HC Deb 22 April 1937 vol 322 cc1919-20
65. Mr. David Grenfell

asked the Secretary for Mines whether and, if so, when, further exploration of the sealed-off area in the Gresford Colliery is to be commenced?

The Secretary for Mines (Captain Crookshank)

The district which was involved in the explosion and in a subsequent extensive fire, has remained sealed-off by stoppings, and I am advised that the many measures which, by agreement, have been taken to stop leakages of air into the district, have not hitherto been sufficiently effective to remove the risk of fire breaking out again if the stoppings were opened and air freely admitted to the district, with danger to the lives of any exploring party. A further series of systematic tests by analysis of the atmosphere behind the stoppings is now being made, and the whole matter will be further considered as soon as the results are available. But in the meantime, and to clear up misunderstandings, I have given instructions that no exploration is to be undertaken without my approval, which I shall not be prepared to give until the general atmospheric conditions appear sufficiently safe. When these conditions obtain, a detailed scheme of precautions will have to be drawn up to guard against the dangers which at best must necessarily be incurred. Deeply as I regret the distress that delay may cause to the wives and families of many of those who lost their lives in the explosion, I have felt that they would not wish more lives to be jeopardised. Moreover, I consider that I would be failing in my own duty if I were openly or tacitly to acquiesce in the taking of unwarranted risks.

Mr. Grenfell

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that for the last two years those on the workpeople's side who are most competent to judge believe that there is no risk to any persons who may desire to enter that part of the mine; and will he, before he makes up his mind finally not to have this part reopened, go into close consultation with the people representing the bereaved relatives on the spot? Does he not think that that would add to the confidence which is necessarily placed in the Department by these people, and which is an invaluable consideration in these matters?

Captain Crookshank

Confidence, of course, is valuable at all times, but in a matter of this kind I think that a systematic test by analysis of the atmosphere is even more important.

Mr. Grenfell

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that analyses have been made periodically for the last two years; that repeated analyses show no change at all in the atmospheric conditions; and that, in the opinion of those who have some knowledge of these subjects, the analysis does not indicate any danger in that part of the mine