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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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H. H. 8. CmfYNaHAMB, Esq., o.b. {in the Chair),

JoHi?^ Scott Haldakb, Esq., f.b.s,


Robbbt Smilub, Esq.

8. W. Habbis, Esq. {Secretary).

Mr. Lsvi LovBTT, caFed and examined.




36917. {Mr. Cunynghame.) You are deputed by the
Leicestershire Miners' Association to come here and give
evidence ? — Yes,

36918. I will take you shortly, because we have heard
at very great length a number of the points already on
which you are going to give evidence. You think that
the inspecting staff should be enlarged so that there
should be two thorough examinations made each year
instead of one, which is the average at present? — ^Ves,
at. least two.

36910. I suppose you would concede that it would be
impossible for the State to undertake such an inspection
of mines as to guarantee them to be completely safe,
in other words, to take the question of safety out of the
hands of the management ? — I do not think they could
po3sil)ly do it.

36920. Still, you want more inspection than exists at
the present ? — Yes.

36921. What would you desire as to inspection by men
under Rule 38 ? — I think they should be appointed by
the Government and paid by the Government.

36922. That means you would have some practical
men as Government inspectors ? — That is so.

36923 I suppose your practical men would not be
inspectors capable of doing the very most difficult task,
such as advising on the whole ventilation of the mine ?
— No, but practical men so far as concerns examining the
roof and side plsces.
"" 36024. That would be with a limited function T — Yes.

36925. 1 suppose if they were appointed they could
not aspire to be inspectors of the higher orders, unless
they were able to pass an engineering examination 7 — Of
course, if they were able to pass such an examination
they would be able to aspire to be inspectors.

36926. I think you have something to say about
inspection under Rule 4 ? — Yes. When there are two
shifts working consecutively without the men leaving
the shift there is no inspection, and I think the inspection
ought to be made between the shifts.

36927. What do you say as to the fining of men ? —
In our district it is found to work very well indeed. Unless
there has been a gross breach of the rules they fine a
man, and that is with the man's consent in writing, and
in some plaoes they post his name up in a conspicuous
place about the colliery to show he has been fined. We
think that much better than taking him before a magis-
trate for small matters.

36928. You would not allow that to be done in the
grosser or grave cases ? — Quite so.

36929. It is only done in the trivial cases ? — Yes, in
the trivial cases.

36930. What are your reasons for thinking a fine is
best ? — We think it is quite as effective to fine him ;
besides, we do not care to take him before a magistrate
and get him oonvicted if it is a very trivial ofience.

36931. You think the disgrace, so to speak, of being
brought before the magistrate is more than the character
of the case warrants ?-^Yes.

Mr. L.


36932. And there is also the loss of time in getting the 5 Feb., 1906.

conviction ? — Yes ; but it is not the loss of time, it is

simply the question of the man being brought before the

36933. You think the punishment rather exceeds the
crime in that respect ? — Yes.

36934. You are of opinion that discipline can be main-
tained by fines as well as by prosecution ? — So far as my
experience goes, I think it is quite as effective for small
offences as taking him before the magistrate. I may say
these matters have been brought before the executive of
our Association, and they quite agree with what I am
saying here.

36935. I think you have something to say about Special
Rules ? — Under the Special Rules as framed now, I do
not think tiie men or the managers have a fair chance.
We had some experience with reference to that some years
ago when they were framed. The managers submitted
them to the Home Secretary and there is a deal of trouble
to get them to alter them sometimes.

36936. What rules are you referring to ? — The rules
whioh belong to Mr. Stokes' district (No. 8), Leicestershire,
Warwickshire, Nottingham and Derby.

36937. Were they rules about timbering or a general
set of rules ? — A general set. They are the same in those
four counties.

36938. They are a sort of revis'on of the Special Rules
affecting the county ? — ^I think it was a general alteration
of the Special Rules.

36938^ All the way through ? - Yes.

36940. A sort of consohdation and revision of them all ?

36941. Did not the men get an opportunity of making
their views known before those Special Rules were finalh^
adopted ? — Yes, but the opportunity was so small. If
it had been left to the men themselves, there would be
scarcely any objection raised. They have to be posted
up so long and unless the check-weighman had an oppor-
tunity of looking at those rules there would probably not
be sufficient notice taken of them.

36942. Still they were posted up for some time ? —

36943. Gould he not see them and disouss them and
make representations and call a meeting if necessary ? —
It is very rarely the men call meetings unless they are
fairly well organised, and the check-weighman going to
look at those rules and reporting to the men would be
exceeding his duties as check-weigher.

36944. What system do you then suggest ? — ^I suggest
that a Board should be formed in different districts con-
sisting of inspectors, managers and workmen, and work-
men's representatives.

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36945. What would you propose to do supposing there
was some rule that it was proposed to bring into force
for the whole of Great Britain ? You could not deal

5 Feb., 1908. with it locally, very well, because the rule would be

different in every district ? — I think rules brought in for

the whole of Great Britain would be wrong, so far as
Special Rules are concerned.

36946. Let me take an instance of some rules brought
in applicable for the whole of Great Britain, and I think
you will agree rightly so ; I mean the rules for electricity in
mines. A large code consisting of more than 50 articles was
brought in about three years ago for the whole of England,
and is quite uniform. Do you not think it would be
a very good thing that those electricity rules should be
appUcaUe to all mines ? — Those are different to the
Special Rules. I do not think Special Rules should be
framed the same all the way through for Great Britain.
I think there are some districts where they should be

36947. StiU, there should be some rules of a desirable
character framed which might be uniform throughout
Great Britain ? — Yes.

36948. Is it not a fact, if you look at your own code of
Special Rules, that nine-tenths are applicable really to
every mine in the county ? — It may be so, but I can only
speak for the four counties I have named, Leicestershire,
Warwickshire, Nottingham and Derby.

36949. They are applicable to all those counties ? —

36950. If you extended them to Yorkshire and perhaps
to Durham, nine-tenths of the rules would be appUcable
to Yorkshire and Durham, would they not ? — Well, I
could not answer as to that.

36951. Let me take one perfectly at random: "The
under-manager or some other competent person shall at
least once in every week measure the quantity of air in
each split and enter it in a book to be kept for t^e purpose
in the mine.'* That is a rule that might be applied to
every mine in the kingdom with advantage, might it not ?
— Yes, that one might.

36952. I will not go through them all. I know a great
deal about these rules, and my conviction is that if I put
my finger upon any other one, perfectly at random, you
would answer the same, would you not ? — ^No ; I do not
think you should make Special Rules for the whole of
Great Britain

36953. Is it not a fact that these rules which would
apply to Leicestershire alone and not be appUcable to
some other district are exceedingly few 7 — ^If they make
the rales and give some latitude to the men and manage*
ment, it might be so.

36954. Well, let me take Rule 47 : " Every person
about to fire a shot shall, before firing, see that all other
persons are out of reach of danger from the probable
effects of such shot " ; surely that is applicable to the
whole kingdom 7 — Yes.

36955. Now will you pick out for me from the whole
of your district (No. 8) any rule which is only applicable
to Leicestershire, and not applicable elsewhere ? — I do
not know that I can for the moment. I was thinking
about the Board being formed and not about the rules
being framed ; an^ I should not object so long as there
are some practical men on the Board to draw^ them up.

36956. The drawing up of the Electricity Rules was
founded on the labours of a committee on which the
working men had representatives ? — Quite so.

36957. You think the working men should be consulted
in some way as to these rules, and have their full say before
the rules are brought into operation ? — Yes.

36958. {Dr. Haldane.) Before they are settled 7— Yes,
before the form of them is settled and they are brought
into operation.

36959. Do you not mean before they are drawn up 7
— Yes, I mean in the drawing up of the rules.

36960. {Mr, Cunynghame.) How can it be possibly
shown to anyone befo.e it is drawn up 7 — I think the
men should know when it was being drawn up.

36961. How can you have the working men come in to
discuss it, even before a sche .:e is c&awn up 7 — ^They
might discuss the scheme.

36962. There must be a scheme proposed by someone
before they can discuss it 7 — Quite so.

36963. (Dr. Haldane.) You rather object to the rules
being drawn and posted up for any objections to be made

to them before the workiH^'i are consulted In any way.
You say they should be consulted at an earlier stage 7
— Yes.

36964. The important case is, where rules are proposed
by the Home Office — they must in such a case be framed
by th ^ Home Office before suggested 7 — Yes.

36965. And when sent down means must be taken to
make them known 7 — Yes.

36966. One of which would be, at all events, by posting
them at the pit 7 — Yes.

36967. Your great point is that the workmen should
have in each district a thorough opportunity of making
their feelings and opinions with regard to these rules
thoroughly known 7 — That is so.

36968. {Mr. Cunynghame.) Now as to accidents, what
do you say with regard to systematic timbering 7 —
With regard to systematic timbering I think the steJl-
man should be allowed to set advanced timber in the
stall. In our district we had some difficulty not long
since. You will find I am following Mr. Stokes somewhat,
the Government Inspector of No. 8 district. His duties
lead him into our aistrict and with all due respect to
Mr. Stokes, we have sometimes to come into conflict with
him as Government Inspector. With regard to systematio
timbering, so far as I am informed, Mr. Stokes is even
going beyond that in the stalls. In some of our seams
there is a system of timbering, called a leading prop,
or advanced prop, or safety prop, that has been set in
some of the seams — what is called the old main seam —
for 30 years ; but in the lower seam it is not at all required
in many places. Now we have had great difficulty, and
Mr. Stokes has been trying to make the men set this prop,
whether required or not as a system. We have very
nearly had a strike about it. We met the owners at
I^icester and they agreed not to enforce it unless where
necessary. Just recently we have had a dispute at one
colliery, and there the matter came forward very acutely.

36969. Your point is that there has been a tendency i
(I will not say by whom) to insist upon what I suppose R
one would call the pedantic setting of props, whether they v\
are required or not 7 — That is so. ^

36970. You say they only ought to be set where
required 7 — That is so, I think, under Special Rule 70.

36971. This is the rule: " Stallman in each stall shall
build efficient packs and set a sufficient quantity of props,
bars or timber for safely supporting the roof and sides
in their working places, and shall remove and renew the
same when necessary " 7 — Sometimes a man thinks it is

36972. Apparently Mr. Stokes, out of anxiety for the
safety of the men (for it must be that) is going rather
further than you think he ought to go 7 — That is so.

36073. What is the prescribed distance at the present
time 7 — Not more than 6 ft. under our agreement

36974. Under your agreement would that occasionaUy
involve the setting of the props at a greater distance than
6 ft. 7 — No, a lesser distance.

36975. You mean to obey the 6 ft. rule, notwithstanding
that agreement 7 — Yes.

36976. Supposing it was unnecessary to have props at
a nearer distance at some particular place, than 12 ft.,
does that agreement mean you are not to set them nearer
than 6 ft. 7 — Yes, not to go beyond 6 ft.

36977. You are to obey the 6 ft. rule, notwithstanding
the agreement 7 — Yes.

36978. You say there has been a tendency to want you
to timber systematically, at a great deal less than 6 ft.,
whether necessary or not 7 — Yes It is what the men
themselves call a man-trap, because it is likely to be
knocked down and injure a man.

36979. At all events the error, if it is an error, is rather
due to an excess of care for your safety than a want of
care for safety on t^e part of the inspector 7 — Yes ; but
the men think if it is set when it is not needed for the roof
it is a source of danger.

36980. At all events it is done out of an excess of care
for your safety by Mr. Stokes 7 — ^That is all.

36981. Now about the explosives in the Coal Mines
Order of 1896. Will you call attention to the portion
which you think wants modification 7— So far as I am
concerned, I do not know that it wants any modification
in our district. In our district, on May 12th, 1897, we
came before the then Home Secretary, Sir Matthew Wliite


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Ridley, when the Order was fiist made, and we asked to
ge an exemption for our counly, if possible, or a modifica-

Of what part did you want a modiHcation : —
Of that part where it is saia in the Order : " Where in-
flammable gas has been found in a mine." When the
Order was framed it was said : *' When such inflammable
gas was found in such quantity as to be indicative of
danger." The words " in such quantity " when it first
came out were not there. The first point we made was
this, that no fatal accident had resulted from using blasting
powder in this district, during the last 25 years, nor
previously to our knowledge. That was on May 12th,
1897 — it is more than 10 years since then, and no fatal
accident has occurred since that time.

36983. What do you want done that is not done ? —
Mr. Stokes wants and says that those words ought not to
be in that Order and they ought to be taken out.

36984. Do you mean the words : " In such quantity
as to be indicative of danger " ? — Yes ; we want those
words retained in the Order.

36985. He says it ought to be " Wherever gas has been
found, whether in such quantity as to be indicative of
danger or not " ? — Yes.

36986. You think those words " as to be indicative of
danger " ought to remain in the Order ? — Yes. The
Home Secretary indicated that he was disposed to modify
the Order.

36987. Well, you seem in that instance to have been
consulted, at all events ? — Quite so.

36988. {Mr. SmiUie,) Because they protested ?— Yes,
we protested. The Home Secretary intimated that he
was disposed to modify the Order and extend the date of
application, and he also stated that he would be pleased
to receive suggested modifications of the Order, but that
a total exemption for any district could not be enter-
tained. Upon his making that suggestion that he would
be pleased to receive any modifications, Mr. Maclaren,
now Sir Charles Maclaren, suggested these words for us,
and they were introduced into the Order.

36989. {Mr, Cw/tynghame,) Those are the words also
that exist in the main Act ? — Now.

36990. They did at that time exist in the Coal Mines Act,
but not in the Order ? — I could not say.

36991. At all events you think those words ought to
remain 7 — We do. In our districts we have pits and
seams which have been going for more than 100 years,
and I do not know of any explosion of gas that has ever
taken plaoe in those seams. We have just one pit now,
where they are working by lamps the whole of the pit ;
and there is part of another pit worked by lamps — but
there is no trouble. If the managers find gas in the pit
that is in any wise dangerous, lamps are introduced
(although they pay 2d. per ton extra for lamps^ and have
been for many years now.

36992. I should like to put one point to you as a p -actioal
miner. It was suggested that if we put in the words
** wherever gas has been found," and do not indicate the
quantity at all, to some extent it might be but a thimble-
ful, then there is no mine in the country where you could
say that gas has not been found, if you chose microscopic-
ally to look for it. Is that so or not ? — I should think
there is hardly any pit where you could not find gas at
some time.

36993. If vou went so far as that it would be said you
might as well prescribe safety lamps and have done with
the difficulty ? — Yes, where gas was found. At most pits
I think you would find a little gas, but not dangerous.

36994. Now as to safety lamps, do you consider the
present Rule 8 enough at present ? — ^I do.

36995. I suppose you would be in favour of a Govern-
ment inspection and test of safety lamps to prevent any
being used that are not safe. Would you have any
objection to that ? — I do not quite understand the question.

36996. Would you have any objection, or would you
support the Government asking for a lamp testing sta ion
at which lamps used by miners should be teste ( to see
they were safe ? — ^I should have no objection to that. I
think if lamps are used they should be as safe as they
possibly could be.

36997. And you would approve the Government taking
steps to test them ? — Yes.

36998. (Dr. Haidane.) I think I am right in supposing
there is very little trouble, either from explosive gas or
black damp in your district ? — Very little indeed.

36999. The mines are well ventilated and there is plenty
of air as a rule ? — Yes.

37000. Have you ever considered whether it would be
a desirable thing to provide accommodation for washing
and changing at the pithead for men after their work 7 —
I have not.

37001. In your district is there fairly good accommoda-
tion at home for washing and changing ? — Yes.

37002. The housing is good, you say, on the whole 7 —
Yes, very good.

37003. On an average how many rooms would there be
in a miner*s house ? — In most of the houses there are
three rooms down, and three up.

37004. Six rooms ? — Six rooms.

37005. That is plenty of accommodation 7 — Sufficient,
I should think.

37006. So that there is no difficulty in a man getting a
tub when he comes home from his work 7 — Not the least,
if he requires it. In our district there are many of the
men who get houses of their own, and there is a lot of
freehold property, but there are very few colliery com- I
pany's houses. "Die houses are being built of a very good /
class indeed, and the rents are from 4s. to 5s. and 5s. 6d.

a week.

37007. Those houses are built by private persons 7 —

37008. Not by the company 7— No.

37009 Do you mean it is possible to provide six rooms
at a rent of 6s. a week 7 — Yes, they are doing it in some
parts of the district. When you get into the urban
district the rents are more ; but in the rural districts
5s. and 5s. 6d. is the top price. There are plenty of houses
with six rooms to be had at 5s.

37010. Are those prices inclusive of rates 7 — Yes, the
landlord pays the rates.

37011. Are there bathrooms in many of the houses 7
— No ; very few have bathrooms. There are tliree bed-
rooms and three rooms downstairs, and each room as a
rule is separate from the others.

37012. {Mr. Enoch Edwards.) At what hour does your
deputy make his examination 7 — I could not tell you,
speaking straight off. The deputy makes an examination
before the men go in.

37013. Does he examine the rood and working-place
and faces 7 — Yes.

37014. Did I understand you to say that was the only
examination made 7 — No ; there are other examinations
made, but between shift and shift they are not to make
an examination. If there are men working in the stall,
say. at 12 o'clock, and another shift comes on at 1 2 o'clock,
and the first men go away, they are not forced to make
another examination.

37015. You do not suggest that the first examination
is the only examination 7 — ^No ; so far as the examinations
are concerned, there are five or six every day.

37016. Then what did you mean by saying in answer
to Mr. Ounynghame that that was the only examination 7
— I did not say that was the only examination.

37017. I thought you complained that it was the only
examination 7 — No. One of the Special Rules says that
those two or three shifts are to be reckoned as one. If
they are not reckoned as one ther:; is to be another exami-
nation made. If th re is no break, there is no other
examination made. I think between the one set of men
going out and another coming in there ought to be a
separate examination.

37018. I certainly understood you to suggest that was
the only examination made. If the shifts are continuous
the fireman would be making his examination during the
shifts 7— Yes.

37019. Yours is not a gassy mine 7 — No.

37020. Do you use lamps at all the places 7 — There is
only one, and that has just been put in. One pit has been
using lamps for a good deal in one district, but that district
is stopped now.

37021. Are you subject much to falls from roofs and
sides 7 — No, not much — it is a strong stone roof in the
upper seam.

37022. Do your workmen make any examinations at
all under General Rule 38 7 — Not now.


Mr. L.

I Feb., 1908.

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Mt, L. 37023. Is t'lat because they do not think it necessiry ?

LovtU, — If I was to give my opinion, I should say it is because

they were afraid to report years ago, before there were

5 Feb., 19dS. associations,

'" 37024. What is the reason now ? — Well, it has not

b3en attempted recently.

37025. I understand you to say that your men agree
to the principle of fines at the office ? — Yes.

37026. Would you be surprised to learn that you are
the only representative of the men who has said so T —
It does not matter whether I am surprised or not, it is
what I have been told to say here, and what I believe in.

37027. What you believe in ? — Yes. I have not only
a mandate to say that, but I believe in it too.

37028. You suggest first of all there is not the natural
element of danger there from gas as in many other
collieries ? — There is not.

37029. Your death rate from falls of roofs ^nd sides is
not so big as in other districts T — I could not say that,
but there are not many accidents occur in our district.

37030. Kow coming to the question of fines for a small
offence, what would you call a small offence ? — Well,
I should not like to define a small offence. If a man was
unramming a shot hole I should not consider that would be
a small offence, but an offence with regard to shot-firing
would be another matter.

37031. That would be a breach of the rules T— Yes.

37032. You have many offences where a small fine
would be imposed, but it is not a breach of the rules ? —
Ves, for instance, smoking where you are using naked

37033. Do they prohibit smoking where you use naked
Ughts ?— Yes.

37034. You use naked lights and blast openly and they
prohibit smoking ? — Yes.

37035. Do you know why that is done ? — ^To keep the
pit safe.

37036. (Mr, SmiUie,) What rule is that under T— Under
no rule. They post it up and it becomes law.

37037. (Mr. Cunynghame.) Why prohibit smoking ?

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 156 of 177)