HC Deb 03 April 1895 vol 32 cc821-43
MR. W. ALLAN (Gateshead)

in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, said the promoters had agreed to delete a great portion of it. The Bill was an old measure, having been before the House for seven or eight years, and his own conviction was that the Bill as it stood had been overladen with too many clauses. The measure had, therefore, been simplified so as to meet with as little opposition as possible, and so as to obtain the sanction of the President of the Board of Trade. The portions of the Bill which had been deleted were those referring to agricultural engines, to railways, and to steamships. The Bill was now confined principally to land engines—engines in mines, mills, and other factories. As thus modified, the measure was not antagonistic to any interest or any class; neither would it injure in any degree those who used steam or engines. The Bill was merely a continuation of the principle laid down by the Board of Trade in 1862. In that year the Board of Trade passed a measure which required that all engineers on steamships should have certificates; and the promoters of this Bill wished to extend that principle to land engines. He cited the opinion of Board of Trade assessors called in to examine as to the cause of boiler explosions on land. He mentioned two cases, one at Congleton and another at Wigan, and the opinion of the Board of Trade assessors was that the explosions had been caused simply because the men in charge of the boilers and machinery were incompetent. The Bill allowed competent men, willing to pass a certain examination, opportunity to train themselves in the elementary knowledge or principle which governed the steam engine and the working of the Boiler. The Board of Trade Report stated that since the Boiler Explosions Act was passed in 1882, there had been 721 boiler explosions. The persons killed numbered 337, and the injured 721; and for the year ending June 30, 1894, he found that there were 104 explosions. The causes assigned by the Board of Trade for the explosions were first, deterioration, corrosion, or defective safety valves, The second cause was ignorance or incompetence, and their defective designs and miscellaneous matters. In one year there were 104 explosions, but, unfortunately, he had not the number of deaths caused by those explosions. [An hon. MEMBER: "Twenty-five."] He hoped the House was convinced of the necessity of something being done in the matter. He mentioned a case, tried at Petty Sessions, where a lad aged 13 had been put in charge of a boiler. What did the lad do? The lad jammed down the safety valve of the boiler. The Chairman asked him, did he not know how to discharge his duties, and the lad replied there were no rules laid down. ''The Chairman: Had no one instructed you? The lad: No. The Chairman: Didn't you know it was a dangerous thing to do to screw down the safety valve? The lad said, no. An explosion took place. He had no desire to take up the time of the House, but he would fain hope that the Presisident of the Board of Trade would see his way to help with that Measure, that it was a duty incumbent upon him to take the matter up and put an end to the existing state of things. What he wanted was to ensure to those who went down into the mines and into mills that the men in charge of the boilers and winding-up machinery knew their duty. Many cases had come to the knowledge of the Board of Trade where men were hauled over the pulley, damaged, and killed. Many cases also had arisen where explosions had taken place simply for the want of the merest elementary knowledge, such as the supply of water to a boiler. Many cases had arisen where a little tampering with the safety valves produced disastrous consequences. If a man had a certificate of competency, his superiors would be bound to listen to him. He was asking for nothing but what the progress of the nation demanded. They could no longer afford to have their engines and boilers looked after by men who knew nothing about them, and the President of the Board of Trade was practical enough to know what they wanted. They had reduced the Bill to a mere shell, and he hoped the President of the Board of Trade would raise no opposition to the Second Reading. He would, then, leave the matter to be dealt with by the President of the Board of Trade. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Second Reading of the Bill.

MR. C. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)

, in seconding the Motion, said, no one who had listened to the temperate language of his hon. Friend would be disposed to think that the principle of the Bill involved an industrial revolution. In too many cases life was wantonly sacrificed through the appointment of careless and incompetent workmen to take charge of dangerous machinery and steam boilers. The necessity for this additional protection had been again and again admitted by the authorities of the Board of Trade. They might be told that the evidence was probably more in favour of additional inspection, rather than in favour of the appointment of qualified persons to take charge of the machinery. He was not one of those who were opposed to the appointment of additional inspectors, and no doubt, if the Treasury could see its way to make such appointments to meet the requirements of the case, very much might be done by more regular and efficient inspection of boilers to prevent the ever-recurring disasters which took place. Their contention was, that the provisions laid down in the Bill would tend, without any material increase in the cost to the ratepayers, to materially reduce the loss of life from these causes, because a competent man would be able, from practical knowledge and theoretical knowledge, to foresee defects in the machinery and boilers, and would be able, in consequence, to give notice to his employers and have them remedied before the actual disaster took place. It was true that the Board of Trade Returns showed that the loss of life from boiler explosions was due largely to this want of inspection, but he thought it would be admitted that there had been an increasing mortality arising from the appointment of incompetent and unskilful attendants to take charge of boilers and steam engines. If this were removed they would reduce to a minimum the chance of loss of life. He instanced the case of Mr. Vincent, a Board of Trade Inspector, who, in 1889, he thought, investigated the cause of an explosion which took place in Cornwall. The Inspector reported that he attributed the explosion in a great measure to the class of men employed as enginemen, and the multifarious duties which they had to attend to. Mr. Vincent went on to say that, in his opinion, men in charge of engines, especially where numbers of lives were intrusted to their care, should be forced to pass an examination before some competent Board, and have certificates granted to them before being allowed to take charge. That was the contention of the supporters of the Bill. The principle of the Bill was no new one, it was embodied in the Merchant Shipping Act of 1862; and, on the authority of the Board of Trade, the loss of life in the mercantile marine had been considerably reduced since it had been made compulsory for the engines of every steamship to be in charge of a thoroughly competent person. The colonies had also adopted the same principle with very beneficial results. The Mines Regulations Act in Australia provided for the institution of a Board of Examiners empowered to examine persons desirous of qualifying themselves as engine drivers, and to grant certificates of competency. In different States and in many of the large cities of America there was a law that persons holding appointments such as were dealt with in this Bill must pass an examination and hold a certificate. The provisions of the Bill were rather more drastic than those in force in New York, but if the House assented to the principle, the details of the Bill could easily be modified in Committee. There would be no indisposition on the part of the promoters to accede readily to any reasonable amendment of the details of the Bill. Some objection had been made to the provision for graduated certificates. The object in providing for first class, second class, and service certificates was to avoid as far as possible any unnecessary friction, and the hardship which might be imposed on a number of men who were now in charge of engines and boilers, and who had discharged their duties for some time with satisfaction to all concerned. To men who had had a certain amount of experience it was proposed to grant service certificates; but it was almost too much to expect such men to be able at once to qualify themselves for a first-class certificate. To make the task easier, and to encourage them in it, the intermediate second-class certificate was therefore provided. But this provision, again, might be modified in Committee. He would frankly admit that, as far as locomotive engines were concerned, he did not believe that the case was so strong as the promoters of the Bill were led to believe at the time when it was framed. Their inquiries had been extensive, and they all tended to show that the Bill was weaker in this respect than in others. Hence the promoters were quite willing to omit that portion of the Bill, provided that the essential principle which applied to boiler attendants and colliery engineers was assented to. The Board of Trade Return issued in 1891 on the working of the Boiler Explosions Act demonstrated the nature of this Bill. From that Return it appeared that in the case of a boiler explosion in Cornwall in 1890 the owner was blamed for neglect and careless management, and was ordered to pay a fine of £80 and costs: and there were three other similar cases where the owners were heavily fined. It might be some protection to inflict heavy penalties for negligence and mismanagement, but the object of the Bill was to prevent the disasters from occurring, and the facts were sufficient to justify the House in giving the Bill a Second Reading.

SIR ALFRED HICKMAN (Wolverhampton, W.)

, in moving "That this Bill be read a second time this day six months," said, that it was as typical an instance of grandmotherly legislation as had been presented to the House for a long time. If it became law, there would soon be a proposal that cooks should be required to pass an examination as having kitchen boilers in their charge. Only two cases of accidents from incompetency had been adduced in support of the Bill. Everyone who had practical acquaintance with the making of boilers know that accidents did not happen from the incompetency of the person in charge, but from his neglect. No amount of examination would discover whether a man would or would not neglect his work; all it proved was that a man was competent to pass an examination. He would give the House an example of how these examination tests worked. As a colliery owner, he had had for many years an underground manager who had earned and well deserved his confidence, because he had never had any accident to the men under his charge. When the Coal Mines Regulation Act passed, this man could not obtain a certificate, because, whilst he was a most competent manager of a pit, he was unable to read or write. He understood the work of a mine far better than one who was versed in the merely theoretical part, and in order to retain such a valuable servant in his employ, he obtained the services of a man who was certificated as the nominal manager, keeping his old manager, however, in his position. It was the imperative duty of employers to put in charge of their engines men who were competent to do the work, and who were sober and attentive to their duties. It was impossible for the Board of Trade to ascertain whether men possessed these qualifications, and all they would be able to say in regard to them would be that they were competent to pass an examination. He submitted, therefore, that this Bill would be a most mischievous Bill, which would take away the responsibility from those persons on whom it ought properly to rest, namely, the employers, and place it on the broad back of the Board of Trade.

MR. W. F. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)

was surprised that so little had been said by the Mover and Seconder in support of the Bill. The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading, mentioned a very interesting and a wholly improper case on the part of an employer, where apparently a mere boy was left in charge of an engine. Nobody could defend such a case; but what he submitted was, that hard cases made bad law, and the House ought not to legislate because up and down the country they might occasionally come across cases of this character. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Bill, seemed more to grapple with the facts of the case, but his reference to public statistics did not justify the conclusions he desired the House to draw from them. He had himself examined the statistics, and he came to a different conclusion to that drawn by the hon. Member. In 1870 a Select Committee of the House came to the conclusion that there were 100,000 boilers in England, exclusive of locomotive, domestic, and marine, and about 75 deaths and 50 explosions. But a return issued up to the end of June of last year, showed that for ten years the explosions were on an average 76, the deaths 33, and the injured 72. When they considered the enormous increase of population, and of machinery of every kind in every department of manufacture and trade, he thought the House might fairly conclude that these figures showed there was less cause than ever for a Bill such as this. Comparing the cases of deaths and injured in 1893 and 1894 with those for 1882 and 1883, he found that last year they only amounted to 78, as against 68 ten years ago, and as he had said, the deaths for the last ten years had only averaged 33. Therefore, while the population had enormously increased, and the risks of accidents, judging by the increased use of machinery, had probably quadrupled, the real reasons for introducing the Bill had distinctly diminished. There was another interesting fact. There were 104 boiler explosions last year, but out of these 22 took place in churches and chapels during four days apparently of hard frost. How far, he asked, would such cases be affected by the Bill? He was there, however, not so much to go over all the trades affected by the Bill as specially to refer to that clause relating to the use of donkey engines on vessels when lying in port.


That is withdrawn. In moving the Second Reading I said that all in connection with ships had been entirely deleted from the Bill.


intimated that such being the case he would not make any further observations.

MR. J. A. PEASE (Northumberland, Tyneside)

remarked, that the hon. Member who had last addressed the House had endeavoured to minimise the importance of this Bill, on the ground that accidents were fewer now as compared with the number of boilers in use, than they were previously. But he submitted that if by the passage of this Bill they could save one life in the country, they ought to pass the Second Reading stage that afternoon, and from the facts already presented it was certain that this Bill would tend to reduce the loss of life and damage, and injury to limb. The hon. Member for West Wolverhampton objected to the Bill, on the ground, first of all, that a man might be a practical and competent man, but still not to be able to pass the written examination which would be held under the direction of the Board of Trade. What the Bill provided was, that there should be a proper examination, and that examination need not necessarily be of a theoretical, but it could be of a practical, character. The hon. Member also said it was a mischievous Bill, which removed responsibility from employers and agents and placed it on the Board of Trade. But an agent was not worth his salt who did not satisfy himself, so far as was possible, of the competency of the men he employed; whilst, again, it would be a useful advantage to an employer if he were only able to employ those who were properly certified. He supported the Bill— not because he had any desire or intent to restrict to any particular trade union those who should be employed in charge of boilers. He had no desire in the present depressed condition of trade that it should be in any way hampered. Employers at the present time were put to enormous expense in connection with their boilers, but what was the use of their taking every possible precaution to avoid explosions by constant renewals and repairs if they had got incompetent men to manage their boilers? If the Bill passed, it would secure a competent class of workmen, and thereby save much risk and injury to life and limb. He believed the Bill would also induce men to become skilled artisans wherever machinery was employed in connection with steam power, and it would not only benefit the working-classes themselves, but would be an indirect advantage to the employer for whom they worked. On these grounds he heartily supported the principle of the Bill.

MR. E. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)

observed that they had heard from the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill that practically he intended to take out every one of the most objectionable words and clauses of the Bill. Of course it was difficult to see how that would affect the various trades until they had the Bill in its deleted form before them. As far as he understood the hon. Member for Gateshead, the Bill now would only apply to mills, mines, and cranes, and large machinery of that kind, whereas, as it was originally drawn, it would have referred to donkey engines, and all engines under five-horse power as well as those above. That made a material alteration in the Bill. It would have been perfectly monstrous to have applied this Bill in its original shape to agriculture, for it would have prevented a great number of skilled agricultural labourers from doing the work they now performed in an able and conscientious manner, and would have driven them to seek employment in the towns—a process which was already going on too fast. As it stood, with the deletion, the Bill would be restricted to a very few trades indeed. There was only one suggestion he should like to make, and it was this—if the Bill passed that afternoon it should not be sent to a Grand Committee. Whilst a Grand Committee was a good tribunal, and had done useful work in the past in relation to Government Bills of a non-controversial character, he contended that for Private Bills of this character it was not so suitable a tribunal as a Select Committee, where the whole matter could be dealt with in a much more thorough manner than was practicable before a Grand Committee. He hoped, therefore, if this stage of the Bill were passed, it would then be sent to a Select Committee.

MR. H. SETON-KARR (St. Helens)

said, he had great pleasure in supporting the Bill, especially as it had been materially simplified since its Introduction. It seemed to him that the arguments brought forward in opposition to the measure were those which had always been urged against Factory Legislation. In supporting the Bill he did not wish to convey any reproach on employers, or to imply that they employed incompetent men to manage large and important industries. But they desired to have it clearly laid down by legislation that only competent, certificated men should be in charge of certain engines. Such a measure would add to the safety of the workmen, and, from that point of view, ought to receive the support of employers, whose desire must be to promote good relations between themselves and their employés. Anyone who had gone down a coal-mine must have come to the conclusion that it was of the highest importance to have thoroughly competent men in charge of the winding engines. Hundreds of men went down coal-mines daily, and their lives depended entirely on the foresight, skill, and knowledge of the man in charge of the winding engine. The House, therefore, could not go wrong in passing a measure which provided an additional safeguard. It might be urged as an objection to the Bill that it would give the men a greater advantage over their employers in the case of a strike, because the number of certificated men would be limited. But that argument would not hold water, because, after all, a strike depended on the relations between the men and their employers. If a bad feeling were engendered, a strike would sooner or later take place, no matter what legislation was passed. On the other hand no man desired to quarrel with his bread and butter, and if good relations prevailed between the employers and the men, he could not see how the passing of this Bill would give the men an extra inducement to strike. This and other points of detail might well be considered by a Select Committee, with the view of providing against any such contingencies that might arise.


expressed his determination to support the Second Reading of the Bill. He took exception to the statement of the right hon. Member for Grimsby with regard to the history of the Bills that had during the present Session been referred to the Grand Committee. With regard to the Bills referred to the Grand Committee on Trade he could say that they were discussed satisfactorily and in a business-like way. He did not believe any better discussion of the provisions of this Bill could be secured than by referring it to one of the Grand Committees. Hon. Members who had opposed the Bill had sought to minimise the necessity for it. But although they had shown by the figures which they had quoted that there was a diminution in the number of fatalities from boiler explosions they had not proved that there was no necessity for the Bill. If the prevention of one disaster could be secured by the Bill, it would be well worth their while to pass it. He was very glad to find that under this Bill measures were taken for the purpose of maintaining in their present position men who had practical experience in the working of engines and boilers. It would have been a very great hardship if men, because of their inability to pass a theoretical examination, should have been ousted from their present position. He had no doubt that many of these men would be stimulated by the passing of the measure to perfect themselves in their knowledge of engines and boilers, and to study the theoretical matters connected with their industry. There had, no doubt, been a diminution in the number of boiler explosions, but that he believed had arisen from the fact that the users of boilers had found the practical necessity of insuring their boilers. By the process of inspection that went on in connection with that insurance, flaws and defects were found out at a much earlier stage than formerly, and thus a great many accidents were prevented. The employment of qualified men to manage these boilers would furnish an additional element of safety, not only to the users of boilers, but also to the public, and he therefore believed that the greatest possible advantage would arise from the passing of the Bill.

MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)

said, that before this very moderate Bill passed with practical unanimity to a Select Committee, he wished to make one or two observations upon it, especially in answer to the remarks of the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton (Sir A. Hickman). The hon. Member had urged that accidents more frequently occurred from neglect than from incompetence, but it was a difficult thing to define where incompetence ended and neglect began. He was sorry that the hon. Member should have taken the line he did. In his opinion the Bill would not restrict the freedom of employment in any respect; if he thought that it would, he would oppose it. It was because he believed that every boiler-tender could rise to the requirements of this Bill that he would vote for it, and he ventured to express a hope that the hon. Member would withdraw his opposition. The hon. and learned Member for Wilts showed his lack of knowledge of engineering and boiler construction when he said, that in spite of increased inspection, and in spite of increased supervision, the number of boiler explosions had increased; forgetting that that was a strong argument in favour of the Bill, and that in the period which he quoted there had been an enormous revolution in boiler construction. The fact that, in spite of all the improvements in construction and supervision which had taken place during the past year or so, the Board of Trade should have to report that in 1894 there were more boiler explosions than there had been in any of the ten preceding years, was a strong argument that the Bill was necessary. Speaking as an engineer who had seen the disadvantages of boilers being tended by incompetent men, particularly in agricultural districts, he was of opinion that what was wanted to avoid accidents was, not unduly to increase the amount of inspection, but to get a better form of inspection which was to be found in the vigilant, educated mind of the men themselves, who, after all, often knew more of what was wanted to insure safety than the boiler inspectors, who too often made a hasty and perfunctory inspection. The real, daily, minute inspection of the man in charge of a boiler, and who might be made by the Bill to feel a sense of responsibility towards his employer and fellow-workmen, was the best safeguard of all. By making a man rather proud of his calling would be encouraging the best form of inspection, and the constant tap here and overhauling there would be the best means of avoiding explosions. Turning to the supporters of the Bill, he regretted to find that they had now eliminated three fruitful fields of boiler explosions. He agreed with the exclusion of railway locomotives on regular railways, but a distinction must be drawn between them and the smaller locomotives, such as were used by contractors on smaller works, where the, engines were frequently in charge of very incompetent people, and were in such a bad state of construction that he was surprised at the Board of Trade not having put on a special inspector to prevent the recurrence of explosions in such cases. The intelligent driver and fireman of a regular railway locomotive had practically nothing to do with the state of the boiler, as the engine went into the railway shops, where competent and skilled engineers and inspectors subjected the engines to weekly examinations. He ventured, however, to express a hope that, even now, the smaller classes of locomotive engine might be included in the Bill. Anyone who had worked in lime pits, clay holes, or reclamation works would know that often when the engine tender was ill, a mere navvy was put on to take his place. Within the last ten days he himself had seen a pulsometer pump with the valve knocked off, and a navvy who was in charge of it had taken the nearest broken piece of a wooden shovel, had tapered it up at one end, and had driven it in to take the place of a proper cock, while there was a pressure of steam at the time of 60lb. to the square inch. The hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Allan), in his anxiety to please everybody—a very dangerous practice, both in and out of Parliament—had excluded shipping from the Bill. He did not object to that course having been taken in relation to large ships, where the engineers were always certificated; but in regard to the subsidiary branches of shipping—such, for instance, as tugs, river vessels, and small steam trawlers, and fishing vessels—he hoped it was not too late to urge that the Committee should be allowed to deal with the boilers in them. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Heneage), in his desire to benefit the farmers, even to the extent of allowing them to blow their labourers to pieces, had expressed satisfaction that the hon. Member for Gateshead had consented to exclude agricultural machinery from the operation of the Bill. But in most cases it was not the farmer who owned these machines. In nine cases out of ten, he hired them, and had them brought on to his farm when he happened to want them for threshing or other purposes. Often more than one engine was so hired, and one competent man only sent with them, who worked one of the machines himself, whilst the actual working of the others was intrusted to Tom, Dick, or Harry, who probably were not strong enough to hoe or do other work on the land, but were considered intelligent and wise enough to be intrusted with the care of agricultural machinery.


interposing explained that the hon. Member had rather misunderstood what he said. The remarks which he made in his speech related to engines belonging to farmers worked by skilled agricultural labourers who were perfectly competent to do their work, but who would be thrown out of employment if the Bill operated upon agricultural machinery.


remarked that if the right hon. Gentleman were conversant with these matters he would know that the men who looked after these engines had been agricultural labourers, and that so far from the Bill operating to throw out of employment the skilled agricultural labourers in question, it would stimulate them to apply themselves to obtain the certificate. He would ask which it was most economical and reasonable to do—to pass a Bill to make a man pass the necessary standard of efficiency, or to throw upon the farmer, in this case, the personal responsibility of having killed someone, and the financial liability of having to pay a very heavy fine in addition to losing a valuable man whom it had taken probably 10 to 15 years to train. He regretted that agricultural engines should be excluded, and that shipping, so far as tugs and other river craft were concerned, had not been kept in the Bill; but, in spite of these exemptions, he trusted the President of the Board of Trade would view this modest measure with sympathy, that he would allow it to go to a Select Committee, and that in the light of the practical unanimity with which the Bill had been supported, he would do everything in his power to reduce, through its provisions, that butcher's bill of industry which too frequently was increased by incompetent men being ignorantly employed.

MR. T. H. COCHRANE (Ayrshire, N.)

said, he desired to add one word to the chorus of approval with which the provisions of this Bill had been received. Like the Member for St. Helens, he had had the opportunity of going down into various pits, and he thought it must be a matter of great anxiety to the men working in those pits if they had any doubt as to the qualifications of the persons employed in working one of the engines by means of which the cages were worked in which the men were lowered down into and brought up from the pits. There was one point in the speech of the hon. Member for Battersea which he thought he might be able to clear up from his practical experience. That was as to the working of engines upon farms. He understood that the Member for Gateshead had eliminated the agricultural question, so far as regarded implements, from this Bill, and he certainly agreed that that was desirable. They were not in possession of the proposals by which the hon. Member intended to carry out his intentions, and he thought it would have been a convenience if it had been possible to have had the Bill reprinted before the discussion took place. The hon. Member for Battersea seemed to think that agricultural implements ought not to have been excluded, and he quoted some cases in which the boilers of engines on farms had been improperly handled. No doubt cases of that kind might occur, but, from his experience north of the Tweed, he did not think it was generally so. Engines, especially where they were portable engines used for threshing, were always in charge of men employed by the owners. They were invariably skilled men, and the work was always satisfactorily carried out. Where there were engines on a farm they were almost always worked under the direct superintendence of the farmer himself. A farmer who had a fixed engine on his farm was rather a big man. He was, as a rule, educated and thoroughly skilled, and in such cases they employed men who worked under their direct superintendence. It seemed to him that to ask such a farmer to hold a certificate would be a rather unnecessary proceeding, and he thought the hon. Member for Battersea would agree that in such cases this would be a very unnecessary provision. He quite agreed with the principle, and, as the clause dealing with agricultural machinery had been taken out of the Bill, he should give it his support.

MR. A. B. FORWOOD (Lancashire, Ormskirk)

said, he came to the House with the intention of opposing the Bill, as he believed that in the form in which it was printed it would be one of the most harassing and embarrassing pieces of legislation ever proposed in that House. He understood, however, that the hon. Member who introduced the measure proposed to confine its operations to mines and factories, and, that being so, his feeling with regard to the Bill had materially changed. He thought the better way of approaching this subject would have been to have brought boilers and machinery under the Factory Acts. He believed that explosions arose far more from want of inspection of boilers or engines than from the incompetence of the men in charge of them. There ought to be every care to have competent men in charge of the boilers; but the result they desired would not be attained unless there was a periodical examination of the boilers. He did not agree that the granting of certificates to the men in charge of machinery would secure that the machinery, and particularly the boilers, would be maintained in satisfactory order. There was no assurance that the man who was in charge of the boiler would have any knowledge of its internal conditions, and all the danger which might be inherent in it would be unobserved by the man who held the certificate. He would rather have seen these provisions for safety enacted under the Factory and Workshops Act, rather than this granting of certificates to the men in charge, for he believed there would be a greater security given to the public. This was a technical Bill, and it would be impossible to discuss its details on the floor of the House, and, therefore, it was necessary it should go to a Select Committee. If the Bill had extended to the hundreds and thousands of small machines that were used all over the country it would have created a disturbance of labour amounting almost to a revolution, but, limited as it was, and being referred to a Select Committee, it would have his support.


said, he thought the hon. Mover and Seconder of this Bill had stated their case not only with great clearness, but with great fairness and moderation. They had also exercised, he thought, on the whole, a wise discretion in removing from the Bill those particular classes of boilers the inclusion of which would have raised, no doubt, very serious opposition. He could not help, to some extent, sympathising with what was said by the hon. Member for Battersea; still, knowing the difficulties which attended the progress of a private Member's Bill in this House, and the number of obstacles which were thrown in its way in its different stages by those who had, or conceived they had, any interest in opposing it, he thought their discretion had been a wise one, and he hoped the result of that discretion might be that the Bill would now have a smooth progress through the rest of its stages. He was well aware of the interest which the Bill excited, particularly in mining districts, and he had received not, only many representations, but several deputations, on the subject. The remarkable unanimity with which the House had received the Bill showed, too, that hon. Members had themselves been the recipients of communications from their constituents upon the subject, and were aware that the feeling with which the Bill was regarded was widespread and deeply felt. The only objections that had been raised had come from the hon. Member for Wolverhampton and from the hon. Member for one of the divisions of Liverpool. He did not deny that the objections of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton appeared to possess some amount of force. As regarded statistics, it was certainly true that the record of these Acts showed that comparatively few accidents had arisen from incompetence as distinguished from neglect, but of course the general classification of accidents was sometimes lumped together, and, as was said by the hon. Member for Battersea, the limits of incompetence and neglect were very difficult to define. There could be no doubt also that the more competent the men were in knowledge and practice the better safeguard there was, because that became neglect in the man with knowledge which would not be neglect in the case of a less competent man. He thought, therefore, that anything that raised the standard of knowledge had a considerable tendency to raise the standard of safety. The Member for Wolverhampton also dwelt on the danger which might arise from making the employers rely on the certificates of competence rather than upon the pains they took themselves in selecting the best man, and he said this would even tend to relieve the employers to a certain extent of responsibility. Of course that was true in a sense. Those were arguments which had been used against nearly all the changes they had made in the direction of protective legislation; he did not deny that there was some force in them, but those who had followed the course of this legislation during the last 50 years would admit that those arguments had been found to be of somewhat less practical moment than had been expected. On the whole, the evils arising from this protective or grandmotherly legislation, as it was sometimes called, had been very much smaller than had been expected. Perhaps the power ought to be more in the hands of the local authorities than the central; but, be that as it might, the intervention of the community had done a great deal of good in the way of securing life and property throughout the country. He was very far from desiring to add to the functions of the Board of Trade, but, at the same time, if the House came to the conclusion that the examination of persons for this kind of work ought to be added to the functions of the Board, which already dealt with other classes of boilers, they would do their best to carry it out with as little friction and with as much economy as possible. Having given due weight to the arguments of the hon. Member for Wolver-hampton, he confessed he thought the balance of opinion and argument in the House was strongly in favour of their giving a Second Reading to this Bill. Whatever they could do to make life and limb safe it was clearly their duty to do. He was also much pleased by the argument that by giving these certificates of competence to persons in charge of boilers they gave a much better standard to the workmen against careless or reckless employment. A workman who held a certificate would be far better able to discover defects, whenever these accidents occurred, in the condition of the boiler. He thought these defects were generally overlooked now because the man in charge of the boiler had not sufficient knowledge. That appeared to him to be a strong argument for the Bill, and the institution of examinations would help to stimulate everyone to make himself competent. As to the procedure which the House should adopt, although this Bill had frequently been brought in, it had never been so limited, but limited as it was it raised a great many questions of detail. He thought that the best course would be to consent in the first instance to send it to a Select Committee, where it could be carefully examined with regard to the application of its particular provisions to particular trades. He did not see why, after having gone through a Select Committee, it might not then go to a Grand Committee so as to facilitate its progress. If the Bill did go to a Grand Committee instead of taking its chance for a time in a Committee of the House, perhaps it would have a better chance of passing into law this Session. He hoped the Mover and Seconder would show the same conciliatory disposition.

*MR. C. W. CAYZER (Barrow-in-Furness),

whose opening remarks were addressed to the importance of the Bill, observed that there was no one more competent than the hon. Member for Gateshead to bring in a Bill dealing with engines and steam boilers, and although the Bill might be embarrassing in some of its details, yet the importance of the subject was such that those details might very well be amended in Committee, and on that ground, and also because a matter affecting the safety of human life should be seriously considered by this House, he was prepared to support the general principle of the Bill. He was pleased to know that the hon. Member had seen fit to withdraw steamships from the scope of the Bill, no doubt because he knew there were already qualified men in charge of the machinery on board sea-going ships. It was quite as necessary that the men in charge of railway locomotives should be duly qualified as it was that the engineers on steamships should be; and he did not see why the one as well as the other should not be called upon to hold qualifying certificates. The operation of the Bill would probably be of great benefit in saving life and preventing injury in small factories where boilers and engines were now in the charge of unqualified men. The fact that such was the case showed the necessity for the introduction of the Bill, and he felt sure that if it was passed it would do good. There ought also to be a practical examination of the condition of boilers and machinery in all workshops and factories. It was said that the clauses relating to examinations and examiners were complicated, and would be costly in operation, but that difficulty might be met by utilising the services of the present examiners of engineers who had to take out certificates for service on sea-going vessels. It was not necessary to set up another body of examiners. The present examiners for engineers' certificates were thoroughly qualified, and probably sufficient in number to conduct these new examinations. They were principally located in seaports; and if on that or any other account more were required, it would not be difficult to add to their number, while it would cost less to utilise them and their services than to create new examiners for this purpose. He was glad the President of the Board of Trade supported the Bill, and hoped that, whatever Committee it went to, it would pass this Session. After the expression of opinion in its favour on this side of the House, he trusted the Amendment would be withdrawn.


was glad to know that no argument was necessary to secure for the Bill the support of the President of the Board of Trade. The mining industry in his own constituency afforded a strong illustration of the necessity for a Bill of this kind. In the mines of Lanarkshire work had to be done under peculiar conditions, involving great responsibility. The pits were very much deeper than others; the number of men employed in them was larger; and the responsibility thrown on those in charge of engines and boilers was proportionately greater. The hours the men had to work increased the necessity for making sure that they were properly qualified. They worked on an average 12 hours a day; the shifts were sometimes divided into 10 and 14 hours; and this went on for 365 days a year, without relief on Sundays or holidays. When the change was made from night shift to day shift, each man worked for 24 hours, and sometimes more; and the absence of a mate might require a man to remain at his post for 36 hours. These men had the responsibility of winding up hundreds of men. Their attention was on the strain every moment, and yet there was no security under the present law that properly-qualified and experienced men were employed. Their attention was not limited to winding-up, because they had a certain charge of boilers, and they were liable to be called away to attend them. He knew for certain that serious accidents had been attributed to the employment of in experienced and incompetent men. It might be said that the hours ought to be shorter, and he was entirely of that opinion; but years, perhaps, would pass before they could be shortened by legislation. He would be pleased if the Bill was sent to a Grand Committee at first, because that would be more likely to facilitate the passage of it this session.


said, after what had fallen from the President of the Board of Trade, he desired to withdraw the Amendment.

*SIR E. HARLAND (Belfast N.)

said, he hoped the House would not seriously think of reading the Bill a second time. Practical experience led him to say that if there was any department of industry which did not require special legislation it was this. There had been more fatal accidents in the operations and working of steam engines and sets of boilers, of enormous power, than in the working of small-powered engines and boilers. He should place next in liability to accident boilers in kitchens, of which lamentable explosions had occurred during the winter; and he should place lowest and last the very class of boilers and engines which were to be brought under this Bill. One would imagine there were no safety valves. Then, power was often so distributed, that if it could be used only by engineers having certificates, a tremendous tax would be put upon industry. To show how absurdly this Bill had been drafted, he would point out that it made no reference to steam-hammers. They were a very important power in the works of this country. The steam which drove them was derived generally from a set of boilers used for the whole establishment, and was not, therefore, under the control of the engine-driver, who might be hundreds of feet from the boilers. It was absurd, therefore, to bring him under the necessity of an examination. He had often come across the most intelligent and valuable workmen who could not sign their own names, and he could hardly conceive any practical man designing a Bill which would require that something should be driven into the heads of such men merely for the purpose of passing an examination to be all forgotten in a month.


Provision is made for such men as the hon. Member is now speaking about. Such men would not require certificates of competency. They would get certificates of service.


said, he was altogether against these diplomas. Lads and men might be found to read and write very well and do a little arithmetic, but that did not enable them to manage engines any better. The idea seemed to be to bring the rising generation of mechanics under the control of a certain class who wanted to rule the roast. Such a Bill as this would, he was certain, have the effect of seriously injuring the industries of this country; and he looked upon it as not only unnecessary, but anything but encouraging, to youths who, starting with a donkey engine, rose gradually by steps until they ultimately became thoroughly well-trained engine drivers. He was very sorry indeed that so practical a man as the Member for Gateshead should have promoted such a Bill, and he sincerely hoped that the House would not seriously consider the Second Reading.

MR. WARNER (Somersetshire, N.)

said, it struck him that there was rather an omission from the Bill. It did not include men in charge of oil, gas, and electric engines. Such engines were coming into use to a large extent, and were quite as dangerous as steam engines.

MR. G. W. PALMER (Reading)

said, he had much sympathy with the remarks of the hon. Member for Belfast. He was very doubtful as to the policy of taking any responsibility off the shoulders of managers and owners of large works, and, so far as he was able to understand, the object of this Bill, its effect would be that, inasmuch as this certificate could not be refused to any workman, any man who had obtained it might very fairly be put in command of a large engine or boiler. If in that way an accident occurred, a very large amount of responsibility which now attached to employers might be removed. Perhaps he was not thoroughly conversant with the Bill, but, as far as he understood it at present, it would be his duty to vote against the Second Reading.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill read 2°.

MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)

I move, Sir, that this Bill be referred to a Select Committee.

Motion agreed to.