§ 1. Mr. Gordon Macdonald
asked the Secretary for Mines to what extent and in what direction has administrative action been taken in consequence of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Safety in Mines?
§ 12. Mr. A. Jenkins
asked the Secretary for Mines the number of additional inspectors of mines he proposes to appoint; when the appointments will be made; and the districts in which they will be engaged?
§ The Secretary for Mines (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)
The Royal Commission expressed the view that health and safety duties should always be regarded as a primary function of the Mines Department, and that the status of the Health and Safety Division should be raised. His Majesty's Government accept this view and propose to give effect to it by substantially strengthening the administrative staff and by raising the status of the Head of the Division to that of a Deputy Under-Secretary—a matter to which the Royal Commission attached the highest importance. In addition, a number of new technical posts have been created at headquarters, including a second Deputy Chief Inspector, an Inspector of Mechanical Engineering, an inspector to deal 1083 specially with the problems of preventing accidents from falls of roof and side, a Deputy Medical Inspector and an additional inspector to deal with problems of the prevention and suppression of dangerous dusts.
With the increase in the new headquarters establishment, it will be possible to accelerate the work on other administrative developments arising from the Commission's Report. In the meantime more stringent regulations for dealing with the dangers of coal dust have been under discussion with the industry, and I hope will come into force on 1st October.
In accordance with the Royal Commission's recommendations, measures for suppressing and collecting coal dust in mechanised mining are being considered by a Departmental Committee, and a detailed revision of the Electricity Regulations is in progress.
Finally, I am glad to be able to announce that a detailed scheme for the reorganisation and expansion of the inspectorate on the lines recommended by the Commission has been worked out and approved. Twenty-three district inspectors,with suitable offices and subordinate staffs, will be substituted for the present eight divisional inspectors. The work of the district inspectors will be coordinated by six superintending inspectors, each in charge of a group of districts, and each with the necessary specialist technical staff at his immediate disposal. The total strength of the mines inspectorate, including quarry inspectors, will be increased under this scheme from 127 to 165.
§ Mr. Macdonald
Is it the intention of the Minister to have consultation with both sides of the industry, as regards further improvements and further action on the lines laid down by the Royal Commission?
§ Mr. Jenkins
What progress is being made with the preparation of a Bill in connection with the general recommendations of the Royal Commission?
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Has the Minister had due regard to the mechanisation which has been going on in the mines, particularly in recent years, and to the necessity of ensuring that the inspectorate are of such a character that they can detect any faults in machinery, not only above ground but particularly below ground?
7. Mr. Whiteley
asked the Secretary for Mines whether the official tests of the Voortman stemming plug have proved successful, and, if so, what recommendations he intends making?
§ Mr. Lloyd
Since the reply given to the hon. Member on 21st February last, there have been certain demonstrations in the North of England, at some of which His Majesty's inspectors were present. The reports I have received provide no grounds for modifying the opinion then stated, but tests are now being arranged which it is hoped may show whether or not this plug has any advantages over sand-clay stemming.
Are we to understand that the Ministry has confined itself to this type of plug? There are other plugs which are being used at various collieries in the country, and, from our point of view, it does not matter what the plug is as long as one is used.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, at the last test that was made, one of his own officials definitely put the use of this plug far above the 1085 ordinary methods in operation at the present time?
§ Mr. Lloyd
If the hon. Member will look at the answer, he will see that I used the word "demonstration" with regard to the occurrence he mentioned. As I said, the reports I received from the inspector did not give me any grounds for altering the opinion expressed by my predecessor, but in order to reach a decision in the matter, I am arranging for a special test.
8. Mr. Whiteley
asked the Secretary for Mines whether the tests of the Nox safety lamp have been concluded; and when approval is likely to be given?
§ Mr. Lloyd
The official tests are proceeding and the manufacturers have been asked to discuss the design of the lamp with a view to its improvement in certain particulars. I will decide the question of approval as soon as these matters have been dealt with, the tests completed and the testing officer's final report received and considered.
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that there has been a tremendous delay in regard to this matter?