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

Minutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines online

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removed. There is a possibility of an unskilled man up-
setting the whole ventilating system of the colliery in his
attempt to get this bit of gas removed unless he knew his
business and the ventilating system upon which he is

19915. Have you ever known a case in which that has
actually happened ? — I cannot say that it has. come within
my own personal observation or experience, but I have
known of it, had it told me, that firemen who have gone to
remove gas have driven it on to men working in other

19916. You would not put it forward that the present
class of fij'emen, as a class, are incompetent men ? — ^No, I
would not.

19917. Your objection rather is that their duties are too
[ great, that they have to do work which is inconsistent with

their making a thorough inspection ? — ^That is one of my
objections, and the other, which is more important, is that
the workmen should have more confidence in the firemen
than even the manager or the owners, and, I think, in order
that the workmen should have confidence in this class of
official there should be some test of their competency.

19918. You think he would be more competent if he had
to have a certificate ? — If he had to pass an examination.

19919. Now I want to ask you about fines. You have
said that you are aware that a man cannot be fined except
with his consent T — ^I understand so.

19920. You know also that a register of these fines has to
be kept under the Truck Act T — ^Yes.

19921. And that the inspector has an opportunity of
seeing this register T — Yes.

19922. If the fine is excessive or the requirements of the
Truck Act have not been complied with, or there has been a
breach of the Truck Act, the inspector can prosecute the
owner T — I suppose that is so.

19923. And that the man who has been fined, if fined
an excessive amount, can recover from the person who has
fined him, the excess ? — Yes.

19924. Do you think that is a sufficient protection
against any injustice ? — I am not complaining so much that
there has been an Injustice inflicted upon the workmen by
these fines. What I say is, I do not think they are a satis-
factory method of administering the discipline of a mine.

19925. Have you had any opportunity of comparing the
discipline of coUienes where fines are inflicted and where
fines are not inflicted ? — ^No.

19926. If it is a desirable way of doing it you have no
further precautions to suggest ? — ^No.

19927. With reference to the rules, vou think that a copy
should be given to each workman, whether he wants it or
not ? — Yes, I think so, when he is employed.

19928. You think if he got that he would read it ?—
Undoubtedly, some would do so.

19929. Now about the establishment of special rules : I
should like to know exactly what your scheme is for the
establishment of special rules T — ^I quite see the necessity of
some consultation between the owners and workmen and
the Home Office for these rules, but I do not think that even
the owners and workmen should have the powers in their
own hand of agreeing to what is practically an Act of
Parliament after all

19930. Will you tell me your objection to the present sys-
tem ? — ^The chief objection that we have had in the past to
the present system is that if we failed to agree we had to go
to arbitration, and we had no locus standi at the arbitration.

19931. If a system could be devised by which you could
get a locua standi at the arbitration, would that meet with
your approval ? — I would prefer their being sanctioned by
Parliament. I believe it would be better if the whole
thing was subject to discussion in Parliament — it might not
be discussed, but subject to discussion, if necessary, before
they become operative.

19932. May I suggest to you this scheme for your con- Mr. T.
sideration, that the right to propose a rule should be as it is Richards,
now, either with the owner or with the Home Office ; that M,P.

if the owner propose a rule, that this should be advertised ^^ '
and any person interested might have a right to object to it, *® May,19 07.
sending his objection to the Home Office, and then that the
arbitration should not be as it is now, each person appoint-
ing an arbitrator, but a single arbitrator to be agreed upon,
if possible, or, if not, to be appointed by one of the judges of
the High Court ? — Agreed upon by whom ?

19933. By the parties interested. I am bringing the
men in at the time that the rule is adsrerti^d ? — You only
bring the men in in the form of objectors to the rule.

19934. Yes T— I do not think that is sufficient

19935. Let me put this difficulty to you: suppose an
owner proposes a rule, then is he not to be allowecC accord-
to your scheme, to send that on to the Home Office unless
the men agree to it ? — He may be allowed to send it on to
the Home Office, certainly, but I do not think

19936. If he can send it on to the Home Office, whether
the men agree to it or not, what is the use of discussing it
with the men, and if the men are to have a right of veto it
would mean no rule could be proposed except what the
men accept ? — Under my suggestion Parliament only should
have the right to veto.

19937. How is it to get to Parliament ?— The Home
Office to propose the rule : then they consult

19938. Do you think it is a satisfactory way, that we
should have no special rules unless they are dis-
cussed in the House of Commons and then sanctioned by
Parliament ? — I think so.

19939. You think so T— I do.

19940. Supposing an owner wished to propose a rule you
would allow him to do it as he can do it now, by sending it
to the inspector ? — Yes.

19941. What is the next step T— The Home Office would
ascertain the views of the workmen upon that

19942. The Home Office would advertise it and invite
objections, and if the men objected they would have an
opportunity of stating their objections. Do we agree
so far ? What is the next step ? Supposing the Home
Office gets certain objections, supposing they objected
to it themselves, what is to be done next ? — Tlien I sup-
pose they would have to be submitted to Parliament.

19043. Argued out in Parliament, we agree up to that
point. I suggest, then, if you have no objection from the
workmen but the Home Office objected, that it would be a
question between the employer and the Home Office,
and if we could not agree on a single arbitrator that a
Judge of the High Court should appoint one ; if there are
objections from the workmen the workmen and the
employers would have to agree upon an arbitrator or the
High Court would appoint one; and if there were objec-
tions from the Home Office ard the workmen, the
proceeding would be the same. Do you see any objection
to an arrangement of that sort away from Parliament
altogether and let this arbitrator decide what the rule
should be ? Do you see any objection to a scheme of that
sort ? — I should like to see the scheme before I say.

19944. Do you think that would be an improvement on
the present scheme ? — In any case more pro\Tsion ought to
be made for the workmen to be parties to any special rules
than there is at present.

19945. I want you to follow me out. Supposing before
an owner can propose a rule he must get the sanction of
the workmen — you would not go so far as that? — No,
I do not think I would.

19946. If he is to be at liberty to propose a rule without
the sanction of the workmen, the discussion with the
workmen would be a mere debating society ? — I do not
follow you.

19947. If the workmen have no veto why discuss it
with the workmen at all at that stage T— I am suggesting
that the workmen should come in at a later stage before
the rule is established. It is proposed by the employee,
the Home Office advertises the rule, and the men, if they
wish to object to it, can object to it.

19948. {Mr. Enoch Edtvards.) How can the workmen
propose a rule ?

{The Witness,) The workman has not the ri^t to
propose a rule.

{Mr. SmiUie,) That is the point

19949. {Mr. Raidiffe EUis,) Do you go so far as to say
that the workmen should propose the rule ? The obligation

8 a

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of the Act at present is that the owner has to propose these
rules. That is what the Act puts upon the owners ? —
We suggest that the Home Office should propose the

19950. So they can now. Do you wish to withdraw
from the owner the right to propose rules ? — No, and I
do not see any objection to giving the workmen the right
to propose a rule, in fact I think it would be desirable.

19951. You think they ought to propose special rules
too ? — Yes.

19952. Then the employers object if they choose ? —

19953. Instead of the Home Office proposing a rule as
it is now you say that the men should be entitled to propose
a rule or the owners ? — Yes ; in praxstice, although they
have not proposed the rule in the first instance, they have
had joint conferences.

1995-i. The Home Secretary has proposed a rule for you 7

19955. You would wish to have the right given to the
workmen to propose a rule. How would you do it ? Take
the workmen of a colliery. There is only one owner and
there U no mistake in finding out who that is. You would
have a majority of the workmen, or how would you ascer-
tain whether it was the wish of the workmen that a rule
should be proposed ? — Of course to get perfect uranimity
amongst the workmen would be rather difficult, I agree.

19956. I want to see exactly what your scheme is. If
the workmen come to propose a rule who are to be the
workmen ? — It must be the majority in any case.

19957. If the majority of men in a pit desire to have a
rule they should propose a rule ? — Yes.

19958. The scheme wants a httle thinking out ? — Yes,
it does.

19959. In haulage roads it would he an advantage if
there was a separate travelling road everywhere, but you
recognise that that could not be done in every existing
colhery ? — There would be enormous difficulties in some.

19960. You would not suggest that should apply to
all? — There are a great number of collieries whore it
might be done without a big expense.

19961. And it might be an advantage to do it ? — Yes.

19962. If it can be -done you think it desirable to do
it T — Yes, I do, and in new collieries I would make it

19963. That there should be a separate travelling road.
You used rather a strong expression, I think, when you
said that the workmen had \^n criminally neglected ? —

19964. Whom do you blame for that ? — I blame the
owners and the Home Office and Parliament, everybody
who has anything to do with this, as well as the miners'
agents of course.

19965. Can you point to any occasions when you have
taken any means to instruct the men ? — Lots of tunes.

19966. Has it been without avail. Have not you
succeeded with all your efforts to make the men careful ?
— It is not a question of the men being careful. Those
remarks apply to the provision of apparatus for rescue
work after an explosion.

19967. You think that has not gone on fast enough ? —
It has not gone on at all.

19968. Do you not think it is very desirable that, in
addition to dealing with an explosion when it arises,
means should be taken to prevent explosions T — I take
that for granted.

19969. What has been done by your Federation in order
to encourage carefulness on the part of the men to guard
against these dangers which cause explosions ? — We have
done everything that I think we could do.

19970. And you have not been able to succeed T — I do
not think it is so much in the hands of the men as it is in
the management.

19971. In what way do you guard against explosions T —
By the proper ventilation of the colliery, the prevention of
accumulation of gases and accumulations of coal dust.
All those are management and not workmen's questions
— by the watering of the mine.

19972. You think that so far as the workmen are con-
cerned there can be no responsibility put upon th^m ? —
I would not like to say that: among 800,000 there are
certain to be some who are not as careful as they should

19973. If we had perfect workmen we should have no
accidents ? — And perfect management too. We should
have none at all then.

19974. You would hardly say that it was criminal
neglect on the part of the employers ? — I am very much
inclined to say so. I think if I had a fiery mine employing
1,000 men I should apply myself somewhat to taking aU
the precautions that could be taken in case an accident
took place, and not show the utter absolute neglect there
is on that phase of the question at present.

19975. I think you are taking too hard a view. There
has been great improvement, has there not, in recent
times ? — I do not Uiink you follow me. I complain that
there is nothing done. I will admit that there has been
great improvement with respect to the prevention of
explosions. I think the watering has been better at-
tended to, and, speaking generally, I think great interest
has been taken as compared with what was taken in
former years, but as far as trying to minimise the effects
of these explosions when they take place, and to see
whether some of the men are alive immediately aftw the
explosion, nothing has been done, absolutely nothing.

19976. With reference to enquiries after a coroner'
inquest, do you think that the coroner's inquest does not
bring out all the facts, or do you think that it does not
punish people ? — It does not bring out all the facte, to
start with, sometimes.

19977. It is upon that ground that you wish to have a
second enquiry T — Yes.

19978-85. Are you satisfied with the constitution of the
court, so to speak^ where a second enquiry is ordered by the
provisions of Section 45 ? Supposing an enquiry is ordered,
are you satisfied with the method of procedure and the
powers given to it ? — Yes, I think so, on the whole.

(Mr. JRaidiffe EUia.) AU that you want is that they
should be more frequent, or, as Mr. Ounynghame has put it»
be more liberally interpreted T

19986. (Mr. Enoch Edwards.) You say that the present
number of inspectors in your judgment is not sufficient for
the work ? — No.

19987. You are perhaps aware that the districts now are
mapped out into 12 ? — Yes.

19988. For the coal mines of Great Britain ?— Yes.

19989. Is it your suggestion that there should be more
districts ? — Yes. I thiii the Western District, the Mon-
mouthshire District, including Somerset and Devonshire,
is a very good area.

19990. You speak of those because they lie nearer your
own home ? — Yes, and I know the extent of them well.

19991. There is the Midland District, embracing three
or four counties, where the chief inspector spends a lot of
time in travelling ? — Yes.

19992. If there were more districts created there would
be less time lost in travelling ? — Quite.

19993. This figure is taken from the bill the Miners'
Federation provided ?— The 1 in 10,000 ?

19994. Yes.— Yes.

19995. Do you suggest that these additional inspectors
should be drawn from the ranks of men who have had
practical experience as pitmen ? — I do.

19996. Mr. Ellis got you to admit that you have no fault
to find \<ith the present inspectors ? — He did.

19997. I suppose you have not, either T — Other than as I
said to Mr. Ellis, that practical experience must be an
additional qualification.

19998. If this type of men were engaged they would be
able to pay inspections at the collieries oftener than they
do now ? — Quite. Perhaps I ought to say I think they
would be likelier to do the laborious work of minute

19999. Inst>ectors are going round inspecting reports
and the plans at the top? — Yes.

20000. You think that is necessaiy ?— I think so.

20001. You refer to the number of men holding first-
class certificates, colliers and workmen who have sat for
examinations ? — Yes.

20002. There are a number holding first and second-class
certificates working at the ooal face 7 — Yes.

20003. I understood you rather suggested as a grievance
that these men could not be employed as firemen ? — I did.

20004. Would they in the majority of cases care to be
firemen ? Is that the extent of their ambition 7 — Not

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perhaps the extent of their ambition, but it must bo their
ambition to beoome colliery official? that induoee them to
study mining and go in for these examinations, and the
fireman is the first step up in that direction.

20005. What is the objection to coUiory managers not
employing theae men as f^emen: is it that they do not like
too many rivals about them ? — That is suggested. I
might say I do not know that it is very relevant to that
question, that Mr. Abraham and I among others were
listening to a deputation only yesterday, where, rightly or
wrongly, a young man, a collier, who had sat and secured
one of these certificates, said that he had had notice to
leave the colliery, and he could not attribute it to any other
reason but that he thought the manager did not care to
have him about because he had this special qualification.
That was only the day before yesterday.

20006. {Mr, F, L, Davis.) You do not suggest that tiie
colliery manager must appoint everybody as an official
in the colliery who has a certificate ? He would get many
more men with certificates in the colliery than there was
room for officials in the colliery. He must pick and choose
between them Y — ^What I am astonished at is that numbers
of these men are available for this position of fireman, and
it is within my own common knowledge that other men
are appointed as firemen who have taken absolutely no
steps whatever to qualify themselves theoretically. They
may bb practical working men and are good colliers, and
thrifty men.

20007. {Mr. Enoch Edwards.) I may take it what you
mean is that you do not wish to reflect upon the present
firemen ? — No.

20008. They are a body of men who understand their
work and perform their duties well ? — Yes.

20009. The majority of them have been brought up in
the pit through its stages, and have been colliers ? — The
majority of them : I have known of some extraordinary
appointments, but they are not generaL

20010. In your experience in Wales is there a tendency
at all to put a manager with a first-class certificate to
control more than one colliery T — It is in operation,
but I do not think that it is veiy general.

20011. There are a number of people who pass the
examination who were quoted to you. In many parts of
the country is there a growing disposition to put a chief
mane^erwith a first-class certificate over a general manager
with a second-class certificate at each of the pits in a
colliery ? What is the practice w\th you ? — That is in
practice, but I do not know whether it is growing or not :
I could not say. It is adopted in some cases.

20012. In your judgment do you think it desirable
that there should be a responsible first-class manager at
every pit ? — I do, certainly. I do not see how one man
can take the responsibility of mpouaging more than one pit.

20013. It is obvious that the area of first-class certificates
is being narrowed if you make one first-class certificate
do for two or three pits and content yourself with appoint-
ing men with second-class certificates at the other pits ?
— That is so.

20014. With reference to workmen's inspection, I gather
the sum total of what you suggest to us is that workmen
themselves do not take a very keen interest in thia ques-
tion ? — Not as keen as I think they should.

20015. You are not prepared to say what is the special
reason why they do not ? — Not really.

20016. You think now it would not arise in these da3rs
put of any fear that the colliery people would take advan-
tage of a man because he had made an inspection ? — In
some cases that would operate, no doubt, but I am not
prepared to say to what extent. I say at once I do not
think that is the general reason.

20017. It would not operate to the extent now it would
20 years ago ? — No, nothing like it.

20018. After all, managers are keenly interested in the
safety of their pits, and if an inspection by a workman
contributes to it, it is to the interest of the Company that
it should be done ? — Yes.

20019. Now with reference to the question of fines
imposed at the colliery for ofifences, have you had much
experience of that in South Wales 7 — No. As I have said,
I knew it was done occasionally, but I understand that
there has been evidence given here that it has been done
to a considerable extent in South Wales.

20020. In Monmouthshire 7 — That does not come under
my personal knowledge, so that I cannot say.

20021. Not in South Wales, but in Monmouthshire to a
very large extent. You say you thmk after all it is not
in your judgment the best thing to fine the men in the
colliery offices 7 — I think not

20022. A good deal can be said against it 7 — Quite.

20023. It is suggested unless you enforce some sort of
fines, either in Court or in some other way, that you cannot
get proper discipline in the colliery. What is your opinion
about that 7 — !& it not possible in well-managed collieries
where the discipline is maintained, to carry them on with-
out resorting to these fines 7 — I think lots of these breaches
of discipline occur in consequence of the laxness in their
enforcing them regularly. They shut their eyes to little
breaches, and, to use an illustration, it is very much like the
busmen in London who have printed in front of them
" Drive slowly," but they never take any notice of it, and
it is only an occasional policeman that enforces it. So it is
at the ooUiery : lots of Special Rules are more honoured
in the breach than in the observance, until something
happens somewhere, and then it is enforced for a while.

20024. For the moment we are dealing with fines for
breaches of rules which affect the safety of the men and
the safety of the colliery 7 — Yes.

20025. Many of these fines so imposed are imposed rather
for other matters. It is a question of a man getting his
coal clean. It is not a question of the health of tibe colSer 7

20026. At any rate, whatever may be the view of the
workmen on the question, it is suggested to you that some
workmen prefer going before the Court. Whatever the
workman^s view, you think it preferable that he should be
taken to the Court rather than fined in the colliery office 7
— Yes, 1 do, and I think the offences would become fewer.

20027. There is one rather important matter you have
put before us which I should like to ask you about again :
that is with reference to the duties of the firemen, or duties
other than those of the safety of the pit as imposed on the
men. I gather from what you said that very largely the
firemen are expected to see to the coal being sent out 7 —

20028. You think that interferes with their proper duties
in attending to the safety of the pit 7 — It must do. I am
strongly of opinion that his duty should be absolutely
confined to the measures of safety necessary for the men.

20029. That is to say, a fireman is supposed to examine
working places 7 — Yes.

20030. He has to go round and examine 7 — Yes.

20031. And keep his eye generally on the safety of the
men, see that the ventilation is proper and going on, and
see that at all times the law is being carried out. That
should be his work rather than lookmg after coal coming
out 7 — I would include also, to see that there was a suffi-
cient supply of timber in every working place.

20032. The fireman should be a sentinel to look after
these men, and you think that the question of gettiog coal
out should be the duty of somebody else 7 — Quite.

20033. {Mr. F. L. Davis.) On that last point are you not
putting it rather high to say that it is the duty of the
firemen and the firemen only to look after the getting of the
coal out 7 — I did not say it was his duty only, but he is
largely made responsible for the general traffic, and that
kind of thing in his district.

20034. What does the overman do 7 — He occasionally
walks round the colliery and spends a large amount of his
time at the bottom of the shaft, seeing that things are all
right there.

20035. Is it not the duty of the overmen to a very large

Online LibraryGreat Britain. Parliament Great Britain. Royal Commission on MinesMinutes of evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Mines → online text (page 5 of 177)