§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Neal (Bolsover)
I beg to move, in page 13, line 27, at the end, to insert:(5) Any person who causes or permits a plan to be in such a condition as to cause an inspector to make representations to the Minister pursuant to subsection (1) hereof shall be guilty of an offence under the Act.An attempt has been made in Clauses 17 and 19 to ensure the keeping of accurate colliery plans. We feel, however, that the language in which those Clauses are drafted is hardly strong enough to ensure that inaccurate plans will not be kept and everybody with a practical knowledge of mining will 1564 appreciate the dangers that may arise from inaccurate plans.
For instance, a manager who prepared and kept inaccurate plans, and then was removed from his position as manager, might place his successor in serious difficulties. Coal might be worked which it was not intended to work, with resulting grave losses in respect of the men working in the mine. Also, as a result of inaccurate plans coal which it was intended should be left as a barrier, might be removed and an inrush of water or gas might take place, endangering the lives of the men working there.
We believe that a deterrent is necessary to ensure that the plans of the manager shall be prepared and maintained in an accurate state. In view of the promise made by the Minister to look into this question on Report, we hope he will accept this Amendment.
§ The Attorney-General
It is not possible to accept this Amendment for reasons which I will explain to the House. In the first place, there are provisions dealing with the matter in Clause 17, and also in Part II of the Coal Mines (Surveyors and Plans) General Regulations, 1952, which will be continued in operation under Clause 175 of the Bill. The suggestion that the matter should be carried further in the way proposed is. I think, one that, on reflection, the House would not like to put into operation. As the House will see, the offence is created by merely causing or permittinga plan to be in such a condition as to cause an inspector to make representations to the Minister …The offence is complete when the inspector has made representations to the Minister. Even if the Minister were wholly dissatisfied with the representations and came to the conclusion that the inspector was wholly unjustified in making them, under this Amendment the man would still be guilty of an offence.
We talk about using a steam hammer to crack a nut, but this is a rather severe proposal. There is also the consideration that if a person is deemed guilty of an offence in this manner the result will be that the contravention will be taken outside the penalty Clause, which is Clause 144. That would make it impossible to 1565 proceed against the officials—the hierarchy as they might be called—so that it will be appreciated that this Amendment is really going too far.
If representations are made that there is anything in the regulations or in Clause 17 which could be tightened up, we will consider that, but I would ask the House not to impose this very severe penalty. I hope that hon. Members will not press it.
§ Amendment negatived.