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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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supply of suitable timber, if the employer was held
responsible for the loss of time ? — Whatever his motive
for putting it in was, he put it in and fought for it.

32856. Is it not rather a cruel system to put the respon-
sibility on the workmen to withdraw if there is not a supply
of timber ? — I think so.

32857. Is it not very likely that they undertake veiy
serious risk for want of timber, because they Imow that
they must get their wages to live ? — I think so.

32858. It may be for days they may work under dan-
gerous conditions rather than lose the time ? — I think so.

32850. Mr. Ounyng:hame put it to you that after all
there was very little in this objection of yours about the
codification of those Special Rules and the alteration of
them, and you said there is very little in it You meant
very little in this particular thing, but not in the principle
for which you contend ? — I am very strong on the principle
for which I contend. When I said " Very little," I meant
there was very httle about this recent business. If a
new Mines Act is passed and Special Rules established
as they were in 1887, I am strongly of opinion that the
course I suggest ought to be carriwi out, and it ought to
be provided for.

32860. (Mr. Cunynghame.) The men ought to have an
ample opportunity of making their wishes felt before a
decision is come to. I am fiure you may take it that we
agree with you ? — Yes.

32861. (Mr. SmiUie.) Supposing an employer desires to
establish new Special Rules, at the present time you agree
with Mr. Ellis that he should be entitled to propose those
and send them to the Home Office ? — ^Yes.

32862. Are you aware that the Miners' Federation of
Great Britain is veiy strongly against that; that they
have discussed the matter and are very strongly against
it ? — ^No ; I was not aware of it

32863. Who has the right to object ; is it not the
persons employed in a mine ? — I should like to amphfy
what I said to Mr. Ellis. What I mean is this : it would
be very wrong in my opinion to say that an owner of a

^e I

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r mine should not be allowed to make suggeetionB as to a
new Special Rule. I think an owner or a mine should
be allowed, if he thinks fit, to make a suggestion as to a
Special Rule, but if the Home OfiSoe accept that suggestion
and it goes any further, I think that the Home Office
1 should see that the workmen have as great an opportunity
1 of discussing that rule they have to observe as the owner
has after he has made the suggestion.

32864. (Mr. Cunynghame,) It would be veiy wrong
if they have not. I should like to say that T — Under the
present system we have not. That is why I am talking
about it.

32865. {Mr. SmiUie,) Who do you think should be the
most interested in Special Rules for safety underground ?
— I think at all times, when the Special Rules have to be
overhauled, the Home Office should be the authority to
suggest Special Rules. I am talking now about rather
an individual colliery owner who thinks he wants the rules
as to timbering altered. I think he ought to be able to
make a suggestion, but if a new Mines Act comes into force,
I think the Home Office should be the persons to suggest
the rules.

32866. Who do you think should be most deeply in-
terested in the Special Rules for safety underground ? —
The workmen themselves.

32867. Those who risk their lives ? — Certainly, the
workmen themselves.

32868. Do you think the men should have power to
initiate Special Rules for their own safety and send them
to the Home Office ? — I think it would be desirable that
they should.

32869. If you give the employer the right to do so
would it not be fair and just to give the workmen the
same right ? — I certainly would.

32870. Or, in the event of Special Rules being required
for safety, I think your idea was that there should be a
joint meeting ? — A joint committee.

32871. With the mines inspector who may be present 7

32872. If possible, agreement on the Rules ? — ^That is
my suggestion.

32873. There would be very little likelihood of the Home
Office objecting to rules mutuallv agreed to between the
employers and the workmen with Hie inspector there T —
None, I should think.

32874. Rules initiated and agreed to by that means
would be more likely to be carried out than they are if
the workmen have no voice in the making of them ? — If
the inception of the Special Rules is part and parcel of
the business of the men as well as the employers, they
will endeavour to make workable rules, and after having
made them will carry them out

32875. There have been Special Rules which were barely
-workable. Some of those it is almost impossible to carry

out ? — I think so. '

32876. Sometimes timbering and spragging rules are
impossible to carry out ? — I think so.

32877. Would it be possible at the present time for a
wealthy coUiery owner who may open up a mine in some
part of the country with his own money, to appoint any
person he thought fit as manager of that mine ? —
Certainly, so long as the manager had a certificate.

32878. It is his own property ? — Certainly.

32879. Mr. Ellis suggested a person should be entitled
to appoint any person he thought fit to look after his
own property. You do not admit he could do that. The
person he appointed must hold a qualified certificate 7 —

32880. Consequently, that owner is interfered with to
the extent that he must appoint a person holding a certain
certificate ? — Which the Board of Examiners have declared
to be competent.

32881. And the manager of a mine, you think, should
be no more entitled to appoint an examiner or a fireman who
did not hold a certificate than an owner should be entitled
to appoint a person to manage a mine 7 — I hold that view
very strongly.

32882. Are you of opinion that the safety of men under-
ground depends to a greater extent on the competence
and knowledge of the fireman than that of the general
manager ? — ^luch greater.

32883. From the point of view of safety you think the
examiners who examine every morning are of more im-
portance than the manager 7 — Much more importance.

32884. While you have not given individual cases, you
are strongly of opinion that some persons are appointed
for that purpose who are not fully qualified 7 — I am fully
of that opinion.

32885. I do not know whether you have gone Hie length
of saying what qualification would be necessary. You put
in practical knowledge as one of the first things necessary
for a person to be appointed an examiner. Would a
person holding a second-class certificate be sufficient 7 —
I think so. I happen to know that the examinations for
under-managers are somewhat stif^, formal and catchy.
I think some, examination of that class would qualify.

32886. Are those Special Rules, so far as you know,
carried out by the management at your mines 7 — So far
as really practicable they are.

32887. What about Rule 20. You have told us that
the place mutually agreed upon where the timber is to be
found is at the pit bank witii you 7 — Yes.

32888. Is that carrying out Rule 20 7— We think it is.

Mr, 8, H.

6 Dec., 1907.

Is that a place as near a working place as is
reasonably practicable 7 — It is interpreted to mean that.
My reply is that the system in force seems to me to be
quite satisfactory.

32890. The men are quite satisfied with it 7 — Yes.

32891. Do you really think it is carrying out that rule 7
— I do not think it is hterally.

32892. You are strongly against fining, because you
believe it does not lead to discipline 7 — Yes.

32893. It is put here that a workman himself would
prefer being fined if he has committed any fault* rather
than going to Court. I think that is so 7 — Yes.

32894. The majority of your men at the present time
are of opinion that fines should not be mflicted but
prosecution or dismissal should take place 7 — ^That is so.

32895. I suppose you think in the eye of the law at
least the worlonen and the employer or owner should be
placed on an equal footing 7 — I do.

32896. If fining for an offence against the Act or the
Special Rules is right and proper so far as the workmen is
concerned, would it not be right and proper so far as the
manager is concerned 7 — ^Yes, but it is not provided for.

32897. Nobody would suggest putting it into the hands
of the mines inspector to fine a manager for the breach of
the Mines Act 7 — I would not : I would like him prosecuted
after warning.

32898. If it is wrong in the case of a manager, it must
for the same reasons be wrong in the case of workmen 7 —
That is right.

32899. There are a considerable number of breaches of
the Mines Act and the Special Rules at the present^time 7

32900. In many parts fines are imposed and prosecutions
do not take place 7 — Yes.

32901. Do you think the discipline is better (perhaps
you cannot give us your experience in the matter) main-
tained where hundreds of miee are imposed rather than
where there are a few prosecutions 7 — I think it is much

32902. Is the absence of prosecutions where no fines are
in force a proof of the discipline of a mine 7 — I take it so.

32903. That is your experience 7 — That is my experience.

32904. Where there are no fines, but prosecution, the
discipline is best 7 — ^Yes, it is not because the breach is
overtooked, but because the discipline is best.

32905. (Mr. Cunynghame.) Your objection to fines is a
very general one 7 — Very general.

32906. On aU occasions 7 — On all occasions.

32907. By anybody 7— By anybody.

32908. We have got it in evidence that one of the rules
of the St. Helen Association of Colliery Enginemen says
a member who teaches anyone the business of an engine-
man unless he is his son, or his brother-in-law or the son
of another member of the Association, will be fined not
more than 40s. Do you approve of that action in fining
by that body 7 — Probably if I were an engineman in
Lancashire I should know more about it I do not know
anytiiing about it. I do not approve of the principle of

32909. Would your condemnation of the system induce
you to condemn that rule 7 — I do not approve of the
principle of fining for breaches of discipUne.

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Mr, 8, B,

5 Deo., 1907.





32910 Therefore prima facie jou think that a bad and
undesirable rale ? — I do not know sufficient of the circum-
stances to be able to give an answer.

32911. {Mr. P, L, Davie.) Are you working in the mine
now ? — ^No.

32912. How long is it since you worked ? — ^20 years
since I worked continuously. I frequently go into the
mine now.

32913. You told us that you made inspections ? — I
frequently go into the mines now.

32914. Are you in favour of Rule 38 as io workmen's
inspections ? Are you in favour of a workman from another
colliery being appointed to examine for the workmen ? —
I think an occasional examination of the kind would be

32915. You understand my question ? — Quite.

32916. Not one of the workmen, but somebody from
another eolHery ? — I think it would do good if it could
be accomplished easily, but my view is if that kind of
inspection is to be of any service it must be conducted
by a man who is not working in any mine.

32917. You think it would be a good thing for a stranger
to occasionally examine ? — Yes.

32918. Do you think as a matter of fairness that a man
should be under certain restrictions if he did make an
inspection, similar restrictions to what the inspectors are
at the present time under as to keeping everything confi-
dential ? — He has to sign the report book if he makes an
inspection. He cannot keep it confidential if he signs the
report book.

32919. The report would be put in the book. I agree
as to that, but I mean that he should not use any informa-
tion he gets during his examination in that particular
colliery to the detriment of the owner or for the purposes
of the workmen ? — Do you mean about the system of
work ?

32920. I do not mean anything in connection with his
inspection, but anything that comes before him outside
that ? — I think if a man was allowed into a mine to make
an inspection in the interests of safety, that is all he ought
to do.

32921. He ought to make his inspection under certain
restrictions ? — Certainly.

32922. I see you are very much in favour of discipline
in your district ? — Yes.

32923. Do you do anything yourself personally to
impress on the men the necessity for observing all the rules
and regulations and looking after their own safety ? — All
I can do, and I go so far as to refuse to help a man who
persistently breaks the rules.

32924. How do you do it ? — I tell them at meetings,
and every opportunity I have I take of preaching that it is
in the interest of everybody that men should obey and
carry out the rules for the purpose of preserving discipline.

32925. Do other officials of the Federation do the same
in your district ? — Generally, I think.

32926. (Dr, Haldane,) Are there any arrangements in
your district by which the men are enabled to clean them-
selves up before they leave the pit ? — No.

32927. You have heard of such arrangements ?— 1 have
seen them in Belgium and other places.

32928. Have you ever considered whether it would be
desirable or not to have them in this country ? — I do not
think it would in my district.

32929. Why not ? — The men in my district are a cleanly
lot of people. They live close to the pits, and as soon as
they get home they wash. I do not think the advantage
to be gained would be worth the expense of putting up and
the maintenance of these wash-houses. I may be wrong,
but that is my view.

32930. Are there facilities for washing in their own
houses ? — Yes.

32931. You think they have plenty of room ?— Yes.

32932. A man comine home from work brings a lot of
coal dust with him, and that is apt to get about a house
and cause a great detd of disorder and inconvenience in
the house ? — In a great many of our modem cottages we
have bathrooms.

32933. Are they used T— Yes, our colliers wash all over
every day.

32934. You think that is so ?~I know it is so, I often
see it.

32935. Are there districts where that is not so in Great
Britain ? — Ours are very cleanly. As soon as they come
home they get a wash all over every day. That is the
general rule. If a man lives in a small cottage, he gets
into the smallest part of the lower part of the house, and
the others go into another room, and he gets a good tub.

32936. You think every man gets a good wash ? — A good
tub every day.

32937. In that case you consider that there would be no
very great advantage is having washing arrangements at
the pit-head ? — I do not think so.

32938. Are there any sanitary conveniences underground
you know of in your district ? Would you think there is
any need for anything of the sort ? — There are such
arrangements as the Chldren of Israel had in the Desert

32939. That U no arrangements ? — Yes, they make a
hole. Really I do not think there is any need for them.
I suppose you put the question with regard to this worm

32940. Yes. I do not think there is much bother with
it in your district, because the pits are cool ? — I think the
temperature would not produce those things.

32941. As a rule, I quite agree, but still there are other
diseases propagated in the same way, occasionally
typhoid fever is spread from want of such things. From
your observation, do you think there is any need for
arrangements of that sort in your district ? — Not very
long ago we had a man I thought might be suffering from
the worm disease, and we had him thoroughly examined,
but there wsa no trace of it at all.

32942. You have not observed any nuisance su^h as a
bad smell or that kind of thing underground ? — No.

32943. You think the men are careful to cover up the
excrement ? — They put it back in the gob.

32944. If that is done it is a very satisfactory plan ? — I
think so.

32945. I only wanted to know whether you hive
observed that nuisance arose from the want of conveniences.
— I do not think so. If there was any necessity for those
things I should be very strongly in favour of th m. I am
very strongly in favour of it in mines where the tempera-
ture is hi h and moist, and likely to produce these con-
ditions, but I do not think there ii any necessity for it
with us.

32946. You think the men can always use the gob or
some place where the material can be buried ? — Yes.

32947. Have you heard many complaints of bad ventila-
tion in your district ? — No, not gienerally. When the
airways get a long distance occ isionally we get temporary
complaints, but we get very good natursd ventilation,
and if it is not enough we put in a fan. There are no
complaints at all as a rule.

32948. Some mines I have heard of have a good deal of
black damp in your district ? — Somerset.

32949. Yes. — We do not have it now. The mines are
fairly well ventilated, quite up to the average of the

{Dr, H aidant,) I do not know them myself, and so I am
putting the question.

32950. (Chairman.) How far do the men have to go
home ? What is the furthest distance from the pit-
mouth ? — In some cases two or three miles, but generally
speaking not far.

32951. Then if it was wet they would have to go in their
dirty clothes two or three miles before they got home to
wash ? — Yes.

32952. (Dr. Haldane.) They are not usually wet through
from sweat ? — No, out pits are dry and they have a low
temperature. Some are hot when we get down lower and
further out.

32953. (Chairman.) Is there anything more you would
like to say ? — No, I do not think so.


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Mr. William Lathak, called and examined.

32954. (Chairman,) You are a miners* agent in Shrop-
shire ? — Yes.

32955. You come here to speak on behalf of the miners
in your district ? — Yea.

32956. Have they deputed you to come here ? — Yes.

32957. What steps have you taken to ascertain their
views ? — From time to time we have discussed these
mining questions in the form of the new JVIines Bill.

32958. You have had a new Mines Bill before you ? —
In conjunction with the Miners' Federation.

32959. The Miners* Federation have placed before you
a draft Bill ?— Yes.

32960. Which they would like introduced into Parlia-
ment, and you have discussed this draft 7 — Yes.

32961. The points upon which you are going to give
evidence are points which have been freely discussed
between you and the other miners in the district ? —
That is so, by our executive.

32962. First of all you wish to sx>eak as to the in-
sufficiency of Government inspection : what is your view
as to that ? — I have worked in a colliery myself about 37
years, and I think I have seen the inspector three times
in that time. If I may speak from experience I could not
say to my knowledge uiat it is usual to make an inspection
only when a fatal accident or an accident in a very bad
way takes place, but then he comes into the district.

32963. It must be clear that he comes sometimes into
the district not for the purpose of investigating an accident,
because I think you will find that all the inspectors visit
all the pits in their district once every year ? — Yes.

32964. Either the inspector or the assistant inspector.
They do not necessarily go all through the pits, but they
go down ? — Yes.

32965. That is so, I suppose ?~That is so. We think
they should go through the pit. It is not probable that
they go into the worst places where they are required.

32966. You think they should go all through the pit
when they make an inspection ?— Yes. We think it
should be an inspection like that» and we have been in
favour of working-men inspectors.

32967. That is another matter. First of all I am on
the sufficiency of inspection. How often do you think
the mine ought to be inspected in the course of the year
if it is thoroughly inspected ? — A good many things may
happen in thr^ months.

32968. Do you say four times a year would be a reason-
able number of times for every pit to be thoroughly
inspected ? — I should say so.

32969. Every pit ought to be reasonably inspected
every three months. How many officials would be
necessary in your district ? — We are joined on with our
Shropshire district, which is many miles from North

32970. You and North Staffordshire are one district ? —
Yes, and there was a time when a portion of Scotland
was added on to it.

32971. Taking the whole of your district as it stands
at present, how many inspectors would it be desirable
to have to go through the pits four times a year ? — In
our county there are not more than 3,000 men employed.

32972. You only speak for your own county ? — Yes.

32973. How may men would be required to go down
all the pits four times a year in your county ? — Not more
^han one.

32974. Would one do ? It would take the whole time
of one man ? — Yes. By the time he had made special
visits and in any case of accident, fill up his time m that

32975. You think that one man to about 3,000 miners
underground is the proportion you would suggest, or
3,000 employed over-ground and underground ? — I do
not know that we have taken it in that way of computation.

32976. What is your way of computation ? — We have
thought being a long distance away from Staffordshire
perhaps that has something to do with there not being
many inspections taking place.

32977. Would you be in favour of re-arranging the
district, so as to make a district of at least 5,000 men
employed in the mines ? — Yes, or that in the present

districts there should be workmen inspectors subject to Mr, W,
the control of the present Government inspectors. Latham.

32978. That is a different point. How big a district '

do you think one inspector can visit four tinies a year ^ ^^'' 1907.
in the way you think mines ought to be visited ? — I
should think if two or three inspectors were added to, say,
what now seems to us to be a big district, that would meet
the case.

32979. There are an inspector and two assistant in-
spectors ? — Yes.

32980. You think three men would do it Six for the
whole district would be enough ? — Yes.

32981. Supposing the districts were arranged in such
a way that they would not have so much travelling to
do as at present ? — We think Uiat would be much better.

32982. You would divide the district into six separate
districts, and put one man at the head of each district ? —

32983. Would you have the same class at the head of
every district, or the chief inspector at the head of the
five or six ? — We think we ought to have what we have
said, working-men inspectors, because they are more
accustomed to get round a mine.

32984. One chief inspector and five working-men in
spectors or assistant inspectors, as you have now. Do
you mean three classes, or two ? — We favour three classes.

32985. You would like to have for your district one
chief inspector and two inspectors as there are now, and
three working-men inspectors ? — Yes.

32986. These working-men inspectors would have to
be at the head of the three districts ? — For the purpose of
periodically visiting the district other than when fatal
accidents occur.

32987. You would make this distinction between your
working-class inspectors and the present chief inspector
and assistant inspectors, that it should be the duty of the
chief inspector and the assistant inspectors chiefly to
examine into causes of accidents ? — Yes.

32988."^ But as regards mere inspection underground
apart from accident inquiries, you would have that done
mostly by working-men inspectors ? — Yes.

32989. If the chief inspector and the assistant inspector
had time to spare after they had done their duties as
regards accidents, they probably would, in their districts,
go underground ? — Yes.

32990. Would you not have a difficulty : you would have
three districts ana the inspectors of each would be principally
engaged, or to a great extent engaged, in looking after
accidents, and another three districts where there were
a different class of inspectors employed who would not be

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 121 of 177)