HC Deb 15 November 1932 vol 270 cc929-31

asked the Secretary for Mines the number of cases of silicosis reported to him from each of the British coalfields up to the latest concenient date?


As the reply contains a number of figures, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the Official Report.

Following is the reply:

Silicosis is not a notifiable disease and the only figures are those of cases in which compensation is paid under the Workmen's Compensation Act. The number of such cases in coal mines between the 1st February, 1929, the date on which the Various Industries (Silicosis) Scheme came into operation, and the end of 1931, was 91, including 20 fatal cases.

Figures showing the number of cases in each coalfield are only available for 1931 and the distribution of the 52 cases arising in that year was as follows:—

Cases of Silicosis arising in 1931 in which compensation was paid.
Area. Fatal. Disablement.
South Wales 5 13
Monmouth 5 21
Somerset 1 2
Staffordshire 1 1
Yorkshire 2
Lancashire 1
13 39

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he has considered the compulsory adoption of watering or dust-catching appliances when shot holes are bored in stone by power-driven drilling machines?


The Coal Mines Act requires the use of efficient means of preventing the escape of dust from power drills when they are used for drilling in ganister, hard sandstone or other highly siliceous rock. Active measures continue to be taken to ensure effective compliance with this requirement, to ascertain which dusts are injurious to health, and in what circumstances, and to secure the use of practical and effective means of suppressing them.


Will the hon. Gentleman tell us what is his objection to the adoption of compulsion? If there is a need for it in some districts, why is it not imposed all round?


There is no reason to believe that the dust from many kinds of coal gives rise to silicosis.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that silicosis occurs everywhere—that wherever stone dust prevails silicosis follows?


It is very difficult indeed to answer that question as the hon. Member would desire me to do, in direct fashion, because, as he knows, there is a good deal of difference of opinion as to some of the views which have been expressed about cases that have occurred.


asked the Secretary for Mines whether he has received a report on the possible effect of stone-dusting on the health of men working underground; and whether he has had any record of silicosis or anthracosis cases from mines where boring by power-driven drills has not been introduced?


The stone dusting of colliery roadways as an essential protection against coal dust explosions has been generally enforced by regulation for nearly 12 years past. It has proved remarkably effective and I know of no evidence that the practice has been injurious to health. The suitability of the dust used is constantly watched by the Inspectors of Mines and steps are taken to prevent the use of unsuitable materials. In coal mining the development of a case of death or disablement from silicosis is usually a matter of many years. It is very difficult, therefore, to relate the case fully and reliably to the working and medical histories of the worker, and at present the evidence in the very few cases which are not definitely associated with the use of power drills in siliceous rock is not conclusive. The condition of the lungs known as anthracosis is not specifically related to the use of power drills.


Will the hon. Gentleman give an undertaking to the House that he will pursue the investigation, in order that the evidence may be conclusive?


That is being regularly done; and, as regards anthracosis, the matter is receiving the attention of the Industrial Pulmonary Diseases Committee of the Medical Research Council.