§ Mr. MacLaren
(by Private Notice) asked the Minister for Mines whether, as a result of the inquiry into the disaster at the Sneyd Colliery, in Staffordshire, he had any statement to make?
§ The Secretary for Mines (Mr. David Grenfell)
I regret to state that an explosion occurred in working in the Banbury seam at Sneyd Colliery, Burslem, just before 8 a.m. on Thursday, 1st January. Of the 61 men who were underground at the time in the area affected, four escaped, but the remaining 57 were overtaken by the explosion. Rescue operations were organised immediately, including steps to restore the ventilation, but the work was greatly impeded by falls on the roadways and other damage caused by the explosion. Twenty of the bodies were recovered by 3rd January. The remaining bodies could not be brought out until the ventilation had been further restored and some of the falls further cleared, but all but one had been recovered by this morning and it is hoped to recover the remaining one to-day. Work was resumed in the other districts of the mine on 5th January.
I am unable to make any statement as to the cause of the explosion. Full investigations are to be made and I shall tell the hon. Member and the House as soon as possible what form the Inquiry is to take. I wish to express the thanks of the country and the mining community to all those who took part in the rescue operations and laboured unsparingly until the way into the workings had been cleared. And I am sure the House will wish to record also its deep sympathy with all those who have been bereaved by this tragic disaster.
§ Mr. T. Smith
Can my hon. Friend tell us whether the district in which the explosion occurred was a machine mining district or whether coal is obtained there by hand? Can he sat what kind of power was used and whether it is true that, according to some newspapers, at least two of the men who were killed were a very long way from the point of ignition?
§ Mr. Grenfell
I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) is expressing a very wise wish when he says he hopes we shall not enter into detailed discussion at this moment.
§ Mr. Tinker
(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary for Mines whether he has any information with regard to an accident at No. 4 Pit, Plank Lane Colliery, Lancashire; if so, whether he can state the number of killed and injured, the circumstances in which the accident occurred and what steps the Department are taking to find out its cause?
§ Mr. Grenfell
I regret to inform the House that at 11.30 p.m. on Monday, 5th January, an explosion occurred at Bickershaw Colliery, Leigh, and resulted in the death of six persons. In connection with an area of the mine which had been sealed off some time ago owing to spontaneous combustion, it became necessary to build a stopping further outbye, and this was being done when the explosion occurred. There was no great violence, but all the ten men concerned were affected by carbon monoxide, six of them fatally. All persons were immediately withdrawn from the mine, and temporary stoppings were built to seal off the affected area. I feel sure the House will wish to associate itself with me in expressing our sympathy with the relatives of the victims. And I am glad to say that the other men who were gassed are well on the way to recovery.