HC Deb 14 December 1938 vol 342 cc2085-141

7.55 p.m.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

I beg to move, That, in view of the increasing number of accidents to boys employed in mines, this House would welcome legislation to prohibit the employment underground of persons under the age of 16 years, to prescribe for such young persons employed above ground in the mining industry a course of training in the principles of safety during their hours of employment, and to provide that, upon entering into employment underground after reaching the qualifying age, they shall not be employed in connection with machinery and shall be under the supervision of a charge-hand during the first three months. About a fortnight ago it was my privilege to second a Bill providing for access to mountains. To-night I am bringing forward a Motion to prevent access to mines, in certain conditions, for boys. By a curious coincidence, both when I tried to achieve access to mountains and am trying to prevent certain access to mines, the hon. and gallant Member who represents the constituency in which I reside has concerned himself with an Amendment to defeat my wishes. I must tell the hon. and gallant Member that I feel that I am being wounded in the house of a friend, and that if this sort of thing is to go on I shall have to come down to East Grinstead and take very drastic steps indeed about the matter. The House showed great generosity and good feeling on the question of access to mountains; I believe that it will show equal generosity to-night in regard to the Motion which I have just read. That Motion deals primarily with the employment of boys, but it refers also to safety in mines generally, and it is with that part of it that I wish first to deal.

The interests of the whole nation are served by the miners, and the nation owes them a particular debt. Everything which tends to humanity and to safety in mines, as I believe this Motion does, tends to make the miners feel less a race apart, as I believe many of them do to-day, and more a part of the whole national community they serve by their work. I say that in the presence of many hon. Friends who have much more knowledge and experience than I have myself of the mining community. I speak of the miners with very great diffidence indeed, but with the greatest respect. In my experience of life I have met with no better men. They are patient and enduring, with great qualities of dry humour and of commonsense. They give their labour in full measure, without stint, they are stoical and they have a wonderful sense of comradeship. They are brave men although, like all brave men, they do not want that talked about too much.

I am necessarily at a disadvantage in moving this Motion because at the moment we are awaiting the report of the Royal Commission. Unfortunately, it has not been presented before this Debate takes place. I noticed that the Secretary for Mines, speaking this month in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) is reported— that is to say, if he was reported correctly —to have used these words: They set up a Royal Commission in 1935 and they would accept the recommendations of that Commission.

The Secretary for Mines (Captain Crookshank)

That was not what I said. On purely commonsense grounds I would not prejudge a report which I had not seen. I made that quite clear in what I said. A fuller account of that speech which I have also seen made the same point. It is obvious that no one in a position of responsibility—or even in a position of irresponsibility—would accept a report which he had not seen. I am very glad that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has given me the opportunity of clearing up that point.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

I quite expected that explanation, and I was careful to preface my remarks by saying, "if the hon. and gallant Member had been correctly reported." Evidently that was not the case.

Captain Crookshank

I am much obliged.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

The report of his speech on that occasion—I hope that this part is correct—goes on: Speaking of accidents in coal mines, he said that, of 780,000 workers employed last year, 850 were killed and over 140,000 injured. That was a very heavy proportion, and it did not apply to any other industry. They wanted to break that down. People employed in such a hazardous occupation were entitled to the best possible remuneration. I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman does not quarrel with that part of the report of his speech.

Captain Crookshank

I quite agree with that.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

There has been no need for the Minister to wait for the publication of the Royal Commission's Report in order to do necessary things in connection with safety in mines. If the Mining Industry Acts as they stand were properly carried out, death and injury would be very considerably reduced. The Secretary for Mines has great powers, powers which do not involve the necessity for legislation. I am quite sure that, behind a somewhat worldly and cynical appearance, the Minister conceals a heart of gold; but, while he may administer his Department humanely, I confess I some- times doubt whether he has any excessive will to initiate action in these matters. Safety must always be in the forefront of the consideration of mining matters, because danger cannot be wholly eliminated from mines. Coal lies in the bowels of the earth; you can only get it by going down into the earth after it in circumstances of danger; and the fact that this danger must always exist increases the responsibility of the House of Commons in considering legislation in regard to it. I do not want to quote too many figures, but, between 1920 and 1936, 2,399,492 miners were injured in the pits and 16,723 were killed. Those are terrible figures. The sailor is always considered to be a romantic figure facing great perils on the rolling deep, but the toll of injury in the mining industry is eight times as high as it is in that of shipping. The numbers employed in mining drop, but the accident rate increases.

In considering the question of safety, the all-important fact to remember is that technically the machine is revolutionising mining. Machine coal-cutting, as I have seen for myself, means a concentration of men at one spot; it means noise, dust, smoke, miles of electric cables, higher temperatures. All these things make for conditions of work which are more onerous, and which increase the strain on the nerves and on the limbs; and they all increase the risk of explosion and of fire. They demand increased standards of technical safeguards, of supervising staff and of ventilation. Mechanisation involves a greater release of fire damp; it means an increase in the potential sources of ignition; it calls for more intense labour; it calls for greater speed of labour; it brings the electric spark to the coal face; and the figures show that the accidents in the industry are highest in the most highly mechanised areas.

I have mentioned electricity; I have said that the electric spark has been brought to the coal face. In the 10 years ending with 1937, 155 men were killed in explosions due to the use of electricity, and that, to my mind, raises the question whether all the inspectors engaged in the mines are fully qualified technically for the adequate inspection of electrical apparatus. The incidence of accidents is shown by the figures to be highest where electricity is most used, and, although I have not the figures for this country, I have seen some from the United States of America which show that explosions are not only most frequent, but most violent, where electricity is used. These figures from the United States show that the deaths per explosion caused by electricity are 15.1, while those due to open lights and smoking are 7.7, and to explosives are only 6.2.

There is another point which raises the question of the adequacy of inspection. I see that in the last 10 years there have been 113 explosions involving loss of life, and that 41 of these explosions took place during the night shift. That brings to my recollection a speech which the Minister made in July, when he referred to the necessity for increasing the number of inspectors, and said that, while he wanted 16 new inspectors, he had only been able to appoint 10, because the number of suitable candidates was disappointingly small. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will be able to tell us to-night what the present position is in that regard, and whether he now considers the number of inspectors to be sufficient adequately to inspect all pits.

Captain Crookshank

On a point of Order. I do not want to interrupt the hon. and gallant Member, but I should like to ask you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether, in view of the terms of the Motion, I should be in order in answering a variety of questions which he is putting to me? The Motion deals only with the employment of boys. I do not want to conceal anything; I am sure hon. Members opposite will grant me that; but I should like to know whether I should be in order in answering those questions at all. If I am to be precluded from answering, it does not seem to me to be of very much use to ask the questions.

Mr. Whiteley

On that point of Order. May I suggest that, while the Motion does refer to boys, the general question of safety in mines is also included in the Motion, and that probably the Secretary for Mines would be able to cover most of these points and still be in order on the Motion?

Captain Crookshank

I have often been told, when speaking to Motions, that I could only speak on the Motion that had been moved, and not on other questions; and, on the Motion that has now been moved, it seems to me that it would be very difficult for me to answer questions about the number of inspectors and the like.

Mr. T. Smith

Further on the point of Order. May I point out that the preliminary sentence to my hon. and gallant Friend's Motion calls attention to the question of safety in mines, so that the Minister must surely have known that the Debate would extend further than the question of the employment of boys underground?

Mr. Garro Jones

If the Debate had reference to miners of all ages, then, surely, it would have been in order to bring in the effect of electrical explosions on miners of all ages, and, surely, therefore, in so far as such electrical explosions affect miners under 16, it is perfectly relevant to deal with them in the Debate.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)

The hon. and gallant Member must be bound by the terms of the Motion he has moved, and must relate his remarks to the question of the employment of boys.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

May I point out that I have only so far addressed to the Minister one question, and not a series of questions. The preliminary sentence of the Motion specifically calls attention to the question of safety in mines, and in my opening remarks I said I would deal with that point first and return to the question of boys later.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

It is true that the preliminary sentence calls attention to the question of safety in mines, but the Motion itself actually deals with the employment of boys, and we must keep within that.

Mr. George Griffiths

Further on the point of Order. Surely it would be in order to speak about the question of inspection in regard to boys under 16? That is a very strong point as far as workmen's inspectors are concerned. Only today the Secretary for Mines, in reply to a question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith), said that there had been no workmen's inspections in that district, and I hope, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you will allow my hon. and gallant Friend to proceed on that line.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

It would be in order for the hon. and gallant Member to refer to anything having to do with boys, but the Motion itself is limited to boys in mines.

Mr. E. J. Williams

May I put it to you that accidents to boys in mines may be directly attributable to a shortage of inspectors?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That would be in order, but we cannot go into the general question of inspectors in mines.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

Surely this question of inspectors affects the safety of boys in mines as much as that of men. I realise, however, that the time at our disposal is short, and I am anxious that other Members should have an opportunity of speaking in the Debate, so will pass at once to the question of the employment of boys in mines and of the safety of boys in mines. In that respect the first thing I notice is that there is a very great discrepancy between the age at which boys are admitted to the mining industry in this country and that at which they are admitted to the industry in other countries. I see, for instance, that the age of admission to mining in France is 18, and in Germany and Holland 16; and in these two latter countries they are only allowed to begin work as hewers at the age of 21. In Russia the age is 18.

The question of safety of boys in mines is evidently affecting the entry of boys into the mining industry. There are 73,000 boys under 18 employed in the industry, so that a vast number are affected by the terms of this Motion; but it is clear that for some time the industry-has ceased to prove attractive to boys, and I have no doubt that that is largely due to the insufficiency of the provisions for their security. During the Debate on the Coal Royalties Bill, the matter was brought out by an hon. Member who spoke of a colliery agent who complained that he could not get boys into the pit. He said that they absolutely refused, and that his group of collieries were at their wits' ends for boy labour. The hon. Member attributed this to speeding-up and rationalisation, but I should imagine that it is also due to the fact that there is neither proper remuneration nor proper training for the boys in safety; and that on those two accounts, parents are inclined to say "no" when the question arises of putting their boys to work in the pits. There is great anxiety on the part of owners to keep down costs. Boys of 16 and 17 are, no doubt, cheaper than young men of 20 and 21, or of older men, but my opinion is that the public will not mind paying a little more for their coal if it means increased safety for the boys. Better still, if any increase has to be made let the middlemen take a smaller profit. The industry must be made safer, and it must be made to pay a better reward.

As regards safety, the figures are very bad. There is a very heavy accident rate for boys under 18. It is noticeable that in 1937 the proportion of boys over 18 who were killed was 89 per thousand; but lack of experience tells its tale, and when one comes to the boys under 18, one finds that the figure goes up to 1.09. These figures relating to deaths and injuries among boys are deplorable, and we must face up to the facts which lie behind them. In the whole country in the three years 1935, 1936 and 1937 there were 149 boys under 18 killed, and in the two years 1935 and 1936 there were 22,772 boys under 18 injured. They were all killed or injured below ground. Those figures do not include deaths and injuries incurred above ground. When I was reading these figures, I noticed that it is stated that many of these boys were employed at one or two o'clock in the morning when they met death or injury. Of course, boys working at that time are sleepy, and, being sleepy, their attention is dulled and they are more likely to meet with accidents.

Mr. C. S. Taylor

What was the age of these boys when they were killed, and did the hon. and gallant Member say that death or injury occurred between one and two o'clock in the morning? Actually there was a Bill introduced by myself not long ago which prohibited the employment of boys under the age of 16 between nine o'clock at night and five o'clock in the morning, and that Bill has since become law.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

I stated quite definitely that the boys were under 18 years of age, and I said that the accounts showed that some were employed at one or two o'clock in the morning when they met with their injuries or were killed. Those facts I believe to be correct. The death rate among boys is almost as high as that for all other persons employed in mines. The accident rate is considerably higher for these boys. Of every 1,000 miners injured we find that 229 were under 16, and then, as the age goes up, the number decreases. There are only 188 per thousand among miners between the ages of 20 and 25 and 130 between the ages of 60 and 65. The younger the miner, the greater his liability to accident. The safety of these boys lies on the national conscience. That conscience ought not to wait until there is a disaster before it is aroused. There is plenty of sympathy when there is a disaster, but what the miners and these boys want is a square deal all the time; and public opinion will always back a Government that gives them a square deal.

I turn to the question of safety classes for boys. The Coal Mines General Regulations do not prescribe a course of training for boys entering the industry, but safety officers have here and there been appointed to instruct the boys on entrance, and colliery managers agree that this minimises the accident rate. I notice a statement from Burnhope Colliery, in Durham, that boys there are trained in haulage operations and the use of safety appliances before going below at the age of 16. The results are stated to be good. Again, from Yorkshire it is stated to be beyond doubt that the accident rates among those who have qualified for safety badges is much less than it is among others. Injuries among boys under 16 are at the rate of 207 per thousand in the case of badge-holders, but the rate goes up to 319 per thousand in the case of non-badge-holders. These figures form a very strong argument for a compulsory scheme of safety classes. They prove the value of these classes. Attendance at these classes is a beginning. The boys must also be supervised at work when they go below until they get practical experience. Training, supervision and discipline all enter into this question of safety; all are required; and until such classes are made compulsory the boys should be encouraged to attend the voluntary classes. They should be given time off in order to do so, and they should be paid for the time occupied in attendance at those classes.

I have been very much struck by facts brought to my notice by my hon. Friend who is going to wind up this Debate from our side. He has shown me papers from the Durham Miners' Association, recommending that boys should not work below ground before they reach the age of 16, except on one day per week, in order to gain experience and pit sense, and that that exception should apply only during the six months immediately before they attain the age of 16. A further very wise recommendation is that boys under 16 years of age should not be employed with machinery, and should work under the supervision of a charge hand during the first three months. Also, that there should be no employment on the conveyor face before the age of 21, except under strict supervision.

I wish to call attention to some things that are actually being done on the lines of those recommendations in the Warwickshire coalfield. Incidentally, the Warwickshire coalowners have agreed with the county education authority to give boys one day off each week to attend day classes if they have shown ability while attending the County Mining School. In these cases the owners pay three-quarter wages for that attendance and they pay school fees also. I cannot help wondering why, if that is done in that respect, the same principle cannot be adopted as regards safety training. I wish also to quote the methods employed by a manager of one of the modern mines in the Warwickshire coalfield. He told me that boys start work in the pit bottom to get their pit eyesight. The roads in this particular mine are large and well lit, and so the boys can be effectively supervised and kept out of danger. When a boy goes down for the first time he is seen below by the under-manager, who has a talk with him about safety and then hands him over to the pit bottom foreman who has another talk to him about safety. Then the boy starts work under an experienced youth and within easy reach of the pit bottom foreman who makes it his business frequently to have a word with the boy. The manager told me that the boy is kept in the pit bottom as long as possible. Then he is moved to the loading points where he is employed chalking numbers on the filled wagons. Later he is put on to coupling and uncoupling and when he reaches the age of 21 he may go to assist a man on cleaning coal cutter undercut or assisting with the conveyor moving team. At 23 he is put to work in charge of a piece of face, and as openings arise he goes on to packing, filling and coal-cutting. That is the system which is in operation in this particular mine in the Warwickshire coalfield.

There are safety classes at this mine every Saturday morning which are compulsory for boys of 14 and 15. There are demonstrations of explosions at the safety classes, and there is a model haulage plant in operation for training, and the boys are taken below for tours of the colliery. There is an examination after the safety classes finish, and those who do well, as a reward, are given safety medals and also a trip to Buxton. That is what is being done at well-managed collieries such as that. Good owners are already doing much of what we in this Motion want to be done, and I should like to ask, if I may venture to put another question to the Minister without his taking exception to it, why it should be the bad owners who regulate the rate of progress in this matter?

When I was considering what I should say in support of this Motion to-night, very naturally I was led to reflect on my own training in safety matters in the Navy and on the training which I myself later on had to give to midshipmen and boys entering the Navy in matters of safety. I ask the House to reflect how essential safety regulations and training in safety must of necessity be in the Navy. Imagine the mass of whirling machinery in the engine rooms, the super-heated steam at tremendous pressure in the boiler rooms, the hydraulic machinery packed in cramped, confined spaces in the gun turrets, the wires and cables subjected to enormous strains when making ships fast alongside or when moored, magazines crammed with high explosives, store rooms containing gun-cotton charges, detonators and fuses; the mines, torpedoes and depth charges on board. The whole ship is a warehouse of destructive forces surrounded by a hostile element and yet how free the Navy is from death and injury by accidents. The low incidence of accidents in the Navy is a great tribute to the care and the wisdom with which the safety regulations have been framed and to the loyalty and discipline of those who supervise and those who observe them. Had the same high standards been laid down and observed in the mining industry, I wonder whether that disaster at Gresford would ever have happened.

There are three main reasons for this low accident rate in the Navy, mention of which is, I think, quite appropriate to this Debate to-night. First of all, training. Every newly-joined officer and boy in the Navy is given the fullest, the most thorough and the most patient training in all that concerns his own safety and the safety of others and of the ship. Secondly, there is no profit motive in the Navy. You do not get a monetary reward for exceeding the contract speed. There is no bonus to be earned by taking a chance and trying to do a record shoot at battle practice, or to make a record time when mooring ships. I think that the absence of the profit motive is one of the great reasons why we enjoy so much safety in the Navy. There is a third reason. When there is an accident there is a remorseless inquiry into the cause with no respect for persons whatsoever, and with just but inflexible punishment for those who are shown to have been responsible.

I spoke of Gresford. Can hon. Members imagine an explosion in a ship killing 260 men, following by an inquiry, which proved gross negligence on the part of many concerned, and the First Lord then coming to the House to say that it was all very regrettable, it was really rather a pity to discuss it at all and possibly stir up some bitterness, and that really everyone on the whole had done more or less what they ought to have done, and all those concerned would go on with their jobs or be given other jobs equally as good if not better? Yet that was the burden of the speech which the Minister made to us when we debated the findings of the report of the Gresford Inquiry. Why should the Navy, which exists to serve the State, have a higher code in safety matters than the mining industry whose labour is every bit as necessary to the life of the State as that of the three Defence Services? What a contrast these facts show between the ethics of State service and the ethics of private enterprise and private profit.

I ask the House to accept this Motion, the terms of which are humane and are also certainly just, and I ask some hon. Members to remember what fears and anxieties they have felt when launching their sons even upon quite safe, lucrative and distinguished careers. Surely we must be actuated, in gratefulness for what some of us enjoy, by generous motives when we think of these lads of 14 going below ground for the first time to begin a lifetime of arduous and dangerous toil. As I was looking through some copies of the OFFICIAL REPORT in connection with this Motion I noticed the account of two accidents. Cyril Bentley, 14 years and three months, fatally injured, assisting an onsetter and the Secretary for Mines said that it was on work which was quite unsuitable for that boy. Kenneth Oliver, 14 years, killed six days after being taken on, while he was engaged uncoupling tubs. That boy had attended no safety classes, and the Secretary for Mines said that such work was not, in my opinion, suitable for a boy who had only been at the pit for six days. These lads, beginning the life of a breadwinner and killed at the age of 14, at an age when other boys, more happily situated, are writing home about their prospects of getting their colours for some game, with long happy years at school and university still in front of them before they need even begin to think about what they will do to earn a living. I have mentioned the names of Cyril Bentley and Kenneth Oliver because, if this House accepts the Motion, it may be some satisfaction to their parents to think that those two deaths were quoted in this House in an endeavour to get more humane and more just treatment for other boys.

I was speaking to a working miner this morning, and he told me of the first time he went down the pit, at the age of 13. The cage dropped rather quickly and he felt that spasm in the stomach that we sometimes feel when the lift drops a bit too quickly. He told me that, in the dark, an old hand, who knew just what he was feeling, patted him on the shoulder, without saying anything, and that that little act of reassurance remains with him to this day. When I heard that, I remembered a similar incident which I saw when I was the officer of a turret in a ship in which I served, which had two great 15-inch guns. I remember being in the turret waiting to open fire. There is the roar and rattle of the cages as the guns are loaded and then the great breeches of the guns swinging slowly, almost imperceptibly, to and fro as the sights are brought on to the target. It is a moment of tension, even for the most experienced officer, just at the particular moment when you are waiting not knowing when the roar of discharge will come as the guns are fired by the officer in the director tower aloft. Looking round, I saw a boy who had just come to sea. This was his first ship, and his first experience of hearing the big guns fired. He looked, not unnaturally, very white and strained. An officer noticed what the boy was feeling and without interrupting his duties put an arm round the boy's shoulder and kept it there until the first salvo had been fired. The old miner in the cage, reassuring the lad of 13, and the officer in the turret acted on the same human instinct to reassure a boy startled by his first contact with an unknown, alarming experience. I ask the House to accept this Motion, and in doing so to put an arm round the shoulders of all lads embarking upon the life of a miner, and to tell them that we in this House care for their safety.

8.40 p.m.

Mr. Daggar

I beg to second the Motion.

It is not strange and, therefore, not without explanation, that an explosion in a mine excites considerable attention and also innumerable expressions of sympathy. Were that not the case, all of us would have ceased to be human. It is upon such occasions, and only upon such occasions, that this House regards the miner's employment as a very dangerous one. Warmth and comfort provided by the mine workers of this country are not fully appreciated by those who enjoy them. Evidence in support of that statement is found in the fact that insufficient consideration is given to the Measures introduced in this House from time to time with the object of improving the conditions of the miners. I refer to wages, safety and compensation questions.

After years of incessant agitation in this House we shall probably have a new Mines Act to take the place of the present Act, which has long been obsolete—it is 27 years old—when the report of the Royal Commission has been received. While explosions attract attention, the same attention is not given to the much more prolific causes of death in the mines. I mean the number of deaths due to falls of roof and sides, shaft accidents and haulage accidents. With the exception of accidents above ground, these causes were accountable for 19,142 deaths during the last 20 years, an average of about 1,000 per year. That is a terrible price to pay for coal. Explosions accounted for 1,329 deaths during the same period, making a total of 20,471 deaths in 20 years. That means that in 20 years the number of deaths from the causes I have mentioned amount to 20 times more than those due to explosions. Another calculation shows that more lives have been lost through these three causes than the number of lives lost by explosions since 1851, a period of 86 years.

I desire, in connection with explosions, to say that unless the owners of a pit can show that they have taken every possible means to prevent such a catastrophe, an explosion should be made a criminal offence. That cannot be the case now, as the enormous pitheaps show. Explosions are due to accumulations of gas, which can be removed only by adequate ventilation. I have not so far mentioned the number of persons injured in the mines which, below and above ground, totalled over 3,000,000 during the period of 20 years. This, together with the number of deaths, makes up the chief items of the bill presented for coal, and I hope to be able to show that many of these accidents are preventable. In order to achieve that object at least two conditions are necessary. In the first place the owners of the pit must be compelled by Act of Parliament to stow old working places, and, secondly, the Secretary for Mines must pay some attention to the suggestions made year in and year out by His Majesty's inspectors of mines, and must not be so susceptible to the suggestions made by the heads of his Department, some of whom possess considerable bias.

Unlike his predecessor, the present Minister has not, to his credit, told us what the future has in store. His predecessor boastingly informed us that the day of great explosions was past. In the month when the lay preacher indulged in that prophecy we had the greatest explosion that has happened within the last 24 years. I was pleased to note that the present Secretary for Mines said in his speech, in presenting the Estimates of his Department that: The fact does remain that during last year the record of accidents has been very bad.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member but I must remind him that the Motion which he is seconding starts: That in view of the increasing number of accidents to boys employed in mines, and I must ask him to confine his observations to that matter.

Mr. Daggar

I hope you will allow me to complete the quotation from the speech of the Secretary for Mines: The fact does remain that during last year the record of accidents has been very bad, and I think I am not going too far in saying that the industry must be prepared for a drastic strengthening of the precautions. The figures which have been issued from time to time by the Department show that of 7,783 persons killed in the mines during the last 10 years, 4,687 fatalities were due to falls of ground and the remainder were due to accidents in the shaft, haulage and other causes. The number injured during the same period was 504,272 from falls of ground, out of a total of 962,000. In that number, during the period 1927 to 1937, are included the number of boys under 16 years of age, and it shows that 318 were killed above and below ground and that the number disabled for more than three days was 67,709. They were killed and injured at a period in their lives when the sons of hon. Members who are opposing this Motion are commencing their education. In regard to this subject the Chief Inspector of Mines in his report says: Accidents from falls of ground accounted for 51 per cent. of all the serious accidents occurring underground during the year. I am afraid, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that I have made preparations for dealing with the general question of safety in mines, and I am not disposed to violate your Ruling.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I must adhere to my Ruling and ask the hon. Member to keep to the Motion on the Paper.

Mr. Daggar

In that case I will formally second the Motion, and await a further opportunity of dealing with the general question.

8.50 p.m.

Mr. Peake

I beg to move, in line I, to leave out from the word "the," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: large number of accidents to boys employed underground in coal mines, this House would welcome legislation to deal with the matter, and feels, subject to consideration of the Report of the Royal Commission on Safety in Coal Mines, that such legislation should prohibit the employment of boys underground except after suitable training above ground and subject to proper supervision. The Motion and the Amendment deal with the question of the employment of boys in coal mines. It is a problem which has given cause for a good deal of anxious thought on the part of those connected with the industry, and although the Motion does not enable us to debate the wider aspects of safety in mines, I do not think the House is wasting its time in debating the narrower question of the employment of boys of 16 arid under in the mines. I hope to be able to convince some hon. Members that the Amendment is an improvement on the terms of the Motion, and that it in fact represents the greatest common measure of agreement which this House is likely to reach on this question.

Mr. Whiteley

The hon. Member has said that his Amendment is an improvement on the Motion. If he will accept the 16 years we will agree.

Mr. Peake

I shall deal with that point in the course of my remarks. The hon. and gallant Member in moving his Motion referred in rather wide terms to many other industries besides coal-mining and he referred specially to the Royal Navy and merchant shipping. The Royal Navy has the advantage of being able to enforce a strict discipline which the miners of this country, I feel sure, would not accept even under a national system, and I think the hon. and gallant Member, if he refers to the statistics for the merchant shipping industry, will find that the death rate from accidents is higher than it is in the coal mines. It is, of course, in serious injuries and lighter injuries that the figures of the coal mines are so appallingly high.

Having said that on the general question let me confine my remarks entirely to the problem of employment of boys. The Mover of the Motion, whose speech we all greatly admired, will admit that he has chosen a somewhat inconvenient moment for bringing the question before the House. A Royal Commission has been sitting for close upon three years. It has heard a mass of evidence and its report, I am told, although I have not seen it, will run to something over 500 pages. The Commission itself incorporates the best possible personnel for coming to right conclusions upon questions such as this, and it would have been a great advantage had we had that report before debating this Motion. That is one of the reasons why I think my Amendment is an improvement on the Motion; it is in more general terms and does not bind the House too closely to specific detail before we have had the advantage of seeing the report of the Royal Commission and its recommendations upon the questions raised by the Motion.

Mr. Batey

That is the weakness of your Amendment.

Mr. Peake

Let me point out the weakness of the Motion. It contains one statement of fact and one only. The Motion states: That, in view of the increasing number of accidents to boys employed in mines"— and it goes on to refer to the employment of boys under 16. I think it is a fair inference from that, that in the opinion of the Mover of the Motion the number of accidents to boys in mines is increasing at the present time. That is not the fact. It is not the number of accidents which is increasing, but the accident rate per 1,000 employed, which, as hon. Members who have studied these matters know, is a very different thing. In order that we may have the matter absolutely clear, I will give the figures of accidents to boys under 16 in the mines during the last three years—

Mr. T. Smith

And the numbers employed.

Mr. Peake

Yes. I have fortified myself with all the relevant figures on this question. In 1935, those killed numbered 25; in 1936, 24; in 1937, 21. Those injured underground numbered in 1935, 4,873; in 1936, 4,736; and in 1937, 4,454. Both those tables show a decline, but it is, of course, the rate of accidents per 1,000 employed which is the cause of concern not only to hon. Members opposite, but to all those who have to do with the coal-mining industry. The increase in the rate of killed and injured underground per 1,000 employed during the last three years was as follows: in 1935, 254; in 1936, 279; and in 1937, 281. Of course, although the actual number of accidents has fallen, the effective rate per 1,000 employed has increased owing to a decrease in the number of boys employed underground from 19,200 in 1935 to 16,000 in 1937.

Mr. S. O. Davies

That is, if you had more men you would kill more.

Mr. Peake

There is an important aspect of this which hon. Members should bear in mind; that is, that in considering the rate of accidents per 1,000 employed, the state of trade and the regularity of work are a very important factor, for obviously, as hon. Members will recognise, if trade is good and employment is regular, the number of days in the year on which boys and men alike are exposed to the risks of mining is greater than it is in a year of poor trade and irregular employment; so that the rate per 1,000 employed does not reflect absolutely accurately the real position as regards accidents. Now, 1937 was the most active year the coal trade has had for many years, and the average number of working days in the pits rose from 246 in 1935 to 266 in 1937. Those figures increased, as hon. Members will see, in almost exactly the same ratio as the increase in the accident rate per 1,000 employed of boys underground during those three years.

Mr. Shinwell

Surely, the hon. Member does not suggest that boys were always employed on those days?

Mr. Peake:

No, I am taking the average figure of days on which the pits were working in the country as a whole.

Mr. Shinwell

That does not indicate that boys were employed on every day.

Mr. Peake

Of course not.

Mr. Shinwell

Then that vitiates the hon. Member's case.

Mr. Peake

One has to work on average figures in all these matters. The really effective criterion of the improvement or falling off in the position as regards accidents in mines is per 100,000 man-shifts worked. The Samuel Commission went into the question of accidents very carefully and came to the clear conclusion that that was the best criterion by which to judge the accident rates. Unfortunately, no figures are available for boys separately on the basis of accidents per 100,000 man-shifts worked; but we have figures for the industry as a whole, and they go to show that whereas in 1935 the accident rate was 82½ per 100,000 man-shifts worked, in 1937 it was slightly below, at 80, so that there has been a slight—not a very substantial, but a slight—improvement in the safety of mining as a whole during the three years 1935 to 1937. The distressing fact, and the fact with which we are all concerned this evening, is that the accident rate among boys during the same period has not shown any decrease, and that the accident rate for boys is disproportionately high and substantially in excess of the average accident rate for all classes of workers. That disproportion has grown in recent years. At the time of the Samuel Commission, although, of course, accidents generally were a source of concern to all of us, there was not then the special problem of the excessive accident rate for boys. It is only during the last eight or 10 years that the problem of an excessive rate of accidents to boys has become a pressing, urgent and difficult problem.

Mr. E. J. Williams

The hon. Member will appreciate that the miners are working longer hours.

Mr. Peake

Longer hours than whom?

Mr. T. Smith

Than in 1935.

Mr. Peake

That is another side of the issue which makes it so difficult to get an exact comparison. As against an accident rate per 1,000 employed of 207—that is to say, for killed and injured—at the present time, the rate for boys under 16 is 287, and for boys from 16 to 18, 236. Those figures show the problem with which we are faced. What is the cause of this excessive accident rate for boys? I have no doubt that much evidence has been tendered to the Royal Commission on the causes of the increased accident rate. Personally, I believe it is very largely due to the change that has taken place in mining technique during the last five or six years. Instead of boys being able to go underground with their fathers, uncles or other relatives and to work in places with them, the boys are now separated from the older folks; they cannot get the same atten- tion and guidance; and there does not seem to be the same close supervision over boys that there was in the old days when coal was won by hand.

At the same time, one finds some extremely puzzling figures if one studies closely the reports of the Chief Inspector of Mines. Why, for instance, should the accident rate among boys under 16 be twice as high in the Northern area, Northumberland and Durham, as it is in Scotland, although in Scotland mechanisation in the mines has been pressed further and began sooner than it did in any other coalfield? It is a very puzzling picture of the situation. Whatever the causes may be, there is no doubt that, for some years past, as the hon. Member who moved the Motion pointed out, the industry has been fully alive to the growing nature of this problem. It was, I think, in 1931 that in Yorkshire we initiated the movement to which the hon. Member referred, the safety badge movement—the evening classes for boys employed in mines, coupled with the giving of a badge to those who go through the whole course and pass the examination at the end. That movement has spread to all the principal coalfields and is now, I think, well-established everywhere. As the Mover of the Motion said, it has proved its own success. There are definite figures to show that the accident rate among badge winners is lower than it is among those who have not gone through these courses and obtained badges.

Besides that, many colliery companies have prepared handbooks—which seems to be rather the thing nowadays in dealing with difficult situations—which they give out to the boys on starting work. I hold in my hand a rather vividly coloured one of which I shall be pleased to provide a copy for any hon. Member who is interested. This book is now handed out in the collieries with which I have the honour to be associated. In addition, there have been some very interesting experiments in Scotland in regard to safety. Hon. Members who study the "Iron and Coal Trades Review" will have read with interest a report of what the Fife Coal Company has been doing for some years past. This very striking document which appeared in the issue of 25th November shows that the company is doing great pioneer work. Apart from what I may call the ordinary apparatus of accident prevention, such as hand- books, posters, safety committees and so forth, the company goes in for what can only be described as something akin to football pools. The report says: It has been clearly proved that various forms of monetary reward assist to intensify interest in the campaign and several new competitions have been successful. During the months of May, June and July, the company offered 40 free excursions to the Empire Exhibition to be drawn for by those employés who did not have an accident in those months…The success of this scheme has led to one in which 40 free gifts of clothing have been allocated in the same way…The accident-free monthly bonus to firemen has given way to a lottery conducted at the colliery monthly safety meetings, where accident-free underground districts and surfaces are allocated sums of money to be drawn in prizes.

Mr. E. J. Williams

These are not substitutes for wages?

Mr. Peake

No, these are definite monetary inducements for which the workmen can compete. They are, as I says, in the nature of lotteries or pools, but they appear to have contributed in a remarkable way to increased safety in the mine because the company has reduced the rate for all accidents per 100,000 man-shifts, from 58 in 1933, to 24, or less than half that number, in 1938. As regards boys under 16, the accident rate has fallen from 1.6 in 1933 to 0.6 in 1938. Of course it is necessary, in discussing a new scheme of this kind, to enter a caveat. First, one wonders whether, when the novelty has worn off, the enthusiasm will continue and the progress be maintained. Secondly, there is this point: The Fife Coal Company keep a record of the accidents which occur to individual men, and they find that some men are more prone than others to accidents. For instance men with defective eyesight are much more prone to accidents underground than men with good eyesight. There is obviously a tendency in a scheme of this kind, where districts in a pit are set in competition one with another, and collieries are set in competition wth other colleries, for men who are prone to accidents and who have had one or two accidents to be turned away and refused re-employment. That is one of the dangers of a scheme of that kind.

The industry, as I say, is alive to this problem. I think we should all agree with the basis of the case made by the Mover of this Motion that more training and better supervision probably represent the best line of approach to the problem. I think there would be common agreement in all parts of the House that better training should be provided and a closer supervision of these boys maintained. In two detailed respects, however, I find some fault with the terms of the Motion. First, it would prevent boys being taken underground under the age of 16, even for the purposes of training. The Mover, I think, admitted, in quoting with approval the case of a particular colliery, that it would be a good thing for boys to go underground, possibly once a week, in order to get what is called pit sense. Many people in the industry, both mining officials and men who work in the pits, to whom I have spoken, think it is better for boys if they are not given work which is too arduous or too difficult, to go underground before they are 16. It is thought that a boy is more ready to learn and to take advice from older people while he is under 16, than when he gets above that age.

Mr. McLean Watson

Is it not a fact that the Fife Company, whose scheme the hon. Member has just described, do not allow boys under 16 to go underground?

Mr. Peake

Except for certain classes of work. There is a tendency under the Fife scheme to exclude boys below 16 generally, but boys do go underground there, not only for purposes of training but for certain easy forms of work. The terms of the Motion would, as I say, preclude boys under 16 going underground at all and there are many in the industry, not only on the side of the management but also on the side of the men who think that that would be a mistake. In the second place, the Motion provides that boys having attained the age of 16 shall not be employed in connection with machinery and that they shall be under the supervision of a charge hand during their first three months. There is, however, no definition of machinery, and some definition would obviously be necessary, because there are many kinds of machinery which, as everybody knows, no boy would be permitted to go near for many years after he had reached the age of 16. I do not like the sort of implied permission in the Motion for a boy to be put in connection with almost any class of machinery after only three months under the supervision of a charge hand. On these grounds, I submit that my Amendment is a better means of obtaining what the Motion aims at and that it will achieve our common end without prejudging the report of the Royal Commission, which will very shortly be in our hands.

9.16 p.m.

Colonel Clarke

I beg to second the Amendment.

The hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher), who moved the Motion, commented on the fact that during the last fortnight I had on two occasions opposed him, and he added that he felt he had been wounded in the house of a friend. While I greatly deplore that he feels wounded, I am glad that he still continues to regard me as a friend, and I look at that too as some indication of his following a policy of appeasement, though from his subsequent remarks I gather he is also preparing to discuss rearmament to some extent. I feel however, that on this occasion we are not really very far apart. I do not know that we were the other day, but to-day it is much more that we, on this side, are not prepared to go into such detail as he has done in his Motion. Our Amendment is much the same, but it does not go into the same amount of detail. I would like to re-echo certain of his remarks about the character, courage, and hardihood of our miners. I am glad to say that my first contact with miners was not a commercial one at all. It took place during the War, with a mining company of the East Lancashire division in Gallipoli, and my men used to work in the galleries drawing out the sandbags full of soil that the miners cut. We were playing only a very humble part, but I learned to admire tremendously the skill with which those galleries were made and the courage of the men who manned the listening posts at the ends while waiting to hear the Turkish miners getting nearer every day.

I am not prepared to support the Motion, because, as I say, it goes into too much detail. At the same time, I cannot exaggerate my feelings as to the seriousness of this question. It is a very distressing fact, whether the actual number of deaths and injuries to boys are increasing or not, that they are as great as they are in proportion to those of the older men. But in that connection one must remember that there are certain characteristics of boys, such as inexperience, impetuosity, and curiosity, which I am afraid will always lead to their getting into more trouble and more accidents than men. I appreciate this question the better, because I have a boy who will be 14 in a month or two, and one does in such circumstances appreciate the views of other people who may be sending boys of an age very near to that into the pit. A previous speaker referred to the fact that it is difficult to-day to get boys to go into the pit at all and that that was quite likely connected with this question of injuries, particularly from the point of view of the parents. I believe that is so, but I think one could in fairness point out that the same difficulty prevails to-day in many other industries that involve hard manual labour. We have just the same difficulty in getting boys to go into the agricultural industry, and I think it applies to other industries of the same sort. I believe that another factor connected with it is that in those industries there is much less chance of a bright boy getting on than he would stand in certain other industries, an office, a garage, or something of that sort.

To return to the terms of the original Motion and the Amendment, we are both agreed that the number of accidents is still much too high. It is really tragically high. The very expression that the industry uses of "winning" coal suggests that mining is a dangerous occupation and has a suggestion of war and the casualties that are inherent in war. It is really a continuous battle with the forces of nature, though in war casualties can be reduced and even avoided, just as the Mover of the Motion said, when speaking of the training of boys in the Navy—and the same thing applies in the Army—that the best trained troops are those which have the fewest casualties. Training involves lessons in what one has to do, but unless it is accompanied with a measure of discipline, and in industry, of course, a measure of self-discipline, it is difficult always to see that instructions are carried out. I know it is the duty of the Board of Trade and the Mines Department to frame suitable regulations, and of the management to see that they are not only circulated but also understood, but I think every man and every boy has the duty both to himself and to his fellows to conform to them. I am sure that much can be done by training to see that these orders and arrangements are conformed to.

There is a great deal, I am sure, in training in the principles of safety before going down the pit, and that is another point on which both the Motion and the Amendment agree. I believe that safety classes are the best way of imparting this instruction. At present, in most districts, these classes are run by the local education committees, and while I do not in any way want to disparage their work—I am a county councillor myself, and I know how hard these education committees work—I feel that classes directly under colliery control may be more practical and perhaps a little more lacking in red tape, and also have the advantage that practical demonstrations, as well as lessons, can be given. In certain collieries this is already being done. I believe that one of the earliest and best examples is that of the Lambton, Hetton and Joicey collieries in Durham which since 1931 have had a training ground, the first training ground in the Northern division, and for seven years now have been giving these training courses. There is a very good account, with pictures, in the report of the Inspector of Mines for 1934.

The badges are, I think, of great value, and one must pay a tribute to the district welfare committees in this connection. There are a number of other pits in Durham too to-day which have provided similar facilities for training at the pithead, but it is a very sad thing, as has been said, that the Northern division still shows such a high average of accidents, and, curiously enough, not only below ground but above ground too, which is difficult to understand, and also between the ages of 16 and 18 as well as between the ages of 14 and 16. I would like to mention another useful system of avoiding accidents to boys, and to older men, too, which, I think, shows that the present capitalist system in spite of what the hon. Gentleman said just now about it can be used in the right way to avoid accidents. It is a system by which any deputy who, during the month has not had an accident to the men under his charge, causing them to be absent from duty for over three days, receives a bonus of 10s. This system is practised at Manvers Main and I think that it is a very admirable system. The hon. Member who moved this Amendment referred to the Fife Coal Company, and it is perhaps unfair that their neighbours, the Wemyss Coal Company, should not also have a small measure of praise. Before 1933 the Wemyss Coal Company had organised classes and made itself responsible for the training of boys in the neighbourhood of the company's mines. I want to mention this, particularly because part of that training consists of personally conducted tours underground.

Here is a point in which I differ from the Mover of the Motion, for I believe that this training would be made more difficult if no boy were allowed-to go underground until he was 16 years of age. As I understand the Motion, that is what is intended. I notice in the report of the Inspector of Mines for the Northern Division for 1937, these words: Nowadays safety classes are recognised as an almost essential preliminary to a mining career; but I should like to emphasise at the risk of repetition that boys must have practical training underground in addition. Of course, a specially reserved part of the mine might be kept for that training, but I do feel that practical training entirely at the pithead would be inadequate if it were not accompanied by some practical training underground as well. Instruction, like mercy, blesses both him that gives and him that takes, and the fact that a colliery is having safety classes will raise the standard of safety right through that colliery, and not only for the boys who are actually being taught. Anybody who takes part in any form of instruction realises that it often does him more good than those whom he is trying to instruct. I realise, of course, that in many European countries boys under 16, and even of rather higher ages, are not allowed to go down the pits. I believe that in Germany they are kept in the workshops round the pithead until they are 16. Of course, that is possible and it is done in this country in the case of large collieries, but it might be difficult to find work round small collieries, and particularly isolated collieries; but if it were accompanied by training and the usual work that there is on the screens, I believe it would not be impossible, and I hope something of that sort will be done.

I am afraid I disagree with the Motion on one other point. It says that boys "shall not be employed in connection with machinery." I cannot help feeling that looking after the smaller machines—the smaller haulage engines, for example—is really a much safer job for a boy than being at the coal face, and, as my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment said, they are forbidden by law to work with larger machines—I think haulage engines over 10 horse-power. I feel that there the Motion is a little too drastic. Again I feel that perhaps to insist that for the first three months boys should be under the supervision of a charge hand is too drastic. The principle is excellent, but boys, like men, vary very much. Some need longer and some shorter experience, and I feel that if supervision is continued too long it becomes in some cases irksome and irritating, both for the boy who is supervised and for the man who has to supervise, and there should be some latitude in that provision. I think the words of the Amendment in that connection are rather more practical.

Finally, let me say that the Amendment and the Motion are, I think, very much the same in principle, and the same motive and intention lie behind them. Both wish to try to reduce the present serious incidence of casualties among boys and young persons in our mines, but I feel that the Amendment, for the reasons I have given, and in view of the fact that we expect the Report of the Royal Commission in a very short time, and further because it keeps rather more to principles and rather less to details, is really better than the Motion, and therefore I have great pleasure in supporting it.

9.33 p.m.

Mr. Edmund Harvey

I think that the whole House will have appreciated the spirit which has been shown in the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, and if the whole of the coal mining industry could be conducted in the same spirit there would be very much less likelihood of serious difference in the House on important questions con- netted with the coal mining industry. It is a very great thing that those who speak on behalf of the coalowners should be at one with the hon. and gallant Mover of the Motion in the principle he advocates. We can, I think, congratulate ourselves on the way in which the public conscience of the country is moving in this direction. The figures that were read out by my hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), when translated into the terms of human life and of the suffering and misery caused in the homes of boys who have been killed or seriously maimed, speak better than any argument for the need for more drastic action to prevent such a tragedy. I think that the hon. Member for North Leeds felt that the Motion was too particular in its details, and he preferred more general terms, but his own Amendment is surely too general. He does not define what he means by boys. He says: such legislation should prohibit the employment of boys underground except after suitable training above ground. He does not say at what age that prohibition is to be effective. It is surely essential that Parliament should indicate a definite age. Sixteen is a reasonable age, and I do not think it can be the intention of the Mover of the Motion and those who support it that boys under 16 should be prevented from going underground for purposes of training and education, but not for purposes of employment. It should be possible for a boy working on the surface to go down at certain intervals under supervision to see what the work underground is, not to be employed as a wage-earner, but to do it as part of his training for future work. It ought to be practicable for boys who are employed up to 16 on the surface to have opportunities for education in connection with their training through visits to the mines. I do not believe it is intended to prevent any such educational visits underground under the age of 16.

Mr. Whiteley

The Mover of the Motion pointed out that between 15½ and 16 there could be arrangements made for the boys to go down a pit one day a week for special training.

Mr. Harvey

I agree, but it was urged on the other side that the terms of the Motion would prevent boys going underground under 16. The hon. and gallant Member who seconded pointed that out, too, and I think there is a misunderstand- ing. Surely the Motion is in harmony with the improvement which the House has already made in the conditions of juvenile labour for factory work. We need to have further provision for the protection of young workers in connection with machinery. As the country will shortly witness the carrying into effect of the educational reform which will raise the school age to 15 for, I hope, the vast majority of children, it is only a question here of the one year between 15 and 16. It ought to be possible to make arrangements for boys to get suitable preparatory work during that year before they go underground.

I do not believe that any coalowner would wish his own son to go underground to work under the age of 16. I have a personal friend, a coal miner, who is a son of a coal miner, and who married a miner's daughter. He is determined that his only son shall not go underground and become a coal miner because he has seen in his own experience the tragedies that have come to families of his relatives and friends, and he is not under present conditions willing for his son to undertake the task that he has been bravely carrying on himself. If we look at it in that way, through the eyes of someone who is going through this work and who knows it from within, we shall look at it in a different way than if we merely deal with it on grounds of abstract economy. In the long run it could never be satisfactory for an industry to depend upon juvenile labour working under conditions which produce the death and accident rates which have been described to us by my hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds. On that ground I hope, while appreciating greatly the spirit in which he spoke, that the House will not accept his Amendment, but will pass the Motion.

9.40 p.m.

Mr. R. J. Taylor

I want to support this Motion as it is framed. Fault has been found at the way in which the Motion is worded, but I have no objection to it, and I trust I may be able to persuade the House with the figures I propose to put before it that the Motion as it is framed is all right. We have been given a few reasons why boys are not now going into the pits. The hon. Member who moved the Motion used the illustration of the Navy. The hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke) thought that it was perhaps the lack of discipline in the mines that had much to do with the greater accident rate. He also said that probably the hard work was preventing boys going into the mines, as it was preventing them going into agriculture. Perhaps he is right, because the work of boys in the mines to-day is harder than it has ever been. The introduction of machinery and mechanisation is the crux of the accident rate. It is deplorable that we cannot recognise it. I want to tell hon. Members opposite who speak for the coal-mining industry that, just as we are losing the peasantry from the land and will find it difficult in future to get men to go back to the land, so, as we lose the mining class in the true sense of the word, we shall have difficulty in getting men to fill our mines again.

The accident rate among boys is alarming. We may have classes on the surface and classes underground, if necessary, but there is one factor in the accident rate that will not be met by classes. Down in the bowels of the earth where men and boys are not seen, there is piecework, and as long as that exists it will be the driving weapon that undoubtedly causes the high percentage of accidents. I want to draw the attention of the Secretary for Mines to some things over which boys have no control even if they do attend safety classes. What could be more regrettable than that a boy of 14 or 15 should be killed in a mine because his head was caught between the roof and a tub? The boy has no control over that; it is a matter for the management. The inspector's report for the Northern Division says that practically all the boys under 16 years of age who are injured are injured in the haulage way. They are either caught between tubs or between tubs and an obstacle. A boy has no control over that sort of thing, even if he attends safety classes.

I want to make a plea, in which I am sure my miner friends join me, that when the Commission's report is published we shall have the roadways in the pit and the height made in such a way that there will be a guaranteed minimum of safety and freedom for the boys to move. It should not be necessary for workmen's inspectors to have to travel pits in order to find out defects in the working conditions, especially of the boys who are not articulate enough to make their grievances felt. The Secretary for Mines should instruct his inspectors, when they find conditions in a mine not up to the standard which they believe is required, to exercise their powers to have those working places brought up to the maximum of safety. I want to draw attention to the rate of accidents, fatal and otherwise, in the Northern Division.

Mr. Speaker

Is not this Motion confined to young persons under the age of 16 years?

Mr. Taylor

That is the point with which I am going to deal—the accident rate for boys under 16 in the Northern Division as compared with the rest of the country. I should like to explain that I do not want to give the impression—far from it—that the managerial class and the owners in Northumberland are less humane than they are anywhere else. I have explained what I regard as the explanation of this high accident rate. Let me give the figures for the Northern Division for 1937. The figures for 1936 showed a substantial increase upon those for 1935, but in 1937 the accident rate, covering killed and injured, among those under 16, was 398 per 1,000 in the Northern Division, as against 281 per 1,000 for the whole of the country. I would point out that the 281 per 1,000 for the whole of the country includes the accidents in the Northern Division, and I make bold to say that if the figures for the Northern Division were not included with those for the whole of the country the number of killed and injured in the Northern Division would be found to be at least 50 per cent. higher than in the rest of the divisions in the country.

It is not enough that we should go on year after year talking sympathetically about this state of affairs. In the past men have roused the national conscience against factory conditions and against boy chimney sweeps, and we have to rouse the national conscience to the fact that we have practically 400 boys under 16 years of age being killed and mangled every year in the Northern Division of the mining areas. They are the flower of our race. Talk about boys not working in the pits. In the Northern Division boys are leaving the mines in large numbers to join the Navy and the Army on account of the terrible drive that is being made on them to maintain output in our pits. That state of affairs is not peculiar to the mining industry, because the Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Mines notes very much the same thing in regard to other young persons under 16. When they are making inquiries into accidents the inspectors find that this is what is usually said: "Who could have expected him to do such a silly thing?" Often the so-called silly thing is just the sort of thing a boy is likely to do when he is working where there is machinery or in other dangerous circumstances. Our boys are being asked to work to-day at the speed of the machine.

It is all very well to say that the boys should be trained, and I know very well that the Secretary for Mines did say on the last occasion on which we discussed the subject of classes in mines that not so much was being done in the northern division as he would like. I know of collieries in my own area which are doing their best as far as classes are concerned, but that is not enough to meet the situation. I say that when the boys go down, even if they have had training on the surface, they should be under an instructor, but I would not have that instructor a piecework man, I would not have his wages determined by the amount of coal that goes up. He should be a man on datal wages, whose earnings are not dependent upon the report which he puts into the colliery office at night of the amount of coal brought to the bank. I would have that man as a father with those children, and he should have power to tell a boy not to do an act to expedite output if it is a t the risk of injury to his life or limbs. We know the old saying that "Familiarity breeds contempt." I want to speak with due humility, and will not put it higher than to say that the miners are among the bravest of the people in this or any other land, and these children who are being injured are the sons of brave men and women and for that reason are probably taking risks which they ought not to take.

In conclusion, I want to say that it is the duty of the Secretary for Mines, when the Commission reports, to see that the Bill which is framed upon its report is drawn up to safeguard the boys in all mines and with not so much regard for profits. The Navy has been compared with the mines. The difference between the Navy and the mines is just that. The boys of to-day are the sons of men who in times past have been lauded and applauded and then discarded, and now 400 per 1,000 of their sons are being maimed and killed, and the owners ask why the boys are not going into the pits. The reason is there—[Interruption.]—£15 is less than the price of a pony. When we send ponies into the pits we first train them on the surface. Then we send a horsekeeper down below to train them so that they will be able to take care of themselves. If we do that for the ponies surely we are not asking too much as miners when we claim that the same thing should be done for the boys.

9.55 p.m.

Captain Crookshank

As this is a private Member's night I do not want to speak for more than a minute or two, but it would not be courteous of me not to express some opinion upon this Motion. I should like to endorse all that has been said by hon. Members opposite as to the value of safety classes. The figures which were quoted by the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher), and which came, in fact, out of a speech which I made in this House in July, in regard to the review which was being held in Yorkshire as to the comparative accident rate as between boys who had received badges as a result of safety classes and those who had not received badges and were not going to safety classes, can be taken a little further to-night. These are the only figures I intend to give the House to-night. In that speech I stated that we were making some reviews in other districts, and it has been done in Durham and Northumberland.

It may interest hon. Members to know that the general trend shown in the Yorkshire figures is shown to be the case in those other two districts also. If I may, I will give hon. Members the 1937 accident rate of death and injury per 1,000 boys employed against the comparative figures for Yorkshire. We find that in Northumberland the figure among badge-holders below ground was 270 and among non-badge-holders 531. Below ground in Durham the figure for badge-holders was 319 and for non-badge-holders 460. To complete the picture among workers on the surface in Northumberland, the figures for badge-holders was 90 and for non-badge-holders 153: In Durham, on the surface, the figure for badge-holders was 144 and for non-badge-holders 160. That was a sample taken which covers in Durham some 80 per cent, of the boys under 16 years of age—which is what we are talking about—and about 65 per cent. of those employed in Northumberland. I think that we can definitely state that the figures for those three districts show that going to classes and getting a badge as a result of having passed the test does lead to a reduction in the accident rate for those who have attended. That is the view which was probably held, anyhow, and it is interesting to have it statistically confirmed.

What is the deduction? The deduction, as is inherent in the Motion and the Amendment, is that it is highly desirable that there should be a form of training. Some hon. Members have spoken as though there had been something remiss on my part in not having secured that all boys should be given training before they went into the pit. The answer to that is that there are no powers to that end in existing legislation. I wish there were. I have said so before and it is nothing new, but there are not. However, we come to the fundamental question which is the agreement in every quarter of the House that the figures for accidents to young persons in the pit under 16 years of age are deplorable. That, again, as hon. Gentlemen will know who have from time to time happened to read the speeches which I have made, is a point which I have stressed in many parts of the country. The difficulty is that there is no present power of regulation.

This Parliament, this House of Commons, has not entirely overlooked the case of the boys because through the instrumentality of my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. C. S. Taylor) last session we passed an Act to prevent the employment of boys under 16 years of age underground at night. We have tackled one part of the problem through his action, and, given time, we may have the opportunity of doing a very great deal more for the reason that, as several hon. Members have said, a Royal Commission has been sitting during practically the whole lifetime of this Parliament. I can, perhaps, remind hon. Gentlemen opopsite that it was at the desire of this Government and of this present Secretary for Mines that that Royal Commission was set up with the object of initiating machinery for introducing legislation. Everybody connected with the industry knows that it would be quite impossible to introduce a measure altering—as it may well do—the whole basis of safety legislation without a very thorough investigation. I think that that is common ground, and we were, therefore, very glad to be able to advise the setting up of the Royal Commission. We are still more happy that the Commission have now signed their report. That report will be in the hands of hon. Members and of the country as a whole within a very few days. It is now at the Stationery Office, and we shall be able, I hope, to sit down during the Recess and study it.

This is entirely a private Member's day on which hon. Members can do as they please, but, looking at the Motion and at the Amendment, I notice that there are very welcome common factors in them. They both say that the House would welcome legislation, and they both say that there should be training before going underground. Both say that, having gone underground, some system of supervision should be set up. That seems to show a great deal of common agreement, and I should be very happy to think that the House could agree so far and accept the Amendment. If hon. Gentlemen ask me: "Why not recommend going further and accepting the Motion?" it is for the reason that the Motion is more specific and goes into more detail, first of all in specifying the actual time of supervision. It seems to me a matter of detail on which we should be not particularly wise to pledge ourselves now. It would at least be more courteous to the Royal Commission—one of whose members sits upon the Front Bench opposite—to wait, at any rate, just a week or two, especially after all their labours, before we make up our minds as to the form in which it should be done by putting it on record by a Resolution passed in this House.

It would also be more consonant with the usual practice of Parliament after having invited distinguished persons to investigate this problem. I do not know what they are going to say, and I am not aware of their recommendations on this point, but I have no shred of doubt that there will be some recommendations, for the reason that in the evidence-in-chief given on behalf of my Department at the start of the Royal Commission's work this was one of the points to which the specific attention of the Royal Commissioners was directed. That is quite apart from the general consideration that this is one of the most important problems that has exercised the minds of so many people, including employers and workmen in the industry, for so long, I should indeed be surprised if there were no recommendation on the matter.

I ask the House whether hon. Members cannot agree to accept the common measure of agreement between the Motion and the Amendment and not to take a definitive view, as the Motion suggests, either with regard to age or with regard to the extent of the supervision. However, it is for the House to take its own decision, but that is the advice which I would myself take. It is true that all the experience which I have had in this problem leads me to the conclusion that, valuable as are the classes and as is the training now given, it may very well be that it should go further. It may be true to say that there should be more supervision to some extent. I think some consideration will have to be given, in choosing work, to the question of whether it is suitable to the age and the capabilities of the individual boy. I do not think that that ought to be left out of sight.

I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton—and this is my last word, having given such advice as it is right to give in my place—when he made a reference to the deaths of two boys whose names he gave and the circumstances in which they died. My replies in the House contained an expression of opinion that they were being employed on work which was unsuitable for boys. On reflection, I think that the hon. and gallant Member will see that a remark of that kind made from here is a pretty serious public reflection on whoever has been responsible for the allocation of work, and it is a reproof that I hope I may not often—if ever—have to give again. I should welcome it if I were endowed with powers to deal with the matter. It is for that reason that we set the machinery in train by setting up the Royal Commission, and, as I have said, it seems to me that, as it is only a matter of a few days, it would really be more consonant with the dignity of the House to await the Report and see exactly what the Royal Commission recommend. If they do not recommend going as far as some people would like, there is nothing to prevent our going further. If they go too far, it may be that some people will take objection to that. I do not know. But I suggest that we should wait and see what they have to say. [Interruption.] The Report will be available within the next week or ten days. The Amendment carries out a good deal of what has been stated by hon. Members opposite, and I leave the matter to the good judgment of the House.

10.6 p.m.

Mr. Whiteley

I think that every Member of the House, no matter to what party he or she belongs, will thank my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) for having brought this important matter before the House. My hon. and gallant Friend is not directly connected with the mining industry, but, having won a place in the Ballot, he thought that the question of the employment underground of boys under 16 ought to receive the attention of the House. I congratulate him on his presentation of the case to the House. It was excellently done, and I am only sorry that the terms of the Motion were not sufficiently wide to allow us to have the opportunity of hearing my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar), who, as we all know gives us some very sound advice from time to time on matters of this kind. The Secretary for Mines has pointed out that he has no powers. This Motion has been put down with a view to giving him the powers which we believe he ought to have to deal with this very important subject. If we in this House think that there is something wrong, why should we wait for any kind of report? The hon. and gallant Gentleman has pointed out that there is very little difference between the Motion and the Amendment. The battle really is on the figure of 16—

Mr. Peake

Is the battle really on the question of the age of 16? If the Royal Commission recommend that the age should be 16 or any other figure, I shall gladly accept it. The battle really is as to whether we should put forward a definite figure before seeing the Report of the Royal Commission.

Mr. Whiteley

My hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor) pointed out very clearly that the number of accidents to boys underground is so serious that, no matter what the Royal Commission may report, this House should take action. Why should we quibble about the age of 16? The school-leaving age is now 15, and it is only a matter of 12 months. I agree that the hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) made some comparison with regard to accidents, but he must remember that in the old days, when coal was won by hand, there was not the speed and the machinery that we have to-day. The speed is terrible. In the old days they used to argue that seven years of age was all right for going into the mines, but surely the hon. Member and his friends are going to move with the times. To-day we say that 16 years is the lowest age at which boys should go underground into the mines. Underground you do not see things. The ordinary person does not realise the dangers underground. Above-ground you might be able to tell what kind of dangers you would have to meet, but nobody can lay down the kind of dangers that are to be met with underground and are likely to cause accidents to boys and men from time to time. Therefore I say that we have to move with the times. It is no use saying that 16 is not a suitable age, or that we should not place any figure on the records of this House before a Royal Commission says that i6 is the proper age. I am not concerned with what the Royal Commission says in that respect. I have made up my mind, not to-night but years ago, that 16 is the age below which we should not allow boys to go into the bowels of the earth.

The hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke), in seconding the Amendment, said that there is not much difference between it and the Motion, but that the Motion goes into too much detail. Everything that we bring before this House has either too much detail or too little detail. But the Motion covers a general principle which can very readily be put into operation, to the advantage of the young life in our mining industry. I want to call the attention of the House to the important statement of the Inspecor of Mines for the Northern Division. My hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth has already quoted the figures, but, in the preface to his report, the inspector says, It is desirable that new boy entrants into the industry should commence work on the surface, and, after a period of experience there, pass on to underground work. It is true that he does not say at what age, but this is in his last report, and the school-leaving age has now been made 15, so that, if they have to spend some time on the surface, what better age can be fixed than 16? I do not think that Members of the House, when they realize the terrible percentage of accidents underground in the case of boys below the age of 16, ought to quibble about this Motion. Of the boys under 16 employed under-ground, 38 per cent. meet with accidents. That is a terrible toll.

I would remind the Secretary for Mines that he has some responsibility in this matter. His own inspector for the Northern Division points out very clearly in his report that a large number of these accidents could be prevented if there were more haulage space than there is at the present time in some of our mines. That is a very important statement, and one with which the Secretary for Mines can deal. He ought to see that it is dealt with as effectively as possible. There have been some complaints on the question of training boys before they reach the age of 16. I could go into far greater detail than even the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead would desire. You can lay it down how a boy shall be trained between the ages of 15 and 16; you can make arrangement that, when he reaches the age of 15½ for the last six months, before he definitely enters the mine underground, he shall have one day per week in the pit to learn pit sense, in order that he may become accustomed to it when he has to go there to work. We say that during the time they are on the surface boys should have a proper training in all kinds of safety principles, and the training ought to be on the halftime principle—say, four hours' working on the surface and four hours being instructed in safety principles.

The hon. Member for North Leeds rather took exception to my hon. and gallant Friend who moved the Motion pointing out that there was a very low accident rate in the Navy. He said that in the Navy the discipline was strict and harsh. If he looks at the matter pro- perly, he will see that the difference is that the standard of training is on a very high level in the Navy, and if we had it on the same high level without any harshness in the mines we could probably reach the same standard of freedom from accidents. We go further, and say that boys under the age of 16 should not be employed on any kind of machinery in mines and that until they reach the age of 21 they should not have any connection with conveyor faces. We are concerned, not as colliery owners but as trade union officials connected with the mining life of this country and we are prepared to work along these lines for the proper safety of the underground workers. When they are commencing on this machinery, when they come of age, these lads ought to be under proper supervision. There is no other industry which has the same accident rate for boys, because in other industries there is a sort of apprenticeship, and there is always supervision. If there is the will, much can be done in the way of obtaining supervision which would obviate many of the accidents. The safety committees that are now in operation in nearly all the coalfields ought to be given statutory power to deal with the question of accidents: to examine the causes and suggest means of preventing them.

Last Sunday the acting-president of the Mineworkers' Federation and I opened a "safety week" which is now in progress at Blaydon. I believe that is the kind of thing that will focus public attention on this matter. The local checkweighman, Mr. Stephenson, there is an artist in certain respects, and he himself has designed posters, additional to the posters provided by the mining institutes, and these have a tremendous effect on the public mind as soon as they are seen. He has put those posters around Blaydon, and there are also films being shown and lectures given. Mr. Rogers, one of His Majesty's inspectors, is giving lectures, pointing out to the men and lads the dangers that they ought to avoid, and Mr. Grise, who, I think, is connected with the Mining Research Department, has an article in the local Press, dealing with the problems of mining life and showing how people can assist in preventing accidents. So, on the workmen's side, we are doing all that is possible. The co-operative society are giving the use of a window for a display of gloves, helmets and other things connected with the question of safety. We are trying to make these things as popular as we can.

There is a good deal to be said in favour of getting the boys and the men into closer contact and comradeship. One remembers that in the old days, if the boys did anything wrong, the older men used to come along and give them a switch and tell them what they thought about them. There was always a feeling of harshness and not of comradeship. There is a great deal in the fact that not only ought the men and boys to be urged to attend the special meetings on safety as organised by the safety committees, but there is this link which is necessary for the closer co-operation of the older workmen and boys which is brought about by these classes and meetings—you get the men and the boys together. They are engaged in a common purpose and it helps them in their every-day work. That is one of the important things that ought to be kept in mind.

We believe in the idea of a safety suggestion box to give an opportunity for men and boys working at the pit to make their contributions. In Blaydon, my own constituency, prizes are being given for the best essays on safety. The miners' lodge is giving 10s. as first prize, and 5s. as second and third prizes, and the owners are doing the same with a view to encouraging the lads and letting them see that somebody has a real interest in them. That sort of thing has a very great effect upon the minds of our young people. We believe too, that it should be possible to come to an arrangement whereby the pits could he made into districts, as many of them are, and that a prize should be given to the district with the lowest percentage of accidents. It would be another incentive for the co-operation of the men and boys in order to see, as far as possible, that all avoidable accidents were done away with. The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds showed us a very nicely coloured book. Last Sunday night the manager of the Blaydon Colliery showed me a book that is published by the Ashington Coal Company, and a very wonderful book it is. It is illustrated right through and shows the kind of accident that is likely to occur and the best way to prevent it by using protective gloves and other things. This is the kind of thing that ought to be brought into operation to a fuller extent than is the case at present.

I am sorry that we cannot accept the Amendment. I have here an agreement between the local coalowners and miners at Burnhope Colliery, where they have definitely agreed that no boy under 16 shall go below ground. We have agreed that for the first three months that a boy is below ground he shall be engaged near the shaft bottom, where he will he under supervision. Since the agreement came into operation there has been only one accident at that colliery to a boy under 16. We have made an effort to meet these grievances in the framing of our Motion, and it is impossible to accept the Amendment. We are not asking hon. Members opposite to go very far, but they are asking us to go a long way. Therefore the House should accept the Motion as it stands, because it is the only possible way of dealing with a position which is having such tragic effects upon the lives of our young people in the mines. I hope the House will face up to the situation.

The Secretary for Mines says that this is a private Members' day, and that we can do as we like. I trust that we shall face up to the realities of the Motion, in the interests of the mining industry; in the interests of the owners as much as in the interests of the workmen. I hope the Motion will be accepted, with a view to influencing the mind of the Minister, so that he will not be side-tracked when the report of the Royal Commission comes along, if it recommends something less than we are asking for in the Motion.

10.26 p.m.

Viscountess Astor

The Secretary for Mines is very persuasive, and we all know that no one has shown greater zeal and interest in the welfare of the miners than he has done. Therefore, I hate to do anything which he asks me not to do. I have, however, for years been trying to keep boys out of the mines until they are 16 years of age, and I have no doubt that the Royal Commission will advocate that. I do not see how they can do anything else, having regard to the appalling number of accidents to young persons in mines. I cannot vote against the Motion, for many reasons. The main reason is that for years I have asked questions in the House on this subject, although I have nothing to do with mining. It is dreadful that in this enlightened age boys, children, between the ages of 14 and 16 should have to work underground. I am sure that in perhaps 10 or 20 years we shall all look back upon such employment as horrible. When we have regard to the high percentage of accidents I cannot understand why we do not take steps to get these children out of the mines.

We are a very curious nation. We get so upset about Basque children and refugee children, but I am much more upset about the 400 boys who, before our very eyes, are being killed and injured every year in our mines. Surely, it is the practical thing to take notice of that which we can amend, and this is one of the things that this House can and will amend. Apart from the humane point of view, anybody who has children knows that if there is ever a time when children need looking after it is then, between the ages of 14 and 16. Children of these ages—and they are children—need supervision, and they need to be taught obedience. We have been told about the discipline in the Navy. I should like to see discipline of children between the ages of 14 and 16. That is why I want them to stay on at school until they are 16. It is madness to let them out before that age.

If ever a generation needed discipline, it is this generation. We have surely passed beyond the period when we used to say, "Ask the children about it." On this matter of discipline, we know that in Russia if a child does wrong they do not punish the child but they punish the parent. That is a pretty good way of dealing with juvenile deliquency, because the fault is very often with the parent and not with the child. The period between 14 and 16 is the most crucial period in the development and the discipline of young boys, and I hope very much that the House will see to it that boys are not allowed to work underground before the age of 16. Some colliery owners have already stopped it. People who have not worked underground cannot really visualise the conditions. You have to go down a mine to see the dreadful conditions under which miners have to work.

From the point of view of mining itself it is much better that boys should not go down the mines at such an early age. It has been said that it is rather difficult to get people to enter the Mercantile Marine; and can you wonder at it when you realise the appalling conditions which sometimes exist? If industry wants to get labour it must look after conditions and, therefore, purely from the material point of view it is much wiser not to let boys of 16 and under go down the mines. It is much better for them to be trained beforehand. I have been in the House so long and have taken part in the fight against juvenile labour so long that it is a real satisfaction to me to see how the country has come along during the last 20 years. There has been, however, a complete lack of imagination. I shall find it impossible for me to vote against the Motion. No matter what the recommendations of the Royal Commission may be on this point, I hope the Secretary for Mines will have the courage of his convictions. I know what his feelings are. If he were a dictator no boy under 16 years of age would be employed underground. Of course, we must pay great respect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission, but, after all, it is for this House to decide these matters.

As I have said, there seems to me to have been a complete lack of imagination on the part of this House and of the country. If we had passed an Act in 1918 stopping the employment of juveniles under 16 and opened nursery schools and continuation schools, industry during all these ensuing years would have got trained men. In this mechanical age it is madness to put children into industry before they are 16. A real diehard employer told me the other day that he was coming round to my view. He said that they did not want boys who had no control, mentally and morally, but that they wanted trained boys. If that is to be the case, there must be a provision for raising the school age to 16. I think the country is coming round to that point of view, and I hope the House of Commons will not stand in the way. If we pass the Motion it will not be a knock at the Government or even a hard blow at the Secretary for Mines, but it will show the country that the House of Commons is in desperate earnest to do what it can to put a stop to the appalling tragedy of these young lives.

10.35 p.m.

Mr. Watson

I am sorry that the hon. Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake), who moved the Amendment, is not in his place, but I notice that the hon. and gal- lant Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke), who seconded the Amendment, is present. I hope that before 11 o'clock the hon. Member for North Leeds and his friends will withdraw the Amendment and agree to the Motion. The Seconder of the Amendment referred to a scheme which has been put into operation by the Wemyss Coal Company, and the Mover of the Amendment referred to the scheme of the Fife Coal Company. Do they really ask hon. Members on these benches, who represent the miners, to be more reactionary than some of the colliery companies? Even in this Motion, we do not go as far as the scheme to which the hon. Member for North Leeds referred. Are hon. Members aware that the Fife Coal Company has made arrangements for some of the boys who would ordinarily go into the pits to go to the university? We do not go as far as that in our Motion.

The Mover of the Amendment said that the Motion was too specific, and he also quoted from a magazine which gave a report on the scheme of the Fife Coal Company. I have here the whole scheme as drawn up by Dr. William Reid of the Fife Coal Company, and in this document there is outlined the scheme not only for dealing with boys, but for dealing with adult education as far as mining is concerned, and also the various schemes which the hon. Member for North Leeds indicated for creating an interest in mining education. In this document it is stated that no boy is allowed to enter the mine until he is 16 years of age, except in certain circumstances, and I would like the House to understand what are those circumstances. The report says, incidentally, that it has been the company's regulation for many years now that no boy shall be given underground employment until he is 16 years of age, and exceptions to this regulation are permitted only if a boy is over 15½ years of age and is to work directly under the supervision of his father or some other near relative. I dare say that hon. Members on these benches would agree to a boy going into a mine at 15 years of age if he was going with his father or a near relative. These are the only exceptions which the Fife Coal Company allows. Therefore, I ask the hon. Member for North Leeds whether he expects us on these benches to be more reactionary than the colliery companies?

Reference has been made to other companies. The Mover of the Motion referred to several companies which are engaged on vast educational work in connection with mining before boys are allowed to enter the mines. The Fife Coal Company will not allow a boy to enter the mine unless he has a safety certificate. More than once I have had the honour of presenting safety certificates to boys who have passed the necessary examination and who have had not one year but two years of mining education. The Fife Company under this scheme is, as I say, making provision for certain boys who have the capacity to go right on to the University. We would be very foolish indeed if we, representing the miners, were to ask for something less than the colliery companies themselves are actually giving at this moment.

I was astonished at the speech of the Secretary for Mines. The hon. and gallant Gentleman was in my constituency a week ago last Saturday, and, according to the report in the local newspaper, his principal object in going there was to inquire into this scheme of the Fife Coal Company, dealing with safety in mines and the position of boys under 16 in that connection. The hon. and gallant Gentleman was received by the high officials of the Fife Coal Company and I dare say he was well entertained. I also venture to say that he did not leave the offices of the company without having had a copy of this scheme presented to him. He knows what is in it. He knows about the provision to which I have already referred for giving certain boys a university education. Why he should stand at that Box and ask us to agree to the Amendment, when he knows that our Motion does not go as far as some of the colliery companies are already going, in the provision of education for these boys, is more than I can understand.

The county education committee has co-operated in the most cordial manner with both the Wemyss Company and the Fife Company in these educational arrangements, and I have to make this confession. When the county education committee started to give instruction in mining to boys the classes were never a success, but when the Fife Company came in along with the education committee, matters took on a different aspect. In 1935–36 over 400 boys presented themselves at these classes and last year almost 1,000 boys took advantage of the educational facilities, jointly provided by the county education committee and the colliery companies in Fife. What can be done in Fife can be done in every other mining area in the country. We ought not to accept the advice of the Minister and agree to this Amendment. I hope that even at this hour the hon. Member for North Leeds will reconsider his decision and will not press his Amendment to a Division. But we must stand by our Motion. We dare not show that we are more reactionary than colliery companies. If there are some colliery companies that are not prepared to give the necessary instruction and education before boys enter their collieries, those companies ought to be compelled to come into line with the more progressive colliery companies and show to the people of this country, as the Fife Company and other colliery companies are showing, that accidents to boys can be prevented to a very considerable extent if proper instruction and education are given before the boys enter the mine.

10.46 p.m.

Mr. Wragg

I am one of those who are in agreement with those Members of this House who would like to see the prohibition of boys under the age of 16 being employed in mines, but I do not think the proper way to arrive at that desideratum is by means of this Motion. There is a Royal Commission sitting, and surely it would be only courteous to wait and see what its recommendations are and then to act on those recommendations. The speeches from hon. Members opposite have shown a great deal of confusion and a tendency not to want to wait for the results of that Commission. The hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor) said that the crux of the question was machinery, but if that is the case, how does he explain the fact that in Scotland, which is the most highly mechanised district in Great Britain, the accident rate for boys is only about half what it is in Durham and Northumberland? They are mechanised to a certain extent, but not to the same degree as in Scotland, and yet you have 387 out of every 1,000 boys employed in the Northern area getting some injury in 1936.

It is true that very few were killed, but nowadays the actual figures that are given are somewhat misleading, because employers, trade unionists, welfare workers, and in fact all concerned are much more insistent on seeing that the slightest injury is reported than used to be the case, and it is very important that it should be so, because often what may appear to be a very slight injury, the sort of injury that in the older days was not reported, may lead to something much more serious. Therefore, in looking at this question, we ought to be able to consider what proportion of these accidents are really serious and what proportion are merely such as to keep a boy away from work for a few days only. I cannot altogether agree that the accident rate is due mainly to machinery. To what was it due in the years before the War? We have had lots of arguments from the other side to the effect that men were safer then than they are to-day, but I have here the figures going back to 1875, and I find that there was hardly a year from 1875 to before the War when there were less than 130 per 1,000 of those employed in the mines damaged in some way or another. Since the War the figures in many cases have gone down to 100 per 1,000 men. Before the War there were years when the number was 260.7 per 1,000—that was the figure for 1880. If you come down to the year 1900 the figure falls to 128, then it fluctuates: in 1910 it was 168 per 1,000; but you never had before the War any single year when the rate was under 100 persons per 1,000 employed.

The figures, deplorable as they are, with regard to young persons, certainly show that safety in mines is increasing. There is every reason why we should wait for the findings of the Royal Commission and see if they can inform us what are the reasons for this large number of accidents among the boys employed in the mines. Various reasons have been given. We have been told that piecework is responsible. Well, there was piecework before the War, there was piecework 40 or 50 years ago, and there is piecework now, but accidents were higher before the War. I hold that the fall in the rate of accidents is due to the care that is taken to-day by everyone engaged in the mining industry. Everybody wants to reduce the number of accidents in every industry, not only in the mines, and they are being reduced; and there is every bit as much desire on this side of the House as on the other side to see that all possible steps are taken to reduce the number. I do not know why they do these things so well in Scotland, compared with other parts of the country, but it does seem strange that the rate should be only 213 per 1,000, while in Northumberland and Durham it is 387 per 1,000 boys employed between the ages of 14 and 16.

I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) in his general remarks as to the ways in which accidents may be considerably reduced. To my mind there is a lot of nonsense talked about what could be done. Some people say that you should stow the vacant spaces in your mine with rubbish and keep your small coal down. That might be all right for some pits, but in some other pits it might be a cause of danger from fire. All these things have to be considered. Therefore, would it not be really wise for the House to wait till the findings of the Royal Commission are available and then take what action is thought fit, rather than prejudge the issue at this moment?

Mr. James Griffiths

Does the hon. Gentleman really say it is nonsense to suggest that the vacant spaces should be tightly stowed?

Mr. Wragg

It all depends on the mines. I say it is nonsense to say that the stowing of rubbish in the mines will necessarily prevent a lot of accidents. It may be done in some cases, but to say it is a panacea for accidents is nonsense. I, therefore, support the Amendment that we should wait for the findings of the Royal Commission and take action on their lines. Not to do so would be to prejudice

the issue, and would not be courteous to the Royal Commission.

10.56 p.m.

Mr. C. S. Taylor

I have no connection with mining, but I agree wholeheartedly with the Motion. On the other hand, I agree with the Amendment, and I find myself somewhat in a predicament. The Royal Commission has been sitting, however, and it had the power to call for evidence which was given by experts. I would remind hon. Members that it was not a Conservative or a coalowners' commission, but a truly representative commission. In view of the fact that their report is due to be published within Io days, we ought to wait to hear what they have to say. I do not know why industries wait for legislation before they introduce measures which they know have public support throughout the country, and which they know are wise and good measures for the safety of the mine workers. I cannot understand why there are some people responsible in certain parts of the coal industry who have not introduced this much-needed reform many months ago. I introduced a Bill some time ago which showed the trend of public opinion and it passed through the House eventually, without a Division. Subsequently, there was a letter to the "Times," and I feel that if any criticism is due to anybody it is due to those who are responsible for running the industry and do not realise that this reform is much needed from the points of view of both safety and humanity. I am sorry that they have not seen fit to introduce it before legislation was necessary.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 123; Noes, 135.

Division No. 22.] AYES 11.0 p.m.
Adams, D. (Consett) Benson, G. Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Bird, Sir R. B. Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)
Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford) Brown, C. (Mansfield) Day, H.
Adamson, W. M. Buchanan, G. Dobbie, W.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Burke, W. A. Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)
Aske, Sir R. W. Charleton, H. C. Ede J. C.
Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton) Chater, D. Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Cluse, W. S. Frankel, D.
Banfield, J. W. Cocks, F. S. Gallacher, W.
Barnes, A. J. Collindridge, F. Gardner, B. W.
Barr, J. Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Garro Jones, G. M.
Batey, J. Daggar, G. Green, W. H. (Deptford)
Bellenger, F. J. Dalton, H. Grenfall, D. R.
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)
Griffiths, J. (Llanely) Lunn, W. Silverman, S. S.
Groves, T. E. Macdonald, G. (Ince) Simpson, F. B.
Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) McEntee, V. La T. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) McGhee, H. G. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Hardie, Agnes MacLaren, A. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Maclean, N. Sorensen, R. W.
Henderson, A. (Kingawinford) MacNeill Weir, L. Stephen, C.
Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Mathers, G. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Henderson, T. (Tradoston) Milner, Major J. Stokes, R. R.
Hills, A. (Pontefract) Montague, F. Summerskill, Dr. Edith
Hollins, A. Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster) Tinker, J. J.
Hopkin, D. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.) Viant, S. P.
Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Noel-Baker, P. J. Walkden, A. G.
John, W. Oliver, G. H. Watkins, F. C.
Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Parker, J. Watson, W. McL.
Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Parkinson, J. A. Welsh, J. C.
Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth) Pearson, A. Westwood, J.
Kelly, W. T. Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W. Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)
Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Price, M. P. Wilkinson, Ellen
Kirby, B. V. Pritt, D. N. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Kirkwood, D. Ramsay, Captain A. H. M. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G. Richards, R. (Wrexham) Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Lathan, G. Ridley, Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Lawson, J. J. Riley, B. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Leach, W. Ritson, J. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Leonard, W. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Leslie, J. R. Sexton, T. M. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Logan, D. G. Shinwell, E. Lieut.-Commander Fletcher and
Mr. R. J. Taylor.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Grimston, R. V. Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.) Gritten, W. G. Howard O'Connor, Sir Terence J.
Baillie, Sir A. W. M. Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake) O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Balniel, Lord Hambro, A. V. Perkins, W. R. D.
Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M. Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Barrie, Sir C. C. Haslam, Henry (Hornoastle) Pilkington, R.
Bossom, A. C. Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Boulton, W. W. Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. Procter, Major H. A.
Boyce, H. Leslie Heneage, Lieut.-Colonal A. P. Radford, E. A.
Brass, Sir W. Hepworth, J. Raikes, H. V. A. M.
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Ramsbotham, H.
Broadbridge, Sir G. T. Higgs, W. F. Rayner, Major R. H.
Brocklebank, Sir Edmund Holdsworth, H. Reed, A. C. (Exeter)
Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.) Holmes, J. S. Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.) Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Ropner, Colonel L.
Castloreagh, Viscount Howitt, Dr. A. B. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Rowlands, G.
Colville, Rt. Hon. John Hutchinson, G. C. Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.
Conant, Captain R. J. E. James, Wing-Commander A. W. H. Salt, E. W
Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk N.) Joel, D. J. B. Samuel, M. R. A.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Jones, L. (Swansea W.) Shaw, Major P S. (Wavertree)
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Cross, R. H. Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.) Smith, Sir Louis (Hallam)
Crossley, A. C. Kimball, L. Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.
Crowder, J. F. E. Lamb, Sir J. Q. Spens, W. P.
Cruddas, Col. B. Lancaster, Captain C. G. Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)
De Chair, S. S. Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak) Sutcliffe, H.
Denville, Alfred Leech, Sir J. W. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Dugdale, Captain T. L. Lees-Jones, J. Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Duggan, H. J. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Touche, G. C.
Duncan, J. A. L. Liddall, W. S. Turton, R. H.
Eckersley, P. T. Little, Sir E. Graham- Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Edmondson, Major Sir J. Lloyd, G. W. Waterhouse, Captain C.
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Mabane, W. (Huddersfield) Watt, Major G. S. Harvie
Elliston, Capt. G. S. MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G. Wells, Sir Sydney
Emery, J. F. McKie, J. H. Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Errington, E. Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Manningham-Buller, Sir M. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Fleming, E. L. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Wlse, A. R.
Fremantle, Sir F. E. Markham, S. F. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Fyfe, D. P. M. Marsden, Commander A. Wood, Hon. C I. C.
Gluckstein, L. H. May haw, Lt.-Col. J. Wragg, H.
Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral) Moreing, A. C. Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.
Grant-Ferris, R. Morris-Jones, Sir Henry Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester) Munro, P.
Gridley, Sir A. B. Nall, Sir J. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Mr. Peake and Colonel Clarke.

Question put, "That the proposed words be there added."

The House divided: Ayes, 135; Noes, 117.

Division No.23.] AYES [11.9 p.m.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Grimston, R. V. Neven-Spenee, Major B. H. H.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.) Gritten, W. G. Howard O'Connor, Sir Terenee. J.
Baillie, Sir A. W. M. Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake) O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Balniel, Lord Hambro, A. V. Perkins, W. R. D.
Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M. Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Barrie, Sir C. C. Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Pilkington, R.
Bossom, A. C. Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Boulton, W. W. Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. Procter, Major H. A.
Boyce, H. Leslie Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. Radford. E. A.
Brass, Sir W. Hepworth, J. Raikes, H. V. A. M.
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Ramsbotham, H.
Broadbridge, Sir G. T. Higgs, W. F. Rayner, Major R. H.
Brocklebank, Sir Edmund Holdsworth, H. Reed, A. C. (Exeter)
Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.) Holmes, J. S. Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.) Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Ropner, Colonel L.
Castlereagh, Viscount Howitt, Dr. A. B. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Gazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hask., N.) Rowlands, G.
Colville, Rt. Hon. John Hutchinson, G C. Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.
Conant, Captain R. J. E. James, Wing-Commander A. W. H. Salt, E. W.
Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.) Joel, D. J. B. Samuel, M. R. A.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Jones, L. (Swansea W.) Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Cross, R. H. Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.) Smith, Sir Louis (Hallam)
Crossley, A. C. Kimball, L. Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.
Crowder, J. F. E. Lamb, Sir J. Q. Spans, W. P.
Cruddas, Col. B. Lancaster, Captain C. G. Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)
De Chair, S. S. Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak) Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Denville, Alfred Leech, Sir J. W. Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Dugdale, Captain T. L. Lees-Jones, J. Touche, G. C.
Duggan, H. J. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Turton, R. H.
Duncan, J. A. L. Liddall, W. S. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Eckersley P. T. Little, Sir E. Graham- Waterhouse, Captain C.
Edmondson, Major Sir J. Lloyd, G. W. Watt, Major G. S. Harvie
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S. Wells, Sir Sydney
Elliston, Capt. G. S. Mabane, W. (Huddersfield) Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Emery, J. F. MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G. Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Errington, E. McKie, J. H. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest Wise, A. R.
Fleming, E. L. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Fremantle, Sir F. E. Markham, S. F. Wood, Hon. C. I. C.
Fyfe, D. P. M. Marsden, Commander A. Wragg, H.
Gluckstein, L. H. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.
Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral) Moreing, A. C. Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Grant-Ferris, R. Morris-Jones, Sir Henry
Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester) Munro, P. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Gridley, Sir A. B. Nall, Sir J. Mr. Peake and Colonel Clarke.
Adams, D. (Consett) Gardner, B. W. McGhee, H. G.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Garro Jones, G. M. MacLaren, A.
Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford) Green, W. H. (Deptford) Maclean, N.
Adamson, W. M. Grenfell, D. R. MacNeill Weir, L.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Mathers, G.
Aske, Sir R. W. Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Milner, Major J.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Groves, T. E. Montague, F.
Banfield, J. W. Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster)
Barnes, A. J. Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)
Barr, J. Hardie, Agnes Noel-Baker, P. J.
Batey, J. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Oliver, G. H.
Bellenger, F. J. Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Parker, J.
Bonn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Parkinson, J. A.
Benson, G. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Pearson, A.
Bird, Sir R. B. Hollins, A. Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Hopkin, D. Price, M. P.
Buchanan, G. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Pritt, D. N.
Burke, W. A. John, W. Richards, R. (Wrexham)
Charleton, H. C. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Ridley, G.
Cocks, F. S. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Riley, B.
Collindridge, F. Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth) Ritson, J.
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Kelly, W. T. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Dagger, G. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Sexton. T. M.
Dalton, H. Kirby, B. V. Shinwell, E.
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G. Silverman, S. S.
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Lathan, G. Simpson, F. B.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Lawson, J. J. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Day, H. Leach, W. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Dobbie, W. Leonard, W. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Leslie, J. R. Sorensen, R. W.
Ede, J. C. Logan, D. G. Stephen, C.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Lunn, W. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Frankel, D. Macdonald, G. (Ince) Stokes, R. R.
Gallacher, W. McEntee, V. La T. Summerskill, Dr. Edith
Tinker, J. J. Westwood, J. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Viant, S. P. Whiteley, W. (Blaydon) Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Walkden, A. G. Wilkinson, Ellen Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Watkins, F. C. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Watson, W. McL. Williams, T. (Don Valley) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Welsh, J. C. Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe) Lieut.-Commander Fletcher and
Mr. R. J. Taylor.

Main Question, as amended, proposed.

Several Hon. Members


It being after Eleven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.

Forward to