HC Deb 18 December 1934 vol 296 cc945-7
13. Mr. PIKE

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he is satisfied that the time taken for stemming and shotfiring in the mines of Great Britain is in accordance with the coal mines regulations; whether he has received any reports from His Majesty's inspectors of mines which reveal wilful contravention of the law; and, if so, what action he has taken?


The time taken to fire a shot with due observance of the precautions prescribed by the Explosives in Coal Mines Order, varies considerably according to circumstances, and no minimum time or maximum number of shots per shift is fixed by the Order. It is a part of the regular duties of His Majesty's inspectors to insist on the remedy of any cases disclosed by their own inspections, or brought to their notice from any quarter whatever, in which the time allowed or taken for the proper observance of these precautions appears to have become insufficient: from time to time, also, in different divisions, inspectors are detailed to make special investigations of the matter, and any necessary action is taken by the Divisional Inspector. I have no evidence of wilful contraventions of these requirements of the Order, but I am not satisfied, in some instances, that sufficiently close care is paid to them having regard to their great importance, and I am considering what will be the best line of further action in the matter.

14. Mr. PIKE

asked the Secretary for Mines whether he will make a statement regarding the complaints from various quarters respecting the finding of live detonators among coal either in the screens, wagons, or domestic supplies; and what steps are taken to protect coal users against this contingency?


I am not aware to what complaints the hon. Member is referring as no complaints of this kind have been received by my Department or the Home Office for a long time. The Explosives in Coal Mines Order requires strict control to be exercised over the issue and use of detonators, and for the recovery of the detonator from any shot which has missed fire.


Is it not possible that this danger does arise from the practice of simultaneous firing?


If the hon. Member has any evidence to bring forward, I shall be glad to consider it. I think there are only two cases, one in 1933, and the other in 1931.

15. Mr. PIKE

asked the Secretary for Mines to what extent, if any, simultaneous shotfiring on conveyor faces has contributed to explosions; whether this practice increases wherever and when conveyors are installed; and whether he will call for a report from His Majesty's inspectors of mines dealing with the general question of shotfiring with especial reference to the distances between shotholes on conveyor faces, giving figures for Scotland, Lancashire, and South Yorkshire?


Simultaneous shotfiring at the coal face is prohibited by law in collieries where there is risk of explosion, and I have no reason to think that the practice has been carried on illegally. The safety of the materials and methods of shotfiring and the development of alternative methods of breaking down coal have been the subject of a great deal of investigation and research, both at the collieries and elsewhere, by His Majesty's inspectors, by the Safety in Mines Research Board and by other experts, and the results of these investigations are published from time to time. The particular point of the distances between shotholes on conveyor faces is one of many considerations taken into account, by these investigations and researches, which are still going on.


Will the hon. Member bear in mind that many of the allegations levelled against the carrying out of the Coal Mines Act are based on this point, and will he, in that case, provide sufficient information so that the public may judge for themselves?


The facts of this difficult question cannot be determined by rule of thumb, and I cannot answer general accusations. They must be reduced to precise terms.


In view of the knowledge of the Research Department in the getting of coal other than by shotfiring, will the Secretary for Mines urge the Department to do what has been done in the South Wales coalfield, that is, to use the pick or any other device and do away with the dangerous procedure of shot-firing?


The hon. Member knows that this question is dealt with in the reports of the inspectors, in my own annual report, and in the special report of the Mines Research Board.