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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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mine where men are to work or pass, and shall keep the
same free from all obstructions, and of the height and
width necessaiy for proper passage and for ventilation."
Do you think that meets the case ? — Is that with reference
to the haulage roads ?

31475. Yes ? — If they are kept free from obstruction.

31476. It says, "shall make careful inspection of the
whole roadways from the pit-bottom throughout the mine
where men are at work or pass " : that applies to what
you call the gates also, because men have to pass along
the gates ? — I prefer in that connection that a special
examination be made periodically. There is the daily
examination at present.

31477. Examination is another matter : you see that
is done : but as regards what you think ought to be done,
that rule I imagine would meet your view and do all you

. require — if it was carried into effect ? — If it was carried
into effect.

31478. We come now to the question of winding engine-
men. You say they ought to have certificates of com-
petency. Are they competent at present ? — They are
not compelled at present to hold certificates.

31479. I know they are not, but are they in your opinion
competent for their work, notwithstanding that. Can
you point to any accident which has occurred in your
district owing to an engineman not being competent, or
making a mistake ? — I could point to accidents that have
occurred, decidedly.

31480. I mean accidents that have occurred owing to
the incompetency of winding enginemen. Accidents may
occur from various reasons ? — ^Yes, they may. Some
time ago, in connection with the Hemsworth Colliery, we
had very serious complaints on behalf of the men as to
the qualifications of the men under whom they were
expected to ride.

31481. They complained and said they were not properly
qualified ? — l?hey complained that they were not properly
qualified and that they were bumping them up and down
in the shaft.

31482. You say that those men complained to you that
the winders were not up to their work ? — They did.

31483. And you think it was a just complaint ? — Yes,
at the time we thought it was a just complaint.

31484. Did you complain, or did anybody on the part
of your Association complain, to the managers ? — ^Yes.

31485. What happened ? — The inspector was written
to, I believe, and he came to the colliery : but I think in
spite of the complaints of the men there was no alteration.

31486. The same men were kept on ? — ^The same men
were kept on.

31487. Then I suppose the inspector satisfied himself
' that in his opinion the men were competent men : I should

imagine he looked into the matter. Then you say that
cages uBed for the purpose of lowering or drawing men
should be provided with gates to prevent men falling
or being thrown out. It has been suggested to us, I think.



by one'^witness, that these gates might by a possibility be
the cause of an accident instead of preventing it, and that
there was an instance in one case of a man desiring to
jump out of the cage suddenly to prevent an accident
being stopped by the gate, and either losing his life or being
badly injured — I forget which. However, in your opinion,
the advantages would outweigh the disadvantages very
greatly ? — In my opinion the advantage is with the gate.
We have a great many cases of men falling out or being
thrown out.

31488. (Mr. Smillie.) You can give some recent in-
stances ? — Yes, we had a very serious case within the
last month.

31488a. — (Chairman.) I know quite lately there were
several men killed ? — Yes.

31489. Do you know of any other case of men being
killed by reason of the want of a gate ? — I have not the \ .
cases in mind, but I think it is pretty well a matter of ] f
common knowledge that men have been thrown out of f -
the cage at different times, and have also fallen out through / /
attach of sudden sickness. i/

31490. Then as regards ambulance under Rule 34, you
say that that rule is too vague and that proper ambulance
appliances should be kept in each district, and men should
be employed near to the ambulance station who have
qualified in ambulance work ? — ^Yes.

31491. You say that it should also be made compulsory
for the owners to provide an efficient ambulance carriage
for the purpose of removing injured workmen to their
homes. I understand that things are becoming much
better as regards the ambulance service. Are not the
mine owners taking up the matter now ? — ^Yes, it has
been taken up better of late years.

31492. But still you think there is a good deal of room
for improvement ? — I think it is desirable that in the dif-
ferent districts of the mine there should be some ambu-
lance provision for each separate district. At the preBent
time I know of cases where the ambulance appliance is
merely kept at the pit top a mile or a mile and-a-half
away from where the men are working.

31493. You think there ought to be ambulances down I
below at certain separate dutances, is that so ? — ^Yes, ••

in the separate districts of the mine. . <J

31494. Down below and- not above T — Yes. i

31495. How would you define a district for which an
ambulance ought to be provided ? Would you say, for
instance, that an ambulance should always be within a
quarter of a mile of every man who was working, or what
sort of provision would you desire ? — ^The co&eries are
generally split up into districts, and a deputy would have
charge of a certain district.

31496. You would take that as a district and Buggest
that each deputy's district should have an ambulanccL
Is that your suggestion 7 — ^Yes, I think that would be a
good idea.

31497. With regard to safety lamps you say, *'I am
of opinion that it is desirable that the use of safety lamps
should be extended to all collieries where gas is foimd." /
Do you mean in however small quantities gas is found 7
— Yes. I should say whertf there is a report of gas safety
lamps should go in.

31498. And that they should remain in for ever — or
should there be any provision for taking them out again 7
— While gas remain^ in the mine, I should say lamps
should remain in.

31499. That they should always remain in — that there
should be no provision that they should ever be taken out
again, even where gas was not seen for some years 7 —
While gas was found in the mine decidedly lamps should
continue to be used. If there was no gas in the mine
of course it would be another matter.

31500. But where gas was once found there would always
be a possibility of finding more ? — Just so.

31501. So that you would say that wherever gas is
found, the mine should always afterwards be worked
by safety lamx>8. That is what I understand you to want 7
— Unless it could be clearly proved that there was no gas
existing of any kind in the mine.

31502. If gas was found in a mine what sort of proof
could you have that no gas would ever be found in the
mme 7 — It is not probable that that report would ever
come.

31503. (Mr. Smillie.) Supposing your report books
were signed that there were no signs of gas for six months,
would you not take it that if the report was an honest one«



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there was no gas in the pit ? — If the report book was signed
say for 12 months ( I would not be satisfied with six months)
that no gas was found in that pit, then the matter might
be reconsidered.

31504. (Chairman.) Then perhaps it might be open to
discussion as to whether the use of safety lamps should
be abolished ? — The matter might be reconsidered.

31505. With regard to enquiries you say, '*! consider
it desirable that when a member of a trade union is killed
in the course of his employment, his society should have

l the right to be represented at the inquest, and to take
*part in the proceedings." Section 48, Sub-section 8,
says that **Any relative of any person whose death may
have been caused by the explosion or accident with respect
to which the inquest is being held, and the owner, agent
or manager of the mine in which the explosion or accident
occurred, and any person appointed by the order in writing
of the majority of the worlunen employed at the said mine,
shall be at liberty to attend and examine any witness,"
and so on. That is not enough for you ? — No.

31506. But then any workman might appoint any
member of the trade union to attend under this provision,
might he not ? — "any person appointed by the order in
writing of the majority of the workmen employed at the
said mine." I suppose you would have no difficulty in
getting the majority to agree as to a union official or
someone to represent the workmen ? Is there any diffi-
culty found in working that provision ? — We have a diffi-
culty. We have a coroner in our district who has held
that an order should be signed by the majority of the work-
men. It is difficult to get an order signed by a majority
of the workmen.

31507. The section says, '*. . . appointed by the
order in writing of the majority of the workmen." You
think that the rule might very well be altered to say that
certain persons should be definitely considered to be re-
presentatives of the men, and that say a reasonable number
of the men, a dozen or twenty, or something of that kind,
should be empowered to say, * * We appoint so and so on
our behalf," and unless the other men objected that ap-
pointment should hold good without your being compelled
to show that the majority of the workmen desired that
particular person to act for them ? — ^We think that where
a man is a member of our society, we should have a right
to attend at the coroner*s inquest.

31508. Which man ? There would be a good many
men. — Any man who might happen to be killed and who
is a member of our Society.

31500. You mean that if a member of your Society is
killed, any member of your Society could go and represent
l^im. But surely that would lead to a good deal of con-
fusion ? — No, we do not seek that. We ask that as a
Society we should have a right to be represented.

31510. That is to say, you would not call upon the
workmen of the pit to specially appoint a man, but you
would say that wnen a member of your Society was kmed
the secretary of the Society, or any responsible official,
could give notice in writing, say to the manager, that so
and so was appointed to attend the inquest and that that
should be held sufficient ? — Yes — that he was appointed
by our Society, and that the man was a member of our
Society and that he had given notice to the manager.

31511. You think that if the manager got a note from
a responsible member of your Society to say that so and
so was appointed to represent the man, it ought to be the
law that that should be sufficient for the coroner to admit
him to the proceedings to represent the relations of the
man who was killed ? — Yes, that if he gave proof that he
was appointed by the Society, he should be admitted to
the inquest and take part in the proceedings.

31512. You say you have had difficulty— that coroners
have said you must show that a man has been appointed
by the majority of the workmen, and that it has been
rather difficult to show that ? — Yes.

31513. YoU say also that the inquiry provided for in
Section 45 should be held in serious accidents causing
loss of life, when required by either side ? — ^Ycs.

31514. That is as to formal investigation when directed
by the Secretary of State. You say ** when required by
either side." What evidence do you think would be
necessary in order to show that further inquiry was
required by one side or the other ? Would you say that
any person who was at all interested — any relative of the
person who was killed — should have the power to compel
the Secretary of State to hold an inquiry, or how would
you work it ? Would you say that if anybody was present,
for instance, at the coroner's inquest and dissented from
the verdict, or dissented from some of the findings of the



jury with regard to the cause of the accident, or anything jf^^, /. €hii4t
of that sort, he should be able to force a second inquiry, *— ^ —
or how would you limit this right to have a second inquiry. 4 Dec. 1907.

You must limit it somehow, I suppose. I want to know

what you mean by " when required by eitiier ude."
" Either side," means, I suppose, either in the interests
of the man who was killed or in the interests of the owners
or managers of the mine ? — Either the worlonen's or the
owner's side.

31515. You mean, I suppose, that if one party was
dissatisfied with the verdict of the jury on one ground,
or another party was dissatisfied wim the verdict of the
jury on another ground, either party who was dissatisfied
might have an inquiry as a matter of right, as I under- .
stand ? — We seek to be represented at the inquest first of y
all.

31516. But supposing you are represented at the
inquest, that there is a certain man who has been deputed
by the Trade Union to represent the interests of the men
we will say at the inquest : then suppose that man who
represents the interests of the men is dissatisfied with the
verdict of the jury, or with the reasons they gave, or as
to the way in which the inquiry has been carried on, or
with some other matter : would you give him power to
insist upon a second inquiry: supposing everyone else
agreed that it was all right, ought this representative
of the man, in your opinion, to have the power to force
a second inquiry, even although everybody agreed with
the first inquiry ? — I would not give him tiie power, but
give his Society the power.

31517. Then he would issue a report to the Society
to say that he was dissatisfied, and then the Society would
look into the matter, and if tJie Society came to the con-
clusion that he was right and that the inquest was un-
satisfactory, the Society could by a vote compel the
Secretary of State to hold a second inquiry. Woiild that
be what you wish ? First of all, you would, I understand,
give the Society power, on the representation of the man
who represented the Society at the inquest, to oaU, as a
matter of right, for a second inquiry ? — Provided the
Society confirmed his opinion.

31518. Yes, I say supposing the Society confirmed his
opinion ; but then it is suggested to me that he might
not belong to the Society. How would you work it then :
would you allow any relative to ask for a second inquiry ?
— Well, I am representing the Society.

31519. You do not feel called upon to give an opinion
as to what should happen in another case. I suppose
you would say that with regard to the men's side, where
a man is a member of your Society, the Society ou^ht,
if a member of theirs is killed, to have the power, if they
think right, to force upon the Secretary of State a second
inquiry. That, I understand, is your opinion. But now
supposing the other side are dissatisfied, supposing that
the mineowner or a man against whom a verdict of
manslaughter has been recor(^ objects to the way in
which the inquiry has been conducted, would you allow
the man against whom a verdict had been recorded, or
any mineowner or mine 'manager who was dissatisfied
in the same way to force an inquiry by the* Secretary of
State ? — I say ** either side " ; the other side is the mine-
owner, in my opinion.

31520. {Mr. Batcliffe EUis.) Supposing there is an
inquiry held, and the coiurt comes to the conclusion
that a man ought not to have been sent to trial for man-
slaughter, what would you do then ? Would you give
it power to set aside the verdict of the coroner's jury, or
how would you deal with it ? It would be a complicated
state of things. Here is a man committed for man-
slaughter who would in the ordinary course* take his
trial at the Assizes, and of course that has to be stopped,
and he would say, "I want to appeal from the verdict
of the coroner's jury and I want an appeal to the Home
Office," and, then, supposing the result of the inquiry
was tiie conclusion that he should not be committed for
manslaughter, would yon do away with the verdict of the
jury, or in what way would you deal with that committal ?
— You see I am not a lawyer.

31521. But then you are offering suggestions upon the
matter.

{Chairman.) I suppose you would say that the lawyers
must fight that out amongst themselves.

{Mr. RaUliffe EUis.) A very complicated question would
arise under those circumstances.

{Witness.) You get there the question of a man's criminal
liability in law.

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MINUTES OF EVIDENCE :



Mr. J. Quest, (Chairman.) If a man had a verdict of manslaughter

* _! — ' found against him by a coroner's jury, and if he was re-

4 Deo. 1907. habilitated by a subsequent inquiry, I take it the strong

probability would be that even if that prosecution went

on the grand jury would throw out the BiU, so that I do
not suppose there would be any very great difficulty in
dealing with it as a matter of fact.

(Mr. F. L. Davis.) But I think Mr. Ellis's point is this,
that if the Federated Society is going to have the chance
of sayinff "We will have another inquiry," anybody
interested should also have the same opportunity ?

(Chairman.) I understand the Witness to say that he
would put it in the power of the mine owner or manager —
he does not exactly say by what process, but by some
process or other — ^to insist upon a second inquiry if dis-
satisfied with the inquest

(WUnesa.) Just so.

31522. (CJuiirman.) I do not imagine that you would
object to the Torm of inquiry when it takes place, because
the sub-section dealing with it is : " The Secretary of State
mav appoint a competent person to hold the investigation,
and may appoint any person or persons possessing legal
or special knowledge to act as assessor or assessors in hold-
ing the investigation." You would have no objection to
that, I imagine. Then Sub-section 2 : " The person or
persons so appointed (hereinafter called the court) shall
hold the investigation in open court, in such manner and
under such conditions as the court may think most
effectual for ascertaining the causes and circumstances
of the explosion or accident, and enabling the court to
make the report in this section mentioned/* Would you
be Satisfied with a second inquiry which was held by a

Serson appointed to hold the inquiry by the Secretary of
tate, or would you sav that there ousht to be some
permanent board established which would hold the inquiry
rather than the person appointed for that purpose by the
Secretary of State T — ^I have not gone into the question of
the Boaxd. What we are complaining about is not the
present inquiry, but that we have no right to that inquiry.

31523. Then, at all events, you are not authorised by
your Society to make any suggestions as to the nature
of the inquiry. The nature of the inquiry is fixed under
Section 45 of the Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1887, and,
so far as that goes, you are satisfied with the nature of the
inquiry that is helcC as I understand, but what you want
is to be able to compel the Secretary of State to hold the
inquiry under certain circumstances ? — Yes, under certain
circumstances.

31524. You do not complain of the nature of the inquiry
at all, or of the method of proceeding under Section 45,
as I understand. That is not a question, apparently,
which you have gone into much ; you have not gone into
the question of the kind of investigation set up under
Section 45 ? — ^No.

31525. You merely say that you wish Section 45 to be
put into operation oftener than it is ? — ^That is so — with
regard to the rieht of these inquiries. No doubt we
thought it desirame to have the right before we discussed
the constitution of the inquiry.

31526. However, now and then there is an inquiry
under Section 45, so that if you are dissatisfied with the
method of^inquiry under the Act of Parliament we should
like to know what objections you raise ; but, apparently,
that is not a point which you have considered ? — No.

31527. (Mr. Cunynghame.) I am not going to ask
too much about Section 45, but there seems to be an
impression among the Trade Union societies that Section 45
has not been used sufficiently — ^that there have not been
enough of these inquiries. Is that so ? — It is the opinion
of our Society that in these cases of serious accidents
the fullest inquiry possible should be made.

31528. Of course it is necessary in the case of an accident
to find out about it, but I am asking you another question :
is it tibie impression of your Society that Section 45, to
which your attention has been called, has not been suffi-
ciently used — that the powers under it have not been
exercised sufficiently ? — Yes, that is our opinion.

31529. Can you mention any case which gives weight
to that opinion and which supports that opinion ? Can
you mention any case of an accident in which an inquiry
was not held and in which you think an inquinr ought
to have been held. I am not aware of one myself. I am
not laying any trap for you. I do not know of such a
^ase, but I shoula like to know whether you do ?—
I am not prepared to quote a case at the present time,
but there is a general impression abroad that there have
been cases of that description : and the very fact that we



have not the right to dexO^Hd an inquiry may cause us
not to make that application — may affect the question of
the appUcation.'

31530. I do not see what the fact that you have or have
not a right to demand the inquiry has to do with the ques-
tion whether you are able to name any case in which an
inquiry ought to have been held that has not been held.
That is what I want to come to. You cannot name any
case at present ? — Not at present.

31531. I do not think there has been any application
made by your Society to the Secretary of State for an
inquiry ? — Not that I am aware of.

31532. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) The Chairman, in dealing
with the early part of your statement, asked you whether
you represented the Yorkshire Miners' Association ? — Yes.

31533. You are a member of their executive, I suppose ?
— I am the vice-president of the Society.

31534. You come with the knowledge and consent of
the executive of your Society ? — I am appointed by the
Society.

31535. When you were asked about the inspection you
expressed an opinion about Yorkshire and said you thought
Yorkshire would require twice or three times as many
inspectors as there are now ? — ^Yes.

31536. What is the number of men employed in York-
shire underground — about 100,000 ?— I should say it is
over that.

31537. You have now three inspectors ? — Yes.

31538. A chief inspector and two assistant inspectors ?
—Yes.

31539. You are familiar with the text of the Bill that
was before the Miners' Conference. Are you familiar
with the clause with reference to inspectors, which pro-
poses one for every 10,000 men ? — Yes.

31540. Twice or three times the number of inspectors
would not give one for every 10,000 men ? — ^No, it would
not, but I think I mentioned 10 inspectors.

31541. I understood you to suggest that the county
should be divided into three districts rather than being
one district ? — Yes.

31542. There you get a chief inspector and an assistant
under the chief mspector in each district ? — Yes.

31543. What amount of time will be taken up now by
the inspectors in travelling in Yorkshire ? What distance
do they live from the collieries ?— Our coal area is very
large. I should say it extends for at least 50 miles. That
is under the control of these inspectors, consequently a
very large amount of time is taken up in traveUmg to the
respective collieries.

31544. They do not live all in one centre ? — No. Mr.
Mellor lives at Outwood, and Mr. Walker at Doncaster.
Those places are 18 miles apart.

31545. If the district was divided you would have less
travelling ? — Yes.

31546. The inspector would be able to do his work in
less time ? — Yes.

31547. You have no complaint to make about the
present inspectors or the way they do their work ?— We
do not complain about the work so far as it is done, but
we complain that they are not able to do it. Take a case
of an accident : an inspector may have to travel possibly
30 miles to the scene of the accident, and when he gets
there in all probabiUty he has to change and go down the
colliery, and when he gets to the scene of the accident it
is time to come back. We contend a very large proportion,



Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 109 of 177)