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Clause 112—(Site Of Accident Or Other Dangerous Occurrence To Be Left Undisturbed)

Volume 529: debated on Thursday 1 July 1954

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Amendment proposed: in page 67, line 32, after first "or," insert:

"that the non-compliance has been approved by the inspector and that compliance therewith."—[Mr. Blyton.]

I wish to refer to the procedure which now ensues upon what has already been agreed by the House. There is now a provision for information to be given of the time and place of holding the adjourned inquest. The information to be given to the inspector may be given by word of mouth, and there is no guarantee that the information or the report has been given. I propose that there should be definite proof that the inspector was so informed, and that the inspector for the district

"and the person so nominated"
should receive the information from the inspector.

The right hon. Gentleman is dealing with an Amendment which has not been called. The Amendment I have called is to Clause 112, page 67, line 32.

This Amendment deals specifically with fatal accidents and the clearing of the scene of accidents to leave the work of the pit unimpeded. Under the Bill as drafted, if an accident happened at a shaft the manager could simply clear the scene of the accident on the basis that otherwise the work would be impeded.

We recognise that it would be foolish to hold up the production of the whole pit because an accident had occurred at the shaft. We think, however, that some sanction should be placed upon managers, otherwise they may use the Clause as an argument for clearing away something that happened in a fatal accident which they did not want anybody to see. We suggest, therefore, that if work would be impeded by not clearing the scene of an accident, the manager should first have the approval of the district inspector. The Amendment has been designed to meet objections that have been put forward, and we hope that it will have the approval of the House.

I beg to second the Amendment.

Like all Amendments coming from this side of the House, this is a very important Amendment. Sometimes in the course of my painful privilege of inpecting the scenes of fatal accidents I have discovered that somebody has been there before me. It has happened, although not very often, that somebody has already removed evidence which would have assisted me, together with the inspector and the coroner, to decide the cause of the accident. I do not think that that is right.

If there is any evidence at the scene of an accident, whatever it might be, which would help in the course of investigations and inquiries into the cause, it is manifestly unfair that any man, whether he be mine manager or anyone else, should remove it when, had it been left, it would assist us to determine what should be done to prevent other similar accidents. We are anxious, therefore, that the Amendment should be made.

It has been my painful duty to examine places that appeared to me to be unsafe, and as practical men we must appreciate the difficulties. If a man is buried by a fall of roof or is trapped underneath tubs, the first concern of the men in the pit is to get him out. Invariably the man dies after he has been extricated, but if in their enthusiasm to relieve him the men disturb something, they cannot be blamed.

Here we have an opportunity of asking the inspector to assist us. If he is the first man on the scene, then he has a responsibility. That responsibility to investigate the scene of an accident is great, and he would not give any consent nor would he empower any man to remove any of the evidence until he was satisfied in his own mind that he had got the information that was required to assist people at a subsequent date to determine how that accident happened. This is a very modest but important Amendment, and both the Attorney-General and the Parliamentary Secretary will understand why it is that we are concerned to see it accepted.

9.15 p.m.

This is really a very short point. The Bill provides that when an accident has occurred the site shall be left undisturbed until the expiration of three days after the accident or until the place is visited by an inspector. The discussion which took place in Committee turned upon the necessity for leaving the place for three days or in certain circumstances until it had been visited by an inspector because there might be damage which would hold up the working of the pit.

My right hon. Friend gave an undertaking that he would consider making it conditional upon the consent of the inspector whether or not the place where the accident occurred should be cleared for working or left undisturbed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), with his customary skill, endeavoured to convert that assurance into an Amendment and he very nearly achieved it. But I am afraid it will not quite do, and I must ask him to leave the matter on the assurance which my right hon. Friend gave because we have not had the time to complete the matter in detail. I give the assurance that when the Bill goes to another place we will move the necessary Amendment to the Bill.

In view of what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.