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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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36464. Let me call your attention to Section 42 of the
Mines Act : "If in any respect (which is not provided
against by any express provision of this Act or by any
Special Rule) " — there is no provision in this Act or any
Special Rule prescribing the size of these districts — *' any
inspector finds any mine, or any part thereof, or any matter
thing or practice in or connected with any such mine, or
with the control, management or direction thereof by the
manager to be dangerous or defective, so as in his opinion
to threaten or tend to the bodily injury of any person,
he may give notice in writing thereof to the owner, agent
or manager of the mine, and shall state in the notice the
particulars in which he considers the mine or any part
thereof, or any matter, thing or practice, to be dangerous
or defective, and require the same to be remedied ; and
unless the same be forthwith remedied shall also report
the same to a Secretary of State." Then there follow
provisions which give the owner an opportunity of having
that settled by arbitration, or if he does not do that he
becomes guilty of an oflPence against the Act. You say
you have not in your mind any cases where the districts
are too large, but it is a matter which wants watching ? —

36465. Is there anything which you can suggest beyond
this ? — Not if this is carried out.

. 36466. So far as this is concerned, it gives the inspector
r full power to do what he ought to do ? — I would prefer
^ / it if the wording were so altered as to give the miles that
I any examiner ought to travel in the pit.

36467. Is it possible, considering the want of uniformity
and the conditions of the various pits, to put it in miles 7
— A maximum conld be fixed.

36468. What is your idea of a maximum ? — I would
not like to say. That would depend upon the nature of
the district the man is to traveL In one district a man
may have a lot of explosive gas to contend with.

36469. Exactly. In this section it gives the inspector
the right to prescribe or to prohibit, at any rate, a
district which is too large ? — Yes ; but if the Act also said
it shall not be more than so many miles, I think it would
be better.

36470. Let me put this to you upon that : Suppose you
put the largest number, a maximum, then there might
be an excuse, and they could say *' Oh, it is not so many
miles, we are within the distance " ? — ^That is so.

3647 L Do you not think it is better to leave it as it is
here, giving the inspector the power to judge in each
particular case what he thinks is a sufficient size, and to
tell the manager if he has any districts too big, '' I think
you have that district too big " ? — No ; I agree to a
maximum. I conceive if a maximum was fixed it might
be found that many are travelling beyond that now.

36472. At any rate this clause which is in the Act of
Parliament meets your view, except you think it might
be strengthened by putting some maximum distance? — Yes.

36473. But what the maximmn should be you are not
prepared to say 7 — No ; it depends upon the nature of
the district that the man has to travel.

36474. Upon the question of fines I suppose you con-
sider it is important that discipline should be maintained ?
— I do.

36475. Do you think that the men have got to that
perfection now that they will maintain discip&e without
some pressure being put upon them, and some punishment
for breaches of it 7 — I think they are still in common with
the employers.

36476. Both guilty 7— Both guilty.

36477. And, therefore, it is necessary that there should
be some punishment inflicted in cases of breaches of
discipline 7 — Naturally.

36478. That is in the interests of safety 7-~Quite so.

36479. Now let me call your attention to Section 50
of the Coal Mines Regulation Act: " Every person who


contravenes or does not oOf^hfy ^fth any of the General
Rules in this Act, shall be g^uty of an offence against this-
Act ; and in the event of 4ny contravention of or non-
compliance with any of the said General Rules in the case
of any mine to which this Act appUes, by any person
whomsoever, the owner, agent and manager shall each be-
guilty of an offence against this Act, unless he proves
that he had taken all reasonable means by publishing
and to the best of his power enforcing the said Rules as
regulations for the working of the mine, to prevent such
contravention or non-compliance.'' The effect of that
section is this — ^it is peculiar to this Act of Parliament
and probably to the Factory Act — that a person who is-
absolutely and entirely guiltless of any offence may be
made answerable for an offence committed by someone
else unless he does two things : first of all publishes
the regulations ; and, secondly, to the best of his^
power, enforces them. It is the owner, agent or manager
may be responsible for the act of a collier who breaks a
regulation behind his back and without his knowledge,
unless he can show he has done the best he could to prevents
it. At the present time the manager has to do the best
he can to preserve the discipline of his pit. Do you say
he should be prevented from enforcing that discipline^
except either by discharging the man or bringing him before
the magistrate ? — I am <£stinctly opposed to any fina
being inflicted at the colliery office.

36480. Do you assert it as the opinion of your district
that the managers should enforce these regulations either
by bringing the man before the magistrate or discharging-
him 7 — ^What I do say is that I am distinctly opposed to
fines being made at the colliery office.

3648L You will not go any further than that 7— No.

36482. You said you did not desire the pit bank to be
made a Magistrate's Court 7 — ^That is so.

36483. Are you familiar with the Truck Act 7— Not

36484. What is the particular character of the Police
Court that you wish to exclude from the pit bank 7 — ^The-
employer taking upon himself to impose fines on men for
what he considers breaches of the Act.

36485. As a magistrate does 7 — As a magistrate would
not do in many cases, in my judgment.

36486. When a magistrate fines a man, the man has no
option but to pay or go to prison 7 — That is so.

36487. Is it your opinion that the colliery manager has-
the same right, or exercises the same right 7 — So far as
the fining of the man is concerned he does it in many

36488. The Truck Act provides that if he fines a man,,
unless the man consents to be fined, or he fines him an
excessive amount, even if he consents, that that has to
be recorded, whatever the fine is, and the manager can be
brought before the magistrate, and tf the fine is excessive
the man can recover it, and the manager can be fined for
a violation of the Truck Act. There is a great difference
between that proceeding and a Police Court proceeding 7 —
I know there is.

36489. With that information as to the protection givea
to men against unjust fining, you still think that the-
manager should be prevented, with the consent of the men,
from infiicting a fine, and that he should be obliged to take-
the men before the Police Court 7 — I think he ought not
to be allowed to deduct anything by way of fine for any
misdemeanour on the part of the workmen.

36490. You say not only must the employer be prevented
from fining, but, if the workman wishes to pay a fine rather
than be brought before the magistrate, he is not to be
allowed to do so 7 — ^I have said, I believe, the system is a
pernicious system.

36491. You do go as far as that, do you not 7 I do-
not wish you to go so far as that unless you wish it : if
the workman wishes to pay a small fine rather than be
brought before the Police Court and pay a larser fine, h»
is not to be allowed to exercise any discretion in the matter 7
— I believe the workman is not in a position at the present
time to exercise an opinion.

36492. Do you say what I put to you 7 — I have not said

36493. Do you say so 7 — I cannot go further than I have

36494. Do you say the law ought to be so altered as that,
under those circumstances, it would make the workman
guilty of an offence against the Act if he consents to^be.
fined 7 — Believing that that would perpetuate the system
I am opposed to, I can only say if he has committed »

Digitized by




misdemeanour in the pit I prefer his going before the
magistrate and not be fined by the manager at the pit's

36495. Do you say you prefer not to answer the question T
— I think I hive answered the question.

36496. No, you have not — whether you would prohibit
by law a workman who wishes to be fined ? — I would
prohibit by law a fine being made by a colliery employer.

36497. Even although the workman wished it ? — I can
say no more than I have said.

36498. You approve of baths like they have in Germany
and France ? — I do.

36499. Would you also make it compulsory upon the
workman that he must have a bath before he left the
mine ? — I would.

36500. And that if he did not have a bath there would
be a punishment 7 — Yes.

36501. Do you think you have the sanction of vour
Association for that ? — I would not like to be so sure aoout
that — ^it is new. The question with me is as to whether
it would be wise.

36502. Is the Forest of Dean within your district ? —

36503. Are you aware that in the Forest of Dean the
miners themselves have now changed their opinion about
the eight-hours question, and are objecting to the limita-
tion of eight hours from bank to bank ? — Well, they do
some wonderful things there.

36504. Do you know that is one of the things they are
doing ? — Well, it does not affect me in the slightest nor
my opinions after 20 long years' experience.

36505. They are doing it there ? — They are a world of
their own, I think.

36506. You think all these things are going to be re-
moved by the nationalisation of mines ? — I do not — I
think a number wilL

36507. You think the mines wiU be worked more safely ?
— I think so.

36508. What is the proceeding for nationalising these
mines ? — I thhik the Members of Parliament might answer

36509. You are the first witness we have had who has
advocated the nationalisation of mines on the ground
of safety. How do you go about it ? Do you buy them ?
— Well, yes, so far as I know.

36510. Are they to be bought by someone 7 — There are
certain things which have been nationalised in this country,
and I should nationalise them in the same way as the
Post Office has been nationalised.

36511. Take the mines : is your idea that the Govern-
ment should buy up all the mines ? — Yes.

36512. Pay for them, I suppose 7—

{Chairman.) I do not think that is a question to come
before the Commission.

36513. (Mr, Batdiffe EUis.) I do not want to pursue it,
except, of course, if a witness suggests the nationalisation
of mines as one of the means of procuring safety, then,
before the Commission could come to a conclusion about
it, they ought to know more. However, I will not pursue
it. With respect to the number of accidents in connection
with long hours you have no statistics ? — I have no
particular statistics.

36514. Are you aware that a return has been obtained
once or twice by Parliament showing the hours of the
shifts in which accidents happened ? — Yes.

36515. Do you know in that it appears that the accidents
happen rather in the earlier hours of the shift than the
later hours ? — I am not aware of that for the moment.

36516. Would it not be likely to be so, that after the
place is at rest the men who come there to work first are
more liable to falls of roof than the men who have been
working and keeping their eyes on the roof and putting
the props up all day ? — I comd not say.

36517. You know there was a return ? — ^There was a

36518. And it showed that the larger number of accidents
occurred in the earlier hours of the shift, and not in the
later hours of the shift ? — I know there was a return but
I am not aware of that fact.

36519. {Mr, Enoch Edwards,) I understand you to say
vou have no complaint against the present Government
mspectors ? — I have not, so far as their present time will

36520. In your judgment the area they cover and their Mr, W.
duties are too great to enable them to give the attention WhUefidd.
they ought to give ? — That is my opinion.

36521. In answer to Mr. Ratcliffe Ellis about the qualities 23Jan.,1908.
of these inspectors, you urged that they should be practical

men 7 — Yes.

36522. Of course you understand now that all of them
who take certificates must have had practical experience
in a pit as a qualification before they took them ? — Yes.

36523. 8o that in that sense the present inspectors must
have experience of pits 7 — Yes, otherwise they could not
have the certificates.

36524. Do the men in Bristol avail themselves of the
examination imder Rule 38 7 — Much more than they
used to — at all our pits now save one. We have local
examiners going round every month.

36525. Is there a book in the office in which they enter
their report 7 — Yes.

36526. It is the report of what they find and their
experience of the actual condition of things 7 — Yes, and they
also send on a copy of that report to me which is entered
in our minutes.

36527. Have you had any cases of discharging men for
making that report 7 — No.

36528. You have no complaint to make in that respect 7
— No, I have no individual complaints to make at all ;
in fact, the owners have expressed themselves to me that
they are wishful it should be done.

36529. On the strength of those reports, so far as your
experience goes, there is no advantage taken of the men 7
— Quite so.

36530. As to the class of inspection, that is the inspection
of officials and their qualification, I do not know whether
my colleagues understood what you meant when you said
that these examiners should have the qualification of-»
second-class certificate. You do not suggest that firemen
and deputies who make the examinations in one or two
hours in the morning before the workmen go in, should
necessarily have a first or second-class certificate 7 — I
think they should make clear by some method that they
are capable of carrying out the duties allotted to them,
and I do not know of any other method than their passing
some standard of examination.

36531. The first-class certificate involves technical
knowledge 7 — Yes.

36532. You may have a good examiner of a pit, but he
could not construct an engine or tell how to construct it 7
r— Just so.

36533. Do you mean that the deputy or fireman
appointed by the officials should in some way have some
sort of examination to test their efficiency 7 — I do : I
think it is most important.

36534. That either the inspectors or someone should
satisfy themselves as to their fitness 7 — Yes, especially the
inspector I think should.

36535. You have been exceedingly emphatic about your
opinion of fiines in the office 7 — I have.

36536. Mr. Abraham put to you a phase of it, but I do
not know whether you satisfied him with your answer.
Do you base your objection to the principle generally as
a principle, or do you think that fining in a colliery office
would bie a less effective means for safety than fining before
a court 7 — I think it is pernicious for an employer to fine
— it leads to a pernicious result I think — the man is not in
a fair position.

36537. Let me put it in another way. Assuming that
the employer has power to fine, if the workman is fiined
2s. 6d. or 5s. in the colliery office, is that likely to be as
great a deterrent and warning to him to be careful in the
future as taking him before the court would be 7 — I think
it is a deterrent, but I think there are many cases where
men are fiined, whereas if they went before a magistrate
it might be a question whether they would be fined or not.

36538. There may be two opinions about it, of course ^
and there you would have an opportunity of explaining
his view of the matter 7 — Yes.

36539. You do not seem inclined to go further than
state generally that you are opposed to fines 7 — I am
oppose! to fines. Where a man has deliberately broken
a law, if he himself agreed with the employer to pay 2s. 6d.
or some other sum, it would be an incidental matter and
he might do it ; but what I am assuming is this, where
a man now pays in many cases, the man is not in a position
to refuse, because he is not before an impartial tribunal.

Digitized by




Mr. W.


36540. Of course the fines in the colliery office may be
for other purposes than violation of rul^ ? — I think it

widens with some particular managers. For instance,

23 Jan.,1908. "we have one particular manager who makes it his business

to impose fines much more Uukn tiie other managers of

collieries do.

36o4l. Whatever disadvantage or inconvenience to
anyone, you think the proper place is the Court ? — I do.

36542. You expressed an opinion about the hours of
work. This is the first time we have had the question of
hours raised before this Commission. In reference to
your own locality you say you have no statistics, but it
18 your belief that accidents would be less if they worked
shorter hours T — That is so.

36543. It is suggested the shorter the hours the greater
the hurry and pressure. What you are protesting against
is the tendency to hurry and pressure. Tell us what your
experience is. in that respect: are the accidents less or
more where they work shorter hours now ? — So far as I
know they are less in the short hours district. In our
district (Bristol) accidents are very prevalent.

36544. Of course if they strike and cease work for six
months there are no accidents at all. People argue that
with lesser hours we shaU have more accidents, but you do
not agree with that ? — No, because the senses of the
workmen are keener when they work less hours.

36545. On the question of baths, you used some term
about the men having black faces and that being against
them? — I believe it is, too.

36546. The Corporation of Bristol do not own their
tramways, do they, but it is a private company T — A
private company.

36547. They object to colliers riding in their tram-
cars, do they not ? — They did object.

36548. I suppose because of the dirty clothes and black
faces T — Yes.

36549. It is not for that reason you suggest colliers
should be washed ? — ^Not for that reason — that is an off-
side reason and it is a very important one to the collier.
I believe without the black face going amongst the multitude
his standard would be raised immensely.

36550. You think that for the sake of health generally,
baths should be placed at the collieries ? — Yes, from the
point of view of sanitation.

36551. Do you prefer that to having baths in the work-
men's homes 7 — Yes, I do — away from his family. I
know there are men in our coal-field who wash from head
to foot ; but where a man has a family around him it
is not always convenient for him to strip himself naked
and wash himself in his home. In my part they are
amongst the cleanest colliers I know of.

36552. (Mr, SmiUie,) Does your society defend members
who are charged with breach of the Mines Act ? — If we are
satisfied that the man has done a '^yrong we try to exercise
a care not to support him ; but if it is a doubtful case we
do support him for the sake of the man getting justice.

36553. You would not defend a person if you knew he
was guilty of a deliberate breach of the Mines Act ? —
No ; because we should feel we should be in the eye? or
the employers placing ourselves in some degree in the
position of accessories to such things.

36554. Collieiy managers are sometimes charged before
the Court with a breach of the Act ? — Not often.

36555. You have known of such oases though of collieiy
managers being charged by the mines inspectors 7 —
Yes, we have had a few cases, but they do not often occur —
not so often as they would do if they were workmen.

36556. You would not be favourable to giving the
mines inspector power to fine a colliery manager £5 rather
than taJce him to Court, would you ? You do not think
that would tend to discipline 7 — I do not ; I think the
Court is the proper place.

36557. If it is a proper place for a manager to be tried,
it is the proper place for a workman to be tried ? — Yes.

36558 With regard to inspection under Rule 38, the
owner of a collieiy might be anxious that a true report
should be made of the condition of matters, but there
might be some xmder officials who would not be so anxious

that a true report should be made — I moan a true report
might sometimes reflect upon some under officials in the
mine that they were not doing their duty ? — That is so.

36559. Is it not possible for under officials sometimes
to make a miner's life miserable and for the owner to
know nothing at all about it 7 — Oh, quite so.

36560. And the fear of that might deter a person,
perhaps, from always giving a true report ? — ^Yes ; the
whole trend of the individual gain makes the official and
the manager use pressure to keep in darkness sometimes
facts that would otherwise como to light. That is my
experience as a miner.

36561. You are aware that on the Continent the miners
have their pit clothes dried at the mines ? — ^That is so,
and I have seen it at a mine in Belgium.

36562. Are you aware that they must bring a clean suit
of pit clothes weekly or fortnightly to the pit ? — I am
not aware of that.

36563. Do vou not think if the washing took place at
the mine, and the drying of the clothes took place there,
it would be necessary Uiat some precaution should bo
taken to keep the clones clean ? — ^I do think so.

36564. It might be wise, perhaps, to use compulsion
in a case of that kind to ensure it 7 — Yes.

36565. In the interests of cleanliness and health it
might be sometimes necessary perhaps to compel persons
to wash themselves 7 — Yes, in the interests of public good.

36566. At the present time the Public Health Act, I
think, brings pressure to bear on persons to keep them-
selves clean 7 — Yes, in their own homes.

36567. And if it was necessary by law that baths should
be provided and drying stoves also, it might be necessary
to force some individuals who did not want to wash to
clean themselves in the interest of the whole 7 — Quite so.

36568. {Mr. Gunynghame.) You are aware, of course,
that a large number of the accidents occur by reason of
falls of roof and sides 7 — ^Yes.

I know you have made a suggestion in your
evidence, but have you any other suggestion to make for
diminishing those dangers 7 — I think I have said all I
have to say upon it ; the reduction of hours is one, in-
creased inspection is another.

36570. [Chairman.) 1 want to ask you one question
about fines. Supposing a man was to come to you and
explain the circumstances under which a manager proposed
to fine him, say half-a-crown, and after hearing his story
you came to the conclusion that undoubtedly he was
guilty of a breskch of discipline, would you advise that
man not to pay the fine, or would you insist on his going
before the magistrate 7 Would you say that as a matter
of principle you would advise him to go before the magis-
trate 7—1 would not take the responsibility as the leader
of the man of advising him not to pay the fine, because I
should be afraid of lending myself to cases where men
ought to be punished. It is because part of it is pernicious
and unfair it makes me lean strongly to a magistrate's

36571. Even if a man was to come to you under those
circumstances, and you were persuaded in your own
mind that it was a perfectly fair and just thing to ask him
to pay a fine of half-a-crown, you would refuse to give
him any advice one way or the other 7 — I should not
advise him on the matter. I should say, generally speak-
ing, the fine ought to be made by the lawful authority
in the country and not by an individual who might be
using his own caprice in ike matter.

36572. At the same time you still doubt, as you seem
to have doubted when Mr. Ratcliffe Ellis asked you the
question, as to whether it would be advisable that the
Legislature should absolutely prohibit a man from agreeing
to a fine with the management 7 — It is because of where

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 153 of 177)