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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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with him, I will speak to him about it.

2.3t>29. (Chairman.) Will you communicate his tiame
to the Secretary of the Commission ? — ^I will.

23630. (Mr. Ratcliffe Ellis.) Is he not working at the
colliery now ? — No.

15 ▲



Mr. tvmiam
Webb.

Id June 1907



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Mr. Waiicm 23631. You do not know where he is ?— No. I saw



13 June 1907



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him not many months a^o.

23632. {Mr. Smillie.) You will find out ?— Yes.

23633-4. Is he a member of your union ? — He was a
member up to a few months ago — he may be on the list
now.

23635. (Mr. Ratcliffe Ellis.) Then do you think if
t]iere are such cases as that which you mention, that
having a certificate would protect a man ? — I said I was
in favour of their being independent of the employer,
and index)endent of the manager.

23636. The mere fact of having a certiGcate would
not do that P — No, it would not carry that out
aJtogether.

23637. But a certificate might do this, it might
make the fireman himself more careful, because if he
was not a careful man and neglected his duty he might
not only lose his situation but lose his certificate ? — Of
course there is that side of the question.

23638. That is a reason for having a certificate? —
Yes.

23639. That it might make the consequence of mis-
conduct more serious than if he had not a certificate ? —
A man having a certificate is supposed to have a little
more knowledge than a man not having any.

23640. The consequences to a man with a ceHificate
might be more serious than to a man without a certifi-
cate — you agree with that I suppose ? — I do.

23641. As to the Special Rules, vou think that the
men would observe them better if they had a voice in
making them ? — That is what I say.

23642. Have they not had a voice in making them ? —
Not to the extent they should.

23643. Therefore do you think they do not observe
them as well as they ought. to P — I do not say that ; but
there is a strong feeling of discontent with the men on
this matter. JUithough the rules might be the same, if
they or their representatives were consulted it would
somewhat allay that feeling. I think the miners are
loyal in carrying them out as far as possible.

23644. As to the timbering done by the miner, which
you have explained in your own personal experience you
neglected to do in order to get more coal, tne necessity
for the additional firemen is to see that the men do what
the rules require them to do ? — I think we do that now.

23645. You say you were tempted to break a mle,
which was not to put up timber where necessary in order
to get a little more coal ? — Then I might have evaded
the fii*eman in the same way.

23646. If the collier will not look after his safety, how
can you help it? — Those Special Rules where not in
existence at the time I took that risk.

23647. That does not alter the point. If the men will
not look after their own safety how can jpu protect
them P — ^This is just an exceptional case I referred to.
On accoimt of the pressure brought upon the man in
order to earn his livelihood he was somewhat neglectful
of his duty. I say if competent men were appointed
for the purpose of timbering that responsibility woidd
be taken from the workmen.

23648. What you are suggesting is this, that because
a man will not look after his own safety, you must put
additional expense on the management to prosecute him
or make him take means to look after his own safety.
Would the better thing not be that the man should
look after his own safety ?^ If he was put on time and
not piecework it might.

23649. Then you think although at the present
time it is necessary for his safety to see his place is
timbered, he would risk his own safety in order to get
more coal ? — You must not imagine for a moment that
I knew this stone was coming down.

23650. I suppose no one would do that, but what I
understand you to say is this, the collier is tempted to
risk his safety in order to get more coal ? — Yes.

23651. Then you say, " Now you must put some
additional expense on the management in order to see
that this man does what he ought to do, that is, look
after himself ? "■ — I cannot see the drift of your argu-
ment.

23652. What is yoxir view as to the voice which the
men ought to have in making the Special Rules ? — The
men should be consulted in making thoee rules — there
should be a kind of joint rules between the men and the



managers ; and, as I say, I think they would be carried
out with better feeling by the men.

23653. Supposing the employer wishes to propose a
Special Rule, we will say, imposing some additional
obligation on the men, would you then consider that the
men should have a right to say "No, that rule shall
not be proposed? — So long as the rule is there, as I
have told you before, we are in favour of carrying it out.

23654. I am taking the case of a proposed new rule
which the employer wishes to propose. Bo you desire
that the men or their i^presentatives should say *' No,
we will not have that rule jjroposed " ? — I have always
found where the rule is joint it is faithfully carried out.

23655. I want you to answer the question? — If an
employer of labour was going to make a Special Rule
which 1 knew I could not carry out, then undoubtedly I
am in favour of breaking it.

23656. No. I am speaking of a new rule, which I
want to propose — before I can send that to the Home
Office I must have your consent to it ? — Yes.

23657. Do you say " No " to that— that I cannot
propose it ? — Yes, you can propose it and put it before
us for acceptance.

23658. Suppose you do not accept it ? — Then we will
ask you to amend it.

23659. If it is not accepted by you I cannot propose
it ? Is it your view that I should not be able to propose
a new rule if you do not agree to it ? — Well, that is the
long and the short of it.

23660. That is, you would prevent me proposing a
rule which I consider necessary for the discipline of my
mine without your consent P — You know my argument.
I contend the workmen as well as the managers should
themselves mutually agree to the matters to carry them
out.

23661. Suppose they do not agree P Suppose I propose
a rule about increasing your obligation with re^ai^ to
the timbering ? Suppose I proj^ ose you should feteh it
from the bottom of the pit instead of from the gate end,
and you said " No, I will not agree," I could not propose
it ?— I have found this to be the case — a thing yesterday
was perhaps impossible, to-day it became probable, and
to-morrow it becomes an accomplished fact because we
have negotiated together.

23662. What I want to ask you is this : Is not the
owner to be allowed to propose a rule to the Home Office
except with the sanction of the men ? — Now you have
come close. Of course, this is a free countrv, and I
would allow any employer to propose what he feels dis-
posed to, but in the carrying out of that I would like to
have a voice in the matter.

23663. Then I may propose a rule, it goes to the Home
Office, the Home Office advertise it and invite objec-
tions, and the men are at liberty to object if they think
fit, and then if the rule cannot be agreed upon it should
^o to arbitration, and if not agreed upon then to a
judge of the High Court. Would that meet your view ?
— That would meet my view perfectly well.

23664. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) How long have you
been working in Stirlingshire? — I never worked in
Stirlingshire; during the 13 years I have been in
Stirlingshire I have been an agent. I worked for 20
years in a coal mine in Lanarkshire, and three years in
the copper mines in Cornwall.

23665. During those 13 years in Stirlingshire have
there been any Special Rules at all ? — There have been.

23666. Have they ever consulted you about them ? —
No.

23667. Has the inspector consulted you ? — We were
not consulted at any time.

23668. Or any of the men ?— No.

23669. I.^hey brought out Special Rules and imposed
them upon the workmen without consulting either the
union or the men P — Yes. I know of none of us being
consulted.

23670. I suppose you are aware that it is not the
practice in Fngland ? — I have heard that.

23671. And of course it is largely due to the inspector
— he has not condescended to consult with you P — That
is just it.

23672. He has never asked to meet you or your men ?
— That is iust it.

23673. In representing the views of the men here, you
say now they would object to rules being imposed upon
them that they have never been consulted about ? — Yes.



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23674-. Of course those rules may largely interfere
with their contract and their wages ? — Yes.

23675. You say it is perfectly proper before such
rules ai'e passed that you should have an opportunity of
considering them P — Yes.

23676. You say you have no fault whatever to find
with the inspectors. There are not sufficient? — No,
there are not sufficient.

23677. I understood you to say that they visit the
collieries occasionally ? — Yes, occasionally.

23678. How do yon know ? Have you met them ? — I
have met them or seen them at the colliery office.

23679. So that you know they do visit occasionally ? —
Yes.

23680. Do they profess to make a general inspection P
— I question if they come once in twelve months.

23681. Have you seen one down the pit when you have
been in it P — I have never seen them down a pit, only
after an accident has taken place. I have seen them
coming from the colliery and going to the colliery after
an accident.

23682. They might be down the pit you worked
in without your seeing themP — ^I have seen them
similarly when I was working when an accident
occurred.

23683. What is your view about these inspectors P
Do you think their districts are too bigP — With respect
to some of our collieries their districts are too big.

23684. I am refeiring to the Grovemment inspectors ?
— There are some who consider that they should have
a certain number of men, and some have gone the
length of saying 10,000. I may diCPer here, because I
might think in a place where the men are congested
there might be some places where 500 would be ample,
and it is easier to inspect that pit with 500 men than to
inspect five pits with 100 in each.

23685. It might be P— Yes.

23686. Much would depend upon whether they were
old pits with extensive ramifications, and so on ? —
—Yes.

23687. Scotland, for the purpose of inspection, is
divided into two districts P — Yes, east and west.

23688. Have many men have you employed in Stir-
lingshire P — I think there ai-e between 7,000 and 8,000
miners in Stirlingshire.

23689. How far would Stirling be from the office
where the inspector lives P — I think it is Glasgow in
our case — about 20 or 30 miles perhaps from Stining.

23690. From the centre of your coUieir how far
would it be P — Pretty much the same, I should think.

L 23691. You agree that the number of inspectors is
J altogether insufficient P — Altogether insufficient to
I overcome the work satisfactorily.

23692. I understood you to suggest that the same
thing applies to the firemen's inspection ? — Yes, to some
extent.

23693. You do not suggest at all the firemen are
incapable of doing all the work at all the pits P — No, I
am not going to say tJiat, because we have some very
small pits in Stirlingshire.

23694. What are the class of men P — In some cases
we have young men, and in some cases they are men up
in years.

23695. Would a young man have had experience P —
We object to the young men because we do not think
their experience is quite sufficient. With respect to the
old men their judgment is good, but their physical
ability causes an objection.

23696. Young men have very practical knowledge
sometimes, but you would like to have a very young
man with the head of the older man on his shoulders P —
I think no man tmder 25 should act as a fireman and
have a certificate of competency, at any rate.

23697. Do they appoint firemen under 25 years of
age p — Yes, I think so, but I am not exactly prepared to
say. I think we have one who does that work under
that age.

23698. Do you suggest to this Commission, having
regard to the importance of the office that a fireman
holds, the colliery company would appoint a man under
25 years of age P — Yes, I think we have one.



be some grounds for
young and they



109

23699. I do not want to press it too much, because he
may have the certificate of a manager to manage a pit at
25 ? — Yes, that is so.

23700. After aU, there would
appointing him fireftian ? — Yes.

23701. You think they are rather
should have more experience P — I do.

23702. What wages do you pay them generally P — We
are trying, wherever we possibly can, to get the standard
wage.

23703. How much do yon pay the fireman ? — We have
them from 5s. 3d. to 6s. 6d. now.

23704. Are they members of the union P — I am glad
to say most of them are.

23705. We have been told that the reason why they
are not a better class of fireman is because they do not
receive more wages. If he is a member of the union
he will have more than 6s. a day, or he wiU not work P —
Something like it.

23706. They receive from 5s. 3d. to 6s. 6d. P— Yes.

23707. Is there much prosecution by the owners in
the courts in your district 7 — No, not a great deal of
that.

23708. Nor fining 7 — There has been an exceptional
case now and again.

23709. It is not carried on to a large extent T — No.

23710. Do they fairly maintain the discipline of the
pit ? — On the whole, I think they do.

23711. I understood you to suggest that you and your
people have taken means to advise men 7 — Yes, although
we may consider that these Special Rules in particular
may be severe, we do advise the men to abide by them,
and in no case to break them.

23712. Their safety would not be worth much unless
they were observed. In all your efforts you do advise
the men to observe the rules 7 — Yes.

23713. I understood 3 ou to suggest that one of the
reasons why you cannot keep these rules was because
your living depends upon the amount of coal you send
out 7— That I give from my personal experience.

23714. Do you suggest that men should work day
wage 7 — I would be in favour of time before the present



Mr, William
Webb.

13Jii^l907



23715. Is that the opinion of jour men in Stirling 7 —
There is a division of opinion on the matter, but that is
the prevailing opinion.

23716. Would your contractors who are in favour of
men who know the work be ready to agree to day wages P
— Contractors, I am sorry to say, employ men, and it
does not matter whether they have been in the pit before
or not. We have a gi'eat deal of trouble with them.

23717. That is an irregularity which you have not
been able to conquer 7 — Yes.

23718. You do not suggest that Stirling would be \
prepared to accept the position of a day wage 7 — I am 1
not prepared to answer that. ^

23719. They would not advise you to recommend it
here 7 — The question has not been before the con-
tractora.

23720. You are expressing your own views ? — No,
the prevailing opinion of the body of miners in Stirling-
shire.

23721. All your work is done by contract 7 — It is all
done by tonnage rate.

23722. There is not much coal got by day wage 7 —
No, we have contractors who take headings or levels and
employ the men to work them. That is what we term
** contractors."

23723. Who work for them 7 —Yes, by contract. The
men are paid by time or tonnage rate, but the conti-actor
is paid by the ontput, and he pays those men.

23724. Do you mean that the contractors employ
them 7 Do you m^an to tell me that three or four men
will take a pit contract and pay a man a day wage 7 — We
have not got to that extent. We have contractors em-
ploying 20 men, and they pay sometimes so much per
shift, and sometimes so much per ton.

23725. In that case, they are contractors too — they
sub-contract with the chief cimti'actor 7- -Yes, you can
put it in that way if you like. We do not know what
contract the contractor has made with the employer.



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Mf. William
Webb.

13.?iine,1907



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23726. The eaminge of the men working by contract
run higher than day wage ? — We have foxmd that in
brushing particular.

23727. You are not prepared to say that all the people
engaged in the industry would be prepared to work day
wage ? — It is a prerailmg opinion among our men that
they would like so much an hour like joiners and
carpenters, and those sort of men.

23728. (Mr. . Smillie.) Mr. Edwards is concerned to
know whether the rank and file of your coal getters now
paid by the ton, would be willing to accept a condition
of matters in which they were paid daily wageft. Is
that in your opinion fairly prevalent? — 1 think it is
fairly prevalent among our miners.

23729. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) Who are not contractors ?
— No. We do not call them contractors at all. We call
those ordinary getters of coal.

23730. Is that a new system — a man taking a place
and employing so many men ? — It is more particiilarly
in the new cofiieries which we have started in Stirling-
shire, and the employer gives the headings or levels, as
the case may be, or branch to a contiuetor, and the con-
tractor finds his own men, and pays them what wages
he thinks reasonable.

23731. That is why he is driving out his work ? — Yes.

23732. It would not follow when the pit is open when
the men will take their own stalls ? — Yes, of course.

23733. (Mr. F. L. Davis.) You say although the men
complain sometimes of the discipline being rather stiff,
that you advise them nevertheless, to obey the rules and
regulations f — Yes, for the time being.

23734. What do you mean by the discipline being
stiff. In what direction is it stiff? — There is a Specif
Rule about the gib b iag ^ cork s, that props must be
placed a certain disll^ce from each other.

23735. Now I want to ask you with regard to the
timbeiing rules ? — That is in the Special Rules : some-
times a fireman may find this is not done. We tell the
men in all cases to do what the Sx>ecial Rule teUs them
to do.

23736. Do you use youi* influence with the men to
persuade them to carry out the rules whatever they may
be P— Yes.

23737. I think you said that you were in favour of
more Government inspectors being appointed P — Yes.

23738. Would you suggest that they should belong to
a different grade or class from the present inspectoi-s, or
that they should all have the same qualifications and
pass the same examinations P — I am perfectly satisfied
with the ability of the present Government inspectors,
and I even think that men from the rank and nle, the
workers themselves, who have had practical experience,
might do.

23739. Would all these practical men in your opinion
have to pass the same examination P — They would have
to pass an examination to make them competent for the
duties which they haVe to perform.

23740. Wotdd it be the same examination as the
present Government inspectors have to pass, or a
different grade ? — So far as the inspection of the mine is
concerned by His Majesty's inspectors, 1 woidd be in
favour of having them the same as they are now.

23741. Do you ever draw the attention of the Govern-
ment inspectors to anything wrong which comes before
you P — Yes, I do. I have (&awn the attention of the
(Jovemment inspectors to tho want of air-current, and I
am glad to say when I have, that they have given their
attention to it, but if we were to draw the attention of th^
inspector every time the miners complained to us, they
would be continually there.

23742. Do you find whenever you make a complaint
that they come as quickly as they can and look into the
matter P — Yes, but if we find a complaint by the work-
men about the air, we mostly go to the manager
and arrange to have it improved, and if it is not improved,
we write to the Government inspector.

23743. That is quite right, I think. I am not going
into the particulars of the case you gave, but I think
you said that there was a general complaint amongst
the fireman that they had to sign a boot giving a false
report ? — I did not say that it was a general complaint,
but these complaints I have heard frequently.

23744. Have you ever ma'le any complaint to the
Government inspectors about that.*^ — No, I have not.



23745. That is a point which you wotud not go to the
managementabautnatural]y,butifyouthought]twa6iuch
a serious thing as it appears to be stated to be by everyone
of you here, why have you not drawn the attention of the
Government inspector to it P — That is a very rcnusonable
question to ask; but I might go a little further in
reference to this matter. It is alter the man had left
the colliery that he says what has been done.

23746. Then I should think all the more reason why
you should have drawn the attention of the Government
inspector to this, that it is not an exceptional thing, but
rather a general thing, having these complaints, so that
you should put him on his guard and let him ferret it
out for himself P — I have not drawn the attention of the
Government inspector to the matter,

23747. If it is as serious as you try and make us
believe it is, you certainly have not lieen doing your
duty in not drawing the attention of the Grovemment
inspector to it P — We might have been too lenient.

(Mr. F. L. Davis.) We all make mistakes, I know.

2374S. (Dr. Saldane.) 1 think you mentioned that you
had worked in Cornwall P — Yes.

23749. Where have you worked P — Liskeard, in the
East and West Oaradon mines.

23750. Are you familiar with the arrangement they
have in Cornwall for providing a drying place and a
place for washing ? — x es, I have often wondered why it
was not carried out here.

23751. Are tou of opinion that it would be d, benefit P
— Yes, a benefit to the health of the miners.

23752. The arrangements in Cornish mines are not
always very good. I do not mean to say that there
should ncFt be something better, but you are cleariy of
opinion that it would be a good arrangement P — Yes, a
good arrangement.

23753. I mean &n aiTangement for leaving the pit
clothes at the pit head ? — ^In charge of the dry-
man.

23754. And combined for arrangement for wash-
ing P — ^Of course.

23755. Do any of the Comishmen come up to Soot-
land, that you are aware of P You are the first Cornish-
man I have met here P — There are a few in my friend's
district in Lanarkshire here.

(Mr. Smillie.) There have not been many new ones for
a considerable number of years, but there are in
Lanarkshire probably 100 families and they ai-e now
married and intermarried. They have been here 35 years.

23756. (Dr. Haldane.) It id not the custom for men to
come up to Scotland for special kinds of work like pit-
sinking P — No, it is not very prevalent.

23757. Or driving roads and stone P — No.

23758. Are you aware that they have a disease down
there that is giving some trouble P — Yes.

23759. You do not think that any Cornishmen who
might be affected come up this way ? — No, I ^o not
think he would : he would stay at home.

23760. They do not stay at home : they go to Wales P
— They go to Wales mu^h more than Scotland : it is
much nearer.

23761. (Chairman.) Mr. Ellis has suggested if you
have this system of timbering by men specially appomt-
ed for the purpose, it is like saving a man, so to speak,
in spite of himself. I would suggest on the other hand,
if you pay a man by the piece, and if it should so happen
as it happened to you, he would lose rather a serious
amount of his wages if he was to knock off his work in
order to prop up a roof, that is something like leading a
man into temptation P — The man would not require to
knock off his work.

23762. Under the system you were working when you
noticed that the roof was in a somewhat dangerous
condition you would have been obliced to knock off
work and to have fined yourself some shillings. That is
what it amoimted to.

(Mr. Batcliffe Ellis.) The tonnage rate which is paid
is aiTanged on the assumption that the timbering is done
by the management.

23763. (Chairmaii.) No doubt it was — I wiU not say



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