§ Mr. P. Bartley
(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is in a position to make a statement to the House in regard to the accident that occurred on Tuesday, 13th March, at South Birtley colliery, in which there are seven miners entombed.
§ The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)
Yes, Sir. South Birtley is a licensed mine, from which clay is extracted for making bricks and tiles. Yesterday afternoon there was a fall of roof in the main surface drift. The fall was being cleared, when a further fall took place, which blocked the drift and imprisoned seven men. Rescue work began at once, and has continued ever since; at 8.30 a.m. today a passage was cleared large enough to allow food and drink to be passed through. His Majesty's Inspectors of Mines and the officers of the National Coal Board have given all the assistance in their power. I am glad to assure my hon. Friend that the imprisoned men are in no immediate danger; but I must add that the ground is difficult, and I cannot yet say when they will be brought out.
§ Mr. Bartley
In view of the public and personal anxiety that there is about this matter, I am sure that hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House will be glad to hear the hopeful prospect of the 1546 safe release of these men; will express appreciation of the work that is being done by the rescuers, both management and workmen; and will hope that their work will meet with success at a very early hour.
§ Mr. Hamilton
Do not these real tragedies make it more than ever shameful that the Opposition should continue to denigrate the miners in their efforts to obtain coal?