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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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class of house should disappear and that people should be j
provided with better houses. We do not suggest the I
change on the ground of perpetuating the use of houses I
of that description, which I understand are in existence
in other places.

21561. {Dr. Haldane.) Do these exist to any considerable
extent 7 — ^Yes, there are hundreds.

21562. {Mr, SmiUie.) Thousands 7—1 should not put it
thousands. The employers in building houses now are
putting up a better class of house, but in old colliery
villages there are some very poor places.

21563. I suppose that is for want of room. A man
would not go to a house like that 7 — They were satisfied
with lees accommodation in the past, I suppose. They
charge very, very low rents, and if they had a choice of a
liurger house they would have a larger rental to pay. Even

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now some men able to afford it take the cbeaper houses
rather than provide the accommodation they can afford to
pay for.

21564. {Mr, F, L. Davis,) Is it simply one room by itself*
or one room in a house ? — ^No, it is a house.

{Mr, StniUie.) There may bo a row of 20 houses, and
each of them is a single^apartment house with a door coming
into that single apartment, and there are two beds in the
house, and the cooking, the cleaning, the births and deaths
all take place there, and the pit clothes are dried in that one
apartment 14 ft. square. There are hundreds of cases.

21565. {Mr, Ratdiffe EUis,) You do not expect that is
going to be perpetuated ? — ^No, I think that should be
wiped out as quickly as possible.

21566. {Mr, SmiUie,) I think it would be the greatest
blessing that could be conferred upon the miners' wives
if the men changed their clothes and cleaned themselves
at the pit before they came home ? — Yes, undoubtedly
it would.

21567. You say you would be satisfied with Mr. Ellis's
method of establishing Special Rules ? — ^Yea, I think that
would meet our objections to a very large extent.

21568. Are you not aware that is practically the position
at the present time ?

{Mr, Ratdiffe EUis.) No. It is different. First of all
there is no opportunity for the men directly to make any
objection or be represented. I propose that they
should be. Secondly, I propose that there should not be
an arbitration, each side appointing one arbitrator and the
two an umpire, but failing agreement an arbitrator to be
appointed by a Judge of the High Court. My idea is, the
men would have an opnortunity of objecting to the rule
and of being representea at the arbitration.

21669. {Mr, SmiUie,) There is an opportunity of
objection to the rule when it is posted by the Home Office 7
— Yes, but it is then in force.

21570. I suppose you think that the workmen are jointly
connected with the mines of this country, and to some
extent that their lives should give them the same right
to propose Special Rules as the employers who have the
capital invested ? — Undoubtedly.

21571. If you give the employers that method of estab*
lishing Special Rules, would you claim that the workmen
might have a right of proposing Special Rules to the Home
Office for their safety? — Certainly; that the workmen
should have the same right as the employers to suggest
any improvement if necessary.

21572. Mr. Ellis put it that the employers should not be
placed in the position, if the engine-winders came out on
strike, that their property should be destroyed because
they could not start a person without a certificate. Is
the employer not in that position now ? If the certificated
mine managers came out on strike, they could not carry
on their mines with persons who might be qualified but
did not hold a certificate. Is not that so ? — ^That is so.

21573. {Mr, RcUdiffe EUis,) There never has been a case
of that sort known. He knew a case of the other sort ? —
I did not know a case.

21574. You mentioned where there was a difficulty to
fill a gap ? — I thought you said a case where the colUery
had been ruined.

(Mr. Ratdiffe EUis,) It might have been.

21676. {Mr. SmiUie.) If it is possible to ruin a colliery
for want of certificated engine-winders, would it not be
possible to do so for want of certificated managers ? —

21576. You have never heard that urged as a reason
why managers should not hold certificates ? — ^No.

21577. (Chairman.) Continuing the question of the
winding certificates, a case of emergency might arise ;
supposing the certificate was necessary and a case of
emergency arose when some winding had to be done» some-
body would have to do it as best he could. Supposing
there was imminent danger of flooding, or the men were
required to be taken up from a pit, and the man whose
duty it was was ill. In that case the same difficulty would
arise. You would have some man to do it whose ordinary
work it was not, but the machinery would have to be set
going by somebody ? — There should be an exception made
in the case of an emergency.

21678. You would not object, supposing there was a
provision in the Act of Parlismient to say that the winder
must have a certificate^ bat that in any case of emergency


anybody who was capable of doing so should attend to the
machine ? — ^Ko, we should not object to that.

21579. With regard to the firemen, I understand that UJune 1907
your idea is that not only are the firemen made to do too —
much, so that they cannot possibly perform all the duties

they nominally are obliged to perform, but you also say
that those firemen are appointed not altogether because
they are eood men to look after the safety of the miners,
but also because good men to look after the working of
the mine ? — ^Yes.

21580. The men are employed by managers, partly,
no doubt, to look after the safety of the men, but also in
the interests of the managers themselves ? — ^Yes.

f 21581. Do you think if the firemen were not required
to look after the working of the mine, but simply appointed
to look after the safety of the workers, the probability
would be that the managers would appoint better men ? —
Yes, better men. ||

' 21582. They have now two things to consider ; first of
all, whether the fireman is competent to look after the
safety of his brother workers ; also under the present state
of things they have an eye, at least it is conceivable they
might, to their own interests in appointing men who would
be able to look after the working of the mine from the x>oint
of view of the manager's interest ? — The two things cu'e
connected. We say that they ought to have a certificate
of efficiency to be able to do the work, because if you do
not carry that out and you free the firemen from part of the
duties they are now performing, it might be open to the
manager to employ the cheapest man he could get, an old
man, for instance ; or a man not having other work to do
might be a cheaper man. The protection would be
that he should only employ a man who had a certificate
of competency.

21583. You consider that in some respects the curtail-
ment of the duties of the firemen might induce managers
to appoint a man who was not up to his business ? — ^That
is so, for a lower wage.

21584. As to Clause 8 of the Bill about the second
enquiry after the Coroner's Inquest after an accident,
your Bill says that six workmeb should be empowered
to claim another enquiry. It was suggested by Mr. Weir
that even one person might be empowered to claim an
enquinr. What do you tlmik about that ? — I think, in the
first place, if we had it tbat six workmen had a right, it
would go a long way to meet that.

21586. It was also suggested by Mr. Ellis that if six
workmen had a right to do so, that a mine manager or any
mine official who was found guilty of gross negligence, or
even manslaughter, by a Coroner s Jury, should have the
same right ? — I think it would be quite reasonable that
he should have a right.

21586. You suggest in your Bill, Clause 10, Sub-section 2,
"Any person authorised by one or more workmen at the
mine at which the explosion or accident has occurred may
attend and examine any witness, either in person or by
his counsel, solicitor or agent." Do you find any practical
difficulty in getting the Court to listen to anything that may
be said on behalf of the workmen ? — In fatal accident
enquiries ?

21587. Yes.— Not in Scotland. We get every facility
in Scotland.

21688. As far as you are concerned in Scotland you have
not much to say about this ? — There is no complaint at all
about that.

(ChairvMLn.) I do not know how far that alters the law.

21589. (Mr, Ratdiffe EUis.) The last Fatal Accidents
Act gave them that right ?— We had the right. It was
questioned sometimes by Sheriffs, but it was ultimately

(Chairman.) This does away with any doubts.

(Mr. SmiUie,) It gives the power to England and Wales
that we have now in Scotland under the Fatal Accidents
Enquiry Act.

(Chairman,) That is the effect of Gause 10, Sub-section
2, to give to England the same power the workmen have
in Scotland.

(Mr. Batdiffs EUis.) There are no inquests in Scotland.

21590. (Chairman.) Their place is taken by the Fatal
Accidents Act. With regard to the appointment of
Government Inspectors, at present, it is m the option


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II June 1907

of the Home Office, whether a man passes any
examination or not ; he need haTe no experience, and pass
no examinations. As a matter of fact the examinations
are stiff, and the experience required considerable, but
any Home Secretary might alter his mind and say, " I
want to appoint so-and-so and do away with the qualifi-
cations." The qualifications are not statutory. Do you
suggest any statutory qualifications ? — At present
we £a,ve no ground of complaint. The Home Office has

evidently carried it through in the spirit in which we
believe it should be carried through.

21591. You are satisfied with the appointments that
have been made, and you hope and trust that the future
appointments will be as good ? — We have no objection
in Scotland, as far as I know.

21592. Still, you want more appointments T — Yes,
more appointments.


F. L. Davis, Esq.

Enoch Edwards, Esq., m.p.

Thouas Batcuffb Elus, Esq.

Wednesday, 12ih June, 1907.
At Edinburgh.

Present: ;

Lord MomcswELL (Cfhairman),

John Soott Hai^daite, Esq., f.r.s.
Robert Smillie, Esq.

S. W. Harris, Esq.


Mr. Peter Muir, called and examined.

Mr. Peter 21593. {Mr, StniUie,) Are you the Secretary and one of
Muir. the Agents of the Ayrshire Miners' Union ? — ^Yes.

_ _ " ^^ 21694. Is the Ayi-shire Miners' Union connected with the

12 June 1907 Scottish Miners' Federation ?— Yes.

21595. Had you had considerable experience as an under-
(H^und worker previous to taking your present post ? —

21596. Has your attention been called to a statement
made by Mr. Bonaldson, a Mines Inspector, on the question
of discipline in the Scottish mines ? — My attention has been
drawn to it.

21597. Are you aware that he stated in evidence before
this Conmiission that the Miners' Association sometimes
defended their members who were charged with a breach of
the Mines Act ? — ^I am aware that that statement has been

21598. And that in making that statement he particu-
larly referred to Ajrrshire ? — I so underatand.

21599. Is it the general rule that your Association defends
men who are charged with a breach of the Mines Act ? —
The rule that we have hitherto followed is that when a

f party is charged with a breach cf the Mines Act, and
^\ asseverajfip that he is innocent, we only give him legal

aJviceloprcve whether he is innocent or guilty, and beyond

that we do not go.

21600. I suppose we may take it that the Union would not
defend a member if they thought he was guilty of a breach
of the Mines Act ? — ^We have never done so.

21601. But you have given legal advice to members
charged with breaches of the Mines Act who you believed
were innocent ? — Yes.

21602. Do you think that the giving of legal advice to
your members who are charged with a breach of the Mines

/ Act has led to a want of discipline amongst the undergroimd
/ workers, and that it has encouraged men to be guilty of a
breach of the Mines Act ? — There is no influence of that
kind that I am aware of. We have always set our faces
against any infringement of the Mines Act, and, as I have
said, it is only those cases where the men have very strongly
asseverated their innocence, and even in some cases brought
witnesses to substantiate their position, that we have given
them legal aid to try and prove their innocence.

21603. Do you encourage your members, so far as you
possibly can, at your meetings and otherwise, to observe the
Coal Mines Regulation Acts and the Si>ecial Rules ? — In
every case we encourage them to observe the law in the
way of promoting the safety of th« miners.

21604. Do you know whether or not there is any really
serious want of discipline in your mines in Ajrrshire ? — ^I am
not aware that it is any worse than any other county in
Great Britain. I have never heard that — ^in fact, some of
our folks complain that we are over-disciplined in some

21605. Some of the miners ? — Yes.

21606. They complain that the discipline is too strict ? —
Yes, in some cases.

21607. You do not encourage them to be guilty of
breaches of discipline ? — Certainly not.

21608. Is there any system of fines imposed by any of
the managers in your county for breaches of the Special
Rules, or of the Mines Acts, instead of taking the men before
the Law Courts ? — There are present to my mind just now
two firms who have tried the fining system, and I under-
stand it ia enforced whei-e the men submit to it, but, of
course, in some cases they have had to give way.

21609. Do you yourself think a system of fines would
lead to discipline, more so than prosecutions before the
Court ? — I understand you mean by fining that the firms
themselves fine.

21610. That the management fine the workmen. Do
you think that would tend to improve discipline T Would
it be more of a warning to the men if you took them before
the Court than having a system of fining 7 — ^I do think
it would be. I think prosecution by the local authorities is
more efiFective.

21611. Therefore you do not favour a system of fining ? — /

No. '

21612. You say in a letter which you have sent to the
Secretfiu-y that you are in favour of more extensive Govern-
ment inspection of the mines ? — Yes.

21613. Do you think that the present system of inspec-
tion is effective ? — ^When you read the latest report of our
inspector in the West of Scotland, where he himself states
that they have been able to inspect each mine once for the
year 1906 — ^I do not think it goes beyond that — ^I think it
will be easily understood that ia not a very effective inspec-
tion. I take it that a good number of those inspections
would be the outcome of accidents taking place in the
particular mines.

21614. So far as your opinion goes, do you know whether
or not there are thorough inspections of the mines in Ayr-
shire undertaken by the Mines Inspector — and what I
mean by thorough inspection is all the places being visited
by the inspector ?— My only experience in that respect is




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r M59


this : that I have heard statements made very frequently
that ^ the working places are not inspected — there is just, I
might say, a general inspection of perhaps the main roads,
and so on.

21610. That, you think, is not sufficiently frequent? —
Quite so. I have had such statements made to me frequently.
It is hardly yet a fortnight old since one old miner
with 40 years' experience told me he had not seen a mines
inspector in his working place three times in the whole of
his experience.

21616. You are dealing now with inspection by the
Government Inspector, and not, of course, by the work-
men's inspectors ? — ^Yes.

21617. Have you any number of additional inspectors in
your mind that you would like to see appointed ? — ^The
question has been very frequently discussed amongst our
people in Ayrshire, and the desire is expressed that there
should be additional inspectors, but we have hitherto not
been able to put it in force.

21618. Have you in your mind any particular number of
additional Government inspectors that you would like to
see appointed in order to make the inspection effective ? —
We have a feeling — a conviction really — ^that there should
be additional inspectors, so that the changing nature of the
mines might be more frequently brought within their pur-
view, because it is not possible for the existing number to do
it effectively.

21619. Do the District inspectors, and the two assistant
inspectors, for the West of Scotland, reside in Glasgow ? —
I think there is one at Rutherglen.

21620. Is that just outside Glasgow r— Yes.

21621. What distance is the residence of the inspectors in
Glasgow from the extreme end of your county 7 — Roughly,
about 55 miles.

21622. That would be about two hours or two and half
hours' journey by ordinary train ? — About that.

21623. {Mr. BaUMit EUia,) Is that the extreme distance
to the collieries 7 — Where the collieries are situate.

21624. (Mr. SmiUte.) That is what you mean, where the
colliery is situate ? — ^Yes. I think the South of Ayrshire
collieries would be the furthest away, and it would be about
56 miles from where Mr. Ronaldson and his assistants live.
It would be live or six miles further into the Dumfriesshire

21625. It is over 60 miles really tc the extreme point of
Mr. Bonaldson*s distiict from Glasgow in that direction T —

21626. And his district may extend in the other direction
north of Glasgow 7 — Yes.

21627. So that a considerable part of the Inspector's
time would be taken up in travelling if there are many
inspections made in those collieries 7 — A very large propor-
tion of the time would be taken up in travelling. When
you go past the principal towns the trains are very infre-
quent, and a lot of time is wasted in getting to and from the

21628. Do you favour the ides of assistant inspectors
being appointed who would reside in the mining mstricts
more closely in touch with the collieries 7 — I think, besides
more frequent inspections, the fact that they did reside
nearer would conduce to better inspections.

21629. Have you in your mind any number of workmen
for whom you would like to see an inspector appointed — ^I
mean would you say 10,000 cr 5,000 men, or what number
do you think an inspector could effectively inspect a mine
for 7 — 10,000 has been frequently spoken about, but in
respect of the pits I have most experience of 10,000 would
be a big numl^r, for this reason, that the pits, in my ex-
perience, are smaill pita in Ayrshire generally, and that, of
course, means that there is more labour entculed in inspect-
ing what would cover 10,000 men.

21630. You mean by small pits that they vary from the
employment of about 30 to 200 people, perhaps 7 — ^Yes,
about 100 is a common thing with us.

21631. So that 10,000 would practically mean the whole
of Ayrshire 7 — Yes.

21632. Which would be a veiy large district for an
inspector tc inspect 7 — Over 100 pits.

21633. I believe you are not satisfied with the present
arrangements as to the appointments for inspection by
the workmen, and you say you want an alteration in
Rule 38 of the Muxes Act. Are vou satisfied with that
rule as it stands at present, viz., that they have power to
appoint two working miners to inspect the colliery 7 — ^We

can hardly say we are satisfied, for the simple reason that Mr, Peter
only on two or three occasions has it ever been put in Muir,

force in Ayrshire. The reason, plainly speaking, is that "

the men employed in the colliery are afr^ to do I" «''"^® •'^®^

the inspection and take the responsibility mvolved in I

giving a report because of what they fear might happen. I

21634. Is it a fear merely, or, so far as you know, is *
there any ground for the fear 7 Have there been any
cases of victimisation or illtreatment, so far as you know 7
— ^Well, one old miner reported to me less than three
months ago that he had done it once — it is a very old story
— and because of the treatment meted out to bim at that
time it was never attempted again in the Ayrshire district.

21635. That would be years ago 7 — ^Yes, years ago.

21636. You have no such experience of recent years 7 t
— ^No, we have never tried it, for the reason I indicate, of !
the feeling amongst the miners that it would not be safe ,
for them to do it. j(

21637. So far as the right is concerned, you would bo
satisfied if the workmen had the right to appoint working
miners or those who had been practical working miners 7
-Yes. . . ,j,

21638. You would be quite satisfied if the words'were >•
' ' or had been a practical working miner " 7 — ^Yes.

21639. Have you any idea of the extent of the firemen's y^ ,jj^
district in Ayrshire 7 — I could not say beyond this, that /r\i^
the^ are generally bound to keep within the statutory
limits, that is, to do the rounds within the two .hours
prescribed by statute.

21640. Do you think that they are able, as a matter of
fact, to make the statutory examination necessary by law
to its fullest extent in two hours 7 — Complaints have
frequently reached us that men were given districts that
they could not cover. In fact, it is within a month I have
complained to Mr. Ronaldson as to one district, because
by visiting the colliery and looking at the plans they
acquainted me of their opinion that he was able to do it,
but the firemen who were formerly in the position still
assert that it is impossible.

21641. You have had a complaint as to the extent of a
district and have reported that to the Mines Inspector 7 —
Yes, about a month ago.

21642. Has he made enquiries 7 — I had a reply from him
saying his assistant had been down at the colliery, and he
found it could be done within the prescribed time. I have
been there since, and the men still assert it cannot ; and
the inspector was not down the pit.

21643. You have been at the colliery since, and
the workmen assert the work cannot be done 7 — ^That is so.

21644. But the Mines Inspector, without going down
the pit, has found it can be done 7 — ^That is so.

21645. It is complained generally that the districts are
too large 7 — ^We have complaints arising occasionally, but
I would not like to say they are general. Now ana then
perhaps a complaint comes in at an interval of six months.

21646. What are the duties of a fireman at the collierifl#
in Ayrshire 7 Is the duty confined to looking after the
ventilation and the safety of the mine at the face, or are
there other duties they have to perform 7 — I understand
at some of the smaller collieries, where their statutory
duties are not very exacting, they are set to perform other
cla'wes of work.

21647. What kmd of work 7—1 think it is what is called
repairing work.

21648. Do you know of any cases in which they are
responsible for looking after the pony-drivers and getting
the hutches out 7 — I could not specify any case of that kind

21649. I suppose you consider that t^e position of a
fireman is a very important position 7 — ^Yes.

21650. You have not very much explosive gas in Ayr-
shire 7 — ^No, we are pretty free from that.

21651. It is a non-fiery district 7— Yes. At a few
collieries they do use safety lamps.

21652. Is it the case that there is a very considerable
amount of what is known as black damp in some of the
Ayrshire collieries 7 — ^Yes, more or less.

21653. I suppose you consider that that requires to be
guarded against as much as explosive gas 7 — Quite as

21654. Do you consider that it would be an additional ^p
qualification to a fireman if he held a certificate of com-
petency after examination 7— We have very pronounced

I 9a



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Mr. Petef' opiniona apon that, In our part of the country. The
Muir. fireman, it la very often unoerttood, is appointed not

because of his experience or his qualifications, but largely

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 21 of 177)