§ Order for Second Reading read.
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, this was not only a consolidation of all the Acts relating to the Inspection and Regulation of Mines, but also embodied those alterations which, after due consideration, the Government thought should be included in the legislation on this subject. It was not his intention to trouble the house with a long history of past legislation on this subject; he would only state the chief Amendments embodied in the Bill. The house would recollect that the first legislation upon mines was effected in 1842, when the subject was brought under the consideration of the House in a speech of great power by the present Earl of Shaftesbury, then Lord Ashley. That Bill was introduced in consequence of the Report of a Commission describing the condition of the mining population of Great Britain. He would ask those who were naturally impatient at the number of accidents and terrible calamities which from time to time occurred in mines, to glance at the speech of Lord Ashley, and then to compare the condition of the mining population at that time and the present. Children at tender years—eight, seven, and even five years of age—were then employed under ground. Women were also employed under ground in degrading tasks. The men were in a state of ignorance with which their present condition, although unsatisfactory, contrasted most favourably. The Act of 1842 provided for the cessation of the employment of women under ground, and prevented altogether the employment of children under ten, but made no provision for the education of children employed in mines. It also provided for the inspection of mines, and Mr. Tremenheere, who had since examined many a dark corner of our social system, was appointed sole Inspector of Mines, and so remained until 1850. In that year the number of Inspectors was increased to four, in 1852 595 to six, and in 1860 to twelve, which was the present number of Inspectors. In 1860 a Bill was introduced the then Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir George Lewis), but it was prepared mainly by the then Under Secretary (Mr. Clive), who displayed remarkable knowledge and zeal in the matter. The Bill became law, and another Bill passed two years afterwards, which imposed upon all collieries having a single shaft the necessity of providing an additional shaft, and prevented any mine from being opened in future without two shafts. The present Bill embodied all those Acts, with certain Amendments. He was, however, anxious to give some of the results which had been produced, not altogether by the interference of the Legislating, but which were mainly due to the increased enlightenment of colliery proprietors, their spirit of humanity, and desire to secure the safety of the mining population. For ten years, ending in 1860, the loss of life was equal to one for every 67,000 tons of coals raised. From 1864 to 1868 the proportion of loss of life was one for every 93,000 tons raised; while for the last year for which there were full Returns—1868—it was one for every 103,494 tons. However great and deplorable that loss of life was, still, if it had continued at the rate which it maintained between 1851 and 1860, it would have been 50 per cent greater than at present. It might be assumed that the average loss was about 1,000 lives a year, and but for the improvement that had been effected it would now be at the rate of 1,500 a year. These colliers, who were engaged in a trade on which the manufactures and commerce of the country so much depended, numbered 350,000, and they raised each year 105,000,000 tons of coal from 3,262 collieries. He would now refer to the causes of these accidents. Some of those causes were inseparably connected with the nature of the operations themselves, and some depended on the skill and energy, or the want of those qualities, on the part of those who conducted these operations. It was with the latter part of the subject that the Bill dealt. The utmost that could be done by legislation, or even by the greatest care on the part of those who had charge of mines, was to reduce the loss of human life. He feared, however, that nothing could prevent 596 from to time very considerable losses of life in mining. No doubt the best of all safeguards against explosion was an ample supply and a careful distribution of ventilation. The utmost care, however, could not prevent deplorable accidents from the sudden outburst of gas. The greatest cause of the loss of life arose from the fall of the roof and the slipping of coal upon the unfortunate workmen; 400 deaths were due to those causes, and 200 only to explosion. Three-fifths of the accidents were due to those causes, and one-fifth related to the shafts. There was much to be done by great care in averting accidents from these causes; but, as long as men were men, it was to be feared that deaths would occasionally occur. The remainder arose from miscellancous causes, such as the bursting of boilers and accidents to children and young persons employed on the tramways and waggons on which the coal was borne. The first means for the removal of these causes of accident was, beyond all question, an improvement in the intelligence of all the classes of persons connected with the business of raising coal. There was, no doubt, strong need for that improvement. The Bill did not propose to deal at present with the examination of agents and sub-agents. Great difficulty would arise in the event of agents and sub-agents employed in mines being required to pass an examination, because the result of such an examination would be at once to remove from their employment half of their number, who although perfectly capable of performing their ordinary tasks, might not be prepared to pass the test of examination. He admitted that the question of providing a proper education for these persons was well worthy the attention of Parliament, and he regretted that, up to the present moment, that question had not received the attention it deserved. A few efforts had doubtless been made in Cheshire, Lancashire, and Cornwall, to establish schools for mining agents, but those efforts had been too few to secure more than a partial good. Although great advances had been made by the colliery population in recent years in intelligence and in education, still much remained to be done in order to facilitate their advance in that direction. Mr. Higson, in his excellent Report of 1868, attributed a great proportion of the accidents that 597 occurred in collieries to the ignorance of the managers, the viewers, and the firemen, some of whom, were not only unable to read and write, but were ignorant of the first principles which should regulate the work in which they were engaged. A great number of the accidents were, however, attributable to the workpeople themselves, who, he said, were generally rough and in many cases disobedient, and who continually disregarded the specific rules. They ascended and descended the pits contrary to the published instructions. If thereof sounded well, in answer to a blow of the hammer, they neglected to secure it; they ran the trucks on the tramways in the workings at a reckless pace, utterly regardless whether or not any human being might be on the rails; and they opened and interfered with their safety lamps, in order to light their pipes. Of course, no Bill that could be passed by the house would prevent accidents caused by such reckless conduct on the part of the workpeople themselves; but one object of the Bill was, if possible, to prevent that state of things by increasing the intelligence of the workmen. The Bill did not undertake specifically to provide for the education of the mining population; and he was anxious to explain to the house the reasons that induced the Select Committtee to make the recommendations they had done, and the difficulties that surrounded the question before them. Under the present law no child was allowed to enter a colliery until he was at least ten years of age, and not even then unless he could produce a certificate that he could read and write, or, failing that certificate, that he attended school twice a week for three hours each day. He need scarcely say that those provisions were totally inadequate to secure the education of the children. There was no security that the certificate would be given by a competent person, such as the master of an inspected school, or that the examination would be more than a mere farce. There was no definition of the proficiency in reading and writing that was required; the very slightest capacity to read and write would satisfy the terms of the Act; and even assuming that the child could read and write tolerably when he commenced work, no provision was made to insure his keeping up and extending the knowledge he had already acquired. With respect to the second provision, re- 598 quiring the child who had not obtained the necessary certificate to attend school twice a week, he submitted that it could only be effectual in the case of a child who had already received a tolerable education. It was obvious, therefore, that, however excellent the Act of 1860 might have been, in many respects it had utterly failed in the matter of education, and notably from the want of cooperation on the part of the parents. The working of the Act, with respect to education, was very graphically described in a Report made by the Assistant Commissioner on Education in Scotland. Mr. Sellar said (page 27)—When that Act was passed, providing that children under twelve years of age should produce certificates of school attendance, it created a considerable sensation among the miners. In one coal-mining school the teacher complained that the colliers had been in the habit of first coming to him and threatening to maltreat him if he ever refused a certificate. Of course a weakminded schoolmaster would succumb at once and sacrifice his conscience to his safety. At another school we are told that just at first certificates were given, 'but none had been demanded for a long time.' At another, none had been given for fourteen months; and in one pit, in a colliery in Ayrshire, we found that 46 per cent of the young people employed could neither read nor write, and that 8 per cent could read a little, but could not write a letter. Lamentable accounts were given on all sides of the state of brutish ignorance in which the people connected with this colliery were living. Everyone asserted that the children were taken down before the statutory age. 'I know they used to be taken down very young,' one informant said, a teacher who had once taught a school in the neighbourhood, 'because I kept a night school for the mining children, and very young ones—poor, white, stunted things—came to it unable to read a word or write a letter.'Mr. Sellar went down into the pit and investigated matters for himself. He found thirteen boys. "None of them," he adds, "looked much more than twelve or thirteen, and some had been five years in the pit." The result of the investigation was this—Of the thirteen, six could both read and write, one could read a little, and six could neither read nor write. Of the six who could both read and write, four were Scotch and two Irish. Of the seven who could not write, five were Scotch and two Irish. Five of these seven children had never been at school at all, and did not know a letter. The other two had been at school, one for Tour or five years, but they had forgotten all they had ever learnt.If that was the result of the Act in Scotland, where there was such a reverence for education, what was likely to be the case in this country? Why, in most 599 instances, either the Act was disregarded, or else, where there was an unusually conscientious manager, a rule was made by which no child under twelve was admitted. Various plans and suggestions which had been made upon the subject were to be found upon the Notice Book in the form of Amendments, which were proposed when the Bill was before the house last Session. The first of those Amendments was that proposed by the hon. Member for the Universities of Edinburgh and St. Andrews (Dr. Lyon Playfair), and was to the effect that it should be lawful to employ a child at eleven years of age, provided he had obtained a certificate from a schoolmaster whose school was inspected by one of Her Majesty's Inspectors that he had passed an examination in Standard 2 of reading and writing. This proposition had tile advantage of defining exactly the amount of education which each child was to possess before commencing work in the mines; but he thought that not only was the amount of education stipulated for insufficient, but that the rule would be unjust and impolitic, unless schools subject to Government inspection were established in the neighbourhood of every colliery. The Mining Association of England, through the hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Staveley Hill), proposed, as an Amendment, that the present system should remain in force; but he (Mr. Bruce) thought that he had clearly shown the imperfections of that system, and the necessity that existed for reforming it. Then came the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Akroyd), supplemented by that of the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), which together formed the most efficient of all the proposals which had been made on the subject. The hon. Member for Halifax proposed that the employment of children should commence at ten years of age; but that between the ages of ten and twelve they should attend school three times a week for four hours each time, making a total of twelve hours' schooling in each week, but no provision was made for their compulsory attendance. His hon. Friend the Member for Brighton carried the proposition further, by extending it to thirteen years of age but he (Mr. Bruce) had a general objection to children being taken underground at all at the early age of ten; and, if the Bill 600 of his right hon. Friend the Vice-President of the Council became law, he believed the colliery population would be among the foremost in calling for compulsory education. He believed that the application of the Factory Acts' half-time system would never succeed if applied to mines, and would only be another mode of excluding boys from; employment until the half-time period terminated. Then came the re-commendation of his noble Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), which proposed that children should not enter a colliery before twelve years of age; that boys between twelve; and fourteen should devote six hours weekly to education; and that, with respect to boys above ground, the six hours' education should be continued until their sixteenth year. It was difficult to understand the reason for that distinction. The Association of Working Miners proposed that no youth should be employed before he was; twelve, and not even then unless he could read and write, his ability in this respect to be certified by the Government Inspector. His objection to this scheme was that it could not be said schools were sufficiently numerous to insure the education of every youth in the colliery districts, and that not half of the schools which did exist were visited by a Government Inspector. The proposition of the Government was to exclude children under the age of twelve altogether, and to leave it to their parents to see they were educated by that time. No doubt the measure would be incomplete in itself in the matter of education, but he looked to the Bill of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Forster) to supply its deficiencies. The colliery population as a body, were anxious to secure the education of their children, and he was satisfied they would approve of compulsory education for them. In Prussia and Saxony, boys were not allowed to enter collieries until a more advanced age than in this country; but when once they had entered no further provision was made respecting their compulsory education. Mr. Sandford, Inspector of Mines in one of the largest mineral districts in this country, stated that when travelling in Germany for the purpose of comparing the system adopted in that country with that in England, he applied various is tests, one of which was this—he stopped some 601 ten or twelve boys whom he met leaving work, and put into their hands a volume of Goethe; and he found that only one was unable to read it, and that was from a defect in his eyesight; and of the remainder only one could not read fluently. What would be the result if a band of boys leaving a colliery in England were required to read a passage from Shakespeare? As to the duration of workhours, the Government proposed that no person under sixteen or above twelve should be employed underground more than twelve hours a day, including one hour and a half for food and rest. His experience went to show that, considering the character of the work to which these boys were put, there was nothing in this arrangement inconsistent with their health, while it certainly enabled them to earn that amount of wages which was of great importance to them and their families. In many districts a boy of twelve could earn 9s. a week, and he had known boys to earn as much as 11s. He did not think it would be expedient to interfere more than was absolutely necessary with their means of employment. With respect to persons who were not employed underground, and in whose case the same obstacles to a half-time system did not exist, it was also proposed that the provisions of the Workshops Regulation Act, 1867, should apply; and this would prevent the employment of the few women at present occupied at night at the pit's mouth, and would also prevent the employment of children at improper times. Another improvement on the present Act was, that in order to ascertain the number of young persons employed in collieries a register would have to be kept in which the name of every boy under sixteen would be entered. The provisions of the Bill relating to weighing applied both to coal and ironstone mines, and to all metalliferous mines whatever. One of them was aimed at settling a disputed point between the masters and men. The law at present allowed workmen to appoint a man to weigh coal on their behalf, provided he were selected from those employed by the colliery proprietor; but it was doubtful whether, in the case of any misconduct on the part of the weigher, the master had the power to remove him, as he was paid by the workmen. The Government proposed to make the weigher irremovable except on the 602 order of a magistrate, in consequence of misconduct proved before him. Another provision much asked for by the miners was that the weights and measures should be under the inspection of a Government officer, and this was granted. The miners also desired that in future all payments should be made by weight, Out the Commit tee considered that was a matter with which Parliament ought not to deal and in that pinion he entirely concurred. The next, and most important part of the Bill related to the safety of the mines, and in this a considerable number of alterations had been made at the suggestion of the Select Committee. That was a subject for discussion in Committee rather than on the second reading, but it was one of so much importance that he could not altogether pass over it. In the first place, the general regulation in Section 18 required that an adequate amount of ventilation should be provided in every coal and ironstone mine, so as to render harmless obnoxious gases and keep the mine in a fit state for working. The words of the present Act were that a sufficient amount of ventilation should be provided to prevent accident under ordinary circumstances; but it appeared from evidence given before the Select Committee that these words were often used by the magistrates unduly to relieve coalowners from the duty cast upon them; and in the Bill then before the House those words had been omitted, a provision being inserted to the effect that no owner, agent, or other person should be held to have contravened the regulation if it were shown that all reasonable precautions had been taken by those who were in charge of the mine. It had been objected to this provision that it threw upon masters the burden of proving that they had provided sufficient means of ventilation, and that the accident was caused by some extraordinary circumstance. This, however, did not seem to him to be unreasonable. The master would not be without evidence to show that a sufficient quantity of air was sent down the mine, and properly distributed, even if all traces of the cause of the accident had disappeared, nor would it be difficult to show that there was a sudden outburst of gas or a sudden interfering with the air passages if the accident had arisen in either of these ways. In spite of the existence of proper means for ventila- 603 tion, of course an accident might happen; but any Judge on trying the case would, if proof of sufficient general ventilation were given, perceive that it was due to some extraordinary cause. One of the Inspectors examined before the Select Committee mentioned an instance where his insisting upon a larger supply of ventilation than had previously been used resulted in a dreadful calamity being averted. In the mine in question he found on his first inspection that there were only 12,000 cubic of air in a certain space, but by dint of constant and urgent pressure, the quantity was gradually increased until it amounted to 80,000 feet. Immediately after this had been done there burst out a quantity of gas greater in volume than he had ever known to escape, and had it not been for the augmented supply of air it must have met with a naked light before being diluted with a quantity of air sufficient to render it harmless. This dangerous gas did not ignite till it was mixed with four times its bulk of air, and it continued explosive until it was mixed with fourteen times its bulk of air, when it creased to be so. If, however, it met, in the meantime, with a naked light an explosion would be the immediate consequence, and perhaps every collier underground at the time might be killed. It seemed to him that there ought to be in every mine a surplus supply of air over and above what was required under ordinary circumstances, and he should be ready to consider any suggestion which might be made for altering the clause, provided were consistent with the main object in view—namely, the securing of an amply supply of pure air. One recommendation of the Select Committee had no been embodied in the Bill as a genera regulation. It had reference to the coal owners providing timber for the purpose of preventing the downfall of the roof That matter ought, in his opinion, to be dealt with by special rules rather that by general regulations, and he should therefore, not be unwilling to revise the regulations now in force on the subject The next alteration to which he would advert related to the mode of conducting arbitrations. Under the present system when a dispute arose between an Inspector and a coalowner as to whether sufficient provision had been made for the protection of a colliery, the coalowner 604 named five persons as arbitrators, and from these a selection was made by the Secretary of State. This mode of procedure had been found inconvenient in many ways, and it was, therefore, provided by the Bill that in disputes of this kind the old-fashioned mode of arbitration should be followed, each party naming one arbitrator, an umpire being appointed in the usual way, and the costs apportioned by the arbitrators themselves. The next subject was that of inspection, but it was not proposed to introduce any alteration in this respect into the existing system. He was fully aware that in many quarters a strong desire was felt for an extended system of Government inspection; but he was not prepared to recommend any considerable addition to the present number of Inspectors. He would state the reasons which had led him to this conclusion. It was clear that originally the Inspectors were not intended to perform the tasks which they were now called upon to undertake, of visiting every colliery once a year. Indeed, the number of Inspectors appointed in the first instance showed that such an intention could not have been entertained. At first, only one Inspector was appointed, but five others were afterwards appointed, and the present number of Inspectors was twelve. In some quarters it had been suggested that all mines should be visited by a Government Inspector every six months, while the working miners were of opinion that the inspection should be renewed every three months. Juries had also, on several occasions, and particularly in both the cases arising out of the lamentable and fearful accidents at the Ferndale Colliery, recommended a quarterly inspection of mines. Now, he would not refer, except for a moment, to the mere cost of carrying out such a proposal. Several Inspectors whom he had consulted on the subject had informed him that there were in their respective districts mines which they could not properly inspect under three or four days. One Inspector, indeed, stated that one of the mines in his district could not be thoroughly inspected under fourteen days; while another—Mr. Atkinson—mentioned one colliery the mere cursory inspection of which would render it necessary for him to travel eighty-eight miles, and at least half of the distance with his back bent double. He had 605 endeavoured to ascertain what number of Inspectors would be necessary to satisfy, even in the most cursory manner, this demand for a quarterly inspection of mines, and he did not believe it could be done without at least 220 Inspectors. Moreover, he was of opinion that the result, instead of being advantageous to the colliers, would be directly the reverse, He earnestly hoped that the house would pay serious attention to this question, for it was absolutely impossible that in a matter of such a kind there could be divided responsibility. The more responsibility the House throw upon the Government, the more they would relieve the coalowners from responsibility. Perhaps six, ten, or even twenty, additional Inspectors might beneficially be appointed, and if it were found that an addition was required, it should be cheerfully made; but a quarterly inspection of mines would demand the large number of Inspectors to which he had just alluded, while the result would be that whenever an accident occurred the coal-owners would exempt themselves from responsibility on the ground that the Government Inspector had recently visited the mine, and certified that its condition was satisfactory. The only real and successful inspection was that conducted by the owners and managers of the mines, and the men; and, on this point, he would refer to a statement made by Mr. Atkinson, which showed how the very best system of inspection might be carried out without any Government aid. Mr. Atkinson stated that—Mr. Dalglish, the mining engineer and general manager of Earl Vane's collieries, has organized a system of voluntary inspection at many of the collieries under his charge, by which some of the workmen are made to examine all parts of the mine at stated intervals, to ascertain, as far as they can, the state of the airways, and to consider the general state of the mines with respect to safety, and to report in writing to him the result of their inspection and investigation; and I have reason to think it answers a good purpose, and gives general satisfaction to the workpeople employed in the mines; and I should anticipate receiving, as Inspector of Mines, a complaint from the workmen if they found anything dangerous and requiring my attention, unless the danger was such as to admit of being quickly remedied, and the agents arranged to have it rectified at once.This practice of the men taking into their own hands the inspection of the collieries was self-working; it operated every way, it met every danger as it momentarily arose; and he was also glad to say it was 606 not restricted to the district inspected by Mr. Atkinson, but was established in many other parts of the country. A large coalowner in his own part of the county stated to him that he not only encouraged his workmen to give notice of any danger which might be apprehended, but always gave a money reward to any workmen who discovered any real danger he believed that in the enormous majority of cases the employer or head agent would not neglect any caution so conveyed to them. The system he had just described was one of mutual confidence which ought to exist between master and men. The Government might contribute to their safety, but only in a very slight degree, and he therefore implored the house not to sanction any material departure from the system already in force. He had seen it asserted, he believed by some Member of that house during the Recess, that he had said the only duty of an Inspector was to go to inquests and examine into the causes of accidents after they had happened. Now he denied that he ever made such a statement. An Inspector ought to acquaint himself with the general condition of the collieries, and to visit any which he thought were in a dangerous condition; and it was also his duty to pay immediate attention to any warning given to him of danger existing in a mine. Indeed, there was not a single Inspector who had not during the past year received many such notices, or who had not immediately acted upon them. It was not the business of an Inspector to investigate every colliery, and to look into every remote heading and see whether the ventilation was properly conducted. He felt satisfied that the substitution of Government agency for the natural interests of the masters and workmen could only be attended by calamitous results. There remained, he was happy to say, but one subject on which he need detain the house, and that was the alteration with respect to penalties. Under the Act as it now stood, the infringement of the rules by the owner or his agent was punishable by a fine of, he thought, not more than £20 and not less than £2, with a continuing penalty of £1 for every day the offence was committed after the receipt of notice. Infraction of the rules by the men was also visited by fine, or, if the offence was sufficiently aggravated, 607 by imprisonment at the will of the magistrate. The workmen had justly expostulated at this distinction; and it was his belief that if it could be shown that there had been neglect on the part of the agents, sub-agents, or even the owners, and that this neglect had knowingly been committed, they ought to be liable to imprisonment as well as the men, especially as there was in their case greater knowledge and less excuse. In connection with the last Ferndale Colliery explosion, it was proved that several of the workmen had warned a viewer of the danger that existed in certain parts of the mine. He neglected to take any precautions, and the result was that an explosion occurred by which a large number of persons lost their lives. It certainly appeared to him that if no such explosion had occurred the negligence of the viewer was as deserving of imprisonment as would be any infraction of the rules on the part of the workmen. He perceived that only lately at the same mine a workman was sentenced to three months' imprisonment for lighting' his pipe in the mine, and there could be no doubt that the punishment was a just one; but, considering the danger which attended neglect on the part of the owner or his agents, he thought that it was simply a measure of justice that both parties should be liable to the same punishment whenever they wilfully disobeyed the rules. Another reason impressed upon him that this alteration was salutary. Whatever might be the case in other parts of the kingdom, in his own part of the country (South Wales) there was a very decided sympathy among the workmen for any of their fellows who were sent to prison or lined for infringing any of the colliery rules, although the offence might be one which exposed the lives of all the workmen to great danger, and although, according to the common sense of mankind, the punishment was not a whit too heavy for the offence. If a fine was imposed in South Wales upon a pitman, the money was subscribed by his fellow-workmen. This state of things could not result from mere stupidity or recklessness; there must be something else, and that something was to be found in the sense of relative injustice in the treatment of master and workman. When masters and workmen were placed upon the same footing, 608 he believed the workmen would take a healthier and juster view of their duties towards each other, and would visit, not with sympathy, but with indignation, the conduct of any of their follows who imperilled the lives of their brother-workmen by their reckless conduct. Having gone through all the principal alterations of the Bill, he hoped the House would accept them, for they would, if adopted and carried out, contribute greatly to the safety of this large and interesting population. The Bill had already received much consideration and criticism, of which he had readily availed himself; and believing that it would meet with the general approbation of masters and men, he hoped it would be passed for the welfare and safety of so numerous and so important a class of the community.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Bruce.)
§ DR. LYON PLAYFAIR
Having been employed by Government to inquire into the causes of accidents in mines, may be permitted to address the house for a few minutes on the subject-matter of this Bill. The accidents in mines against which we hope to guard; by our legislation are of different kinds, and four-fifths of the whole result from mechanical errors—that is, from defective protection cither in the mine or the shaft or tramways from consequences which are avoidable if the mechanical operations are conducted with skill and vigilance. The accidents due to chemical causes, arising from the immediate or after effects of explosive gases, form only one-fifth of the whole, or, upon an average about 200 deaths in the year—not much more for the whole kingdom than the deaths which result annually in London from the slaughters produced by the ill-regulated traffic in our streets. Nevertheless, it is those which call forth most active sympathy, not only because they are preventible, but chiefly from the fact that they rarely; occur in the deaths of isolated individuals, for one explosion may sweep away fifty or a hundred human beings at a time. We possess approximate statistics of accidents since the middle of last century, and more accurate ones for the last twenty years. I do not intend to trouble the house with any ac- 609 count of these, but would only draw attention to the fact that the discovery of the safety lamp in 1815 did not arrest their increasing number, though the reason for this doubtless is that it gave a great impulse to mining, largely extended the area of its operations, enabled deeper mines to be worked, and fiery scams to be attacked which were shunned before its discovery. Our period of legislative activity began in 1835, and since then has been an unbroken succession of Parliamentary Committees, Government Commissions, and Acts of Parliament for the safety of the mining population. For a long time these efforts were fruitless, and accidents continued to increase. At last we seem to have reached a stationary period, in which the deaths from accidents remain nearly constant at about 1,000 per annum. while the production of coal has nearly doubled compared with that of twenty years since. This indicates progress, though there is still much cause for regret. We have many encouragements to proceed when we find that there are certain coal-fields which are worked with the sacrifice of only one life for every 150,000 or 180,000 tons of coal raised, while others sacrifice a life for every 60,000 tons. What is attained in one coal-field may be difficult, but is still capable of attainment in another field. All the numerous inquiries which have been published for our guidance indicate two main conditions of safety—full responsibility, and competent knowledge on the part of the employers and the employed. The responsibility rests upon the owners, and ought never to be assumed by the Government through any too-detailed system of inspection. I am glad to find that the home Secretary does not contemplate any material in crease in the number of Inspectors or sub-Inspectors. The responsibility of owners and their officers cannot be too sharp and defined. There is as much discipline required in a fiery mine as in a ship during a storm, and Inspectors should not be placed in the position of supercargoes, to interfere in the working or to lessen the responsibility of the officers. But there is also a responsibility upon the miners, who are bound to second the owners in their efforts to secure safety. There is no sort of work in which the full responsibility of superintendence and responsibility in execution are more 610 necessary than in mining operations. Now, the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman asks us to pass deals with this condition of responsibility wisely and well. It consolidates and simplifies the laws already existing, and adds important provisions for increased security. But I do not think that it deals sufficiently with the second condition of safety, the security of competent knowledge on the part of the employers and employed. Let me explain this very briefly. The main condition for the health of miners, and for their safety against explosions, depends on effective ventilation. A mine is usually ventilated exactly in the same way as this House; and if hon. Members will take a walk in the dark mine-like passages under the floor, they will get a tolerably accurate acquaintance with the system. In this house, as in a mine, a large furnace acts as a pumping-engine, and pumps the air through the house, sweeping out the foul air into the upcast shaft or chimney. But though the system of ventilation in this house is exactly the same in principle as that of a mine, it is far more simple, for in the latter there may be fifty or more miles of narrow roadways, passages, and abandoned workings, which must be cleared of dangerous and foul gases. These two present themselves very unequally. In mines there are the goaves or vaulted ruins of old workings, in which explosive gases accumulate; they are always a source of danger, because from their nature they cannot be well ventilated. A more fall of the barometer, a sudden rise perhaps of the thermometer, with a turn of the wind to the south-west, allow these imprisoned gases to vomit into the passages and workings, and may thus suddenly increase the danger. But more dangerous still is the tapping of some bag or reservoir of inflammable gas under high pressure, and this rushes out in a sudden eruption so as altogether to master the ordinary resources of ventilation. The gas escaping in this way has sudden starts of violence beyond control. In some cases on record it has rendered the air explosive for five or six hundred yards of passages in a couple of minutes. It is in such cases as these that the qualities of miners and of their officers are put to the test, just as in the crisis of a battle victory depends on the pluck and discipline of the soldiers as well as on the skill 611 of their generals. Under ordinary circumstances, the conditions of ventilation in most mines are amply sufficient for safety. But in the emergencies which are the chief causes of accidents, and frequently the results of deplorable error, high knowledge on the part of officers, and intelligence on the part of men, are requisite to counteract them. In this House, in which our ventilation is subject to no such emergencies, do we think it sufficient to intrust its superintendence to practical persons without scientific knowledge? No! We employ a professional chemist of high standing to be responsible for our health and safety, and an officer under him who also possesses scientific knowledge. Can we be surprised, therefore, that miners, who value their lives and safety as much as we do ours, should ask for science and skill applied to perils vastly greater, and to ventilating arrangements infinitely more complex than those necessary in this House? They feel the sense of their insecurity, and have humbly petitioned us in the following words:—That your honourable House will cause all agents, overmen, or chief managers of mines to be subjected to a scientific examination……previous to any mine being placed under their charge.That this petition is not unreasonable is proved by the good effects which have followed such a course in Belgium and France. The miners know that Parliament has given to common seamen protection against the ignorance of their officers by requiring them to take certificates of competency, and it is surely not-unreasonable to ask for like security for their own occupations, which are surrounded by equal perils. There are no doubt, difficulties in the way, but so there are in every case in which you try to secure guarantees for knowledge. No doubt, there are now some excellent managers of mines, as there were formerly excellent masters and mates in the merchant service, who could pass no sort of scientific examination. But this did not deter Parliament from giving to seamen the security of certificated masters or mates, nor should it deter us from giving to miners certificated officers of mines. The Government have had at various times Commissions of scientific men to examine into the causes of accidents in mines. The first consisted of Sir Charles Lyell and Faraday, the second of Sir Henry de la Beche and my- 612 self, the third of Professor Phillips. Well, all of these Commissions reported that you would never materially mitigate accidents till you secured a scientific supervision of mines, and spread a greater amount of intelligence among the operatives. I am not about to weary the House with quotations; but perhaps; you will listen to a few words from one of England's most illustrious philosophers, recently dead. Faraday said—We believe, therefore, that if the education of miners generally, and especially of those set over them, can be materially raised, it will conduce to the security of the lives of the men, and the perfecting of the art of mining, more effectually than any system of Parliamentary inspection which could be devised.I am sorry that the Committee of 1867 did not see their way to recommend measures in this direction, for it is clear that they felt its importance. All of us who have had to do with miners know the recklessness which is engendered by the perilous nature of their occupations, and which can only be mitigated by giving them an intelligent understanding of the dangers around them; for these can be counteracted by skilful combinations; and prudent conduct. Yet all evidence shows that in many districts the greatest ignorance pervades the mining population. At the Haswell explosion, only half the witnesses at the inquest could sign their names. After the Jarrow explosion, it was my duty to descend the mine while 600 acres of it were still filled with explosive gas. As ventilation could not be re-established, we were obliged to rely on air driven down the single shaft by a stream of water which we turned into it. Under such circumstances, it required all the knowledge and prudence of every member of the exploring party to ensure our lives and prevent the destruction of the mine, and yet the deputy-overman and the master-wasteman, who acted as our guides, could neither read nor write. In the last twenty years there has been much; educational improvement, but still ignorance prevails extensively. In a mine, which must be conducted as if danger; were ever present—for no conceivable combination of diligence and empirical skill can always be sufficient to ward it off—we allow owners of collieries, their agents, officers, and men to give no security that they possess a knowledge of the principles involved in their dangerous occupation. A practical experience 613 suffices for the every-day work of a mine, but it is only an instructed intelligence that can meet the sudden emergencies to which accidents are mainly due. The most perfect system of ventilation may be misdirected and deranged by ignorant men; the Davy lamp may be so unwisely handled as to imperil the lives of those whom it is intended to protect, while the advice of Inspectors and the disciplinary arrangements of mines may be rendered useless by some uninstructed persons, who from not understanding their value, mistook their import. The Committee of 1867, while wisely declining to take schools in mining districts out of the general national scheme of education, strongly urge "that they should have regard to the customs and exigencies of operations incident to the working and management of mines and collieries;" but I am not aware that the Committee of Council ever paid the smallest attention to this recommendation, or raised their vision beyond the three R's. Standard III. of the Revised Code will never give to miners an intelligent understanding of their dangers. Surely they ought to be taught something regarding the air used in ventilating the pits, and the conditions in which it will give to them safety or death. They might be taught the principles of the safety-lamp so as to show them that when they keep it dirty, or greasy, or poke holes in it to light their pipes, they are making it a lamp of danger and not of security. They might be taught a few principles of mechanics, so as to avoid using their prop-wood in such a way as to allow the roof to crush to death 400 of them every year. But such simple applications of knowledge in our elementary schools, though given in every other European State, to suit the occupations of districts, are far beyond our ideas of public schooling in England, and so we must be content for a time at least to see 1,000 miners perish annually. In conclusion, let me repeat that I think this Bill deals skilfully and wisely with one half of the question—that of indicating ascertained precautions, and of compelling their observance. But it leaves untouched what I believe to be the greater half of the question—a skilled knowledge on the part of officers of mines, and a prudent intelligence on the part of miners. I do not doubt that the measure is well cal- 614 culated to fulfil the purposes for which it is framed, and for this reason I will gladly vote for its second reading, and support most of its clauses in Committee. But I have taken leave to explain to the House the reasons of my conviction that we cannot hope from it any further large mitigation of the calamities we deplore, until we are prepared to grapple with both the conditions which involve the safety of the mining population.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he was glad that the hon. Gentlemen who had just spoken, and who had acquired personal knowledge of the question under discussion as a Member of a Government Commission, had given the House the benefit of his views with respect to it. The importance of the Bill of which the Secretary of State for the Home Department had moved the second reading, could scarcely be over-rated; indeed, considering that its object was to provide for the safety of a population of 350,000 persons, it was almost worthy of ranking with the two great measures which the Government had already introduced. The utility of the object which the right hon. Gentleman had in view being admitted, the question was, how that object could best be attained. How far, then, did the Bill represent the opinions of the miners themselves, and how far were its provisions approved by the employers? Last year three or four conferences had been held between the miners and the owners. The hon. Member for North Durham (Mr. Elliott), who employed 10,000 men, and who had great personal experience in the working of mines—for he had stated before the Trades' Union Commission that he had begun life in the pit—the hon. Member for the City of Durham (Mr. Henderson), the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Lancaster), the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Roden), the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Brogden), and the hon. Member for East Stafford (Mr. McClean), who then conferred with the miners, might be taken to represent the most intellligent views entertained among coalowners and masters in that House, and they had born met by a most intelligent body of working men. If any one doubted the value of conciliation and arbitration between operatives and their employers he should have witnessed the frank and manly spirit in which they had been mot by the men, and in which questions in 615 which, both parties were interested were discussed. The result of the meetings which had been held last year was that certain Amendments were agreed to and placed on the table of the House. On Friday last they got together as many of these Gentlemen as could, at a short notice, be found, and the hon. Members for Wigan and Stoke had an interview with two delegates of the miners, and they had gone through the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman, and compared it with the Bill of last year and the Amendments to which he had just referred. As to education, they had not discussed that subject, because they thought it would have been, so far as they were concerned, brought within the scope of the general Education Bill of the Government. But there were other points of great importance to which their attention had been directed. The measure before the House provided that! no child under the age of twelve should be employed in a mine, but that between the ages of twelve and fourteen children might be so employed for twelve hours a day, with an hour and a half's interruption for meals; and, what his right hon. Friend did not mention, ten hours were to elapse between the periods of their employment. The effect of this practically might be that fourteen hours of labour might be obtained—that is to; say, pits could be so worked that the children would be employed for eighty-four hours per week instead of seventy-two hours. Last year the position taken up by the miners was that no child under fourteen years of age should be employed for more than eight consecutive hours. But a compromise was arrived at, by which children between the ages of twelve and fourteen might work fifty hours in the week, and children between fourteen and sixteen, fifty-six hours a week, but in no period of twenty-four hours were any between twelve and sixteen to work more than; twelve hours from bank to bank—that was to say, from the time when they went down into the pit till they emerged again into the light of day. The coal-owners laid great stress upon the need of non-interference with the running, of their machinery, and of being able to run this for ten consecutive hours; but eventually the compromise which he had mentioned was arrived at. He hoped his right hon. Friend would not object 616 to the insertion in the Bill of some provision giving effect to it—at least, that he would not refuse to give it his favourable consideration. One Amendment had been inserted which was perfectly fair, and was clearly in favour of the employers—this was that if the master objected to the weighman whom the men might appoint he should, have the power of going before the magistrate and getting him dismissed. He next came to the question of registry. There was to be a registry of young persons under sixteen employed in mines. At the meeting on Friday it was thought very desirable that this should be extended so as to include all persons employed in the mines, and an illustration was given of the need for such a provision. In one of the unfortunate accidents that had occurred it was impossible to discover whether a particular man was below at the time, and his brother, having searched for him incessantly for days and days, at last went out of his mind; the fact being that the missing man, without the knowledge of any of his family, had gone off to another part of the country, and was perfectly safe all the time. In speaking just now on the question of hours, he had omitted one point. His right hon. Friend proposed that of the twelve hours which children were to be allowed to work, one hour and a half should be set aside for meals. The note which had been made on this proposal was "well-intentioned, but impracticable." Persons well acquainted with the working of mines stated that children were employed in such very different modes—some with their parents, some with contractors, some in charge of doors or workings which they could not leave—that it would be impossible for them to give regularly an hour and a half to meals; the workings also were of such vast extent—they had heard of some mines extending over eighty miles—that it would be impossible, even with an army of Inspectors, to enforce the observance of such a rule. The 18th clause was thought to require amendment, as being too stringent in its terms. A mine in which ordinarily the ventilation was perfect might, through some accident which could not reasonably be foreseen, such as the liberation of gases by the falling of the roof, or the workmen coming suddenly upon a "fault" or cavity in which there happened to be a 617 great accumulation of gas, have the whole current of air displaced. Words ought to be introduced into the clause guarding its operation against a contingency like this, which might happen in the best regulated mine. The Amendment which was proposed by the hon. Member for North Durham had been agreed to, both by the representatives of the men and of the owners of mines last year, and this year they had endorsed their former decision. Last year there was a distinction between the penalties which could be imposed upon masters and men, the latter being liable in certain events to imprisonment, while the owners could only be punished with a fine. This year the penalties had been assimilated, and accidents produced by carelessness Mere now punishable in either manner at the discretion of the Court. Both mineowners and miners, however, felt that the clause required to be very carefully guarded. As the matter stood, both parties felt that they were liable to be caught in a legal mesh. A mineowner might be at a distance—attending the Œcumenical Council, for instance—and in case of accident might be summoned home to undergo imprisonment. Since he entered the House that evening, the same point had been suggested to him even more strikingly. Earl Granville, who was a great coalowner, might be leading the deliberations of another Assembly, and be called away to answer for carelessness on the part of some of his viewers or his managers, if an accident in one of his mines led to loss of life. But the real question, after all, was inspection. On that the miners felt more strongly than they did on any other. The name of "Inspectors" was a misnomer, for the Inspectors did not profess to go into the mines; they merely held an inquiry when an accident had occurred. Accordingly, they might with much more truth be called "Accident inquirers." Any attempt at inspection, under present circumstances, must obviously be a farce. With a staff of only twelve Inspectors, it was impossible; to attempt it; and his right, hon. Friend did not propose any change in the number of the Inspectors, though, he pointed out that, by the consequences of what they had already done, the ratio of deaths from colliery accidents had been materially reduced. The number of Inspectors had been increased from one to four, 618 and then to twelve. He accepted the statement of his right hon. Friend that, if the number of deaths in proportion to the quantity of coals raised had continued at its former level, we should now have 1,500 deaths annually, instead of 1,000. But that was an argument for going further in the same direction; and, whatever might be the present duties of the Mine Inspectors, the wording of the Acts of Parliament—under which their office had been created—clearly showed that the intention of Parliament, at the time those Acts were passed, was, that there should be a bonâ fide inspection. The Preamble to 13 & 14 Vict. c. 100, ran thus—"Whereas it is expedient that provision be made for the inspection of coal mines, be it enacted" that the Secretary of State do appoint Inspectors. Under 18 & 19 Vict., additional Inspectors were appointed. The 23 & 24 Vict. (1860), repealed the former Acts, save as regarded the appointment of Inspectors, and section 16 of that Act was as follows:—It shall be lawful for any Inspector to enter, inspect, and examine any coal mine, colliery, or ironstone mine, and the works and machinery belonging thereto, at all reasonable times by day or night, but so as not to impede or obstruct the winking of the said coal mine, &c., and to make inquiry into and touching the state and condition of such mine, &c., and the ventilation of such mine, and the mode of lighting or using lights in the same, and into ail matters and things connected with or relating to the safety of the persons employed in or about the same, and especially to make inquiry whether the provisions of this Act are complied with; and the owner is hereby required to furnish the mentis necessary for such entry, inspection, examination, and inquiry.The 17th clause provided that if any Inspector finds any matter, thing, or practice, dangerous or defective, so as in his opinion to threaten bodily injury to any person, he shall give notice to the owner or agent and report to the Secretary of State. If the owner objected arbitrators were to be appointed. The 19th clause provided that in case of accident, loss of life, or personal injury from explosions or other cause, the owner or agent is to report the same to the Inspector of the district. Now, he contended that those clauses would never have been so worded if it had been intended that the Inspector was to wait till an accident had occurred, or till somebody wrote and told him that there was danger. The Inspector was not to come into play just when the mine 619 was in an abnormal state. They were not to lock the door after the steed was stolen. Looking to the plain English of these Acts, looking to what was done in foreign countries—in America, in France, and in Belgium, where mines had to be inspected several times a year—looking to the legislation they had themselves adopted for factories, which required inspection to take place once in six months, he could not but think that the House might do one of three things—either carry out the wishes of the men that there should be proper inspection, no matter if it cost some money—an army of Inspectors—they had forty or fifty Factory Inspectors—or they might change their name and call these persons Inquirers into Accidents; or they might adopt the proposal of the hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh (Dr. Lyon Playfair), that in all cases the overseers and managers of mines should be properly examined. This was a matter on which the miners felt most keenly. They looked on inspection as the whole soul of the Bill. At the meeting which was held on Friday he ventured to make the proposal, in order to bring about a better state of inspection, that each Inspector should be directed to inspect the mines in his district every six months, and report the state of ventilation and other matters to the Secretary of State. That was accepted by the men, by the hon. Member for Durham City, and by the hon. Members for Stoke and Wigan. When the House went into Committee he might think it his duty to try that question in the Lobby. He hoped the House would be prepared to show that they were inclined to pay attention to the something like remonstrances which had been addressed to them, and would urge the Government to give something more definite in the way of inspection than they now had.
§ VISCOUNT MILTON
said, he quite agreed that they could not afford to do away with the inspection of mines. It was not just that every responsibility should be thrown on the shoulders of; owners and agents without any supervision, and without the power of carrying out the rules and regulations they might make. They could not prevent accidents, unless they followed the men at their work. It was impossible to prevent men smoking; they would smoke, which not only endangered themselves, but threw 620 the onus of liability for any accident on those who were not responsible for their individual acts. With regard to inspection he entirely agreed with the noble Lord (Lord Elcho). He hoped, if Inspectors were not done away with altogether, they would cease to be post mortem Inspectors.
§ MR. PEASE
said, he thought his right hon. Friend (the Secretary of State for the Home Department) had taken quite a practical view of this matter. He was exceedingly happy in his attempt to consolidate the statutes relating to mines, and he hoped that when the Bill issued from Committee it would be a Bill that would promote the inspection of mines and add materially to the safety of those who worked in them. He would suggest that his right hon. Friend should, schedule, at the end of his Bill, those parts of the Workshops Act of 1867 which were applicable to this measure, as all mine managers are accustomed to exhibit with the rules an abstract of the Acts of Parliament on which they were founded in some conspicuous part of the mine, for the information of miners. He also hoped some little time might be allowed to elapse before they went into Committee on this Bill, as it had as yet been impossible for Members to hear from the country. The question ought to be fully investigated, not only by masters, but by men, throughout the mining districts. With regard to education, he was prepared to go a good deal further than his right hon. Friend. Last year he urged, by Amendments placed on the Paper, the propriety of enacting that no boy under twelve years of age should be allowed to go down a pit unless he had a certificate of proficiency in reading, writing, and the first four rules of arithmetic from a qualified schoolmaster; but if the Home Secretary did not propose that in Committee, he was not prepared at present to move an Amendment. In well-regulated collieries boys under twelve were not allowed to go down the pit, but there being no general provisions on this subject, the consequence was that parents who were most anxious to get the greatest amount of work most of their children moved off to collieries where little boys were taken in. Now he thought that acted harshly against these little children, and against miners anxious to maintain so good a 621 rule. He was aware that certain exceptions were made in the Truck Act for education, medical attendance, and other things, but he thought they might very easily add a provision to give every mineowner who provided for the education of children belonging to his mine power to deduct a penny in the pound from the wages of the men—taking care at the same time to publish on two consecutive pay days annually the amount of deduction, and how it had been appropriated—provided the children were sent to a school under Government inspection. The House was sometimes misled by figures, and though he was far from wishing to undervalue either the necessity for the Act or the lives which were annually lost, he would like to point out that according to the Returns of the Registrar General, during the last five years the deaths by accidents in mines had been 5,128, or about 1,000 in a year; while those from chemical accidents, burns, and scalds, had been 14,942, or nearly 3,000 in a year; from mechanical accidents, 28,000, nearly 6,000 a year; from accidents in travelling, 23,000; and by violence of different sorts, 6,890. The impression which was entertained of the rough and rude character of the miners would not bear the test of investigation in the district he had the honour to represent. Comparing the wages of the miners in South Durham with the wages of the agricultural class in the eastern and southern counties, he found that the amount of money received by the former would enable them to live much more comfortably than the latter. Mr. Morell, the Government Inspector, had reported that the average wages of the men in the coalfields of Northumberland and Durham was 27s. per week, and that hardly any of the men would object to pay 4d. a week for the education of each of their children. Moreover, each man had his House and coals free, and received medical attendance on paying 6d. a fortnight. These particulars contrasted strongly with the 7s. or 8s. per week earned by the labourers of Dorsetshire. He believed that the morals, the whole condition and education of miners were attended to much better than those of most other classes of the working population. The hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh had said a good deal about the ignorance of the pitmen: but if the 622 hon. Gentleman would read the regulations enforced in most of the large collieries in South Durham he would find that the duties devolving upon those men were such as it would be impossible for an ignorant man to carry out; for the overman and his deputies had before the commencement of work to go down into the pit to ascertain that all the parts of the pumps were in safety, and they must pay due attention to the lamps, and observe and adjust and register in the journal the barometer. These were duties which could not be confided to ignorant men, and yet were daily and duly discharged by hundreds of persons in the coal districts of England. With regard to inspection, he would be the last to grudge any amount of it. The owner of a coal mine never was so easy as when the Inspector had just been down. He felt whitewashed up to that day, and that he had a good start for the future. If more Inspectors were to be appointed, to be paid out of the Consolidated Fund, the owners would welcome them. But he strongly protested against the idea of appointing sub-Inspectors. It must be remembered that mining engineers of eminence were consulted by almost every coalowner, and that, besides these, the persons in charge of the larger mines were men of high scientific attainments, receiving £800, £1,000, £1,500, or even £2,000 a year; and the Government could not place individuals of inferior talents above them. The Inspectors must be their equals, and a sub-Inspector who might be an overman's brother or brother-in-law would not be tolerated by them. With regard to the education of the pitboys, his right hon. Friend had said that he should not like to ask a dozen boys coming from a mine to read a passage from Shakespeare. Well, he (Mr. Pease) could only say that he knew districts in Durham and in Wales where he should not be afraid of handing to the great majority of the boys employed any volume of standard English literature, and asking them to read passages from it. He desired to say a word respecting friendly societies among the miners, to show what these men had done for themselves. After the Hartley Colliery accident a sum more than sufficient to meet the wants of the widows and orphans of the sufferers was accumulated through the generosity of 623 the public, and the surplus was distributed among different coal districts. In the North of England it was determined to make the sum of £4,300 apportioned there the nucleus of a benefit society, and they started the Northumberland and Durham Provident Society, which now numbered 11,000 members. Its constitution was very simple. The payment of 1s. conferred the right of membership, or 6d. in the case of lads under eighteen. Adult members contributed 7d. per month; lads under eighteen, 3½d. In return the following advantages were secured:—The widows of men killed received 5s. per week during their widow-hood, 2s. per week for the first child, and 1s. 6d. per week for each other male child up to twelve years of age, and 1s. 6d. for each girl up to fourteen years of age. If there was only one child, 2s. per week were allowed. The nominated representatives of single men deceased received a sum of £23 in cash. There were now on the society ninety-six widows and 176 children. Members permanently disabled received 8s. per week, of these there were now thirty-six. The society had already a capital of £10,000 invested in Consols, and in railway, and other securities, its rules were registered by the late Mr. Tidd Pratt, and its tables settled by Mr. Wm. Spens, the eminent Scottish actuary. He was convinced it would be of great advantage if this example were followed in other coal districts. It was stated at an inquest by the Government Inspector for the Manchester district. Mr. Higson, that the great number of the accidents in mines might be attributed to excess in drinking on the part of the men. Now, that was a subject to which he (Mr. Pease) had given a great deal of attention, and, on the whole, he believed that the pitmen were not to be considered a drinking race. But the facilities offered them—and especially in the late state of the law—and their want of means of amusement, did, no doubt, occasion a great deal of drinking upon pay night, and on the following Sunday and Monday. He found, upon investigation, that every man in a particular mine lost, on the average, three-quarters of a day's pay a week in that manner—a serious matter, that deserved the attention of the Executive. A mining engineer had stated, before the Committee on Mr. John Abel Smith's Sunday Closing Bill, that he be 624 lieved many accidents arose, not when the men were actually drunk, but when they were suffering from the after-effects of a recent fit of intoxication; and, in support of that allegation, the witness was unable at the time to adduce any positive proof, but had afterwards forwarded to him (Mr. Pease) the return of a hospital specially devoted for sufferers from mining accidents, which showed that 22½ per cent of the accidents came in on Mondays, 22½ on Tuesdays, and only 13 per cent on other days. He should be very sorry to suggest that all those accidents were brought about by the fault of the men themselves. Many, no doubt, were, in the full sense of the words, casualties beyond control or anticipation; but it was equally certain that many were the result of carelessness. He rejoiced at this fresh attempt to legislate on this important subject, and he hoped by the acceptance of Amendments in Committee the Bill would have all that fruition which every Member of the House must heartily desire.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, he rejoiced to find that there was no intention to offer opposition to the Bill at this stage, because he had never before seen such a disposition on the part of both masters and men to discuss this question in a calm and conciliatory spirit, and he hoped that hon. Members would approach the details of the measure in a similar spirit. He would add his voice to that of the Secretary of State for the Home Department in earnestly asking the House not to attempt in any way to remove the responsibility from off the right shoulders; because over-legislation would either transfer the responsibility to the wrong shoulders, or would make that responsibility itself too heavy to bear. The hon. and learned Member for the University of Edinburgh (Dr. Lyon Playfair) appeared to support a view which occupied the attention of the Committee—that viewers employed in mines should be subject to examination, and, presumably, should hold certificates; but the Committee declined to make a recommendation to that effect because they thought, and he still thought, it wiser that the responsibility for the election of their servants should rest upon the owners and managers of mines. In the first place, there was very great difficulty in obtaining a competent body of examiners. Then another suggestion 625 which had been made would require a revolution in the office of the Privy Council, because it made grants only on examination in elementary subjects. He had always thought that if you could give a child a good sound elementary education, technical education would follow almost as a matter of course when the necessity for it arose; and therefore he did not attach the same importance that some did to a special technical education for the benefit of the children of the working classes of this country. There was a principle involved in Clause 18 which required that an adequate amount of ventilation should be constantly produced in every mine. Whether just or unjust, that clause as it was worded had produced something like a panic in the minds of mineowners. It was a fundamental maxim of English law that a man was held to be innocent until he was proved to be guilty, but the clause would hold a man to be guilty until he proved himself to be innocent. There was a precedent for this sort of legislation in the Habitual Criminals Act of last year, but he trusted the right hon. Gentleman did not wish to legislate for mine-owners in the same spirit as for marine-store dealers—to treat them, in fact, as suspected persons—and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would be disposed to modify this clause in Committee. As he believed the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to give ample time—something like a month—for the consideration of the Bill before the House went into Committee upon it, he misted the right hon. Gentleman would not object to some discussion of the principles of the Bill on the Motion to go into Committee. [Mr. BRUCE intimated his assent.] On that understanding he would postpone further remarks.
§ MR. LANCASTER
said, that representing a population largely engaged in mining enterprise, and having been himself for thirty years engaged in mining operations, he was sorry to find that the real source of danger had been overlooked. The working of mines had vastly extended during the last forty or fifty years, and this extension involved increasing difficulties. The coalownors laboured under disadvantages similar to those of the Irish tenants, for there were certain covenants and conditions they were bound to accept. Coalfields being 626 of limited extent, there was competition to secure collieries, and those who worked; them were obliged to accept such covenants as the landowners imposed. This led to artificial boundaries, and the consequence was that collieries were worked in an unscientific manner. They were frequently obliged to work a mine belonging to different landowners, and the covenants compelled them to work a certain quantity of coal annually under each lease, instead of which they should be allowed to work from the extreme limit of the land, leaving a goaf behind. This was a serious disadvantage arising from the ownership of the property. He had at one time been opposed to the inspection of mines, but we had admitted the right of inspection, and we could not stop where we were; we should be compelled to carry out inspection more efficiently. He had inquired into the modes of working and inspecting mines in Belgium, Prussia, and France; he must say that the system of inspection adopted in those countries was very much more efficient than that of this country; and the reason was that coalfields were leased with a view to their being scientifically worked from the first. Until the same plan were adopted in this country, you would not have efficient inspection. Inspection should begin when the colliery was opened. Under the Code Napoleon the mines were taken possession of by the State, the owners receiving a fair royalty upon the working; and some such course should be adopted here, though of course the owners should not be deprived of their property. He could give glaring instances of the evils which now, for example, attended the working by separate sets of lessees upon the same ground. In districts where the land was in small divisions, there were generally more accidents than in other places, such as falls of roof, floodings, and so forth. While many of the managers of mines were men of first-class education, and also of great practical experience, he agreed with the hon. Member for Edinburgh University (Dr. Lyon Playfair) that it was necessary that the younger men should receive a technical as well as a practical training. He hoped that as to some of these questions the Secretary of State for the Home Department would take a bolder course than that adopted in the Bill.
§ MR. ELLIOT
said, that having mixed with thousands of working men, with whom he generally had good relations, he thought he was correctly representing their views as to the safe working of mines when he said that the attempt to put the whole of the mines in the country tinder such an inspection as that which had been indicated would be simply impracticable. Moreover, he believed that a system of that kind would be attended with much less security than the present system. The best guarantee against accidents was afforded, not by Acts of Parliament, but by the pecuniary interests and the lives which were at stake. He was clearly of opinion that the present mode of inspection was better than the minute and frequent inspection which was proposed. The existing system might, however, still be improved. For example, he thought there should be an increase, though not a large one, in the number of Inspectors, and that frequent periodical reports should be made to them, setting forth the additions made in the working of the mines, the number of air passages, and other statistics of this description. These Returns would be made to the Inspectors of the several districts, whose business it would be to see that the collieries did not retrograde with respect to the security; provided against accidents, and who, comparing the condition of one colliery with another by means of these statistics, might stimulate some of the colliery managers by the example of those who managed better. As to the education of officers, he had appointed hundreds of them, and the House would scarcely credit. How difficult it was to find the right men—men who really understood their business. The management of a dangerous colliery was not an easy duty. It was a disagreeable, uncomfortable duty, attended with great labour; and though he did not wish to disparage education in its primary or more technical form, his experience was that a man who had worked in the pit from early days, and who combined with practical knowledge such education, as reading, writing, and arithmetic, and such as he had picked up by his own study—sufficient to enable him to make his calculations, and keep his accounts—was more trustworthy than a more scientific but less practical person. He believed the country was fortunate in the class of Inspectors it had at pre- 628 sent; that they had been chosen with great care, and that they did their work well. With respect to the hours of labour, there was a great difference of opinion on that subject throughout the country. His suggestion with regard to boys was that they should work three or four days a week, but these should be full days, and they might go to school for the remainder of the time. There were very many points connected with the working of mines which required consideration, and in which it might be possible to introduce some important Amendments. For the last eighteen months there had been more bitterness, vexation, and loss than he could describe about the man who weighed the coal at the pit bank, and all owing to the simple circumstance that he was paid by the men. He had occasion in one of his collieries to discharge one of those men. There was a strike in consequence for some six months, and he would venture to say that a loss of not less than £10,000 or £12,000 altogether was the result. He would suggest that it would be better to have an appeal to a magistrate to get rid of disputes of that kind. It was a most anxious duty to get the instructions with regard to the safety-lamp attended to. What they should endeavour to do was to impress a sense of responsibility on all, and especially to make the persons who managed feel it, and to get the workmen; themselves to do so. He could not understand how it was that men should; sympathize with a person who was guilty of an act which endangered their lives. In all his experience he knew only one district where this feeling had been manifested. Another point was that viewers and managers were not allowed to work a pit as they wished. In a part of the country with which he was acquainted two men, or a man and a boy, were accustomed to work in a place twelve yards wide; they would not work in a less space. The consequence was that three times the quantity of timber was required, and three times the extent of roads had to be kept open, while three times as much gas was generated as would otherwise be the case. He believed he was speaking within bounds when he said that the cost of coals in the mines to which he alluded was not less than £15,000 a year more than it would be in other parts of the kingdom where the collieries were worked on a different sys- 629 tem. The viewer and manager had to deal with, the prejudices and passions of the people, and therefore needed all the support which could be given them. With all the difficulties that a manager had to contend with, he was under this Bill to be made liable to punishment if anything went wrong. If there was danger, even although no accident resulted, in a colliery, and the manager had not removed it when his attention was called to the matter, he was to be liable to imprisonment under the Bill. Surely that was a point which would require modification. There was no reason in imprisoning a manager or owner for some unavoidable consequences. There was one particular head under which a very large number of accidents happened, and that was the falling of the roof upon the workmen. That was a point to which he wished particularly to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. Under the system which prevailed at present in many parts of the country the collier placed his own timber and was the judge of its sufficiency. But if there were safe and skilful persons who should be trusted with that particular kind of duty, he believed that a greater saving of life would be effected by a provision of that kind than by any other in the Bill.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he had listened with interest to this discussion, and he thought he might congratulate his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on the manner in which the second reading of the Bill had been received. The subject-matter was one in which that large portion of the people of this country who were engaged in mining operations had the deepest interest, and, both from the tone of this debate and from what he knew as representing a large colliery population of the feelings of owners and workmen, he believed that when the Bill went into Committee there would be no antagonism between the two classes, but that all would be actuated by a desire to adopt such improvements in the law as would tend to prevent as far as possible those accidents which were so much to be lamented. He was very glad that his right hon. Friend had introduced the Bill at so early a period of the Session, and though it was quite right that it should stand over for a short time, in order that its provisions; might be thoroughly examined and un- 630 derstood, yet he hoped the Committee would not be postponed to such a late period as to prevent that full discussion to which the measure was so justly entitled, for it was in Committee that the main discussion must be carried on and that they must consider the Amendments which might be usefully made. He had been invited to give evidence before the Committee on whose Report this Bill was founded, and the opinion he then gave on the question of inspection entirely agreed with that of his right hon. Friend—confirmed by the practical knowledge and experience of the hon. Gentleman who last addressed the house. At the same time there was no reason why the Inspectors of Mines should be limited to the present number. The number was not fixed by law. It was in the power of the Government, acting upon the knowledge they obtained from time to time, to propose to Parliament an increase in the number of Inspectors, and Parliament might sanction that increase by voting the salaries of the additional Inspectors. But it was the greatest mistake to suppose that they could have a system of inspection with an army of Inspectors, by whom every pit in the country was to be carefully inspected either once in three months or in six. If they were to attempt that, they would be adopting the principle recommended by an hon. Friend near him (Mr. Lancaster), which he did not think they were likely to adopt—namely, that of taking into the hands of the Government the control over the working of mines. He did not admit that because the number of Inspectors was limited therefore their designation should be altered, and they should be called Inquirers into Accidents. That would be an unwise restriction of their functions. In many instances which had come within his own knowledge the Inspectors had been directed to visit and inspect more than once within a limited time particular pits, because there was reason to suppose a dangerous system of working was carried on in them, and Inspectors frequently examined pits in order to give those directions and cautions which were necessary to prevent accidents. He entirely agreed with the hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh (Dr. Lyon Playfair) in the opinion; that the great security against the frequency of accidents lay in the improved 631 intelligence and education of the workpeople. However plausible in theory the proposal for an examination of all viewers and managers of mines might be, there were great difficulties in at once adopting that suggestion; but there was nothing to hinder their doing all in their power to improve the education of the miners. He entirely agreed in the suggestion that in the mining districts the Department of Education should provide for special instruction in matters on which the safety of miners depended, he regretted, indeed, that this Bill, which contained so many valuable amendments in the law, did not directly touch education. His right hon. Friend said the certificate that a child had been able to read and write was often really worthless, and it was very probable that the certificate as hitherto required actually was so. While schools did not sufficiently cover the country it was impossible to expect parents in all cases to send their children to school, and therefore they could not obtain certificates on which reliance could be placed. But he looked forward to the time when the Bill brought in the other night by the Vice President of the Council would come into operation. He did not see, however, why in the mean time, they should altogether abolish the certificate required as to the child. It was no doubt an improvement to raise the age below which a boy could not be employed underground to twelve years. But a boy might be employed aboveground, and might afterwards come to work underground at the age of twelve just as ignorant as he was at ten. He would suggest whether they might not provide that where there was a school with a certificated master within a certain distance of the pit a certificate as to the child's knowledge of reading and writing-should be required. The effect of that would be beneficial so far as it went, and when the Bill of the Vice President of the Council, which he trusted would receive the sanction of the House in all its main provisions, came into force, and schools covered the country, the system would be self-acting—they need not come to Parliament again; as whenever a school was brought within a reasonable distance of the pit, there the certificate would be required. He trusted mainly to the improvement in the education and intelligence of the miners, 632 which they knew was rapidly advancing, as the real security against the great loss of life which unhappily occurs in mining operations.
§ MR. GREENE
said, that having himself brought that subject before the House some two years ago, he must express his satisfaction that the Secretary of State for the Home Department had now undertaken to legislate upon it. There were many valuable points in the measure before them. One important question related to the inspection of mines, and on investigation he found that the miners felt strongly on that matter. At the inquest on the Ferndale accident the jury recommended that the inspection should be made once in three months. He would not presume to say precisely how often it should be made, because an injudicious interference with mining operations was to be deprecated; but, at the same time, if there was to be inspection, it ought to be efficient. He thought the law ought also to require that there should be two shafts in mines; for the security of the workpeople must greatly depend on the arrangements for ventilation. Too much reliance had been placed on the safety lamp, which sometimes proved to be a delusion and a snare, especially when the condition of the mine was not well looked into. The matter was a most important one, when it was considered that the number of miners employed in England, Scotland, and Wales was 288,000, and that more than 1,000 deaths had occurred in the mines in the year 1868. These considerations had induced him to take an interest in the question. He had no personal interest in coal mines, nor did he represent a constituency in a coalmining county; but he thought that on these grounds he might approach the question without prejudice, and with a regard only for the welfare of those who were engaged in mining.
§ MR. RODEN
said, that as one who was personally connected with the colliery interest he entirely disclaimed any want of sympathy with the working miners or any unwillingness to meet their representatives on that important subject. He approved of the Bill in many of its provisions, but he agreed with the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell) that one clause in the Bill went far to alter the basis of legislation in this country. Under that clause a man 633 was not, according to the old law, to be held innocent until he was proved guilty, but must prove himself innocent in order to be accounted so. When the Secretary of State for the Home Department came to reconsider the effect of that clause he would scarcely insist upon its retention. Under its operation, whenever an accident occurred in a mine, its manager, in a majority of cases, would at once leave the country; or, if it were otherwise, they would have an inferior class of men managing mines who would take the situation with the risk. It was often assumed that coalowners did not do their duty by the workpeople; but there were fewer accidents in mines, taking everything into consideration, than in most occupations in the kingdom. The clause to which he had referred was drawn so widely that by it the owner and everyone engaged in a mine was made liable to three months imprisonment. There were Members of that and the other House of Parliament who might be innocently placed in that position. It would be highly unconstitutional to interfere with property in this country, though at one time minerals, in theory at least, belonged to the Crown; but he believed that if owners would be at the cost of an improved laying out, they would get higher royalties, and there would be fewer accidents. More accidents happened from mines being laid out in an improper manner than from any other cause. It would be no hardship to the owners of mines to make their property more profitable, which would be the case if mines were laid out properly. Technical education had been ably referred to in that debate, and certainly the greater amount of education that was given the better. At the same time he could not admit that the viewers and managers of collieries were as ignorant and as incompetent as some persons tried to make them out. Speaking for the owners of mines, he was sure their would be only too glad to employ the best-educated men they could get hold of. The mine-owners were interested in employing as managers the best persons they could get; and the amount which they paid their managers was four or five times as great as that which the Government paid their Inspectors. If there was to be Government inspection at all, it ought to be perfect, and the responsibility 634 ought to go with it. He objected to a half-and-half measure which would confer the power of inspection on the Government and attach all the responsibility to the owners. In Committee he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would consent to modify the clause to which he had referred.
§ MR. HUSSEY VIVIAN
said, that as the representative of a large mining district, and as a person deeply interested in coal mines he felt unfeigned pleasure at the introduction of this Bill at so early a period of the Session, and also at the character of the Bill itself. As to inspection it was difficult to draw the line. If the Government undertook a very close system of inspection it must also undertake a large portion of the responsibility involved in the working of a mine. Every mineowner would hail with satisfaction the prospect of being relieved of that responsibility. It was so weighty a responsibility that he believed if any man before he became engaged, in mines could know what it was, he would scarcely embark in the working of a mine. The dreadful feeling which came over a mineowner's mind when an accident occurred in his mine was what no words could describe. The system of inspection, so far as it had gone, had done good by setting up a standard of good mining in every part of the country. He believed that, as a rule, mines were not better conducted now than they had been before they were first inspected, but very badly conducted mines had almost ceased to exist since that time. He was glad it was proposed to increase the number of Inspectors; and he thought that their visits might be more frequently repeated, and when an Inspector suggested anything within the bounds of reason to increase the safety of the mine, it was incumbent on the owner to adopt it. It would be a fatal policy to lower the standard of Inspectors; they should be men to whom the viewers could look up with respect and confidence. The Inspectors were a very useful body of public servants, and he believed they were not sufficiently remunerated. He had heard that the accounts of some of the best Inspectors had been dealt with in a manner that was scarcely fair towards those gentlemen. An Inspector of Mines was a man who required special qualifications. He was called on constantly to risk his life, and great consi- 635 deration ought be shown in his regard. He (Mr. H. Vivian) remembered when it was his unfortunate fate to stand at a pit's mouth where an explosion had occurred, and where another might be expected, by the side of the Inspector, and the question was forcibly pressed upon his mind, whether, under such circumstances, the Inspector ought or ought not to descend. Such risks to life are Inspectors called on to run. With respect to the high education of foremen and such persons in mines, he agreed in the remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr. Elliott). He by no means wished to deprecate education, but from his own experience as a mineowner he knew it often happened that your over-educated man wanted practical knowledge. He thought that upon the mine-owner should be thrown the responsibility of keeping proper men to carry on his works. As regarded the miner himself, he could see nothing but good arising from education. Strong prejudices existed in the minds of uneducated miners. The surest way of rooting out those prejudices was by means of education. But he did not quite concur in some of the remarks of his right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey). He hardly thought that it was desirable that exceptional legislation should be imposed on any particular branch of trade. If his right hon. Friend were to propose that before a child was employed in any branch of trade he must produce a certificate, he would go with him on that proposition; but such a condition applied to one trade only would be unjust, because it would have the effect of unduly withdrawing children from that trade. In consequence of the exceptional legislation with respect to collieries, boys found their way to other employments, and were not even distributed amongst the industries of the district. As to that clause on which there had been so much comment—namely, that which in the case of an accident in a mine would throw upon the owner the burthen of proving that he was innocent—he hoped that his right hon. Friend would modify that clause; but he fancied that the real object of that clause was to protect the owner rather than to lay down a foregone conclusion of his guilt.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
congratulated his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State 636 for the Home Department on the result of the debate, which he believed would be read by the labouring population with the greatest satisfaction, and the conciliatory tone of which would do as much good, as the Bill itself. A strong feeling existed that legislation on the subject was much required. The workmen themselves were most anxious about the weighing at the pit's mouth, which they contended ought not to be done in a haphazard way. He was glad to hear the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr. Elliot) admit the principle, that children should not be required to work more than fifty hours a week.
§ MR. AKROYD
said, that when a Bill identical with the present was introduced last year he presented a Petition against it from the owners of thin seam mines in his district. They complained that mines of that kind, from which the bulk of the coal consumed in the factory districts was obtained, would be placed at a disadvantage compared with other branches of industry in which children were also employed. The parents sent off their children at eight years of age to the factories, where they remained until they were thirteen, and were then indisposed to follow the less attractive form of industry in mines. The effect of declaring that no children under twelve should be allowed to work in mines would be that the children would be driven away from the collieries, and the result would be a rise in price in an article of the first necessity. It did not appear that the Select Committee on Mines had made this recommendation from considerations of humanity, because in their Report they stated that the employment given to boys was not usually of a laborious character. He thought the difficulty of combining their employment in mines with their education would be met, as he suggested last year, by allowing boys of from ten to twelve to work and to attend school on alternate days. It had been said that there were no schools within the reach of young colliers; but he believed that when the owners found it necessary in order to obtain the supply of labourers that their education should be provided for, they would find schools. At present the colliery proprietors in question found that the educational clauses had so far restricted the employment of boys from ten to twelve that it was not worth their 637 while to employ them. The Bill contained a great inconsistency, because it applied the provisions of the Workshops Regulation Act to all the young persons employed at the pit's mouth, while those employed underground escaped. At present undoubtedly the colliery population in his neighbourhood were the least intelligent portion of the people, and this arose from the inefficiency of the educational provision for them. One great difficulty with which the colliery proprietors themselves had to contend was the ignorance of their workpeople, which rendered it impossible to reason with them upon the laws of supply and demand regulating the rate of wages. The colliery proprietors in his neighbourhood wished the Act to remain as it was at present in respect to children, but here he differed from them. The Low Moor Iron Company assented to the plan of working the boys on alternate days. Recent legislation had all run in one groove—the extension of the Factories and Workshops Act to children employed in different branches of industry; and he could not understand why the Secretary of State for the Home Department should introduce an exemption and variation in the case of those who worked under ground. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider those points when the House went into Committee.
§ MR. BROWN
said, he regarded the introduction of the present Bill by the right hon. Gentleman with the greatest satisfaction. He was of opinion that it would effect a considerable improvement in the position of the working colliers. With regard to children he was glad the right hon. Gentleman had adopted the age of twelve but he would have preferred the addition of another year, making the age thirteen, and he should regret the House agreeing to any provision enabling children under ten years of age to be worked in mines under any conditions. Upon the subject of the payment of wages, he could not do better than quote the reasons embodied in a Miners' Petition, contained in the Report of the Select Committee on Mines, and presented to the House in 1867. They said—That your Petitioners and their Families are seriously inconvenienced and suffer great loss on account of the length of time their wages are with-hold by the Proprietors of Mines and Collieries, 638 thus making them dependent on Truck Shops for the supply of their family necessities.He must express his strong objection to a system which left the men continually in debt, degradation, and misery. He trusted that there would be a moderate increase in the number of Inspectors.
said, he had listened with very great attention to the debate, which was of an eminently instructive and practical character, and which he was sure would greatly facilitate the labours of the House in Committee. In reply to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell) he might state that he had no objection, on behalf of the Government, to a discussion on the subject on going into Committee on the Bill. He could well understand the anxiety of hon. Member's to consult their constituents upon a question affecting so deeply the interests of the mining districts, and under these circumstances he should propose to appoint the next stage of the Bill for the 18th of March.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Friday 18th March.