HC Deb 17 April 1888 vol 324 cc1561-90

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


said, that the second reading of this Bill ought not to pass without some statement being made with regard to it. The Bill proposed that they should take a distinct step forward—a step which the House had not hitherto thought proper to take. It proposed that, in future, no one should have charge of a boiler or steam engine who had not received a certificate from the Board of Trade. This question had arisen last year in connection with collieries, and had met with a certain amount of discussion; but the House had decided, upon what he considered to be weighty arguments, that it was not desirable to introduce such a provision as was here proposed. He did not, by any means, say that no larger supervision than now existed ought to be had over steam boilers; but, at the same time, he thought they were entitled to say that the accidents arising from improper management were so few that they might assume that, generally speaking, proper care was exercised in the management of engines and boilers. Articles of that kind might be divided into two classes—namely, those which belonged to large and that which belonged to small works. He thought it must be admitted that in every properly conducted large manufactory it was the interest of the proprietors to see that the boilers were properly managed, because the loss arising from bad management altogether outweighed any small difference there might be between the wages of skilled and unskilled persons, and, therefore, in the case of large works, he was certainly of opinion that the Bill was unnecessary. With regard to the smaller works, he would like to know what reason there was to suppose that any certificate from the Board of Trade, or any similar body, would bring about a greater amount of care than was now exercised? It generally happened, where an accident occurred, that it was not so much from want of knowledge as from want of care, and he did not understand how a certificate could show whether a person was fit to be trusted in that respect. He was not speaking at random, because he bad in his mind one or two cases which had come to his knowledge within the last year or two. In the case of one accident, the man who had had the management of an engine for years was perfectly competent and would have passed any examination; but one day he came to his work in a state of intoxication, turned a handle the wrong way, and an accident was the result. That case, to his mind, showed how utterly inadequate a certificate of the Board of Trade would be to give any guarantee of character necessary for the management of an engine. With regard to boilers, he knew of a case the other day in which a boiler had been used for some time; there were no less than three persons more or less in charge, any one of whom would have passed any examination that the Board of Trade would prescribe. It happened that a slight injury occurred to the boiler, and it was then found that there was another defect which a proper examination would have shown to exist. These were typical instances showing the futility of a test by examination. This subject had been, from time to time, he believed, under the consideration of the Government, and it had been found extremely difficult to deal with it; therefore, he considered that he might fairly ask that the House should not support the second reading of the Bill, until it was shown that it would bring about greater safety than was now secured.

MR. BROADHURST (Nottingham, W.)

said, that the passing of the Bill would not, as had been suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Preston (Mr. Tomlinson), lead to the wholesale discharge of men now in charge of engines and boilers unless they passed an examination. The examination which was proposed by the Bill was a very simple one, and every person in charge of an engine ought to be able to pass it. Discharges would not follow upon the passing of the Bill, because the 5th clause of the Bill provided that no man should be required to pass an examination if he had been in charge of a steam engine or boiler for the time of two years. Full protection was therefore given to men now in employment, and every effort made to disturb existing arrangements as little as possible. He was glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) present, because he would be able, no doubt, to inform the House, if it was necessary, that good results had followed upon the examination of men in charge of marine engines and boilers. The noble Lord the ex-President of the Board of Trade (Lord Stanley of Preston), speaking in "another place" last Session, on a kindred proposal to the one of his (Mr. Broadhurst's) hon. Friend, gave some important figures as to the good that had resulted from the examination of marine engineers; and he showed that since marine engineers had been required to pass examinations, and to obtain certificates from the Board of Trade, the loss of life from explosions at sea had almost altogether ceased. The hon. and learned Member for Preston (Mr. Tomlinson) asked what good was to follow this examination. Every good. They had the best of evidence that the greatest possible good—a large saving of property, and, what was still more important, great protection of life—had been consequent upon the examination imposed upon marine engineers by the Board of Trade. He presumed that every Member of the House knew that no marine engineer was allowed to take charge of a vessel unless he had obtained a certificate of competency from the Board of Trade. If it was necessary that the engineers even of small vessels should obtain certificates, how much more necessary was it in the case of our crowded towns, where boilers were found every few yards distant, many of them old and patched up and driven by most incompetent men. Whatever his hon. Friend (Mr. Fenwick) had in his mind in proposing the Bill, he knew what the Committee who prepared the Bill had in their minds. The Committee of the Trades Congress, of which he had the honour to be secretary, had in their minds the important fact that every year there were numbers of accidents, resulting in great injury to limb, and often in loss of life, through over-winding and incompetent supervision of colliery engines. This Bill was a strictly Conservative Bill. It sought to do no one a harm. It did not seek to disturb any trade, to advance any private interest; but its whole object was the protection of property and the protection of life. He claimed the support of every thoughtful Member of the House for the second reading of the Bill. Might he recall to the House the fact that on the last occasion on which they had a thorough debate on this subject—he was not then a Member of the House, but he was under the Gallery, and he remembered the debate as though he took part in it—a distinguished Predecessor of the Home Secretary, who was now Lord Cross, but who was then Home Secretary, took part in the debate. He remembered perfectly well that Lord Cross said that boilers had a language, if not like the language of human beings, yet as unfailing and as unerring in its indications, and that they only required a competent person to be in attendance upon them to understand the language of a boiler, and to be able to take such precautions that would prevent an explosion, and thereby prevent great destruction of life and property. There could be no stronger argument in favour of the second reading of this Bill than the speech of Lord Cross if there had been time to reproduce it. He was persuaded that the reproduction of that speech would have been sufficient in itself to carry the second reading of the Bill. But curiously enough the noble Lord, after making such a good speech, failed to support the Motion to which he spoke. He was only like many of his Colleagues and political Friends, who often made good speeches, but gave bad votes. Sometimes they gave very good votes, and made very bad speeches. Members on both sides of the House, however, were guilty of such failings. But he asked the attention of the President of the Board of Trade (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) for a moment, because this was a very important matter, and could not be disposed of lightly. The safety of hundreds of lives depended upon this or some similar protection being afforded. If the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade would only consent to support the second reading of the Bill to-night, and to vote for it, if necessary, he (Mr. Broadhurst) would guarantee that to-morrow the right hon. Gentleman's permanent officials at the Board of Trade would show him evidence of the most conclusive character to justify him and his Government in supporting the Bill. Let the right hon. Gentleman refer to the Reports made to the Board of Trade by the Departmental officers on the causes of explosions of boilers, and especially as to the number of explosions that had taken place in the case of boilers of traction engines. Why only a few years back, an explosion took place at Maidstone. He was speaking now, like the hon. and learned Member for Preston (Mr. Tomlinson), without his brief; but he had read on more occasions than one, that in that case some lives were lost and much injury was done, and that the coroner's verdict amounted in short to this—that the explosion and the consequent loss of life and loss of property would not have taken place had the man in charge of the engine been a competent and skilled man and fit for the important duty entrusted to him. If the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade would look up the Reports, he would find one concerning the running away and explosion of a traction engine some years ago at Rochester or somewhere in the neighbourhood. There was a celebrated manufactory of traction engines in the neighbourhood of Rochester, and if he remembered rightly the manufacturer of those engines gave evidence as to the cause of the accident, and confirmed the opinion that some legislation of this kind was necessary. In the case of one explosion which took place, it was found that a very economical driver, wishing to get all he could out of the engine with as little expenditure of coal as possible, had wedged down the safety valve with a brick. If this moderate and reasonable proposal, which no man ought to say a word against, had been in operation during the last 10 years, scores, if not hundreds, of lives would have been saved, many children would not have been left fatherless, and much destruction of property would have been prevented. Those were reasons which led him to support this Bill. He wished it, however, to be understood that he spoke entirely for himself. He must not be supposed to represent in any way whatever the opinions of his Colleagues upon the Opposition Bench, but he spoke as an independent Member. He sincerely trusted that the Government were, at any rate, agreed as to the second reading of the Bill, and he had no doubt that his hon. Friend in charge of the measure would after the second reading had been carried, be ready to consult with the Board of Trade as to any Amendments which it might be thought necessary to insert in the Bill in Committee. Let them distinguish this night, extraordinary as it had been, in legislative incidents, as one night in the Session when the House resolved to do its utmost to protect the lives of our great labouring community as far as they could by the adoption of reasonable proposals of this nature. He had great pleasure in supporting the second reading of this Bill.

MR. MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright)

said, that the boilers which predominated in country districts were of no danger whatever to anyone, and in legislating upon this question such a fact ought not to be forgotten. If they were to impose the proposed restrictions on the ordinary farmer, they would simply prevent him using steam on his farm in the same manner that he did at present. They knew that in many agricultural occupations, such as dairying, steam boilers were frequently used, and that the boilers for the most part were not of a very dangerous tendency, but were manufactured in order to do the simplest work, and in order that they would require little attention in management. But if any of the farm labourers had to go before a Board of Examiners to get certificates, and those certificates were to appear in The London Gazette before the men could attend to boilers, a great amount of mischief would be done to the country districts generally. Having said this he hoped that if his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) consented to allow the Bill to go further, he would take care that there was no harassing legislation in the Bill, for they wanted as much freedom as possible so long as there was protection of life and property.

MR. T. FRY (Darlington)

said, there was in the Bill a good deal that was valuable, though it seemed to him they would have to correct one or two points. The principal point to be determined was who was the person really in charge of the engine or boiler. Unless they were careful as to the wording of the Bill, many persons would be thrown out of employment. If, however, it made clear who it was who was understood to be in charge of an engine or boiler, the House might safely assent to the second reading.

MR. LLEWELLYN (Somerset, N.)

said, that a little knowledge was certainly a dangerous thing in the management of a steam engine or boiler. He was in favour of the second reading of the Bill, because he thought that all those who were brought in contact with those who had charge of engines and boilers should be safeguarded. He did not, however, agree with hon. Members who were of opinion that a man should be called upon to pass for the care of an ordinary farm engine the same examination as a man who wished to take charge of a marine engine, because marine engines were very complicated pieces of machinery and were altered in construction everyday. At the same time, a simple examination would be a safeguard in the case of all those who had charge of engines. He did not think it was necessary for a man to pass an examination as a fitter or constructor; but still a man who took charge of a boiler ought to have at least a slight knowledge of the working of a steam gauge. The fact was that, in many cases, old worn-out boilers were used upon farms, and they were a source of very great danger, not only to those who had charge of them, but also to those who had to work about them. Not only that, but they were liable to produce in many cases fires and other disasters. He hoped that those in charge of the Bill would be able to explain to the House what sort of examination, roughly speaking, it was sought men should be required to pass. He trusted that nothing of a very complicated nature would be required, because it would throw out of employment a very great number of men. He should support the second reading, and he could not help thinking that in Committee they could put in such restrictions as were considered necessary.


said, that an hour ago he was as little aware, as he supposed most hon. Members of the House were, that this subject would come up for discussion that night; but it had been his duty to consider the matter, seeing that the Bill stood on the Orders of the Day, and he had also had to consider it with reference to another Bill introduced by another hon. Member of the House for dealing in another way with this very important question. If he could believe that the effect of the Bill would be anything like what had been attributed to it by the hon. Member (Mr. Broadhurst), certainly he should recommend the House to give it a second reading. More than that, he should do his best to pass it into law. But the point they had to consider appeared to be this—not whether they were anxious, as he was sure all of them were anxious, to do everything in their power to get rid of the terrible dangers of explosions and the causes which now led to them, but whether the particular proposal before them was likely to attain that object. Reference had been made by the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Broadhurst) to the qualification required for the engineers in charge of marine engines. As the hon. Member for North Somerset (Mr. Llewellyn) had already stated, it was hardly fair to compare the case of marine engines with ordinary engines. Marine engines were notoriously complicated to a degree, which the engines dealt with in this Bill, or a great majority of them certainly, could not be considered to be. It might be perfectly right and necessary to insist on qualifications in the case of marine engines, whereas it might not be so necessary to insist upon qualifications in the case of ordinary engines. Let him call the attention of the House to the fact that it had been found necessary, in order to exclude as many persons as possible from the scope of the Bill, to say that the mere fact that a man had had charge of an engine or boiler for a period of two years before the 1st of March, 1888, should be sufficient testimony that he was qualified to have such charge. But if that was to be a proper qualification, what became of the argument that all the accidents, or a large proportion of the accidents, were due to the absence of qualification on the part of the men who had charge of the boilers? The very proposal which the hon. Members in charge of the Bill found it necessary to insert in order to avoid depriving hundreds of men now in charge of boilers of employment, showed that the remedy they proposed would not really meet the difficulties they desired to grapple with. Reference had been made by the hon. Member for West Nottingham to the Reports of the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade had power, as the hon. Member was aware, to inquire after an explosion had occurred, and to take steps with a view of prosecuting, if necessary, the persons to whose fault the explosion might be due. He had here the Report of the Board of Trade dated the 31st of August, 1886, and in that document he found it stated that in the year 1885–6 there were 57 cases in which preliminary inquiries under Section 6 of the Boilers Explosions Act, 1882, were held. That was an increase in the number of cases as compared with previous years, though the number of lives lost fell below the average. What did the Report state as to the accidents in which inquiries were held? Thirty-two accidents were due to deterioration, corrosion, or defectiveness of the safety valve of the boilers; 16 to defective design or construction; six to ignorance, neglect, or carelessness of the attendants; and three to miscellaneous causes; making 57 in all. Now, the House would observe that of these accidents not a single one would have been avoided had this Bill been in operation. [Mr. BROADHURST: Yes, 16.] The Bill before the House would do nothing whatever to prevent defective design or construction of boilers. That might be dealt with by proposals for inspection, which were contained, he believed, in another measure now before the House. Ignorance was the only cause that could possibly be considered to be dealt with by the Bill, and that, as he had already observed, would hardly be guarded against when they admitted that employment for two years past was sufficient qualification. Neglect or carelessness could not be dealt with by the Bill, and, therefore, the result was that practically this Bill would have done no good whatever towards preventing any of the 57 cases of explosions in which inquiries were held by the Board of Trade during the year 1885–6. Now, what was stated in addition? Although such a large proportion of the explosions were caused by the neglect, not of the persons employed to look after the boilers, but of the owners, in no case had the facts been so proved as to warrant the Department in taking the responsibility of recommending a prosecution under the Criminal Law. So that in all these cases it was found impossible to make any person amenable for the misfortune which had occurred. What he wanted to hear from those who were anxious to give a second reading to this Bill was something more than general philanthropic sentiments in favour of preventing these explosions. The hon. Member for West Nottingham was full of such sentiments. He shared those sentiments with the hon. Member, and if, by the passing of this Bill, he believed anything could be done towards remedying this serious evil, he certainly should be one of its earnest supporters. But seeing that the working of this Bill, applying as it did to the small agricultural boilers all over the country, most seriously interfered, and unneccessarily interfered, with agriculture and with the smaller trades, he was bound to ask himself, before he gave his vote in favour of the second reading, whether it was really a Bill that would carry out the object of those who had brought it into the House. He could not satisfy himself that it was so, and, therefore, he would have to give his vote against the second reading.

MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)

said, he did not wonder at the hesitation of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) who had just sat down, if it was thought that the Board of Trade should licence every man who had charge of a boiler or steam engine, and supply him with a certificate show that he was capable of undertaking such duties. But, after all, the machinery by which it was proposed to accomplish this object was very simple, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman had under-rated considerably the advantages which might accrue from the application of the provisions of this measure. The right hon. Gentleman had said very truly that, in the case of marine engines, there was much more reason for an examination as to the qualification of the persons who were to take charge of them. Marine engines and boilers were much larger and much more complicated than those on shore, as a general rule, and an accident to one of them subjected those who were in the vicinity to the greatest possible danger. The explosion of a marine boiler pro- bably meant the destruction of the ship, and a probable loss of a great number of lives. He thought they were all of them agreed that there had not been much loss of life in connection with boiler explosions of late years; and, with regard to the Report of the accidents the right hon. Gentleman quoted, there was net one which was shown to be an unavoidable accident. The right hon. Gentleman stated that examination would not at all tend in any respect, so far as he could see, to diminish the number of accidents; but, on the contrary, he (Mr. Mundella) thought that if the men who had the control of the boilers and engines referred to in the Report the right hon. Gentleman read, had been intelligent men, the probability was that nine-tenths of the accidents would have been avoided. The right hon. Gentleman had quoted 32 cases where there was deterioration, corrosion, or defectiveness of the safety valves of the boilers, which caused the explosions. Well, an intelligent man, efficient for the discharge of the duty of taking care of a boiler, in each of these cases would have known that there was something wrong, and would have pointed it out—indeed, a man who knew his business would not have worked with a boiler that was defective; he would have declined to place his life in jeopardy under such circumstances. He (Mr. Mundella) know that employers of labour like himself knew little more than what they were taught by their engineers in regard to their boilers and engines; but there could be no doubt that intelligent engineers would find out that deterioration was taking place, and would not allow that to continue. The right hon. Gentleman said—"But you are willing to take as a test of intelligence that a man has been for two years in charge of a boiler." Now, that was not so; but the right hon. Gentleman would allow him to point out that even in higher professions they had, when they first brought men under registration, to accept the mere fact that they had, for a certain time, discharged the functions that it was necessary to consider them capable of discharging those functions. Take the case of the Medical Profession. Men who had not had the necessary qualifications had been allowed to register because they had been in practice when the registrations were first in- stituted. In the case of veterinary surgeons, he himself had passed a Bill under which a great many men were allowed to register who had been in practice five years, and he had found that amongst the men who had thus qualified were a number of ex-policemen and some few convicts. These men did not possess the qualification which the measure provided that veterinary surgeons in the future should possess, but they had had the experience of practice. The object of this Bill, although not so much to interfere with the persons who at present had the control of boilers and engines, was to secure that in the future none but intelligent and properly qualified men should be entrusted with such control. He (Mr. Mundella) knew that in his own county there had been many accidents from explosions entirely owing to the ignorance of those in charge of the boilers and engines, and if they could do anything to prevent such ignorance, he trusted they would not hesitate to do it. He saw that the Bill provided examiners, and he was certain that there were civil engineers in every constituency and district where engines and boilers were worked who would be able to give the necessary certificates of competency. By the system proposed, if a civil engineer put to an applicant for a certificate the necessary questions as a test of competency, and the applicant had answered those questions satisfactorily, the certificate would be given to enable that man to take charge of boilers of all kinds. Such a thing would be a safeguard to the public. He did not say that all the provisions of the Bill were perfect, but any that were considered faulty could be amended in Committee. If the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill would give along day to the Committee—that was to say, fix a day some distance off, say a fortnight or three weeks hence—he trusted the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade would allow the measure to be read a second time. The right hon. Gentleman could consider what Amendments might be necessary, and could take every precaution he pleased to bring the measure under the supervision of the Board of Trade, so as to prevent undue friction in its application. If the right hon. Gentleman would adopt such a course, he would be doing good service to the operative classes of this country.

MR. ADDISON (Ashton-under-Lyne)

said, he proposed to give the House an opportunity of taking a long interval for the consideration of the measure, for he proposed to move that the second reading of it be deferred until that day six months. He objected to the Bill not only because he had received a great many communications from his constituents against it, but because he objected to it on principle. First of all, with regard to the powers it contained, the borough he represented was situated in a county which probably had more boilers and knew more about these questions than any other county in England. ["No, no!"] He undertook to say they had more boilers in Lancashire—

An hon. MEMBER: Than in Yorkshire?


said, he would, at any rate, undertake to say that they had more boilers in Lancashire, if Yorkshire was excluded, than in any other county in the country. It was the universal opinion of everybody practically acquainted with this subject in Lancashire, that the Insurance Companies, who were now inspecting boilers in the interests of traders, did their work and insured better examination and greater efficiency on the part of engineers than any State inspection could insure. That, he maintained, was a fact known to all practical men; and, beyond this, he would appeal to the House and ask if such a measure as the present were to be allowed to pass, where this sort of legislation would end? It proceeded upon a sort of notion that no class of the community, and certainly no traders, were ever able to manage their own business for themselves or conduct it without inspection or regulation. It was a class of legislation which they all ought to deprecate. It proceeded on the notion that in every department of trade the State or the Government, or the powers that be, whatever they are, were to be allowed to interfere and tell manufacturers what they ought to do and how they ought to do it—to tell them, in particular, what steps they ought to take to protect life and property. He thought it was in the works of Mr. Buckle—a gentleman for whom hon. Members on the other side of the house ought to have the greatest respect —that they found the doctrine laid down that all the good Acts of Parliament, or nearly all the goods Act of Parliament, had been Acts to put an end to previous legislation, because in all times people, well-meaning people, no doubt, had thought that trade ought to be treated in that sort of spirit by the Legislature, that it could be regulated and managed and controlled a great deal better by Act of Parliament than people could manage it for themselves. Now, what the traders of the country asked was to be let alone; they asked for freedom and liberty, and they asked it not only because experience had shown that all such regulations interfering with trades did harm, but because, in the view of Mr. Buckle, trade as carried on without restriction had been the great means of bringing about the happiness and prosperity of the country. The Bill rested upon a fallacy so far as it was thought that the State could with advantage regulate the private business of traders. The second fallacy upon which it rested was that it would secure all sorts of ability in those who were to undertake the management of boilers and engines, and that they would bring about all sorts of security if they could only enact some sort of limitation in those who undertook the work, and require them to pass examinations. He (Mr. Addison) made bold to say that every practical man in the House knew perfectly well that examinations were no good whatever in securing efficiency in any calling they liked to name—[Laughter]—yes, he maintained that examinations were of no use in securing proficiency in any branch of life. Many hon. Members had engineers in their employment, and he would ask those hon. Members if they would not trust these men quite as well, if not a great deal better, than if they had obtained, say, from someone on the opposite side of the House, a certificate of competency such as this Bill proposed to confer upon them? What was the proposed examination to go into? Was it to go into a man's sobriety, into his care, into his diligence and knowledge and scientific learning? How were they going to conduct such an examination? Who was to conduct it, who was to look after it? Such an examination as that proposed would go a very short way indeed towards securing the best men. It was said that such examinations were necessary in the Medical Profession; but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bright-side Division of Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) had shown thorn that they did not get the best men by examinations; but he (Mr. Addison), for himself, quite admitted that as regarded some professions—it might be his own and the Medical Profession—there might be some excuse for insisting upon examination and making them close professions. A great many people, however, on the other hand, thought that it would be better to throw the Professions open, and to have no such restrictions. But, whether that was so or not, why such restrictions should be extended to trade he failed to understand. The fact was, that all these benevolent schemes were a part of that great theory of Protection which hon. Gentlemen opposite were very active in proclaiming against in the simple matter of the Corn Laws, but were most active in defending and extending when it affected subjects and Bills of this kind. This required amongst hon. Members on that (the Ministerial) side of the House who were lovers of freedom, as well as of that freedom which every Englishman ought to have to conduct his business in his own way, the most viligant care and attention to watch these constant fallacies and attempts at Protection which came from the other side. No one desired to interfere with those people who watched boilers and engines except those who were anxious to interfere with all callings and to worry and badger all trades. There was no call or necessity for the Bill. The work of managing boilers and engines was done a great deal better than it would be done with it, and he hoped that those who attended to engines and boilers would be left in liberty and peace. He moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)

said, he begged to second the Amendment. He concurred with every word which had fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Addison) as to the importance of taking all possible pains for the preservation of life from accidents to boilers and engines. The question before the House was whether the Bill now before them was such in its provisions as would secure safety in this respect. As a rule the large boilers in the country were in the hands of great capitalists, and no doubt they did their best to employ persons skilled in the management of boilers and engines and watched all these questions with the most delicate care, because they were the persons who would lose most heavily in the case of accidents. Although he put the matter thus on financial grounds he did not mean, and he thought no one would venture to impute for a moment to the great capitalists say of such counties as Lancashire and Yorkshire that they were careless of human life and negligent so far as the welfare of those who worked for them in their great manufacturing establishments were concerned. His friends in the North who were conversant with this subject and capable of giving an opinion in regard to it, thought that the great cause of explosions in boilers was not want of skill in their management, but negligence and carelessness and remissness, and that no examination and no certificate as to qualification and the testing of skill alone could be a security for good conduct and diligence. The adoption of measures for security for good conduct and diligence must always rest with those who had charge and management of the factories. It was to those who had control over the management of the engines and boilers that it was necessary to trust. Many hon. Members found it necessary to travel from time to time, some of them every week, many of them every day by railway. There was no examination for those who had charge of our locomotive engines, and there was no class of men who, so far as the public safety was concerned, had more responsibility resting upon their shoulders, and he said at the same time that there was no class of men in the country who did their work with greater care. The result of the care exercised by these persons was that explosions of locomotive boilers were accidents most rare in occurrence. Even when such an accident did occur he ventured to say that it was not from any fault on the part of the driver or stoker, but from some defect in the boiler of which only a scientific engineer could have been competent to judge. He spoke those few words as representing a great industrial district, and he hoped he might also be permitted to add his testimony to what had fallen from those hon. Gentlemen who had spoken on behalf of those persons employing boilers and engines in the agricultural districts. He knew something of what occurred in the sparsely populated agricultural districts of the country. He knew there were many boilers used by those engaged in agricultural pursuits and those following small industries in remote villages, who would have their trade very much impaired and restricted if the provisions of this Bill were imposed upon them. In these cases it was to the care and diligence of their servants that they would have to trust much more than in any examination, however well conducted, which might be rendered necessary by Act of Parliament.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Addison.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

MR. WINTERBOTHAM (Gloucester, Cirencester)

said, he would not stand between the House and a Division for more than a moment or two, but he was a manufacturer himself, with boilers of his own, and therefore was not likely to vote for the second reading of a Bill which would harass industry. He must say, however, that in listening to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Addison) who had moved the Amendment, he had been very much astonished, as that speech had seemed to carry him back to the records of debates in this House some 100 years ago. There was not a word which fell from the hon. and learned Gentleman which might not have been urged against the Factory Acts and against all measures which had been passed for the protection of miners and sailors or against any provisions for the protection of the working classes in their various pursuits. It seemed to him that the hon. and learned Member with too much Buckle was made mad. The hon. and learned Member had carried Buckle's arguments to a conclusion which really brought them to this—that there should be no examination for medicine or law, in fact that there should be no examination for anything, but that everybody should be allowed to do everything he liked in this world without the slightest guarantee to the public of his proficiency or competency. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), in his statement about the number of accidents caused by boilers, had somewhat erred. The most frequent cause of boiler explosions, and, therefore, of loss of life through boiler explosions, was the inefficient working of the safety valves, and that was owing, in 99 cases out of 100, either to the ignorance of the man in charge of the boiler, or not very unfrequently through his incapacity at the time through drink. He (Mr. Winterbotham) did not think the Bill was perfect, but he believed that the simple examination and certificate of efficiency which it proposed would prove extremely valuable, and would have the effect of saving a great many lives every year. He appealed to the House on behalf of the working classes generally—he appealed in particular to hon. Members representing large working class constituencies to support the Bill. This was not a Party question, and he would ask hon. Members, whatever their political views may be, to vote for this measure as a step in the right direction. If they only saved a score of lives in the year by rendering the possession of a certificate of competency necessary—and it must be borne in mind that it was a certificate which could be very easily obtained—it was worth while passing the Bill. Certificates were necessary under the Factory Act with regard to the age of children; there was no difficulty in getting certificates as to eyesight in accordance with Board of Trade regulations for signalmen, &c.; and there would be no difficulty in getting certificates with regard to a few simple matters in regard to boilers. There was probably not a town in England where a civil engineer was not to be found, and where, therefore, a certificate under this Bill could not be procured. As to the Bill being harassing to agriculturists using small boilers, it seemed to him that Amendments could be proposed in Committee which would have the effect of preventing small boilers, such as were used in dairies, coming under the operation of the Bill at all. He urged hon. Members to support the Bill in order to prevent selfish employers employing cheap labour, for that was what it meant, instead of skilled labour, and thereby endangering the lives of their employés in factories and workshops.


I should like to say one or two words on this Bill, and in the first place, I desire to point out that this debate is remarkable in several respects. I would draw the attention of the House to the fact that not one single Member whose name is on the back of the Bill has addressed the House or given a single reason in support of the acceptance of the measure. Now, this being a Bill apparently promoted by those who profess to understand something about the question, one might have expected that they would have enlightened us upon the subject, and given us some knowledge of their reason for proposing the measure. It is rather remarkable that they have not done so, and there is another remarkable fact—namely, that not a single Member who has addressed the House has pointed to oven one instance where an accident which has occurred through the explosion of a boiler or an engine would have been prevented if this Bill had been in operation. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Cirencester Division of Gloucester (Mr. Winterbotham) took to task my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade for what he said about the Report of the Board of Trade on this very question, and the hon. Gentlemen went on—I hope I am not speaking too strongly, but I am expressing my opinion when I use the words—to libel the men in charge of these boilers. He went on to say that these explosions occurred either from ignorance or through drink. Well, Sir, anybody who knows anything of this subject and of the attention which employers of labour pay to these matters, must know that no person in drink would for a moment be allowed to take charge of a boiler. I say it is a libel upon the men who take charge of engines and boilers in this country to charge them either with ignorance or with being in that condition in which the hon. Member supposes they are generally to be found.


I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman; but I spoke of accidents due to the inefficient working of the safety valve of boilers, and I said that in 99 cases out of 100 they were to be attributed either to the ignorance of the man in charge of the boiler, or to his being incapacitated through drink.


Well, I do not think the explanation the hon. Gentleman has offered to the House in any sense alters the conclusion that the House will arrive at, or in any sense challenges the accuracy of what I stated. Now, I had hoped, as I have said, that some Member of the House who has had practical experience of this question would have been good enough to say a few words to the House on the subject of the Bill. I cannot claim to have much knowledge of boilers and engines, but I can claim to have had some practical experience of their working, because, during my life I have been in charge both of a boiler and an engine, and when I hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) talking here about employers of labour in this country not knowing whether their boilers are being deteriorated by corrosion or not, and not being in a position to protect themselves, I marvel where he has lived, and how he can have forgotten that there are in this country boiler insurance and protection associations.


I did not say that employers did not know how to protect themselves—I made use of no such language. I was always accustomed to insure my own boilers, and I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman did the same. What I said was that my personal knowledge of deterioration and corrosion and defectiveness of the safety valve was not of much value, and that I trusted entirely to the engineers. I also called attention to my belief that if we had the circumstances of the 57 accidents reported to the Board of Trade read out, we should find that these accidents were not inevitable.


The right hon. Gentleman says that the employers do not know of the deterioration of their boilers. My point is this—that employers in this country can and do protect themselves from the want of their own individual and personal inspection by employing these insurance societies who undertake the business for them, and I will go further and say that as a matter of safety, not only to workmen engaged in the works, but also to those thousands of people who pass those works, the inspection by one of these Societies voluntarily undertaken is of much more value practically than any examination which would be obtained under the Bill. We have heard something about deterioration and we have heard something about corrosion; but what does the Bill propose to do? Does it propose to impose upon the engineer in charge that he shall go inside the boiler every time it is cleaned out and travel through the flues every time they are swept, because unless he does that it is absolutely impossible to say whether or not the boiler is free from corrosion. ["No, no!"] Somebody says "No," but I have had practical experience of this matter myself, having been inside the boiler and through the flues myself. If I do not speak with much practical knowledge, at any rate, as I have said, I speak from practical experience, and I maintain that so far as this Bill is concerned it would absolutely fail of its purpose. If its purpose is merely to effect the object of preventing explosions it should be made compulsory that every man, not only in charge of an engine and a boiler, but every stoker who fired a boiler, and therefore saw the water gauge and steam gauge and knew what pressure of steam there was, should also have a certificate. This would be essential, because everyone who knows anything about the matter knows that within a very few moments steam may rise to such a pressure that danger may ensue if anything goes wrong. No examination and no supervision in the sense in which this Bill is drawn could possibly prevent such a thing. Now, something has been said about marine engines and boilers, and I am sorry the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Broadhurst), who spoke on this subject, is not here. Well, I am not quite sure, but I rather think that in the case of marine engines certificates are not required for the engineers of all steam vessels, but only for those of a certain class of steam ships. I rather think that certificates are limited to engineers of steamers engaged in the passenger trade and foreign going steamships. This Bill, if passed, would apply not only to large businesses where a great many engines and boilers are employed, but to every small manufacturing concern in the country, and it is quite clear to my mind either that those who drew the Bill did not intend it to apply to all small works or that they have failed to appreciate the difficulties which would follow if it did apply to them. Because what does the Bill itself say? It says that those engines or boilers to which the Act applies should be placed or kept at all times when at work under the supervision of some person holding a certificate of qualification under the Act. It says that one of these certificated men should not have charge of more than a certain number of boilers or engines, or of boilers or engines which were apart a greater distance than the Board of Trade should prescribe. That does not contemplate the man in charge of the boiler having a certificate, but it points to the man who is to have the superintendence having a certificate. It does not contemplate that the man who fires the boiler should have a certificate, but that this should be possessed by some individual who has the general supervision of the whole concern. I venture to say, from my own experience, that supervision of that kind would not prevent one single explosion which takes place under the present system, and, I say that if you carried it out further you would be guilty of an enormous injustice and would do enormous injury to the small manufacturers of the country, who keep one man not only to run the engine but also to fire the boiler. I must say I am surprised that men sitting for constituencies such as those of the hon. Members who promote this Bill should not have seen the effect of the measure. If they had seen it, I should have been even more intensely astonished at their bringing it forward; for it is a Bill which, in my humble judgment, would absolutely cripple the trade of the country. It will do no good in itself and will inflict enormous injury to a large class of working men.

MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)

said, the hon. Member had spoken with a warmth and vehemence that showed he was master of the subject. He complained that no Member in charge of the Bill had spoken on the second reading. Well, he (Mr. Fenwick) admitted the charge, but his answer was that he thought he was best consulting the wishes of the House in simply moving the second reading in the formal manner usual on such occasions. He had reason to believe there was general concurrence in the main principle of the Bill, and he made no speech, thinking the Division, if there was to be one, would be so much earlier. The hon. Member also said that no hon. Member had ventured to say that these boiler explosions attended with loss of life were caused by the ignorance of the men in charge of the engine or boiler; but he (Mr. Fenwick) wondered that it did not occur to the hon. Gentleman that the persons who were best qualified to give information on that subject were probably the persons whose lives were sacrificed by the explosion. Did the hon. Gentleman forget that only in last Session his own Government were engaged in legislation which provided for the examination of managers having charge of coal mines? Why did the Government deem it necessary to enact such strict provisions in that Bill to secure the competency of those in charge of mines? They were deemed necessary because of the serious explosions and loss of life that had occurred in coal mines; and while it was impossible to find culpable negligence on the part of those responsible for the management, notwithstanding that fact could not be proved, yet it was deemed expedient to bring in such a measure and provide for the examination of mine managers. The same principle was embodied in the Bill, simply seeking to ensure that persons who had charge of steam engines and boilers on land should have some technical knowledge at least of the machines with which they had to deal. The hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. F. S. Powell) seemed in his remarks to convey the idea that Members on the Opposition side attached little importance to the care and diligence of those who had charge of steam engines and boilers. Care and diligence he (Mr. Fenwick) was not disposed to under-rate in any calling; but all the care, diligence, steadiness, and sobriety you could command would be of no avail to reduce injury and loss of life to a minimum unless the man in charge had some technical knowledge of his calling combined with his care and steadiness. He had thought hon. Members opposite claimed to be the champions of technical education; ever and anon they were dinning technical education into the ears of Parliament and the country, and he might have expected they would readily support the main principle of the Bill, which was to ensure that one class of artizans should have some technical education in matters with which they were immediately concerned. Objections had been urged to the Bill on the ground that it would seriously interfere with trades, especially small trades in the country, and he was willing to admit there might be minor details of the Bill that would require careful attention in Committee, and he would be quite willing to accept any well considered Amendment that did not seriously interfere with the main principle of the Bill. It certainly was not his intention—and he among the promoters of the Bill was perhaps most responsible—to cause any vexatious interference with any trade, however small, and if the House accepted the second reading, he would give every assurance that he would consider any Amendment proposed in Committee with the view of preventing that the Bill in its operation should not press harshly upon any trade or manufacture. Also he was prepared to accept the suggestion of the right hon. Member for the Bright-side Division of Sheffield, and allow an ample interval for the consideration of Amendments before asking the House to take the Committee.

MR. WHARTON (York, W.R., Ripon)

said, he should like to know whether hon. Members who favoured the Bill proposed that the Bill should include locomotive engines? If they did, then they could hardly have considered the subject sufficiently, for he found, under the Bill, that Inspectors were to be men who had two years' experience, or who held a certificate from the Board of Trade. Now, the men who had charge of locomotive engines were men of from 12 to 20 years' experience, and, apparently, there would be put over their heads, men with but two years' experience as independent Inspectors in regard to boilers.


pointed out that the provision for two years' experience was to cover those who were now in the service, as an equivalent for a certificate; in fact a service certificate, such as was given under the Coal Mines Act of last Session.


said, he was obliged to the hon. Member for the explanation. But there was another matter hon. Members had probably not considered, and that was the number of locomotives in daily use, He believed the number was from 12,000 to 15,000, and how were all these boilers to be inspected? The terms of the Bill were— Every engine or boiler to which this Act applies, shall be placed and kept at all times when at work under the supervision of some person holding a certificate of qualification under the Act. How, he should like to know, was the supervisor to inspect these engines when at work? Was the "Flying Scotch-man" always to have an Inspector on board, or when was he to inspect the engine? It appeared to him that the provision was absolutely ridiculous. To have a Board of Trade Inspector inspecting every engine every day appeared to him an absolute absurdity. The expense of such a provision was an important item. If the Board of Trade was to employ Inspectors who would have to be competent men, Parliament would have to find their pay, and the House would soon find the expense something considerable. The objection had been urged that the Bill would interfere with every trade; but he spoke not only on behalf of the railway interest, but of the railway passengers, and protested against Inspectors of two years' experience being held as competent as drivers of 20 years' experience. No doubt, the Bill would interfere with all trades; but, on behalf of the railway trade and railway passengers, he should certainly vote against the Bill.

MR. JACOB BRIGHT (Manchester, S.W.)

said, he had not heard anything that led him to suppose that the Bill would produce the good results that were anticipated from it. He should prefer, if there was to be legislation on the subject at all, for the purpose of giving more security to life from boiler accidents, that there should be constituted a system of compulsory inspection. He believed a regulation of that kind would be much more satisfactory in result than the Bill. If he was rightly informed, something like half the boilers in use were already inspected, and the result, he believed, was most satisfactory. There was the benefit of experience, and he thought it would not be difficult to pass a Bill through the House making inspection universal. He was satisfied that inspection of boilers, whilst producing better results, would be far less harassing both to employers and employed. Much had been said as to the effect of the Bill upon small employers, and undoubtedly it might be very unjust on many occasions. He did not very well see how such injustice could be avoided. There were many cases where small employers employed only a man to work a small engine, and this man would, under the Bill, have to hold a certificate, and if anybody not certificated meddled with the engine or boiler he would be subjected to a considerable fine, as would also the employer. But suppose the certificated man were ill or absent from his work for a day, the concern, whatever it might be, would have to be closed, for it would be impossible to immediately get another certificated man. He mentioned this to illustrate the harassing nature of the provision, and he firmly believed his hon. Friends were not on the right tack.

MR. SALT (Stafford)

said, he believed the Bill, as it stood, would work very great injustice to a large number of small manufacturers who used engines. He really did not think any hon. Member, except the last speaker, knew what a large number of small engines were used by manufacturers, by builders, by farmers for farming, pumping, and ninny purposes. He granted that the intention of the Bill was good, and the idea of having boilers inspected was one that all would sympathize with. But the Bill was drawn on wrong lines entirely, and in principle it was wrong. It would not touch the great employers of labour, men of large capital who had skilled workmen of the highest calibre at command, but it would do serious injury to thousands of small rising industries in which a steam engine was used. If there had been the one single principle in the Bill, providing that boilers should be subject to inspection, he would not have opposed the second reading, but have waited to consider it in Committee; but he believed the principle was wrong and thoroughly unworkable, and, so far from doing good, it would be the cause of infinite mischief.

MR. J. C. STEVENSON (South Shields)

said, while he sympathized with its object, he felt constrained to vote against the Bill. They had far too much Government inspection and interference already. He appreciated the motive of those who framed the Bill, but he believed it would not realize the benefit they expected. He would rather place reliance on the spread of education and increase of intelligence among those in charge of engines. He was happy to observe even among unskilled labourers of the country very much more intelligence than was to be found among skilled artizans of half-a-century ago, and he looked forward to still further progress of information and thoughtfulness among those taking charge of engines and boilers.


said, he must object to the Bill in the agricultural interest, as it would be most harassing to tenant farmers who used engines for various purposes. No hon. Member could say many accidents happened from boilers used for threshing machines or fixed engines on farm holdings. It would often happen that the man who generally drove a threshing machine engine, from some cause might be unable to attend, and the threshing of a stack would have to be delayed if a certificated man was compulsory. In a rural district certificated men would not readily be found, but there might be another man quite capable of driving the engine, and who perhaps had taken turns in doing so with the regular engineer, and it would be hard that the machine should of necessity remain idle, because each of the two or three men with it was not not certificated. He was quite certain that, among the farming interest, there would be a very strong feeling against such a proposal. There was another interest that had not been alluded to. Did the House realize that, at the present time, among the fishing vessels in the North Sea there were a large number having a small engine on board, not to propel the vessel, but for working the capstan? The vessels carried five or six hands, and the engine perhaps was used only two hours a-day, and any of the men were quite capable of working the steam capstan.


said, he was sorry to interrupt, but the hon. Member had not observed that the Bill only applied to engines and boilers on land, and made no mention whatever of fishing vessels.


said, he found he was mistaken, and thanked the hon. Member for his explanation. His objection was on behalf of the agricultural interest, and he protested against such a harassing proposal. If such a Bill as this were passed, it might next be proposed that drivers of cabs, omnibuses, and perambulators should take out certificates.

SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)

said, he had listened to the debate with mingled surprise and sorrow, because, for the first time in the House, he had found a great part of hon. Gentlemen opposite engaged in the deification of ignorance. The whole attitude of hon. Members opposite had been in favour of ignorance as the best method of controlling scientific machinery. Surely if a scientific machine required study in the making, it required a certain amount of study for its action, and would be best managed by men of knowledge and experience. But the whole contention of hon. Members opposite was in a contrary direction, including the hon. and learned Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Addison), who contended that all legislation was wrong that did not upset past legislation. It was a pity he did not act on that view when the Crimes Act was under discussion. All that the Bill required was that a man should have some qualification for his duty—that any man controlling an engine should be competent, his competency being established by certificate or two years' experience, so that the argument of 25 years' experience being destroyed was altogether beside the question.


said, what he objected to was that engineers should be under the surveillance of Inspectors of only two years' experience.


said, he might suggest to the hon. and learned Member that there was no question of Inspectors; the Bill did not contemplate the appointment of an Inspector, but simply that the man should have a certificate of qualification or an experience of at least two years.


said, that was for the supervision of those who drove.


said, supervision was control of the engine, and it was the same thing with a locomotive; it could not be supposed that a super visor was to travel alongside the locomotive. The hon. Gentleman was trying to throw ridicule on the honest well-meant attempt of mining Representatives to protect the lives of mining operatives; it was not worthy of himself and his position. The whole argument against the Bill amounted to saying that ignorance was better than skill. That was the argument that had been advanced over and over again by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and that was the condition of mind that had brought about the present commercial condition of the country. If there had been a willingness beforehand to encourage scientific knowledge applied to manufacture, the present commercial depression might have been avoided. Let hon. Members show their zeal for technical education by voting for scientific knowledge for engineers, the principle was the same. Too long we had neglected skilled instruction for our operatives, and to put ignorance in front of skill was unworthy of a great Party who professed to advocate technical education. Accidents that occurred from boilers exploding could, in great part, be avoided were skilful men in charge; the words of the President of the Board of Trade were—"None of these accidents were inevitable." A skilful man as engineer was better than an ignorant one, and accidents were more likely to be avoided. On the grounds of humanity and of general experience the Bill ought to be supported.

MR. C. W. GRAY (Essex, Maldon)

said, he should not like these remarks to remain unanswered, so far as agriculture was concerned, and agriculture was closely concerned, seeing that farmers thrashed corn and cut chaff by steam, and had engines in general use on the farm. He had had considerable experience of these engines, and never yet had he known a case of any bad accident arising from want of intelligence on the part of the man who drove the engine. If the Bill passed, it would have the most unjust effect on many industrious, respectable men, who had charge of engines, and who certainly could not be described as ignorant. If it was necessary to have a Bill of this nature passed in reference to every pursuit to which a certain amount of danger attached, there would be no end to such Bills. He was quite sure that there were far more ac cidents through men having charge of horses not thoroughly understanding how to manage the animals, than from men not knowing how to work an engine properly; but surely hon. Members would not propose that his ploughman or horseman should get a certificate before taking a horse out. Whatever might be the case in reference to engines in large manufactories, he was not aware of there being the slightest demand for a Bill of this sort in connection with engines used in agriculture; and he hoped the House would hesitate before passing such a Bill. He was no more a friend to ignorance than the hon. Gentleman (Sir Walter Foster); but he did not believe in unnecessarily harassing farmers and farm labourers with legislation such as this.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 96; Noes 147: Majority 51.—(Div. List, No. 73.)

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Second reading put off for six months.