HC Deb 19 November 1954 vol 533 cc708-11

Lords Amendment: In page 36, line 15, at end, insert: (6) It shall be the duty of the manager of every mine with respect to which support rules are for the time being in force to supply to every person employed at the mine whose duties consist of, or include, the setting of supports in accordance with a system specified in the rules, a document explaining either verbally or diagrammatically, or partly in the one way and partly in the other, the effect of the rules so far as they concern him.

The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This Amendment gives effect to an undertaking which I gave in the earlier proceedings, that provision would be made for a commonsense short document containing what the workmen ought to know about the support rules. I hope that the House will agree that this Amendment gives effect to that undertaking. It seems to me to do exactly what is wanted.

11.15 a.m.

Mr. Harold Neal (Bolsover)

On previous occasions, I have expressed my warm approval of this Bill, and I think I can claim a modest share in its creation before it parted company with us to go to another place. It would, therefore, be unwise and inconsistent if I were unduly to delay this final stage in the Bill's development. For those reasons, I want to offer only a brief comment on the Amendment.

I am glad that the Minister has fulfilled the undertaking which he gave on Report. Although a copy of the support rules may be posted underground at the entrance to the district where they operate, we regarded that arrangement as insufficient. Often a notice posted underground and remaining, there for some time becomes indecipherable. Also, as men are passing and repassing such a position, their minds are preoccupied with their work, about the stint which is before them. When they are returning at the end of the shift past the notice that is posted underground they are invariably covered with perspiration and their anxiety is to reach the surface.

Consequently, it is not possible that such a notice underground would be adequately studied by the men who have to operate the support rules. I see in public places, on railway stations and in other places, notices which few people read. We therefore thought that the impact on the workmen's minds would be better if a printed copy of any support rules which were to apply were placed in their hands.

Furthermore, when a change of rules takes place, it is important that the man who has to operate those rules should be informed of the change. If a man changes his employment from one colliery to another, he requires to be apprised of the support rules of the colliery where he has gone to work.

There is one new word in this subsection, in the passage which says: … a document explaining either verbally or diagrammatically … This is an interesting and useful feature, because the National Coal Board has already done a lot to propagate good support by diagrams. If men can have included in the booklet which is to be presented to them diagrams of the support rules which are intended to apply, it will be very useful. If, after having received a copy of these rules as the subsection determines, a man defaults and offends against the law, he can have no excuse. We heartily support this Amendment, in which the Minister has fulfilled his promise.

Mr. T. Brown

I should like to express my appreciation of the fact that the Minister has gone a long way to meet us. As practical pitmen, we know what the posting of notices at the pithead is like. These places, like all the adjacent property, are subject to the dusty atmosphere. Some of the notices which I have seen in the pits could not be read for coal dust.

I know that the Minister is anxious to impart information to the workmen in order that they may be safeguarded and may be fully aware of the regulations operating in any particular mine. We all know that the roof supports differ in various mines, and therefore one general notice would not do. I am glad that the Minister and his Department are prepared to issue a booklet.

I should like to raise one point, on which I pleaded before. I should like to re-emphasise the plea that the booklet or leaflet shall be expressed in simple terms. I observe that there has been introduced into this proposed subsection the word "diagrammatically." The old pitman would not understand that. If the rules that he has got to follow are expressed in simple terms he will admire the man who drafted the leaflet. Let us get away from this legal jargon and express these things in simple terms. My plea on behalf of the men who work in the pits is that they shall be able to understand what is meant by the regulations instructing them in safety in the pits.

Mr. Ronald Williams (Wigan)

Perhaps I may make an observation which will be helpful to my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) on the word "diagrammatically." The object of the insertion of that word is precisely what my hon. Friend the Member for Ince wants. When these booklets are prepared, not only will the explanations be given in words, which may or not be legalistic—I hope that they will not be—but they will be set out in the form of diagrams, which is an extremely good thing. I am very grateful to the Minister for introducing the Amendment, and I feel that he has completely fulfilled the undertaking which he gave.

Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd

If I may speak again, by leave of the House, I should like to re-emphasise what the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) has said, but I sympathise with the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) about Parliamentary language. The word "diagrammatically" conveys to the ordinary man something extremely intricate in the way of draftsmanship, whereas it really means that the words are illustrated by a picture. Perhaps I can give an example which is more in keeping with our activities in the House. We know that from time to time political issues of the day are dealt with by cartoons, to express some particular point pungently, but if we had to mention those cartoons in a Parliamentary statute they would be described as "diagrammatical illustrations."

Question put, and agreed to.