Great Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on Mines.

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

. (page 117 of 177)
Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 117 of 177)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook



92308. In order to seotiie that no person who ia not
qualified, so far as examination oan prove qualifioation,
diall be appointed to that position ? — Yes.

32309. Ton have no real objeotion to persons who are
not merely working class men gaining five years at the
ooal-face in order to qualify for a mines inspector 7 —
Certcunly I have not.

3^310. The present class of mines inspector you have
ve^ Uttle objection to, but you seem to think that with
their present very great qualifioatioivi they would be
additionally qualified if they had had five years' practical
experience undeiground ?— I do.

32311. That is reajjy your positiou ?— Yes;

32312. Your suggestion is not to limit the appointment
of manfiger^ ai^d mines inspectors to merely working men
so much f« to seci:^:e that ^ey will l^ave the necessary
practical experience ? — That is what I am af ter> I want
efficiency all round. It does not matter to me which
class tiiey come from.

^^a {(Mimum.) Wifih reference to Mr. Ellis's in-
quiry as to why you were dismissed from your position
as an ei^aminer of the mine under Rule 38, you said you
had on previous occasions ^lade bad reports. Had vou
ever made a bad report of a mine on the occasion when
you went into another mine ? — Yes.

32314. You bad made bad reports before 7— Yes, and
also good repoi:ts. I reported as I found things.

3281Q. On previous oooasions you had found no dis-
advantage in having made those bad reports ? — Not
diiectly, because they could not take disadvantage. I
waa paid by tiie workman. J did not suffer myself, but
my family had to suffer.

3^316. ^ow do you mean ?— I had one boy out of work
nearly three years through the action of his fa^he^.

32317. Notwithstanding that they did not take the
objection l^iey might have taken, namely, that you were
a check-weigher and were not eli^ble to make the exami-
nation ?— I expect they suddenly found o^t that the
wording of Rule 38 was against me.


32318. You think you did suffer every time you made Mr.ff. SmUh

a bad report, not you yourself, but you think as they _—

could not get hold of you they got hold of your boy ? — * ^^^'

32310. Your theory is you were disqualified on the last
occasion because they suddenly found out what the law
was 7— Yes, they found out a case which happened 16
years prior to my own in Durham.

32320. A check-weigher appointed under Rule 38, and
that appointment was disallowed as being illegal 7 — ^Yes.

32321. That is your view, at all events* 98 to what
happened ? — ^Yes.

32322. {Mr, SmilUe,) Under your Special Rules a miner
employed at the coal-face is not entitled to go into any other
place than his own working place 7 — ^Not without per-
mission from the manager or under-manager.

32323. He may go into the working place next to him
to look for lost tools 7 — ^No, they will not allow that at
some mines without permission from the management.

32324 Consequently, a person might be employed in
one of your large collieries in Yorkshire for years anid not
know apy part of the mine except the particular district
In which he is himself employed 7 — ^That is what generally

32325. It has been suggested the fact a person works
in a mine specially qualifies him, other things being equal,
to make the examination because he knows the mine so
well. Is it the case that many know very httle about the
mine except the particular part in whidi they work 7 —
80 per cent, do not know about the pit except their own

32326. Consequently, a man who has been a practical
working miner will be quite as able to make an examination
with the manager with him as a person employed in the
mine 7 — Yes, he would be.

32327. {Chairman.) Do you wish to say an3rthing more
to the Conmilssion 7— No. I do not know there is anything .
more I want to say, x


Thursday^ 6th December^ 1907.


Q. H. S. OlTNYNGHAME, Esq., C.B.

F. L. Davjs, ilsq.

Enoch Edwards, Esq., m.p.

Thomas Ratcliffe Ellis, £kq.

Lord MoNKswELL {Chairman),

John Scott Haldanb, Esq., p.b.8.
Robert Smillib, Esq.

S. W. Habris, Esq. {Secretary).

Mr. Samttbl Henry Wpitjihousb, called and examined.

32328. {Chairman.) Whom do you represent 7— The
Somersetshire miners.

32329. You have been deputed by them to give evidence
on their behalf 7 — Yes.

32330. Have you had apy special conference with the
Somersetshire miners with a view to finding out what
their opinions are upon the various points which you are
going to discuss to-day 7 — I have discussed them with the

32331. The proof which has been put into my hands
i^epresents the conclusions which you and the Executive
arrived at in common 7 — Yes.

32332. You say that inspectors shotdd be appointed
on proof of their fitness for the work of the district to
which they are so f^pppinted 7 — Yes.

32333. You think the conditions are so varied in mining
districts that a person who would be competent to carry
out the duties in one district would not necessarily be
able to do so in another district 7^ Yes.

32334-6. I suppose you would meet that, as you say in Mr. 8. H.
your statement, by appointing a board of examiners who WhUehouse.

should exa^iine all candidates for inspectorships, and that

no inspector should be appointed until and unless he 5 Dec., 1907 .

satisfied the board as to fitness for the special wo^k of the

district to which he was to be appointed 7 — Yes. *

32336. You would have some special examination for
a particular district, and if an inspector passed in one
district he should not be able to be transferred to anotiier
district without passing another examination. Is that
your notion 7— That is my idea.

32337-8. Then you say that one of the qualifications should
be that a Government inspector should have at least five
years' experience of tlie working o^ mines in the district
to which he is to be appointed, or in a district which liad
similar conditions. What do you mean by five years'
experience of the working of mines — experience as an
inspector or practical experience as a working miner,
or as an engineer, or what ? — So long as he had practical

Digitized by




Mr, 8. H. I experience, whether as an inspector or a miner or anything
Whitehouse. I of that kind, I should not differentiate. I should be

\ satisfied so long as he had the experience.

5 Dec., 1907. 32339. Then what experience would you consider good
enough T — I think at feast he should have some ex-
perience in the management of a mine.

32340. You think that at all events he ought to have
been an under-manager or something of that sort, for five
years ? — Yes, something of that kind.

32341. Supposing he had been a fireman for five years,
would that be the requisite experience ? — He would have
to be a very good fireman for me to think that he was
qualified for the position of inspector.

32342. But supposing by chance a fireman was an
extremely good man as fireman and had five years* ex-
perience as fireman and perhaps he had a first-class
certificate, as I undomtiind some firemen do have ? — Yes.

32343. Then would you consider that experience was
sufficient to enable him to sit for examination for the
district in order to qualify him lo be an inspector ? —

32344. Do you say then that a man should not be
appointed to inspect a fiery district who had only ex-
perience of a non -fiery district, and vice versa ? — I think
it is obvious.

32345. You go on to say that you think that the Secre-
tary of State should only appoint on the recommendation
of the Board of Examiners. Now, as you are aware, the
Secretary of State 'does as he pleases, and in point of fact
the mines inspectors have to pass a very severe examina-
tion I understand ; but you say it should be compulsory
on the Secretary of State to set up a Board of Examiners
and that everybody who wished to be a mines inspector
should come before that Board of Examiners ? — Yra.

32346. {Mr. Ratdiffe EUia.) You think that not only
this Board of Examiners should be appointed to examine
into a man's qualifications, but that the Home Office
should not be entitled to appoint even a qualified man
unless he was nominated by this Board ? — That is what
I say.

32347. (Chairman,) Then you say that the whole system
of Government inspection should be arranged on a different
basis, and the inspection districts should be so arranged
as to enable the inspector in charge to visi each pit in his
district at least once in three months. How many in-
spectors do you suppose you would want for each district
in order that that might be carried into effect ? — Just
about one or two more than we have now ; but they would
all be allotted to districts — and would be responsible for
their districts. We have three now.

32348. What is your district ? — Somerset — the western

32349. How many are there now ? There are a chief
inspector, and two assistants, I suppose ? — Yes.

32350. Do you think that perhaps another three,
making altogether half-a-dozen inspectors, would be
sufficient ? — Yes.

32351. That is to inspect every pit at least once in
three months 7 — Yes.

32352. But at present, I understand, in all the districts*
including, I imagine, the southern, as a rule each pit
is only inspected once a year ? — I do not think it is
inspected anything like that.

32353. Then do you mean that the present inspectors

I do not do their duty ? — I mean to say that the area is so
large and so much of their time is occupied in clerical work,
in reporting to each other, in travelling, and all that sort
of thing, that they are travelling and doing clerical work
during a great deal of their time.

32354. First of all as to the size of the district in your
southern district, you have three inspectors, and
according to your information I imagine the southern
district should be divided into three parts and each
inspector should be given one district ?— Not necessarily
three parts. I think more than three.

32355. Yes, but supposing you only had those three
inspectors as at present, on that basis, as I understand
you, the three inspectors would not go about the whole
district, but they would each have a district apportioned
to them T — ^Yes.

32356. But then there being only three inspectors in
the whole southern district results in this, that the pits
are not visited even once a year ? — ^I do not think they are.

32357. Then how could half-a-dozen men visit the pits
three or four times a year ?— The system, as I understand
it, is that the chief inspector has to be in constant cor-

respondence with iiis assistants, and the assistants have
to be in constant correspondence with the chief. If the
chief inspector lives in Newport, Monmouthshire, and an
accident occurs in Cornwall, if the chief cannot go himself
he has to find out which of the other two can go, and it
takes a considerable time to find that out. Then the
travelling has to be done, and then the assistant has to
report to the chief and the chief has to put the report in
proper form, and there is time spent in travelling and
time wasted on clerical work and all that sort of thing.
Therefore, if the matter were reorganised on the basis I
suggest twice or three times the number of pits could be
inspected as are at present inspected by the same staff.

32358. By the same number of inspectors ? — Yes.

32359. Therefore, you consider that under your system f
it would only be necessary to appoint double the number I
of inspectors that are at present at work ? — ^I think so. r

32360. Then you take a very different view from many i
of the witnesses who have been before us on behalf of the j
men. You say that there should be no assistant inspec- \
tors, but that each district should have one inspector \
who would be responsible to the Board of Examiners ? — I
Yes, and that office should be open to the best of the \
working men to become inspectors. i

32361. {Mr. Ratdiffe EUis.) To everybody ?— To every- I
body — ^that there should not be three classes or two I
classes, but that there should be only one class.

32362. {Chairman.) Then how would you pay that class ?
Would you pay them on the same scale as the present
inspectors and assistant inspectors are paid ? — ^I should
not lower the salary at alL

32363. Then would you have everybody paid on the
same basis as the chief inspectors ? — ^Yes.

32364. You would have six inspectors in your district,
aU of whom should have the pay of the present chief
inspector ? — ^Yes, I think so.

32365. Then you also add this, which is a new point
to me, that the appointment should be for a term of years,
at the end of which the appointment should be open to a
competitive examination to find out whether the inspector
has kept himself in touch with the advances of the times.
Do you think that the man would be willing to take the
appointment on those terms ? — ^I do. I thmk it is abso-
lutely necessary in the interests of the safety of the miners
and of the property that the inspectors should keep up
with the times.

32366. Do you suggest that there should be at the end
of every number of jrears an examination ? — ^Yes.

32367. At the end of what number of years ? — ^Ten years.

32368. That is to say that at the end of 10 years an
inspector should submit himself to an examination. If
he did not pass that examination what should happen to
him. Do you suggest he should be retired on an allowance
or what ? — Yes. It would pay the country to make an
allowance to get rid of a man who was not competent.

32369. Then you say that the Board of Examiners
should have power to revise the areas of inspection districts
from time to time in order to enable the inspectors to
fulfil their duties. That is to say, that you would place
on the Board of Examiners which you would set up some
of the duties which are at present carried out by the Home
Office ?— Yes.

32370. Then, in point of fact, that Board of Examiners
would, to a veiy considerable extent, take the place of the
Secretary of State ? — ^To some extent, yes. Might I
amplify that by saying that what I mean is that the
coalfields are considerably changing. In some counties
and in some districts mines are opening and in others
mines are closing up, and if one inspector had a district
which was being opened and another inspector had a
district which was being closed, I think that the Board
should have power to revise those districts so as to
give the inspectors as nearly equal work as possible.

32371. But why should not the Home Office do that
now ? — I think the Home Office has plenty to do.

32372. Then you say that provisions should be made
so that any alleged neglect of duty or incompetence on
the part of an inspector, whether such allegation be made
by coalowners or miners, should be properly and fully
inquired into. What sort of provision do you suggest
for that ? — ^That a number of examiners, or a number of
owners, or a number of managers, may make a complaint

if they have good grounds for it, to some court to be named .
and tiie court should inquire into the truth or otherwise
of those allegations.

Digitized by






32373. That some court of inquiry should be set up T
— I think so.

32374. Not an ordinary court of law ? — ^No.

32375. What sort of people would you make the judges
in that court of inquiry ? — I think that is rather outside
my province to say. I will content myself by saying
" a suitable court."

32376. You suggest that a special suitable court should
be set up. You would have a Board of Examiners —
that is one sort of court which you would set up — and then
you would have a further body of men who would decide
only one question, namely, as to the competency of the
Government inspectors ? — Yes.

32377. First of aU, you would have a Board of Examiners
to say whether, in their opinion, a man was qualified;
and then you would have this court to say when they
thought a man had become disqualified ? — ^I lay most
stress upon what I consider the first point, namely, neglect
of duty.

32378. What you would bring before this court would
be not so much incompetence as neglect of duty ? — Yes,
neglect of duty.

32379. Then you say that if an inspector should find
a mine dangerous, he should have power to call in two of
his colleagues from some other similar district, who, if
they confirm the local inspector's opinion, shall join him
in making application to some authority to be provided
(tiiat is another authority) for power to suspend work
in the mine until the danger has been removed. That is
to say, you would give absolute authority to three mine
inspectors to make application to some other authority
witn power to suspend working the mine, and the other
authority to be provided would not be the Home Office,
because the Home Office already has authority to do that,
I imagine, has it not ? Looking at Section 4^ of the Act,
you do not agree that that is sufficient to effect your pur-
pose — to bring the men out of the mine if it is dangerous T
— ^I do not. 1 will tell you in a few words what I do mean.
I have known cases in which the inspector has considered
the mine dangerous, and the manager has not considered
it dangerous. It takes such a long time to put these pro-
visions into operation that the men continue working in
danger while the inspector and the manager are disputing.
What I want to do is to get that matter settled quickly.
I would not depend upon the judgment of either one mana-
ger or one inspector. The inspector is appointed, as I
think, in order to secure safety, and he may consider the
men are in danger and the manager may think otherwise.
Now I would have it, if I possibly could, so that that point
should be settled as quickly as possible ; and if the mana-
ger would not agree with the inspector, the inspector
should call in two others in order to confirm his opinion,
and if they confirmed his opinion those men should apply
for an injunction to stop the working of the mine until
the danger is removed.

32380. That they should apply for an injunction not
to an ordinary court of law, but to a special tribunal
set up for the purpose ? — ^I am not so sure about that.
They might apply to an ordinary court of law, I should

32381. Then you are not very strong on having another
authority ?-No.

32382. You are strong on the point of the Board of
Examiners, and you are rather less strong as to the court
that is to decide with regard to neglect of duty, but you
think there ought to be a court that should decide as to
whether inspectors have been guilty of neglect 7 — Yes.

32383. You have some doubt as to whether it wotdd not
be desirable to set up yet another court who should be the
supreme authority to decide whether or not the men were
to be brought out of the mine ? — I am very strong upon
the thing being done, but as to how it should be done I
am not disposed to suggest.

32384 But you think it quite probable that an ordinary
court of law would be a satisfactory tribunal ? — ^I do.

32385. I think that pretty well covers all you say under
that head. Now we go to the question of inspection by
men under General RjSe 38. You agree with a good many
other witnesses who have been called before us that the
* Act ought to be amended so as to give the men power,
under General Rule 38, to appoint not only persons who
are at the moment practical miners, but who have been
practical miners ? — ^Yes.

32386. Then you abo add, **The restriction contained Mr. S. H.
in the Act that the persons to make the inspection must Whitehou$€,
be working at that particular mine at the tune they are ■ -
appointed, considerably reduces Hie value of the provi- 5 Dec., 1907.

sion made." But that is not so. I understand the word-

ing of the Act of Parliament is that men from any other

mine may be appointed under Rule 38. There is no such
restriction in the Act of Parliament. I believe managers
sometimes object to men from other mines going down
the mine, but I fancy it has been decided that they have
no right to object ?— My reading of the Act is different
to yours.

32387. I think you are wrong there, and that your
second objection to the Act falls to the ground, so that
if the first amendment which you suggest were put in,
namely, that the men should be free to employ men who
have been practical miners, that would meet your view ?
— Yes. I find I was wrong with regard to the meaning of
the Act.

32388. Then what are the reasons why you think men
who have been practical miners ought to be appointed,
rather than that the men appointed should be restricted
to those who are at present practical miners ? — In actual
working, while the law, as you say, gives the miners power
to appoint two from other coUieries, tiie managers generally

32389. But why do you consider it would be advan«
tageous sometimes that men should be appointed who
have not been practical miners ? If your amendment
became law, it would be possible for you to appoint a man
who had been out of the mine for 30 years, and who, say,
had been a tradesman, and had kept a shop for 30 years.
You would not have any limit. Supposing a man has been
five years in the pit and has made himself practically
acquainted with the working of a mine, he would be eh-
gibie under Rule 38, however long he has been out of the
pit ? — ^Well, he is eligible to sit upon a jury to decide at
a coroner's inquest, and if he knows enough for that,
surely he ought to know enough to inspect a pit.

32390. What qualification is there for sitting on a coro-
ner's jury ? I tliought any man was qualified to sit on
a coroner's jury, without special qualification. Surely
he need not have been a miner in oraer to be able to sit
upon a coroner's jury ?— Exactly.

However, you would have no restriction. You
say that however long a man has been out of a pit he
should be eligible under Rule 38 ? — ^Yes, because I think
the good sense of the men would lead them to appoint
the right persons.

32392. Do you suggest that partly because you think
from your experience that the men are afraid to make an
unfavourable report with reference to a mine ? — In some,

So that you think it is desirable to appoint a
man who is not working in the pit, and who perhaps
never expects to work in a pit again in the course of his
life, so that he may not be subject to any influence on the
part of any mine manager or owner ? — ^Yes.

32394. That is one reason T — ^That is one reason.

32395. Have you known any cases in which men have
suffered in any way from giving unfavourable reports ?
— ^They cannot possibly suffer in n^ district where I am
now because they do not get appointed. We do not take
advantage of this Rule 38 for fear of the consequences.

32396. Then you think that if the fear of the conse-
quences was removed by this alteration of the law which
you suggest, you would take advantage of Rule 38 ? —
I do.

32397. How long is it since you have had an inspection
made in your district under Rule 38 ? — ^We do occasion-
ally make them where the mine owners are favourable
to the men doing it. I suppose it has been constantly
done in some pits. In fact I know it is done.

32398. You mean that where you have confidence in
the mine owner, and where you think a mine owner will
not object to be told the truth about his mine, you con-
stantly inspect under Rule 38 ? — Yes.

32399. But where you have not sufficient confidence
in the mine owner so as to be at all certcun that the men
will not get the worst of it if they make a bad report,
Rule 38 has not been put in operation ? — ^That is so.

32400. With regard to the payment of these men vou
do not suggest that they should be paid otherwise than
by the workmen — the miners ? — No.



Digitized by


Jfr. S. H,

6 Beo., 1907



32401. With reference to the inspection by officials
under Role 4, you say that you think the persons appointed
for this purpose should be compelled to undergo a suitable
GoYemment examination to ensure the appointment of
really competent persons, and that the class of persons
appointed as examiners are not always competent to carry
out the duties contemplated by this rule ? — Yes.

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 117 of 177)