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Clause 49—(Provisions As To Support Rules)

Volume 529: debated on Thursday 1 July 1954

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Amendments made: In page 33, line 30, leave out from "notice." to "specifying," in line 32.

In line 39, at end, insert:

"The provisions of Part XV of this Act with respect to references upon notices served by inspectors shall apply to a notice served under this subsection."

In line 41, leave out "regulations." and insert "regulation."

In page 34, line 1, leave out first "the," and insert "a."[ Mr. Joynson-Hicks.]

I beg to move, in page 34, line 7, after "be," to insert "kept."

This is rather more than a drafting Amendment. Under the Bill as it stands, it is necessary to post a copy of the support rules, but, by inserting the word "kept," we have sought to emphasise that it is not only necessary to post them, but to keep them in a condition in which they can properly be read. That means that if they get damaged by dampness or from any other cause, another copy must be posted.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 34, line 9, at the end, to insert:

"and a copy of the rules shall be supplied to every workman in the district seven clear days before they come into operation."
Amid the mass of Amendments to which we have given approval during the last half-hour, it would not be difficult to provoke a long discussion on this Amendment. Clause 49 contains adequate provision for support about which we have very little complaint. It also provides that copies of support rules shall be kept in the office and posted at the pithead, and also that the rules shall be admissible as evidence in court, but there is no provision in the Clause to ensure that the man who has to use the supports to the roof shall receive a copy of these Jules. To familiarise the workman with the support rules with which he has to comply he should be supplied with a copy of them.

6.30 p.m.

Roof support is at once easily seen by the working miner as a very important feature of his daily duty. A man may be studying props or bars, or observing timbering rules in some way for years on end. When a change takes place, it is necessary for him to have a copy of the rules in order to know what duties he is expected to perform. If he violates these rules, a copy of which has not been placed in his possession, he is liable to be charged with an offence under the Bill. In those circumstances, we feel that the Minister ought to agree that the workmen should be given a copy seven clear days before the rules come into operation.

I beg to second the Amendment.

One realises that, with all the timbering rules in the world, risks are taken in the winning of coal. However many notices are posted there is no proof that the workman has read them. This is a very important matter. Those who read the Inspector's Annual Report will appreciate that quite a lot of accidents are still taking place on roadheads and coal faces. I honestly believe that if the timbering rules are supplied in the form of a booklet to the workman himself, he will realise what a responsibility is being placed upon him.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Neal) outlined the timbering position referred to by the Minister. Rules may be posted inside the offices, but it is perfectly true to say that weeks and weeks can go by without the workman going to the office. He goes there only if asked by a colliery official, or to make inquiries. What objection can the Minister have to issuing a small booklet to a workman?

Some of these workmen are observing a code of timbering which may have been in operation for years but which may now be changed by consultation. It a change comes about, it takes more than a notice to make the workman appreciate its effect on the support rules. To give real strength to the meaning of roof support, it would be better, and in the interests of all concerned, that the workman himself should have the timbering rules so that he may peruse them at his leisure and not depend on seeing a notice—which may be damaged or not readable—in the road of a mine.

The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Neal) and the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. A. Roberts) already know that we have great sympathy with the views which they have expressed. In case of any misunderstanding, I should like to say one thing. The support rules, of course, are required to be posted not only in the manager's office but at the entrance to every district. They are therefore available for inspection and reading, but we agree with the hon. Gentlemen that that is not sufficient. The workman needs to have a booklet which he can put in his pocket to study at home and to carry about with him.

The hon. Member for Normanton said that he did not see why there should be any objection to issuing a small booklet. That is very much in the words of the undertaking given by my right hon. Friend when this matter was discussed upstairs. He said then that he would try to find words to make it clear, no doubt by a regulation, that workmen should be given a commonsense, short document containing what the workmen ought to know about the rules in the district. That is still our view. I am afraid that it has not been possible up to now to produce such a document. It would be almost impossible to define such a document in a statutory and legal way, but it can be done perfectly well administratively and by regulation.

If there is a change in the timbering rules, does the offer still stay good?

Most essentially. The most dangerous thing in the world would be to have a booklet containing false information, so that if any change were made it would have to be notified.

In line 7, on page 34, it is stated that a copy of the rules:

"… shall be posted at the entrance to the district …"
As there is more than one entrance, would it not be much better to say that a copy of the support rules shall be posted at each entrance of the district?

I fail to see why the Minister cannot accept this Amendment. This course has been followed in the past at many collieries. When this Bill becomes an Act, the support rules have to be submitted to the inspector for acceptance. When they are accepted, they become the rules of the colliery. That is another reason why the men should have a copy of the rules.

In the North there is the cavelling system under which the men change their places every three months. It is therefore necessary that copies of the timbering rules should be available, because different rules of timbering apply in different parts of the pit. With regard to the notice to be posted in the entrance to the district, one must remember the dust. It does not take long for a notice to become so dilapidated that one cannot see it.

I therefore think it essential to impress upon the Minister the need to make it an obligation that a copy of the timbering rules should be given to the men in the district. If a man has a copy of the rules sanctioned by the Minister which he can study at home, he can have no defence if he does not comply with them.

I want to make it quite clear that it is my intention in another place to propose words that will mean that every man in a particular district will receive the timbering rules, or a proper abstract of the timbering rules. of that district. I must apologise to the House if the present wording does not seem to meet the case. As I think the Members of the Committee know, the draftsmen have been working very hard to give effect to all the undertakings which we gave in Committee. This is one case where we just have not succeeded in getting the right words at the moment, but we will put them in, because we realise the importance of the point.

If the Parliamentary Secretary had been as explicit as the Minister, we should have had no need to continue the discussion. In view of the assurance given, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.