HC Deb 30 June 1954 vol 529 cc1370-4

(1) The following provisions of this section shall apply in relation to any notice served under any provision of this Act or regulations upon the owner or manager of a mine or quarry by an inspector, being a notice which is expressly declared to be one in relation to which the provisions of this Part of this Act with respect to references upon notices served by inspectors are to apply.

(2) If the person on whom any such notice is served or, in a case where it is served on two or more persons, any of them, by a counter-notice duly served on the inspector who served the notice demands a reference upon the notice, it shall stand referred to—

  1. (a) a person or persons selected, by agreement between the inspector and the person or persons on whom the notice was served, from amongst the members of that one of the panels of persons appointed by the Minister under this section which is appropriate to the circumstances of the case; or
  2. (b) in default of agreement under the foregoing paragraph, a person or persons selected by agreement as aforesaid (not being a member or members of such a panel as aforesaid); or
  3. (c) in default of agreement under either of the foregoing paragraphs, a person or persons appointed by the Lord Chancellor or, if the mine or quarry to which the notice relates is situate in Scotland, by the Lord President of the Court of Session.

(3) On a reference under this section upon any such notice, any of the following persons may appear in person or be represented, and may give evidence or call such witnesses as he thinks fit, that is to say—

  1. (a) any person on whom the notice was served;
  2. (b) any inspector;
  3. (c) any association or body representative of a majority of the total number of persons employed at the mine or quarry to which the notice relates;
  4. (d) any other persons appearing to the referee or referees to be affected by the notice or any association or body representative of any such persons.

(4) The following provisions shall have effect with respect to the quashing or confirmation of any such notice upon a reference thereon under this section, namely,—

  1. (a) if no relevant ground of objection to the notice is established to the satisfaction of the referee or referees, he or they shall confirm the notice;
  2. (b) if a relevant ground of objection is so established, the referee or referees shall quash the notice unless he or they is or are of opinion that the objection can be met by modification of the notice, in which case the referee or referees shall confirm the notice subject to such modification as appears to him or them to meet the objection;
and where the notice is confirmed subject to any modification it shall take effect as modified.

(5) For the purposes of the last foregoing subsection—

  1. (a) in the case of any such notice served under a provision of this Act (other than subsection (3) of section one hundred and fifty-nine) any of the following grounds which are appropriate to the circumstances of the case shall be a relevant ground of objection, namely—
    1. (i) that compliance with a requirement sought to be imposed by or by virtue of the notice is, wholly or to a particular extent, unnecessary, inadvisable for reasons of safety or impracticable;
    2. (ii) that any period limited by the notice is insufficient for the purpose of enabling any works to be executed or other thing done;
  2. (b) in the case of a notice served under the said subsection (3), the relevant ground of objection shall be that the division of the mine to which the notice relates does not tend to lead to evasion of the provisions of this Act, orders made thereunder or regulations or otherwise to prevent the carrying into effect of any such provisions;
  3. (c) in the case of a notice served under any provision of regulations the relevant ground or grounds of objection shall be such as may be prescribed.

(6) Save as otherwise expressly provided by this Act or regulations any such notice shall not become operative in any event until the expiration of the period within which a reference thereon may be demanded under this section or, if within that period such a reference is so demanded, until the notice is confirmed by the referee or referees.

(7) The quashing under this section of any such notice shall neither be taken to prevent the service by an inspector of a fresh notice nor, if the notice became operative before it was quashed, affect the previous operation thereof.

(8) The Minister may—

  1. (a) constitute such number as he thinks fit of panels of persons from whom referees may be selected for the purposes of references under this section and, as respects each panel, may designate the cases in which it is to be treated, for the purposes of this section, as the appropriate panel;
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  3. (b) make rules for regulating such references and, in particular, for making provision with respect to the cost of such references (including the payment of remuneration and allowances to referees), and for specifying the form of a counter-notice under subsection (2) of this section and the period within which such a notice must be served;
and different periods may be specified by rules under paragraph (b) of this subsection in relation to the service of counter-notices relating to notices served under different provisions of this Act or regulations.—[Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

This was a subject which we discussed at great length in Committee. It is an interesting and a rather peculiar subject, because, although its very importance is evidenced by the Section dealing with it in the old Act, it is not a Section which has been very much used. There have been very few references, perhaps merely by the fact that the power of reference is there, but we know that it is important. We want to make sure that we can provide a convenient, competent and speedy method of resolving any of these questions.

The Clause gives effect to the point much stressed in Committee, which was that we ought to have a competent panel ready which could be drawn upon and could come into operation speedily, and which is composed of thoroughly competent people in mining matters. This Clause does that.

I notice that there is still a further point which hon. Gentlemen have in mind about the actual method of selection from the panel,, and perhaps the House will allow me to say that I appreciate the point made, and that I am prepared to meet it in principle It will be necessary to take some action on the matter in another place, and it will also be necessary to provide an independent person to choose members of the panel.

Mr. William Blyton (Houghton-le-Spring)

This is a very important Clause, because many parts of the mine come within the purview of these tribunals. The tribunals will have to decide disputes on such matters as the construction and maintenance of roads, transport rules, the height and width of travel roads, winding and haulage apparatus, support rules, ventilation, permitted lights, electricity and electrical apparatus, danger from gas and water, safe methods of working, and safe access to working places. The tribunal has to decide any dispute corning before it between the manager and the inspector in relation to the matters mentioned in the Clause.

I have never understood that a lawyer was able to pick his own judge. He has to take his case before the judge appointed by someone else, he cannot object to him, and he has to plead his case in front of that judge. If there should be a dispute between the manager and the inspector about, say, safe methods of working or safe places in which to work, the manager, if he does not like one particular expert on the panel which the Minister will appoint, can say, "I am not having him. I shall go to the Lord Chancellor to try to get someone else." If one goes to the Lord Chancellor the decision is delayed. Here we are quite definite that we want to keep the Lord Chancellor out of it.

Whoever the expert is who is picked from the panel of experts appointed by the Minister for each district, we think that he should be the judge to try the dispute—whether or not the inspector or the manager likes him. If we leave it to the Lord Chancellor, he may put two names in a hat and draw one out—as we used to do in the old days of the minimum wage. We shall have delay from the time of the service of notice. They will argue as to who shall be the referee. They will disagree. The point will come to London and months will elapse before we get a decision on a vital matter.

We therefore ask the Minister for a definite assurance—otherwise we must divide on this Clause—that if he intends to amend the Clause in another place, it shall be to the effect that the expert picked shall be the judge and that we shall not have these squabbles between manager and inspector after notice has been given as to who shall try the case. I should like to ask the Minister to give us some assurance on these matters. May I now move my Amendment, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker

When the Clause has been read a Second time, I shall call the Amendment to which, I understand, the hon. Member has addressed himself.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time.

Mr. Blyton

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, in subsection (2), after the first "to," insert: a person or persons selected in a manner to be prescribed from amongst the members of that one of the panels of persons appointed by the Minister under this section which is appropriate to the circumstances of the case.

Mr. A. Roberts

I beg to second the Amendment.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

I agree that we should get away from this process of two of them choosing who shall be appointed from the panel. We are, however, up against a little difficulty. The Minister can hardly choose, because, formally speaking, the Minister, through his inspectors, is one of the parties to the dispute. I think that we can devise another method of choosing independently from among a panel. I can definitely give the assurance that we shall bring forward proposals in another place to meet that point.

Mr. Blyton

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment to the proposed Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause added to the Bill.