§ MR. J. CALDWELL (Mid Lanark)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the case in the Court of Session in Scotland, at the instance of Mrs. Margaret Polland, or Brannan, residing in Larkhall, and others, against Hamilton M'Culloch and Company, coalmasters, Glasgow, wherein the jury awarded damages to the pursuers under the Employers' Liability Act as compensation for the loss of three men who were killed owing to a crab, winch, or crane used in raising arid lowering the men in the shaft not having been provided with a brake or brakes, or with an indicator; whether the Presiding Judge (the Lord President) directed the Jury that the crab, winch, or crane used, having been worked by manual and not by mechanical power, did not fall under the 30th General Rule of the Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1887, which requires an adequate brake, or brakes, and a proper indicator for every machine worked by steam, water, or mechanical power, and used for lowering or raising persons, and, consequently, that the Jury were to ignore common law, but might consider the case under the Employers' Liability Act; and, whether (assuming the law to be as stated by the Lord President) he will, in the interest of safety and with the view of preventing avoidable accidents, bring in a Bill to extend the 30th General Rule of the Coal Mines Regulation Act to all mechanical appliances used for lowering or raising persons?
§ MR. ASQUITH
The facts are as 44 stated by the hon. Member. The accident appears to be due partly to the crane being out of order, for which the owners have had to pay damages, and partly owing to its unskilful and negligent use. I am advised that even had a brake existed the accident would probably still have happened, for no statutory requirements can be of avail if machinery is kept out of order and misused. I am also advised that, though brakes are necessary to steam-winding gear to check the speed at the end of the journey, such brakes, if fitted to hand gear, would be likely to encourage the men to trust to them and leave go of the winch handles, which would be very dangerous. I have powers under Section 42 of the Coal Mines Regulation Act of 1887 to require anything which threatens or tends to the bodily injury of any person to be remedied, and if it could be shown that hand cranes without brakes are dangerous I should be prepared to put these powers into operation.