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Clause 40—Signalling In Shafts And Outlets)

Volume 529: debated on Thursday 1 July 1954

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I beg to move, in page 28, line 40, to leave out "seventy-five." and to insert "fifty."

This Amendment, and the next five Amendments on the Paper, give effect to undertakings which I gave in Committee for improving the provisions dealing with signalling. The first Amendment reduces the distance, I think to the satisfaction of hon. Members opposite. The second Amendment provides that the signal shall be both audible and visible. The last Amendment of this series provides that the signal shall be in relation to a prescribed code, that is, worked out on an organised system.

I understand, Mr. Speaker, that the right hon. Gentleman is speaking on a further five Amendments, so perhaps I may range over the five rather than rising another five times to catch your eye.

I am glad that my hon. Friends have induced the right hon. Gentleman to reduce the size of the shaft from 75 feet to 50 feet. Where there is a double-decker cage with openings on both sides we are still liable to have accidents, from the very existence of the double-decker cage itself, without taking into account such things as depth. One has known of two or three serious accidents on that point. I apprehend that we need signalling in any case.

I recall the Chief Constable of Oldham once reporting an accident in a mine, caused in a very short shaft. Seven people were killed. The person in charge of the winding apparatus was aged eight years. He was frightened by a rat and let go of the lever. That was many years ago, before nationalisation, but it was under a previous Tory Government.

I would ask a question on the drafting of these Amendments. What is the virtue of a double negative? Why have we to say something in the most obscure possible way? What is the point of saying
"for requiring that the prescribed signals shall not be transmitted … otherwise than in the prescribed code,"
instead of saying
"for requiring that the prescribed signals shall be transmitted in the prescribed code"?
Why do we have to stick in the negative and try to produce the same result more obscurely?

Replying in the presence of so many hon. Members who were in the Committee, I must say that we have previously come up against a number of drafting difficulties. Many of us struggle manfully to do a job, but we have to recognise from time to time, when the more Christian sides of our nature come uppermost, that we are sometimes rather querulous about the need for these drafting devices. We realise, however, that we laymen depend very much upon the expert knowledge of the draftsman to assist us in putting our intentions into the words of an Act of Parliament.

I should not be prepared at the moment to take up a position different from that of the hon. Gentleman, nor am I sufficiently advised definitely to agree with him, but I can give the assurance that I will examine the matter between now and when the Bill goes to another place to see whether simpler and better words can be used to produce the intention about which we are all agreed.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 28, line 41, after "transmitting," insert "audible and visible."

In page 29, line 5, leave out "seventy-five," and insert "fifty."

In line 6, after "transmitting," insert "audible and visible."

In line 13, at end, insert:

() Provision may be made by regulations—
  • (a) for requiring that the prescribed signals shall not be transmitted by means provided in pursuance of, or of regulations having effect by virtue of, the foregoing subsection otherwise than in the prescribed code;
  • (b) for requiring the manager of a mine to secure the attendance thereat, at such times as may be prescribed, of persons for the purpose of transmitting signals by those means and receiving signals transmitted thereby.—[Mr. Joynson-Hicks.]