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Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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inspector who goes thoroughly into the reasons. It is gone
into by both of them. I was asking, rather, can you point
to any case — I fail to see them in fact — where these men
between them have not got to the bottom of it ? — I think
we were especially dissatisfied with this Abertysswg case.

19806. Perhapsyourcomplaintwouldbe rather this ; you
lut it quite frankly: you do not think that the Home Office
as exorcised sufficiently the powers given under General Rule

45, and you think that if those powers were more exercised
in future it would content you. It really comes to that, does
it not ? — And, if you will allow me to say so, that the Home
Office should give more consideration tt> a generally-
expressed desire. Surely for men who have to risk their
lives in these collieries the expenditure of a few pounds
upon an enquiry ought not to stand in the way.

19807. If it was for no other purpose than to give con-
tentment and satisfaction to a number of men whose lives
may be in jeopardy, that would be a fair reason for holding
a certain number of enquiries, at all events. That is your
point ? — ^Yes.

19808. I suppose it would come to this : if the Home
Office acted as ^ou wish, there would not be a great number
of these enquiries after all which would be des&ed ? — ^No.

19809. There has not been any request for an enquiry in
more than a few cases T — ^Probably not.

19810. Probably, if something were done in the direction
of holding a few enquiries that would content you and be all
that you want ? — ^It might

1981 L In the case of asking for an enquiry, you would
give some discretion to someone not to have utterly useless
enquiries aoked for May there ^pt be persons who are


fond of enquiries and who would ask for them in most of
the 1,100 cases ? — There may be.

{Mr. Enoch Edwards.) In some cases the Miners' Federa-
tion asked, and they were refused.

19812. {Mr. Cunynghame.) I see Mr. Richards' point. I
think I put it to you, in your way of thinking, fairly ? — I
would not like to say that we want a special enquiry after
every single accident or loss of life, as you put it. In some
cases the Coroner's Court gets at all the facts possible,
and I would not think of having an enquiry of that kind in
such a case as that. What the Miners' Federation feel
perhaps rather aggrieved about, rightly or wrongly, is this :
notwithstanding the opinion of the Home Office that all the
facts have been brought out, they have felt upon several
occasions that there ought to have been a special enquiry.

19813. To put it plainly, it is not so much the law you
are complaining of as laid down here, but that you think
it might have been more liberally interpreted by the Home
Office ?— Yes, I thmk so.

19814. That is plainly what it comes to, does it not ?
Now as to the third class of inspectors you are speaking of,
those would be what one might call working-men in-
spectors T — ^Yes ; they who have had some extensive
experience as practical working men.

19815. I mean you desire to see some men of the class of
the actual hewer or drawer, and so oil, men actually engaged
in working as distinguished from officials appointed ? — Yes.

19816. I suppose that there are duties besides coal mines
that they might be employed in. I will take quarries, for
instance. Are you acquainted with quarries at all ? — No,
I know nothing about quarries.

19817. Now the question of fines has often given one a
great deal of difficulty. Supposing one were to enact that
a man could always have an appeal if he wished to do so ?
—I suppose this fine really cannot be made at present
without his consent.

19818. That is the law ; there must be consent ? — Yes.

19819. You think that consent is not enough ? You
think that the law is not in a proper state as it stands T —
I do not think, even ^th the consent of the workmen, that
the manager ought to be permitted to fine at alL

19820. On the other hand, particularly in the case of
younger miners who are begiiming, where you have fellows
who do careless things and endanger the lives of other
people, at present in order to punish them you would have
to take them before the court and make them lose a day's
work, and also to a certain extent endanger the mine by
taking away the firemen and other persons, who are wanted
to give evidence against them. The other is a clear system,
and where the boy admits he is in fault, he says, '* I know
it," and there is an end of it : but it seems to me to be a
complicated system to take him away to the magistrate's
court. Could you suggest some alternative ? — No, I am
afraid I could not. I realise the difficulty of that, but
still simply fining him a few shillings would not have the
same effect in making him more cautious in the future than
if he had to go through that process.

19821. You have another plan. You can suspend him
for a^y, but that does not seem to be a very gocKi remedy
because it onl}* sends him loafing about doing nothing for
that day ? — And it is open to very much abuse. I should
not recommend that. It may be very convenient for a
colliery manager to suspend a workman for a day or more,
or for two or three days.

19822. It always appeared to me, without pretending to
know nearly as much about it as practical miners, that the
suspension in the case of young miners was not a very good
thing. It prevented him earning his wages, and sent him
about in idleness, and it seemed to me that that is rather a
pity ? — I do not think that I can suggest any method.

19823. It is the manager being the judge of his own
cause which is the great point that you object to ? — Yes.

{Mr. F. L, Davis.) I think the suspension is neither good
for the men nor good for the management.

19824. {Mr. Cunynghame,) I was rather putting to the
witness that point. It sends the men unwilling about on
the hills instead of doing their work ? — ^Yes.

19825. Supposing you had a rule of this kind, firstly, that
no fine could be inflicted except for some act which en-
dangered the safety of his fellows at work ; and, secondly,
that the whole proceeds of the fine should always go to a
fund by which the workmen were in some way benefited,
that it should not go to the masters at all. Would that have
any effect ? — As far as I know, in cases that have come
under my notice. I do not think that the masters have ever
appropriated the fines for their own purpose.

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19826. In Franoe there is an extensive systein of fining,
but as the mon^^y always goes to the men the objection is
lemored to a large extent on that account. It is not,
therefore, like the msmagement being a judge in their own
cause. That you would not consider a sufficient answer ?

19827. {Mr. Enoch Edwards,) Mr. Richards would not
like to suggest that now the employers appropriate part of
the fines ? — ^No, I do not think they do ; in fact, I know
they do not in South Wales.

19828. {Mr. Cunynghame. ) I put the question to elicit the
witness's views. There is another point which has puzzled
us extremely, and I wish you to throw light upon it : that
is the question of the use of safety lamps wnere inflam-
mable ga^ has been found. There is difficulty in the
interpretation of those words, and they present an
immense difficulty, because you must give some
notion of a quantity. Is it not true that there is not
a mine in the Kingdom where, if you go to find gas you
cannot find it at once, in the same way as yon can find
dust in this room if you look for it T I suppose
you mean a substantial quantity 7 — I am afraid that I
should come into conflict both with the workmen and the
owners. My view of it is this : I think that safety lamps
should become pretty general in all our mines. I know
that a large number of workmen object, and lots of owners,
but personally I should not wait for any large quantity
of gas, or anything else. I think, especially in our deep

' seams, it is best to take every precaution.

19829. On the other hand, I have heard it said that
putting in safety lamps in mines that do not need them,
although you may get a greater immunity tom explosions,
causes more loss of life from faUs ? — I do not think that
is so.

19830. Do you think the men can work as well with a
safety lamp as they can with a naked light T — I must be
careful ; I do not say that either, because we generally
look for some culditional remuneration in South Wales
when they change from naked lights to safety lamps.

19831. At all events, that is an argument used
on the other side T — I might say that whfle it may not
increase the danger, it certainly decreases the man's
power of earning. A man cannot work as well with a
dim light as an open light. That is a matter of common

19832-3. Tou are of opinion that there are a substantial
number of mines in the kingdom worked with naked lights
that ought to have safety lamps ? — I cannot say that
from my own experience. There have been instances
where the inspectors have felt strongly that lamps
should be put in, and both owners and workmen have
objected. I do not think that is a satisfactory state of

19834-5. The inspectors have told us that the great
difficulty they find is in interpreting the Act ? — For their
own satisfaction.

19836. I think they desire a clearer interpretation of
the rule. I think I should be justified in saying that
there are not many cases where an inspector seriously
thought that safety lamps ought to be in a mine and
reported it and did not get them in. You do not put it
forward that there are a number of mines that ought
to have safety lamps at present which have not got
them T — No.

19837. It is a very important point T — I cannot say that ;
I do not know, reaUy.

19838. Then about the sanitary state of the mines, apart
from ankylostomiasis, is it bad ? Is there improvement
wanted ? — I do not think it is bad. In this respect very
little attention has been given to it, and possibly it would
be as well if the under officials had this present to tiieir
minds. I do not think that they have ever had this
present to their minds.

19839. In all the mines I have been down I have seen
pools of water in the road, and it would have made much
easier walking if they had been cleaned up better, but I
have not come across foul odour, or things of that sort ?
— There are occasions sometimes where old working places
have been used and perhaps rubbish not taken in as
frequently as it might have been.

19840. Where excrement lies about, which, of course,
IS unhealthy ? — ^Yes.

19841. Now about timbering, could you give us any help
in that respect as to what we could do T You would
suggest the spragging distance, which is to be less than 6 ft.,
should be laid down by Special Rule ? — I am not referring
to spragging ; spragging is laid down. •

19842. There are two rules about it, one a General Rule
in the Act and the other a Special Rule. That* is
universal now over England. In the Act it says the
distance shall be 6 ft. ? — Not more than 6 ft.

19843. Or such less distance as shall be laid down by
the manager ? — I do not know that we can improve very
much upon that. The timbering of the roof is the one I
had more especially in my mind. There may be some
uniform distance for roof timbering.

19844. I suppose we may expect really that the accidents
which take place from want of proper spragging at all
events will diminish as the men gradually Income more
careful — as education spreads T — I do not know that the
accidents are very numerous now from want of spragging.

19845. I am afraid they are T — I think not. They are
from falls of roof chiefly. I think the spragging regulation
has reduced the number of accidents from falls of coaL

19846. I am very glad to hear so, as I personally have
had a lot of trouble with it. As years go on do you agree
that there is greater care taken, and an improvement
in the care the miner takes of his life compared with 15
^ears ago ? — Yes, I think that there is considerable

19847. (Mr. Ratdifft Ettie.) What is your view of the
duty of an inspector ; what ought he to do in your view ? —
He ousht to see that all the provisions of the Coal Mines
Regulation Act are observed at the collieries whidi are
\mSeT his care. That is his special duty.

19848. That he should see that the provisions of the Act
are carried out ? — Yes.

19849. Take a colliery: in order to fully see that he
would have to be at the colliery every day, I suppose T —
No— well, of course the actual state of the colliery changes
every day.

19850. The Coal Mines Regulation Act has to bo ob-
served every day, and therefore if he must fuUy see that
it is carried out he would have always to be on the spot ? —
Well, in every detail, yes, that must be so.

19851. That is impossible ?^Yes.

19852. Where would the next step be : how nesa would
you expect him to see that the rules in the Act of Par-
uament are carried out every day in every mine ? — He
could not be every day at the colliery. How often should
he be there ? — I do not want to say ; in fact I do not think
I will say other than that the times he is there are cer-
tainly insufficient.

19853. I want to get your view as to how frequently,
you consider it necessary that an inspector should visit'
a colliery to see what I agiee with you is his duty, that
the provisions of the Act are being carried out ? — I do not
want to give any definite special period. All I want to say
is that inspection once in 12 months as at present,
sometimes once in two years, and then only a superficial
examination or inspection of the collieries is certainly very

19854. You will not commit yourself to an opinion as
to how often you think the inspector ought to be there.
Your view is that he is not there often enough ? — No.

19855. Do you think that has been prejudicial to safety ?
— Yes, I think so.

19856. Have you anything except an opinion upon that
subject ; have you any statistics ? — No.

19857. You have no comparison of the results at a
frequently inspected pit and one where there is only in-
spection once a year ? — I do not know a frequently
inspected pit, to start with.

19858. You think more frequent inspection would
result in having lees accidents ? — It must, I think. When
inspections are made it is generally found that the inspector
has to caU attention to something to be done here, or to
something not having been done there.

19859. Do you think that is so, that he always has to
find fault after an inspection ? — I do not say always. I
said " frequently."

10860. What is your view as to the qualifications for
an inspector ? — I do not know that I find any fault with
the qualifications of the present inspectors.

19861. You think they are about as satisfactorily qualified
aa can be ? — I think so.

19862. Do you know any inspector at present who has
worked at the face ? — No, I cannot say.

19863. Why do you think that there should be some
change made in favour of the men who have worked at
the face being inspectors if you are satisfied with the







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present qualiiioations ? — They would mako these more
frequent and general inspections.

19864. That is a question of the number. I am speaking
for the moment of the qualification. If you are satisfied
with the present quaUfications, why change th^m by
excluding from the class from which these inspectors are
drawn men who have not worked at the face ? — ^We are not
excluding them from the chief inspectorship or the assistant

19865. Why exclude them from any T — Because I am
afraid our class has been excluded.

19866. That is why you would exclude the others. Is
that the way to make for efficiency T Two wrongs do not
make a right ? — No, cf course they do not.

19867. Can you give any other reason, except that
workmen have been excluded, why they should be included
now to the exclusion of the class which you yourself say
is quite satisfactory ? — ^Well, I say that I find no fault
with the i^resent qualificatiors of the inspectors. A prac-
tical knowledge of the working of a mine must be an
additional qualification.

19868. If the present class of inspectors is good enough—
I agree if you can improve it there is no harm in doing that,
but if it is good enough you would not wish to exclude
that class from any class of inspectorship ? — Perhaps not
hom a puiely competitive examination.

1986^. Now with reference to the examination, do you
think that it would in practice work that everybody who
chose should submit himself for examination T—Why not ?

19870. There might be a very large number to be ex-
amined ? — That may be so, but it would very soon become
known that there was a standard of efficiency.

19871. You do not like the present system of nomination
and think that it might be improved ? — I do not like the
present system of nomination.

19872. Are you right in thinking that there are a large
number of men working as colliers who have certificates T
— Yes, absolutely.

19873. Have you any idea of the number of certificates
granted each year ? — No.

19874. For the five years ending 1905 there were 2,580
oeitificatos granted, that is 945 first class and 1,635 second
class. That is at the rate of about 500 a year 7 — Yes.

19875-8. Roughly speaking, there are about 3,000 col-
lieries most of which have certificated managers. It does
not leave a very large number out of 500 each year to be
distributed amongst the men who are working as colliers T
— 500 each year would be a considerable number. Tfcere
are a large number of men that I know personally who
have certificates.

(Mr. Enoch Edwards.) That will not be disputed.

19879. (iff. Batdiffe EUis.) It is a very good thing if it is
so, and I am very glad to hear it ? — I have two brothers
who had it and they failed to get any appointment.
Fortunately they got much more lucrative appointments
at the end, but they were working at the collieries and got
under-managers* certificates and were obliged to look for
other work because they wero kept on as colliers.

19880. While I feel that it is somewhat hard that those
who have equipped themselves for a managership should
not get one, still that is not your object in asking that the
under-managers should have certificates to find positions
for anybody ? — I was not suggesting the position of
managers for these, firemen I was suggesting

19881. You think that you would have more competent
men if selected from this particular class T — Quite.

19882. Do you know how many inspectors there are
now ? — ^No, I could not say right off.

19883. I am told there are 38. Have you in your mind
the number you would increase that to ? — ^It is a very easy
calculation, one to 10,000 men.

19884. That is about 80. With reference to inspection
under General Rule 38 you think the reason the men do not
avail themselves more frequently of this rule is because
there is some sort of fear tiiat consequences might ensue
to their detriment if they made an unfavourable report T —
I do not want to put that as being very general ; I say that
may operate in some cases.

19885. I suppose the collier is pretty much the same
all over the Eangdom ? — ^I suppose he is.

19886. In some districts this rule is very largely availed
of T— Yes.

19887. In the North of England particularly T— I did
not know that.

19888. You can take it from me that in some districts
it is very considerably used. That feeling does not appear
to exist there. Do you really think that has anything to
do with it ? — It has something to do with it.

19889. Ten years ago I think yon said it might have ? —
It had a considerable amount to do with it ten years ago.

19890. I do not think you will say that it has as much to
do with it now. I will not press you about it ? — ^I am not
going to say how much, but it has something to do with it.

19891. Then with regard to expense, is not that a de^
torrent ? — ^Yes, in some cases.

19892. If this rule is to be enforced how would you
provide for that to be paid ? — I do not know that there is
anybody to pay it unless we get the Treasury to do so.

(iff. SmiUie.) The Treasury does it in France.

19893. {Mr. Batdiffe EUis.) You do not suggest that
the employer should pay that ? — No.

19894. Did you ever hear an objection made to it
because it was too hard work T — ^Yes, I have heard that

19895. Can you see how that can be removed ? —
Increase the number.

19896. It is the workmen ? — They may increase their
number and take smaller districts.

19897. There is nothing to prevent them doing that
now ? — ^The expense would be greater.

19898. It is hard work ? — Yes, it is a change of work.
It is taking a man out of his ordinary employment and
giving him moderately hajtl work. If it is a different
class of work to which he has been accustomed it makes
it hard for him.

19899. The object I suggest to you is that the men
employed at the coUiery should make an inspection of the
conditions under which they work themselves and that they
can make it more satisfactorily than an outsider ? — I
thought the object was that the workmen should be
allowed to appoint their own inspectors.

19900. You surest that the workmen employed at the
eolliery may not like to do it because of being discharged.
If they bring two workmen from another pit would uiey
not be at the same disadvantage T — Not under the same

19901. No, but at the colliery at which they worked ?
Not necessarily. Managers are human like other people,
and one manager does not agree with another.

19902. Workmen can be brought from another colliery
now who are actual practical mine workers to examine this
ooUieiy. Why do you want the examination to be made
by a man who is not now a practical worker, but who has
been a practical worker 7 — Because he would be relieved
of this

19903. Is it the checkweigher you mean you desire to
make the examination ? — I do not think that there could I
be any great objection to the checkweigher doing it. He
would be a free man and would give an impartial report. |

19904. You want this rule extended not only that the
practical workers should be able to make an examination
as to the conditions under which they work, but that some-
body else who is not a practical miner but who in some past
period of his life may have been a practical miner should
make that inspection too T — I should not like to say who
during some past period of his life had been.

19905. Is there any halfway house ? — ^I think the work-
men would be wise enough in their selection.

19906. You must remember the owner wants some
protection. This man would be sent down the pit under
no responsibility ; mines inspectors are given very carefully
ffuarded instructions and curections, but this man would
be absolutely a free lance ? — If he knew nothing about
mining his report would be of very little value or not do
very much damage to the colliery owner.

19907. Is it your view that this would secure an in'
spection where an inspection might not now be made
because the men are afraid if they gave a bad report that
it might be to their detriment ? — Yes.

19908. During the last 10 years you have never heard of
a case in which that has been put forward 7 — ^No, I have

19909. You have no other ground to suggest than that 7
— ^No.

19910. In General Rule 4 you think the examinations
now are not satisfactorily made 7 — ^I do.

19911. Rather, I gather, because the firemen have too
much to d^than that they were not competent to make the

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examination T — One never likes to call attention to the
incompetency of anybody, but there is this fact that they
have no test of their competency other than the managers'
general opinion of them.

19912. What has a fireman to do in the examination ?
He has to see if there is any gas ; see to the condition of the
roof and sides ? — Yes.

19913. What very skilled scientific knowledge is necessary
for that T — ^If he fuids gas he has to take steps to get it

19914. He has to fence it off ?— Not only that ; he has to
fence it off, and part of his duty is that he has to get it

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 4 of 177)