts during last year. Though I take the figures for 1909 they are produced on the same basis, and I find that Scotland occupies even a more favourable position than it did last year. The percentage of persons employed in Scotland for 1909 was 16 per cent., while the percentage of accidents only amounted to 13.34, giving Scotland for the year before last a rather superior position compared with England. We are of opinion that the reason why Scotland occupies this superior position, so far as these percentages of accidents is concerned, is because of the use of the naked light. In Scotland we have 71.8 per cent. of naked lights, and in England there are only 8.4 per cent. We consider that it is because of the larger percentage of naked lights used in Scotland that we occupy the superior position compared with other parts of the Kingdom. The naked light gives four times the light of a safety lamp, and from the standpoint of durability there is no comparison 1485 between the naked lamp and the safety lamp. Our small Scotch lamps which is stuck upon the cap of the Scotch miner, in addition to giving a superior light, gives him no trouble and leaves both hands free and leaves him in a position to attend to his work in a much freer manner than if he had a safety lamp in his hand. That is, we believe, the principle why we are in so favourable a situation so far as the percentage of accidents is concerned in Scotland as compared with the other parts of the kingdom, and we are anxious that we should be in a position to retain as large a percentage of our open lights as possible.
The hon. Member for Mansfield (Sir A. Markham) during his long speech, stated that the percentage of gas that was dangerous in dry and dusty mines was one-and-a-half. So far as the mining section in Scotland for whom I speak are concerned, we believe that wherever a mine is dry and dusty and gas makes its appearance, safety lamps ought to be in the hands of the men. And it is because we realise that the mines in Scotland can be described as naturally wet throughout, that we so strongly contend that we should be allowed to continue the use of our naked light. We agree that when mines are dry and dusty throughout safety lamps ought to be used. An hon. Member says that we have not put that into our Amendment, but we consider that without this paragraph (b) there is sufficient power under Clause 32 to give the Government the necessary power to order safety lamps where they are absolutely necessary. We quite agree that where safety lamps are necessary they ought to be put in, but as the vast majority of the Scotch mines can be generally described as naturally wet throughout we contend that there is no such serious danger in Scottish as there is in most of the English mines. If we had the same set of circumstances as the English mines I would not be an advocate for the retention on a large scale of naked lights. For the reasons I have given we hope the House will see its way to vote in favour of the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Mid-Lanark.
§ Mr. RIGBY SWIFT
This House a few minutes ago averred by an overwhelming majority that in addition to the four conditions in which safety lamps must be introduced into the mine, a fifth condition was necessary, and the only question which the House has now to decide is the form that condition shall take. What is 1486 to be the test of if? Is it to be what is suggested by the Government in their Bill and adopted by the Grand Committee, or is to be what is suggested by this Amendment? We start upon the basis that the object of this Bill is to secure the safety of the mines: that is the expression which is upon the lips of every hon. Member who rises to take part in this discussion. I do not think it can be too often reiterated, and I do not think it can be too clearly kept before us that the real object with which this Bill was introduced, and the motive which guided the Members of the Grand Committee was to secure, regardless of expense, the greater safety of those who go down into the pits to earn their livelihood. The two propositions which this House has got to decide is which of the courses suggested makes for the greater safety of the workers in the mines. On the one hand the Government suggests that it should be an absolute condition where there has been an explosion of inflammable gas causing personal injury within twelve months, safety lamps shall be introduced. I should have thought that is about as mild a condition as anyone could wish to see incorporated in an Act of Parliament, I should have thought that patience had been protracted to a length of time when it becomes more than a virtue in the circumstances. But what is the suggested substitute for that test of the Government? That you shall upon six occasions find gas in the mine in such a quantity as to be dangerous, and as to be likely to cause an explosion and injury to persons if a light was brought into contact with it. The first occasion it is not sufficient, according to this Amendment, to justify the Government insisting upon safety lamps being introduced; tests must be made six times before it can be said that the mine is in such a condition that safety lamps should be introduced.
I hear with gratification the fact that in the Scotch mines naked lamps can be used to the extent they are, and used apparently with safety. On the other hand, we have figures which show that it is not always safe to use them in Scotch mines, and I very respectfully suggest that when we are determining solely from the point of view of the workers, which is the proper test to adopt, it is better when you have an accident happening once to put the safety lamp regulation into force than it is to pass over conditions under which an accident may happen once, twice, or three times, or up to half a dozen times, before you do anything. I hope the Government 1487 will insist upon the standard set up in Grand Committee, and not give way or allow the Clause to be altered in any manner.
§ Mr. McKENNA
After what took place on the previous Motion, my hon. Friend cannot expect that the Government will accept the Amendment he has proposed. He askes that instead of the adoption of the three-bite system we should have the test of 2½ per cent. of gas being found on six occasions at intervals of not less than a fortnight. I do not complain of the test he proposes as regards the intervals of time. In the words he has used he is following the words of the Bill itself in the next Sub-section. I do not complain upon that score, but 2½ per cent. of gas is obviously excessive. The men are withdrawn from the mine if there is l¼ per cent. of gas if they are working with naked lights. In these circumstances, how could we be expected to accept a proposal under which if 2¼ per cent. of gas is present the men are still to be allowed to work with naked lights in a mine which by our definition may be said to have in it inflammable gas habitually found? It cannot be suggested that it is safe to allow the 2½ per cent. standard. I quite recognise what was said by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Adamson), who I know is as anxious to secure safety in mines as we are. He speaks on behalf of the men and he believes that it would be sufficiently safe with this 2½ per cent. standard. I regret to say that I cannot agree with him. If he would alter his Amendment and substitute a standard of 1¼ per cent. instead of 2½ per cent. of gas, I should be prepared to vote with him.
I admit that the one-bite system is not particularly good. You may have a mine by good fortune escaping for years and years, but it may all the while be more or less dangerous, and its condition might be detected under a more scientific system. It may escape as a matter of fact because no serious accident has occurred. The inspectors are fully informed as to the mines which are likely to be dangerous, and they would see that the air was frequently tested in those mines, and provided the inflammable standard was sufficiently low I think you would get quite as good and a more scientific form of detecting danger in the mines by fixing the standard of the gas instead of waiting for accidents to happen. Therefore if my 1488 hon. Friend will alter his Amendment and put it on the basis of 1¼ per cent., up to which it is admitted there is no danger—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—I thought that was admitted. At any rate, I think below 1¼ per cent. is considered safe. There are not a great many mines of this kind, and where an inspector has any doubt he would inspect the mine sufficiently frequently to ascertain whether it was dangerous. This form of Amendment I know is more troublesome than the three-bite system, but we must have regard to the danger of the loss of life. If my suggestion is adopted by the hon. Member I think the House would be fairly justified in accepting the proposal of my hon. Friend if the standard is sufficiently low, but I could not advise the House to accept the Amendment on the 2½ per cent. basis, but I shall vote for the Amendment of my hon. Friend on the basis of 1¼ per cent.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I am quite prepared to recognise that this more scientific standard may have some merits to recommend it, but it is not necessarily an alternative matter, and it might be put in an additional Sub-section if this Clause is not sufficient to cover all the cases. Why I dislike the Amendment as it stands is that it is going to leave out one test of safety in those mines. We spent a very long time on the Committee upstairs on this very issue, and we put in these Subsections simply and solely from the point of view of the safety of the mines, and I rather object to the treating of this question as if it were merely a question of the Scotch mines. Though it is perfectly true Scotch mines may suffer more, they will suffer because they are less safe than the English mines. I do not like the first-bite system, and I think my right hon. Friend emphasises that point. On the Committee upstairs I suggested to some of the right hon. Gentleman's officials and others that I did not like the first bite, but instead of allowing the first bite in a mine I would insist on safety lamps the moment it showed its teeth—namely, whenever an explosion of inflammable gas had occurred without waiting until there had been some injury to the miners. I was told that was too extreme a standard, and that you always get an ignition of some kind. I do 1489 not agree with that view. I am bound to say that I think the difference between the two sides on the whole question is between those who regard the presence of inflammable gas as a thing which under any circumstances may happen once and not again, and those who think that once inflammable gas has been found, it is a sign of danger which can on no account be disregarded ever afterwards. The right hon. Gentleman said the inspectors knew very well which were the dangerous mines. I tell him from my own knowledge that some of the worst explosions have occurred in mines which were not suspected by anybody at all, and in mines which have been working perfectly safe for twenty, thirty and forty years. I have no particular liking for the first bite, but the reason I like Sub-section (b), as it stands, a good deal better than the Amendment of my hon. Friend, though I have no objection to it as an addition to the Clause of the Government, is that there has only to be one sign. When one explosion has taken, place, safety lamps are to be introduced. I have got in my hand a circular sent out by the National Association of Colliery Managers in Scotland, and on this Sub-section they use these remarkable words:—If allowed to stand, it will have the effect of introducing safety lamps into many of the Scotch mines where a little gas exists and where such accidents as occur from ignition seldom cause more than slight injury to one or two persons.I think that sentence reveals the attitude of mind with which Scotch managers approach this question. An ignition is not a thing to be treated lightly. It might just as easily cause death to hundreds of persons as injury to only one or two. We have to make the presence of inflammable gas in a mine in almost any quantity at all the test for the safety lamps. I would rather like to ask my hon. Friend whether he intends to put on the Government Tellers in support of the Amendment, because if he leaves the House free I have not much doubt what the result will be. We should retain Sub-Section (b) to the rest of its extent. I would ask my hon. Friend to leave the House to decide this question itself, and not to put on any Government pressure in favour of this Amendment. I am a most obedient servant of the Government and I admire it, but at the same time it is the first thought of the Government that in this case I admire. I ask them to stand by their own Bill as it has come down from Grand Committee, where this question was thoroughly thrashed out; at any rate, I ask 1490 my hon. Friend if he thinks this not sufficient scientific treatment of the question to add a new Sub-section and leave us the double safeguard, because I believe you cannot make the mines too safe.
§ Mr. BRACE
My hon. Friend has put in a most excellent way what ought to be the position of the Government. By all means, accept the Amendment, not as a substitute, but as an addition to Sub-section (b) as it stands. I am not impressed with the case made for Scotland. If the Scotch mines are half as safe as has been testified in this House this evening, then they need have no fear from Sub-section (b). The Sub-section is not a very drastic one; it is not half as drastic as some of us would like to see it. It is, however, a kind of rough and ready test under which an inspector can act. Supposing you have a test of 1¼ or 2½ per cent., does my right hon. Friend know the general attitude of the mining engineer? Why, bless your life, if there was any dispute at all you would have as many scientific witnesses to swear there was 1 per cent. as there was 1½. I am rather against a scientific test. I prefer this test, but I wish the Clause could have left out the words "causing personal injury," because I believe the presence of gas is a danger and ought to be accepted as primâ facie evidence that the mine ought to be treated in a special manner and that safety lamps only should be used until the mine is free from gas.
Those who have spoken earlier in the Debate upon this matter seem to have omitted to take notice at all of this fact. Supposing a mine is classified under this test, that does not end the matter entirely. The employers and men, singly and jointly, can then bring their case to the Home Secretary, because power is here sought, and will be given if the Clause is passed, to allow the Secretary of State to grant an exemption on the ground of the special character of the mine. Put into every day language, it means this: There is a mine where gas has not been found before. A man has been burnt, and, under the first Section of this Clause, the mine is brought within the category of dangerous mines-Before the mines inspector, however, can insist upon the use of safety lamps the right is given to the interested party, whether it be employers or workmen, or both, to appeal to the Home Secretary to say whether because of the special circumstances of that particular mine they ought to be exempt from the operation of this 1491 Clause. I do not think this House ought to grant more liberty than is granted by this Sub-section. This is really a safety charter, and, when we argued upon this Clause in Grand Committee, this was a kind of compromise. I ask my hon. Friend to stand by the Clause or accept the Amendment, not as an alternative, but as an addition to Sub-section (b), as it stands in the Bill.
§ Mr. S. WALSH
I object to it even as an addition, and I can assure the House it is a much more serious matter than appears upon the face of it. What we want to do is to act as far as possible on the same lines that a sensible, well-informed colliery manager would himself act. What would he do if he found on the first occasion gas existing to such a degree as to be highly dangerous? Would he wait for five more occasions? Does anybody on the face of the earth think that that is the way in which collieries have been managed. There are ninety-nine collieries out of every hundred to-day in which these particular conditions cannot be found where safety lamps are being used. Nine-tenths of colliery managers could, if this particular Amendment were carried, and if, indeed the views which the Home Office seem now to entertain are to be given effect to, introduce into their collieries the naked light to-morrow.
§ Mr. S. WALSH
I have not forgotten that. I repeat that there is not one colliery in England to-day that can show in the general body of the air an average on six occasions of 2½ per cent. It means that on the whole of these occasions at least 15 per cent. of gas must have been exceeded. If you divide fifteen by six it gives two and a-half. You may find 7 per cent. on one occasion, quite sufficient to blow your mine up, and 8 per cent. on another occasion, also sufficient to blow the mine up. On the four other occasions you need find none at all, yet you would get your average on the six occasions of 2½ per cent. If the right hon. Gentleman who has charge of this Bill will take note of the wording, he will see it is to be "in the general body of the air." But whenever is gas found in the general body of the air? It is found in small sections in the higher parts of the mine. That is the scientific truth of the matter. The gas 1492 that blows the mine up and sends hundreds of people to their death is found in the top crevices of a mine. I would therefore beg the attention of the Government to the utterly misleading and illusive nature of this Amendment. I repeat you might on one occasion have 6 per cent. of gas. [HON MEMBERS: "NO, no."] The reading of the proposal as that,In any ventilating district in which the percentage of inflammable gas in the general body of the air in any part of the district has on not less than six occasions within the previous twelve months been found by an inspector to be 2½ per cent. or upwards.You are assuming that a test is being made of the general body of the air.
§ Mr. WALSH
The fact remains it is to be the general body of the air, and anyone here who knows anything about the interior management of a mine must know that the gas is not to be found in the general body of the air. It is always at the top of the working. Where is "the general body of air" in this House? Is it on the left hand side of Mr. Speaker? No, it will be found in the centre of the place but gas, I repeat, is found in the crevices in the higher parts of the mine. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that some of the provisions of this Bill are already being laughed to scorn by miners, and I could give him case after case where competent men are holding up their hands in horror at the proposals of this measure. They look upon some of these Amendments as nonsensical, and I shall most vigorously oppose any further attempt to weaken these provisions by one jot or tittle. I am aware that in Committee, as a matter of compromise, and in order to meet the views of the Scottish miners, it was agreed that if it could be proved that for a long period of years, say for twenty or thirty years, no explosion had occurred, and no gas had been found there should be some exemption, but surely it ought to be sufficient if such a state of affairs can be demonstrated to exist for the Home Secretary to grant the necessary exemption. What more is wanted? If this Bill and the Amendments now foreshadowed had been brought forward last December, the whole country would have risen in 1493 condemnation against these proposals. We are striving in every possible way for safety. We do not want to leave a loophole in the form of any reservation. It is no use prating about scientific tests. It is not scientific tests that send men to their grave; it is the presence of gas that has become inflammable and has exploded. We want to see to it that these mines shall be worked with the utmost possible safety. I hope the Home Office will let the House decide this matter for itself. I believe that if it is left to its own good feeling it will vote for safety. This is not an occasion on which the Government Whips should be used. I do not want to blame the Government, but I want by this Bill to secure the maximum of safety, and I venture to suggest that that end cannot be attained if these crippling and injurious Amendments are to be added.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
The hon. Member has attacked us with some violence, and has suggested that many of the Clauses in the Bill are nonsensical. I would remind him that this subject was discussed in the Grand Committee, and that not a single Labour Member voted for retaining Clause 32 in the Bill. It was carried by the Government vote, thanks to the influence of the hon. Baronet the Member for Mansfield, against the Labour Members. It hardly behoves the hon. Member to attack the Government so violently.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
I shall vote for the Amendment as a lesser evil to the Clause in its present form. When doctors differ I can understand hon. Members outside the Labour ranks finding themselves in some dilemma, but I oppose the introduction of safety lamps, because I believe them to be an additional danger to the miner. They certainly increase the hardness and difficulty of his task. They certainly injure his eyesight; they make it more difficult for him to detect danger from other causes than the presence of gas, and—this is my chief reason for taking the opposite side—they lend themselves to the creation of a false sense of security in the mine which actually leads to the great calamities we have to deplore from time to time. Let me illustrate that from the Government inspector's figures. First of all, to show the difficulty there is in getting at the truth in a matter of this kind, let me read the following paragraph on 1494 page 109 of the Mines and Quarries General Report, with Statistics, for 1910. The chief inspector gives here Table 69, showing the explosions of fire-damp caused by naked lights, and he adds this note:—Table 69 shows that in 1910, the Scotch and Welsh coalfields, including Monmouthshire, though employing only about 56 per cent. of the number of men employed in the remaining coalfields, and producing only 55 per cent. of the output, had four times as many explosions from the use of naked lights.That is four times as many explosions from the use of naked lights as arose where safety lamps were used.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
I am quoting the statement to show how misleading a general deduction of that kind may be. He says there were four times as many explosions. Turn now to page 106 of the same Report, where, in Table 68, a detailed table is given showing the number of explosions in districts where naked lights are used as compared with those where safety lamps are used. What do we find? In the naked light districts there were eight fatal accidents, causing the death of nine persons, and there were 102 non-fatal accidents, causing injury to 139 persons. That is all the districts in Great Britain in which naked lights were used. The heading of the table is this:—Explosions of fire-damp or coal dust at all mines under the Coal and Metalliferous Mines Regulation Acts, classified according to kind of mine and cause.10.0 P.M.
Including iron mines and other mines the total for all mines where naked lights are used is eleven fatal accidents, causing thirteen deaths, and 119 non-fatal accidents, causing injuries to 160 persons. Now turn to the list of accidents arising in districts where the safety lamp is used. There were only two explosions, but they were responsible for 480 deaths and for injury to only thirteen persons. I repeat that the effect of using the safety lamp is to create a false sense of security. We who support this Amendment are in favour of every possible step being taken to produce safety in mines where explosive gas is found, but my own position is this, that the introduction of safety lamps is not the best way of doing it, that other steps have been taken, and that experiments of other kinds have been tried in districts which are known to be fiery, with the result that explosions have been rendered practically impossible. There was a case some fourteen or fifteen years ago in Lancashire where Mr. Fletcher introduced a new system of filling 1495 up the waste. Just as the coal was taken out he caused débris to be brought down from the surface so as to pack the waste solid, only leaving the main roads and the ventilation ways open. The result was there were no reservoirs in that mine for gas to accumulate, and as the gas was given off the coal, whether in the high or low parts of the mine, the current of air swept it along into the return airway and up the up-cast shaft, and there was consequently no possibility of a serious accident occurring in that mine.
I frankly admit that the number of smaller accidents from gas is likely to be larger where naked lights are in use than where safety lamps are used, but I dispute entirely—and this is the main point—that the safety lamp leads to reduction of the death rate from explosions in mines. I go still further, and say that if safety lamps were prohibited and mine owners were compelled to make the mines safe, without the use of safety lamps, that the great explosions that now take place would be got rid of, the safety lamp cleared out altogether, and both the comfort and convenience of the working collier would be very much improved as a consequence. I shall therefore vote for this Amendment, not because I want to see safety lamps brought in at all, but because I think it is a lesser evil than the Clause in the Bill as it now stands, and I am certain that the experience of those districts where there are no safety lamps, both in regard to ventilation and to management, will compare favourably with the other districts in the coalfields in which safety lamps have been introduced. The safety lamp is simply an excuse for not taking other and more effective measures, and therefore I shall vote for the Amendment.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I think the miners of Lancashire will be rather surprised at the opinion of the hon. Member (Mr. Keir Hardie) that safety lamps are a danger to the miners. Surely, where you get a sudden rush of gas—almost at a moment's notice the gas may rise to an extraordinary degree—no amount of ventilation, no amount of absence of dust, can ever give complete security to the workers. To ask our miners to go down into the bowels of the earth with naked lights, as he invites them to do, seems to me, to say the least of it, a terribly dangerous proposal. All parties in the House desire to do all that can be done to ensure the safety of those who have to earn their bread in such a 1496 dangerous manner, and on whose labour the whole community is dependent for their welfare. I oppose the Amendment because I believe one explosion in a mine is one too many. It seems to me that this Clause as it stands in the Bill provides ample facilities for dealing with exceptional cases in Scotland or elsewhere. No doubt there is great danger and a terrible amount of deaths caused by falls of roof, but a fall of roof cannot be compared in any degree to the terrible danger of an explosion. A fall of roof will kill two or three, or at most a dozen or a score of men, but in these great explosions that we get in Lancashire two or three hundred poor fellows are immediately sent to their graves, and if the conditions in Scotland and elsewhere are so different, surely the Secretary of State has ample power to exempt them from the operation of this Clause. In the interests of the safety of the miners in Lancashire I oppose this proposal, which, I believe, would be very dangerous to the welfare of those who have to work in such dangerous mines as we get in South-West Lancashire.
§ Mr. W. E. HARVEY
I would not have taken part in the Debate but for the statement of the hon. Member (Mr. Keir Hardie). I wonder whether he would go down to a mining district and advocate the introduction of candles. I come from a county where we have had the most terrific explosions, and have lost the greatest number of lives, and where the men work with candles. In one of the Clay Cross Company pits, thirty-nine years ago, the men worked with candles, and there was an explosion in which forty-two lives were lost. From that day to this there has never been an application, either from the men or from the employers, to introduce candles again. You have only to witness one accident in a lifetime, and see the devastation that takes place, to tremble at the very idea of a naked light. The second explosion in my county where we had a loss of life was where naked lights were used, and we were supposed to be immune from serious accident. It is something to make some of us tremble to think of it at this time of day, and it has been recognised by the mining leaders that the time has come when men should be prevented from having naked lights whereby they may take the lives of hundreds of men. I hope the Government will stand by the Clause. It gives every facility and every opportunity to meet any emergency which may arise. When the 1497 hon. Member (Mr. Keir Hardie) makes a comparison with regard to accidents arising out of explosions as reported, and as collected from that report he takes two cases, the Hutton disaster and the Whitehaven disaster, and the comparison is not fair.
§ Mr. W. E. HARVEY
I know it is given in the table, but the hon. Member takes an exceptional year, and that is where the unfairness arises. You cannot take a great concern like mining in this country, employing over a million men, and draw a comparison by taking one year. You must take a series of years, and taking a series of years the hon. Member has not a leg to stand on. We do not want platitudes here, we want facts, and we are legislating perhaps for twenty years to come. Speaking directly in the interests of a large body of men, I am fearful as to what may be the outcome of such advice as has been given by the hon. Member.
§ Mr. EDGAR JONES
I think my colleague (Mr. Keir Hardie) is giving an opinion of his own which he has held rather strongly for some years, but I assure the House that you could not work a single one of the large coal pits of South Wales with naked lights, and no mine-owner, much less a miners' representative, would say it would be possible to work them at all with naked lights. This is so important that it is my only excuse for mentioning a matter that is somewhat personal. In our own Constituency, just a few weeks ago, there was a lamp taken in what was regarded as the safest part of a very old mine. It had been there for about thirty years. No one had ever found any gas there. An uncle of mine was in charge of the lamp station, where the lights had to be left naked. By some mysterious cause, which no one has been able to explain, after thirty years of absence, the gas came in, my uncle and another man were blown to eternity, and it is only by a miracle that the lives of a thousand men were not involved in disaster.
§ Mr. EDGAR JONES
The whole point of this painful and, what might have been, terribly overwhelming disaster was this. It was the one part of the mine where 1498 there could be a naked light, and it was the men in charge of the naked lights who were blown to eternity. It is these mysterious comings of gas, almost like the Angel of Death, and these terrible things, that the House has to bear in mind when voting on this particular Amendment. I might point out to the Under-Secretary that this Amendment vitiates the principle he has been laying down all along in the matter of mixed lights. If the Amendment was carried you might have different kinds of lights. I earnestly implore the House to reject the Amendment by as emphatic a majority as in the last Division.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I desire, Mr. Speaker, to ask your ruling on a point of Order. The Amendment I have moved provides for the use of safety lamps where the percentage of inflammable gas has been found to be 2½ or upwards. The Government have agreed to accept the Amendment if the percentage is altered to 1¼. I desire to accept that suggestion of the Government by substituting l¼ for 2½. I wish to know whether I can make the substitution now or after the Division.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The question I have to put now is that certain words be omitted. If the House comes to the decision to omit these words, then, the hon. Member having moved other words, I shall have to put the question, "That those words be there inserted." On that it will be in order for any Member to move an Amendment on the words proposed to be inserted.
§ Amendment proposed: At end of Subsection (1), to add the words
§ "Provided that, subject always to the provisions of this Act and any regulations made thereunder as to the use of electricity in mines, electric lamps, if enclosed in airtight fittings and having the lamp globes hermetically sealed, may be used on main haulage roads within such limits as may be fixed by the regulations of the mine."—[Mr. Masterman.]
§ Mr. S. ROBERTS
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, after the word "roads," to insert the words "or elsewhere."
This Amendment does not go quite far enough. While it allows electric lamps on 1499 haulage roads, it may be pointed out that there are certain places, such as pumping stations, where they can be used, and the words of my Amendment can be accepted quite well, because, as the main Amendment stands, limits will be fixed to it by regulations. Therefore, there cannot be any possible danger in inserting the words "or elsewhere."
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
The use of these electric lamps will be controlled by two factors. One is the fixing of limits by regulations, and the other is that it will be governed by special rules. No difficulty in fixing a regular limit is that we found, directly we began to consult our inspectors on this matter, that what is perfectly satisfactory in one mine, say a hundred or two hundred yards down the fairway, might be perfectly unsatisfactory in another. We therefore decided to throw it back on the regulations of the mine.
§ Amendment to proposed Amendment agreed to.
§ Question proposed, "That those words, as amended, be there inserted in the Bill."
§ Mr. ATHERLEY-JONES
As my hon. Friend knows, the dangers of electric lighting—I speak of that in contradistinction to the use of electricity for the purpose of hewing coal—are at the present moment unascertained. We know there are very grave dangers arising from it. I want to briefly state my views on the question, not only from theoretical study but absolute knowledge. There is no doubt that electricity, for mere lighting purposes, can be used with impunity in the main haulage roads of the coal mines where the conditions are not of a particularly dangerous character. Of course, the distance from the pit shaft might vary in different mines, and under the different conditions which obtain in the mines. I do not know whether my hon. Friend has given attention to the conditions in the main haulage way, where there is a great quantity of coal dust, perhaps without any gas whatever, for gas in the main haulage way, except in outbursts, is not so frequently found. The danger is from the dust 1500 in a state of suspension and in movement in the velocity with which it may come through the haulage way, and from any imperfection in the electrical apparatus or any accident to it while it is being used. I have here the results of certain, experiments by Professor Thorne, a professor of his university, and a professor of chemistry in the North of England. The result of sixty-three trials with 1 per cent. of gas present—it is supposed to be 2½ per cent. in coal dust constantly exposed in mixture, but I quite agree that there is no absolute scientific certainty about that—showed that there were 18 full ignitions, and in 40 trials with 1½ per cent. of gas present, 13 full ignitions, which amounted to 65 per cent. He points out the extreme danger of using electricity in the main haulage way, where, of course, there is a very large amount of very fine coal dust in suspension.
I quite agree that if the most careful precautions are taken with regard to the electric plant and with regard to the employment of competent persons to manage it, that it is possible to allow electric light to be used with a tolerably fair amount of safety in the main haulage ways of coal mines; but I observe in the Amendment that what is proposed is that it is to be used "within such limits as may be fixed by the regulations of the mine." Those are the general regulations. I quite agree that it is not perhaps practical to make general regulations where you must have varying conditions. The Amendment also provides,Subject to the provisions of this Act and any regulations made thereunder as to the use of electricity in mines, electric lamps, if enclosed in airtight fittings and having the lamp globes hermetically sealed.My hon. Friend knows that that does not cover all. He knows that there is extreme danger in terminals from short circuits. I think the hon. Member for Mid-Durham will bear me out in saying that in one of the most disastrous explosions, although the matter was not definitely settled, there was very great reason to suppose that it was probably through a short circuit the accident happened. I do not object to the terminology of the Amendment. The hon. Gentleman has been exposed, not improperly, to very strong pressure in this matter. No one wants to interfere with the industry of electric light, which, no doubt, is a great source of safety if properly used, but I think the House is entitled to 1501 have from the hon. Gentleman some knowledge as to what the nature of the provisions may be for securing safety, and as to what precautions are to be taken to secure that the regulations of the mines, which mean the regulations of the managers of the mines; are properly checked by competent persons to ensure that electric lighting will not carry anywhere within the zone of danger. The matter is a very grave one, and it is in no spirit of hostility that I rise to ask these questions.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I quite agree with almost every word that my hon. and learned Friend has said I read the very interesting report of Professor Thornton and all that will come into consideration in dealing with this question. The regulations have got to be approved by the Home Office, and I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that the Home Office will lean to the side of extreme caution in the matter.