HL Deb 01 August 1842 vol 65 cc891-3
Lord Redesdale

moved the third reading of the Mines and Collieries Bill.

The Marquess of Londonderry

opposed the third reading. The bill had, it was true, been much altered and defaced; it was but a blank sheet to what it was when it came up to them, but still it was hurried through in haste, and founded upon misrepresentation, and it would be far better to delay the matter altogether till next Session, and then examine evidence for themselves. To show the haste with which it was framed, the pet clause of his noble Friend, the President of the Council, enabling a Government inspector to inspect collieries and mines at all times, was absolutely inoperative. The inspector might come, but there was nothing to compel the coal-owner to put him down the pit, or to carry on the work of the pit whilst he was> there. As a coal-owner, he should say to any inspector, You may go down the pit how you can, and when you are down, you may remain there. He meant to say, there was nothing to compel the coal-owner to give any facilities, and if the bill passed in its present shape, he, for one, should not afford any. The alarm that had been created, arose from misrepresentation. The report of the commissioners was filled with cases selected from the worst and most unfavourable mines, and though the favourable mines infinitely exceeded them in number, an impression unfavourable to the whole was thus excited in the public mind. For instance, the chief report consisted of 269 pages—of which there were given to coal mines, 189 pages; iron, 5; tin, copper, lead, zinc, 52; general observations, 23; total, 269. Thus, more than two thirds of the whole report had been lavished on the coal question, which formed but one-sixth of the number of subjects to be enquired into. The number of pages in the chief report devoted to each district was as follows: — Durham and Northumberland, 21 pages; Stafford, 6½; Salop, 3; Warwick, 1½ Leicester, 2; Derby, 11½ Gloucester, 7; Somerset, 2; Cumberland, 5½; Ireland, 1½; Lancashire and Cheshire, 20; York (West Riding), 31½; Wales, 18; Scotland, 27; making 159, and general subjects, 110; the total being 269. Thus, out of 159 pages devoted to specific districts, 96½ are given to bad ones, the balance (62½) being placed to the good and other districts, 21 only being appropriated to Durham and Northumberland; thereby swamping the unobjectionable mines on the plea of purifying the faulty ones. The report had also eighteen pages of woodcuts, exhibiting the different operations in mines in reference to the following districts:—Lancashire and Cheshire, 4; West Riding of York, 4; Gloucester, 1; Wales, 4; Scotland, 5; total, 18. All relating to the faulty districts; not one, as a set-off, being given for the good ones—those of greater magnitude than the bad ones in question. Thus the dark, the repulsive, picture of some is made to apply to all. So much for fair play; and these things, too, in the teeth of the following passage in the chief report, page 259:— That the bad mines are not happily numerous, nor of great extent.

Lord Redesdale

said, as the noble Lord who had charge of the bill was content with the clause, he should not seek to amend it. He did not think the noble Marquess would be willing to brave the inference which would be drawn from throwing any difficulties in the way of inspection.

Lord Campbell

agreed with the noble Marquess in his construction of the clause, and as he bad given fair notice of his intention to prove refractory, it would be well for the noble Lord, to re-consider his determination. As he thought the bill a good one, he should regret if it were left defective in this respect. He should, therefore, suggest the insertion of some words which would require the owners of mines and collieries, or their agents, to furnish, at all reasonable times, the means necessary to enable the inspectors to visit and inspect the different mines and collieries.

The Marquess of Londonderry

said, that this inspection would, in many instances, arrest the working of the collieries, and therefore he hoped that the Government would provide some compensation for any injury which might be sustained in that; respect. He had preferred pointing out this defect to telling the coal-owners of the north, and of Scotland, which he might fairly have done, that the bill was inoperative, as far as regarded the right of inspection. The supporters of the measure ought, therefore, give him credit for some generosity in lending his aid towards its amendment. The whole measure was an evidence of party and clumsy legislation.

Lord Wharncliffe

said, his noble Friend had described the clause as his pet clause. He did not see how that could be, as he was not the father of the measure. He would adopt the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord opposite, and move, that these words be added to the end of the clause— The owners and occupiers of such mines and collieries, or their agents, are hereby required to furnish the means necessary for such person or persons so appointed to visit and inspect such mines, collieries, buildings, works, &c.

Lord Redesdale

had no objection to these words, as he thought they would render the clause more perfect.

Amendment agreed to.

Bill read a third time and passed.