§ 27 and 28. Mr. Robert Howarth
asked the Minister of Power (1) if he will require the National Coal Board to furnish him with a full report of the accident which cost four lives on 16th April last at the old Brackley Colliery, 17 Bolton; and if he will take steps to ensure that all reasonable measures are taken to prevent a recurrence of such an accident.
§ (2) how many derelict colliery workings exist in the North-West area; and if he is satisfied that all reasonable precautions are being taken by the National Coal Board to protect people, particularly children at holiday time, from hazards at such sites; and if he will make a statement.
§ 30. Mr. Thornton
asked the Minister of Power if he will cause an investigation into the circumstances in which three Farnworth children and a Bolton fireman lost their lives in the disused Brackley Colliery, Bolton; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Freeson
I apologise for the length of my Answer.
Both my right hon. Friend and I greatly regret this accident and would like to express our sympathy to the parents of the children who lost their lives and to the relatives of the fireman who lost his life in a rescue attempt.
Under the Mines and Quarries Act, 1954, the owner of an abandoned mine is responsible for providing and maintaining an efficient device to prevent accidental entry into any of its shafts or outlets. If the device is not provided or is not properly maintained, the shaft or outlet is deemed to be a statutory nuisance under the Public Health Act, 1936, and the local authority has powers to effect a remedy.
The National Coal Board tells me that the outlet in question had been sealed off by brickwork and was believed to be safe. However, a careful investigation is being made by the Board into this accident.
The Board owns about 57 derelict colliery sites in the North-West area, and ensures that its old shafts are regularly inspected, adequately protected, and the devices properly maintained.
§ Mr. Howarth
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply and particularly appreciate his expression of sympathy for the parents of the children and the relatives of the fireman who lost his life when trying to save the lives of the children. In response to his remarks about the number of such sites, may I draw his 18 attention particularly to Question No. 28, since this is a particular problem in the North-West? Will he consult with the Minister of Housing and Local Government to see if additional steps might be taken to protect people in general and children in particular?
§ Mr. Freeson
The point to remember here is that in the North-West there are thousands of such shafts outside the ownership of the National Coal Board. Although these do not come within the purview of my Department, I will certainly undertake to consult my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government.
§ Mr. Thornton
While appreciating my hon. Friend's expression of sympathy, may I ask him to look very closely indeed into the circumstances in which only a part of the shaft about which we are speaking was bricked or concreted and why it was possible for a small opening to be made by soil erosion or by the scraping of the soil, thereby enabling these crildren to gain entry to this lethal chamber?
§ Mr. Freeson
My hon. Friend will understand that I cannot comment on the possible ways in which this opening was effected. That will be a matter for investigation. As I have indicated, the N.C.B. has already embarked on the necessary investigation.