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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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32726. The first inspection has to be reported ? — Yes.

32727. Do you think one inspection is sufficient during
the shift ? — I do not.

You have an observation to make upon that ;
you think there ought to be a second inspection during
the shift ? — Yes, and reported.

32729. That is as to General Rule 4. It is no use pro-
viding that there should be an inspection either before the
shift or during the shift unless it is done by a competent
man ?— Certainly.

32730. The Act of Parliament provides it is to be done
by a competent man ? — Yes.

32731. You think there are cases in which the men
are not competent ? — Yes.

32732. Are those cases frequent in your district ? —
I think they are frequent everywhere ; that is my observa-

32733. In your district ?— Everywhere.

32734. It is rather a strong thing to say that throughout
the country these men, upon whom you suggest, and I
agree, a great responsibility depends for the safety of the
men em^oyed in the mines, are not competent ? — I may
say a large number of them are not. That is, in my
judgment Observation leads me to make that remark.

32735. On what ground do you form that opinion,
from the accidents, or some other reason ? — My chief
ground for saying it is that I have observed these men
at inquests in different parts of the country when they
have given evidence about accidents. I have heaid
reports from men and I have conversed with those men,
and on those grounds I have come to the conclusion that
they were not as competent as they ought to be.

32736. How many of these officials are there in your
district ? — Whatever is provided by the law and the
Special Rules.


Digitized by




Uf. S. H.

5 Dec., 1907.

32737. What number do you suppose there would be in
your district ? — ^There are some at every pit — according to
the size of the pit.

32738. How many pits are there ? — 20 or 30 collieries.

32739. Not more ?— No.

32740. Not more than 20 or 30 in the Bristol, Somerset
and Monmouth district ? — I only represent Somerset : I
am not speaking of Bristol or Monmouthshire.

32741. You say in your judgment throughout the
country there is incompetency amongst these examiners.
What is your reason for that ? You say you have con-
versed with a certain number of these officials at inquests,
and from that and from your observation of their conduct
at inquests you come to the conclusion that those par-
ticidar persons are incompetent ? — Yes.

32742. You blame the whole class. Will vou give me
the number of persons you have conversed wiui upon
which you form this general opinion T — Hundreds in
different districts and at odd times.

' 32743. Over what period does that extend T — Five or
six years.

32744. You have conversed with hundreds of these
people ? — ^Yes.

32745. What particular thing is it that has satisfied you
they are incompetent ? — It is not cmly incompetency, but
it is being over-burdened with work. I put the two

32746. Do you withdraw the suggestion you made, that
in your view the great majority of tne examiners throush
out the country are incompetent ? — I do not say the
majority : I said great numbers.

32747. Do you withdraw that statement, that a number
are incompetent men ? — No, I will not withdraw that :
I believe it.

32748. I want to know why you come to that conclusion ?
— I have told you. I cannot add to it.

32749. You have come to that conclusion by conversing
with men ? — By their conduct at inquests, and from

32750. From whom do you get reports ? — From the

32751. You come to that conclusion through the conduct
of the men at inquests, conversation, and reports from
workmen ? — Yes.

32752. Dealing with the last first of all, what is the
nature of the incompetency the workmen complain of ? —
That men who do not know the full operations of mining
are appointed as examiners.

32753. Have you had any particular complaint made
against a particular man ? — I will not ask for names. —
I cannot give names.

32754. Do they give you a reason why they think this
man is not competent ? — Put it like this, hypothetically.
If a haulier, or a man of that kind, was appointed to be
an examiner, he would be thought to be incompetent
because he had not been a practical coal miner.

32755. Your men complain, and you agree, that no man
who is appointed to one of these posts, unless he has
worked at the face, is fit to do the work ? — Yes.

32756. Therefore on that ground you say a large numbei
are incompetent ? — Yes.

32757. The work these men have to do is the work of
examination ? — Yes.

32758. Do vou consider a man who has worked at the
face and has been five or six years at the face and had no
experience in examining for gases, except in his own par-
ticular place, or in any other way of managing the mine,
is a proper msxi to be put in this nosition ? — He would be
a better man than a man who had not that experience.

32759. You think whatever position a man hcks in a
mine, unless he has worked as a collier he is not fit for
those appointments ? He could not tell whether the roof
is safe if he has not been a practical collier.

32760. Does it follow that because a man has not worked
at the face he cannot examine a roof ? — He cannot tell
whether it is safe or not.

32761. That is your view ? — I am positive about it.

32762. That is why you say many of the present exam-
iners are not qualified to do their work ? — Yes.

32763. Not that you know whether they have made
any mistakes or not ? — I have seen mistakes.

32764. But because tAf^have not worked at the face 7
— I know of cases in wt^^h men have made mistakes : I
have come across them. Of course I have.

32765. Because a man makes a mistake does that
absolutely disqualify him altogether ? — Oh dear no.

32766. That is the reason you say a great number of
these men are not competent ? — Yes.

32767. The other point is that you say they have too
much to do ? — Yes.

32768 If they have too much to do that ought to be
remedied: everybody would agree to that: and they
ought to have sufficient time to make the inspection they
have to make ? — Yes.

32769. Do you think the owner of a mine ought to have
an3rthing to do with it ? — Do you mean with the appoint-
ment of examiners ?

32770. With the m€magement of the mine. — He ought
to manage it absolutely.

32771. If the manager is to be restricted so that he can
only appoint a person who meets with the favour of the
Miners'- Federation, and only appoint from a limited class,
is it fair to leave with him the reeponsibifity for the mine ?
— You are putting into my mouth something I have not

32772. I am putting a supposition ? — I do not agree
with it at all. I would not consider for a moment any
such dictation.

32773. If the owner and the management are to be
responsible, should he not have a free hand in the appoint-
ment of his officials ? — So long as he appoints persons who
can keep workmen safe, and himself.

32774. Is he not the person to judge of that ?— No.

32775. WHio is to judge of it ? — I think a man should
show he is competent by passing a suitable examination.
The man who holds the lives of other men in his hands
and is supposed to know the place is safe, should show
he is capable of doing the work.

32776. Amongst the managers in your district do you
know any competent men ? — Amongst the managers.

32777. Yes, the general managers of the coUiery, the
men who have the responsibility. — Will you tell me what
you mean.

32778. Do you know anybody who is competent ?— I
know a man who started as a pit boy, and who has gone
through all the grades, and is a first-class manager of a

32779. Unless it is the desire of the Managers to cause
danger, what object should they have in appointing other
than people they consider competent to do the work ? —
Some men like cheap labour, whether it is good or not.

32780. That is the only answer you have to give ? —
No, it is not the only answer. I think we are getting away
from the point. My point is this, that the law requires
that a competent person shall examine the mine. I want
to ascertain in the cheapest, quickest and most effective
way whether that man is competent or not. I object to
the lives of men being in the hands of incompetent men.
I want a competent man to examine the mines, and I
think the only way to find out whether a man is a com-
petent man is that he should be examined and hold a

32781. Do you know any colliery manager who does not
want what you want, that the persons who are to examine
these places should be competent ? — I know lots of managers
who prefer cheap men. They may think they are good,
but they like them cheap.

32782. Do you know a colliery manager who would not
wish to do what you wish to do, that is, to secure that the
men who make these examinations are fully qualified ? —
I have no allegations to make against managers.

32783. {Chairman.) It is often the case that a person
has a considerable interest in selecting the best men for a
particular post, but at the same time he is by law often
restricted in his choice. The Lord Chancellor is supposed
to be the man who is responsible for the appointment of
county court judges, and it might reaaonably be supposed
that he would be the man who would appoint the best
men he could get, but we do not entirely trust the Lord
Chancellor to appoint the best men as county court judfces
We insist that a man who is appointed shall have seven
years at the bar first, although the Lord ChanceUor may
think a man who has had two years at the bar is a better
man. — Your lordship has put my view better than I can
put it myself.

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32784. {Mr. Ratcliffe EUie.) With leferenoe to discipline,
after what Mr. Canynghame has put before you as to what
would be the result of your view, do you still say that
discipline should be maintained only by prosecution ? — I
still say I am not in favour of fines being imposed by the
management for breaches of discipline. One conviction
on prosecution has a more salutaiy effect than 100 petty
fines. That is what I said in my statement, and I still
say that.

32785. Notwithstanding what Mr. Ounynghame has
shown you would be the result you still think the same
notwithstanding all the chaos which it would bring
about ? — I put my experience against Mr. Cunynghame's
theory, and hold to my experience.

32786. Tou know a man cannot be fined against his
will ? — If you go to a man with a family and say, ** There
is the fine, or the prosecution, or the sack,'* and he has
not much money, he is apt to choose the least evil to him,
the fine, on purpose to keep his job, and pay the fine
against his own convictions.

32787. You are inclined to choose the greater evil ?
— Let me put it again as shortly as I can. It is because
I believe fines have the contrary effect to what is wanted,
that they tend to laxity of discipline and not higher
discipline, that I am opposed to them.

32788. Do you know that the men very frequently ask
to be fined rather than prosecuted ? — I have heard it said,
but I have not met any of them.

32789. What is this emploipnent of unskilled labour
which vou say conduces to danger ? — I know instances
where farm labourers are taken in the pit.

32790. To do what ? — To work on inclines and road-

32791. To do repairs ?— Yes.

32792. Is that extensive ? Are there many cases where
farm labourers are taken down the pits ? — It is rather
extensive in some districts where they cannot understand
the language.

32793. We are not talking about the Poles, but about
your own district. Is it largely in your district that
agricultural labourers are taken down the pit ? — Not very
largely, but it ought to be prevented, I think.

32794. Is that the unskilled labour you complain of ? —
That is some of it.

32795. Have you had an opportunity of seeing whether
accidents have resulted from the employment of the
agricultural labourer ? — No, X could not say I have.

32796. In your view do the majority of accidents happen
down a pit from the unskilfulness of the workmen, or from
the negligence and carelessness of the workmen ? — That
I could not say.

32797. You have no opinion upon it ? — No.

32798. If a man is an unskilful man and commits an
offence from want of skill, a mere suspension of a day or
two would be no use there ? — I would not employ him.

32799. You would dismiss that man, and if it was not
safe to employ him at your pit it would not be safe to
employ him anywhere else ? — Yes.

32800. That man, notwithstanding he might have a
wife and family, would lose his occupation of that
character once and for aU ? — He may work on the land.

32801. So far as he is concerned he would not have
another chance. The careless man — the manager is
responsible for his carelessness, it may be — may be
resp3nsible, as you are aware ? — He may be.

32802. Have you a right to dictate to the manager and
say in what way he shall maintain discipline ? Should
you have a right to say " You must suspend this man for
a couple of days '' and still leave the manager responsible ?
— I do not want to dictate. I tell him that in my opinion
the system of fining is wrong and foolish, and I have a
right to do that.

32303. You think that he ought not to have a great
amount of discretion as to how he is to maintain discipline,
but only to suspend a man two or three days, and he is
still to remain responsible for this man's carelessness
when he comes back ? Do you not think it is fair that if
you are going to hold the manager responsible for the
competency of the men under his charge, and for their
carelessness, that you should give him a free hand as to
the way he enforces discipline ? — Up to a certain point.
If I think his way of trying to maintain discipline has

32804. And you think it has failed,
has failed ?— Yes.

You think fining

Hr. S, JET.

32805. Now I wiEint to ask you about the Special Rules. _^~~
When you met together in Somerset to consider those ^ ^^^•'
rules, they were not established ? — They were practically

32806. They were not legally established ?— No, but

32807. How do you mean *' practically established " ? —
If the inspector had got to the point, he wanted to get
with the owners (that is the Home Office : the inspector
is the Home Office for the time being in the matter of
Special Rules) I put it to anybody it is not likely that a
deputation of workmen is going to shift him.

32308. He had got the views of the owners ? — And his
own views.

32809. The inspector's own views ? — Yes.

32810. Do you say he is not entitled individually or
collectively to get the views of the owner without at the
same time getting the views of the men ? — I say if the
workmen's intervention in making Special Rules is to be
of any assistance or any good, they ought to be called in
at the commencement instead of at the finish. That is all
I say.

{Mr, Cunynghame,) The Witness said in this particular
instance that Mr. Martin had pledged himself to agree with
the owners before he heard the men's side. If that was so,
I agree with him he should not pledge himself absolutely
cmd I do not think he intended to do it. The Witness
said he really had not much ground of complaint with
regard to this.

32811. {Mr. Batdiffe Ellis,) That was a suggestion from
the Home Office ?— Yes.

32812. Supposing the owner desires to propose a rule
for safety, is he not to be allowed to propose the rule until
he has consulted the workmen and ascertained that they
agree to it ? — I do not mean that. I will tell you what I
mean. If an owner suggests a rule to an inspector

32813. 0/ to the Home Office T— Yes, it is the same
thing, practically. If there is a meeting between the
owner and the inspector, if the men are to come in, they
should come in at the first meeting.

32814. That is to say, the owner is not bound before he
proposes a rule to call the men in ? — Not at alL

32815. Then I thinlc we agree. Then he proposes his
rule and goes to the Home Office ? — Yes.

32816. Then the Home Office must take care that eveiv
man is heard who has anything to say about it, before it is
established ? — ^That is what I mean.

32817. Now with regard to timbering, you hive nothine
to say upon that. In your district the collier does it, £uia
does it satisfactorily ? — Yes.

32818. And generally there is sufficient timber there ?
— ^Yes, generally.

32819. With regard to lamps, all you want to secure is there shall be a proper lamp ? — ^Yes.

32820. You gave an opinion that you did not think any i
lamp perfect. Do you not think it would be an advantage ]
if there was a Government testing station established where
lamps could be tested, the character of the lamp, so to
speak, and they could give a certificate that certain lamps
were sound and suitable, leaving persons who wish to take
the opportunity of buying a good lamp as authenticated
by them 7 — I think it is a good idea. Thev test explosives,
and give permission to use them. I think the same thing
ought to be done with lamp).

32821. That would meet your view ? — Yes.

32822. Upon the point of investigating after an accident,,
and the coroner's inquiiy, a coroner has to inquire into the
cause of death of a person. What do yoii find to be the
difficulty in putting anythmg before the coroner at those
inquiries, I mean pertinent to the object of the inquest T —
I find none, personally. The coroner we have is most
anxious to assist us, and gives us every opportunity.

32823. The only interest you have in a coroner's inquiry,
I suppose, is to see that all the facts in connection with' the
accident come out so far as they are necessary to see how
it can be remedied in future, if there is a mistake or a
mishap of any kind. That is all your object is ? — Yes.

32824. Supposing you find at a coroner's inquiry that
all those facts have not come out, do you not think the
provisions of Section 45 are sufficient to bring them out ?

46 i



Digitized by


Mr. 8. H.


5 Dec., 1007.



The coroner's verdict as it is is not material to your point.
It does not make much difference to you whether the
coroner says there was nobody to blame or somebody to
blame, if the facts all come out. It is information you
want, and not punishment.

32825. If you are of opinion that all the facts have not
come out at the coroner's inquest as it is now, you can
ask for that inquiry ? — ^Yes.

32826. Is that sufficient ? — I do not suggest anything

32827. You are satisfied with things as they are ? —
Yes, from that point of view.

32828. What else do you want at the coroner's inquiry ?
— ^The coroner may, if he thinks fit, decline to allow me
in the court — I will not put it that way.

32820. Supposing he does ? — I want that power taken

32830. Supposing he says that, have you not all the
power you want under Section 46 ? — No. In the Act it
says Uie persons named may be represented at the coroner's
inquiry, subject to the order of the coroner. I want those
words taken out of the Act, and workmen's representatives
to have a perfect right in the court. I also want the
coroner to have no ri^t to hold a closed inquiry.

32831. You mean that there should be an alteration of
the general law ? — Yes.

32832. And not merely an alteration for miners'
inquests ? — I am only dealing with the mines. I mean
tliat an alteration in the Mines Act would suit us.

32833. If it is of sufficient importance to alter it at all,
it would have to be an alteration in favour of the general

eublic ? — I should not object to that It would be all the
stter. I also want persons who are entitled to be at the
coroner 8 court to be represented at the coroner's court,
and I want them to have the power of viewing and to
inspect the scene of the accident as soon after it has hap-
pened as possible.

32834. Who are the persons ? — Relatives of the deceased,
fellow-workmen and several others.

32835. I understood you to say it was a long time
before the inipector visited the scene of the accident ?—
Yes, on account of the distance and tliat sort of thing.

32836. What is the longest time you have known ? —
I have known two or three days.

32837. Do yon not know it is the practice that matters
are left exactly as they are until the inspector does come ?
— ^Nominally so. That is the letter of the law.

32838. I hope we all carry out the law to some extent.
You understand that is the rule ? — That is the letter of
the law.

32830. (Mr.SmiUie.) You are a member of the Executive
of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain ? — Yes.

32840. In giving evidence before this Commission to-day
do you want to confine the opinions you give to the
Somerset district, or do you speak to some extent also on
behalf of the general body of ^e miners of this countiy ? —
I do not thii^ I am entitled to speak on behalf of the
Executive ; I am not instructed so.

32841. Some of the views you have put forward to-day
are not held by your colleagues on the Executive ? — ^That
k so.

32842. They are not held by a very large percentage of
I the miners of Great Britain ? — ^That is so.

32843. With regard to the Special Rules, was that the
amendment you mentioned the only one your workmen
would have proposed ? — No, if we had had an oppor-
tunity of discussing them when they were being framed,
we should very likely have put more amendments. In
the codification of these rules there were very few altera-
tions from those framed when the 1887 Act came into
force, so that it was not a veiy big matter. I am
talking about the principle.

32844. You said you would have proposed in the event
of the miners requiring to leave their places for want of
timber, and because of the fact that the employer was
responsible, that he should put in their pay for loss of
time ?— Yes.

32845. Mr. Cunynghame said the Home Office, if that
had gone in, would have objected to it as vUra vires.

{Mr. Cunifnghame.) You had better not take that ; we
should have to consider it. It might have been objected


(Mr. SmiUie.) Is it J^y a fact that a mines inspector
at one time did put th^^ into one of your Special Rules
and was very anxious to have it in, and that the mine
owners would not have it 7

(Witness.) That is so.

32846. You say the mines inspector may be taken to
be the same as the Home Office ? — Yes.

32847. It is a fact that the mines inspector, probably
with the consent of the Home Offic e

(Mr. Cunynghame.) ReaUy you are putting a little more
than the Witness Imows. How can he Imow that the
Home Office consented to the action of the inspector 7
— I should like to know the name of the inspector.

(Mr. SmiUie.) You will hear in a moment. I suppose
a mines inspector when he puts anything into a rule he is
anxious to become a Special Rule, keeps the Home Office
in touch.

(Mr, Cunynghame.) We will see when you give your
instance. I asked the Witness whether he had com-
municated with the Home Office and he said " No," and
he had no more complaint to make.

(Mr. SmiUie.) Your view was not so much to penalise
the employer, but you think that if the emplojrer was
responsible for the payment of the workmen he would
make sure there was always a supply of timber ?

(Witness.) That is my point

32848. You felt that payment of wages for loss of time
would very seldom arise ? — ^Yes.

32840. It would secure a supply of timber and very
often they have not that ? — Yes.

32850. A mines inspector did really put this into a rule
and fought very hard for it, but the mine owners refused ?
— I saw it in the draft Special Rules.

32851. (Mr. Cunynghame.) Who was the mines
inspector ? — It was the North Staffordshire district in

32852. (Mr. SmiUie.) Will you give the name of the
inspector ? — I forget the name of the inspector. He is
dead now.

32853. Was it in the printed draft of the rules ?— Yes.

32854. That print may be in the Home Office ?— I
expect that print could be found.

32855. That was really the purpose of it. The inspector
felt that would make sure that there would always be a

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 120 of 177)