HC Deb 06 April 1911 vol 23 cc2576-8W

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) whether he is aware that on Monday night, at the North Staffordshire Mining Institute, a statement was made by Mr. F. H. Wynne, His Majesty's inspector of mines, that he doubted whether there was an explosive on the permitted list which would not, under certain circumstances, cause an explosion in the presence of gas, without coal-dust, or in the presence of coal-dust, without gas; and to the statement made by Mr. A. M. Henshaw, at the same meeting, that two permitted explosives had given off visible flame, and that in one case of a permitted explosive, largely used, the coal was ignited; whether, in view of these statements on matters so gravely affecting the life and property of all connected with coal mining, he will cause full inquiry to be made into the truth of the above statements at an early date; and (2) whether his attention has been called to the fact that Mr. J. T. Stobbs, instructor in charge of the Stoke-on-Trent Mining School, has stated that his pupils had assisted him in keeping a record of cases where flame had been caused by permitted explosives of the highest repute, and that the record ran into teens; whether he will at as early a date as possible ask to be supplied with the list of permitted explosives that are said to have failed in the manner indicated; and whether he is prepared to suspend the use of such permitted explosives as may be mentioned in such list until the truth or otherwise of the statement is established?


I will answer this and the subsequent question of the hon. Member together. I was not aware of the particular statements referred to in the questions; but I am advised that it is a fact well established and generally known that all explosives emit flame on detonation, but the flame is not necessarily such as will ignite gas or dust. That depends on the temperature and duration of the flame. It has never been contended, however, that it can be said of the explosives which pass the Home Office test or of any known explosives, that in no circumstances can they cause an ignition, and this has been repeatedly pointed out in official documents emanating from the Home Office. Their use is allowed only under stringent conditions as to the mode of firing and the absence of gas. The question of instituting a new and severer test is now under consideration, and it will, I hope, be brought into force in the course of this year. As regards the case in which coal is said to have been ignited, I am advised that this was no doubt due to one of the cartridges in the shot igniting and not exploding. The fire was easily extinguished.