THE MINES REGULATION ACT.||1872-02-16|The Merthyr Telegraph and General Advertiser for the Iron Districts of South Wales - Welsh Newspapers Online
Hide Articles List

7 articles on this Page







THE MINES REGULATION ACT. HOUSE OF COMMONS.âMONDAY. The following measure affecting the interest of our mining population was brought before the attention of Parliament on Monday last. The most important points of the proposed bill, as introduced by Government, will be gleaned from a perrsal of Mr Bruce's speech, which we publish at length. Mr BRUCE, in moving for leave to bring in a Bill to amend and consolidate the Acts for the regulation of mines, expressed his regret that a measure of so much importance had been so long delayed. The Bill had been in possession of the House for two successive sessions, but the attention of the House was occupied by measures of greater political importance. He hoped the time had now come when they would be able to devote their attention to questions of social importance. (Hear, hear.) This was an instalment in that direction, and too important to be dealt with in the small hours of the night. As he had twice before intro- duced the Bill, he would confine himself to the changes in- troduced in its provisions. He ha.d given his best attention not only to the amendments placed on the paper last session, but to the suggestions of working men. The present Bill is somewhat larger in scope than the last one. It applied not only to coal and ironstone mines, but to stratified iron and shale mines. With respect to the employment of boys, the Bill was the same as that of last year, with a single exception. In all previous Bills the age for admission was ten, but in this he proposed to adopt the principle of the Factory Act. Last year he pro- posed that boys of that age should only be allowed to work a limited number of hours, but now he adopted the more elastic system of six half-days wherever it could be usefully introduced. With regard to children under thirteen, there was a change from twelve to ten hours. As to educa- tion, the provisions were practically unaltered. He had left in the Bill the clauses respecting the payment of wages, but many questions on this subject would be better dealt with in the Bill relating to the Truck Act which would be introduced by the Government. It had been strongly urged upon him by working men that a uniform system of weigh- ing coal should be adopted. There was much to recom- mend this practice but where the system of measuring was adopted, the chanpe would put proprietors to creat expense. He hardly thought it right, therefore, to enforce the change. The Bill therefore proposed to adopt the sys- tem of weighing but where a case was made out, a power was reserved to the Secretary of State to sanction the other system. He had adopted the amendment of the hon. member for Wigan as to the use of a uniform wei 'ht. (Hear, hear.) The next point had reference to the shafts' When two shafts were necessary the communications be. tween then* were to be 4 feet wide and 3 feet high. With regard to the most important feature of the Bill-praven. tion .f aCCldentll-lt was found that the average of deaths in the year amounted to 1,000, besides accidents of more or less gravity. It was a popular error to suppose that these deaths and accidents arose exclusively from explosions owing to defective ventilation for which owners and agents were responsible. As a matter of fact the average deaths caused by explosions in collieries was about one-fourth of the whole. Last year the number of deaths was 991, and °K only 185 were due to explosions. In some years the average was as 10 per cent. In one year, in conse- quence of the great number of explosions, it rose to 43 per cent but that was an exceptional year. The greater part of the accidents arose from carelessness on the part of the men and the want of rigorous discipline on the part of the managers. Last year 411 deaths and numerous accidents occurred from the falling of maseesof stone on the work- men. If the collieries were properly overlooked, these ac- cidents would not have taken place. It was the opinion of the inspectors that if greater responsibility were thrown on the managers of collieries, a great saving of life would he effected. No doubt the House was loath to interfere with the manner in which traders conducted their business but when it was one which involved great danger to life, Parlia- ment was justified in interfering. What he proposed was, that in every colliery a manager should be appointed by the ownerâhe might appoint himself if he wishedâa»d that such manager should be registered. At present any breach of duty was punishable by a fine which was invaria- bly paid by the master, and no neglect of any duty which led to any accident short of death was otherwise punishable by law. Wherever a manager was found guilty by a cor- oner's jury of manslaughter, the bill was invariably thrown out by the grand jury, and he doubted whether there was an example of a single conviction of a manager, however gross and patent his negligence. The manager would now be vested with responsibility. He proposed that every manager of a colliery, who was not a manager on the 1st of January, 1872, should be subject to examination. (Hear, hear.) Although the existing managers would not be sub. ject to examination they would be required to h»ve a certi- ficate. The examination would be of a strictly practical character. Attheaame time the owner would be responsible for selecting a manager of sobriety, experience, ability, and general good conduct. The manager would for misconduct be liable to have his certificate cancelled or suspended after an inqniry held before a stipendiary magistrate, a county court judge, or a barrister named by the Secretary of State. The examining board would be constituted by the Secretary of State. It would be a local board, composed generally of an inspector and a person practically acquainted with the mining of the district. He now came to the general rules; and first, with regard to the roofs and sidings of roadways and working places, obligations were thrown on the owner and manager to keep them in a proper condition. Anether rule, introduced for the first time, had reference to the use of gunpowder. (Hear.) A large proportion of the accidents in mines was due to the rash use of that agent. It was provided as a general rule that no powder should be taken into a pit except in cartridges. Under no plea or shape whatever would powder be allowed to be used for blasting coal, but it might be used in those mines for blasting rock, and this under the direction of a com- petent person. Another general rule was the embodiment of the amendment of his hon. friend the member for Ayrshire with regard to ventilation. There were other provisions for the purpose of inspecting mines every 24 hours to see if there was any appearance of danger, to provide for the due warning of the men, and one in par- ticular which empowered the men to appoint two of their number to inspect and examine every part of the mine once a month. There was also a provision for the more efficient covering of the men when ascending or descending, and for promptly bringing men to the surface. When the recom- mendation of the Select Committee appeared to provide for efficient ventilation of the mine, the words used were that the owners should be bound to apply proper ventilation to reader the sotoe ?afe wder orduiary circuujfrtances, aud ) it was objected to those words that they placed the owners in a different position to any or.e else, because it cast on them ihe duty of proving a negative, but it wns really unavoidable, and i" would be quite opt-n to the owi,er.« to ( prove that the accident ccrurrt-d from sudden fall of r<vk. or from some mi15chi,.vuu s 1 Ii) rs"n removing something The difficulty was tint when an accidcnt occurred every trice of the cause of the accident w..s des'royed. »t,d there were no me"ns of proving that the mine was properly ventilated. In his view it should be the employers to show that the ventilation was sufficient in the ordi- nary statc of the mine, and if they could do thai it would tie at once assumed that the accident was due to some temporary cause, such as collieri's we-e gut j»c* to. A large proportion rf the accidents in mines i:r«-se from the state of the roadways, and in order to obviate that the Bill contained a provision that the tram A ays should be placed all on the same side, because it frequmtly occurred that there was an accident in crossing tile road. lie now cnine to a special subject of great interest to tie nu n. What they wanted was that once in every quarter all the mines in the country should be thoroughly inspected by the Government inspectors, and that there should be a responsible Minister to control the inspectors. But that was utterly opposed to all the policy of Parliament, and wou]d net really be to the interest of the nieti themselves Their stfrty depended, not on a thorough quarterly inspection, but on a thorough d^ilv inspection, which^ this Bill would provide, and which would very much increase the responsibility of the niana- gers. Besides which, the Bill would enable them to control the inspection infinitely better than it could be done hy any machinery of Government. At the same time, he did not say that the number of Government inspectors was sufficient, for in point of fact they were utterly insufficient to make such an inspection as the Bill proposed. Accumula- tions of gas or other causes of danger to the mine took place in far less time than a quarter, and he thought in making this suggestion the men had not hit upon the right remedy, but that the plan of the Government was infinitely better. They proposed to make some increase in the inspectors, such as the increasing number of the collieries demanded, but they were altogether opposed to transfer the responsibility of the colliery owners and managers to the State. He mnetted the delay that had tiiken place in legislating on this subject, and concluded by expressing his conviction that the delay would be com- pensated by the improved provisions of the present measure for securing the safety of the men. Mr Elliot expressed his opinion that the provisions for prohibiting the use of gunpowder to the extent proposed would not work well, and that it would lead to the miners doing without the safety lamp where they could, in order to use the powder; and thus accidents would be caused by the very means that were adopted to repress them. He had had an experience of thirty years as a representative of mining, and had always insisted on the use of the safety lamp wherever there were the slightest indications of danger from the accumulation of gas. He admitted that there was an enormous number of accidents from the too free use of gunpowder, and was not without hope that some substitute would eventulolly be found which would have the effect of diminishing them but. do what they could, they would never enjoy a. complete immunity from accidents so long as the naked light was used. A great number of the road accidents arose from improper timbering and in the north of England, where the timber was placed and taken away by experienced workmen, they rarely occurred. He was not averse to the general provisions of th". Bin, but thought care ought to be taken in giving the men power at their will to appoint workmen to inspect the mines, pointing out that anything which would operate to diminish discipline would be dangerous, and to the fact that very often 50;1 or 600 men had to work below ground. where they were away from control and if questions arose about price there would be some danger in giving too much power of this kind to the men. He did not wish to say a hard word of any one, but it often happened that accidents in mines were due to the men themselves. Lord Elcho denied that the House was responsible for the delay that took place in regard to the Dili last year, and expressed his satisfaction with the change from mea- surement to weight. Mr Liddell was glad that no time bad been kst in bring- ing forward this important measure, and be knew from a telegram which he had received that afternoort that the large body of coal owners in the north of England i shared in that satisfaction. Dr L. Playfair remarked that the present measure was a very great improvement on the previous legislation offend â the in. and was likely largely to benefit the miners. After a few words from Mr Wheelbouse, Mr Plinisoll expressed his belief that some owners made expense a consideration rather than the safety of the miners. After a few words from Mr Bruce, in reply, Leave was given to bring in the Bill. Mr Bruce also obtained leave to bring in a Bill for the Regulation of Metalliferous Mines. WEDNESDAY.âTHE BURIALS DILL. Mr Osborne Morgan moved the second reading of the Burials Bill, the object of which, he explained, was to allow Nonconformists to have their own burial service read by their own ministers when obliged to resort to the parish churchyard. He strong'v characterised this disability as a relic of bigotry and intolerance, and powerfully urged the House, especially those members attached to the Established Church, to concede so simple a measure of justice and civil right. Mr Birley reluctantly moved that the Bill be-read a second time that day six months. He regarded the nIll as the first attack in the agitation for the separation of Church and State, and believed that it would do much to per- petuate religious dissensions and jalousies, ins;ead of healing them. Mr S. Morley thought that nine out of ten of the thinking men of the country would be glad to s:je the question settled on the basis of this Bill. Mr Mowbray could not see the slightest hope that this Bill wouH settle the question. If there was the smallest probability of the Bill effecting an amicable settlement, he would not have opposed it, and he was afraid that it was impossible to expect fairness from the promoters of this Bill. He, however, hoped that they would still consent to a fair compromise, which be, for one, was quite ready to accept. Mr Hinde Palmer denied that the Dissenters were opposed to a fair compromise. It was the other side who refused all concession. Mr Beresford Hope considered that there was just as fair a claim to celebrate Nonconformist marriages at the altars of the Church. Mr Miall contended that, as the Church was a national one, the Nonconformists claimed what was only their right, and desired neither concession nor compromise. After some further discussion, the House divided, when there pppeared for the second reading-178; ag<limt-h8; majority 70.âlhe Bill was then read a second time, amid loud cheering.

[No title]