HC Deb 12 February 1914 vol 58 cc429-60

Another Amendment proposed—at the end of the Question to add the words, But humbly regrets that no mention is made in Your Majesty's Gracious Speech of the serious and increasing number of accidents in mines and on railways, and that no action for dealing therewith is promised.


In rising to move this Amendment I would have the House to believe that our expression of regret that no mention is made in the Gracious Speech from the Throne of the terrible increase in mining accidents, and the increase of railway accidents in this country, must not be taken as mere empty language. In view of the accident at Senghenydd, a tragedy that swept nearly 440 men and boys into eternity, in addition to the terrible and tragic record of the number of men and boys killed in the mines of the United Kingdom in 1913, it would be an unpardonable dereliction on the part of the Labour party in general, and miners' Members in particular, if they allowed this House to meet without raising, at the earliest opportunity, the great case which stands for reform in the Regulations under the Mines Act. When I look round the House I notice from the attendance on the opposite benches—[Mr. BOOTH: "Where are they with their rights of property?"]— that there cannot be that real interest in their consideration of the welfare of the people which they sometimes would lead this House and country to suppose. The record for 1913 shows a death-rate far and above any death-rate in the United Kingdom since Britain has been a coal producing country. To say the least, that is not creditable to civilisation. It is not creditable to this scientific age, an age of science that has brought the Far East to be near neighbours to the West, that it should presumably be helpless to devise ways and means for making mining life less dangerous to men and boys than it is.

I would like to found my ease upon the records, and for that purpose I would beg leave to quote from a Return just issued from the Home Office by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. According to this Return, under the heading of "Explosions of firedamp or coal dust," 461 men and boys were killed in the mines of the United Kingdom in 1913. Out of that number, in the particular coalfield which I represent, South Wales and Monmouthshire, 450 were killed. Under the heading of "Falls of ground," which means falls of roof and sides, 614 were killed. I regret that South Wales is at the head of that Return, with 157 men and boys killed. Under the heading of "Miscellaneous accidents," 400 were killed, and I regret again to say that South Wales presents a record there of 122, heading the list far in advance of Scotland, which had 73 men and boys whose lives were taken away. When I turn even to the number of men and boys killed on the surface of the collieries, I find that the highest number killed in any coalfield had only one more killed than had the surface of the collieries in South Wales and Monmouthshire. I stand aghast at that record, and I am affrighted at the appalling wastage of human life in 1913 in the mines of the United Kingdom. We killed no less than 1,742 men and boys in and about the collieries. It is a state of affairs disgraceful to our civilisation.

This House of Commons numbers 670 Members. If every man in this House of Commons lost his life, and a new House of Commons were elected, and all the men in the new House of Commons lost their lives, the total would still fall short of the number of men and boys who were killed in the mines of the Kingdom in 1913. This ought to cease. It must cease, and if this House cannot find a way of putting an end to the devastation of miners' homes, we must try some other method, because we have made up our minds not to tolerate a condition of affairs such as this, which is compelling the loss of breadwinners of the homes, not only by hundreds but by thousands. Senghenydd is in the peculiar position of having had an inquest, and is now being subjected to a Home Office inquiry. Not only do I make no complaint of that, but I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary upon giving it to us, on appeal being made to him by the Executive Council of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. But I feel myself somewhat handicapped for dealing with Senghenydd in its full sense, because of the Home Office inquiry not having given its report. But sufficient transpired at the inquest to entitle me to say that the Coal Mines Regulation Act is not being carried out. It is very fashionable to say that the miners do not carry out the rules and regulations, but for a surely the managing people do not carry them out, and, what is even more staggering to me, the Home Office representatives do not carry them out. I submit the proposition to this House, that the Home Office is under solemn obligation not to ask this House to pass safety regulations unless it sees itself in the position through its own staff of carrying out those safety regulations. I turn to the Coal Mines Act, 1911, and I find that Section 29 provides:— An adequate amount of ventilation shall be constantly produced in every mine to dilute and render harmless inflammable and noxious gases to such an extent that all shafts, roads, levels, stables, and workings of the mine shall be in a fit state for working and passing therein, and in particular, that the intake airways up to within one hundred yards of the first working place at the working face where the air enters shall be normally kept free from inflammable gas. And Sub-section (3) of the same Section provides:— For the purposes of this Section a place shall not be deemed to be in a fit state for working or passing therein if the air contains either less than nineteen per cent, of oxygen or more than one and a quarter per cent, of carbon dioxide, and an intake airway shall not be deemed to be normally kept free from inflammable gas if the average percentage of inflammable gas found in six samples of air taken by an inspector in the air current in that airway at intervals of not less than a fortnight exceeds one quarter. The House will observe that the only authority created by this House for carrying out that Section is the Mines Inspector. At the coroner's inquest the Mines Inspector was compelled to say, in reply to a question, that he had not carried out Section 29. May I be permitted to say that I make no charge of incapacity against the staff of the inspectors in the Home Office. To my knowledge they are men of very great capacity and high scientific knowledge, and, I thoroughly believe, with the desire to do their duty. But they have been unable to do their duty, because the staff is wholly inadequate for the great responsibilities that are placed on their shoulders. It will be observed that under Section 29, which provides for determining whether a mine is safe or not, unless the inspector has made that examination, and no one can do it for him, then it is impossible for him to say whether the mine, is safe or not. The question was put direct to the inspector as to whether he had made that examination in Senghenydd Colliery, and he said no. I am, therefore, compelled to call attention to this fact, that it is impossible for anybody to declare that a colliery like Senghenydd, which had an explosion killing eighty-one out of eighty-two men in 1901, I think, and an explosion killing 439 men last year, was unsafe, because the test had not been taken. I, therefore, submit the very serious proposition that if the staff was not sufficiently numerous for the carrying out of this solemn safety obligation, then my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary should have come to this House so as to have a staff created for the purpose of carrying out these particular regulations on which the men were relying for the safety of their lives and of their limbs. Section 32 provides that No lamp or light other than a locked safety lamp shall be allowed or used.

  1. (a) in any seam where the air current in the return air-way from any ventilating district in the seam is found normally to contain more than one-half per cent, of inflammable gas;
Sub-section (4) of the same Section 32 says: The average percentage of inflammable gas found in six samples of air taken by an inspector in the air current in the return airway in the ventilating district at intervals of not less than a fortnight, shall for the purposes of this Section be deemed to be the percentage normally contained in the air. 9. 0 P. M.

It will, therefore, be observed that Section 32 is vitally important and in direct and close relationship with Section 29, and that it is only if samples are taken under Section 29 that the inspector can know whether a colliery is a fit colliery to have a naked lamp. The sample was not taken, and consequently no one can say whether the Senghenydd Colliery, which killed 439 men, was a colliery that ought to have a naked light. According to the theory advanced by mining experts, that explosion was caused by gas reaching a naked light in a lamp station or locking station underground. I may therefore submit this proposition, that in addition to this Section the Home Office ought to have asked for a, staff sufficiently adequate to have carried out those solemn obligations.under Sections 29 and 32, which were to determine whether a mine was safe or not. In Section 62 it is provided: In every mine, unless the floor, roof, and sides of the roads are naturally wet throughout, (2) The tubs shall be so constructed and maintained as to prevent as far as practicable coal - dust escaping through the sides, ends, or floor of the tubs, but any tub which was in use in any mine at the date of the passing of this Act may, notwithstanding that it is not so constructed, continue to be used in that mine for a period of five years from the said date. Why five years? Everybody knows that the two main elements in explosions are gas and coal-dust. Everybody who is acquainted with the science of mining knows that the greatest creative agency of coal-dust is from the trams, that is, from our system of raising the coal above the tram a foot or two feet, which allows an enormous volume of air to blow upon that coal, and, despite the fact that coal may be watered before it leaves the inner working, very fine particles of coal-dust are driven from off the coal and lodge upon the sides and roof, thereby creating a terrible danger to life and limb. I ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to ask this House to agree to delete that Section, and not to wait for five years, but to have the question of the trams dealt with, and to see that the trams or tubs shall be dust proof, if necessary, with a top on the tram closing in the coal, so that even when it meets an air velocity of a 150,000 or 200,000 cubic feet per minute, that it shall be in a condition not to have any dust scattered from the coal that is in the tram, thus creating this terrible danger of which I am speaking. Gas may be the first cause of an explosion, but the most devastating agency in a mine is coal-dust, because, it may be from a naked light, it may be from the sparking of electric signalling wires, it may be from the flashes of stones striking together as they fall from the roof, that the gas is ignited; but it is the gas lighting up the coal-dust and finding an agency to feed upon that has made these latter-day explosions of so terrible a character. Therefore. I hope that my right hon. Friend will feel that he ought to ask the House of Commons to delete that Section. The coalowners ought not to have five years to alter their system of trains or tubs, and to substitute for the present system tubs which will prevent coal-dust accumulating on the roof and sides. Sub-section (3) says:— The floor, roof, and sides of the roads shall be systematically cleared so as to prevent, as far as practicable, coal-dust accumulating. That is a direct Section calling for the floors and sides t be cleaned- The House will be startled to know that at Seng- henydd they did not clear the roof and sides. I am not disposed to controvert the statement that the use of water upon certain kinds of strata may have an effect. I think it does. But this Section says that the floor and sides of the roads shall be systematically cleared so as to prevent coal-dust accumulating. The words "so far as practicable" have been taken in these circumstances to mean that if water cannot be used, the owners are under no obligation to do that. Why did not the Mines Inspector point out that the words "so far as practicable" meant that if they did not remove the whole of the dust, they ought to make an attempt to remove some of it, so as to reduce, if not destroy altogether, the terrible danger of coal-dust in mines? I come now to a much more serious charge. Sub-section (4)' says:— Such systematic steps, either by way of watering or otherwise, as may belaid down by the regulations in the mine, shall be taken to prevent explosions of coal-dust occurring or being carried along the roads. This Act of Parliament was passed in 1911; it came into operation in July, 1912. We are now in January, 1914, but the Home Office have not yet issued Regulations to make possible the putting into operation of that Sub-section. I am not unmindful of the fact that there have been Home Office Committees dealing with the question of stone-dust as a nullifying influence upon the explosive character of coal-dust; but surely something ought to have been done between July, 1912, and January, 1914, to have made possible the putting into operation of this Sub-section! It is because we feel that this awful wastage in human life not only ought to, but must, cease, that we are using this first opportunity of calling the attention of Parliament to the tragedy in miners' lives in the hope that something drastic will be done. My right hon. Friend will doubtless carry out his promise of last Session to introduce a Bill. The House will remember that practically the last question affecting miners last Session dealt with the terrible calamity at the Cadeby Colliery, and my right hon. Friend promised to introduce a Bill this Session. I beg him not to content himself with simply correcting what was found to be wrong in the Cadeby disaster, but to draft on to his proposed Bill a series of drastic Amendments which will give our men a fighting chance for their lives when they go into the pit to win what, after all, is the great source of this nation's wealth. We propose that all trains shall be dustproof, and not filled higher than the top level, so as to admit of a cover. We propose that the firemen shall be paid by the State, but that the workmen shall have the right of the appointment and control of colliery firemen, and that they be prohibited from performing any other duties than attending to the safety of the mine. Everybody knows that firemen are the safety agents of the mine. They are the men who look after the gas; they are the men who have to search the roof and sides for dangers; they are the men who have to instruct and guide the workmen in the timbering. We feel that men holding so important a position from the point of view of safety ought not to be in the control of the employer. We feel that they ought to be paid by the State, so that they may have an independent status. We feel that we ought to have the right to elect them, because we have more at stake than anybody else. The employer or owner suffers a serious and tremendous loss by an explosion, but his loss pales into insignificance when compared with the loss of a man whose life is taken. Therefore we feel that the men who risk their lives and limbs ought to be the people to elect the men who will be their safety agents.

On behalf of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain I make the proposition that the State should pay the firemen, and that they should be elected by the workmen. We propose that it be made compulsory to completely fill up or stow all gob waste, overhead vacancies, and disused working places. In some collieries of a fiery character you must have gas, but if you have no holes or vacancies where the gas can lodge you can reduce that danger very substantially. When you have vacancies either over the timber or in the wastes, you simply have gasometers holding large bodies of gas, waiting for an explosion to come along and to go to the furthermost ends of the mines, killing everybody in the area. We further propose that overhead rollers or sheaves be prohibited. By overhead sheaves we mean sheaves attached to the timber. The gas will accumulate near the roof. Underground haulage works at a very great speed, and it is by no means uncommon for the rope working over these sheaves to find itself on the flange of the sheaves, and the sheaves not turning, they come in contact with the rope and create friction which will cause a flash of fire. We say that it is inviting a disaster to have these sheaves up under the collars, for if any gas is near that area at all, it is just there. We therefore say that no sheaves ought to be permitted to be attached to the roof in. the sense that they are at the present time. We propose the total abolition of the use of any inflammable or combustible material in the construction of intake airways. This should be very carefully looked after.

When I went down Senghenydd after the explosion I was convinced without further-argument not only of the practicability, but of the absolute necessity of such a provision as I have read to the House, because the explosion was enabled to spread and to feed upon itself there in a very terrible manner. We also propose there should be a general use of electric lamps in mines where lamps are to be used, but that gas-testing lamps should be available for use in other places. The great drawback to the miner is his lack of a light to defend himself. The oil lamp at best is but a very small light. When I turn to this record I find that, despite the terrible explosion at Senghenydd, more men were killed by falls of the roofs and sides than by the terrible explosion. Therefore, while we are addressing our minds to the gas and coal-dust problem, we must not forget the even greater problem of the miner's failure to protect himself from these falls of the roofs and sides. We believe a better light will be of enormous value to him for this purpose, but the electric lamp, has this drawback: while it does give a better light—I have been using it quite recently—but it fails to discover the gas. I was with my colleagues in an exploring party down Senghenydd. I had an electric light myself, though I was very careful to see that in the party I was with there was an oil lamp by which we might discover the gas, if any. The weakness of the electric lamp is it will not discover gas. A man may be working in the gas with the? electric lamp and not discover it till it is too late. We want to equip the miner with the electric lamp the better to protect himself from falls of the roofs and sides, while on the other hand we must give him an oil lamp so as to keep hint from working in a dangerous gassy place. We think there ought to be no trouble under this head.

We say, too, that the number of His Majesty's inspectors of mines should be- increased. I think I have shown to the House that there is substantial ground for.asking for this increase, so that at least a monthly inspection, of all collieries may take place. We also ask that the reports of the inspectors' examinations of the collieries should be posted at the pit-head. The inspectors, we advocate, should be elected by the workmen, and paid by the State. Why do I say that at least one inspection per month should take place? Mines are peculiar to themselves. You may have in one place 99 per cent, of the area in a perfect condition, but there may be a bad pitch which covers the remaining 1 per cent. That 1 per cent, is sufficient? to destroy a mine, to devastate a village, and to wipe out whole families. If inspection is the right thing, then it must be a proper inspection. There is no proper inspection now. The inspectors are unable to do their work. They go to a colliery and they inspect by sample. I do not know what principle they work on. I have tried to find out and cannot. All I know is that they do not inspect the whole colliery at a given inspection. They may take the East district—if they find the East district in a good condition, then the colliery is in a good condition. It is suicidal to discuss questions of safety, and to adopt the principle of safety in mines upon any such basis. It is only by the most careful examination of every part of the mine, and of the working part, and of the whole of the workings that any inspector can come to a conclusion as to what is the condition of that mine. At present I say it is asking the workmen to live in a fool's paradise.

Speaking for myself, I would infinitely prefer to have no inspection than one of that character, because then we would rely more upon ourselves. We say that the United Kingdom should be divided up, so far as the coalfields are concerned, so as to ensure inspections of not less than one per month per colliery. No doubt my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will say that the inspectors have been working on inspection so many days, and that collieries have been visited so many times. It is no use talking about inspection in days; you must talk inspection in hours. By the time the inspector leaves his residence and gets to the collieries a long way up the valley —and I hope the House will remember that they do not travel at express speed up these mining valleys—having examined the plans, and read the firemen's reports, a substantial portion of i he working day of the inspector is gone, and therefore it is only three or four hours that he will have underground. The inspectors should be placed in such a geographical position that they will give practically the whole of their time to the real work for which they have been appointed. We suggest that there should be one inspector employed by the State for every 5,000 workmen. For the whole of the United Kingdom that would cost £40,000, giving each man £200. We heard to-day at Question-time that £35,000 can be spent—or rather can be wasted—in training the British Navy to shoot. If the nation can afford to spend £35,000 upon teaching the Navy to shoot, it surely can afford to pay £40,000 to keep men alive! I am making the proposition in all seriousness, because I think it is a practical proposition. I therefore hope that my right hon. Friend will see his way clear to worry the Chancellor of the Exchequer until he gets permission to increase the inspectorate on the lines I have ventured to submit to the House. We say no small coal should be stored or kept in the mine, but, that all coal produced should be sent out at once. Everybody knows, who has explored after an explosion, that when the fire comes up it feeds upon the small coal stored in the mines. If that small coal was not there, it would not have feeding material; therefore, from the safety standpoint, all the small coal ought to be brought out, and from the national economic point, it ought to be brought out, because of the great wastage of national resources which it is to leave it there. I will not argue that point now.

I submit that it should be a statutory obligation upon the employer that he should bring out the small coal, leaving nothing for the fire to feed upon in case of an explosion. I am afraid mining must always be treated as a dangerous industry, therefore, we must make provision against disaster, and upon that basis I make the proposition that emergency safety doors should be erected in the main intake ways, as near the working face as practicable. Everybody knows that when the fire is gone, and the explosion has burst, the ventilating doors are swept out. The first thing the men have to do who have to explore after an explosion is to replace those doors. We say those doors ought to be built back of a material that would resist fire and force, so that all the explorers would then have to do? would be to use those emergency doors, thereby making a short cut to the inner works to secure life in a disaster; and what is equally important, or perhaps more important, it would give the entombed men a chance of using those doors for their own defence. The cost is infinitesimal, but if the cost was of substantial dimensions, founding myself upon the records I read in this House, I would be entitled to ask my right hon. Friend to make it a statutory obligation on the coal owners that these emergency doors should be in the in-take, as near the working face as possible.

We say that no haulage of coal ought to be permitted in the return airway. If there is gas at all, it is in the return airway. If there is a charge current it is in the return airway. At Senghenydd there was haulage in the return airway with an electric signalling apparatus. Later on I will deal with this when we have the Home Office reports; it is enough now for me to say that I am stating facts which are not controverted. We say it is too dangerous a system of haulage to have haulage in the return airway, working with ropes. We therefore propose that there should be a statutory obligation upon the coal owners that there should be no haulage system in the return airway. We further propose that the workmen should be given the right to institute prosecutions against the colliery management for any breach of rules in the same manner as the management have the right to prosecute the workman. I was looking at the returns for last year—they state that 1,000 workmen had been prosecuted, while there were only about 44 prosecutions against the management. Let us have the opportunity of bringing prosecutions against the management when we see that they are not carrying out their obligations. If the manager personally breaks these rules we may take action, but we cannot take action for violation of the rules unless we can bring a personal charge home to the manager. We say we ought to have the same right to prosecute the company where the rules and regulations are not carried out, and that the workmen should have the full opportunity of going to the Courts and of bringing charges without consulting the inspector. Under the provisions of this Act, if we believe that the management of a particular colliery has been guilty of a violation of the rules and regulations, we must report it to the inspector, and the inspector is created under this Act of. Parliament the authority to determine whether the case shall go forward or not. Whether we get a conviction or not we believe that the right to prosecute would have-a very substantial check upon violation of the rules and regulations, such as we have not got at the present time. We ask the-same opportunity as workmen against the employer as they enjoy against the workmen at the present time, and that in all cases where practicable the endless rope-haulage system should be enforced in. place of the main and tail rope system. We propose that because the main and tail rope system sets up a volume of dust which the endless system does not. In addition to that, men get a chance of. getting out of the way; this haulage system is continuous but slow. I find under the Miscellaneous Underground Section that in South Wales we had killed last year no less than eighty-one. We therefore think that the system of haulage by the endless system is a safer method than the main and tail, and if it is we are entitled to ask this House to give us such protection as we do not enjoy to-day under the rules and regulations. We believe that it ought to be made compulsory to provide water zones—complete portions of roadway saturated with water —in all the in-take returns of the working district. The great thing is to localise the explosion. We cannot stop the lighting of gas, perhaps, or the lighting of coal, dust, but we can localise the explosion by the creation of water zones of sufficient dimensions which will prevent the fire getting over the gap that would be created. Water zones made of arch and roof and' sides which will allow water to be contained without any danger to the structure. I submit these proposals on behalf of the Federation, because we believe that something practical ought to be done to meet this case. The fact that 1,742 men and boys were killed demands special treatment. We ask this House to forget altogether the cost, and to think only of safety. If they will forget, altogether about the cost and think only of safety we shall have rules and regulations which will give us in 1914 an entirely different record to what we have got here.


May I ask my hon. Friend to give the House one further figure, namely, the number of men killed last year in the mines of this country owing to the use of naked lights, which he and his friends uphold.


I am a safety-light man myself. My hon. Friend the Member for Fife (Mr. Adamson) will speak upon that subject, and I think he will be able to answer the hon. Baronet. May I be allowed to say to my hon. Friend if naked lights are a danger they must go. I am standing here for safety. When I saw the mangled remains of my fellow workmen in that pit I entered into a solemn vow.and covenant with myself not to rest until we have entirely different conditions from what we have to-day, and it is because we believe that this terrible and tragic record demands drastic treatment that we have moved this Amendment to the Address. When we read the King's Speech and found no mention of proposals for amending the Coal Mines Regulation Act and the regulations to check this appalling destruction in human life, we were grieved to our very hearts. It is with a view of giving the Government and the Home Secretary an opportunity of putting right what was left out of the King's Speech that I have moved this Amendment.


I beg to second the Amendment, and I associate myself with all that my hon. Friend has said about the mines of this country. No one who has listened to him, or has any knowledge of the facts, can deny that it is an appalling record, which demands the immediate attention of the House. If it be true, as it is, that probably in regard to the dramatic suddenness with which sometimes people are hurled into eternity in mines, that public attention is most strikingly drawn to mines, it is nevertheless a fact that with regard to the railways of the country there is going on slowly but surely perhaps not an equal but certainly an appalling death rate, so far as fatalities are concerned, and the injuries are still more appalling. Therefore, while we associate ourselves with our colleagues who are putting forward the case of the underground worker, we on our part today desire to draw the attention of the House to the case of the men who work upon the railways of this country.

A year or two ago, particularly during the year 1912–13, the question of the railways and public safety was brought prominently to the attention of the public, because of certain appalling accidents, terrible in their nature, which affected the general public. Now we quite recognise that anything of that nature which affects the public of the country is certain to produce an effect upon the public mind, far more intensely than the constant but certain death and injury which occurs to employes upon our railways. I do not deny for a single moment that many of those accidents which occurred, and which will probably be alluded to in greater detail later on, afford some ground for public alarm with regard to the safety of the public on the railways. I do not deny that that seems to imply that there was something going on upon the railways of this country perhaps difficult to explain, but certainly having an effect upon public safety, as well as upon the safety of the men. As in this matter the public are equally interested with regard to safety as well as the men, I hope it will not be difficult to convince this House that the time has come for a drastic inquiry into the question of safety upon the railways of the country. I recognise that at the present moment it is somewhat difficult to bring an indictment against the Board of Trade without seeming to imply that there may be some difference between the old regime and the new. May I say we have no desire to make any such charge.

We welcome the new President of the Board of Trade, because we believe he has the opportunity of his life, which we hope he will rise to. He himself in days gone by has written and spoken eloquently upon the subject of safety on the railways, and we hope he will now redeem some of the propositions which he himself put forward, and, if he does, we shall be more than grateful. The public has undoubtedly become alarmed with regard to the question of safety, so far as it affects this problem. They were more alarmed a year or two ago than they are to-day, because the public soon forgets. We cannot afford to forget that all the time there is going on this loss of human life which has been referred to. I understand that some of the inquiries into these accidents made by the Board of Trade inspectors seem to indicate that the new spirit of hustle upon our railways is having some effect upon the minds of the men, and it may be that that bustle and the conditions under which the men are working under the control system of many of our railways is producing an effect upon the men which is acting as a deterrent and helps to take them away from their work. If it be true that the conditions under which the men are constantly working has that effect, then we say that we have got to get behind those working conditions and see that they are altered, so that the minds of the men are clear and their working conditions are such that they shall be comfortable in their work and fully able to? discharge the duties which they have to perform.

Like my hon. Friend who has just spoken, our case is that the Board of Trade, first of all, have certain powers under various Acts of Parliament which they are not exercising to the full; and, secondly, that those powers are not nearly sufficient for the growing complexity and for the position as it exists to-day. With regard to their powers, the Board of Trade, it is true, have inspectors appointed under the Act of 1871 to inquire into an accident after it has happened, but we hold that they have the power to inquire into accidents before they happen, and they have never put that power into operation. We think that many of the dangers which occurred upon our railways, if they were properly inquired into before accidents did happen, would be rendered impossible. Further, they have the power to bring in the presence of a trade union official. The carrying out of the rules and regulations on the railways is exactly in like case with the carrying out of the rules and regulations in mines. The rules and regulations on the railways are mainly made by the railway companies themselves. The Board of Trade has no power, or very little power, over the making of those rules and regulations. Many of them are entirely the product of the railway companies, and they seem to ignore them when they like, to break them when they like, and in some instances to instruct some of their officials to break them when they like—or, at least, if it does not go to the point of destruction, it certainly goes to the point of ignoring the rules and regulations which they themselves have made. I do not want again at this time of day to raise the question of Guard Richardson in all its significance, but anyone who remembers that case will remember that Guard Richardson was a man actually discharged For refusing to break the rules and regulations which the company itself had laid down for safety, and it was not until there was a great public agitation that he was reinstated in his position.

I want to say frankly that, so far as the number of fatal accidents is concerned, it is not nearly so great now as it was some years ago, and for that we are extremely grateful, but it is still sufficiently serious to warrant us in drawing attention to it and in asking that it should be still further brought down. It will be remembered that an Act was passed in 1900 for the prevention of accidents to railwaymen. In 1900 the fatal accidents to railwaymen numbered 631, and the number injured was 15,698. After the adoption of that Act there was for some time a fairly steady diminution in the number of fatal accidents, until in the year 1909 it had been reduced to 372. But whilst there was n. diminution in the number of fatal accidents, the number of non-fatal accidents had risen from 15,698 in 1900 to 25,137 in 1910. Further, if we take the year 1912, the number of non-fatal accidents on our railways had risen to the enormous total of 27,947. It may be said that many of these non-fatal accidents are merely minor injuries, and that a number of them do not occasion absence from work for any great length of time; but, as a matter of fact, more than two-thirds of these accidents cause men to be off work for more than three weeks, and the amount of maiming of men upon the railways is something terrific and terrible. In some cases these men had almost far better lose their lives than have to live in the mangled and crippled condition in which they are left after these accidents. It is really an appalling state of things to which we have to draw attention, and we think that it is a great mistake to attempt, to minimise the seriousness of a large number of these non-fatal accidents.

The railways have probably done more to maim, to injure, and to cripple men in this country, than any other agency whatsoever, and we venture to draw attention to this matter therefore as one which demands the serious attention of the Board of Trade, and one which demands that an inquiry into these accidents should take place. Under the Act of 1900 certain rules had to be laid down by the Board of Trade, and one of the points which was covered was the question of an either-side brake. Will it be believed that although this Act was passed in 1900, there is no either-side brake in full operation upon our railways to-day? It took several years before the rule could be brought into operation at all. It was fought before the Railway and Canal Commission time after time, and even now, I believe, there are several kinds of either-side brakes instead of one uniform kind upon all the railways in the country. It will be seen that the necessity for an either-side brake arises from the fact that when men are coupling and uncoupling waggons in the shunting yards of our country, they have often, because there is no brake on one side, to go over to the other side in order to put on the brake, and in so doing they run an exceedingly grave risk either to their lives or to their limbs. If the full story of the bringing into operation of an either-side brake were to be told to this House it would be seen that when we ask that the Board of Trade should have much more drastic powers of making and enforcing rules and regulations, we are not putting forward any case which is unreasonable or extravagant. We ask to-night that the Board of Trade should do something, and that they should first of all have an inquiry into the working of the Act of 1900, specially with regard to the question of non-fatal accidents, that that inquiry shall be put into operation as early as possible and that the Commissioners shall report at the earliest possible moment. We want an amending Act. We want the Board of Trade to have the power that it does not now possess of making inquiry, so as to prevent accidents happening; we want it to have the power to make rules and regulations which will prevent accidents happening. Further than that, we think the number of inspectors should be increased, and that the inspectors should have more drastic powers than they now possess. I therefore, on behalf of my colleagues, beg to second this Amendment.


The Amendment which has been so forcibly moved and seconded affects two of the greatest industries in the country. It so happens that the responsibility for the execution of the Acts dealing with safety in mines rests with one department of the State, while the responsibility for dealing with the railways is with a different department, and, therefore, it will be necessary for my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to reply to this Motion so far as it affects railways, while I will endeavour to reply to the specific case of the mines raised by my hon. Friend the Member for South Glamorgan. My hon. Friend made a very powerful speech on a subject in which he is bound to receive the full sympathy of the House. I find myself in great difficulty, in fact, in replying to him. When he recalls to our memory the terrible disaster at Sengenhydd, and bases on that disaster a demand for further security for miners, he is bound to receive instantly the sympathy of everyone who listens to him. It is difficult for me to reply to a Motion of this kind without seeming to belittle the danger, hardship, and disaster of accidents of this kind, and I hope my hon. Friend will understand that when I reply to him as I do now, I am only defending the action of the Government for what the Government is responsible, and that I am not for one moment belittling the duty which is thrown on the Government or the necessity that such a duty should be thrown on the Government, to take every possible means of avoiding accidents in mines. My hon. Friend had only to remind the House of the total number of fatal accidents during last year above ground and underground —in all no less than 1,742–and instantly we agreed with him no steps should be left untrod if by any means we can secure a reduction of this gigantic and formidable total.

10.0 P.M.

But I am bound to remind the House that there is another side to this question. We have had several great Coal Mines Acts passed by this House for the purpose of securing safety in mines. The first I will refer to was in 1872–there were others before, of course—the second was in 1877, and the third in 1911. I want the House for a moment to bear in mind the figures as to fatal accidents in decennial periods since the first of those Acts was passed. We must not take the number for any individual year, because the statistics of a year may be hopelessly misleading, owing to some grave and unusual calamity. We must, therefore, take the statistics for a period of years, and I will ask the House to listen to the figures regarding fatal accidents in mines in four periods of ten years—from 1872 down to 1912. I do not give the total numbers, because during that period of forty years there has been a very great increase in the number of persons employed in mines, and, consequently, in order to get a true view of the growth or decline of the danger of fatal accidents in mines, we ought to look at those figures from the point of view of the number per thousand employed. In the decennial period from 1873 to 1882, after the first Coal Mines Act was passed, the death-rate from accidents per thousand persons employed under and above ground was 2.24. In the next period of ten years it had fallen to 1.81; in the third period of ten years it had fallen to 1.39; and in the last decennial period ending 1912, it had fallen to 1.33 so that in the last period the danger of fatal accidents in mines was reduced to almost one-half of what it stood at forty years before. These figures show us that the endeavours to secure safety in mines by legislation administered under the Home Office has not been fruitless. The number of fatal accidents is still very high—1,724 last year and 1,276 the year before.

In 1911 by far the most drastic Act was passed with the express object—and with no other object—of extending the provisions for safety in mines. My hon. Friend bases himself on the Act of 1911, and makes a two-fold case. He says, in the first place, that that Act has not been properly administered by the Home Office, partly because the Home Office has not the means for sufficient inspection. His second point is that the Act itself is defective. I may remind the House of the history of that Act. A Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the whole question of safety in mines. The Commission reported in 1909; its recommendations were embodied in a Bill which was introduced into this House in 1911, and after a most strenuous, exhaustive, and, I think I am not immodest in saying, a most enlightening debate, the Bill was carried through this House as an agreed Bill. It was founded, as I have said, upon the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and it met with the unanimous approval of this House as recently as 1911. So much for the first part of the case as to the responsibility of the Government for the defectiveness of the Bill. Then my lion. Friend says that we are responsible for not administering the provisions of the Bill properly. He says we are responsible because our inspectorate is not large enough. The Royal Commission made certain recommendations as to the inspectorate. We have carried out those recommendations to the full. My hon. Friend spoke of the Treasury objection to increases of staff. But the Treasury have raised no objection. The Home Office have pressed upon them the full demand put forward by the Royal Commission, and that full demand is to-day the inspectorate at the Home Office. My hon. Friend had perhaps forgotten that when the Royal Commission reported the total number of inspectors for the administration of the Coal Mines Act and the Metalliferous Mines Act also was forty- two. The whole country was divided into twelve districts. To-day we have ninety inspectors, so that in four years the staff has been more than doubled. We have appointed as well six additional clerks, in order to take away the clerical duties from the divisional inspectors, leaving them greater freedom to carry out their work of inspection. So that in all we have ninety-six, of which fifty-four are new appointments added to the old staff of forty-two. I submit to the House that is no small effort to have made in so short. a time.

I really think that my hon. Friend misconceives the responsibility of the inspectors. If the inspectors really had placed upon them the responsibility which he has put to the House, not ninety inspectors, nor, as he suggests, 200 inspectors, but 5,000 inspectors would be required. He rightly says that mines in the same district differ, that the same mine varies in every part of it, that a mine inspected in the morning and found free of gas may have dangerous quantities of gas in it in the afternoon. Quite true, and if the responsibility for detecting that dangerous gas rests upon the inspector, there must be an inspector every day in every mine. My hon. Friend made out too big a case. He really did not mean that. He really docs not mean to press his case to the extent he pushed it. Doubling the inspectorate would not assist. The responsibility for carrying out the provisions of the Coal Mines Act rests not on the inspectors primarily, but on the coal owners. It is their duty to see that their mines are safe, and I would be very unwilling that it should go out to the coalfields, on the authority of my hon. Friend, that the responsibility is not upon the owners, but upon the inspectors. The duty of the inspectors is to see from time to time whether the coal owners are executing their duties. It is not the duty of the inspector to be every day in every mine, but it is his duty, when he pays his visit to a mine, to see by inspection whether coal owners have done their duty, and, if they have failed in their duty, it then becomes his duty to consider whether prosecution is necessary.

Having said so much, I do not wish it to be supposed that either my technical advisers in this matter or I myself consider that we have necessarily reached the maximum inspectorate staff at the Home Office. Far from it. I have stated to the House what we have done in four years.

It takes some time to assimilate so large an increase of the staff, but as the Coal Mines Act of 1911 comes more and more into operation, in spite of the criticism that has been directed from time to time against the Government for appointing new inspectors, I cannot help thinking we shall have to make a request to the Treasury for a further increase in our staff. Whether that staff should be increased upon the principle put forward by my hon. Friend is a much more debatable matter, and I hope he will not press me upon that point now. If he were to do so, on first consideration, I am bound to say I should have to bear in mind a very good old rule that those who pay the piper should call the tune. If the State is to pay, the State might reasonably be expected to appoint. It would be very doubtful satisfaction to the State to have to pay inspectors who were elected, not upon any principle laid down by the State of selection and examination for special fitness for the job, but elected by the ballot of the workmen. I do not say that that is not a matter to be thoroughly discussed and debated hereafter, but at first sight it does not appeal to me very strongly, and I hope my hon. Friend will not press the point at this stage.

Quite apart from the question of the number of inspectors and the large duties which he outlined, let me remind him that in the examples which he quoted to the. House of the inevitable failure of the inspectorate under the Act, I do think he was reading the Act quite fairly. As I understood him, when be quoted Section 29 with regard to the duty of an inspector to make an examination, and Section 32 with regard to a fortnightly inspection in connection with safety-lamps, I do not think he meant to tell the House that those Sections imposed on the inspector the duty to inspect every fortnight.


In a large number of mines it has not been done at all.


I will deal with that point in a moment. I think my hon. Friend did not mean to convey to the House, though his language seemed to bear that meaning, that these Sections impose a duty upon the inspectors to test every mine once a fortnight.




I rather gathered from the way he presented his case that there was an a priori impossibility for us to execute that with our existing staff. Not at all. These Sections are laying down the conditions under which testing for-gases should be carried on. That is to say, when you test for gas and have an inspector for that purpose, you shall repeat the experiment at the end of a fortnight. It does not mean that every mine is to be tested every fortnight.


The governing principle is that it is to be tested.


I quite agree that every mine in due course has to be examined, and when my hon. Friend tells me that it was proved at the inquest that no examination had taken place, I regard, it as most deplorable neglect. I will ask my hon. Friend not to enter into any controverted matter with regard to the Senghenydd disaster.


I distinctly refrained, from it.


My hon. Friend did except on that point. I can only say with regard to it that I believe this very day a committee is sitting to inquire into the whole circumstances connected with, it, and it would be most undesirable and improper for me to enter into any detail on that matter. My hon. Friend going through the various proposals which he had to make raised first of all the question of firemen. That is a subject which was dealt with in the Act of 1911. In the course of the Debates in Committee on that Bill, the original Clause confined the duties of a fireman to dealing with safety, so far as was practicable. Those words were objected to by my hon Friend among others, and on his objection a new Clause was introduced by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Masterman). That Clause was ultimately accepted by the Committee, and in that Clause it is provided that the fireman may, in addition to his duties of safety, be employed in measuring the work done by persons in his district. It is quite true that to-day my hon. Friend objects to that provision, but is it a ground for censuring the Government? We introduced that provision into the Act in 1911, and my horn Friend then said, in support of the very Clause to which he now objects:— I think the hon. Gentleman will see that we are as anxious as he is to have this work efficiently carried out. I am hoping this Clause will do what we have been asking for all these years, and it is because I believe it will that I join with my colleagues in accepting the Clause. It was an amended form. It was not as the Government originally introduced the Clause. I do not complain of my hon. Friend for saying to-day that he is not satisfied. We agree in 1914 that there are many points in the Act of 1911 with which we are not satisfied, but the want of satisfaction is not a ground for censuring the Government. We have got to remember that knowledge with respect to matters dealing with safety in mines is progressive, and that it is increasing day by day. What we thought good in 1911 we may see wants amendment in 1914. It is not a ground for censuring the Government that the Act was not amended in 1913. The Act of 1911 is in many respects not more than a skeleton or a finger-post. Much of it deals in detail with the subjects which are mentioned, but in many respects it points to fields of work which have been dealt with in the new Rules and Orders issued by the Home Office. I hold in my hand one volume of Rules and Orders issued by the Home Office last year under this Act. Anybody can perceive the amount of work which these innumerable Rules and Regulations involve and that our staff is limited; that work of this kind must necessarily be placed ultimately in the hands of two or three persons at the most, and that there is a limit to the day and the powers of work even of the most competent and willing public servants. I am sure the House will agree that more than we have done in the time could hardly have been done. I do not want to quarrel as to any point my hon. Friend has put forward. I agree with him that there are many of his points we shall have to consider. More than that, all of them we shall have to consider. Many of them, after consideration, we shall find ought to be acted upon. Some, equally and at first sight, we ought to reject, but I would appeal to him that the details mentioned of the provisions of the Coal Mines Act are hardly matters for discussion at the present time. It is a matter for a Committee. I promised last year, it is true, to introduce a small Amendment of the Coal Mines Act, dealing with specific points which arose out of an earlier disaster in that year. I have now the draft of the Bill. The Bill is ready, and I shall introduce it immediately. But in that Bill I have limited myself to the particular points that were raised. Why? Not because I do not think that there are other matters that we ought to deal with, but because I want to get this Bill through at once. There is a limit to the time of Parliament. There is a limit to the willingness of Parliament to devote itself to one topic and one topic only. But I shall be only too ready to consider the various proposals put forward by my hon. Friend. While I cannot say that the present outlook of the Session would be such as to justify me in giving any hope that a long Bill, carrying out any material number of the suggestions which he has made this evening, would have any chance of getting through Parliament, I can certainly assure him that the pledge which I gave last Session will be carried out this Session, and that the proposals which he has made will receive the most earnest and sympathetic consideration of the Home Office.


In supporting the Amendment under discussion, I have no intention of going into the general question of accidents in mines. That already has been fully covered by my hon. Friend the Member for South Glamorgan. All I desire to do in that respect is to associate myself with him in the regret which he has expressed at the large increase in the number of fatal accidents which have occurred in the mines of the country during the year 1913, and I regret also that that also applies to the particular part of the country that I represent. I would also like to associate myself with him in his appeal to the Home Secretary to see that every possible step should be taken with a view to reducing the serious roll of accidents in the mines of the country. Last Session, during the discussion on the Appropriation Bill, I drew the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to a disaster that had occurred only a few days previously in one of the mines in Scotland, and had resulted in the deaths of twenty-two people. I drew his attention to the fact that as far as one could ascertain from the newspaper reports the particular company to which this colliery belonged—the Cadder Company—had failed to give effect to the Mines Accident, Rescue and Aid Act of 1910, and I asked the right hon. Gentleman to arrange an inquiry into the failure of the company to carry out the conditions of this Act. In reply, the right hon. Gentleman said:— As a matter of fact they have not provided the apparatus which the Home Office thought necessary, nor the smoke helmets which, according to their view."— Meaning the colliery owners, they thought were sufficient, neither were provided. That undoubtedly was a breach of the Act of l910. But we are in course of taking action on that point, and although the matter has been brought to a head in consequence of this accident, it must not be supposed that the Home Office are not using every effort in their power in order to induce, and if necessary, ultimately compel owners to comply with the Order. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary gave effect to my request, and appointed a Commissioner to go down and inquire into the circumstances. That Commissioner, among other things, reported to the Home Office as follows:— As I have said the Cadder Company were in default in the provision of rescue apparatus as required by the regulations in force at the time of the accident. They had not even provided smoke helmets and bellows, nor had they acquired the privilege of calling for them from a rescue station within ten miles distance. He entirely agrees with the view of the Home Secretary himself that this particular company had been in breach of the Act of 1910, and that they had gone on from the time that the Order was issued in connection with the Act of 1910, in the early part of 1912 until August of 1913, without making any effort to carry out the provisions of that Act and the Order. The Commissioners further say:— If a similar case were to arise to-morrow, and lives were lost for want of self-contained apparatus, what would be the position of owners who, in spite of every remonstrance, and in spite of the warning afforded by this case, failed to provide it. I want to ask the Home Secretary why the management of this particular colliery were not compelled to carry out the order. In the course of this inquiry it was stated by the manager that he intended to carry it out. As a matter of fact, he did enrol a number of men for the purpose of training them in the use of these safety appliances, but the only reason it was not done was because the Lanarkshire Coal-owners' Association had made up their minds that they were going to fight the law on the ground that the kind of apparatus suggested by the Home Office was not according to their ideas. They set their superior judgment against the Home Office officials and the mineowners of England and Wales and the other parts of Scotland. The owners at Ladder Colliery took their advice. The manager admitted that he was waiting for orders to carry out the provisions of the law. From whom? Certainly not from the Home Office, because they had already issued their order, and certainly not from the Home Secretary or any of his inspectors, the? only authorities empowered to issue orders. They were orders from the Lanarkshire Coalowners' Association. I believe that if that apparatus had been provided, and skilled brigades had been taught, lives would have been saved that were lost in consequence of that. The coal owners themselves believe that. If they did not, why did they send a message to their nearest neighbours, the Fife and Clackmannan Coalowners' Association, who had provided a rescue station, with appliances and brigade? They evidently thought, when the pinch came, that they were of use. I want to ask the Home Secretary why this particular company was not compelled to carry out the Order? The Coal Mines' Act of 1911, Clause 101, Sub-Section (3), provides:— Every person who is guilty of an offence against this Act for which a penalty is not expressly provided, shall be liable to a fine not exceeding, if he is an owner, agent, or manager, or under-manager, twenty pounds for each offence, and if he is any other person five pounds for each offence; and, if an inspector has given written notice of any such offence, to a further fine not exceeding one pound for every day after such notice that such offence continues to be committed. My hon. Friend the Member for South Glamorgan (Mr. Brace) stated that during the course of last year something like a thousand miners had been prosecuted under the provisions of the Coal Mines Act, 1911, and, I think, very few colliery companies. Here is a striking case in which I think strong action ought to have been taken by the Home Office to see that the provisions of the law were carried out, and I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us some reason why it was not carried out in the manner anticipated by the framers of the law. I desire to associate myself very strongly with the appeal of my hon. Friend the Member for South Glamorgan, to have the, miners placed exactly in the same position as coal owners, and to have the power to institute proceedings against the coal owner in the event of his failing to carry out the law, just as the owner to-day has the power to prosecute the miner in the event of his failing to carry out the law.


We have had no reply as yet to one half of the Resolution, and it is a very striking fact, to which the right hon. Gentleman has already referred, that we think it business- like to split up our mines and railways between two different Government Department. Some hon. Members in this House doubt whether the Irish are able to govern themselves, but I shall be interested to see if and when our Irish friends get their Parliament in Dublin they? will perform a similar Hibernian operation. At any rate, it is a very great misfortune for this House, and indeed for the country, that these two very important parts of our economic life cannot be controlled by one Government Department. I am not myself a representative of a mining constituency—at least not of an actual mining constituency. But there is, of course, no constituency in this country that is not most vitally interested in mines and in railways. I very well remember, when first I visited a mining district in one of the mining valleys of Wales, I was struck with the fact—which I am afraid is still a fact at this moment—that the mines of that valley, like the railways of that valley, were disgracefully inefficient.

That is somewhat strong language, but I venture to say that anybody who is acquainted with those valleys, whether or not he constantly works in them, cannot be surprised when he hears of any accident, large or small, occurring in them. One of my hon. Friends who submitted this Amendment to the House, and, if I may say so, they did so in speeches of striking ability, incurred the accusation of an Irishism in speaking of an accident being prevented before it occurred. All I have got to say is that when one gets into the atmosphere of some of the mining districts one positively feels that accidents are in the air. I remember only two years ago I was performing one of my amateur inspections of mines. I visited not the underground workings in that place, but the upper works. As I have always been interested in engineering, I went into the engine-house. The engine-house was a ramshackle building and contained two winding engines, each of which was considerably older than myself. Certainly both of them were far too old for any respectable engine in a country like ours in the year 1912. One of those engines was so old and inefficient that when at work it positively leaked steam at every pore. As the piston-rod left the cylinder there was a gasp of steam emitted at each stroke of the piston. I examined also the other parts of the winding apparatus, and I noticed that the drum upon which the rope was wound—the rope upon which depends life at every hour of the day—had a slight lilt as it turned. These things seem almost incredible.

After witnessing things like that, one is never surprised to hear of an accident, large or small, in one of these districts. I remember that shortly after that visit, when I read of one of those common cage accidents, which destroy four, six, eight or ten lives at a stroke, I at once connected it with what I had only recently seen. My hon. friend the Member for Glamorgan spoke of coal-dust being the most devastating agency. I would rather put it that these obsolete methods are the most devastating agency. If any proof of that is wanted, I would ask any hon. Member who has not himself visited and been down a coal mine—a thing which everybody ought to do—to turn to the Report of the Royal Commission, not on Mining Accidents, but on Coal Mines. He will find that the Royal Commission condemn colliery companies for what? Wasting life? No; that is not the connection in which they were reporting. They condemn them for wasting a large quantity of the coal of this country. These colliery managers who waste coal also waste life, and they do so by reason of the fact that their methods are so extraordinarily obsolete. My right hon. Friend in a speech, which, I admit, was sympathetic, helpful, and hopeful, produced certain statistics, which I gladly admit have very great force; but, while they show very happily what legislation can do to save life in mines, my right hon. Friend, if he compares them with the statistics of Germany or Belgium, will find that we have not reached the limit of what can be done in this direction. Take the mines of Belgium: in what particular are they distinguished from ours? In the fact that they are much more fiery on the average than ours. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not in South Wales."] My right hon. Friend's figure referred to the whole of the United Kingdom. The Belgian mines, on the whole, are more fiery than ours, but the loss of life in the Belgian mines is less than the loss of life in ours, showing that we have certainly not reached the limit of what can be done.

It is a continuous warfare that is going on in our mines and on our railways. Is the loss of life realised? I ask this question because I have the greatest difficulty in realising it myself. The number of miners wounded and injured in this country in such a manner as to disable them for over seven days is, in the year, about 300,000. I put it to this House, What would we say if we were carrying on, in any region of the world, a war which cost this country 1,500 or 1,600 lives per annum, and between 250,000 and 300,000 wounded per annum? You talk about peace armaments! If we talked less about the Navy and a little more about such things as we are talking about to-night, it would be better. When I see the Labour party wasting its energies upon getting three ships instead of four—at great expense—I sometimes wonder that they do not more often devote themselves to such things as those to which they are happily devoting themselves on this occasion.

Inspection has been mentioned. Inspection as it is carried on at present in our mines—and, I might add, in our factories —is rather a delusion and a danger, and it. must be extended further if it is to be useful. As one of my hon. Friends observed, often when an inspector goes down a mine, in the three or four hours he spends there, precious little can be done. It only needs a very little arithmetical calculation to discover under those conditions how little the inspectors can do in the course of a year. My right hon. Friend has said that the safety in mines rests primarily upon the coal owners and the colliery managers. I think he will agree with me that a great deal can be done by further inspection. Certainly we have got to find a better way than at present. If it is shown that in the course of years, after we have increased the inspectorate, and after we have done all we possibly can to bring pressure to bear upon the coal owners, that still we have an enormous wastage of life, then other methods will need to be resorted to. The real truth about our collieries surely is this: that we need the application of more capital to them to improve their working. Undoubtedly a large amount of their plant is obsolete: it needs renewing. No one can challenge the proposition that this country is well able to afford to put these matters right. We are dealing here with what is really the basis of the wealth of the country, and no possible argument can be found against the conclusion that the country is not doing its duty by its coal. I need hardly point out that there is an historical and engineering connection between the development of the mines and the railways of this country. A great responsibility, therefore, rests upon both of my right hon. Friends who have charge of these matters. We have had one speech from the Home Office which shows that that responsibility is realised and respected. I have no doubt that we shall find that the same is true of the other Government Department that is responsible for our railways. At any rate, I am sure of this, that my two hon. Friends have done a very great service, not only to those whom, they immediately represent, but to the whole country and to the cause of humanity by putting this Amendment before us.


I beg to move, "That the Debate be now adjourned."

Debate to be resumed to-morrow (Friday).

Adjournment Resolved, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Illing-worth.]

Adjourned accordingly at Ten minutes before Eleven of the clock.