HC Deb 23 November 1911 vol 31 cc1398-403

(1) The Board for Mining Examinations shall hold examinations at such times and in such places as may be fixed by the Board subject to the approval of the Secretary of State.

(2) The Board may, subject to the approval of the Secretary of State, make rules for the conduct of the examinations and the qualifications of applicants for certificates. Provided that such rules shall amongst other things provide—

  1. (a) that the examination and qualifications of applicants for second-class certificates shall be suitable for practical working miners; and
  2. (b) that no person shall be qualified to be an applicant for a certificate unless he is twenty-three years of age or upwards and has had such practical experience in mining (either in the United Kingdom or partly in the United Kingdom and partly elsewhere) as may be required by the rules for a periol of not less than five years, except in the case of an applicant who has received an approved diploma, or has taken an approved degree, in which case the period shall be a period of not less than three years; and
  3. 1399
  4. (c) for the holding, as a part of the examination, of vivâ voce examinations in different localities with a view to the practical knowledge of applicants for certificates in each locality being tested with reference to the local mining conditions, in which at least one of the examiners shall be personally acquainted with these conditions; and
  5. (d) that no person shall be qualified to be an applicant for a certificate unless he has given satisfactory evidence of his sobriety, experience, fitness, and general good conduct.

(3) The Board may, subject to the consent of the Secretary of State as to number, appoint, remove, and re-appoint examiners to conduct examinations.

(4) A person acting as examiner shall not take any part in the examination of the papers, or in the viva voce examination of any applicant for a certificate whom he has in any way trained or instructed in any of the subjects of the examination.

(5) The remuneration to be paid to the examiners and the fees to be paid by applicants for certificates shall be such as the Secretary of State, with the consent of the Treasury, may determine.

(6) For the purposes of this Section "approved diploma" means a diploma in scientific and mining training after a course of study of at least two years at an institution approved by the Secretary of State, and "approved degree" means a degree of any University approved by the Secretary of State which involves training in and knowledge of scientific and mining subjects; and the approval of the Secretary of State may be given subject to such conditions as he may think fit, and may be revoked by him at any time.


I beg to move, in paragraph (b) to omit the words "Except in the case of an applicant who has received an approved diploma, or has taken an approved degree, in which case the period shall be a period of not less than three years."

We realise that it is impossible to give a mine manager's certificate on the ground of practical experience alone, and we agree that some technical training and examination is necessary for the post of a mine manager. We are anxious to see that the men who are put in possession of mine managers' certificates shall have sufficient practical experience to enable them efficiently to apply their technical training to the dangers of mines so as to secure the safety and the lives and limbs of those under their charge. When we were discussing this Amendment in the Committee we were met by the argument that if this Amendment was given effect to we should injure many of the mining schools of the country. We who represent the miners were not of the opinion that this was the principal reason why this provision had been included in Clause 9 of the Bill.

At the present moment there are hundreds of young miners all over the country attending these schools who are working during the day endeavouring to get the necessary technical training to qualify them for the position they hope to fill in the future. Are these young miners entitled to get the advantage which is provided in this particular provision? I suggest that they are not entitled to get this advantage unless they have left off the work in the mines and are attending day classes at one or other of the institutions named in one of the paragraphs of Clause 9. There are not many young miners who can afford to leave off their work and attend these day classes. Therefore we think that this proposal is throwing a barrier between the sons of the working miner and the sons of the wealthy class. If my information is correct, quite recently even, some of the limited avenues that were open to the working miner for securing one of the degrees mentioned in this Clause has been entirely closed. A number of the miners attending one of the mining schools in Scotland have applied for the privilege of becoming students for a B.Sc. in Mining at the examination for external students in connection with the London University and they have been denied this privilege, the reason given being that the university authorities and the Home Office have been in consultation with regard to the matter. For the reason that I want to see all the applicants for mine managers' certificates put on an equal footing I make this proposal. We do not think mere scholastic attainment is a good substitute for the practical experience obtained in mines in dealing with the dangers of mining, and for these reasons I move this Amendment.


I beg to second the Amendment.


This question was very fully debated in Committee, with the result that the proposed Amendment was rejected by 38 votes to 10. May I point out that by this Clause we are making no alteration in the law, although the hon. Member wishes to modify it. It is not an alteration of the law at all, because this Clause was passed eight years ago mainly on the application of Members representing South Wales who regarded it as essential to the building up of mining schools in connection with the university in South Wales. It was introduced by Sir Samuel Evans and supported by the mining representatives of South Wales. It allowed those who chose to take their technical training at the new mining schools and who were anxious to obtain the diploma to have the advantage of two years of underground work. That does not mean two years' less entire experience underground, because in most of these mining schools a good part of the work is spent in direct experience underground as the technical experience given. It is suggested that there is a competition in which preference is given to the wealthier classes instead of to the poorer classes. There are two answers to that. These certificates are not competitive at all; they are standard certificates, and every miner who comes up to the standard, whether through the diploma system of the university or through the general experience of the mine, if he reaches that standard will receive his certificate. No man is cut out from getting His certificate by the fact that there are students coming in from the mining colleges. I do not think in the future that these diplomas from university colleges or mining schools will be the preserve of any particular class. We now have mining schools recognised in all quarters of the country. There are very efficient mining schools in South Wales, Scotland, and in Lancashire, and if any other mining schools are established under similar conditions, which will enable the sons of those who are working in the mines to obtain the higher scientific knowledge, the Home Office will gladly recognise those schools. In all those schools, and more especially in South Wales and Newcastle-on-Tyne, owing to county council scholarships and private benefactions, an ever-increasing number of the children of the mining population are going to those schools, and not only have some of them obtained the diploma which is given, but they have obtained very high positions in the degrees given by the university.

May I point out that there is not one of those university colleges which is not placed in very grave danger of being discontinued if the Amendment is carried. There is not one of them which has not asked us to resist this proposal. If you make the period eight years instead of five years, and give no exemption to the general condition of five years' underground for the spectacle training, the source of supply will be very considerably affected, because it is impossible for a man with limited means to prepare for the diploma in this way, as well as five years' experience underground. With regard to what the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Adamson) said about the B.Sc. diploma, I may say that I had the Home Office file searched, and I have no knowledge of the circumstances stated by him. The list of colleges recognised by the London University come in the report of the chief inspector, and they include several colleges in Scotland. They include the University of Glasgow and the West of Scotland Technical College. I am informed that no change has been made there in the past few years. There has been a change in connection with the external degree, but that has been done to help those who are in these colleges to obtain the degree of the London University. That degree, however, is not necessary to obtain the qualifications for this examination. If the hon. Member can bring me any further information on the subject, I shall be very glad to look into it, and I may inform him that the sole object of the Home Office is to encourage amongst the mining population this highly technical and scientific training which is becoming more and more necessary for the efficient management of mines.


If I give him indisputable proof of the existence of a barrier against Scotch mining students ever sitting for this B.Sc. examination, will the Under-Secretary undertake to remove it?


If the hon. Member can bring any facts to our notice, the Secretary of State and myself will do all we can to see that facilities are open to Scotch students as well as to West of England students.


I hope the hon. Member will withdraw this Amendment. It would be a very great blow to the universities of this country which have spent a great deal of money in establishing these mining schools. I would remind the hon. Member that these local colleges have long vacations, three or four months in duration, and that they compel the students during that time to acquire scientific experience at the collieries themselves. I sincerely hope he will not press his Amendment, because the Under-Secretary is correct. It would be a great discouragement to the local colleges which are doing their best to train our young men.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause," put, and agreed to.