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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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(Dr. Haldane,) Because of the danger of fire, I suppose.

( Witness,) One of the reasons, when we met the owners,
for fining for smoking in the mines was this. We have
never agreed for the fine to be put on, but they put up a
notice that a man caught smoking would be fined so-and-so.
They said so much about the lads smoking cigarettes
on the roads, and that if they let the men smoke the lads
would smoke.

37038. (Mr, Enoch Edwards.) You have had rather a
serious fire or two at T^icester ? — We had one serious
gob fire— not a gob fire, it was a fire in the main intake.

37039. It might arise out of a desire to prevent the men
setting the timber on fire if they do not take matches
in ? — The desire arose from this, if I remember rightly —
I was at the meeting. The then secretary of the Owners'
Association said that they could not detect the fire stink
so well if cigarettes were smoked.

37040. They could not detect the gob stinks ?— No.

37041. That is an explanation, at any rate ? — Yes,
whether it is a reason or not.

37042. Have you any agreed scale for fines ? — No.

37043. How do they proceed to fine a man. Who
would fine him ? — The manager. There ib a notice
put up that after such a date a man will be fined for smoking.
If the man is caught with a shovel, which is against
Contract Rules, he is fined. They could not summon
him, but they could dismiss him.

37044. Having a shovel instead of a fork ? — Yes.

37045. Those breaches of niles would be reported by
somebody else to the manager ? — Yes.

37046. It would be possible for a man who was a neigh-
bour to report a breach of rules, a man living near another
man, when there was not much in the case at all ? — It
might be so ; it is possible.

37047. He would agree to a fine where it would not
result in a fine if he was taken before the Court ? — I could
not say that.

37048. Your men have agreed that they prefer to be
fined at the Court instead of at the colliery office T — In
cases. I will give you a case. Since the shot-firers were
put on by the owners sometimes the men have to wait,

whereas they ought not to. lH^^y ram ahd charge their
own holes, and they have been filing shots for years until
this Order came out. They sometimes fire a shot them-
selves, and they have been fined for that instead of being

37049. At the back of it the men and management
realise that there is no danger from an explosion if you use
all sorts of exjdosives \^en you use naked li^ts ? — Yes.

37050. The same stringency of rules in a fiery district
has not the same force in your district ? — No.

37051. {Mr, SmiUie.) I think you said having posted
up a notice prohibiting smoking and stating that tbm will
be a fine for so doing, that notice has al th i power of an
Act of Parhamcnt ? — I do not know that they put a fine
on to the notice. They prohibit smoking, and I think
if it is so long posted up and no objection is raised to it it
becomes law.

37052. Whether or not the Home Office has cognisance
of it 7 — I could not say. I am speaking off-hand.

37053. Will you tell us whether, if the manager at any
time posts up Special Rules at that colliery without con-
sulting the Home Office or the workers, and those rules
stand for a certain time, they become law ? — ^I think so.

37054. Without consulting anybody outside T — Yes» I
think so.

(Mr, Cunifnghame.) They could not, without serving
them on the Home Office.

(Mr, SmiUie,) I was astonished to hear it, but it evi-
dently is so there.

(Mr, Cunynghame,) The owners can say " We will
dismiss a man who does so-and-so," but not take him
before the magistrates on those Special Rules.

(Mr. SmiUie.) They can fine him.

( Witness.) That is what I mean.

(Mr. Cunynghame.) They can fine him certainly by law.

37055. (Mr. SmiUie.) I recognise that the magistrate
would not condemn a person under those rules, but it gives
the management evidently power to fine a person. He
might post up notices with regard to 150 different things of
which a miner might be guilty which are not provided for
in the Special Rmes, and he would be justified in fining
for any of those offences T — ^I do not say '* justified.*'

37056. He has power T — We have objected to the
fining for smoking.

37057. How have you succeeded in your objection ? —
There are very few pits where it is unable. There are
some pits where it is.

37058. If you believe in fining for offences against
Special Rules why should you object to fines for other
offences for which the employers post a notice ? If you
are willing that fines between the manager and workmen
should be legalised for breaches of those Special Rules
which are for safety, why should you object to fines such
as fines for smoking, when the management post up those ?
— Because we think there is no occasion for fiining for
smoking when naked lights are used.

37059. Your protest has not borne any fruit 7 — ^It has
borne fruit.

37060. If a workman objected to be fined under this
smoking notice, he is likely to be dismissed 7 — Yes, that
is so.

37061. Your Association then would be in a position,
if it cared, to defend him 7 — Yes. I know of no occasion
yet where a man has been dismissed for smoking.

37062. You have known the men fined 7 — Yes.

37063. Have you known them refuse to allow the fine
to take place 7 — Yes.

37064. And having it returned to them 7 — ^Yes, but
it has not been stopped.

37065. There has been a protest against it, conse-
quently it is not strictly carried out where the protest
is allowed 7 — It is not strictly carried out.

37066. Your staUmen, undergrotind workmen and boys
generally, apart from the deputies and others, have about
20 Special Rules which they are expected to observe.
They are the Special Rules from No. 63 to No. 82. The
Special Rules apply to the stiUlmen, underground work-
men and boys aside from those having special duties 7
— Yes.

37067. Almost every one of those 20 rules would carry
with it either a fine for breach or a prosecution 7 — Yes.

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9*7068. Almost every one of those rules lays down ^me
particular thiBg which a person is not to do or that he is
to do ?— Yes.

37069. If he is guilty of a sin of commission or omission
he would be liable to be either prosecuted or fined under
almost every one of those rules. Can you tell us which of
those rules you say a fine would be justifiable for ? They
are all dealing with the safety of the individual himself,
or the general safety of the men ? — I have never looked
specially at those. Something occurs in the management
of the pit and the men and the manager think it is sufficient
to keep discipline in that pit to fix a fine. They ought to
pay that fine if they think proper, instead of being
summoned, unless there is a gross breach of the rules.

37070. A person is not entitled to go on the cage with-
out the consent of the on-setter, and must come oft the
cage when the on-setter orders him to come off the cage.
That is Special Rule 63 7— Yes.

37071. K he refuses to come oflF the cage when the on-
setter tells him, because there is an excessiv.^ number of
men on it, do you think that a fine would be justified ? —
I do not think that they would attempt to fine. I think
they would summon him.

37072. You think it would be correct in a case of that
kind ?— Yes.

37073. Because it is a danger to himself and perhaps to
the other mefl. Rule 64 says : " No person, witnout
authority, shall give any signal, or improperly use, or
without authority remove or interfere ^-ith any signal,
signal wire, or signal apparatus." If a person disobeys
that rule, do you say that a fine of Is. 6d. or 2s. 6d. by
tibe manager would be sufficient ? — I cannot give my
opinion upon every one of these rules.

37074. These rules are for the safety of the individual
workman and the general body of ihe workmen. WTiioh of
those do you think would be justified by a fine ? They
are all dealing with safety, and a breach of them may lead
to danger. la it really breaches of the Special Rules that
you and your men were thinking about when they spoke
of it being placed in the hands of the manager, and asked
to have a fine ? — Yes, in some cases breaches of Special

37075. Danger to life arising from a breach ? — No, not
if dangerous to Ufe.

37076. Do you know any of those rules which forbids
anything or lajrs down anything ? — Take 76, just that one

37077. " Any person passing through a door or cloth
must instantly close it " ? — Supposing he did not do it ?

37078. Supposing he did not do it, what might be the
result in a fiery mine ? — I am speaking of mines which are
not fiery.

37079. Some are fiery ? — We have only one with lamps

37080. You have two ? — One, and a few in the other
pit, I said.

37081. Those lamps are there, I suppose, because of gas ?
— Yes.

37082. Those Special Rules apply to all the mines ?— -

37083. You cannot differentiate between where a person
shall be fined in one part of your district and where he
should not be fined in another part ? — Yes, you could, if
I were manager.

37084. If a person leaves a door unscreened with cloth,
it is for the purpose of regulating the ventilation of the
mine, and where a person leaves a door open for a short
time or a screen not down properly it might interfere
with the ventilation ? — If left open a couple of minutes
it would not interfere with the ventilation of the mine

^ 37085. You do not think that a person would be fined
for leaving a door open two minutes. It takes some time
to accumulate a quantity of gas. Do you think a fine
would be insufficient where a person leaves a door open ?
— Not to leave it open for long.

37086. Where you justify fines will you fix the time it
should be left open before a prosecution ? — No, I am not
going to fix anything about a fine. I was thinking of
things that pertain to the Contract Rules.

37087. Do you know any Special Rules which deal with
anything but the safety of the workmen ? — No.

37088. Do you and your workmen justify a fine between
the workman and the manager where the life of the indivi-

dual himself or his fellow men is at stake ? Do you not Mr. I,
think a prosecution would be the greatest deterrent ? — LovetL
It might be a greater deterrent than fines. ^

37089. I will put it straight to you whether or not a ^ F eb., 1 908.
prosecution is likely to be a greater deterrent than a fine ? ^«1*- ^^^^
— Yes, I think it would be.

37090. I put that in view of your answer to the Chair-
man. You said because of the shame and publicity you
object to go to Court ? — Yes, in some things.

37091. Is not the cause of that shame and publicity
likely to be a greater deterrent than the present fine ? —
It might be a greater deterrent than fining a man.

37092. Could you go beyond " might " ? Do you know
yourself whether it would or not ? Let us have it would
or it would not, if you think it would or it would not T—
I think in some cases it would and in some cases it would

37093. In some cases a public Court trial would not be
a greater deterrent than a fine of 2s. 6d. ? — No not with
some men.

37094. Take it you are still in favour of fines being
continued ; I want to put a further question. There are
sections in the Coal Mines Act of which a manager may
be guilty of a breach, such as Section 1, which says a proper
amount of ventilation shall continue round the mine.
It would be a breach of that if it is found that a manager
does not see that sufficient ventilation goes round tiie
mine ? — Yes.

37095. There are probably 40 or 50 other sections of
the Coal Mines Act or Special Rules 7 — Who is going to
say there is no proper ventilation 7

37096. I will come to that in a moment. The manager
of the colliery and the deputy are bound to carry out
certain sections of the Coal Mines Act, or see that they
are carried out ? — ^Yes.

37097. If they do not do so ihey are guilty of an offence
against the Coal Mines Act 7 — Yes.

37098. Would you and the members of your Association
be willing to permit a system of things which would allow
the mines inspector to fine a manager for a breach of the
Coal Mines Act rather than take him into Court ? — I
was dealing with men being fined and not deaUng with
the inspector and the manager.

{Mr, Cunjfnghame.) Do you mean fining with his own
consent 7

37099. (Mr. SmiUie.) Yes. You are in favour of the
miners being fined for offences against this Act if they
agree to it 7 — Yes, if they agree to it in writing.

37100. Would you be wiDing that there shoukl be
legislation to permit the mines inspector and the manager
agreeing that the manager should be fined for a breaoh
of the Coal Mines Act rather than take him to Court 7 —
You are putting that to me personally 7

37101. Yes 7— No, I would not

37102. You think in every case where the mines
inspector is of opinion that the manager has been guilty
of a breach of the Coal Mines Act that the manager should
be taken to Court 7 — You want to make it appear to me
that I am in favour of the manager and the men agreeing,
but not the manager and the inspector.

37103. Yes 7 — ^I cannot answer that question further
than I have. I said, personaUy, no, I would not.

37104. You are not in favour of a system which would
give the inspector and the manager power to agree without *
going to Court where a breach has taken place 7 — No.

37105. You are in favour of a system which will aUow
the colliery manager and the workman to mutually agree
to a fine where a breach of the Coal Mines Act has U&en
place 7 — Yes.

37106. In proppmg, joya leading prop, which the
inspector is insisting upon in one of your soams, has been
in vogue many years in some of your seams 7 — Yes.

37107. Where the roof is specially dangerous 7 — Yes.

37108. The men usually, in addition to carrying out
those Propping Rules, systematic timbering, put in a
leading prop because of the danger which may arise
between the tub and the face 7 — Yes.

37109. Mr. Stokes is anxious that that leading prop
should he introduced and carried out in the other seams
where the roof is strong and there is no apparent reason
for it 7— Yes.

37110. That you object to 7— Yes.

60 A

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Mr. L, 37111 You do not object to the systematic timbering,

LoveU. putting props at hast 6 ft. apart no matter how bad the

roof is ? —Yes.

5 Feb., 1908. 37112. You are willing that should be done ?— We
think it ought to be done.

37113. You object to the leading prop being established
wherever the roof is good and there is no real reason for
it ?— Yes.

37114. Your reason for that being, in the first place*
that it is in the miner's way without there being any
necessity for it being there at all T — ^Yes.

37115. In the second place it is a source of danger,
because falls of coal from the working face 6 ft. high
might knock it out and injure the men 7 — Yes.

37116. Haye you secured that all over your coalfield
the leading prop shall not be insisted upon ? — There is
only one pit it is insisted on, and that should be only
when required. Where I say the leading prop has been
set many years, the men have not been forced to it. It
is on their own behalf. I think where the timbering is
done by the men in charge, the manager should be sure
that the men are practical men with plenty of knowledge
so far as they can judge.

37117. In the first place something should be done
to secure that the person having charge is ^ thoroughly
practical man 7 — Yes.

37118. A man who will know reasonably where timber
should be set 7 — Yes.

37119. In addition to the system of timbering where
danger arises from bad roof or anything else, that the man
should know and have power to act 7 — And will set a prop.

37120. Yes ; but a thoroughly practical stallman
should not be forced to set props where there is no reason
for them being set outside the ordinary limit ? — Yes.

37121. With regard to the examination by the deputy,
I want to ask you a question ? — I should like to add
about safety lamps where the lamps have been put in
the wages of those men there — in one of the pits in that
district — they have gone down considerably.

37122. The 2d. a ton they receive, you mean 7 — It is
not made up to the amount.

37123. You, yourself, are a practical working minor
of many years* standing 7 — Yes.

37124. You have worked with close lamps and candles 7
— Yee,

37125. Has your experience been that a person has
the same opportunity of protecting himself against falls
of roof and sides when working ^ith a close lamp as with
an open candle 7 — My experience is the other way. A
man with a candle can see better and detect the cracks
in the roof than with a lamp.

37126. You have no figures to prove that 7 — ^No ; that
is from personal experience.

37127. From your personal experience a person is able
to protect himself better against falls of roof and sides
with a naked light than with a close lamp ? — Yes.

37128. In the second place it gives more light 7 — Yes.

37129. And is more easily handled 7 — Yes, shifted
about from places better. I saw in some of the evidence
given that there had been less accidents where the lamps
were used. I do not think it right to impute less accidents
in mines and stalls especiaUy to the use of safely lamps,
but to a good supply of suitable timber, and care in
making charge-men of staUs, that is, placing men in
these responsible positions. I think that has had more
effect on accidents.

37130. You ought to take care to put thoroughly
practical men in charge of stalls and see that there is a
proper supply of timber 7 — Yes.

37131. Have you any number of unskilled persons
employed in your mines 7 — Many lately. They are not
put to the stall work. They are on the road chiefly.

37132. Doing labouring work chiefly 7 — Yes.

37133. They may be put in under the charge of a
thoroughly experienced stallman 7 — And some have been,

37134. You think it would be a souree of danger to
start a number of unskilled persons to work at the face
unless each workman was under a skilled practical man 7
- -Yes, certainly.

37135. Even in stowing, doing labouring work on the
haulage roads, or the stowing roads, it might be a danger
for an unskiUed person to work alone 7 — Yes, or two
unskilled persons working together.

37136. Your examination itx v^^ morning by the deputy
may be made within three h^^ of the workmen going
into the place 7 — Yes.

37137. In fiery mines are not three hours too long a
period to elapse uom the time a deputy makes the morning
examination tQl the workmen ^ o in 7 — I should think it
would be too long before the workman went to his working

37138. A considerable accumulation of gas might take
place 7 — Yes.

37139. The place might be clear when the deputy made
the examination, but two hours afterwards there might
be a considerable accumulation of gas 7 — Yes.

37140. Your workings are longwall 7 — Yes.

37141. Is there not continuously a crush and change
taking place in longwall workings at all times 7 — Yes.

37142. More so than where coal is mined by the pillar
and stall system 7 — Yes, but as a rule there is a better
course of ventilation.

37143. The ventilation sweeping all round the longwall
faces makes it less liable to have an accumulation of gas 7
— That is so.

37144. Even three hours might be too long, even from
the point of view of safety, from the time the deputy
makes his examination. Many things might happen
at the face within three hours with the crush on. Stones
might become bad which were quite good when he was
there 7 — Yes.

37145. From that point of view you think three hours
is too long ? — Yes, it might be three hours. It means
it could be three hours, but I do not think that there is
any place where it is three hours.

37146. I do not think there is, but it permits of there
being three hours 7 — Yes. The examination is generally
made just before the men go in.

37147. The Special Rules provide that it may be three
hours 7 — Yes.

37148. You think a Special Rule as wrong which would
permit of it being three hours 7 — I do not think it ought
to permit three hours.

37149. Have you any complaint to make as to the
extent of your (deputies' districts 7 — ^No.

37150. Are they too large 7 — Since this shot-firing
Order came into force they have put a lot of men on shot-
firing. They act as deputies as well as shot-firing.

37151. Are you satisfied with the status of yoiur deputies,
that they are good men with practical experience and
theoretical knowledge to justify their appointment 7 —
I have heard no fault on the part of any of the deputies.

37152. You are well pleased with the present system 7
— Yes. I think sometimes they might put shot-m^rs on
too young. The other day I saw a shot-firer, 29 years
of age, who has not been working in a stall. I think that
is too young. I also think shots should be fired during
the turning shift not between shifts, it would take less
shots and not expose the roof for such a long time.

37153. Some precaution should be taken that a person
is thoroughly acquainted from practical experience and
age to justify his appointment 7 — He should have practical
knowledge of the stall and the roof where he goes to fire
a shot.

37154. {Mr, Cur^yngJiame,) I find that I omitted to ask
you one question. With regard to inquests you wanted
to say something. I will read it, because it is practically
what you say : * There should be at least three practical
working miners on the jury or three men who have been
practical miners. An official of the deceased's trade union
should be allowed to attend without having to obtain the
consent of a majority of the workmen or be subject to an
Order by the coroner. The trades union official should be
allowed to examine witnesses in the interest of the relative
of the deceased and the association " ? — Yes. I have a
little more here. The trade union official should be
allowed to examine witnesses in the interests of the rela-
tives of the deceased, the workmen at the mine, and the
association. There are reasons for that which prove
conclusively to me why miners should be on these juries.
Our coalfield is close to Leicester, and when serious
accidents occur they are often convoyed to the I^eicester
Infirmary, and the jury have been of Leicester townsmen,
who had never seen a pit and knew nothing about the
working of a mine, and it has been difficult to make them
understand the real cause of the accident. I think,
wherever a miner gets killed that there ought to be some
practical miners on the jury.

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37155. You would also give to the trades union official
a right to examine witnesses ? — Yes.

37166. Would you not give the coroner the right to
say " You may put this question/* or would you give
him an absolute right in spite of the coroner ? — That he
should be there and put questions in spite of the coroner.

37157. Supposing there was a witness whom the jury were
considering whether to send for his trial for manslaughter,
would you give the trades union official a right to say :
** Are you guilty of a breach of the rule or not ? " Just
think of the question and consider it ? — The coroner
might keep the man in certain order in asking questions.

37158. It is a very relevant question, I am sure you will
see ? — The trades union leader ought to be allowed to ask

37159. 'Even if that man was on the preliminary stages
of trial for possibly an offence which would send him to
penal servitude ? — Certainly, the coroner ought to warn
the man if he said anything.

37160. Have you not forgotten that this coroner's
court is a preliminary criminal court, and in criminal
courts it is not usual to allow anybody, however interested,
to ask questions at his will ? — Not at his will. I was
thinking the man could not ask questions at all if the
coroner ordered him not. to.

37161. In a Criminal Court is it not better to allow the
Judge to be the judge of what questions should be asked 7
This is the point. Have you not possibly forgotten that
a coroner's inquest is not merely a Court of Enquiry,
but a preliminary Criminal Court where perhaps the right

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 157 of 177)