A reader has drawn our attention to the statement in the first paragraph of the article, “The Greater War”
(see October Socialist Standard
), and asks if it is correct that mine disasters, “substantial enough to be classed as ‘Acts of God’ . . . absolve the colliery proprietors from liability for compensation.” On making inquiries we find that it is not now correct.
The writer of the article, who based his statement on the common assertion of miners, has now consulted officials of the Yorkshire Miners’ Association. From them he learns that prior to the Compensation Act of 1908 it was no uncommon thing for explosions to be classed by Coroners’ Juries as “Acts of God,” owing to the magnitude of the occurrence. In such circumstances the proprietors declined to indemnify the relatives and dependents of those killed or injured. Since 1908, however, the companies are usually insured, and the only cases of non-payment are where the mine company, not being insured, goes bankrupt, and the men are not quick enough to put in a claim by the legally recognised date.
The writer explains that the wrong impression is very widespread in the mining area where he lives.
This correction does not touch the main point of the article, that the drive for profit is at the bottom of the “accident” rate. The writer sends a cutting from the “Sheffield Independent” (November 6th), containing a report of an inquest at Barnsley on the 19 victims of the North Gawber Colliery disaster. The Coroner (Mr. C. J. Haworth) said: —
We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that explosions due to shot-firing do take place from time to time. The obvious thing to say is that precautions should be taken, and I am going to ask you to recommend that the whole question of shot-firing should be drastically reconsidered. I am not talking about this pit, but pits generally.
With intensive mining of to-day there are certain dangers which would probably not have existed some years ago.
If you are going to have this speeding-up and the advancement of the face very much faster than before, I think it is exceedingly necessary that the whole question of the regulations, especially with regard to ventilation and shot-firing, should receive the most serious consideration of the authorities.
I ask you to support me in putting forward to the Mines Department that the overhauling of the regulations for shot-firing should be seriously considered.