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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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12 June 1907 for cheapness ; and we think that some kind of examina-

tion should be undergone by men undertaking such a

responsible position.

21055. (Chairman.) You mean they are paid too little
to obtain the services of the best men ? Is that what you
mean by '* cheapness" ? — ^Yes. I maintain that cheap*
ness is an element in getting them appointed to these
positions.

21056. You think if a man wore compelled to have a
certificate before he could be made a fireman, he would
not work for such small wages as he could be got to work
for now 7 — ^That is so.

21667. {Mr. Smillie,) Can you give us any idea roughly
of the wages paid to men in this position 7 — At the present
moment firemen in Ayrshire will be receiving a wage
ranging fr<»u about 5s. 4d. per day up to what we recognise
as our wage just now, 6s. 6d.

21658. {Mr. Enoch Edwards.) Is that the nett wage ?
— ^That 18 the nett wage.

21659. {Mr, SmiUie,) On the question of the drafting
of Special Rules, I notice that you say that the workmen's
representatives should be consulted by the Home Office
in the framing of Special Rules. Have the workmen in
Ayrshire, or Scotland generally, been consulted previously
in th» framing of any special rules, do you know ? — Never
that I am aware of.

21661. Do you consider that the rules would be more
likely to be observed if the workmen had a voice in the
framing of them T — ^Yes.

21661a. Do you think that any assistance gained from the
experience coi^d be given by the workmen in the framing
of rules for their own safety ? — I am satisfied that anything
embodying the desires of the workmen would contribute
to greater safety and be more respected, because they
would have had a say in it. Meantime they grumble
very loudly that these rules are framed and established,
and that no one representing them has ever had to do with
the framing of them.

21662. The present system of timbering in Ayrshire is
that the workmen look after their safety in the working
face 7 — ^That is so.

21663. Have you any opinion on that matter, as to
whether that system should be ^tered 7 — I have never
given very much attention to that point ; but there is no
doubt it would induce to greater safety if some arrange-
ments could be made whereby special men should be set
apart to do it or to see to it.

21664. Either to do the timbering or to supervise the
timbering being done 7— Yes.

21665. I notice you say that the man appointed to the
position of fireman should have experience in timbering
and other matters. Do you think the fireman should be
the person specially appointed for either doing the timber-
ing or supervising its being done 7 — ^What was in my mind
w£en I wrote thiat was that under the existing law the
fireman should, but I am not sure that the duties would
not be too onerous for the fireman if he also had to super-
vise the timbering.

21666. Unless the districts were made considerably
•mailer ?-~Yes.

21607. It might be possible to make the districts smaller
so as to enable him to thoroughly supervise the timbering
of the working places 7 — ^Yes.

21668. {Chairman). And if the places were sufficiently
small yon think it would be advantageous that the fkeman
should combine both duties 7 — ^^Diat is so.

21609. {Mr. Smillie.) His experience places him in a
position to know where danger exists from falls 7 — That
isio.

21670. And consequently he would be the best person
to know what was needed 7 — Yes.

21671. Have you any very large number of foreign
Workmen working in the mines in Ayrshire 7 — ^I can only
give a general estimate, they are such a fiuctuating quantity
Mdth us. I think the number of underground foreign
workmen in Ayrshire at the present moment, and for
some time past» would not exceed more than 200 to 300.

21672. {Chairman,) Out of how many workers alto-
gether, do you say 7— Out of about 10,600.



21673. {Dr, Haldane.) Are those nearly all Poles 7—
Nearly all Poles with an odd exception— there are two or
three Germans, but an inapjweciable number.

21674. {Mr, SmiUie.) I suppose you have no fault to
find with the German workmen 7— None whatever.

21675. They are practical miners before they come to
your mines 7 — Quite so.

21676. And you h^ve no fault to find with foreigners if
they are skilled and experienced workmen, and understand
the language 7 — No.

21677. Do you think that workmen who do not under-
stand the language constitute a serious danger to them-
selves and to other workmen 7 — It is not very pronounced
with us, but it is usually understood that if they were put
into a fiery mine the danger would be pronounced.

21678. It would be increased 7— Increased very much.

21679. (Chairman.) You say you are quite satisfied
with the Germans who work in the mines. Do the Germans
workers understand English 7— Very imperfectly. We
have only a few, but the few I have come across can
converse with you, although it is somewhat difficult for
them.

21680. Do they know enough English to make it safe for
them to work in the mines 7 Do they understand the rules
and regulations 7 — ^It seems so. They have always been
able to follow their instructions fairly well.

21681. (Mr. SmiUie.) The Germans to whom you refer
have been a considerable time in this country 7— That is so.

21682. And you have heard no fault found with them as
not being able to understand the rules ?~No, there is never
any complaint.

21683. They are efficient miners, of course? — Yes.

21684. You know there is a strong feeling among he
Scotch miners generally on the question of the employment
of foreign workmen who do not understand the language 7—
That is so.

21685. Have you any extensive system of mechanical
haulage in the pit5 in Ayrshire 7— Yes ; it extends pretty
generally through the newer collieries especially.

21686. You are aware that there are a considerable
number of accidents arising from mechanical haulage 7 —
Yes.

21687. Would you be in favour of enforcing the system
of a continuous chain, or rope attachment, over a train of
hutches or trams which were in process of being conveyed
to the pit bottom ? — ^In view of the frequency of these
accidents, and the simplicity of the arrangement, we think
it should be made compulsory that some arrangement of the
kind you indicate should be put in force to guard against a
breakaway.

21688. Have you anything of that kind at the present
time ? — I could not specify any particular case. I do not
know of any.

21689. (Mr, Ratcliffe Elite.) How long is it since you
worked in the mine ? — It would be nearly jfij rears ago,

21690. And since that time you have been a miner's
agent, I suppose 7 — Most of the time.

21691. Are you frequently down the pits now 7-
Occasionally, just now and then.

21692. Why do you go down now 7 — ^If there is a dispute
between a section of the men and the employers indicate
their wish, perhaps, for us to go down and have a look,
in those cases we go.

21693. Thatisnotforsafety 7— No.

21694. What is the object of that visit 7 — It is generally
proposed to decide as to whether the men are being fairly
treated in their payments.

21695> Now supposing the management decline to allow
you to go down, now would the dispute then proceed 7 —
If the management object we accept unreservedly the
statements coming from the men's side.

21696. With reference to defending a man, you do not
see any harm in the Union defending a man for an offence
of which you think he is not guilty 7—We wish, in taking
up this attitude, to give the man, who asseverates his
innocence, the benefit of the doubt until he is proved
innocent or guilty.

21697. And there oan be no harm ux assisting him to
prove his innocence 7 — No.

21698. Do you pay the fine if the Court finds him guilty 7
—We have never paid a fine.



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21699. Have you a rule ^^oh says you shaU not pay the
fine ? — ^We have no rule ; but we have been appealed to
frequently and we have consistently refused to pay fines
whore parties have been found guilty.

21700. Even where it is a case in which you thought you
should assist in defending ? — ^Yes.

21701. In those cases, if the Court finds he is guilty, you
do not pay the fine ? — "We do not pay the fine.

21702. You say that you generally encourage your
xnembers to observe the regulations — Certainly.

21703. How do you do that ? — ^When we are holding
meetings and points of this kind arise.

2170^. Points of which kind ? — Regarding cases where
men have got involved. We take the <^portunity usually
of telling them that for their own sakes they should observe
the law.

21705. Are any of those speeches reported anywhere ? —
Not very frequently.

21706. J>o you happen to have the report of a speech in
which you have encouraged them, for instance, to obey the
law ? — I could not give you the report of any speech.

21707. You make a great many speeches, I have no
doubt, that are reported from time to time ? — We are pretty
frequently at that.

21708. You have never had a speech reported in which
you have encouraged Uiem to obey the discipline of the pit 7
— We have never taken the opportunity, even if it was
reported, to preserve it for any specific purpose. Such
speeches may have been reported, but I think it is very
well known amongst the management that we take up the
attitude of encouraging an observance of the law and every-
thing pertaining to the si^ety of the mine.

21709. The mines inspectors for Scotland suggest that
the discipline is not satisfactory because, in some cases, the
men are defiant altogether, and have not been brought up to
obedience, and it is very difficult to maintain discipline.
Is that so 7 — As I have said, I have never heard any com-
plaints on a matter of that kind.

217 10. From whom would you be likely to hear com-
plaints 7 Not from the men 7 — ^The comj^int comes
usually the otJl»er way that they are too much tied down.

21711. Do you agree with the inspectors' view that there
is a great absence of discipline amongst the men, that they
are not amenable to discipline, and will not obey orders 7-^
I would not like to say that that obtains to any largs
extent.

21712. Would you like to say it does not 7 — ^I believe in
individual oases there are foolish people who will kick
against instructions making for their safety ; b it I do not
think that obtains to any great extent. •

21713. Not to any sufficient extent to alEect the general
safety 7 — That is so.

21714-5. With reference to fines and prosecutions, there
are many breaches of discipline that are not in themselves
of a very serious character, I suppose 7 — That is so.

21716. Do you advise in those cases, where it is not a
very serious breach, but it is a breach, there should be a
prosecution 7 — I know that the expenses of a prosecution
and the trouble are always considerable. We quite
recognise that.

21717. To both sides 7— Yes.

21718. Would you advise that there should be in all
these cases a prosecution 7 — ^I could not advise it.

21719. Would you advise that it should be passed over
altosether 7 — I think there is always another way of
gettmg at it. The management usually has sufficient
authority to put that right.

21720. How — discharging the men 7 — Not exactly dis-
charging, but the issue of cautions and letting them know
that consequences will ensue.

21721. How often should they be repeated, do you
think 7 — ^That is a matter of discretion.

21722. What is your objection to a fine agreed to by the
men for trivial cases 7 If the management and the men
agree that a small fine should be paid, why do you object to
it 7 — Because I do not think it is so effective as a prosecu-
tion. I wa« looking at it in a general way.

21723. And the management should decide whether they
should prosecute or whether they should pass it over — ^that
they should do either cMie or the other 7 — Yes.

21724. You think that is conducive to discipline 7—1
should think it was.



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21725. With reference to the inspection by Qovem- Mr, PtUr
ment inspectors : you do not suppose these Government Muir.

inspectors are to manage the collieries 7 — ^Not for one ^ » ^^„

moment. l2Junel0O7

21726. Is their duty, in your view, to be more than
seeing that the collieries are being properly managed by the
responsible management ? — I think that is exactly the
duty.

21727. Do you think that an examination every six
months of each colliery by ih^ inspector would be suf-
ficient 7 — That is a matter of opinion, but I think it shpuld
not be less.

21728. How frequently do you think there should be an
inspection of each colliery by a Government inspector 7 —
I find that at the present time it does not come much
more frequently than once in 12 months ; and, speaking
^ enerally, I think that is a great deal too seldom.

21729. I wanted to get your opinion as to how frequent
you think it ought to he 7 — I think it would not be asking i
too much to have a mine examined once every three or four |
months, in view of the constant changing nature of the!
conditions.

21730. Do you think that is necessair in every case in
every mine, or are there some mines which you think mig^t
be less freauently inspected 7 — That would depend largely
on the conoitions attaching to the mine.

21731. What conditions 7 — ^The changes in some mines
are more thorough and they need to be attended to.

21732. Tell us the changes you have in vour mind which
would necessitate a more frequent inspection 7 — WeU, the
main roads may be altered.

21733. In what way altered 7— By going in di£Eerent
directions.

21734. Extended merely 7— In the case (A exiensloft
there is not the same necessity for a renewed inspection.

21735. What kind of alteration in tibe main road do you
think necessitates more frequent inspection 7— lodwg for
the material in different directions.

21736. What material 7 — Coal or ironstone.

21737. As to the road itself, what conditions are in your
mind which make you think they would necMsitate a more
frequent inspection 7-— Where the conditions of ih» mine
have, as I have said« radically changed in the meantime.

21738. — If the conditions of the mine have not radically
changed in the meantime the inspections would not need
to be so frequent 7 — They would not

21739. What do you mean by a radical change f What
would contribute to it t— A lot of things might contribute
to the change.

21740. What things 7— As I have said, the whole
character of the pit might change in the meantime.

21741. Have you ever known a case in which within six
months the whole character of the mine changed 7 — I
have known it taku\g place, in these small pits especially,
very frequently.

21742. That the whole character of the mine changed,
or is it you mean the whole character of the seam of coal
changes 7 — No, but in the looking for the seam and the
getting it.

21743. Take a case where they have the seam and thev
are working it. I want your view, in connection with
this radical change, which you say you think would neces-
sitate a more frequent inspection 7 - Well, tJiat is the only
explanation I can give.

21744. You think that the inspection should be more
frequent because of the danger of radical duinges in the
mine occurring between one inspection and another 7-^
Yes.

21745. {Chairman.) Do you suggest it would be necessary
to have a government inspection every thcee or four montito
in most of the pits with which you are acquainted 7 —
Generally speaking.

21746. In most of tlie pits you think it would be deeir*
able 7— Yes.

21747. {Mr. BakUfft ffUis.) In most of the pits with
which you are acquainted 7 — ^Yes.

21748. Is there a radical change wiudi takes plaoe
within a period of three or four montbs 7 — I might say
generally that does obtain.

21740. There is a radical change in the whole character
of the pits 7— In the older pits, I should say.



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Mr. Peier 21760. Take the newer pits. Do you think the inspec-
Muir. lion should be as frequent as every three or four months

in the newer pits 7 — I do not think there is the same

12 June 1907 pressing necessity.

21761. Where the conditions of the pit are pretty much
the same then the inspection is not required to be frequent T
—That is so.

21762. Had this old miner you spoke of, who said he
had never seen an inspector in his working place more
than three or four times in 30 years, been working at
different places during that time 7 — ^I understood he was
working generally in the same locality. He did not specify
them.

21763. Different pits in the same locality ? —Yes,
different pits in the same locality.

21764. And working in different working places 7 — ^Yes,
that is possible.

21766. So that a mines inspector might go into the place
where he had been working a fortnight before, but not in
the place where he was then working 7 — That is possible.

21766. And the mines inspector might have been in
that place where he was then working a fortnight before 7
— It is possible that might happen.

21767. Have you any reason in your mind why you
should fix 10,000 men as the number that should be
subject to one inspector 7 — The reason why I fix that
number is that I have looked at our own locality and its
needs.

21768. In your locality you have 10,000 or thereabouts,
and you do not think the number of inspectors sufficient
for that 7— That is so.

21769. How many inspectors are there 7 — There are
three for the West of Scotland ; but that takes in, I think,
half of Lanarkshire roughly.

21760. What is the number of men in that district 7—
Between 40,000 and 60,000.

21761. I think we were informed 46,000; and there
are tliree inspectors for 46,000 underground workers 7 —
Yes.

21762. You think there should be one at least for every
district 7 — ^Yes.

21763. And that is the way in which you come to fix
10,000 7^1 stated also that our district was peculiar in
having so many small pits, which increases the labour.

21764. You think in your district there should be at
least one inspector for 10,000, on account of the peculiarity
of the district 7 — ^Yes.

21766. That is how you get at the 10,000 7— That is so.

A 21766. Now with reference to Rule 38. The Act pro-

n '^ vides that practical working miners may themselves have

V3 an opportunity of making an inspection 7 — ^Yes.

21767. Can you suggest better persons to do it than the
men themselves in the mine, putting aside fear of conse-
quences 7 — ^The men in the mine are thoroughly capable
of doing it.

21768. And are they not the best men to do it if those
reprisals were not feared 7 — I believe that to be so.

21769. You mentioned one case in respect of which you
heard of an old man who suffered from making an unfavour-
able report ? - That is so.

21770. How long ago was that 7 — ^It must have been
between 20 and 30 years ago.

21771. That is the only case you have where it is sug-
gested that a bad report was made and he had to suffer
for it 7 — ^That is so.

21772. Did you ever hear of another case 7 — ^I should
explain that we have never tried to avail ourselves of
that for a long number of years in Ayrshire because of the
known fear on the part of the men who do it.

21773. 30 years ago there was no Miners' Federation in
Ayrshire 7-— No.

21774. There was no organisation whatever 7 — That
is so.

21776. But you choose to think that because 30 years
ago one case happened where a man was punished — and
we will assume he was punished — ^f or making a bad report,
that the same state of things would continue now 7 — ^We
have no reason to think otherwise.

21776. And that fear has been upon you ever since 7 —
That is so.



21777. Do you suggest that this inspection under Rule
38 should be made by anyone appointed by the miners'
organisation 7 — I think so, if they have proved experience.

21778. Who is to decide that question 7 — ^I do not think
the miners themselves, if they wanted an inspection, would
appoint a man who had not experience.

21779. They might be mistaken. You propose that
they should be left untrammelled as to the person who is
sent there 7 — ^Yes.

21780. In the present Act it says a mining engineer is
not to be sent 7 — ^Yes.

21781. Why is that 7 Do you propose that that should
be altered also 7 — I expect that that prohibition is there
because he is thought to be an interested party.

21782. Would not a miners' representative be an in-
terested party also 7 — Certainly, in the same sense.

21783. Do you think it would be reasonable that that
power of inspection should be extended to anyone to be
appointed by the miners' organisation unless he was
controlled in the same way as the Government Inspector
is as to the use he should make of the information he
might get when he made the inspection 7 — I expect, al-
though he made a report, the employer would still have a
way of getting that report reviewed.

21784. I am thinking of other things. You went down
the pit occasionally in order to settle disputes which had
arisen. Now supposing you had been refused, then you
would be entitled to go if you were appointed to make-
an inspection \mder the pretence of safety 7 — ^Yes.

21786. Do you think there should be any limit put upon
the use a man should make of this power to go down these
pits 7— Personally, I should agree that his power should
be limited to the object laid^down.

21786. That he should be put under certain restrictions
a% to the use he might make of it, and the way in which
the power should be exercised 7 — That is so.

21787. Have you any notion as to what that restriction
or limitation should be 7 — I have never given any thought
to the question of limitation.

21788. You agree there should be a limitation, or it
might be mischievous 7 — That is so.

21789. I think I understood you to say, or in effect this
was your view that generally the firemen do their
duty satisfactorily if their districts are not too large 7 —
Yes, generally speaking.

21790. In exceptional cases that is not so, the districts
are too large, and the men are not competent ) — Yes. ..i|

21791. What proportioD do these exceptional cases bear
to the whole, do you think 7 How many objections have
you had during the last 12 months 7 — We have never gone
into it closely as to the extent to which it prevails, but,
judging from the frequency of the complaints, I should
be inclined to think that at least 26 per cent, of the men
should not be in positions of the kind.

21792. Does that apply to particular collieries 7 Are
there certain collieries to which there is no objection 7«*
I would not like to specify any particular colliery.

21793. Are there collieries where the system is you give
a man a limited area and you appoint competent men 7
Are there collieries to which you have no objection on either
ground 7 — Yes.

21794-6. Your objection is confined to certain collieries 7 —
Yes.

21796. Are the collieiies, as regards which you have
complaint to make, 26 per cent, of the whole 7 — I am
giving a lOugh idea from the frequency cf the complaints.

21797. I understood you to say it was only occasionally
that these complaints were made 7 — ^Yes, it is from the
frequency of the complaints coming in— occasionally, put it
in that way. ^>

21798. I do not understand that 7 Do these complaints
come in frequently or occasionally 7 — ^Put it occasionally.

21799. Are they in reference to the same pits 7 — It is
distributed pretty generally,

21800. You have mentioned one case in which you com-
plained to the inspector that the district was too large. Is
that tho only complaint you ever made 7— No.

21801. How often have you complained to the inspector 7
— Charging my memory, I believe I have complained
within the last two or three years, perhaps, throe or four
times.



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21802. They are the only occasions you have had to
complain ? — ^That is so.

21803. The inspector on the last occasion inquired into
it ?— Yes.

21804. Ho came to the conclusion that the district was
not too large, rightly or wrongly ? — ^Yes.

21805. What was the result of the previous complaint



Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 22 of 177)