§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
moved the Second Reading of the Collieries Bill. He had introduced it in consequence of a larger measure on the subject having been rejected by the House. The present Bill applied only to certain collieries in Lancashire and Staffordshire called "firing collieries." They were well known to be so dangerous that safety lamps were always used; but yet gunpowder was still employed in them for blasting the coal; it was the object of the Bill to protect the workmen against the danger arising from this practice. It was divided into two parts: the first four or five clauses gave power to the Secretary of State to demand information as to these mines and collieries, and to be furnished with a map of them; in case of any accident, it was then proposed that he should appoint an inspector to inquire into the state of the mine, and report upon it. If the 5th and 6th Clauses were objected to in Committee on the ground of their too stringent character, he would have no hesitation whatever in withdrawing that portion of the Bill; but he believed the House ought, before the close of the Session, to pass some measure of this kind to protect the lives of that meritorious and industrious body of men, the miners, in their useful but dangerous occupation. The Bill which he now asked the House to read a second time had been drawn up with a view to making it as satisfactory as possible to the owners of the collieries; and there was every desire on his part to make such alterations or omissions as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department might think most conducive to the object contemplated.
§ SIR G. GREY
greatly regretted that the hon. Gentleman had again proposed a Bill of this character at so late a period of the Session, and after the very decisive opinion on this subject which the House had already pronounced. He believed that legislation in this direction, at the present moment, however desirable, would be exceedingly dangerous; and when full time had been permitted for consideration and inquiry, he did not doubt that interference for the purpose of preventing accidents in collieries and mines would be much more effectual. The propositions of the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the 5th and 6th Clauses would not remove the objections inseparable from the Bill, because the 4th and 5th were those which really applied to the restrictions proposed to be placed upon 308 the use of gunpowder in collieries; and while the question was under consideration, and while the opinions of the owners of collieries were being consulted, and the fullest inquiries were being made into the best means of attaining the end in view, it would not be desirable to pass a Bill so stringent and so ill considered as this. The hon. Gentleman proposed to empower the Home Secretary not only to give orders for inspection on the occurrence of an accident, but to issue those regulations which might seem best adapted to the state of the colliery; and, should those orders be disobeyed, the owners of the colliery would be liable to be prosecuted for a misdemeanor. The Secretary of State would, of course, use his discretion; but he might not be in a position to draw up the best possible regulations; and if, in consequence of the neglect of the precautions which he had required, an accident should occur, and with a fatal termination, the offence no doubt would he manslaughter. Now, to this proposition, he (Sir G. Grey) was not disposed to agree. He fully admitted the importance of the subject, and the absolute necessity of taking some measure of general precaution; and he had no hesitation in saying that the colliery-owners were most desirous of co-operating with the Legislature to insure the greater safety of life in mines and collieries. He therefore trusted that the hon. Gentleman would rest satisfied with attention having been directed to the point, and for this Session withdraw the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman moved that the Bill be read that day three months.
§ MR. WILSON PATTEN
stated, on the part of the colliery-owners, that the strongest objections were entertained to this Bill. They were willing to be bound by such regulations as, after due consideration, the Legislature might enact, knowing that their interest, not less than that of their workmen, was involved in the safety of the occupation in collieries; but they altogether denied that the proposition of the hon. Gentleman was applicable to the circumstances, or was likely to insure that result.
§ MR. WAKLEY
was convinced that no proposal involving interference in collieries would ever be submitted to by colliery-owners, or by their representatives in that 309 House; and he entreated the right hon. Gentleman to take up this Bill, and, in Committee, effect the alterations which would best adapt it to the accomplishment of the humane object of saving human life in collieries.
§ MR. LIDDELL
denied the assertion that no Bill could be brought in for the prevention of accidents in collieries which would not be accepted by the owners. They especially desired that limited interference which was called for; and to a carefully-weighed measure, introduced on the responsibility of the Government, they would have no objection. It could not be expected that such a hastily-prepared Bill as this, proposed at the very close of the Session, and on the eve of the expiration of Parliament, could receive the approbation of the parties interested; and he hoped the House would reject it.
said, that although his name appeared on the back of the Bill, he did not approve of all the clauses. One good point in the Bill was the power of supervision given to the Secretary of State. Now, although it might be said that the Secretary of State could not know the peculiar requirements of various districts, yet why could he not avail himself of the experience and knowledge of persons locally connected? His hon. Friend had been charged with bringing in this Bill at too late a period of the Session; but it should be remembered, he had been forced to do so by the late colliery accident near Wigan, which terminated in such fatal results. Although he approved of much of the principle of the Bill, still he suggested to his hon. Friend the propriety of postponing it until the next Session, as it could not be expected that he could gain any advantage by pressing it on the 14th of July. If his suggestions were complied with, he would promise his support when the measure should be again proposed.
§ MR. HINDLEY
inquired whether the hon. Gentleman had considered the evidence adduced before the Committee of 1835? He had been a Member of that Committee; and the result of his labours only went to show the necessity of proper inspection. To that principle, then, he gave his cordial support; but he could not go the length of the 5th and 6th Clauses of the Bill. Inspection should be directed to the subject of ventilation, as to the want of it was traceable the great majority of accidents.
§ MR. FERRAND
hoped the House would 310 bear in mind that the Bill applied equally to masters and workmen—that it proposed to punish masters and workmen alike for violation of its provisions; and that was one of the reasons why he supported it. The accidents that had of late taken place in coal mines were disgraceful to the country. He was himself interested in coal mines; but he felt himself so much the more called upon to support a measure of this kind. He should like to hear a statement from the Secretary of State that he would certainly promote a measure giving him the power of inspection. If he had not such a power, the House ought to put it into his hands. He asked if it was surprising that the colliers throughout the country should be in a dissatisfied state, when the petitions which they had presented, signed by thousands, had constantly been refused? and could the House be surprised if during the recess there should be large meetings of that class, and that perhaps the Secretary of State might be called upon to send down the military to keep the peace, and all this because the House refused to legislate for their benefit?
MR. R. YORKE
, if the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) would give a guarantee that he would introduce a similar measure to the present, would advise the hon. Member for Finsbury to withdraw his Bill; but, if not, he would recommend him to press it to a division.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
was anxious that protection should be given to the persons working in collieries; but he considered that the provisions of this Bill were altogether of too stringent a, character. He was in favour of inspection; and he hoped that the Secretary of State would exercise vigorously that power of inspection which he already possessed. As one who was himself connected with this important interest, he could not refrain from expressing his opinion that the imputations cast on the coalowners were most unfair and undeserved. If the hon. Member for Finsbury was anxious to do good, let him look to the nature of the provisions he was anxious to introduce.
§ MR. FOX MAULE
said, there seemed to be little objection to the general principle of the Bill, and that the question, therefore, resolved itself into one of time alone. He considered that in providing for the safety of the lives of the labourers in collieries, they ought to guard against any invasion of the rights of private pre- 311 perty in those important interests. He admitted the necessity of adopting the principle of the Bill; but he considered the measure was one which ought to proceed from the Government of the country. He gave the hon. Member for Finsbury credit for the best motives in introducing the Bill; but it was not fair for him to charge the House with indifference towards the interests of the working classes of the country. It should be borne in mind that in the present Session the Parliament of the country had passed a Ten Hours Factory Bill, in order to ameliorate the condition of the numerous classes employed in factories. As the power of inspection was at present vested in the Secretary of State, and as that right hon. Gentleman had stated his intention to consider the measure in all its bearings in a future Session, he hoped the hon. Gentleman who had the charge of the Bill would leave the matter in the hands of the Government. If the House went to a division, he would vote against the Bill, although he approved of its principle, because he considered it would interfere with the rights of private property, and was not the measure required to meet the case.
§ MR. FORSTER
denounced the Bill as the most absurd and useless Bill that ever was laid upon the Table of the House: indeed, he was surprised to see the names which were appended to the Bill; for only in addition to the names of the hon. Members for Finsbury and Weymouth, he found the name of Mr. Aglionby. He was sure Mr. Aglionby had never read the Bill. The measure, in point of fact, was the production of a Mr. Roberts, who had visited the counties of Durham and Northumberland, with the motive of getting the grievances of the people redressed, but who appeared to have ill considered the subject when he proposed a measure of this nature. He (Mr. Forster) knew that the coalowners were anxious for inspection; and, although this Bill included inspection, still he believed it was not framed in a manner calculated to meet the object in view, and he would oppose it.
§ MR. TRELAWNY
expressed his intention to oppose the present Bill on the same grounds that he opposed other measures of a similar nature, namely, that he was opposed to all interference between masters and men.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
said, that he would support the second reading of the Bill if the hon. Gentleman pressed it to division, 312 because, after the late accidents which occurred, he thought that some legislation was absolutely necessary, although he did not think that any interference would altogether prevent their occurrence. He thought that coalowners should be made responsible in the courts of law for the injuries which the men received in their works, as was the case in France.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
replied, and defended his motives for introducing the Bill. He reminded the House, and those hon. Gentlemen who were interested in coalmines, that his reason for introducing the Bill was, to protect the lives of hundreds of thousands of their fellow-creatures engaged in collieries. He admitted that the observation of the right hon. Secretary at War (Mr. Fox Maule) was quite correct, that the measure ought to be brought forward by the Government; but the Government had not undertaken it, and it was upon that account he had introduced a short Bill to protect the lives of those unfortunate persons until the Government could introduce a measure of their own. It was not fair to compare the condition of those men with the condition of the slaves employed in factories, for the former were bound down by stringent contracts to work for a twelvemonth, and therefore had not the opportunity of escaping from danger. He implored the House to pass the Bill for one year, in order to see how it would work; and in the meantime the Government could propose a more comprehensive measure of their own. he contended that in the case of the late accident near Wigan, the Secretary of State had not the power to order immediate inspection; for when he was asked to do so, he declared he had not the power. In that case an act of great inhumanity, disgraceful to the country and eminently disgraceful to the coalowners, had occurred in bricking up the mine and consigning the unfortunate men to a horrible death, in order that a small portion of coal might be saved. How would hon. Gentlemen like to be treated in such a manner themselves? If six of them were in the next room, and a fire broke out in it, would it not be considered monstrous and inhuman that the other Members of the House should order the door to be bricked up on the supposition that the men were dead? Feeling assured that the principle of the Bill was correct, and that its provisions were urgently called for, he would be no party to the continuance of a system which annually caused such a dread- 313 ful sacrifice of human life. Whatever was considered objectionable in the details of the Bill, he was prepared to alter; but he would press the second reading to a division, and thus throw upon the Government the responsibility of rejecting the measure, and the responsibility of the human life that might be lost.
§ LORD H. VANE
expressed his astonishment that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie) and other Members should vote for the second reading of a Bill the details of which they disapproved. In answer to the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Duncombe), he denied that long contracts were now in existence in the north of England. As the right hon. Gentleman below him (Sir G. Grey) had announced his intention of bringing forward a Bill on this question next Session, and as it was so much more advisable that Bills of this nature should be introduced by the Executive Government, he trusted few Members would be induced to vote for the second reading.
§ MR. ESCOTT
said, that the question was whether or no immediate legislation was necessary; and he thought something ought to be done, as the loss of lives amounted to 600 annually.
§ The House divided on the question, that the word "now" stand part of the Question:—Ayes 23; Noes 56: Majority 33.
|List of the AYES.|
|Arkwright, G.||Humphery, Ald.|
|Blackburne, J. I.||Martin, J.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Morris, D.|
|Borthwick, P.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Bouverie, H. E. P.||Packe, C. W.|
|Cabbell, B. B.||Palmer, G.|
|Escott, B.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Evans, Sir D. L.||Perfect, R.|
|Ferrand, W. B.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Hall, Sir B.||TELLERS.|
|Hindley, C.||Duncombe, T.|
|Hornby, J.||Wakley, T.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Aldam, W.||Denison, E. B.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Divett, E.|
|Baine, W.||Dundas, Sir D.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Du Pre, C. G.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||East, Sir J. B.|
|Blakemore, R.||Ebrington, Visct.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Egerton, W. T.|
|Brotherton, J.||Forster, M.|
|Brown, W.||Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.|
|Byng, rt. hon. G. S.||Goring, C.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Grey, right hon. Sir G.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Hamilton, G. A.|
|Cripps, W.||Hawes, B.|
|Denison, W. J.||Henley, J. W.|
|Houldsworth, T.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Jervis, Sir J.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Jones, Capt.||Palmer, R.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Liddell, hon. H. T.||Prime, R.|
|Lindsay, Col.||Reid, Col.|
|Lygon, hon. Gen.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Macaulay, rt. hn. T. B.||Strutt, rt. hon. E.|
|M'Taggart, Sir J.||Thornely, T.|
|Mahon, Visct.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Miles, W.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Vivian, J. H.|
|Monahan, J. H.||TELLERS.|
|Morpeth, Visct.||Hill, Lord M.|
|Munday, E. M.||Parker, J.|