§ This accident took place in a level stone-drift water lodgment which was in course of completion from the bottom of Gartshore No. 3 shaft. A shift of 12 men were at work in this lodgment on Saturday afternoon about 60 feet from the shaft, in the neighbourhood of a wall that had been built across the lodgment on a set of girders six inches from the floor level. While they were so engaged an explosion took place which threw the wall over 10 of the men. Seven were killed outright, one died shortly after-wards, and two were injured.
As to the cause of the explosion, I should prefer to await the result of the inquiry which will be made before committing myself to a definite statement, but the evidence at present available points to its having been an ignition of an accumulation of gas by a naked light.
I am sure that I shall be voicing the opinion of the House when I express the deepest sympathy with the relatives of those killed and hopes for the recovery of the injured at Gartshore, as well as admiration for the brave efforts made by all concerned to rescue any who might have survived.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I would like to ask—and I hope hon. Members will be 1043 as indulgent as they usually are in such painful circumstances—if the Minister has any information from his inspectors which would lead him to believe that the action of the colliery company or the local committee was wise when, after the colliery had actually been stopped because of the presence of gob fires, men were permitted to enter the mine in such large numbers as were there when the explosion actually took place?
§ Lieut.-Colonel LANE-FOX
This was a case of great gallantry on the part of men who volunteered to go down, with the concurrence of a very able committee, including Mr. Herbert Smith, the President of the Miners' Federation. They volunteered to go down to try and save the pit. We shall, no doubt, hear more about this later, but I think, in view of the facts, it would be very unfair to throw any blame on anyone.
§ Mr. LUNN
Can the hon. Gentleman say whether his Department have taken any means to relieve the thousands of people who are, and will be for some time, without income, and will he be able to indicate to the House before its rising on Thursday what steps are being taken in that direction to aid the sufferers, in whatever way it may be possible for the Department to do so?
§ Lieut.-Colonel LANE-FOX
That is not a thing which can be initiated by my Department directly, but of course we shall do everything possible to encourage and assist any movement in that direction. These things are generally done locally, and I have no doubt that in this case also everything possible will be done.
§ Mr. HARDIE
This is not the first occurrence of the kind, and in view of past experience in trying to build dams around gob fires—and I can remember such an experience when I was a boy of 12—is it not the case that the moment you have built the dam round and enclosed the fire you increase the amount of gas outside? I would ask the Minister whether, in view of what he said about the gallantry of the men who went down to try to save the pit, he will advise hon. Members on the benches behind him to take that fact into consideration when discussing the question of a minimum wage for miners?