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Clause 53—(Prevention Of Leakage Of Air Between Airways)

Volume 529: debated on Thursday 1 July 1954

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I beg to move, in page 37, line 38, to leave out "nine hundred," and to insert "four hundred and fifty."

It may be necessary to preface my remarks by saying that this is an official Opposition Amendment and that my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) and I are not responsible for any remarks to the contrary that may be made in the subsequent debate which may follow.

During the Committee stage a very long discussion took place on this feature of this Clause. The Minister will recall that we tried to extract from him a compromise with regard to the distance from the coalface where leakages of air should be permitted between the intake and the return. Our Amendment is a repetition of those efforts.

The leakage of air between the intake airway and the return is, in some circumstances, inevitable. Years ago people used to talk about uncontrolled leakage, but nowadays, of course, a new factor has entered into the matter of leakage between the intake and the return, and that is controlled leakage. Pipes are passed between the intake and the return for the very good purpose of extracting methane, and we have no intention of deterring managements from undertaking those operations.

We do think, however, that to permit managements to allow uncontrolled leakage taking place 900 feet from the coalface is too great a distance in the interests of safety. We should be much happier if the Minister would accept the compromise which we propose in our Amendment of 450 feet as the maximum distance.

I beg to second the Amendment.

We had a lengthy discussion in Committee on this question of 300 yards. This figure is expressed in feet in the Clause, but we prefer to express it in yards. We suggest that the distance should be 150 yards from the coalface. We have tried to compromise with the Minister and his expert advisers; and, for the life of me, I cannot understand why we should allow a distance greater than 100 yards from the coalface. It appears that the expert technical advisers think it would be better if the distance were 300 yards.

As practical miners, we on these benches are aware that when mine workings advance rapidly, as they do in these days, fissures appear in the roof and, as a result, there occur leakages which, with the best will in the world, cannot be controlled completely. But to allow a mine manager to escape his responsibility of concentrating the ventilation upon the coalface to the extent of 300 yards is too much. There ought to be more vigilance in maintaining proper ventilation in that part of the main intake.

If a healthy atmosphere is to be maintained at the point where the men have to work, leakages must be prevented right the way through, from the bottom to the downcast shaft to the coalface. Every cubic foot of air that is allowed to escape, short-circuit itself and go back to the upcast shaft is detrimental to the health of the workers at the coalface. My personal opinion is that the best distance is 100 yards, but, in order to ensure some improvement in the ventilation of our mines, we are prepared to accept a distance of 150 yards. One of the reasons dominating our minds is that many of our seams are a tremendous distance inbye. The further one goes inbye the warmer it becomes and the more difficult it is to convey ventilation to the point required. As we are now engaged on greater takes we are anxious that proper ventilation shall be maintained for the men at the coalface. We hope that the Minister and his Department will see the wisdom of the Amendment and accept it.

Not only are we going inbye to the extent of 2½, 3 and 4 miles, but in some pits the temperatures are now reaching 110 degrees. I live near the deepest mine in the country. It is 1,000 yards deep to begin with, and it is very hot at the pit bottom. I know that we have not yet reached the stage of refrigerating our ventilation, but it will have to come eventually. This pit, which is 1,000 yards deep, is now three miles inbye, and the gravitation is to the south. When the men reached the coalface after walking for three miles inbye they have to work in a temperature between 100 and 110 degrees in the shade.

These men cannot work for more than 5 hours out of the 7½ owing to the excessive heat. Working in the mines ever) working day they are losing from 7½ lb. to 11 lb. in weight. This is an added reason why the Amendment should be accepted. The cooler the ventilation at the point where the men work the better it is for them. I emphasise the importance of the Amendment once again, and I hope that the Minister will accept it, so that we can ensure that the ventilation system at the point where the men work is adequate.

I could say quite a lot on this subject, which has been discussed at great length, but I think the most acceptable and most eloquent remark that I can make is that I am very glad to accept the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment proposed: In page 37, line 39, to leave out from the word "in." to the end of line 40, and insert:

"a straight line on any plane, or such other distance, so measured (whether greater or less than nine hundred feet) as an inspector may fix in any particular case."—[Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd.]

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill," put, and negatived.

Question proposed. "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

Proposed words amended, by leaving out "nine hundred," and inserting "four hundred and fifty" instead thereof—[ Mr. Neal]—and, as amended, there inserted in the Rill.