§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said this country was somewhat behind in labour legislation, and although there had been an accumulation of promises on the part of the Government during the last three years, there had been very little labour legislation since the passing of the Factories and Workshops Act in 1901. Since that time the Government had allowed the House to carry a Resolution in favour of legislation for shops, had admitted the need for further legislation as to truck, had promised to amend the Workmen's Compensation Act, and to extend it to seamen by a separate Bill. After the Commission had reported he supposed there would be legislation on the subject which was discussed by the House a few days ago—the responsibility of the funds of trade unions, the law of conspiracy and picketing. But with regard to mining regulations we were very heavily in arrear. The Secretary of State would not deny that there had been a Bill relating to metalliferous mines ready for introduction for many years. In 1896, when the last Bill was carried on coal mines regulation, clauses of the Bill, to which the right hon. Member for East Fife attached the greatest importance, had to be left out on the ground of time. The Under Secretary would not deny that successive Secretaries of State had pledged themselves to the abolition of arbitration as regarded the making of special rules in coal mines, in order to bring the law more in accordance with the law relating to factories and workshops. This Bill, in various forms, had been before the House on 809 many occasions, and he now moved the Second Reading at the request of the hon. Member for Mansfield, who desired it to be moved as a Bill presented by the great majority of miners to this House. The hon. Member for the Mansfield Division desired this Bill to be put before the House in that way, and it was for that purpose it was now introduced by himself. They did not commit themselves to every word in the Bill, which was an omnibus Bill containing a number of diverse provisions, but there would be very few Members of the House who would not be in favour of some of the provisions, although they would not be in favour of others. There were some provisions to which he attached far greater importance than to others. The first five clauses of the Bill had a double purpose. In the first place, they abolished the present system of arbitration for special rules, and in the second, they introduced a new system in its place. It was quite possible there might be a more universal concurrence in the abolition than in the new scheme which was proposed by the Bill, but, personally, he thought he could put reasons before the House why it should be adopted.
The rules for coal pits were at the present moment formed, nominally, separately for each pit, and were settled by arbitration That was the same system as that which existed in the factories and workshops up to the passing of the Act of 1901—a system almost universally condemned, and which was abolished by this House with universal consent The system could still be seen in work even under the present Factory Acts, because, with regard to the use of lead in potting, an exception was made until the termination of some existing arbitrations for the making of rules for the use of lead, and everybody who had followed the subject knew what delays and obstruction had taken place in consequence. That system was virtually the same as that which existed in the coal pits, and after the declarations which had been made by the right hon. Member for West Monmouth and the right hon. Member for East Fife, he felt sure the Home Secretary would not defend the continued existence of such a system. Mr. Ratcliffe Ellis, a high authority in this matter, had 810 sent out a notice with regard to this Bill. In the first part of the notice Mr. Ellis referred to the question of arbitration, and had assumed that the desire of this Bill was to change the rules. That was not so. The desire was not to change the rules but the way in which the rules were made. It was said that the miners of Durham and Northumberland were satisfied with the rules, but those rules were made on the plan advocated in the Bill. They were made at a conference between the two sides and the Home Office. That was the system they desired to introduce. They had no desire to change the rules except where the miners and masters and the Home Office agreed they should be changed. But Mr. Ellis gave himself away in the conclusion of this notice because he said the coalowner would be deprived of an effective control of the rules. So he ought to be. A coalowner should not have effective control over the rules any more than a manufacturer. These rules ought to be established on some system which would secure equality to the men in the discussion of them, and they should be controlled by the Home Office and by Parliament.
With the exception of those who spoke for the Mining Association of Great Britain, there would be a general concurrence in the desire to change the existing system, though there might be many differences of opinion with regard to the plan proposed. That plan, which was contained in the first five clauses, was a plan for setting up a Board for each of the mining districts, under the inspectors. Those Boards, on which both masters and men would be represented would draw up a general code for each district, to which might be added special rules drawn for particular pits. It might not suit all districts because of the present distribution of the districts. Of course, the rules would have to be different in the case of a highly dangerous and a perfectly safe district, and there was a difficulty in bringing mines of two kinds into one district and making one rule for both. Here he desired to make them an admission which it was only fair to make, and that was that to a certain 811 point they had constituted a certain recognition of the organised position of the men by Parliament. That recognition was in accordance with the whole trend of modern labour legislation. He, personally, was opposed to going anything like so far as France had gone in the way of State recognition of trades unions as the only means by which the State could recognise the men, still less would he go as far as New South Wales had gone, where trades unionism was compulsory, but the amount of recognition which existed in this Bill could be defended by arguments going very far short of anything like that. Under this Bill they only recognised what already existed in the best districts at the present time.
He thought the opposition to the Bill would concentrate on the two small Clauses 6 and 7, but those clauses were only one-thirtieth part of the Bill. The Bill contained a multitude of conditions most important to safety besides those. Clause 6 was a new clause this year. When they discussed the Employment Clause of this Bill, which in the previous year was separated from the Bill, as were the Check-Weighing Clauses—when they discussed the Employment Clauses as a separate Bill with the age of twenty-one instead of eighteen—it was contended by several hon. Members that eighteen would more accurately carry out the instructions which the miners gave to their representatives in this House, and, therefore, the clause in the Bill now contained eighteen instead of twenty-one as the age. Primâ facie there was a stronger reason for limiting hours in the interest of the safety of young persons than of old persons employed in a mine. In France, ever since 1893, there had been a rigid eight hours rule with regard to boys under sixteen years of age employed in coal mines. So that France was already in front of us in this matter. That was so not only in regard to coal mines, but in much legislation relating to factories and workshops also. Foreign nations were beginning to take the first place, and lead in the paths in which they followed us in the past. They were not in a position, when discussing this question last year, 812 to give the full or available figures in support of their contention; they had only the figures of the fatal accidents. The committee on accidents had since that time gone into the matter, and had stated that the proportion of fatal accidents was a fair index to the number of non-fatal accidents. That was a fact which called for the attention of the House. They were years in which no great explosions involving any considerable loss of life took place. There was not a single accident in any district in which more than sixteen persons were killed by an explosion. There was a complete absence of great calamities, and yet, in those very three years, fatal accidents were always something like 1100 a year—and in the same proportion to the total number employed. The fact that there was no decrease was a serious one in itself, because with the increased appliances for safety and increased care in enforcing legislation there ought to be a decrease of accidents in the coal trade, as there was in almost every other trade. And just as the Government claimed credit for having decreased the number of fatal accidents in most other classes of employment, so they were called upon to act by the fact that they were unable to decrease the number of deaths in that particular trade.
When they came to non-fatal accidents, of course the official statistics were useless. Failing these, they had done their best to prepare non-official statistics, which would bear investigation because they were obtained from responsible bodies. The figures which were most useful were those of the Miners' Permanent Relief Fund, and the funds assimilated to them in various parts of the country. Whether in the Miners' Permanent Relief Fund or in schemes under the Compensation Act they had carefully prepared details for about half the miners in the country. There was no special reason to suppose that the half they had differed from the half they had not. The hon. Member for Mid Durham knew that in Northumberland and Durham all persons, without exception, who were employed were in the Permanent Relief Fund. The same could not be said of Yorkshire, but it was the case in portions of the 813 Midlands, and therefore they might take the Fund as a fair test. Giving the numbers of this Fund, nearly one half of the deaths—say 160, the disablements worked out for the same districts in the same year—1902—at 42,000. In the Forest of Dean, which was a safe district, and where, therefore, the smaller accidents were the more numerous in proportion to the fatal accidents, of course the proportion was much higher. "Disablements" meant disablement for a week at least, which was the Permanent Relief Fund test, whereas under the Workmen's Compensation Act it was a fortnight. Based on the figures he had quoted, the disablements among miners would total 100,000 in the year, and that was, he confessed, an appalling fact. He would leave his hon. friend the Member for the Ilkeston Division to enter on a detailed examination of the figures relating to deaths between sixteen and eighteen years of age, but as regarded the deaths below sixteen he would under take to say that there was a higher proportion than obtained among the total number employed.
There was a valuable volume published last year by Dr. Oliver, of Newcastle, the highest authority on dangerous employments, and in it was a part by Dr. Tatham on "Danger in Coal Mines." These were the words in which the writer summed up his views on this question—Miners are . … a temperate body of men; their mortality . … from alcoholism is less than a third . … of that of occupied males generally. . … The excessive mortality of colliers under twenty years of age may be accounted for by the fact that from 40 to 50 per cent. of the total deaths are due to violence caused by the wagons and tubs. . … This form of accident falls mainly to the lot of the young and less experienced colliers.And as it was the case that there was a higher mortality among boys under sixteen than among adults and among all classes, so he ventured to assert that there was undoubtedly a higher proportion of disablements as well as deaths. His own belief was that no fewer than from 8,000 to 10,000 boys under sixteen were disabled every year in our coal mines, and if hon. Members would think of their own sons, and would extend to the community at large such measures of safety as could 814 be safely employed for the protection of these boys, he was sure they would feel that they were doing their duty as Members of Parliament and at the same time accomplishing a good day's work for the country at large. Last year they had some controversy with the representatives for Durham as to the number of boys employed on long hours. They knew of course the total number of young persons employed underground at all ages, but they did not know exactly the number on long hours. He ventured last year to say that in the Northern counties—the counties which alone were opposed to legislation of that character—there were 25,000 young persons under twenty years of age working ten hours a day below ground. That was to say, five days of ten hours in one week and fifty-four hours in the alternate week. That was a very large number to be so employed, and his hon. friend and his colleagues had frequently admitted to the House that there was some ground for a change in the present system, although they appeared to be unable to agree as to exactly what change should be made. They did at one time support a proposal for reducing the fifty-four hours to forty-eight hours, and even if that was their present view, and if they were not prepared to go the whole extent proposed in Clause 6 of the Bill, he submitted that from that point of view a good case was made out for sending the Bill to a Committee in order that that question might be considered. It was admitted that the figures as to accidents were no guide as to numbers: the standard of severity governing the notification of accidents in mines was vague and allowed much latitude. The publication of non-fatal accidents in the Labour Gazette had been discontinued, as the figures were misleading. But he thought they had proved that day that the Permanent Relief Fund figures supported the contention put forward a year ago that the proportion of accidents was higher among boys, and was in fact terribly large. Mr. Ratcliffe Ellis, in his comments on the Bill, had suggested the old argument that they ought not to pass their clause limiting hours in the case of those under eighteen, because it would indirectly introduce a universal eight hours system for all 815 classes, and that it would therefore have the same effect as the Eight Hours Bill. He could not fully admit that, and he would give two arguments in support of the contrary view. It had not proved to be the case in France, neither had it been the case in this country where, although the boys could not work beyond fifty-four hours a week, the men did in many cases.
§ MR. JOHN WILSON (Durham, Mid)
Perhaps the right hon. Baronet will correct that. The men do not all work ten hours; very few do.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
said they could not prove how many worked the ten hours, but it was not denied that a proportion did, and that was sufficient to bear out his argument that the clause did not necessarily involve the reduction of the whole to the same standard. He would next pass to Clause 7, upon which there was a great deal of difference of opinion. Personally he was in favour of it, but some of his hon. friends who supported the Bill were not. This also was a safety clause for young persons. It was based on the fact that young persons, when they first began to work in a mine, did not understand lamps, ventilation, and roofing, and were therefore a source of danger to their fellow-employees, and to the whole pit. The Mining Association of Great Britain claimed that the provision, which they had opposed in 1887, sufficiently secured the safety of those involved. General Rule 39 provided that—No person shall work … alone … until he has had two years' experience … under supervision.Now that general rule was fiercely opposed by the Mining Association of Great Britain in 1887, and it was in fact always the case in factory and mining legislation, that the opponents fought fiercely some particular provision and declared it to be monstrous in their circulars, and then as soon as it was passed treated it as the palladium of the liberties of the British subject and paraded it as a reason why no further advance should be made. But it was a well-known fact that this General Rule 39 was constantly evaded, and he was, he confessed, a little hurt that 816 the Mining Association of Great Britain had, after opposing it, now put it forward as a sufficient security. What occurred now was that uninstructed people were expected to instruct one another, and he submitted that there were strong arguments in favour of some such clause which would stop a hole admitted to exist in the law and would provide safety for the workers. If the Bill went into Committee he should not be sur prised, however, after what passed in this House last year, at that clause being attacked. As regarded Clauses 6 and 7, they had been declared by the Mining Association of Great Britain, not to be limited to coal or iron-stone, but to apply to all "employment of every description below ground under all circumstances." That, if true, would be fatal to this clause, because it would be outside the scope and title of the Bill. The word "Mine" had the same meaning as in the principal Act, and a mine under this Bill was the same as a mine under the Coal Mines Regulation Act. The wages part of this Bill he could dismiss briefly, because those clauses were almost word for word the same as those in the Bill of 1895, which were dropped in the Bill of 1896 on the ground of want of time, and not because they were objected to. Clause 10 was intended for the Cleveland district in a sense, but it was a source of disappointment there, and a necessary source of disappointment. They could not go beyond the scope and title of the Bill, and they could not deal with those mines which were not subject to the Coal Mines Regulation Act. Clauses 11 and 12 were mainly Scottish clauses, and were passed to meet the difficulties which had arisen in Scotland. The only other matters worth notice at the present stage were those which had been subjected to fierce attack.
In Clause 23, which was the long safety clause, general rules were provided for in Sub-section 2, paragraph 1, and some of the words there were perhaps sufficiently important to explain. Those words applied to firemen, and although it was alleged in the circulars addressed to hon. Members that the present inspection of mines was sufficient, judging from much of the evidence they had reason to think that it was a perfunctory examination, and those words 817 were intended to make it a more satisfactory examination. The words contained a principle which was found in the legislation of several states of the United States, where it had been found most useful. Paragraph 9 of Clause 23 dealt with the certificate of competency for enginemen engaged in winding, and this had been agreed to by the Miners' Federation. Paragraph 17 had been very much attacked, and it astonished some hon. Members because they did not understand the existing law. On the Motion of one of the hon. Members for Durham, the words were put into the law in 1887. The words of the existing law stipulated that these men should have at least two years' experience of such work. The modification they now proposed had been attacked in some of the circulars, and he should be prepared to modify these words, although he attached much importance to this Amendment. In conclusion, he wished to say he believed the Government admitted the need for improved conditions of safety in coal mines, or at least he should be very much astonished if they did not make that admission. Even the opponents of portions of this Bill had repeatedly stated that they were not satisfied with the existing conditions as regarded young persons, and that they ought to make special provision for young persons employed below ground. Other countries had done this, and were in advance of this country, and he thought the House of Commons ought to be disposed to regard with indulgence what, after all, were the men's proposals, partly concurred in by the masters, for dealing with this great question of safety in mines. These proposals did not come from agitators, but from men who were a hereditary class, with as close a connection with the trade as any master could possibly have, because coal-miners were bound to their employment and were partners in the prosperity of the trade. Coming from that class the House should not think that any proposal which was disapproved by an employer here and there was necessarily bad, but they should look upon these as the men's proposals, and coming from a class who were not likely to have any desire to interfere with this industry. He appealed to the House on the 818 ground of the protection of young persons against the dangers which were represented by the appalling total of calamities which he had stated to the House.
§ MR. WILLIAM ABRAHAM (Glamorganshire Rhondda)
said it would be necessary for him to call attention to what had been hitherto the practice in making these rules, especially in the district with which he was connected. Hon. Members, it would be admitted, knew the requirements of their own districts better than anybody else, and perhaps they would allow him to say that he knew something about the requirements of his own district. The Mining Association of Great Britain had issued a pamphlet which would have been very useful indeed had it not been that some of the statements contained in it were very inaccurate. He supposed he should be within his rights in combating some of the statements put forth. It was a well-established practice that special rules should be enacted in special mining districts, as particular arrangements might be necessary to prevent accidents, and to provide for the safety and proper discipline of the persons employed. In case of questions of efficiency and sufficiency of the rules upon which they could not agree, they were settled by arbitration, and in that arbitration the owner on the one hand and the Secretary of the Association on the other, appointed arbitrators, and they could appoint an umpire to decide between them. The only limit upon them was that the umpire should not be employed in the management, or have any interest in the particular mine, to which the arbitration related. Nevertheless he might be the owner of a colliery, or the director or manager of another colliery in the very same district, knowing all the time that the special rules he enacted would apply to the districts in which he was interested. That was an unfair and dangerous method of procedure. This Bill proposed an entirely new method in each district. It established a District Coal Mines Board, the main object of which would be to obtain the services of men thoroughly disinterested, and not connected with the district. He wished to 819 point out, however, that one of the partners to the concern under the present method was left out of consideration in these rules. The man who placed his capital in the concern had a voice in making the rules, but the workman who trusted his life and limbs, and all, in the concern, had no right, by law, to have a voice in the making of those rules. In some cases in his district the workmen had been asked by their employers to meet them in the presence of the inspector of the district to discuss these rules, and as long as they agreed they were considered jolly good fellows, but the moment they disagreed, and any rule had to be settled by arbitration, the workmen had the door closed against them. Under these circumstances, a number of most important rules had been enacted, but the plan had failed altogether.
Some years ago the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife, drafted a large number of special rules, and the employers objected to them, and arbitrators were appointed, one by the employers and the other by the Home Office. This method was not a safe one for the men; hence the necessity for a new method by which they could have the aid of the ablest men outside their district who were entirely disinterested. In the year 1896 the country was up in arms upon this subject. Leading articles appeared in the London and Provincial Press, and the Government changed the machinery for making these special rules. But the change was so meagre and ineffective that, from his place in the House, he predicted that the House would meet many times before anything was done under the new plan. In the district he came from nothing was done until the year 1902; that was six years after the passing of the Bill. And why? Because of the strenuous opposition which the mine-owners offered to the rules. Therefore he pleaded for a new method of procedure. Without wishing to recriminate, he desired to call attention to a certain place where an explosion took place last year, and where a number of persons were killed. At the inquest evidence was submitted proving the mine to be very fiery, gas being found in several parts of the 820 workings every day. It was also proved that the air current in this particular mine was not sufficiently strong to ventilate it, and it was shown that the ventilating fan was too small. Furthermore, it was shown that the Chief Inspector of Mines, on three occasions, had called the attention of the general manager to the ventilation, and other conditions of a dangerous character. He was glad one of the proprietors admitted the truth of everything he had said.
§ MR. WILLIAM ABRAHAM
said this was undisputed evidence given at the coroner's inquest. But what they were as tonished at was that the other mine-owners and mining engineers in that very district did not consider these conditions dangerous to the men. They said that to allow men to work where there was a cap of gas varying in the lamp from a quarter of an inch to half an inch was not a dangerous condition. If there was anything more scandalous than that in mining operations he did not know.
§ MR. MARKHAM
The largest cap found in the pit was only an eighth of an inch, not a quarter of an inch.
§ MR. WILLIAM ABRAHAM
said that was not his point. It was, however, an admission of one of the owners that there was a cap found of an eighth of an inch. His point was that the managers and mining engineers in that very same district said in evidence that to have a cap of a quarter of an inch to half an inch was not a dangerous condition. He said it was, and his point was that these gentlemen were not the proper people to make rules for this dangerous industry. He wanted to have some proper Board constituted where they would have one man at least who was independent and able to make rules for this dangerous industry. He had tried to make it clear that in the district of which he was speaking, at least the present mode of making special rules was not a safe one, and not one that 821 should be allowed to go on any further. Men who had been brought up in mines, as some hon. Members had been, knew the dangers of the work, and had seen the distress resulting from accidents. He knew that Gentlemen on both sides of the House sympathised with the workers and their families, but being in the mine was quite a different thing from hearing about it. A Commission made inquiry as to these dangerous coal mines so far back as 1886. He called the attention of the House to the fact that the Commission reported that—If marsh gas, in a nearly pure state, enter the atmosphere of a mine, the proportion necessary to produce an explosive mixture will be so rapidly attained that the presence of the gas, as indicated by the formation of a 'cap' or 'aureole' on the flame of a safety lamp may escape notice.It would be seen from this that there was the possibility of a dangerous explosive mixture without a warning cap of any dimensions on the flame of the lamp. Could anyone say after that, that if gas in the air current showed an eighth of an inch in the lamp it was not dangerous? The Report also said—More recently Professors Kreischer and Winkler have made similar experiments in carefully determined mixtures of air and artifically prepared marsh gas, with live different safety lamps, two burning benzine, two burning rape oil, and one burning a mixture of rape oil and petroleum. From the results obtained it appears that, the height of the cap varies considerably for the same gas mixture with the form of the lamp and with the illuminant employed. With the lamp most analogous to the lantern of Mr. Galloway, heights of cap are recorded greatly in excess, in some cases nearly double, of those observed by him.To-day, in South Wales, the same lamp was used, and for any mining engineer to say that a half-inch cap in the lamp was not a dangerous indication was a most dishonest expression and an unsafe one for the mining community.
There was more evidence of that kind he should like to call the Home Secretary's attention to. It was given in 1896 with regard to these lamps. These facts were brought before the present Home Secretary, and he promised that something would be done. He did not know what had been done. Let it be understood that he was not mentioning these facts for the purpose of recrimination or getting 822 any capital out of the statement, but simply for the purpose of obtaining increased safety for the district which was so dear to him.
He should like to say a word on the question of inspection. If inspection was to be of real value the inspection itself should be real. Was not that a fair proposition? Personally, he had nothing to say against the present staff of inspectors. In South Wales, he admitted, they had good men who did their work as well as it was possible for them to do it, but his point was that they were totally inadequate in number for the work to be done. What the promoters of the Bill proposed in Clause 18 was this—In every district an inspector shall make a complete examination of every mine, and every part thereof, at least once in every six months.Was it unreasonable to ask that in mines where hundreds of men were working every day, and whose lives and limbs were dependent upon the conditions of the work, the inspection should be I made thoroughly once in six months? The way they proposed to carry that out was provided for in Clause 19 of the Bill in these words—(1) "In every mining district as defined in this Act, the Secretary of State shall appoint assistant inspectors so that there shall be an inspector for every 10,000 persons employed above or below ground in connection with mines in the district.(2) "In the appointment of assistant inspectors preference shall be given to persons having practical knowledge of the working of mines, and especially to persons who hold certificates of competency under the principal Act,He was glad to be able to testify that there were to-day scores of young men who, though working at the face, held a manager's certificate of competency. It was said as against this proposal that it was unnecessary. But he would point out that it was admitted that the present staff was entirely insufficient to do the work asked from them. The present staff of inspectors could not possibly carry out the requirements of the Mines Regulations Act, and hence they asked for a staff of assistant inspectors. The objectors to the Bill professed to be afraid that the inspector would relieve the colliery manager of his responsibility. That was an old, 823 worn-out tale. A mine-owner would not have a manager of that kind very long. They said also that the inspector would have to make suggestions which, when carried out, might prove unsuccessful, and that that would place upon him a responsibility which he would not desire to incur. Of what good was an inspector at all when he went to a colliery if he was not to have the right of making suggestions, and what was the good of an inspector if he was not willing to accept the responsibility of his position? The objection was frivolous. They said also that the cost would be enormous. What was the cost to this House? When they had spent so many millions to kill Blacks, why should they object to spend a few thousands to keep Whites alive? They were simply asking the House for an increased staff of sub-inspectors, practical colliery men, who had gone through the mill, and who had obtained a manager's certificate of competence. That was the man the employer himself would trust to do his work for him, and he would know where to go. It was said that it would be necessary to send an official with the inspector. That would not be necessary with these men. Let one of them go into any mine in the kingdom once and he would know his way afterwards. If men were selected with a knowledge of the districts it would not be necessary to increase the cost.
He begged the House to allow the Bill to be read a second time, and the points on which they disagreed could be dealt with in Committee. He thought he had proved his case that there should be a new method of making new special rules. He had a word to say in regard to the check-weighers. He thought that the attack which had been made on them was very harsh and cruel indeed, and he was rather surprised to see the number of his hon. friends who were members of the Mine Owners' Association defending the statement in the pamphlet. It was said under the principal Act thatThe check-weigher should not be entitled in any way, either at the mine or away form it, to impede or interrupt the working of the mine, or interfere in any way with the workmen.Of course he could not interfere in any way unless he was at the mine. But what they wanted was to insert "im- 824 properly" or "unjustifiably" before "interfere." What was desired was that the check-weigher should not be turned away if he did things that circumstances justified him in so doing. A member of this House, the hon. Member for West Durham, made an ex parte appeal to the Divisional Court, and the facts of the case were as follows: Joseph White was appointed a check-weigher at the South Hetton Colliery. It must be remembered that the check-weigher was appointed by the workmen of the colliery, paid by them, and could be dismissed by them. White was at the same time secretary to the Lodge of the South Durham Miners' Association. There was a dispute pending between the Colliery Company and the men as to the hours of labour. The old hours were eight hours a day for a certain class of work. The Company were desirous of increasing the hours of labour. The men held a meeting and refused to agree to the increased number of hours. Some ten men, who had not been present at the meeting, the next day went to the pit, and being uncertain as to the hours of labour, they went to check-weigher White, who was at the pithead, and asked him whether the Lodge had passed a resolution forbidding the men to work more than eight hours a day; and he informed them that the Lodge had passed such a resolution. Observe, the men asked for the information; the check-weigher did not offer it. Yet that was the reason why the man was dismissed by the Colliery Company, and that decision was confirmed by the Divisional Court. Here was a man who had been placed in that position, in charge of the weighing machine, because he possessed intelligence a little above that of the generality of the men, but by that decision this man, in this free England of ours, was tied down to his environment. His situation was taken from him, he was reduced to the level of a dumb creature, to have no more animation than the machine he stood by. Was that a position for any intelligent Englishman to be in? No remove him and replace him by an American automatic weighing machine. He thought when such trifling matters as that were used to discharge honest, good citizens, it was time for the House to interfere. He 825 should be ever grateful to the House for the patient hearing given to him and his one appeal now, was that though hon. Members might disagree upon minute details in the Bill, for the district which he came from it was a question of life and death. They wanted some method of making special rules for the district, and they knew that they were applicable to it, and that the lives of men would be safe in working under them in the mines.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ COLONEL PILKINGTON (Lancashire, Newton)
moved that the Bill be read that day six months. He said that, generally speaking, legislation with regard to coal mines was at present very complete, very severe, very exacting, and excellent in every way. It did not seem to him that it could be truthfully said in regard to mining, although it might be said with regard to several matters connected with other departments of social life, that there was any deficiency of legislation. As a matter of fact numerous Acts had been passed by Parliament, and the last Act was passed in 1896. A very great deal had been said about safety. He thought that, generally speaking, in regard to the question of safety of employment in mines, the United Kingdom, as compared with other countries in the world, had a remarkably good record. He did not mean to say that no alterations were ever necessary. But while occasional changes were required, they should be careful not to injure the wages of the workpeople or limit the possibilities of work, and not to injure the interest of the large amount of capital which was bound up in the coal trade. To say things in Parliament which gave the general impression that there was neglect, cruelty, and a want of sympathy with the miners who carried on the work of the great collieries, on the part of employers, or a want of care—he thought it was a great pity to bring such general charges. They knew there would always be here and there acts of mischance, and there would always be a minority who continually required bringing up to the mark. But these general statements of neglect ought not to be made. The returns as to safety showed that such general charges were without foundation. 826 For the ten years, 1873 to 1882, the annual mortality from accidents in mines was 2.24 per thousand persons employed, and per million tons of mineral raised. In the ten years beginning 1883 and ending 1892, the figures fell from 2.24 to 1.81 per thousand persons employed, and per million tons raised. During the nine years ending 1901—he had not got the other figures—the corresponding figure was 1.36. Those figures showed a vast improvement. Of course one was sorry that there should be an average of even one per thousand killed; one would, in fact, like to see accidents entirely eliminated from mines; but looking to the character of the industry he thought the figures he had quoted disclosed a state of things which was very creditable to the Legislature, to the cap talists engaged in the industry, and to the workpeople who were employed in the mines. From his point of view it seemed that a Bill so extensive as this under the general circumstances to which he had alluded—a Bill of twenty-eight Clauses and sixteen pages dealing with the great mining industry—ought to be a Government measure. He would remind hon. Members opposite and the House, that a Royal Commission was inquiring into the coal resources of the country, and he urged that it was really desirable that unless some very strong reason could be shown for a change in the law, the House ought to await the Report of that Commission. An hon. Member opposite laughed. But it was quite clear—it was a matter of common sense—that these provisions would affect the future of the coal trade. The past of the coal trade had been connected with shallow coal and moderately deep coal, but there were provisions in this Bill which he believed would prevent the getting of the deep coal. He especially referred to Clause 18, to which he proposed to allude later. Some of the clauses of the Bill did not take into consideration the splendid way in which the collieries of the United Kingdom were managed, and that, with new collieries equipped with very large pits, splendid engines, improved ventilation, coal would be obtained from a much greater depth, in which, probably, the aid of electricity would be obtained as motive power.
827 He would like to refer to the question of the rules. The present rules were made to a great extent, indeed he might say altogether, by the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary had the right to object to any special rules proposed by a colliery owner and to propose any special rules himself. If in either case the special rules were not accepted, then establishment or otherwise had to be decided by arbitration. The right, hon. Baronet (the Member for the Forest of Dean) said the rules would not be altered, but he thought if that was so the question arose whether the rules were good or bad. The rules had, been very carefully made, and in most cases they were very good. It appeared to him that instead of the Home Office they were going to have district boards, and these district boards were to make rules for mines in the district. At present the rules were carefully made for each colliery, and in many cases one colliery differed very much from other collieries in the same district. The new districts board was to have a chairman "who is not and has never been the owner, agent, or manager of a mine, or a director of a company owning a mine, or a miner's agent, or employed in or about a mine" What knowledge could such a person have of mining conditions? And he was to be the chairman. Why the chairman of any great public company, if he was any good, ought to know more about the company than anybody else. He wondered what the London and North Western Railway Company would have done many years ago if it had had at its head a person such as was to be chairman of the districts board. The second member of the districts board was to be practically a colliery proprietor, and the third was to be a person who is, or had been employed in or about a mine, and had not been an owner, practically a man who had had experience of the work. This board was to have very great powers. It would have the power to bring before it any person, to compel the production of books, papers and documents, make special rules, andFor the purposes of and incidental to the drawing up or amendment of special rules 828 under the Act the districts board shall have all the powers of an inspector under the principal Act.He thought that if this board was to take the place of the inspector it would be a very disastrous business so far as the working of the mines was concerned, where workmen and employers of labour were now working for the common good. The powers of inspection given to the districts board were very drastic. They were able to enter and inspect, or to authorise any person to enter and inspect any mine or premises, the power to summon and examine and to require answers to inquiries, the power to require the production of all books and papers and documents. The districts board would have full discretion as to the course to be followed in any proceedings before them, and an order might be made by the districts board under this section for the payment of costs, and such an order may be enforced by any Court of summary jurisdiction. The districts board would also have power to fine any person—no matter who he might be—who "without reasonable excuse" failed to comply with a summons or requisition of the board, or impeded the board in the execution of its duty, he would be liable to a fine of £10. This was a sort of new Court of Justice, with all the powers of a Court of Law and able to exert such a wide authority that it really seemed useless for directors of colliery companies holding any more meetings. He could not conceive how a number of such eminently clever men as those whose names were at the back of the Bill could have produced such an extraordinary string of suggestions and proposals. He noticed that Sir Charles Dilke said they did not wish to change the rules. But if they did not want to change the rules what was the meaning of the provision that all existing special rules are to be repealed from the date on which the special rules for the district come into operation? If that was to be the case the districts board would have power to repeal all the rules. Suggestions were made by the right hon. Baronet that they wanted something like the Factory and Workshop Bill—a provision by which the same agency should be placed in the new mines regulations as was in the Factory Act passed a session or two ago.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
That is not exactly what I said, what I said was that the argument for getting rid of the existing system was the same as that which prevailed when the House unanimously got rid of the existing system as regards factories and workshops. I did not suggest that main principles established by this Bill were exactly similar to those under the Factory and Workshop Act.
§ COLONEL PILKINGTON
I did not exactly state that was the effect of my right hon. friend's statement, but I did assume that he would be content with the provision of the Factory and Workshop Act.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
I thought that would be infinitely better than the present conditions. I prefer the plan in this Bill, but I think the Factory and Workshop Act would be preferable to the existing law.
§ COLONEL PILKINGTON
said he thanked the right hon. Baronet for his correction. He noted that he still said he thought the Factory Act would be more satisfactory than the existing conditions. Under the Factory Act the Secretary of State practically did the whole thing. If he found any difficulty then he appointed an arbitrator. The arbitrator held a full inquiry, and the result of that inquiry was laid on the Table of both Houses of Parliament. He did not think there was very much difference between that procedure and that under the existing Act. There was a little difference, and he believed that colliery proprietors would probably just as soon have one as the other.
The next very serious matter was the question of employment with which the right hon. Baronet dealt at considerable length. But with regard to the question of the safety of young people, it seemed to him that those who last joined, the youngest people in the pit, the most inexperienced, would be always more liable to accident than those who were experienced. Whether they made the age sixteen or whether they made it eighteen, they would find that for the first few years the new comers would be subject to the most accidents. He would suppose that the men up to thirty-five ought to be the ones who would be least liable to 830 accident. They knew most about the work, and had had most experience, and should be the part of the working population of the mine among whom the average of accidents of all kinds was lowest. That was only reasonable, and therefore he did not see that the figures given by the right hon. Baronet were very convincing. With regard to Clause 6 of the Bill, which enacted that no person under the age of eighteen should work for more than eight hours a day—that was practically enacting an eight hours day. It was well known that in collieries and workshops all the workpeople worked together. They constituted a great machine for the production of certain articles, and, as a rule, the young people and the adult must work at the same time and in the same manner, and it seemed to him that to suggest that the collieries could be carried on with the young people under eighteen knocking off and the rest going on, was to attempt to hide the fact that the eight-hours principle was embodied in the Bill. All practical people, whether they wished to pass an Eight Hours Bill or whether they did not, must see at once that an attempt to enact that a large number of the people in a pit under eighteen were to work eight hours, and the rest as they pleased, would simply end in all working eight hours only. Then with regard to the other proposal—that no one who has not been in a pit up to the age of eighteen shall be allowed to work in any mine below ground—that seemed to him to be absolutely unworkable. There were numbers of men connected with collieries, people who were hewing the coal, engaged down below at all times, people engaged with engines and machinery—and as electrical machinery increased there would be more and more of these employed—and to pass such an Act as this would have the effect of confining those who were qualified to work in collieries to a very limited class, and would, in his opinion, involve a very grave disaster on the country. He hoped that neither of those proposals would be passed. They would cripple the industry and do no good. They were first of all opposed to any young person going into the mines, and they were opposed 831 to anybody going down after the age of eighteen. He thought Clause 7 was very injurious. It was not well thought out, as he should have thought it would have been, by the numerous framers of the Bill whose names were upon the back of it.
Another part of the Bill to which he should like to call the attention of the House was Clause 11, which dealt with check-weighers. The section of the principal Act to which objection was taken by the hon. Member for Rhondda Valley was Sub-section 4 of Clause 13, which provided that—If the owner, agent, or manager of the mines desires the removal of a check-weigher on the ground that the check-weigher has impeded or interrupted the working of the mine, or interfered with the weighing, or with any of the workmen, or with the management of the mine, or has, at the mine, to the detriment of the owner, agent, or manager, done anything beyond taking such account, determining such deductions, or giving such information as aforesaid, he may complain to a Court of summary jurisdiction, which, if of opinion that the owner, agent, or manager, shows sufficient primâ facie ground for the removal of the check-weigher, shall call on the check-weigher to show cause against his removal.He could not understand for what reason that clause was objected to. The magistrates' Court was one of the most practical and most fair Courts, and why was it objected to? The check-weigher was appointed for a simple purpose. He had nothing to do except check the weight of coal. He was in an important position, but stood at the pit so that every workman passed close to him. He would be in a position of very great power if he were given any other powers except those of checking the weight of coal. He was put there because it was thought fair, and no doubt it was absolutely right, that the checking by the owners of the mine ought to be checked by someone on behalf of the workmen. The Act of Parliament provided that he was to do that and nothing else. What was now proposed under this Bill? It was proposed that, instead of the regulation now in force, if a check-weigher improperly impeded or interrupted the working of the mine, or improperly interfered with the weighing or with any of the workmen, or with the management of the mine, or did anything to the detriment of the 832 owner, agent, or manager, he was to be taken before the magistrates and would be fined forty shillings. He contended that they must keep this official free from all impurity, and from all temptation. Now he was to be allowed to "properly" interfere with the carrying on of the mine. If he was allowed to do that and "properly" to make suggestions I and do anything he liked, what was to be the result? If his action was questioned, it would have to be proved before the magistrates that he had acted improperly. The check-weigher was in a peculiar position. He was the representative of the workmen, but on the employers ground, and therefore he had nothing to do with the management except check-weighing the coal properly. He was to be fined forty shillings if he acted improperly, but still remained at the mine. That was an impossible situation. The man was put there for a particular purpose, yet it was proposed that he should be allowed to do anything that in his judgment was proper. It would lead to his not discharging his duty as a check-weigher properly. It was quite obvious that the Legislature must preserve the usefulness of the man, and his authority, integrity and impartiality as a check-weigher, for all the coal in the country was checked by him at the top. If they allowed the magistrates to decide what was proper for him to do, they might decide that he could do anything he liked. Surely if the magistrates could not decide whether he should be removed, it ought to be decided by some tribunal, the Home Office or some other, but his (Colonel Pilkington's) contention was that they ought to preserve the man in his present impartial position of a check-weigher. To allow him to do anything he liked would be to frustrate the intention held by the promoters of the idea in this matter years ago. He trusted the House would never lend its permission to anything so foolish as to make it impossible for the man to discharge his duty as a check-weigher. Such an enactment as that proposed would be utterly injurious to the industry, to the workmen, to the owners, and to everybody concerned. If any change was made, if they did not like the magistrates 833 let them have the Home Office or some tribunal set up by the Home Office to decide whether or not the man was doing his duty.
Clause 15 of the proposed Bill was the most extraordinary clause in the Bill. Some of the Members whose names appeared on the back of the Bill knew something about the coal industry, and how they could put in such a clause he could not understand. Other Members whose names were on the Bill did not know so much about coal, and it was excusable that their sympathy for the men's ideas as to safety underground should have led them to insert the clause. There was danger underground, and he thought it very likely that if this clause was enforced, the danger would not be decreased at all, while the expenses would most probably be increased. The clause provided—Where a seam extends for more than one mile, there shall be at least two shafts or outs lets in every mile with which every seam for the time being at work in the mine shall have a communication; provided that the senior inspector for a district shall have power to exempt any mine in his district from this requirement, if, in his opinion, the mine is either non-fiery, practically worked out, or worked under a mountain or under the sea.A good pair of pits could easily work a mile in every direction, and on the level this could with safety be extended to one and a half miles, and on the dip or deep to two miles or more. There were, in fact, pits which were working over two miles because it was easy to ventilate workings on the deep of the pits. He should like to point this out, that the new way of working from the deep was downhill, and that all new pits would be worked on the deep. The proposal of the Bill would be terribly expensive. In working a coalfield it was difficult to lay down a law. Mines were not generally square, they might have faults, and there might be corners, and to insist on having only one mile between the pits would mean abandoning vast areas of coal, because they could not get at the coal as the expense would be too great, whereas by judicious placing of the shafts with regard to the safety of the workmen and the economy of working, the waste could be avoided. In a coalfield covering an area of four by three miles, with installation of mining machinery and modern appliances, if they were bound to have 834 a pair of pits for every mile, they would probably come to having eight pairs of pits against two, and even the eight could not get out of the corners. "In a large area it practically came to one colliery for every square mile. The cost of a pair of pits with sidings, winding appliances, and shops, was £300,000. In the area he had named they would have to put down, under the Bill, seven additional pairs of pits, and the cost, with the shops, sidings, and offices, with winding engines and the various things they had to keep, would be £1,000,000 instead of £300,000. Not only would it so increase the cost from £300,000 to £1,000,000, but there was another great drawback. Around every pair of pits they had to leave a large area of coal to support those buildings. It was generally taken that an area of 500 yards each way must be left to support the pits in that way. That would be an enormous amount to contemplate if they multiplied it by seven. How could they work all these, what he might term relief pits, covering these great areas? It would be almost impossible to work them except at a great loss. Again, for each of the pits they had to have railway sidings and boilers and all that sort of thing. The agricultural land would be wasted and broken up, simply because of an extraordinary idea. It had also to be remembered that in many cases the surface of the mine belonged to different people, and that raised another difficulty. Oftentimes a large landed proprietor arranged for the pits to be at a certain place where they would be least unsightly, and reduced, as far as possible, the surface to be used for colliery purposes. When all these things were considered, he thought it was obvious that, even if the figure he had given were largely discounted, this multiplication of pits and the restrictions on getting coal would terribly hamper mining operations, and greatly influence common-sense men against investing money in collieries. No one would object to it if it was shown that to have a pair of pits to every square mile would contribute to safety. With large pits, good machinery, and new appliances, he believed the safest way was to bring as much coal as possible from one pit. Let them see that the appliances were good, 835 and that the roads, levels and downdraught were all first rate. His Majesty's inspectors of mines, who were very able men, watched all these things and kept everything straight; and consequently he really failed to see how hon. Members could have devised such a proposal as was contained in the Bill. By hampering the industry with this additional cost, with the depreciation of interest on capital, with the shortening of hours, and with other restrictions, it was very likely they would increase the cost of coal-getting by 50 per cent. Moreover, they were hampering the workmen.
He did not believe the workpeople desired this Bill at all; they did not care a straw about it. As a matter of fact, there was an impression in many quarters that the Government frequently interfered by new legislation for very little reason. If things were right and necessary, by all means let them be done, but the change proposed by this Bill was against the interest of the workmen, the employers, and the country at large. Why should workmen be prevented from taking home a good lot of money? And why should things be done which were certain to prevent the investment of capital? Hon. Members on the other side did not know what putting down a lot of capital meant. Colliery-owners might put down £300,000 capital, and have to wait seven or eight years before they got a sixpence back, and possibly ever get anything at all. He knew of one colliery, not four miles from where he lived, where more than £100,000 had been spent, and they were only at the water still. At least another £200,000 would have to be spent, and even then it was not certain whether there would be any return. But there was one thing they ought all to remember, and that was the immense infliction these proposals would cause on the users. Coal was the life-blood of all our industries, railways, and steamers; it was the comfort of every home in the United Kingdom; and greatly to increase the price of coal would be a very serious matter. Such a Bill ought to be brought in only by the Government, who, through their inspectors, knew most about the subject. Instead of that, this Bill was brought in by Members, most of whom knew nothing about the coal 836 industry. He therefore hoped that when the division was taken the House would throw out the Bill by a large majority. He begged to move that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.
§ SIR THOMAS WRIGHTSON (St. Pancras, E.)
in seconding the Amendment said that in a matter of such complexity as the regulation of mines in this country the Act of 1887, which had really served the purpose for which it was introduced, ought not to be lightly thrown aside by the efforts of private Members. The present Bill contained many proposals, some in the nature of Amendments to the Act of 1887, and others of an entirely new character. One was struck by the absence from the back of the Bill of the names of north-country Members, particularly those of the hon. Members for Morpeth and the Wansbeck Division of Northumberland.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
explained that when the Bill was first introduced the names of the two hon. Members to whom the hon. Baronet referred appeared on the back of the Bill, but they were withdrawn when it was decided to insert Clause 6.
§ SIR THOMAS WRIGHTSON
said the Act of 1887 had been loyally observed in the North of England, and it had acted well with regard to both employers and employed, because it was drawn on business lines which appealed to the hard common sense of the men of the north. That Act laid down general rules for the management of mines, but it also provided that in special cases special rules should be enacted by the local authorities named in the Act. Those special rules were necessary because of the enormous variations in the conditions of the different collieries, and, very properly, they were to be drafted by the men who were most likely to know about the mines concerned. The enactment was safeguarded by the provision that the rules so drawn up should be exposed for fourteen days for the inspection of the men employed, who were invited to inform the Government inspector for the district of any objection to the rules. The rules were then sent to the inspector for examination and criticism, and finally they went to the 837 Home Office. This process was followed until every difficulty had been threshed out. There was also a provision for the rules being submitted to arbitration, if necessary, but the fact that there had been hardly a case of reference to arbitration showed that the Act had worked with the greatest smoothness. Such an arrangement was infinitely more businesslike than the proposal of the present Bill. In drawing up the special rules it was certain there would be differences of opinion between the representatives of the men and the representatives of the master, and the person who in the present Bill was to settle these differences was absolutely specified to be altogether disqualified for so doing so far as experience, interest, or knowledge of the requirements of the mining industry was concerned, in short, his special qualification for the post was to be the fact that he had no qualification at all. The eight hours question had come prominently forward in connection with this matter, and that was doubtless a reason why the Members from the north did not appear as approvers of the Bill, the eight hours movement not being liked in the north. One of the main arguments put forward in support of an eight hours day was that working for longer hours injured the health of the workers. In that connection he was well content to rest on the evidence afforded by the history of the coal trade in the north of England. Northumberland was the oldest coal-mining district in the country, but so far from there having been any depreciation in the health of the people, the reverse was the case. A finer race of miners, either intellectually or physically, could not be found in the country. He was afraid the Bill must be classed among the attempts to restrict the output of labour in this country, a restriction which was driving our trade away, and one which was not to be found in America, by whom we were being surpassed in the race of commerce. Trade unionists in America confined themselves strictly to their proper function of seeing that each man had his fair share in wage of the advantages of commerce and trade. They were not allowed to interfere with the output of 838 labour, and each man recognised it as his duty, as well as his interest, to turn out the maximum amount possible. The House should hesitate before hurriedly supporting a Bill of this kind. If anything required to be done it should be done by a measure brought in on the responsibility of the Government, and not by private Members' proposals which might have a disastrous effect on the future of the country by largely increasing the cost of production. He begged to second the Amendment.
To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.'"—(Colonel Pilkington.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. BAYLEY (Derbyshire, Chesterfield)
said that in 1887 exactly the same arguments were put forward as had been used by the mover and seconder of the Amendment to-day, but even then there was no responsible coal-owner who ventured to say that the Bill would increase the cost of coal by 50 per cent. That was one of the wildest statements he had ever heard in the House of Commons. The first duty of a colliery proprietor was the protection of the life and limb of his workmen, and not the consideration of the severe com petition he had to face. The Act of 1887 had been of untold benefit to the miners of the country, but further protection was necessary. In support of that statement he would quote figures from the last annual Report of the Miners' Permanent Belief Fund, which had a membership of 9,868. Last year there were twelve fatal accidents, twenty-eight permanent injuries, and 1,682 minor accidents, or a total of 1,722 accidents to the 9,868 members of the fund. That meant that one in six suffered an accident every year, or that in six years the whole of the members would meet with an accident more or less serious. Surely that was a sufficient argument in favour of the matter being dealt with. Colliery proprietors in his part of the country did not look at the Act of 1887 in the narrow spirit of the Lancashire proprietors. They had 839 worked heartily and loyally with the inspectors and the miners' representatives, and they all agreed that the safety of the men was the first consideration. He would like to see the Government support the Bill and bring in their own Amendments. The measure could not pass exactly as it stood, but as a colliery owner, responsible for the lives and welfare of the people in his employ, he was not prepared to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill. If it were sent upstairs, and the Government gave their assistance, he believed the Bill could be made into a workable measure which would be the means of saving many lives, and preventing a great amount of misery. The present was a most favourable opportunity for taking this step, as there was no dispute between the men and the owners as to wages, or between the owners and the inspectors; they could therefore all join together in the work, and he hoped the Government would take advantage of the opportunity.
§ MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)
said it was proposed so to amend the law as to compel colliery proprietors I to provide facilities to enable the check-weigher properly to perform his duties. A case was recently tried in the Scotch Courts against a colliery owner for refusing to supply a desk on which the check-weigher might rest his slate. The place allotted to the check-weigher had a defective roof, through which the rain came and erased the markings off his slate. The Court decided that under the Act of 1887 the owner was not compelled to make provision in the manner desired. In the bulk of cases, however, the employers provided the check-weigher with facilities for the proper discharge of his duties, and this particular clause of the Bill simply proposed to compel the worst employers to conform to the custom of the better employers. The question of the deputy check-weigher was also important. The Mines Inspector in the West of Scotland had ruled that when the check-weigher was absent from his duties the employer was at liberty to prevent a deputy taking his place. The clause proposed to empower the men to appoint a deputy who should act in the event of the unavoidable absence of the 840 check-weigher. Another point was as to the payment of the check-weighers. Under the Act of 1887 the men were compelled to contribute their quota to the check-weigher's wages, and a device had been adopted in some parts of Scotland by which to get quit of a check-weigher if the management so desired. Instead of letting separate working places to each individual workman, a colliery was divided into sections, and each section let to a contractor. The contractor would employ ten, twenty, or thirty men, but all the coal raised was booked in the name of the contractor, who paid his own quota to the check-weigher's fund, but refused to pay for the number of men employed by him. The check-weigher's fund was thus depleted, and the men had to be got rid of. The Bill proposed to put these contractors under an obligation to pay the quota of each man employed by him who was paid by weight or measure. With reference to the dismissal of the check-weigher, he frankly admitted the wording of the clause was liable to misinterpretation. At present the check-weigher was elected by ballot, but if a handful of men passed a resolution that the check-weigher should be dismissed the management might take that as a mandate to remove him. The clause proposed that as he was elected by ballot the check-weigher should also be dismissed by ballot, but it did not propose that the Court should have no power to dismiss him for default of duty.
Objection had been taken to the proposed method of drawing up special rules, and much had been said about the desirability of leaving matters where they now rested—mainly in the hands of the Home Office. On this point the employers themselves did not seem to be in agreement, for in the statement issued by the Mining Association of Great Britain there appeared these words—The power which the Bill proposes to confer on the Home Secretary practically to make special rules, is unreasonable and objectionable. The coal-owner would not be relieved in any way from the great responsibility attaching to the management, while he would be deprived of any effective control over the regulations upon which depend the discipline and safety of his mine.What did the clause propose? At present the men had no say in the framing of the special rules, although they might object to them after they 841 had been framed. The Bill proposed that before the rules were submitted to the Home Secretary they should be discussed by a representative of the men and a representative of the employer, presided over by an impartial person, so that both sides might be heard, and the best possible code of working rules obtained. It was true that the employers must retain effective control over their own mines, but the Mines Regulation Act specially provided that the men should have a say in objecting to the rules after they were framed by the management, and, as the workmen had to obey the rules equally with the management, the contention of the promoters of the Bill was that they equally with the management should have a say in framing the rules. They were certainly more interested in the safety of the mine than the management could possibly be, because their lives and limbs were at stake. If the workmen had an effective voice in the framing of the rules the rules might be less of a dragooning type, but in their working and practical application they would tend quite as much to the safety of the mines. He trusted the House would not be misled into believing that this was a new power which was being sought, because it was already in use in connection with another dangerous trade, and as mining was a dangerous trade they were now seeking to apply it to mining. So far as the North of England was concerned, the effect of this clause need not be to interfere seriously with existing arrangements. Where only one shift was worked what possible objections could there be to limiting the hours to eight per day. The facts on both sides had been so liberally set forth that no one could doubt that the limitation to eight per day would not mean a reduction of output, whilst it would tend to the safety of those employed. Young people under eighteen were more subject to accidents than those of more experience. If that were so, surely they were entitled to special protection. After a certain number of hours, in the case of young people, a feeling of lassitude and weariness affected the senses, and a person so affected was more liable to accident than if the hours were shorter. As a matter of safety they asked that their labour 842 should be limited to eight out of the twenty-four hours. On the score of safety there was a powerful case to be made out for the clause which prohibited menover eighteen years of age from beginning work in a mine for the first time. The experience necessary could only be acquired by those who entered the mines as youths, and instinctively learned what steps to take to protect themselves against danger. On the ground of safety he trusted the House would not be misled by the argument put forward in regard to a probable increase in the cost of production. The coal trade had expanded and grown to an extent which was never anticipated at the passing of the Coal Mines Regulation Act, and yet the same predictions were made then in regard to increased cost of production. It had been proved that the better regulations produced more economical working of the mines, and he trusted the House would allow this Bill to pass its Second Reading.
§ COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)
said it should not be forgotten that when a man went down the pit a great deal of his time was taken up going to and fro. Supposing a man was eight hours in a pit he would spend on an average an hour and a half going to and fro, and therefore he would spend about thirty-nine hours actually at work. Supposing a man worked nine and a half hours in a pit for five days. He would work for forty hours as opposed to thirty-nine, and he would have the end of the week for his own pleasure, He did not object to a man working eight hours a day, but what right had a man to say to another who wanted to work five days instead of six days, you shall work six and have less to spend at the end of the week." He wondered how it would be possible to apply the same principle as is applied to mines in this Bill to railway companies. The public understand railways. What would be thought of the proposal to place such a Board as is proposed in this Bill between the Directors of a railway and the Home Office. The mines were just as dangerous as railways, and to bring forward such a measure as this instead of leaving it to the Government was not taking the proper course. When the 843 Government dealt with this question everybody was consulted, including the workmen, employers and inspectors, by the Home Office. They had now an excellent Act which was working well, and if any changes were wanted—and possibly some improvements could be introduced—the Government should bring forward a measure. He recommended everybody to vote against this Bill because this was a measure which ought not to be brought forward by a private Member.
§ MR. JOHN WILSON
said if hon. Gentlemen opposite were sincere in what they had said they were anxious that the Government should deal with this question. Every one of them had enforced upon the Government the necessity of taking this matter in hand rather than allow it to be dealt with by private Members. His first duty was to offer a necessary apology for his two colleagues, the hon. Member for Morpeth and the hon. Member for Wansbeck, who were away not from any desire to hide themselves behind a subterfuge, but on account of business which they could not avoid. There were two very important questions in this Bill which were not dealt with in the Bill of 1896. That Bill did not contain the provision in regard to the working hours of those under eighteen years of age. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean was a very skilful debater, and he could give a plausible character to anything he took in hand. If he would allow him to say so he though this character as a politician had very few equals. Upon these questions he had had many debates with the right hon. Baronet and they had always been friendly, and he believed that his regard for the safety of the miners was as sincere as could possibly exist in the mind of any man. He had pointed out before that if the right hon. Baronet's knowledge of this question was a little larger, and if he knew the ramifications and divergences of the different districts, he might have some little more toleration for the barbarians in the North than he had got at present. He assured the right hon. Gentleman that his words in regard to the Durham and Northumberland miners' attitude to the Bill were blunted, so far as he was concerned, 844 when he thought of his great desire to promote everything that tended to the welfare of the working classes. There was no man in this House or out of it who more regretted than he did that this Bill was so complex and complicated. He should have liked that the Bill had been more purely and specifically for the welfare of the miners, because in that case it would have the support of the North of England. He never minced words, and he said it was the open and avowed intention of the promoters of the Bill when they introduced the provisions in regard to the employment of boys under eighteen, to cause difficulty in the North of England, and thus complication had arisen. The reason why the present provisions were brought in was the purely sentimental idea that they should deal with the hours for boys under eighteen years of age. It was for the purpose of seeing what the hon. Member for Morpeth and he himself would do with regard to the shortening of the hours of these boys. It would have been better if the matter had not been complicated in this way, but it was thought that they would be driven into a dilemma, and that they durst not express themselves against the shortening of the hours for these boys. The 6th Clause of the Bill dealt with the hours for boys under eighteen. He wanted to say that that in itself involved a serious complication and a great injustice to the boys. He would take himself as an example. When he was sixteen years and nine months old he commenced to do the arduous work of a coal getter in a mine. He was considered to be a man in adaptability, energy, and strength. There were men of twenty and twenty-one employed at the same work as himself when he commenced to hew coal, and so far as adaptability and strength were concerned they were far beneath him, but if what was proposed by this Bill had been law at that time he would have had to go out after eight hours' work, and the others, who were older, although they required an eight-hours day more than himself, would have been allowed to stay in the mine. They had in the North of England always considered these questions from the point of view of expediency, having in view the peculiar 845 needs and circumstances of their own district. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil did not know the conditions of the work in Durham and Northumberland. It was impossible to work two shifts of boys and two shifts of men and get the short hours the men had got now.
§ MR. KEIR HARDIE
The Durham Miners' Association at its annual meeting last year by a practically unanimous resolution declared for an eight-hours day for all underground workers.
§ MR. JOHN WILSON
said his hon. friend was always ready to correct him. He just made the remark for the purpose of drawing him out, and therefore he was a master of debate. It was quite true that they passed a resolution that they should "seek" an eight hours day. It was merely the word "seek' that was used. He would say now what he had said before, that as soon as the Durham men asked for State interference with the hours of labour, he as their secretary and paid Member of Parliament would give his vote in that direction, but he would not be ashamed to tell them that the misfortune would be theirs. At the Labour Commission the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil was asked this question—Suppose you have got men who are fairly well organised, and who have considered the subject very fully and come to the conclusion that an Eight Hours Bill would be very injurious to them, would you enforce an Act of this kind upon them regardless of their wishes and opinions?His answer, given in the shortest and most empathic manner, was—I would not.The miners in the North of England simply asked to be left to themselves. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Forest of Dean quoted some figures to show the proportion of accidents to workers below eighteen and above that age. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman, if they were chargeable to the long hours the boys worked, who was to blame? He would supply the answer. This House in 1894 enacted that if any district had a bare majority of men in favour of shorter hours they could adopt them. If these accidents 846 were the result of long hours, why did the men not take advantage of the option given in 1894? The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the accidents over the whole country and not of those in the North of England especially. If these accidents were the result of long hours, those to blame were those who might, but would not, put in operation the option this House afforded them in 1894.
Clause 7 of the Bill provided for the prohibition of employment below ground of a person over eighteen not so employed before. He looked at this question purely from the working men's point of view. He would not look at it as a case of costs. He agreed with the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil as to the case of cost. He I believed it was raised too often, and as in the case of the boy crying "Wolf" it lost its effect. Knowing what a mine was, and every grade of labour in it, he would point out what the effect of this clause would be. Let him take a village in which the whole occupation was mining. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Forest of Dean admitted that miners were an hereditary class. Let it be supposed that a father and mother had the desire to keep their boy out of the pit, and they burdened themselves by sending him to "learn another trade. So long as the father was at work they could do without him, but suppose that the father got killed or permanently disabled, and the boy was wanted at home to work, by this embargo he would be prevented from going to the trade of his father, because they had placed a hedge around the mine, and said that if he was not in before eighteen he was to be prevented from going to the employment which was hereditary according to the right hon. Gentleman. He would put another case. There were in connection with the pit a class known as "hangers on" or something of that kind. Boys worked at this inferior labour until they were eighteen, nineteen, or twenty, and then they went down to work in the mine, but if this prohibition became law these young men would be prevented from doing so. The Act of 1887 said that a man must work two years, not alone, but under the supervision of an expert miner. He was only 847 sorry that miners could not stand shoulder to shoulder on this question.
Referring to the question of special rules, the hon. Member said that the miners in the North of England, when the Act was passed in 1897, had exactly what the Act required. Meetings of employers and employed were held with the Government inspector in attendance, and rules were agreed to in toto. By way of friendly criticism of the proposal in this Bill, he would suggest that there should be a committee in each district of so many employers and workmen and the Government inspector, and that these men, all with technical knowledge, should be allowed to frame special rules for their district. He instanced Durham as a typical case It was divided into two Government inspectors' districts, one attached to Northumberland and the other to Cleveland, and if the Bill were passed in its present form they might have in Durham two different sets of special rules framed on the dictum of the Chairman of the Board. But the Chairman was to have been neither a workman nor a manager, and what did he know about special rules, and how could he decide between two experts? What was wanted was a committee representative of both parties. The employers had brought this and other Amendments upon themselves. There were many Amendments proposed in the Bill which would never have been heard of if the men had been fairly treated. The county of Durham was divided into three different districts, and different sets of rules were framed by the employers and workmen unitedly, to meet the conditions of mines which were fiery and dangerous, and those which were non-fiery and non-dangerous. Why should the workmen not have as much right to frame special rules as the employers? A man's life was worth more to him than money in his pocket, and if they put against the money of the capitalist the life and limb of the workman, then, without using disparaging words, both men were equal. There was nothing outrageous in that. He agreed with his hon. friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil that they had an even better right.
848 With regard to the check-weighmen question, he believed that the Bill as drafted did not meet their objection to the present state of the law, and in view of the fact that in the North of England a year ago a check-weigh-man was tried for intimidation in respect of certain action he took in the street during a strike, it was necessary that a clearer definition should be given of the way in which he might interfere with the workmen. He would suggest to the framers of the Bill that they should amend it by prohibiting female labour about the mines, the employment of women and girls in that way being one of the foulest blots on the mining industry at the present time. There were 5,129 women working in connection with the mines of this country. In Scotland there were 1,745; in Lancashire 2,332; and in the Midland counties 218. [An HON. MEMBER: How many in Durham?] There were none in Durham. Better occupation was found there for women and children. In South Wales there were 450. The Bill of 1887 contained a most curious provision. His hon. friend the Member for Morpeth moved an Amendment to the effect that no woman should be allowed to push a skip or tram around the pithead. A skip or tram contained fourteen or fifteen cwts., and nothing could be more dangerous to a mother, or prospective mother, than that at a peculiar period of her life she should be allowed to push a weight like that. The Government at that time would not accept the Amendment, but they put this in the Act—that no boy, girl, or woman should be allowed to push a railway wagon. If the bone of contention in regard to the employment of persons under eighteen were dropped, he was sure every miners' leader in the country would be found willing to work in unison upon this Bill.
SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derbyshire, Ilkeston)
cordially echoed the wish of his hon. friend that all the miners' leaders should work together for the purpose of passing this or some similar measure, and he hoped the hon. Member would agree to the Second Reading of this Bill, so that in Committee he might move the 849 Amendment he had suggested with regard to female labour. His chief reason for supporting this measure was that it aimed at a great object which they all ought to have at heart—the promotion of greater safety in the conduct of a highly important industry which affected some 800,000 workers. The hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill quoted figures for the ten years from 1883 onwards to show that the safety of mines was increasing, but if he took the figures of the past three years he would find that we were not going forward, but backward, in this respect. The number of deaths per 1,000 in 1898 was 1.27; in 1899,1.27; in 1900,1.28; and in 1901,1.38. He thought that increase justified further consideration of the conditions of life in mines. This measure might be described as an omnibus Bill. It contained many provisions which had been objected to in part, but a great many hon. Members who were opposed to the Bill as it stood would like to see it taken hold of by the Government so that by the introduction of Amendments it might be put into the legislative form which would confer great benefits on an important industry.
The provision, in regard to special rules, which had been so much criticised in the course of the debate, was only an endeavour to bring the mining industry into line with other industries. That was surely a reasonable purpose. The principle underlying the formation of the proposed Board was the principle on which every Minister of the Crown was appointed to look after a public department. He was put there as an impartial person to look after public business with the assistance of experts, and that was all that was in the minds of those who drew up the scheme. He did not say that it was the best scheme that could be devised, but it was a reasonable one. If there was no greater objection than had been stated it could be amended in Committee He himself believed that these special rules and regulations should in future be drawn up in some other method than that at present existing, which was costly, cumbrous, and fruitful of delay. A method was wanted to bring the workmen 850 into a fair share of the control which they had not under the present régime. This would not interfere with the supremacy of the Home Office. Few people knew quite how dangerous the mining calling was. The number of accidents spread over the country was a very serious drain on the mining army. There were no statistics which would afford accurate information as to the number of accidents in the pits, but if reference was made to the reports of the Miners' Relief Societies, which showed the amount of money paid to their members who were injured in the course of their calling, a very good practical test was found. Over the whole country, according to the figures of these reports, there were probably over 100,000 mining accidents in the course of the year. About one man in six employed in the mining industry in the United Kingdom was injured every year. That was an enormous proportion, and ought to make the House anxious to take the earliest opportunity of introducing some amendments in the law as it now stood. In the county which he represented the accident rate was still higher. One man in every five and a half was injured, while in Lancashire the ratio was one in five. When he himself began to take an interest in this matter in connection with the awful sacrifice of young life which went on in the pits year after year, he brought before the attention of the House the case of a boy who had been working in a pit in Warwickshire, and had been killed. The boy was only seventeen years of age, and he had been at work for over twelve hours at the time of his death. For a growing lad of seventeen to be working for twelve hours at a stretch, and no food for seven hours, was a condition of labour which must inevitably bring about accidents. In another case in South Wales, a boy sixteen years of age was killed when he had been seventeen hours at work at a colliery. That was a scandal, and such instances ought to be brought before the House in order to educate public opinion on this important matter. It had been stated that the county of Durham was particularly free from accidents. He believed it was fairly so, but he found 851 that in Durham and Newcastle district forty-five boys under twenty years of age had been killed in the pits during 1901, and that nine of these were entered as thirteen years of age. That was a piteous tale of death and sacrifice of young life on the altar of a great industry which they knew to be prosperous and lucrative. He wanted to refer specially to the case of a boy who was killed in 1901 by falling off a truck at 3.15 in the morning. That boy started work at 8.20, and had been at work for seven hours. On the previous day he had started work at six in the morning, and worked up till three in the afternoon, and returned to work at 8.20 the same evening, and was killed at 3.15 the following morning. Out of twenty-one consecutive hours that boy had been working sixteen. Every man with a grain of sympathy in his constitution ought to do something to put an end to these long hours of labour and this terrible sacrifice of young life. Last year there were more than forty deaths of young persons between twelve and fourteen years of age engaged in mines, over fifty deaths of boys between fourteen and sixteen, and over 100 deaths of boys between sixteen and twenty. That was too big a price to pay for the success of any industry. The death-rate of boys under fourteen was between three and four times greater than the death-rate of older persons. He was bound to say in studying these statistics that they proved the necessity for this much-criticised clause which provided that persons under eighteen years of age were not to work for more than eight hours a day. Prolonged labour lessened the alertness of young persons in avoiding danger. It not only was injurious to their physique, but to their intelligence and quickness, and made them more liable to accident. His hon. friend the Member for Durham had spoken of himself as having been engaged at the face when sixteen years and nine months of age for more than eight hours a day; but if his hon. friend required to return to work in the mines now, he would not have to work even eight hours a day, for the men in Northumberland and Durham worked less than that. It was only the unfortunate 852 boys who had to work these long hours which produced this appalling catalogue of accidents. He found from recent statistics that there was no improvement of the matter in the current year, for there were seventy-four deaths of boys under sixteen, and seventy-one deaths between sixteen and eighteen.
There were other points in connection with the Bill to which he might refer. With regard to the clause which restricted the labour of persons over eighteen years of age, and did not allow them to go into the pits unless they had been engaged in connection with mines before that age, he thought, although it had excited unfavourable criticism, that it would be useful, and reduce the causes of danger in the pits. Every calling and profession endeavoured to make rules for the benefit of its members, and the working miners were entitled to do so also. Hundreds of agricultural labourers, attracted by the high wages, flooded the pits in good times with unskilled labour, and, being unaccustomed to the work, they added to the risks to which all the men in the pits were exposed. It was only reasonable that men should be trained for this work, not only to make them better workmen, but also to make it safe for other miners to associate with them in the mines. It was also advantageous from an economic point of view, because if the men had no training, they were more wasteful "getters" and produced much more "slack." On the whole, he believed that the Bill, possibly amended in Committee, in some respects, would add to the safety of the men carrying on this great industry, and would prevent an enormous sacrifice of youthful life. He commended the Bill to the favourable consideration of the House, which, he hoped, would give it a Second Reading.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. COCHRANE, Ayrshire, N.)
said that when he had addressed the House on previous occasions he had spoken only with a sense of responsibility to his own constituents; but now that he was speaking with official responsibility he craved the indulgence of the House, and he hoped that anything that he had to say 853 in criticising the Bill would not be taken amiss. He should endeavour to explain the Bill, not as an expert, as some hon. Members opposite were who had spent most of their lives in the mines, but as one who had taken some trouble to make himself familiar with what was the real meaning of the Bill now before the House. The Bill had on its back the names of many hon. Members who were entitled to the utmost respect as leaders of the working classes in this country. But the House would give due weight to the fact that the two hon. Members for Northumberland and Durham had withdrawn their names. The Bill covered a very wide field. It had swept up all the Bills which had been introduced from time to time, and numberless debates had taken place on these very subjects. The Bill was indeed complex and complicated. It was a Bill of many clauses, each of which contained a principle of vital interest to this great industry. Of these various clauses some were good, some were bad, and some were indifferent. The first clauses dealt with the special rules. Under the Coal Mines Regulation Act, 1887, about forty general rules were established for the whole of the coal mines, and, in addition, special rules could be proposed either by the Secretary of State or by the employer. If the special rules were objected to either by the Secretary of State or by the employer they must be submitted to arbitration. Special rules had been established in many cases, and, on the whole, they had worked remarkably well. But under this system difficulties might arise, and they might have endless arbitrations. That, undoubtedly, was a drawback. A different principle had been adopted in regard to factories and workshop under the Factories and Workshops Act of 1891, and also in regard to coal mines under the Explosives 854 Act. That principle was that the Secretary of State should make the rules himself after having made a careful local inquiry. That was a system which was far preferable to the one proposed in this Bill. These rules, when they were made, were not of local but of general application. The proposal in the Bill was that a board should be established in each district, composed of three members, representing the employer, the workmen, and the Secretary of State. All the special rules of the district were to be swept out of existence, and the board were to frame a fresh set of rules within six months. Then the board were to sit on indefinitely, and would be entitled to draw pay from the Treasury. They also had an indefinite power of incurring expenses, which must also be paid by the Treasury. That was an expensive arrangement, and would not give any benefit that was not derived from the present system. This board would have no real power, because, having arranged the special rules, they must submit them to the Secretary of State, who had power to alter them. Why should not the Secretary of State have power in the first instance to make an inquiry by means of his inspector, who was always willing to meet the employers and employed and hear their views before reporting to the Secretary of State? This board would have power to examine witnesses on oath, and to call for all the books of every employer in the district, and also for the books of the trade unions. That was a power which the House would be reluctant to grant to any board of arbitration. There was nothing in these proposals which would make the framing of special rules easier than it was under the present system, or under any system the Government would be willing to agree to.
They were indebted to the hon. Member for Durham for giving them an insight 855 into the introduction in this Bill of the clauses relating to the hours of labour. The hon. Member told them that this proposal was started in order to force the hands of the Durham and Northumberland miners on the eight hours question. He thought that was hardly a fair or ingenuous way of dealing with this great question. The hon. Member opposite had told the Home that he was in favour of restricting the hours of labour because he thought that would produce fewer accidents, and he gave the House some figures, but they hardly bore out the information which he had officially. The death-rate in 1901 for all underground workers below sixteen years of age was 1.19 and above that age 1.49 per 1,000. For fatal accidents the figures were for boys 1.21, and for men 1.24 per 1,000. The figures for the past year were not yet published, but on the whole the statistics showed that the fatal accidents in their mines were steadily decreasing. The hon. Gentleman was not alone in deploring the deaths either among the young or the old which occurred in our mines; and he was sure the hon. Gentleman would give credit to the Department for which he was speaking in its desire that all means of safety should be provided in order to reduce the number of accidents which they all deplored. But he doubted very much whether the hon. Member could make out a case for the proposal in the Bill on that ground. He was himself in the past, and intended to be in the future, a supporter of an eight-hours day for miners, but he was not going to support it in a Bill of that kind, which, as the right hon. Gentleman himself admitted, was an omnibus Bill, devoted to many other subjects. He would not support an eight hours day for miners brought 856 in by a sort of side wind. He would only support it after full discussion, and on a direct vote, not when it was introduced disguised in boy's clothing.
Now the clause which he understood was the cause of the Members for Durham and Northumberland withdrawing from the Bill was the seventh, and certainly it was a most extraordinary clause to introduce into such a Bill. It was a clause which prohibited practically the employment below ground of a person over eighteen years not so employed before. It was true that the hewers were generally hereditary and worked from an early age underground under the supervision of their parents. But there were underground others besides the hewers. There were road menders, engine drivers, electricians, and others, and were all these men to be prevented from going down into the pit if they had not served there before they were eighteen years of age? It was perfectly monstrous. How long must a person be in a pit before he was eighteen, before he was qualified? Would a week be a sufficient qualification? It was hardly necessary to seriously criticise such a proposal. The real object of it was to make a close corporation of the coal mines. It was an attempt to place the whole power in the hands of a limited class, and that, if carried out, would be disastrous not only to the coal mines, but also to the men themselves. He was rather astonished to see such a proposal in this Bill at all. He listened to the debate last year, and heard the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire declare that he withdrew the clause. Why? Because he knew perfectly well it would wreck the Bill if he 857 attempted to discuss it. More than that, when the hon. Member was challenged by his right hon. friend the then Home Secretary, now the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether the withdrawal was to be temporary or permanent, the hon Member said—I said absolutely the clause would be dropped.The Home Secretary said, "For the present," and the hon. Member replied, "No, no." He was, therefore, rather surprised to see that the hon. Member who had withdrawn the clause in that manner had put his name on a Bill containing an exactly similar clause. He was not, however, surprised that the hon. Members for Durham and Northumberland should have refused to have lot or part in a clause which was formally withdrawn on behalf of the Labour Members last session. Probably no more indefensible proposition was ever submitted; and there were solid reasons why the House should vote against it.
The next point dealt with was the check-weighers. They were appointed to check the weight of the coal in the interests of the workmen. They had special duties and special privileges. The check-weigher was a kind of arbitrator between masters and men, and therefore it was obvious that such a man ought to be appointed by ballot by all the men and receive wages from all. Such a man should not abuse the privileges granted to him, and he certainly ought not to be appointed by a section of the men who might assemble in a hole-and-corner meeting and appoint a check-weigher to the whole of the men. Under the Bill, however, a 858 check-weigher might be appointed by a section, either unionists or non-unionists. No doubt the provisions for check-weighers under the Act of 1887 were difficult to construe, and were not altogether satisfactory; but mutual forbearance and good sense had practically overcome the difficulties, not altogether, but to a large extent. He did not, however, think that the difficulties would be in any way diminished by the proposals in the Bill. He frankly admitted that some of them were reasonable. For instance, the proposal of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil that there should be power to appoint deputies was worthy of consideration. As regarded the question of shelter he did not think that there were many cases in which an employer denied reasonable shelter to a check-weigher. That would be monstrous; and he thought steps should be taken to remove the grievance if it existed.
Now he came to a part of the Bill which had not been fully dealt with except by the hon. Member for the Newton Division. Under the Bill it was proposed that there should be two shafts in every mile unless worked under a mountain or the sea, a sign of moderation on the part of hon. Members which he hardly expected. The hon. Member for the Rhondda Division described the conditions existing in a mine which appeared, according to the hon. Member, to be controlled by the hon. Member for the Mansfield Division, who was the promoter of this Bill, although he did not take part in the debate. According to the hon. Member, that mine was in a most fiery and dangerous condition, although repeated applications had been made to put it 859 in a proper condition. He assumed that the mine was situated in Wales, which was a mountainous country; and, therefore, the provision in the Bill would probably not apply to it. He said, however, not on his own authority, but on the authority of persons qualified to express an opinion, that a multiplicity of shafts did not improve ventilation, and that it was far better to have two big shafts which admitted a large volume of air than a number of small shafts. No argument had been adduced to show that extra shafts were needed in the interests of safety. What, however, would be the additional expense? Taking a rough estimate of 250 extra shafts at £40,000 apiece, there would be an expenditure of about £10,000,000. He could not, therefore, understand what the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil meant when he said that this would "add a few coppers" to the expense of working the mines of the country.
The reporting of accidents was alluded to. In some respects the regulations as to the reporting of accidents might be improved. The present rule required reports of serious accidents, and the expression "serious" was rather vague and had been variously interpreted: some conscientious employers included accidents of a comparatively trivial character, and others, taking an opposite course, did not make what might really be called serious accidents the subject of report. In the results the statistics were apt to be fallacious, and it would be well, perhaps, to measure the nature of the accident by the period of disablement. The Bill proposed that the term should be a week, but fourteen days would be preferable, and would be in accord with the provision in the Workmen's 860 Compensation Act. In the clauses dealing with examinations of mines by inspectors the proposal was that there should be one inspector for every 10,000 men employed. At present there were twelve chief inspectors and twenty-six assistant inspectors, and there were no serious complaints of want of inspection. The total cost borne on the Estimates was £30,000, and the proposal in the Bill would double that amount, and would not, he thought, add to efficiency. He might continue his criticisms indefinitely; but, summarising his objections, he said this was not one Bill but a compound of many Bills, each containing different proposals, some of which were bad and others good. The proposals as to shafts, inspectors, and boards for rules would increase cost without increasing efficiency. The restrictions upon employment in Clauses 6 and 7 would interfere with freedom of labour, would make workers in mines a close corporation introducing protection in its worst and most undesirable form. Some of the proposals, such as those in relation to check-weighers, accident inquiries, and hooks and catches, were good, and worthy of consideration, but he would not stay to pick out the plums. The arguments against the Bill were weighty and solid, and he should have no hesitation in voting against it. So far as the Government were concerned,' he was authorised to say that they treated the Bill as they had treated similar Bills—they left it entirely to the opinion of the House. But, for his own part, having given it full consideration, he did not hesitate to give his vote against the Second Reading.
§ Question put.861
|The House divided:—Ayes, 144; Noes, 183. (Division List, No. 84.)|
|Abrahams, W. (Cork. N. E.)||Harwood, George||Pickard, Benjamin|
|Allan, Sir William (Gateshead)||Hatch, Ernest Frederick G.||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Allen, Chas. P. (Glos., Stroud)||Hay, Hn. Claude George||Price, Robert John|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Hayden, John Patrick||Rattigan, Sir William Henry|
|Austin, Sir John||Hayne, Rt. Hn. CharlesSeale-||Rea, Russell|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Hayler, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur D.||Redmond, Jn. E. (Waterford)|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Hobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristol, E.||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Holland, Sir William Henry||Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries|
|Bell, Richard||Hope, John Deans (Fife, West||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Bignold, Arthur||Hutehinson, Dr. Chas. Fredk.||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Bryce, Rt. Hn. James||Jones, David Brynmor (Sw'nsea||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Joyce, Michael||Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye|
|Caldwell, James||Lambert, George||Rose, Charles Day|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Langley, Batty||Russell, T. W.|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Lawrence, Sir Joseph (Monm'th||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool|
|Craig, R. Hunter (Lanark)||Lawson, Sir Wilfred (Cornwall||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Crean, Eugene||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Cremer, William Randal||Leamy, Edmund||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Crombie, John William||Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington||Shackleton, David James|
|Cullinan, J.||Leng, Sir John||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||Levy, Maurice||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardig'n||Lewis, John Herbert||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)|
|Delany, William||Lough, Thomas||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Devlin Chas. Ramsay (Galway||Lowther, C. (Cumb, Eskdale)||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.||Lundon, W.||Sullivan, Donal|
|Dilke, Rt. Hn. Sir Charles||MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.||Taylor, Theo. C. (Radcliffe)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||M'Arthur, William (Cornwall)||Thomas, A. (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Doogan, P. C.||M'Kenna, Reginald||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||M'Laren, Sir Charles Benj.||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Duffy, William J.||Markham, Arthur Basil||Thomas, J. A. (Glam., Gower)|
|Dunn, Sir William||Mellor, Rt. Hon. J. William||Thomson, F. W. (York, W. R.|
|Elibank, Master of||Mooney, John J.||Tomkinson, James|
|Emmott, Alfred||Morley, Charles (Breconshire||Ure, Alexander|
|Evans, Saml. T. (Glamorgan)||Moss, Samuel||Wallace, Robert|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Murphy, John||Walton, John Lawson (Leeds, S.|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith||Newnes, Sir George||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Ffrench, Peter||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, S.)||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||Norman, Henry||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Webb, Colonel William George|
|Flynn, James Christopher||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Whiteley, George (York, W. R.|
|Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.||O'Brien, K. (Tipperary, Mid)||Wilson, H. J. (York, W. R.)|
|Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny||Woodhouse, Sir J T (Hudd'rs'ld|
|Gilhooly, James||O'Brien, P. J. Tipperary, N.)||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert J.||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||O'Dowd, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:—|
|Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir John Eldon||Partington, Oswald||Mr. Jacoby and Mr.|
|Grant, Corrie||Pearson, Sir Weetman D.||William Abraham (Rhon-|
|Haldane, Rt. Hn. Richard B.||Perks, Robert William||dda)|
|Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil||Philipps, John Wynford|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Bartley, Sir George C. T.||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Bathurst, Hn. Allen Benjamin||Chaplin, Rt. Hn. Henry|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Charrington, Spencer|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Beckett, Ernest William||Churchill, Winston Spencer|
|Anstruther, H. T.||Bigwood, James||Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Bill, Charles||Coddington, Sir William|
|Arrol, Sir William||Blundell, Colonel Henry||Cohen, Benjamin Louis|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hn. John||Bond, Edward||Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready|
|Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir H.||Bowles, T. Gibson King's Lynn||Colston, Chas. Edw H. Athole|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Brassey, Albert||Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Brodrick, Rt. Hn. St. John||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Brown, Sir Alex. H. (Shropsh.||Cripps, Charles Alfred|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Man'r||Burdett-Coutts, W.||Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. Gerald W. (Leeds||Carew, James Laurence||Crossley, Sir Savile|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Carson, Rt. Hn. Sir Edw. H.||Cubitt, Hon. Henry|
|Barry, Sir Francis T. (Windsor||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Dalrymple, Sir Charles|
|Dickinson, Robert Edmond||Jessel, Capt. Herbert Merton||Purvis, Robert|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Johnstone, Heywood||Pym, C. Guy|
|Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred Dixon||Joicey, Sir James||Rankin, Sir James|
|Dorington, Rt. Hn. Sir John E.||Knowles, Lees||Reckitt, Harold James|
|Doughty, George||Lambton, Hn. Fredk. Wm.||Reid, James (Greenock)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||Laurie, Lieut.-General||Remnant, Jag. Farquharson|
|Doxford, Sir William Theodore||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks, N. R.||Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine|
|Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart||Lee, A. H. (Hants, Fartham)||Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge|
|Edwards, Frank||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. C. Thomson|
|Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Robinson, Brooke|
|Faber, Edmund B. (Hants, W.||Lowther, Rt. Hn. James (Kent||Round, Rt. Hon. James|
|Faber, George Denison (York||Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r||Lucas, Reginald, J. (Portsmouth||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-|
|Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Macdona, John Cumming||Sadler, Col. Saml. Alexander|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Maclver, David (Liverpool)||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)|
|FitzGerald, Sir Robt. Penrose||Maconochie, A. W.||Sandys, Lt.-Col. Thos. Myles|
|Forster, Henry William||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Foster, Philip S. (Warwick S. W.||M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinburgh W.||Spear, John Ward|
|Gibbs, Hn. A. G. H. (City of Ldn.||Malcolm, Ian||Stanley, Edw. Jas. (Somerset)|
|Gibbs, Hn. Vicary (St. Albans)||Manners, Lord Cecil||Stewart, Sir M. J. M. Taggart|
|Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nrn||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Goschen, Hon. George Joachim||Maxwell, Rt. Hn. Sir H. E. (Wig n||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Milvain, Thomas||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxford Univ|
|Graham, Henry Robert||Mitchell, William (Burnley)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Greene, Sir E. W. (B'ry S. E. dm'nds||Molesworth, Sir Lewis||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. E. M.|
|Gunter, Sir Robert||More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. H. (Sheffield|
|Hamilton, Rt. Hn Ld. G. (Midx||Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Hamilton, Marq. Of L'nd'nderry||Mowbray, Sir. Rbt. Gray C.||Walrond, Rt. Hon. Sir W. H.|
|Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashfd||Muntz, Sir Philip A.||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Harris, Frederick Leverton||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry||Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C. E. (Taunton|
|Heath, Arthur Howard (Hanley||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Heath James (Staffords., N. W.||Nicholson, William Graham||Williams, Rt. Hn. J. Powell-(Birm|
|Helder, Augustus||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T.||O' Neill, Hn. Robert Torrens||Wilson John (Glasgow)|
|Hickman, Sir Alfred||On-Ewing, Charles Lindsay||Wilson-Todd, W. H. (Yorks.)|
|Hoare, Sir Samuel||Palmer, Sir C. M. (Durham)||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. K. R. (Bath|
|Hogg, Lindsay||Parker, Sir Gilbert||Wolff Gustav Wilhelm|
|Houldsworth, Sir. Wm. Henry||Pease, H. Pike (Darlington)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Hoult, Joseph||Peel, Hn. Wm. Rbt. Wellesley||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Houston, Robert Paterson||Penn, John|
|Howard; J. (Midd. Tottenham||Percy, Earl|
|Hudson, George Bickersteth||Pierpoint, Robert||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Hutton, John (York. N. R.)||Plummer, Walter R.||Colonel Pilkington and|
|Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Sir Thomas Wrightson.|
|Jeffreys, Rt. Hn. Arthur Fred||Pretyman, Ernest George|
§ Words added.
§ Second Heading put off for six months.