HC Deb 08 May 1888 vol 325 cc1667-707
MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)

said, that in previous Sessions, as many hon. Members were aware, from the Petitions sent to them to present, he had attempted to deal with the question of railway safety by Bill. That year, to find an opportunity to give voice to the wishes of those he represented in this matter, he had substituted a Resolution. One of Her Majesty's Ministers had recently complained, and with some reason, that many Bills brought forward in that House were only Resolulutions expanded. He hoped, therefore, the President of the Board of Trade would not quarrel with him for having condensed the provisions of what he believed was a carefully-drawn Bill into two definite proportions on which the House would express an opinion. The Motion was wholly free from any Party character, and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman might see reason to accept some part at least of the reforms asked for under the Resolution, and, if so, that he might do what a private Member could not hope to do that Session, by using the power of the Government to carry them into effect by legislation. He would only say further that that was not a mere abstract Resolution based on theory, but was the outcome of the practical experience of a generation, backed by the expressed wishes of thousands upon thousands of those personally and vitally interested in these matters. The Motion expressed the recommendations of the only great Royal Commission which had inquired into railway accidents, and the opinion of the Board of Trade under a former Ministry. He would further remind the House that his own Railway Regulation Bill passed a second reading in 1886, and that thereby the House had approved the principle of his Resolution. They might be told that accidents were diminishing. He was placed at some disadvantage, because the Returns of accidents for the past year were not yet in the hands of hon. Members; but they had the Report of accidents down to June 30, 1887, and he was convinced that hon. Members, if they considered the Reports for the past few years, must be aware that there had been no sensible reduction in the general average of loss of life and injury. That was especially true of the classes of accidents to which he wished to call attention. Some, indeed, had shown a special persistence, and even a distinct increase. Certainly that was the case as to accidents connected with shunting, the number and frequency of which was a national scandal. In the last year for which they had completed Returns—1886—there was a considerable increase. In 1885, 85 railway servants had been killed and 846 had been injured while on duty in shunting operations. In 1886 the numbers had increased to a total of 119 killed and 1,168 injured. In the first six months of 1887 there were 58 killed and 551 injured, showing a persistence of the higher average. Then, as to another most fruitful source of accidents—level crossings—a like increase was to be found. In 1885 there were 93 persons killed at level crossings, and in 1886 there were 104; while in 1885 34 persons were injured at level crossings, and in 1886 52 persons were injured. The real question for the House to consider was whether the casualties could be prevented or not. He could wish that all hon. Members would read and consider the interesting and admirable Reports of the Inspectors of the Board of Trade on the causes of the accidents on which they held inquiries. Those Reports were of the deepest interest, and of high scientific value. He did not think anyone in the House would challenge their scientific accuracy and the weight of their recommendations. Well, they established the fact that though many accidents were due to want of care and want of discipline, the majority of accidents were due either to defective safety appliances or arrangements. What were the checks on which they had to rely to keep down railway accidents? They had compensation. Well, he did not think that compensation, as provided by Lord Campbell's Act, was to be seriously considered. Mr. Galt, one of the greatest authorities on railway matters, in his separate Report, appended to the Report of the Commission of 1877, proved from an average of years that the amount of compensation was not a serious item in the expenditure of the Companies, amounting to less than 1 per cent on their outgoings. He thought that Boards of Railway Directors had, in the great improvement they had so widely introduced, been much more influenced by their own sense of duty and by public opinion. Then, as to personal responsibility, what happened generally? Why, there was some great catastrophe involving loss of life, and then they would find an engine-driver, or guard, or a station-master charged with manslaughter, and, very possibly, the case would be sent for trial. But, then, in a great number of instances, the railway servants would be acquitted at the Assizes, because conclusive evidence would be offered showing that the accident was wholly or largely due to the want of proper safety arrangements. And when that was clearly established he should like to know if any Director had ever been put on his trial or held responsible? Then they had, as another means of checking accidents, the method of publicity. The Companies were compelled to make Returns of accidents and injuries on their lines, and of the extent to which the block system of working and the interlocking of signals and points were adopted on their lines, and also as to the nature of the brakes they used for their rolling stock; but the Returns thus made were largely untrustworthy. Last September, in the Doncaster race week, one of the most ghastly railway disasters occurred at Hexthorpe, a station just outside Doncaster, on the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway. That Company made a Return, under the Act, that their line was worked on the absolute block system. But it was shown during the inquiries on the Hexthorpe accident that, for years past, at this, perhaps the most critical and trying time in the whole year, owing to the crowded traffic, trains from several railways approaching Doncaster in quick succession, the block system was recklessly suspended, and that, to protect trains, recourse was had to the antiquated expedient of putting flagmen on the line. Not only so, but he believed he was correct in stating that, according to the regulations of the Company, the flagmen should have been provided with detonating fog signals to place on the rails, and that even that precaution was neglected. He thought that the withdrawal of the protection of the block system on such an occasion as that amply justified the severe strictures on the Company made by Chief Justice Coleridge at the trial, and by Major Marindin, the Inspector of the Board of Trade, who held the inquiry as to the causes of this most terrible accident. But the block system of working was constantly evaded by "warning tickets." Goods trains were admitted into block sections when they were not yet clear, and, in a Report as to an accident in 1883, attention was drawn by one of the Inspectors to the fact that the regulations of the Railway Clearing House actually permitted these evasions. Then, as to the working of single lines, when he spoke on this subject in 1886 he had referred to an incorrect Return made by the Somerset and Dorset Railway, In the last Return of railway accidents they would find a report of an accident which occurred at Rothiemay, on the Great North of Scotland Railway, which disclosed almost every possible form of evasion and neglect. That railway was returned as worked on the absolute block system, with the use of the train staff, which, of course, would prevent two trains from being on the same section at the same time. But it appeared from the Report that there was no train staff or ticket, that the starting signals were not used, that there was no interlocking of points with signals, and that there were no efficient continuous brakes. He might quote the words of Major Marindin, the Inspector who reported on the accident— I am afraid it is hopeless to expect that the Company will voluntarily adopt on their single lines the train staff and ticket system of working, admitted by nearly all railway authorities to be the safest way of working a single line and the Board of Trade has, unfortunately, no power to insist upon this mode of working, or an equivalent, except upon new lines, where it is invariably required. Thus, the system of Returns was, in many cases, unsatisfactory. The existing powers of the Board of Trade were practically confined to the postponement, from month to month, of the opening of new lines or new branches of old lines, until the specified requirements of the Board were complied with. But he believed he was right in saying that, so far as legal obligation went, there was nothing to prevent a Company from changing any of these arrangements after the line was opened. At any rate, as regards single lines, there was no doubt whatever that the Board had no check on improper ways of working the line unless the Railway Company made a false Return, in which case the Board could prosecute the Company for the false Return. If those powers as to new lines were so limited, what was to be said. as to the working of old lines, where the traffic and the risk were infinitely greater? Was it not a ridiculous farce for the Board of Trade to be sending recommendations to the Railway Companies which they promptly consigned to the waste paper basket? Since he had had a seat in Parliament he had, from time to time, put Questions as to defective arrangements, distinctly with the object of showing that the Board of Trade was powerless to remedy the defects to which it had called attention. Thus he had referred to the working of the lines at Toton sidings, near Long Eaton, on the Midland Railway. There were eight or nine lines, and there was an immense amount of shunting of mineral and other goods trains. But those lines were worked wholly by hand signals, and there was no cabin. The number of fatal casualties had made those sidings notorious. The hon. Member for the Toxteth Division of Liverpool (Baron Henry de Worms), who was then Secretary to the Board of Trade, had replied that the Board thought the working by hand signals unsatisfactory, but had no power to compel a change. In the previous and in the present Session he had put Questions as to the neglect of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company to provide either a subway or a bridge at Tod morden. That was a crowded junction, where it was estimated an average of nearly 1,000 persons every day had to cross the lines, and there had been many narrow escapes. The Company had more than once promised to do something; but the Board of Trade was without power to compel even so necessary a work as that. It would probably be in the recollection of the President of the Board of Trade that on no point had the Royal Commission on Railway Accidents laid more stress than on the necessity of powers— To enforce the execution of necessary works wherever the deficiency of station and siding accommodation is such as to endanger public safety. The recommendations of the Inspectors in their Reports as to the causes of accidents had no legal force whatever. But the cost of the Railway Department of the Board was considerable. There were the salaries and travelling expenses of the officials, the charges for witnesses, and many other outgoings. He would ask if those Reports had no legal force, if there was no power behind them, what justification was there for such a waste of public money? As it was, the Reports drew the attention of the Companies again and again to serious defects in the working of their lines, and yet the public had to wait till the Reports were supplemented and confirmed by ghastly catastrophes like that at Hexthorpe. Well, if they gave greater powers to the Board, it might be asked whether there would be work to do? There was plenty of work. Take the question of brakes. The Board of Trade had issued a Circular as to brakes in 1877, laying down the conditions of a satisfactory brake—one of which was that it should be self-acting. That Circular had been more than confirmed by scientific experience, and had recently been re-considered and again approved by the most experienced of the Railway Servants at their annual Congress. But, although that Circular had been issued more than 10 years, and although it had been repeatedly confirmed and enforced in the recommendations of the Inspectors of the Board, how long had it taken to convert the London and North-Western Railway, how long had the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway Company refused to adopt an automatic brake? As to the North-Western, he had in 1886 drawn attention to an accident at New Street Station, Birmingham, where, from want of an automatic brake, there was a narrow escape from a serious collision between two sections of a train which parted on an incline. Within six months after, an accident almost identical in its nature took place at the same station, and in the Report of last year there was a serious accident at Carlisle from the same cause. Yet, after the repeated warnings on that point, he found that the Company, out of its immense rolling stock, had only 66 engines and 624 carriages fitted with an automatic brake. One of the most disastrous accidents of recent years occurred near Penistone, on the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway, in July, 1834, the fatality of the accident being largely due to the fact that the brakes, not being self-acting, did not check the headlong rush of the carriages after the train parted. Two years after, in September, 1886, the same defective brake was responsible for a collision, also at Penistone, with a runaway train, causing injury to 23 persons. General Hutchinson, in his Report on this second accident, says— It is very unsatisfactory to find that this Company has done nothing towards supplying its rolling stock with automatic brakes, notwithstanding the warning it received from the very serious accident which occurred near Penistone in July, 1884, when there is every reason to believe that, had the train been fitted with a good automatic brake, the consequences of that accident might have been considerably mitigated. Yet, even after that second warning, they found the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway persisting in the use of this brake, and that this defective brake was largely responsible for the terrible loss of life at Hexthorpe. The consequences of that accident were enormously aggravated because the brakes, not being automatic, were instantly released by the parting of the couplings at the moment of collision, and so the full weight of the train—about 200 tons—was propelled with enormous velocity into the last four carriages of the Midland train, and it was the second shock which caused the most serious casualties. Then there was room for action of the Board of Trade in dealing with shunting accidents. The House would remember that early in 1886 the Railway Servants' Society held trials of coupling appliances at Nine Elms, and it was shown that there were inventions of a workable type which would make it needless for the men to go between the buffers in coupling and uncoupling. In December of the same year, the Midland Railway Company held some interesting trials at Derby of coupling appliances and the coupling pole, and he wished to express the opinion that that Company had admirably discharged its duty to its employés in this matter. These trials were taken to have established the great value of the coupling pole and the three-link coupling. He would express no opinion as to the one appliance being better than another; but he would take the two sets of trials as proving that in the one way or the other it was possible to save many lives, and prevent many men from being maimed in having to go between carriages and trucks in the act of coupling. Yet, although the three-link coupling and the pole were a cheap and easy contrivance, there were many important lines of railway which did nothing. The powers of the Board of Trade might be used not merely to compel the Companies to adopt some safer mode of coupling, but might be used to strengthen the hands of the Companies in dealing with private owners of trucks and waggons. There had been many instances of serious accidents in mixed trains, which were due to stiff and unworkable couplings attached to private waggons. Last winter, again, during the dense fogs, there were an unusually large number of casualties among the platelayers and men who placed fog signals on the rails. There were several contrivances for minimizing the risk under those circumstances. The Motion also dealt with the excessive hours of work. Anyone who had passed some time, as he had, in a signal-box on a crowded line, would know that the strain of prolonged hours of work for signalmen was excessive. To take one instance, there were on the North-Eastern Railway, between Edinburgh and Darlington, 136 signal-boxes. In 96 of those boxes the hours of duty were from 12 to 13, while in the remaining 40 the hours of duty ranged from 9 to 11½. The Return of overtime work obtained in the House of Lords by Lord De La Warr proved that, on some lines, overtime work was systematic. He held that a regular monthly Return, giving full particulars of cases of overtime work, would prevent that overwork being the rule. Opponents of the Motion might say that it would be clangorous to have fixed hours of work on railways. He quite agreed that the conditions of railway work were such that it was impossible to prevent occasional overtime, when trains were delayed owing to weather or other circumstances. But what was wanted was, not to have fixed hours so much as to break up the system by which engine-drivers and guards were forced by the regular hours on which they booked on for duty and booked off duty, to work longer than was desirable for themselves, and for the safety of the public. To sum up his argument, what was wished was, that the powers of the Board of Trade should be consolidated and simplified, so that the Board of Trade should be able to remedy grave defects on all lines in the same way as on new lines before their opening. On the exercise of those powers he would be willing to see any reasonable checks or limitations, and if a suitable tribunal could be instituted, there might be a right of appeal from an order of the Board. But, he would ask, who would be the worse, how many lives might have been saved at Penitone and at Hexthorpe, if the Board had been able to enforce its recommendations? Who would be the worse if the Board could order the adoption of the three-link coupling and the pole, or other coupling appliances? Or, he might put it this way—Was it reasonable that all this public money should be spent if the Board had no real powers? What was the Board of Trade to be? Was it to be lowered to the position of a mere Intelligence Department—a function which might just as well be discharged by the scientific or engineering Press; or was the Board to be a real guardian of the public interest, and to be enabled to vindicate the State's side of the bargain with the railways? He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman might see his way to meet him on some, at least, of the points be had raised. He begged to move the Motion which stood in his name.

MR. M'LAREN (Cheshire, Crewe)

said, he rose to second the Motion, because he represented a larger number of railway servants than almost any other Member of the House. Certainly, in the town of Crewe and the neighbouring villages, where the great works of the London and North-Western Railway Company were situated, there were to be found a large number of railway men. Now, the subject was of vital interest to them, and he hoped it would receive the careful attention of the House, and the favourable consideration of the President of the Board of Trade. The Motion of his hon. Friend (Mr. Channing) referred to the safety both of passengers and of railway servants; but the matter was really most pressing with regard to the protection of the railway servants, for the passengers were protected to a very great extent by the influence of the Press. Whenever there was any great accident, the attention of the country was drawn to it, and full justice as far as possible was done in the matter; but with regard to the servants of the Railway Companies, the number of deaths and accidents vastly exceeded those of passengers. There were in 1886, the last year for which there were any Returns, 459 deaths of railway servants, and 5,490 accidents of a more or less serious character. Such an enormous extent of mortality and injury to limb was a matter which ought to call for the serious attention of the Government and of the country. The Motion referred to preventible causes of accidents; but really, when one took the accidents individually, there was not a single one of them that might not have been prevented if more care had been used either on the part of the unfortunate sufferers or on that of the Railway Companies, in what he thought was the proper discharge of their duties towards their servants. No doubt, the Directors of our Railway Companies were sincerely anxious to prevent these accidents; but they were anxious to prevent them in a sort of abstract way. They did not, as he (Mr. M'Laren) contended, take the pains they ought to take in order to insure that these accidents should be reduced to the very lowest possible number. Although the majority of the Companies had issued rules and regulations and bye-laws for the guidance of their men, in practice those rules were very little more than shams. He did not mean to say that the Directors desired them to be shams; far from that; but in practical operation those rules might almost as well not exist, except for one consideration, and that was that the existence of them in almost every case prevented the men from obtaining compensation for any injuries they sustained. Those rules became dead letters; the men knew them; they knew them in a kind of indefinite way; but in the ordinary everyday work of life they forgot them. There was no one who insisted upon the fulfilment of the rules, and in the pressure of railway work—and railway work was always carried on at the highest pressure with the desire of getting the work done—those rules were neglected, with the connivance of the managers of the railways and those who ought to see that the rules were enforced. They hurried on with their work; they did not wish to delay the trains; there was a natural desire to keep the trains punctual; and, so far from the influence of the managers being used for the enforcement of the rules, their influence was to a very large extent used in an opposite direction. He believed that if there was to be real care exercised, and that if they were to have preventible accidents prevented, they must place a heavy pecuniary responsibility upon the Boards of Directors and the shareholders of the Companies; they must, in fact, make the shareholders responsible for the payment of compensation for all the deaths and for all the serious accidents that occurred. He would not, of course, propose that all accidents should he compensated for, because there were men who would possibly suffer some trivial accident for the sake of compensation; but the class of accidents he referred to were such as resulted in loss of limb, or in serious crushing, so that a man was permanently disabled. Considering that those accidents took place with almost unfailing regularity year by year, he had come to the conclusion—and a great number of railway men whom he knew had come to the conclusion—that the only way of reducing them to the lowest possible dimensions was to give compensation out of the funds of the shareholders. He had said that the rules and regulations of the Companies were, unfortunately, largely shams, and the returns of the deaths and accidents, he thought, were sufficient to prove that that was the case. When there were 459 deaths in a single year—about four deaths of railway servants every three days—and when there were no fewer than 15 accidents, more or less severe, everyday, it was obvious that the figures must be capable of serious reduction, and that if care were exercised, either by the men themselves or by those who had charge of them, the number of those accidents could be very largely reduced. If they examined—which he should not do at length, but very briefly—the class of accidents, ho thought it was clearer still that many accidents could be prevented if the Companies chose to take sufficient means to prevent them. Let them compare the number of accidents to the two classes of railway guards—goods guards and passenger guards. The number of goods guards who were killed in 1886 was one in 192 employed, whereas the number of passenger guards killed was only one in every 3,000. The number of goods guards who were injured was one in 18, whereas the number of passenger guards injured was one in 100. There did not seem any satisfactory reason why the mortality and injury to the guards of goods trains should be so much higher than the mortality and injury of passenger guards, except that they travelled at night, that less care was taken for their lives, and that they were, to some extent, though not very largely, employed in the dangerous work of superintending shunting. When they came to shunters the facts were most startling. One in every 155 employed was killed, and one in 21 was injured. That did not really represent the number of accidents which occurred from careless shunting and defective mechanical appliances. It had been stated, on the authority of the Board of Trade Returns, that from the year 1879 to 1885 the number of deaths in various occupations relative to shunting was no less than 1,075, and that during the same time there were no less than 10,000 men injured. It was stated, and he believed with truth, that the total number of men engaged at any one time in the various occupations that could be classed under the work of shunting was about 14,000, so that during the seven years he had mentioned there were over 11,000 of those persons killed or injured. In other words, about 80 per cent of the average number of men employed in one way or the other in connection with shunting were killed or injured during that period; and what was a most painful incident or circumstance connected with this was that in not a single one of these cases did any man get any compensation from the Railway Companies awarded by law. That, no doubt, was because of the defective state of the Compensation Clauses in the Employers' Liability Act. The Railway Companies were able to show that these accidents were due to the carelessness of the men—they always managed to put the whole blame upon the shoulders of the unfortunate sufferers. The fact that the Companies were not liable for compensation was one of the chief reasons why they did not make adequate arrangements to secure the safety of their servants. If it could be brought home to them that their servants were in their charge, and that unless gross carelessness could be proved against the men compensation was to be paid, it would be to the direct interests of the Railway Companies to insist that care should be taken by their servants. Everyone knew that men of hardy character, like these shunters and railway servants generally were, men inured to danger, did not regard shunting as dangerous to the same extent as any hon. Members would do if they were sent to do shunting work; and, therefore, on the ground that familiarity bred contempt, they became far more liable to accidents than other people would be. Parliament must make it to the direct interest of the Railway Companies to urge men not to forget carefulness, and he trusted that the Board of Trade would take the matter up, and that in the Employers' Liability Bill some clause would be inserted tending in the direction ho had indicated. Now, he gathered from the Returns that the Railway Companies endeavoured to hide from the public the enormous loss of life and injury which shunters suffered, because they raised up the two very distinct occupations of shunters and porters in the Returns of railway accidents. The attention of the Board of Trade had, at various times, been called to the circumstances, and they had been urged to insist that the Railway Companies should separate these classes, and should specify in one column or schedule all who were railway shunters, and should specify in another column or schedule those who were porters. If that were done, the public would know the truth of this matter, and would find that the number of men engaged in shunting who were injured was out of all proportion, having regard to the ordinary doctrine of chance, to the number of men otherwise employed who were injured. Now, of all the accidents in shunting there was no one single cause which killed and injured more men than the accident of squeezing between buffers in coupling and uncoupling. In the seven years previous to 1886 deaths from that cause alone were 244, and the cases of injury 2,411, and yet there were improved appliances which might be employed, which the public knew of, and which had been pressed on the attention of the Railway Companies. These improved appliances, however, had not received either the attention of the Board of Trade to the extent they ought to have done, or the attention of the Boards of Directors. There were now coming into vogue what were called coupling poles, which were admitted to be safer, and, if possible, more expeditious, than the old method, and which entirely obviated the necessity of men coming between the railway trucks to couple and uncouple. The use of these poles ought to be made compulsory. They were very much better than anything which had been adopted or was known up to the present time; and those great and powerful corporations, the Railway Companies, could well afford to use them. Indeed, it was their duty to afford the requisite money for putting at once into employment these coupling poles, and so preventing men having to go between the buffers of railway trucks. The use of these poles, he believed, would cause an absolute stoppage of the deaths, and stoppage of the greater part of the accidents he had referred to. As soon as anything was found out, even if it were not of the most perfect description, which could obviate the number of deaths he had alluded to and the number of accidents, it was the duty of Parliament, in the interest of the subjects of the Queen, to insist on Railway Companies, even if it curtailed their dividends to some fractional amount, taking such steps as would effectually save the lives and the limbs of the poor men in their employ. Then there was the block system; he would not refer to that at any length, for it had already been alluded to by his hon. Friend (Mr. Channing). The notable accident to which his hon. Friend had referred brought to the notice of the public the fact that the Board of Trade Returns giving the number of Railway Companies that employed the block system absolutely were entirely illusory, for the block system could be suspended at any moment the Railway Companies thought fit. As a matter of fact, the Railway Companies chose to suspend the block system at the very busiest moment, just at the very moment when accidents were most likely to occur, and when there was the most imperative necessity for the block system to be maintained in all its stringency. Now, in England, all Companies had not even professed to have adopted the block system. The total number of Companies in England, or, at any rate, the total number of parts of lines where the block system was in force, was 97 per cent of the whole; and taking England, Scotland, and Ireland together, only 93 per cent of the miles of railways were under the block system; and, as he had already said, what was called an absolute block system in the Board of Trade Returns was anything but absolute. The same, only very much worse, applied to the continuous brake system. The Board of Trade Returns showed that 9 per cent of the engines and 15 per cent of the carriages were not fitted with the continuous brake, and it was not at all certain that the balance of engines and carriages were so fitted, although the Board of Trade Returns stated that they were. They were fitted with portions of the system. Some had the pipe, some had the mechanical appliances, some had brakes; but it was well known that the whole of the 91 per cent of engines and the 85 per cent of carriages were not fitted with any continuous brake system which would stand the test to which they were liable. Parliament ought to insist, for the protection both of railway servants and of passengers, that the continuous brake system, the automatic brake system, should be compulsorily enforced; and not merely so, but that there should bo an uniform system for the whole country. Because, if there was not, when the carriages of one Company came on the lines of another Company, it was not certain that the appliances of the one Company would fit in with the appliances of the other Company, and, therefore, the best precautions that might have been taken might be rendered nugatory. The very simplest requirements of the Board of Trade were not even carried out by the Railway Companies. The Board of Trade Returns showed very startling facts under the column headed, "Non-fulfilment of the usual requirements of the Inspecting Officers of the Board of Trade." The "usual requirements" in respect of the concentration of signal and point levers had not been complied with in 4,674 cases; in respect of interlocking signal and point levers, in 4,400 cases; and in respect of the addition of safety points in goods lines, in 2,721 cases. All these cases already proved that the Railway Companies were not doing their duty to their servants or to the public in providing the best possible appliances that were known at the present day. He would not give the figures in reference to overtime, though possibly they were not known to many hon. Members. He did not propose, of course, that overtime should be absolutely forbidden in cases of breakdown and of special emergency; but it was most unreasonable for the safety of travellers, and unreasonable with regard to due diligence and care being exercised by the men, that overtime should be allowed to the extent it was in signal boxes. He had spoken to many railway men on this subject; he was speaking to a guard in whose van he travelled only yesterday, on the question of overtime. That guard told him that he had been a signalman himself for eight years, and that during that time his minimum day's work was 10 hours, but that he often worked a very much longer time. He added that he was a strong man, yet he found that the last two hours were always excessively trying, and that he was not in a position to do his duty as well as it ought to have been done. If the men only worked 10 hours a day there would not be much to be said concerning it, but they worked constantly 12 and even 13 hours on the busier lines. It was stated two years ago by the secretary of the Railway Servants' Society that 80 per cent of the signalmen worked 12 hours a-day. If that was really the case, he contended that, in the in- terest of the travelling public and of the workmen themselves, Parliament was entitled to insist that this overtime should be stopped. There were two remedies which he ventured to suggest for this evil state of affairs, and one was that there should be a different class of Inspectors. It was very right to have experienced Inspectors—men who had high scientific training, men who were skilled engineers; but he believed that practical men, men trained in the railway service, men who had been engineers, drivers, guards, and signalmen employed. on the large works of Railway Companies, men who had been brought up to this work from boyhood, would make better Inspectors than the most highly-trained experts of the Board of Trade. If they appointed such men Inspectors, they would give more confidence to railway servants, and would also open up an ambition to railway servants to do their duty well, in the hope that they would have some promotion of the kind offered to them in the course of years; but, above all, they would get a thoroughly efficient set of Inspectors, because they would get men who, knowing the dangers of the work, would be best able to find them out. In the second place, the remedy he had to suggest was that they should make the Railway Companies liable for injury to their servants. The men could very properly argue that they incurred risk, and the relatives of those who were killed could very properly plead that the men had lost their lives in the interest of the service of the Company. It could be properly argued that they had sustained injury in expediting the traffic, and in endeavouring to make the lines work smoothly. An immense number of accidents did occur in this way, and the Railway Companies were not doing their best to check them. When they considered that an immense number of these accidents arose from the non-observance of the block system, and through the want of continuous brakes and of proper coupling apparatus, and through the immense amount of shunting which went on in the dark, or with such inefficient lights that the men could not properly do their work, they must come to the conclusion that it was simply a question of money. If the Railway Companies would expend the necessary amount of money in providing better appliances, these accidents would not happen, and therefore it was not true that the accidents were due entirely to the carelessness of the men; as a matter of fact, they were due far more largely to the carelessness of the Railway Companies. It was quite evident that the enormous loss of life, and still more the enormous injury to limb which he had mentioned, was due, to a great extent, to causes which might be remedied by a more free expenditure of money on the part of the Railway Companies, and therefore he held that Parliament ought to hold the Railway Companies responsible. He trusted the House would insist, by every means in its power, upon the Railway Companies providing every precaution, no matter what might be the expenditure of money that was necessary.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable to deal more effectually with preventible causes of accidents to Railway servants and the public, and to reduce the excessive hours of labour among several classes of Railway servants; and that it is expedient to further extend, by legislation, the powers of the Board of Trade to insist on the adoption by Railway Companies of more adequate arrangements to secure the safety of their servants and the public, and to obtain from Railway Companies periodical returns of all cases in which their servants have been on duty for more than twelve hours at a time, or have been sent on duty without an interval of nine hours rest."—(Mr. Channing.)


said, the subject was one of very great interest and importance; but he thought that the evident dis-inclination of hon. Members to continue the debate showed that the House did not look upon the question as one capable of anything like immediate solution, if of solution at all, on the lines laid down in the Motion. The hon. Member for East Northampton (Mr. Channing) appeared to think that all he desired would be met by an increase of the powers of the Board of Trade; but the hon. Member for the Crewe Division of Cheshire (Mr. M'Laren) looked at the question from quite another point of view. He formally seconded the Motion, but he by no means seconded the speech of the hon. Member for East Northampton, because he seemed to think that the best way of preventing accidents in the future would be to increase the liability of the shareholders. The hon. Member spoke of the carelessness of the Company's servants, and seemed to argue that that could be cured by imposing greater liability on the shareholders, whose rules those men broke. He confessed that was an argument which he failed to follow. He did, however, think that the right way of dealing with this question was by maintaining and insisting upon the responsibility of the Companies rather than by imposing very onerous and impossible duties on the Government of the country. It was true that the law allowed the Board of Trade to exact very stringent conditions from new Railway Companies before giving them a certificate for the opening of their lines; but as soon as a line was opened, with one or two exceptions, the condition of things was practically this—that the sole and undivided responsibility for its proper working rested with the Company and the Directors. That might be right or it might be wrong, but it was a policy which Parliament had consistently maintained for many years, and he thought that it had had this advantage—that by the maintenance of that responsibility the Companies had been induced, in their own interest, to take steps for their own protection and for the protection of their servants and customers—steps which they could never have been induced to take had not the responsibility rested entirely on their own shoulders. The Board of Trade already had the power of inspecting railways and rolling stock at any time. They had the power and the right and duty, when an accident had happened, to send an Inspector to inquire and report, and the results were laid before Parliament and the public. The Companies in that way had the pressure of public opinion brought to bear upon them. This power of inspection and publication, together with the liability of the Company to heavy damages and the loss of custom through public mistrust, were penalties greater than any that could he imposed by any Act of Parliament. He thought it could not be denied that the present system, at any rate, had done good in diminishing the risk of accidents on railways. He would give to the House a few statistics with regard to this matter. During the last 15 years, since the Report of the Commission on Railway Accidents, there could be no doubt whatever that the precautions against danger taken by the Railway Companies had been very largely extended. In the first place, a general system of signals had been adopted, which was not in use before. In 1873 49 per cent of double line was worked on the absolute block system, but in 1887 the percentage was 93. In 1873 39 per cent of the points and signals interlocked, while in 1887 89 per cent interlocked. There was an equal improvement in the adoption of continuous brake power. In 1880 12 per cent of the engines and 7 per cent of the carriages complied with the conditions of the Board of Trade circular, and 15 per cent of the engines and 29 per cent of the carriages partly complied with it, making a total of 27 per cent of the engines and 36 per cent of the carriages wholly or partly complying with the circular, and 73 per cent of the engines and 64 per cent of the carriages not complying at all. In 1887 54 per cent of the engines and 59 per cent of the carriages complied wholly with the circular, and 39 per cent and 31 per cent partly, and only 7 per cent of the engines and 10 per cent of the carriages did not comply with the circular at all. The House must admit that that had been a great advance. The result had been that, though the number of travellers and the speed of the trains had greatly increased, the proportion of accidents had enormously diminished; and he thought the Record of English Railway Companies, considering the work they did, was a very remarkable one. The Returns showed that in 5,500,000 of journeys in 1874 one passenger was killed through causes beyond his own control, and one in 296,000 injured. In 1886, in 90,500,000 of journeys, one passenger was killed, and one in 1,179,000 injured. He quite admitted that the statistics were not so favourable with regard to railway servants; but even bore there had been an improvement, considering the great increase of their work and the increased number and speed of trains. Ho thought it would be most unwise on the part of Parliament to alter the general policy which had been adopted in this matter by doing anything which would tend to hand over the direction or administra- tion of the Railways to the Board of Trade, because if the Board of Trade was to be made responsible for the public safety generally on railways it must have power to order changes of a most important character. That was a position in which he hoped the House would never place the Government of the country. Of course, it had always been recognized that there were details of management as to which it might be right to entrust the Board of Trade with powers to enforce regulations upon the Companies. For instance, both as to the loss of life and the danger incurred, level crossings were no doubt a prolific source of accidents. Power was now given to the Board of Trade with regard to railways opened since 1863 to compel the substitution of a bridge for a level crossing, and he was disposed to think that that power might properly be extended so as to apply to all railways; but there, again, he would remind the House that year after year the Board of Trade had objected to level crossings in new Railway Bills, and yet until lately it had been almost invariably the rule that Private Bill Committees had neglected the Reports of the Board of Trade and permitted level crossings. The hon. Member had spoken a good deal of the accidents from the present system of coupling. That was no doubt a great source of accidents to railway servants; but though the method of coupling of which the hon. Gentleman had spoken, might be a great improvement on the want of system which now prevailed, there was no particular method so generally acknowledged as satisfactory that the Board of Trade ought to impose it upon Railway Companies. The Board of Trade ought not to impose any system which was still sub judice. It might be said that the block system and the interlocking of points and signals, accompanied by some sort of continuous brake, were things which the Board of Trade ought to have power to enforce. But the hon. Member who seconded the Motion urged that, unless the same form of continuous brake was employed, the danger would not be removed. He was not prepared to say that there was one form of continuous brake so much better than every other form that it should be forced on all the railways of the country. Whatever way they looked at the question they were face to face with considerable difficulties. He had followed the action of his Predecessor at the Board of Trade in declining to include the question of public safety in the Railway and Canal Traffic Bill, because he had thought it impossible to deal with the many questions open to discussion which would be then raised without overloading the Bill to a degree which might endanger its becoming law this Session. But he could undertake, in reply to this Motion, that he would carefully look into those points to which he had alluded, and would endeavour, at the earliest opportunity he could find, to ask Parliament to deal with them in the sense he had indicated. He quite agreed with what had bean said by the hon. Member as to the importance of obtaining returns from the Railway Companies with regard to overtime. He thought, however, that it would be absolutely impossible to prohibit overtime. You must have it in some cases where there was a special press of work, and what was overtime—he meant in the interest of the public—in one kind of employment would not be overtime in another kind. What was wanted was that the public should know what was being done in the matter. To that point also he would attend. He should be glad to deal with this subject before long, but he was afraid he could hold out no hope of doing so this Session. It would, however, receive his attention, because, while declining to relieve the Railway Companies of responsibility, he felt that there was a responsibility on the Board of Trade to care for the public safety so far as it properly could, and in these minor points he thought something could be done more than was done at present.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,

MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)

said, he thought the hon. Gentleman who had moved the Resolution had done well in bringing it forward in a form which made it incumbent on the Government either to promise to legislate on the question or meet the Resolution with a direct negative. He was glad the right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Trade had promised to legislate. Though the right hon. Baronet's promise was not so fall and ample as it could be desired, yet he (Mr. Mundella) thought the fact that the President of the Board of Trade acknowledged that he had not sufficient power to enable him to deal with railways which came before him at the Board of Trade, even to enforce the most reasonable requirements for safety upon some Railway Companies, was in itself an advantage, and one which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Channing) might be congratulated upon. The position of the Board of Trade in relation to railways had been correctly stated by the right hon. Baronet. It was quite true that when a railway was first inspected for the purpose of launching it upon the world, the Board of Trade might make demands upon it, and satisfy itself that in all respects the railway met the most modern requirements, and was about to be worked upon the most approved system; but after the railway had once started, the Board of Trade had no power to enforce even the most established and well-tried arrangements that might be necessary for the public safety. He (Mr. Mundella) remembered a case that was put before him about two years ago. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), who was not now in his place, was President of the Board of Trade, he had before him the case of a Scotch line, which had become very antiquated in all its appliances, and had run down its stock very much and had been subject to several accidents. Although letters were written on the subject and Inspectors reported against the line, nothing could be done to enforce even the most moderate improvements until the railway came to Parliament for a Bill, and then his right hon. Friend said to them: "Until you fulfil the necessary requirements for safety on your line, I will oppose your Bill, and every Bill you may introduce." That showed how utterly helpless the Board of Trade was to enforce upon Railway Companies even the most reasonable requirements for public safety. He (Mr. Mundella) had been very glad to hear the right hon. Baronet opposite enumerate the questions upon which he thought he had established proofs of the utility of appliances which had gone beyond the mere stage of experiment. He (Mr. Mundella) quite admitted that that would be very dangerous indeed to entrust the Board of Trade with power to enforce every new invention upon Railway Companies, but he was quite sure that there was no fear that the Board of Trade would arbitrarily force Railway Companies to unnecessary expense; but in enumerating the respects in which he thought the Board of Trade had a right to force the Companies the right hon. Gentleman had mentioned interlocking signals, continuous brakes, and an efficient block system. The right hon. Baronet, he thought, had expressed some doubt as to coupling, as that question was still sub judice, and no doubt it was true that there was no system of automatic coupling which, as yet, had arrived at such a pitch of perfection as to warrant the Board of Trade in requiring the Companies to adopt it. There was no doubt that the Companies themselves were largely interested in the adoption of the best improvements, but with regard to the greatest source of danger to which railway servants were exposed, there could be no doubt that the coupling pole, simple as it was, was efficient and remarkably expeditious. The best proof which he could give of this was to state that he was present at the trial which took place in 1886 at Derby with the whole of the Midland Railway Directors, when a number of trains were ranged before them and were coupled on different systems, and when the coupling pole was used so dexterously by the men in the employment of the Midland Company that the directors were perfectly satisfied that no better or more expeditious system had been up to that moment devised. There could be no doubt that if the coupling pole were in general use there would be a large diminution in the number of those frightful accidents which occurred from time to time amongst railway servants in consequence of the operation of coupling. He had no hesitation in saying that the coupling pole had passed out of the region of experiment into that of accomplished fact. He thought that when the right hon. Baronet brought in his Bill it would be well for him to require in it that railway servants in future should not be under the necessity of coupling by direct process and exposure, but should do the work by coupling poles. He quite agreed that it was marvellous that the passenger traffic of this country could be conducted with so few accidents and with such little loss of life as we generally experienced. It was marvellous that there was to be noticed a steady diminution in the number of passengers who suffered from accidents; but it was to be regretted that that was hot quite the case with regard to railway servants. If the right hon. Baronet would refer to the statistics for a few years past—take the last three years for instance—he would find that in that period not only was there no diminution in the number of accidents to railway servants as compared with the preceding years, but he was afraid they would show rather an increase than otherwise. But it was creditable both to the railway servants and to the whole railway management of the country that passengers could travel with almost absolute impunity so far as loss of life was concerned. The hon. Member for Crewe (Mr. M'Laren) had given them statistics from the Returns of 1887, dealing with the year 1886, and he (Mr. Mundella) found that, whereas only eight passengers were killed from accidents to trains, rolling stock, or permanent way, the number of railway servants killed by accidents to trains was 421, and from other causes 81, making a total of more than 500 railway servants killed besides 2,036 injured in 1886. The record of 1887, he was afraid, was not a favourable one. The concluding paragraph of the Return was as follows:— Thus the total number of accidents reported to the Board of Trade by the several Railway Companies during the year —and this included cases of suicide and accidents to persons crossing lines— amounts to 989 persons killed and 7,107 injured. Well, that was a fearful tale of loss of life and injury occurring annually, and, so far as the railway servants were concerned; they were deserving of all the protection which could possibly be given to them in this House. He found that for the seven years ending in the year 1885, that the number of railway servants absolutely killed in the discharge of their duty was 1,075, whilst the number injured was 10,111. Now, the right hon. Baronet also foreshadowed that, in addition to laying down regulations for the use of such improvements as he had specified in his speech, and which he (Mr. Mundella) had enumerated, that they should have periodical Returns with respect to the hours of overwork and duty during which railway servants were employed. He thought the Return recently moved for by Earl De La Warr had thrown a good deal of light on the hours of duty and long service of railway servants. No doubt, guards and engine drivers of good strength were often shunted to sidings and had to remain. there for hours on duty without being actively employed; but, still, when a man was on duty away from home for 19 or 20 hours at a stretch, sometimes exposed to inclement weather, they could hardly expect that diligence and self-control from him that they would have had a right to look forward to from those employés under other circumstances. He thought the right hon. Baronet was quite right in not having dealt with this question of safety in the Railway Bill before the House, because that Bill was essentially one for dealing with rates and not with the question of safety. He sincerely hoped that the right hon. Baronet would find time during the present Session to bring in a short Bill dealing with the question, and there could be no reason why that Bill should not be read a second time at once. It would be read a second time almost without discussion, and would go upstairs to the Grand Committee on Trade, and they might even during the present Session secure the passing of a measure which would accomplish very much of what had been foreshadowed. He thought the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Chaining) would make a great mistake if he divided the House upon the question after the promise they had received from the right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Trade. The hon. Member had every reason to expect that a fair and adequate measure would be laid before Parliament, and in case that measure should not be so full and ample as he desired, he would have an opportunity when it was before the House of moving Amendments upon it. After the very fair, reasonable, and satisfactory offer which the right hon. Baronet had made, he (Mr. Mundella) thought it would be almost ungracious to divide against him on this question. One word more as to the necessity for the Bill which the right hon. Baronet foreshadowed. The right hon. Baronet was desirous, and rightly so, not to put responsibility on the Board of Trade which ought to be borne by the Railway Companies themselves. Therein, no doubt, the House would support him, but what could be more unsatisfactory, more humiliating than that the officers of the Board of Trade should again and again, year after year, when accidents had occurred, report these accidents to this House without any result whatever following? One illustration of this would be sufficient—and he thought it was referred to by the hon. Member behind him—namely, the case of the Penistone accident. General Hutchinson reported that the collision would no doubt have been prevented if the train had been fitted with a good automatic continuous brake. He added that it was very unsatisfactory to find from the Returns for the half-year ending June 30, that this Company had done nothing towards supplying its rolling stock with automatic brakes, notwithstanding the warning it received in the very serious accident which occurred near Penistone, in July, 1884, when there was reason to believe that had the train bean provided with a good automatic brake, the consequence of the accident would have been greatly mitigated. He (Mr. Mundella) could not conceive anything more humiliating than to have to report again and again that certain appliances which were in use in ail the best railways, and which were necessary for the safety of the public—that they should report after a frightful accident in 1884, and another in 1885, and another in 1886, and still have no power to enforce their view upon the Company which took no steps to alter the state of things on its line. He sincerely trusted that the right hon. Baronet would strengthen himself against the helpless position in which the Board of Trade found itself. In conclusion, he would merely remark that there was something to be said for the suggestion made by one hon. Member, and that was that if the right hon. Baronet would introduce such a measure as that which he had foreshadowed, that under that measure he would appoint Sub-inspectors whose duty it would be to consider these points. There might only be one or two required, but they should be practical men, familiar with the working of railways, and it should be their duty to inspect the railways and railway management solely with a view to safety, so far as it was affected by the questions dealt with in this Motion. On the whole, he thought they ought to be grateful for the readiness with which the right hon. Baronet had promised to deal with the subject, and he trusted the hon. Member who had moved the Motion would not make the mistake of dividing against such a good offer.

MR. W. ABRAHAM (Glamorgan, Rhondda)

said, that though it was evident that the House was not in a mood for long speeches this evening, he must ask to be allowed to offer a few remarks on two particular points of the Resolution moved by his hon. Friend. There could be no denying the fact that the amount of overwork imposed on the various classes of railway servants by the excessive labour referred to in the Resolution, was not only injurious to the health of the men themselves, but dangerous to their lives, as well as the safety of the travelling public. The figures contained in the Returns of the Board of Trade disclosed such a state of things that great sympathy had been created for these men. Though they were told this evening by the right hon. Baronet—and they were very glad to hear it—that accidents to travellers on the railways had largely diminished, still there had been no satisfactory reduction in the number of accidents to railway servants themselves, and in the loss of life amongst railway servants; moreover, it was well known that the men were compelled to work under such a system of overtime as could not be conducive to their safety, a system which ought not to be allowed to be carried out to the extent to which it was now adopted, especially considering that these men carried not only their own lives in their hands, so to speak, but also the lives of other people. That it was time to pay attention to this question was evidenced and demonstrated by the fact that the men themselves were now fearlessly taking steps in the matter, and creating public interest in their demand throughout the length and breadth of the land; and if further argument were needed, and facts as well, they had but to follow these men through the various meetings which they now held in several centres to find reasons strong enough to make good their case. At a meeting of railway servants held at Cardiff, a fortnight ago, great interest was taken in the matter, and a resolution on the point was unanimously carried. The resolution was to the effect that that meeting of Cardiff railway men of all grades, and connected with five railways, testified their hearty approval of the action taken by Earl De La Warr, the Nobleman who moved a similar Motion in the other House, for Returns of the number of hours per diem during which railway men were required to work. The meeting declared that whilst the fact of this Nobleman calling public attention to this matter secured nothing to the railway servants through the Board of Trade, yet, as calling public attention to the subject, it would prove a wholesome deterrent, so far as the Railway Companies were concerned. The resolution also expressed a hope that every effort would be made, in and out of Parliament, to secure Returns on an improved plan. The chairman of the meeting had invited. those present to give their experience as to prolonged periods of duty, giving it as his own personal opinion that no more conclusive evidence of the existence of a real grievance in that locality could be furnished than by the Board of Trade Returns, which showed that within a period of two months there were no fewer than 2,000 cases of over-work on the Taff Railway alone. A number of railway men accepted the chairman's invitation. The first urged the imperative need to the public, if only for the sake of their own safety, to come forward and insist on making these long hours of duty impossible. This person declared that the present system was not only dangerous to the railway servants and the public, but injurious to the health of the former, and that it had demoralizing effects generally. Another railway man said. that the evil was the more pronounced in those cases where the men ended their 15 or 16 or 17 hours work late at night; that in such cases there was always danger of a man's falling asleep at his post An engine driver at the meeting stated that the Board of Trade Returns, startling as they were, did not reveal the facts in all their soberness. Acting upon the suggestion of the chairman. the men submitted statements as to the hours they were on duty in the week. One man stated. that during the past week he had been for two days working 17 hours a-day, one day 13 hours, and the fourth day 22 humus, 69 hours in all, or one hour over 17 hours a-day for four days. In another instance the hours were first day 20, the second day 10 hours, the third day 12, the fourth day 19–61 hours in all, or one hour over 15 hours a-day for four clays. A paper was handed to the secretary showing that during the past week an employé present at the meeting had put in the following hours:—The first day 23 hours 40 minutes, second, day 20 hours, third day 10 hours 30 minutes, fourth day 12 hours, and fifth day 12 hours, in all 88 hours in five days, or half-an-hour over 17½ hours in each of five days. Well, not to carry the matter to an extreme, it appeared to him that 15 hours per day was considered by Railway Directors and Railway Companies to be very fair and reasonable week. Fifteen hours a-day! It was the general experience of railway men of all grades as to the work they had to do that to travel in a train for 10 or 12 hours so unnerved them as to unfit them for further duty for that day, unnerved them more than the hardest day's work they could perform elsewhere. Such appeared to be the result of the shock the nervous system got in a train. That being the case with a traveller in a train, making, if they liked, every reasonable allowance for the usage, and being accustomed to stand on the engines and so forth, what could be said of a man who had. to stand on his engine for 15 hours a-day? Not only had a man to stand in charge of a delicate piece of machinery, but he had to be looking out before him, watching this point and that point and turning round and staring about him all day. It was enough to unnerve any man, and it was no wonder that so many of these men were colour blind. The wonder was that they saw so much. It would be no surprise to him if they became stone blind, seeing what they had to do and the hours they had to work. A noble Lord, speaking on this subject in the other House a few days ago, said that there was an order on one of our great railways—namely, the London and. North-Western—to the effect that all men who found themselves on duty for 15 hours must immediately report themselves, or report the circumstances to the master at the station at which they stopped, in order that relief might be ready for them at the next available station. Well, that being so, it seemed that that fixed the minimum number of hours work after which the men were entitled to seek relief at 15. They were not entitled to seek relief until they had been on their engines 15 hours per day. Certainly that was not Hutch to boast of—it was not much for a wealthy Company to boast of, much less for the men themselves to be thankful for. Still much capital was made out of this fact that an order had. been issued that the men were to be relieved after 15 hours' work. But he ventured to say in this House that that order, though good so far as it went, was either thoroughly impracticable under present arrangements or thoroughly unpopular with the railway officials—either one or the other, or perhaps both. The figures in the Returns alluded to clearly showed that the order had not reduced overwork upon that line to any appreciable degree, for no less than 5,710 cases occurred in one month in which engine drivers and firemen were employed for 16 hours and upwards. To talk about the regulation in face of figures of that kind was inconsistent; and it might with reason be asked if the regulation had lessened overwork at all, what would have been the condition of things if no such regulation had been made? Certainly, he said again, there was nothing to boast of. Had the limit been fixed at 12 or some lesser number of hours, some praise might have been awarded to the Company for this seemingly honest attempt to arrest the practice of working excessive hours; but when the Company allowed 15 hours to be worked before it thought it time to intervene, there was nothing whatever to be thankful for. It appeared to him that though the order in question had done but little good, had it not been made at all these railway servants would have been like perpetual motion machines, required to go round and round and round until they could go round no more—to go round until they dropped at their work, like the colliery horses, which some colliery proprietors worked till they fell, and then turned them aside for new ones.

MR. MAC INNES (Northumberland, Hexham)

said, they had all of them to thank his hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire for what had been a very interesting and, he thought he might say, a profitable discussion, and perhaps, before the debate terminated, it might not be unreasonable if a few words were said by someone connected with the Railway interest. They had he1trd a good many suggestions to-night, and, amongst others, it had been proposed by the hon. Member who moved the Resolution, and the hon. Member who seconded it, that increased powers should be put into the hands of the President of the Board of Trade; but he (Mr. Mac Innes), for one, was not surprised to hear both the present holder of that Office and the right hon. Gentleman who sat below (Mr. Mundella) state that they were far from willing to accept that responsibility. The Board of Trade were always likely to be asked to accept fresh responsibilities, and to be pressed in various directions from different quarters. Tonight it was suggested that, in addition to the many responsibilities that already rested upon them, they should undertake a further one in connection with railway management, and certainly, so far as Railway Companies were concerned, there was no responsibility they would more gladly see handed over to the President of the Board of Trade, and the officials who surrounded him, than the solemn responsibility of the safety of human life. He (Mr. Mac Innes) did not propose at that late hour to weary the House with any long observations, and he had risen for the purpose merely of saying a few words in reply to the insinuation which had been thrown out that Railway Companies, and those responsible for the management of railways, were indifferent to human life. Much had been said to-night about the small number of fatal accidents amongst railway passengers, and they were thankful that there was such a marked decrease in the number of those accidents; but so long as the railways of this country reckoned their mileage by millions of miles, and the public insisted upon their journeys being effected at great speed, they could not venture to hope that the days of terrible railway accidents were yet passed. So long as railway journeys were run at the present speed, and millions of miles were run every year, so long would they from time to time hear of what the hon. Gentleman below him had styled, and styled justly, those "ghastly accidents;" and when they read, as they were in the habit of reading from time to time, of these terrible accidents, who, did the house think, felt these circumstances most acutely? As people walked along the streets and saw on the newspaper placards the announcement, "Another terrible railway accident." they were all shocked; but to the ordinary passer-by it occasioned. no more, possibly, than a sensation for the moment, whilst to the railway man it was something much more—something in the nature of a personal disaster, especially if the accident occurred on a line for which he was in any way responsible. It was not surprising, under the circumstances, that the President of the Board of Trade and the right hon Gentleman the Member for Sheffield both shrunk from responsibility as to the protection of life in connection with railway management. What were the suggestions with regard to the deficiencies of the railway system in connection with the prevention of accidents made to-night? They might be summed up in two words—want of safety appliances and want of further outlay of money. With regard to the first point—namely, want of safety appliances, it had been very well set before the House to-night by the President of the Board of Trade that the Board of Trade were unwilling to take upon themselves the responsibility of deciding upon the relative merits of the various inventions which from time to time were brought before the country. As a matter of fact, the Railway Companies' difficulty in this respect was the difficulty of arriving at a decision between one invention as against another, rather than a question of money. It was difficult for one Railway Company to make up its mind to accept an invention which might to another Railway Company have appeared desirable in preference to several other inventions. He himself had sat for some years on a Railway Board and had heard these questions very frequently discussed. He had heard questions with regard to signals and automatic brakes, couplings, and so on—questions affecting alterations and additions; and whatever might be the points which weighed with the Directors on these occasions, he had never heard any question of money brought forward when it was a matter of the saving of human life. Whenever there was a question of rendering human life more safe or of preventing the occurrence of accidents, he had never heard the money point put forward. Of course, it did not follow that the question of money did not come in, and regard might be had to it, for instance, in connection with a new brake when several inventions were before a Company which were regarded as of equal value in other respects. But when a Railway Company was satisfied that an inventor had made out his case, the money question did not come in. He had risen for the purpose of drawing attention to what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who had seconded the Resolution, for he had seemed to imply that on this point the Railway Companies were influenced mainly by their pockets. The hon. Member had used several expressions of a rather strong character. He had spoken of the "requisite money" being found and had alluded to the fears entertained with regard to the adoption of certain arrangements curtailing dividends, and fears that greater compensation might have to be paid by the Railway Companies. He (Mr. Mac Innes) altogether denied that properly managed Railway Companies were influenced by such questions as this. The hon. Member had referred to the new coupling-poles, and it was notorious that these had been adopted by some Railway Companies, and that others had not availed themselves of them because they were not yet convinced of their utility. But did anyone think that the expense of purchasing these poles would deter any Railway Company from adopting them if they thought for a moment that they would be efficacious for the purpose of preserving the lives of their servants from danger? He deeply deplored the sad tale of death and suffering which had to be told in connection with the work of railway servants. He welcomed a discussion such as this, because suggestions were desired from every quarter which would tend in any way to diminish the fatalities amongst these people. When he heard the statement made as to greater care being taken of the life of the guard of a passenger train than of the life of the guard of a goods train, he wondered at its being possible for anyone to make such a suggestion; but when the House came to consider the case of a guard of a goods train, they would admit that they were approaching the consideration of a large class of the community who were undoubtedly engaged in a hazardous occupation. They found on all hands, if they looked at the mortality statistics, that there were many classes of the community exposed to far greater risks than others. Members of this House would admit that they and their families were not as a body exposed to such great risks as soldiers, sailors, navvies, dock labourers, and people engaged in rough kinds of work, who, at all times and in all countries, were more exposed to risks than other people. Railway servants must be placed in the same category, for, compared with the condition of other classes of the community, their occupation rendered it necessary for them to run great risks. He, for one, was thankful when he heard of any new appliance being brought out or when he heard any suggestion made, from whatever quarter it came, which tended to diminish the fatal and sad tale of suffering and death which they heard from time to time. With regard to the question of railway servants working overtime, he agreed with what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) that any Railway Company that would allow its servants to work 19 or 20 hours at a stretch was monstrously neglecting its duty; and when he had listened to the remarks of the hon. Member for the Rhondda Valley (Mr. W. Abrahams) he could not help wishing that the hon. Gentleman was able to give them full particulars of the cases to which he referred. He (Mr. Mac Innes) did not know the facts of the cases, but he could almost take it upon himself to say that in no case was a driver ever allowed to drive his engine 15 hours at a time. That, he should imagine, was quite an impossibility. He took it that the circumstances of the cases referred to would be these: that the drivers were in charge of goods trains in specially bad weather during the prevalence of fogs or snowstorms. They must have been detained through blocks from the snow or fog. Drivers were frequently prevented in this way from going forward for some hours, being obliged to remain on a siding or in a station, and beyond the fact that a man would be away from home for the long period referred to, and to some extent would be exposed to the inclemency of the weather, he would not be engaged in driving his engine, or would not be on the footplate the whole time. As to the case to which attention had been drawn of the Company that instructed its men, after 15 hours on duty, to apply for relief at the nearest station, the hon. Member seemed to think that 15 hours was considered the usual and regular working period for the Company's servants. So far as he (Mr. Mac Innes) knew anything about railway management he should say that the hon. Member added something like 50 per cent to the usual period that it was was understood that railway servants were employed. He believed 10 hours a-day was more like the time for which a driver or fireman was expected to remain on duty. Passenger drivers and firemen might be able to keep within those limits, but any hon. Member who thought over the circumstances attending our goods traffic up and down the country, would at once see that in exceptional weather such as we had in the month of January—and he believed the hon. Member's cases occurred in that month—when fog and snow prevailed, fireman and drivers must be detained sometimes for a long period away from home. He (Mr. Mac Innes) was the last man to wish to minimize the facts brought forward by the hon. Member for the Rhondda Valley. It had so happened that a case had been brought under his notice where a driver had been away from home 20¼ hours. The case at first sight appeared most startling, but, on inquiry, it was found that-out of these 20¼ hours 10 had been spent at a terminus. No doubt, the man was away from home, and had to report himself on duty for 20¼ hours, but the House would see that the case was very different from that of a man who was employed at his ordinary work for that length of time, although he was reported as doing 20¼ hours' work. He had not risen to speak of this question of overtime, however, but to protest against the insinuation that any question of the curtailment of dividends, or of finding the requisite money for com- pensation, had any weight with those concerned in the management of our railways when they had to consider that most precious thing—the life and safety not only of the passengers they carried but of those they employed in their service.

MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)

said, he would not detain the House for more than a few moments. He regretted very much that in dealing with a question like this affecting the interests of between 200,000 and 300,000 railway servants, there was no person connected with that class in this House. He was sure that the railway servants in the country would be grateful to the hon. Member for Northamptonshire for the very able and lucid manner in which he had brought this matter before the House this evening. They would also be grateful to the President of the Board of Trade—if the right hon. Baronet would allow him to say so—for the conciliatory spirit in which he had received the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. He (Mr. Fenwick) did not claim to speak with any special knowledge of the question affecting railway servants, and his object in rising was chiefly to urge upon the President of the Board of Trade the necessity of doing something, and that as soon as he possibly could see his way clear, to shorten the hours of these railway servants. He was very glad to observe that the right hon. Baronet was much impressed with the important question of overtime, and probably this subject was one which was more prolific of railway accidents than any other cause whatsoever. He would chiefly call the attention of the President of the Board of Trade to a Report which was made on the accident that occurred at Chevingtou, on the North Eastern Company's line, in the month of October, 1887. The Report, dealing with this accident, was made to the Board of Trade by Major Marindin, and it would probably be within the recollection of the right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Trade, what the nature of that Report was. Major Marindin called special attention in his Report to the question of overtime, and after stating that there was a necessity for a greater amount of brake power on goods trains, especially fast goods trains, and stating the necessity for steam brakes on the engines, ho said that the attention of the Company should be called to what might be considered as having probably been one of the principal causes of this collision—a collision in which much personal injury was done to those in charge of the train, and in which very considerable damage was done to the rolling stock—and that was the excessively long hours of work of some of the men employed. The House would probably be surprised to learn that one of the drivers in charge of one of these goods trains had been on duty for 17½ hours the day previous to the accident, and went on duty again after having been only allowed 7¼ hours rest. At the time of the accident this man had already been on duty 13½ hours—and if all had gone well he would have remained on duty three hours more—making in all, as Major Marindin said, a period of 31 hours duty out of 38¼ hours, leaving out of consideration the time occupied by the man in going from his home to his work and back. Major Marindin further reported— Such hours of work should not be tolerated, either in justice to the men themselves or in justice to the travelling public, for it is quite impossible for the drivers, however good they may be, to work for such a time without becoming worn out and inattentive and unfit for such responsible duties. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last (Mr. Mac Innes) had declared that the hon. Member for the Rhondda Valley (Mr. W. Abraham) had overstated the case when he related to the House the circumstance of an engine driver having been on duty 15 hours.


I said, I believed he had overstated the case in saying that the man had been 15 hours on his engine.


said, he held in his hand an analysis of the Return which was presented to the House of Lords a short time ago on the Motion of Earl De La Warr. He would not trouble the House with the whole of it, but he would give some figures as to the hours the drivers and firemen were on duty—and whether being on duty meant the driver being on his engine or employed in other responsible work he would leave the House to determine. The number of drivers and firemen in connection with the whole of the Companies given in the Return, who were on duty for 15 hours, was 88,444. Those who were on duty for 16 hours numbered 46,104; those who were on duty for 17 hours were 22,130; and those who were on duty for 18 hours numbered 20,843; so here they had an enormous number of firemen and drivers who were on duty not only for 15 hours but for 18 hours on a stretch. He thought that no hon. Member would be prepared to contend that men were fitted and capable for the discharge of such important duties as railway servants were called upon to discharge after having been on duty either for 18 hours or 15 hours, and he would press on the attention of the right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Trade, that in any measure which he intended to present to Parliament on this question he should endeavour, to some extent., to limit or to provide for the reduction of the amount of overtime during which railway servants were called upon to attend to their duties. It was as much in the interest of the travelling public as in the interest of the railway servants themselves that this question was pressed home upon the President of the Board of Trade. They might be told that it was not right for Parliament to interfere with adult labour; but the only way in which justice could be procured by the persons affected was by organizing themselves, and trying conclusions with their employers. That, however, would inflict considerable inconvenience on the travelling public, and the trade and commerce of the district covered by these lines of railway. They all knew what serious inconvenience was caused to the commerce of the country by the strike on the Midland Railway not long ago, and how the President of the Board of Trade had been pressed to interfere in the matter. The railway servants could only bring about a reduction of their hours in the way he pointed out, and if the right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Trade could devise a scheme the effect of which would be to reduce the maximum of overtime work he would be doing good service to the country. No doubt, there would be great difficulty in getting rid of overtime alto ether in the case of railway servants, but he hoped that something would be done to diminish the existing evil.

MR. Edward Harrington (Kerry, W.)

said, that before the Motion was withdrawn he wished, as an Irish Member, to say that he agreed more with the putting forward of the Motion than with its withdrawal. He believed that this was one of those Motions designed to elicit a large amount of philosophical sympathy from both sides of the House, and which, having produced that effect, was withdrawn, and never came to anything. If, however, it were marked by a Division, in which the voices of hon. Members would be interpreted by votes, there would be something to go by. He considered that the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Mac Innes) made a very sensible speech; but it must be remembered that hon. Members were not always able to divest themselves of those interests which they largely represented when they were called upon to discuss questions affecting those interests. The hon. Member was one of the Railway Directors who sat in the House, and what he (Mr. E. Harrington) complained of was, that in legislating here in the interests of working men they had opposite to them the monopolist, or his representative—who, though his views on questions of political principle might seem to be in harmony with theirs, was always opposed to them on social or economic questions. The hon. Member had said that it was impossible for a man to be employed for 20¼ hours on duty, and that in such a case it must be borne in mind that a driver would spend 10 hours at a terminus.


said, that in the Return it was stated that an engine-driver was 20¼ hours on duty, and he had desired the House to understand that when the matter was inquired into that 20¼ hours meant that period of time from home. The man was only 10 hours at work, the remainder of the time being spent at a terminus, where he was able to take refreshments and to go to bed.


said, that it was obvious if the man was on duty that he was required to keep his eyes open for 20¼ hours. ["No, no!"]Then why was he not allowed to go home? They bad it on the authority of the Railway Director who had just spoken that the man was 20¼ hours on duty. It was not a question of generosity on the part of the Railway Companies in dealing with their men, but it was a question how far this House should. be called on to interfere for the protection of the public so far as to prevent an engine driver being engaged for 20¼ hours. It was no answer to him to say that the train was drawn up at a station, or that for five or six hours the man was waiting at a siding, and had five or six hours' rest—in the snow, as it had been stated just now. Whether or not it was an accident caused that delay, it must be remembered that every hour after a certain number that a man was on duty added intensely to the irksomeness of his work. He wished to say that the Motion before the House had the sympathy of the Irish railway employés. These people were called Railway servants, although they were not, as might be supposed from the use of such a phrase, the employés of the State, and the title clearly implied that they ought to have the protection of the State. The moment, however, it was sought to extend to them the protection of the House, several hon. Members representing the railway interest on both sides, stood up and dealt with the question as simply an ordinary one affecting employers and employed. He certainly thought it would be in the interest of justice if the House to-night took a vote upon this question. He would call upon everyone who had no pecuniary or other interest to serve in this matter further than the interest he took in the safety of the public and the interest he took in his constituents, to insist upon a Division. If it was carried to a Division, he should certainly give it his support. He was dissatisfied. with the waste of time which had been indulged in eliciting statements of views which they knew every hon. Member held at the bottom of his heart, but which numbers of them abstained from acting on when they came to the practical test of a vote.


said, that after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, he begged leave to withdraw his Motion. Motion, by leave,