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Clause 22—(Provision Of Shafts And Outlets In Coal, &C, Mines)

Volume 529: debated on Thursday 1 July 1954

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I beg to move in page 15, line 21, to leave out from "section." to "for," in line 24, and to insert:

"it shall not be lawful for any persons to be employed below ground in a mine of coal, stratified ironstone, shale or fireclay unless there are available."
I think it would be for the general convenience of the Committee if, with this Amendment, we took the Amendment to line 30, the Amendment in page 16, line 23, and the two Amendments to line 30. They all hang, together.

This Clause deals with the provision of means of ingress and egress, about which we had a great deal of discussion on the Committee stage and the Amendments, which are rather substantial, are to give effect to the undertaking given by my right hon. Friend during the course of those debates. The object of them is to limit the circumstances in which a manager may continue to employ persons below ground when only one shaft or outlet is available, at the same time safeguarding the position of workmen who claim damages in consequence of an action directly resulting therefrom.

The way in which it has been done, particularly in the second Amendment, is that where there is only one shaft or outlet available the manager can only continue to employ any workman who is already below ground until the end of his period of work. Hon. Members will appreciate that that covers the expression "shift," but the word "shift" is not appropriate in all cases. The "period of work," which is the greater including the lesser, is the term we use to clarify the position.

At the same time, the manager may have a period of up to 24 hours to employ below ground any person whose work is necessary to secure the safety of the men and the welfare of animals. I think that it will be agreed that that is an essential need. Persons employed in the safety of the mine are those normally called safety men. In addition, he can employ any person who is carrying out repairs necessitated by the accident.

Finally, I think I should call the attention of the House to the last of this series of Amendments. The first Amendment to line 30 is designed to meet the Amendment put down in the name of the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. A. Roberts) about damages. The way in which we have done this is to shift the onus of proof on to the defence. That is a matter upon which the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams), whose absence from the House we all very greatly regret, was particularly interested and this Amendment—I think he would not mind me saying this—is in accord with the lines on which he himself was thinking. I hope he will be pleased to be informed that the House has adopted a suggestion which, in many ways, was made originally by him.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 15, line 30, leave out subsection (2), and insert:

(2) Where the employment of persons in an area consisting of the whole or any part of a mine below ground would, apart from the following provisions of this subsection be, by virtue of the foregoing subsection, unlawful in consequence of a shaft or outlet having, in consequence of an accident or breakdown, become unavailable for affording to persons employed in that area ready means of ingress and egress, but the manager of the mine is satisfied with respect to that area or any part thereof that persons employed in that area or, as the case may be, that part thereof, will not for the time being be exposed to undue risk by reason of that shaft or outlet being unavailable as aforesaid, then if he—
  • (a) posts in a conspicuous position at the mine a notice specifying the accident or breakdown and the said area and stating that he is satisfied as aforesaid with respect to that area or, as the case may be, that part thereof and the reason why he is so satisfied: and
  • (b) sends, by the quickest means available, to the inspector for the district and the person, if any, for the time being nominated under the provisions of this Act relating to the notification of accidents to receive on behalf of the persons employed at the mine notices under the said provisions, a message to the like effect as the notice mentioned in the foregoing paragraph;
  • there shall be excepted from the operation of the foregoing subsection—
  • (i) the employment in that area or, as the case may be, that part thereof, until the end of his period of work, of any person who was below ground in the mine at the time of the accident or breakdown;
  • (ii) the employment in that area or, as the case may be, that part thereof, until the expiration of the period of twenty-four hours beginning with the time at which the accident or breakdown occurred, of any person in work necessary for securing the satety of the mine or the welfare of animals employed therein or rendering that shaft or outlet again available for the purpose for which it was available immediately before the accident or breakdown:
  • Provided that nothing in paragraph (i) or (ii) of this subsection shall authorise the employment of any person at any time after the receipt by the manager of the mine of notification from an inspector that, in his opinion, that person should be withdrawn from the area or part of the area in question.

    In page 16, line 23, leave out from "that," to first "of," in line 27, and insert:

    "the employment below ground in the mine, in accordance with such conditions as may be prescribed."

    In line 30, at end, insert:

    "shall be excepted from the operation of subsection (1) of this section."

    In line 30, at end, insert:

    (5) In any claim against the owner or manager of a mine for damages, being a claim arising out of an accident caused by a decision of the manager made for the purposes of subsection (2) of this section, the defendant shall, unless he proves that the manager was not negligent in making that decision, be liable in all respects as if the plaintiff had proved that the manager was negligent in making that decision—[Mr. Joynson-Hicks.]