§ Regulations may require the provision, in such cases as may be prescribed, of facilities whereby persons employed below ground in mines may be carried through the roads whereby they go to and from their working places or through parts of those roads, being cases where the provision of such facilities as aforesaid appears to the Minister to be necessary or expedient in the interests of safety or for the purpose of avoiding excessive fatigue being caused to such persons in going to and from those places.—[Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This new Clause gives the Minister power to require the provision of travelling facilities, which is a very important question that we discussed at some considerable length in the Standing Committee. Everybody connected with mining, even those who have a less strong connection with it than that of having worked in the mines, will appreciate the importance of this. The development of man-riding has a considerable part to play, not only from the point of view of safety but also, I believe, of production, the saving of time and energy of men in getting to their work with less fatigue. 1394 I hope that we may be able to make proper use of these powers in future, and also that the Coal Board will co-operate in the provision of man-riding facilities.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I wish to welcome the new Clause. I am glad that the Minister has put it in the Bill, and I endorse what he has said. Everybody is now agreed that both on the grounds of safety and still more on grounds of economic advantage—of increasing the output of coal—this is a very important development which should dominate the layout and reconstruction of the mines in the next 10 years. I believe it is true to say that when the national plan has been completed about 75 per cent. or 80 per cent. of the coal we get will come from new mines or mines which have very largely been reconstructed, and in which, therefore, I hope, that this new principle will be followed. I wish to ask whether it is not the case that the Coal Board has adopted this as its policy and is pushing it with all the vigour it can.
§ Mr. Bevan
Are we quite clear about the constitutional implications of this pew Clause? If it means what I hope it means I am very much in favour of it, but it by-passes the Coal Board at once and makes the Minister responsible to the House of Commons for failure to issue instructions to the Board. This is a very remarkable way in which to introduce a revolutionary principle into legislation, though far be it from me to object to the proposal on other grounds.
I should like my hon. Friends to realise what is happening. If the Minister should be given power by statute to issue what amounts to administrative instructions to the Coal Board, and be required to answer to the House as to why he has not done so, and if it be correct to do it in this case, why should it not be correct to do it in other cases? For example, the Minister here imposes upon himself the obligation where it isnecessary or expedient in the interests of safety.…Suppose an accident occurs in the pit, the Minister not having exercised his power to give directions to the Coal Board. The Minister is, therefore, culpable.
The second point deals with excessive fatigue. I am delighted that is so. I would point out to hon. Members that this will change the Order Paper at once. 1395 If the Minister accepts this obligation, hon. Members will be entitled to ask him, on the Order Paper, why he has not carried out the instructions and taken action, which, in this regard, is of an administrative nature. It does not apply to the other regulations at all. The Minister takes upon himself the power to give instructions. If the Minister is quite clear about the constitutional frontiers which he is drawing round himself, I support this at once, and I hope that it is an invitation that he will accept more and more direct responsibilities, because that increases the power of the House of Commons itself.
§ Mr. T. Brown
Before we leave this new Clause, which relates to giving powers to the Minister to make provisions by regulations, I want to reinforce the argument which I advanced on Second Reading. That is that before the regulations governing this type of case and other types of saftey measures in the pits are finalised, the regulations should be submitted to this House in draft form. Although that may be a departure from the general practice, I think that, in the interests of health and safety, Members on both sides ought to have an opportunity of examining to what extent the regulations will improve the health and safety of the mineworkers.
It is apparent to every hon. Member of this House that procedure prohibits us from suggesting or recommending Amendments to the regulations. When the regulations are tabled we have either to accept them as they are, or reject them by praying against them. We had no opportunity of making any suggestions by way of amendment. The point which I put is a very important one when it concerns the health and safety of human beings—that before the regulations are finalised, they should be submitted to this House in draft form, so that we can examine them and give our approval or otherwise, or make recommendations. I wonder whether the Minister, in drafting the regulations, which he has power to do under this new Clause, can tell us that that will be done.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd
I am rather flattered, as a Conservative Minister, to be held up as a fellow revolutionary.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I have such faith in my constitutional beliefs, that I believe I am saved from the "soft impeachment."
The position is quite clear. In this kind of legislation, the Minister has always had great powers of making regulations, and under the 1911 Act it has been found that the Minister has extraordinary powers of regulation-making, which have been decided empirically by Parliament, from the point of view of safety and health.
§ Mr. Lloyd
That is a definite aspect in relation to safety. We all came to that conclusion in Standing Committee. Therefore, I think that the position is quite clear. With regard to the normal productive processes, and taking into account the question of safety, which the Coal Board is statutorily required to do, it will take its normal decisions with regard to the amount of man-riding, like the colliery proprietors did in the old days.
Now we are also empowering the Minister to make regulations, which will be made after consultations, which include those with the National Union of Mineworkers, to deal with this matter on the basis of considering the safety aspect, and we have specifically stated that the question of fatigue is one which the Minister ought to keep in mind from the point of view of safety. I therefore welcome this responsibility of the Minister, and I do not think that it is revolutionary, but it is progressive, and I am glad that in future I and other Ministers will have that responsibility.
§ Mr. Bevan
I can add this only with the permission of the House, but I should like the Minister to answer a question. If he will look at this, he will find that it does not empower him to make regulations generally, but to make regulations with regard to a specific pit or part of a pit, and to make these regulations with respect to safety, accessibility and fatigue. Will not, therefore, a Member of this House be entitled to say, "In No. 1 pit of a certain district the men are excessively fatigued because travelling facilities are not made available to them. Will the Minister see what can be done about it?"
The Minister is not dealing with the regulations in general. He has an 1397 obligation to deal with certain places, so I am afraid, although I am delighted to hear what he says, that in this case his revolutionary ardour is involuntary and he has not seen the significance of the language which he is using in this Clause. I am delighted with it, and I hope that what I have said will not warn him off.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause read a Second time and added to the Bill.