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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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there is always a pressure put upon the men to get beyond
that — that is to say, if a man cannot make from 3s. Id.
to 3s. 4d. — it varies from 2s. lOd. in our coalfield to 3s. 4d.
for eight hours — ^we look to the employer to pay that plus
the percentage ; but the natural tendency is for the officials
to urge the men to get that and more if they can, and it
is in Siat pressure in some degree (I do not say absolutely)
accidents may arise therefrom.

36357. The principal pressure taking place in the case
of those men who are paid day wages ? — It would be
principally with men who are on coal.

36358. They are paid by the piece, are they not ? —
A tonnage price is fixed by the employer, but if a man
•cannot earn whatever the rate of wages may be in* that
particular colliery — say, 3s. Id. for eight hours plus the
percentage, or 3s. 4d. — ^we ask the employer to make it
up to that ; but there is the pressure on the part of the
official and the employer to seek to urge the men to get
that and more, and it is in that urging that I think accidents
occasionally arise. I do not complam of it, it is natural.

36359. At all events your opinion is that under the
present system of payment the owners very naturally,
without any evil intentions, are inclined ^ to hustle the
men into working rather faster and harder than is con-
sistent with their safety or than they would work if they
were not so hustled ? — I think so./

36360. As to safety lamps, you say you have always
been well satisfied that your mines inspector and those in
other districts with whom you have had to deal, give this
matter full and due consideration ? — Yes.

36361. You have nothing more to say about safety
lamps ? — Not so far as what I have seen of Gk)vemment
inspectors ; they keep a fairly keen eye where they think
the use of lamps of any kind is required, and they see they
go in — ^at least, they give that recommendation.

36362. As to investigation into mine accidents, you say
that where the workman was not a member of a trade
union, then such person as the relatives of the deceased
might appoint should by right appear before a coroner
i^nd examine witnesses. In your district you have no
oomplaint at all as to the coroner objecting to any witnesses

brought forward by the men ? — ^That is so in my own Mr. W-

district. I have no complaint to make in relation to the WhiUfUld.

coroner and to the order in which the business is being

conducted, but I speak from experience of other parts. 23 Jan., 1 90S.

36363. Previous to your coming to this district you
have known cases where the relatives of a deceased person
have applied to give evidence before the coroner and the
coroner has not allowed them to give evidence ? — I have
not said that ; but speaking from what I have heard from
leaders of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, I know
complaints are made from various districts that the
coroner's court is not carried on in a way that is to them

36364. At all events that is not your experience per-
sonally T — ^No, not in the Bristol coalfield.

36365. As to ankylostomiasis, you would urge the need
of increased ventilation, because the general opinion of
the medical authorities is that a mine of high temperature
is conducive to its propagation ? — ^That is so.

36366. You do consider that there is some danger of
ankylostomiasis in your mines ? — ^I do think so in the
Bristol coalfield. Such is the temperature of some of the
mines that I think they would lend themselves to it.

36367. Bo you think the men would be willing to submit
to the use of conveniences underground so as to prevent
the spread of infection if any danger should appear ? —
If the owners provided them I presume the men would
be compelled to use them.

^50368. And you think they would use them T — I do
think so.

As to the provision of baths, you say you would
urge, as in Germany and Belgium, the great need of baths
at each of your pits, and that the miners should, on leaviQg
the mine, don their own clothing and leave at the colliery
to be dried their pit clothing. Mi^t that not depend to
a great extent on how far their homes were from their work,
and might not a man very often prefer to go home, say,
a quarter of a mile and have a bath there and change ms
clothes there, than change with all the other miners at the
pit-head ? — I was not looking at it from what the men
would prefer, but what is best. It seems to me a standard
of sanitation is highly important, and they should wash
on coming out of the pit. I also think one of the greatest
detrimento to the miner is his black face. I think if you |
could get rid of his black face he would appear much
better in the eyes of the public.

36370. If his home was close by, very few people would
see him with his black face 7 — Yes, but in some cases they
live four or five miles off.

36371. Then would you change your opinion and say
where he has to travel by train or go several miles to get
home, that conveniences for washmg should be afforded
which he should be compelled to make use of 7 — No. I
should like to see it made compulsory that there should

be a washing place at the pit's mouth, and he should wash.

36372. And that they should change their dothes
there 7 — Yes.

36373. Do you wish to say anything else 7 — I should
like to say, in my judgment, the reductionof the hours of
labour would be conducive to a decrease of accidents in
some degree. The district from which I come is a long-
hour districts, as we say, with the exception of one colliery.
We have one colliery where the men work eight hours
from bank to bank except a few at the bottom of the pit,
and the other collieries work 10 hours a day.

36374. With regard to accidents, how do they compare
in a mine where they only work eight hdurs, with a mine
where they work 10 and 12 hours a day 7 — I have not the
means of putting my finger upon a specific case.

36375. We should very much like to know that; it
would be a very useful statistic to have if you could prove
that in the mines Ttdiere there were eight hours a day
worked the accidents were considerably fewer than in
mines where they work 10 hours a day. That would be
a circumstance we should like certainly to take into
consideration 7 — I can only reason from my own knowledge
of the matter, havinj;^ been a miner myself, and a deputy
in Northumberland, for a number of years. I know when
I was in a pit for such a number of hours the impression
it made upon myself. I know my own feelings, the
dulness of my senses, which I presimne would be the same
with others.

36376. (Sir Lindsay Wood.) You advocate working-
miners as inspectors 7 — I do.

36377. Under Government control I suppose 7 — ^Yes.



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Mr. W.


36378. You consider they should pass an examination ?
-I do.

36379. And hold a first or second-class certificate ?—

36380. They should either have one or the other 7 —
Either one or the other : that is overmen examiners.

36381. You suggest there should be a certain number
of working-men inspectors to examine the mine every
month 7— Yes, under the supervision of the Government
inspectors, I mean.

36382. Perfectly independent of the colliery owner, and
to be paid by the Government 7 — ^Yes, independent of the
colliery owner, and to be paid by the Government.

36383. And they should pass an examination 7 — ^Yes.

36384. Equal to a first or second-class certificate 7 —

36385. You say that under General Rule 4 the men
who examine the mine should also hold a certificate 7 —
Do you refer to those appointed by the workmen 7

36386. No, those who examine the mine every day
before the workmen go in 7 — ^I do.

36387. From what class of man are those men appointed
in your district now 7 — ^From the workmen in the mine.

36388. Before they should be appointed examiner in
your district you thmk they ought to pass an examina^
tion 7 — ^Yes.

36389. Equal to a second-class certificate 7— Well, to
such as might be laid down, at least I think a second-class

36390. Would the men be prepared to do that 7— The
Bristol miners 7

36391. Yes. — ^I know nothing to the contrary.

36392. Before you appointed him examiner you think
he should be made to pass this examination 7 — I think

36393. {Chairman,) Have you many miners in your
district who have first or second-class certificates 7^ am
not aware how many — I am afraid too few.

36394. {Sir Lindsay Wood.) You advocate there should
be no agreement to fine a man, however trivial the offence 7
— ^Not by the employers. I think it is pernicious, and in
my judgment the tendency is to carry It too far.

36395. Every case should be taken before the magistrate 7
— ^WeU that is for the employer to decide.

36396. I mean if it is an offence, or he breaks a rule of
the conditions of hiring, he must go before a magistrate 7
— I prefer that to setting up a magistrate's office on the
pit bank. .

36397. That would cost very much more than an ordinary
fine, even if the man agreed to it 7 — I do not mind that.
I would rather we spend our money to defend our men
before an impartial tribunal than pay it by way of fine.

36398. Even if he pleads guilty 7— Yes.

36399. You would still take him before the magistrate 7
— If a mutual understanding can be come to, when the
man was wrong, between the employer and the man, that
would be a matter for consideration, but I would not lika
to give the employer a free hand where he thinks right.

36400. The employer can only fine with the consent of
the man he is going to fine 7 — The consent of the man
may be given because he dare not do any other — ^he does
not want to lose his employment.

36401. He would not lose his employment if he did not
agree 7 — ^The man is not a free agent in the matter : he
depends for his bread and butter upon the man who is
gomg to fine him. I think he should be tried by an im-
partial tribunal

36402. Would it be better to take him before the magis-
trate with the heavy cost involved 7 — You assume in every
case where an employer says " I shall fine you ** he has a
right to fine the man. I believe he has no such right in a
large number of cases.

36403. If the man objects he cannot fine : but he has
the alternative of saying " You must leave my employment
or go before the magistrate T " — Yes, in case the act was
a justifiable one for his doing it.

36404. In no case would you allow any compromise
other than prosecution 7 It is a very large order you
know 7 — ^Wcil, I prefer the one to the other. I prefer to
ffo before the magistrate's court whatever the result may
be, so pernicious do I consider the pit bank fining.


36405. You think accid^^^ are often due to pressure*


being put upon the men to '''^Ork more than their ordinary
day's work 7—1 think in some degree that does apply, and
I ^ould think in a large degree.

36406. Is there any limit forced upon the men not-
working more than their ordinary day's work 7 — ^The trend
of events in the coalfield from which I come is that a man
is asked to stay in and do a little blowing here, or a little
cleaning up there, with the result it leads to his stopping
in the pit occasionally beyond 10 hours.

36407. You say he gets about 3s. Id. a day and the
percentage 7 — Yes, up to 3s. 4d. — one colliery pays 3s. 4d..
and the percentage. That is the minimum wage that the*
miner gets. He may get more if his place iB g^xi, and he
Can get more coal, and then he may get 5s. or 68. or 7s..
a day. When I speak of 2s. lOd. up to 3s. 4d. I am
speaking of the minimum that we would claim for him, ,
but he may get more.

36408. I thought it was the maximum 7 — No, that is the]

36409. A man may get up to 56. 7 — Yes, or 6s. or 7s.

36410. Would that not really answer what the Chair-
man put to you, that these men were working and trying
to get as much coal as they could do, and rather risking
danger than stop working7 — WeU, in so far as that applies,
if the men could get a fairly good wage without the extra
pressure, even for themselves it would tend to reduce
the accidents. But there is a natural pressure bv the
employers and officials, I have not the slightest doubts
whioh results in some cases in accidents — how much I
cannot tell — and if that pressure were removed I think,
the accident} would be less.

36411. It would depend upon the degree of danger ? —

36412. It would be equally dangerous if a man sat iiL
the mine and did nothing for an extra number of hours 7 —
It would depend upon where he was sitting.

36413. It is probably more dangerous sitting doing
nothing in some places than doing something 7 — It iff
not, according to my experience — I would chance the

36414. You think the reduction of hours of labour to-
8 hours would reduce the number of accidents 7 — Yes.

36416. You seem to have very excessive hours in your
district 7 — ^In some collieries — ^it is not universal. We
have some collieries where the men stay in a good deal, but-
at other coUieries they do not.

36416. You said 10 to 15 hours, I understood 7— Yes^
in some cases — that is where the men stop at night to put
the place right for the next day. If we had a universal
Eight Hours Day that would aU end — and I am living in.
hopes of that.

36417. Do you think there would be any more pressure
put upon the men with an Eight Hours Day to get the
quantity out than there is now with the present hours-
worked in the Bristol coalfield 7 — I think the pressure
of which I spoke will remain as long as private gain is
the object which the employer has in view. But in con-
sequence of the man not remaining in the pit that time
his senses will be keener and there will be less liability
to accident.

36418. Do you assume that there will be as much coal
obtained with the eight hours as there is with the lone
hours 7 — I am not so sure of that. I have a most decided
opinion that the eight hours will not make such a depre-
ciation in the output as is assumed.

36419. You think there will be no more men required 7 I J[^
— I hope there will be, but not to the extent that is assumed, f

36420. I do not quite know what has been assumed 7 —
That the reduction of output will be in proportion to the
reduction of hours. I do not think so, and my experience
is to the contrary. As a Northumbrian I knew the days
of long hours there, and I know the days of the short hours,
and the production of the northern men has not been re-
duced in proportion to the reduction of hours. I think you
will find that the Durham miners now are producing more
coal per man than they were in the days when they worked
12 or 14 hours a day.

36421. I think you are wrong 7 — Well, I would like to
compare notes on it — I think I am not.

36422. How long is it since the miners in Durham and
Northumberland had such long hours 7—40 years ago.
I am speaking now of the time when they worked 10 or 12^
hours — I mean the men were in the pit long hours. The
men of Northumberland now do 7} hours from bank to

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"bank, and as compared with the da3rs when they worked
long hours I say the decrease of output has not at all been
in proportion to the reduction of hours, but my impression
is that the Northumberland and the Durham miners get
as much coal now in the 7^ hours from bank to bank as
they did in the days of the long hours.

36423. You mean of 40 years ago ? — ^Yes.

36424. That is a long time to go back ?— I am sorry I
oan go back that far as a boy in the pit.

36425. Surely the hewers did not work 14 hours ? — A
man had a place to himself, and he remained in as long as
he pleased, and he could go in when he chose and come
out when he chose.

• 36426. That is a matter of fact ; but my ow i impression
is that it was not so. It was not so in Durham, at any
rate ? — ^Well, I know it was in Northumberland, and I was
in a colliery at that time.

36427. At all events you think there would be no more
liewers required to get out the same quantity of coal ? —
I am not sure of that.

36428. You think there would be some ?— I think there
would be some.

36429. To that extent you would have to have a greater
number of places in which the men worked ? — I do not
know. I would have to know the pit before I could give
that opinion.

36430. If you had more men you would naturally
require more places to put them in ? — It depends upon the
system upon which you work your pit ? — ^The pit may be
put on an extra shift — ^whereas now one turn of men is
worked they might put on two turns of men at eight
hours each.'

36431. If you work another shift you require a great
many more men. You would have to have double the
number of men if you had another shift ? — I have not
looked into the alterations so closely. The thing I look
at is this, that I think eight hours &om bank to bank is
too long for a man to be in a pit for his living.

36432. All classes of men ? — All classes of men. It has
not been with me a question of cost of production, and
yet I do not think the cost of production is going to be
increased so much as is thought.

36433. If you did require more*men you would naturally
have more liability to accident ? — I do not know that
that would be so, so far as the individual was concerned.

36434. Per man it might not alter, but the total men
-employed it would. The more men employed the greater
the number of accidents, surely T — ^Yes, but the accidents
would be less man to man than they were before.

36435. They might be less per man, but still greater
than they are now. However, that is a matter of opinion ?
— Quite so.

36436. {Mr. Wm, Abraham.) Setting sentiment aside,
with regard to fining, which of the two svstems do you
think is the greater deterrent against accidents, fining on
the pit bank or taking a man to a court ? — I oertainlv
prefer a man going to the court. I know where the rub
comes in with regard to it. I prefer the magistrates
delving with the case in preference to the manager's office
^on the pit bank.

36437. You have an opinion, I am sure, as to which of
these systems is best to prevent accidents, and which
induces the miner to be more cautious — is it not if he is
taken to the court ? — My objection is to the men being
fined by the employer. I am not wishful for them to be
taken before the magistrates, but if one of the two things
lias to take place I prefer their going to court and being
tried by an impartial tribunal : because, as I have before
said, I believe tne other leads to abuse in the trend of things.

36438. In your experience it is not the alternative, if a
man is to be fined, betweeen the fine and stopping him,
but it is the alternative between the fine and getting into
-court ? — In that case it woidd be.

36439. That is, the employers are not stopping everyone
that they take to Court ? — ^No, ours do not. We have
had few oases, I am glad to say, but when they have been
summoned the employer has not stopped them from
their work afterwards, but he has given them their em-
ployment again.

36440. That is my point. From what class of the
workmen do the management select their examiners, as
A rule ? — I could not say exactly, to be correct — the
the general body of the men — sometimes it might be an
4iS hand man, and sometimes a coal hewer


36441. Surely they take some trouble to know whether Mr, W.
the man is qualified for it or not ? — ^The management are Whitefleld.
perfectly satisfied that the man they apx)oint is quite
capable of performing the duties. I am not here to throw ^ Jan.. 1908.
any refieotion upon the owners in the Bristol coalfield.

36442. That is not our desire ; we want to get the facts.
Is the size of the district these men have to examine in
proportion to their ability to inspect it properly 7 — ^Well,
the Grovemment inspector generally goes into that question
and makes enquiries whether the man can do it. I say
that care should be taken that the district is not too large.
I do not say they are too large in the Bristol coalfield. I
only say it is a matter that requires to be watched.

36443. (Mr. Batdiffe Mis.) As to the question of
inspectors appointed as Government inspectors, why do
you suggest anv particular class of competent persons
should be excluded ? — ^Have I suggested that ?

36444. Yes; you say that no person should be appointed
to one of these offices of sub-inspector except a working-
man ? — My opinion in advising that such should be
appointed is because he belongs to the practical side of
the business and understands mines.

36445. Do the inspectors, with whom you have no fault
to find, imderstand sufficient of the mines to inspect them
if they had time to do it ?— Yes.

36446. Why should not they all be of that class, equally
well qualified, and have more of them ? — If you take them
from the ranks of the workers I have not tibie slightest

36447. Why select the ranks of the workers ? — ^Why
not, if you get the qualification amongst the workmen ?

36448. Because I do not want to exclude anyone who i^
competent from one of the appointments. You say the
present inspectors are fuUy competent if they have the
time to do it ? — Yes.

36449. What is the objection to saying " We will appoint
more competent men and not deprive any particular class
from getting the post " 7 — If that class has been a miner
I have no objection^ but if they have not I do not think
they imderstand a mine.

36450. The inspectors have not been miners, and yet
they are fully qualified to do the work. Why do you want
to exclude them 7 — If they have been miners I do not
exclude them.

36451. They have not been miners ?— Yes, some of

36452. There may be one or two, but not all. Why do
you exclude the class from which they are drawn when you
find they are fully qualified men 7 — I am not wishful to
exclude any individual who is or has been a miner.

36453. Do you want to exclude a person of the class
from which the inspectors come, although you admit
they are very competent men ? — I can scarcely conceive
how an inspector who has not been a miner can be con-
sidered an efficient man.

36454. The great majority of the inspectors have never
been miners 7 — I do not mean a miner in the sense of
getting coal.

36455. What do you mean 7 — A man who has been a
colliery manager or such like — a man who has experience
of a pit.

36456. You want a man who has had the experience of
pit work, not necessarily a miner 7 — Quite so.

36457. Before a man gets his certificate, he must have
had five years' experience to qualify him for it 7 — Yes."

36458. That is what you mean when you say they should
be practical miners 7 — Yes, practical miners.

36459. As to inspection under General Rule 38, you
say you have no case and nothing but your own suspicion,
that the workmen might be put at a disadvantage if they
made a bad report 7 — It la my whole life's experience.

36460. Mr. John Wilson was here yesterday from the
district of Durham. Have you had any experience in
Durham 7 — I have not had experience in Durham but
J have in Northumberland.

36461. Do you know that Mr. John Wilson scouted the
idea altogether of the men being afraid to make a bad
report 7 — I am not answering for John Wilson ; I
answer for myself.

36462. Your suspicion is that these employers might
in some way or another do something to the prejudice of
a man who made a bad report 7 — I have not said that.
I do not put that so strongly. I say, although the employer

58 A

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Mr, W, may have the greatest desire that the man should make
WhiUfidd, a clear and true report of what he has found, there is still

the chanoe of it lurking in the man's mind that, inasmuch

23 Jan., 1908. as his bread and butter is dependent upon that employer,

ho might have to give a report which ho otherwise would

not do. I do not want to throw any reflection on the
employers in the coalfield from which I come as doing such,
but I say that is the natural trend of things.

36463. You think the districts are too large in reference
to inspection under Rule 4 ? — ^I think care ought to be
taken to see that they are not too large.

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 152 of 177)