§ Order for Second Reading read.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That the Bill be now read a second time.
§ *MR. H. J. RECKITT (Lincolnshire, Brigg)
I rise to move the Second Reading of this Bill, and I only wish that this task had been in the hands of one more able than myself to deal with it. It is a subject which is undoubtedly difficult and complicated, but I will en-deavour to lay the matter before the House in a manner free from prejudice. I hope the House will bear with me while I do my best to lay before Parliament this extremely complicated question of petroleum, which has been brought before the attention of a large number of Members of this House by means of literature of a varied character, and by means of a number of petitions from those interested in the trade, and these things have tended to make my burden heavier. Now, what is the character of this literature which has been circulated in favour of the Bill? It has been, without exception, signed by those who give authority for their statements, whilst with few exceptions the literature against the Bill has been circulated without any signature, and it has been impossible to find out who are responsible for the misstatements contained in that litera- 845 ture. It has been most unfortunate that the trade interests on the one hand and upon the other should have tended to introduce an amount of prejudice into the consideration of this subject, of which I hope this House, out of consideration for the importance of the question, will divest its mind; for I say that the question of the safety of the lives of the people of this country is not one which ought to be confounded with the trade interests either of America or of Scotland or Russia. This, to my mind, is the position which Members of the House should take up in dealing with a subject of this character. I sincerely hope that any remarks of mine will be free from what I consider to be a blot on the outside criticisms which have been made on this matter. The Committee which reported last Session to this House sat for a period of nearly four years, and dealt with about 85 witnesses of varying character. Many of those witnesses were expert chemists, many of them were those interested and connected with the lamp trade, and many others held official positions either in London or the provinces who had to deal with the question of the Petroleum Acts. After hearing this evidence that Committee which was appointed by this House presented a Report which is of a very interesting character because of the varied nature of its recommendations. Up to about page 9 of that Report it can be described as almost of a homogeneous character, but after that, apparently, there arises a large number of inconsistencies in the subject matter which is dealt with, and which appears in that Report. It may be interesting to the House to know how, after having come to the conclusion that the flash point of petroleum oil should be raised to 100, that Report proceeds almost immediately, in many cases, to insert clauses which entirely take away the advantage of having come to that conclusion. I must say that those of us who formed the majority of that Committee when the question of the flash point of 100 was determined, after a Debate which took the larger portion of from two to three sittings, in which every question and even phase of the subject of raising the flash point to 100 degs.; in which the question of lamps, of cost, and the question as to whether accidents had increased were 846 fully dealt with in that Debate—it did appear to me and to the Members forming the majority of that Committee to be almost unreasonable, to say the least of it, for Members of that Committee who had been defeated upon that matter in the Division to proceed, when they found themselves in a temporary majority, to insert clauses in that Report in opposition to the determination of the majority of the Committee which had been arrived at after a very lengthy Debate. That, to my mind, accounts to a very large extent for many of the clauses which appear to take away from the determination of the Committee, and from the reasons which actuated the majority of the Committee in coming to the conclusion that the flash point should be raised to 100 degs. In dealing with this point, I might also point out that if you read through the detailed proceedings contained in the Report of that Committee you will see that there were two Members who voted against raising the flash point to 100, who had already tabled Amendments in favour of raising the flash point either to 85 or to 90; so that in connection with the statements which have been made by some who have more or less authority that it was only by a bare majority that the Committee were in favour of raising the flash point, it should be borne in mind that there were at least two who were in favour of raising the flash point somewhat, and that makes 10 to 11 Members of the Committee who were in favour of raising the flash point above the present point of 73. The House has so far received no information officially as to the intentions of the Government with regard to the Report of that Committee, but through the Press we have received from time to time some information; in fact, upon the morning after I had given notice of my intention to bring in this Bill "The Times" newspaper was able to inform the country that the Government were going to introduce a Bill to deal with those recommendations of the Committee which had received a substantial majority. Now I should have thought that under the circumstances the question of the flash point should have also been included amongst those recommendations which would receive attention in any Government Bill. It is because those of us who have backed this particular Bill are not aware, except from 847 the Reports of deputations received by the Under Secretary to the Home Office, as to what are the intentions of the Government in regard to this matter; that the intentions of the Government are, as a matter of fact, of considerable importance no one is willing to quarrel with. That they have an intention of moving a Bill I am extremely glad to know, and I am glad to hear that they are moving in the matter. But in connection with these reports what puzzled me is that, during the Recess, which lasted some six or seven months, the attention of the Government should not have been directed during that time to the preparation of such a Bill, which might even now have received its Second Reading, and been sent to a Committee. But apparently it required the fortunes of the ballot in order that this question should be brought before the attention of this House. For my part I confess that I should have thought the Government would have introduced legislation for the protection of life and limb, and even have mentioned legislation of that character in the Queen's Speech before mentioning legislation for the protection of the pockets of the spendthrifts. I think that the proceedings of that Report show that the majority who supported the high flash point were consistent throughout in the attitude and line which they took up. We are, in reality, in favour of altering the flash point, and we are not in favour of allowing it to remain at the present point of 73. That brings me to this general statement that the whole of the Report of the Committee—whether you look at it from the point of view of the flash point or of the lamp—is unanimous in one respect, and that is that legislation is required in order to minimise the accidents which take place with paraffin lamps. On that point I maintain that the Committee were unanimously agreed, and it is, therefore, unnecessary to argue the question as to whether legislation is required or not. I notice in one of the reports in the newspapers of a deputation received by the Under Secretary to the Home Office, a statement by the Under Secretary in which he says, dealing with the Memorandum to the Bill—A more misleading, more inaccurate statement it would be impossible to make. There was absolutely no difference between the flash point of 1871, which was embodied in the Bill 848 of 1879, and the flash point of the present time. The only difference had been that the method of testing had been altered.Now I am perfectly willing to join issue with the right honourable Gentleman upon that remark; and so far from my statement being misleading I should have thought that those who have read the Bill would have noticed in the Memorandum that the expression used was, that by repealing the clause in the Act of 1879, and letting the Act of 1871, which fixes the flash point at 100, remain, that that would be carrying out the intentions of the Act of 1871. Now, I will go through the history of the flash point up to the Act of 1879, which is now in operation, and I am perfectly ready to join issue with the right honourable Gentleman who made that statement to a deputation. The question of the flash point was first raised in this country in the year 1862, when Dr. Letheby, the chemical analyst to the City of London, was asked to draw up a report on the question of paraffin oil, and he recommended—That petroleum would be perfectly safe for all practical purposes when it does not evolve inflammable vapour at a temperature below 100 degs. Fahrenheit; for there is no ordinary storage place or lamp that could, according to my observation or experiment, reach such a temperature.Now, those in opposition to the raising of the flash point have often made the statement that the proposal to raise the flash point to 100 degs. in connection with the use of oil in lamps is an entrely new proposal, and I would call the attention of the House to the fact that in his recommendation with regard to the flash point of petroleum lamps were distinctly in the mind of Dr. Letheby in 1862. There was no test then imposed, and yet there we have the fact that that Act intended 100 to be the test in connection with the flash point.
TUB UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. COLLINGS,) Birmingham, Bordesley
There was the open test.
§ *MR. RECKITT
There was no test in that Act. We come to 1867, when upon the recommendation of a Committee the suggestion was made for a flash point of 110. But pressure was brought to bear on the Home Office by the trade to reduce the flash point to 100. Here we begin first to trace the baneful in- 849 fluence which seems to have been attached throughout to this question of the safety of the public, when, as a matter of fact, too often the interest of the trader has been preferred. On this three chemists were asked to make a report. These chemists were Dr. Letheby, Dr. Attfield, and Sir Frederick Abel, and in 1868 they made a Report in favour of the flash point being 100, and they laid it down that if it was to be a flash point of 100 it must be with a test which they themselves devised and carried out in the most rigid manner. Now, that test was to be a cup, three inches deep, half-tilled with petroleum oil, and the flame was to be passed close to the service of the oil in order to determine the flash point of that oil. That Report was handed in on 4th June 1868, and on the 8th June the Bill carrying out the Report was introduced, but on 15th June the test was altered, the test devised by the three chemists disappeared, and the open test, which apparently is the glory of those who are in favour of low-flash oil, was inserted in that Bill. Now, upon whose authority and recommendation was the test altered] It was by the then Under Secretary to the Home Office referred, after an appeal had been made by the trade, not to the three chemists upon whose Report the Bill of 1868 was introduced, but to one of them only, Sir Frederick Abel, and he was told that he was in no wise to give way upon the rigour of the test. He accepted the test prepared by the trade, and which obviously favoured the trade rather than the public. That test was a three-inch cup, to be filled to the brim, with a wire a quarter of an inch from the surface along which the flame was to pass. Now, the whole question of the test of paraffin oil depends very largely upon what is to be deducted from this test. Now, the vapour of paraffin oil is heavier than the air, and if you have your cup full to the brim, and you raise the temperature of that oil to 73 degs. and so on up to 100, the vapour of the petroleum has a tendency to slip off the surface and over the edge of the cup, and consequently will not come into contact with that flame passing along the wire at a quarter of an inch above the surface. Now, in that way you get a delusive test, 850 which Professor Abel himself described as being "unreliable and susceptible of manipulation." But if you had taken the test of the three chemists, with a cup half filled, there would have been a considerable tendency to retain the vapour which came off from the surface of the oil, and the instruction to pass the flame close to the surface instead of a quarter of an inch away would give a more accurate test than the one which was adopted upon the recommendation of Sir Frederick Abel. Even Mr. Redwood in 1872, in a report which he prepared at that time, was in favour of keeping the test at 100 on account of the fact that people in this country had got to believe that lamp oil, with a test of 100, was a safe and proper oil to use in connection with lamps. Now, what happened in the legislation which took place in 1879? Sir Frederick Abel discovered the test, which everyone in this controversy has agreed to accept as a perfectly reliable test—that is, the Abel tester, a half-filled cup which is entirely covered in, and the flame allowed to approach the surface of the oil simultaneously with the opening of the aperture in the cover of the cup. He then with his new test, with which nobody quarrels, as against the test which he himself describes as being "unreliable and susceptible of manipulation," discovers that there is a variation of 27 degs. Having come to this conclusion that there is a variation, after a large number of experiments, of 27 degs., the flash point is lowered from 100 to 73 with a safe test, but if you compare Sir Frederick Abel's test closely with the test devised by the three chemists you find a variation of only three degrees. Therefore, in my judgment, the Acts of 1868 and 1871, which inserted the open test, distinctly made a mistake in choosing even at that period the worst of two tests which were open to the Government to make a choice from. But, in dealing with this matter, the important point is that 100 degs. was accepted in 1862, 1868, and 1871, at which it was fixed, and the temperature at which paraffin oil gave off a vapour which would catch fire if a light was applied to it. The question as to by what means you arrive at that test, or what particular apparatus you use, is, in my judgement, immaterial, if 851 you are determined in your own mind to start with what apparently the Legislature thought at that time was a proper flash point at which paraffin oil should be used in this country, and that was 100 degs. If you find that your test is inaccurate and open to manipulation, surely the obvious thing to do is not to lower your standard from 100 to 73, but to use a reliable test to maintain that flash point which you have already come to the conclusion is the one which should be adopted. Now, that is the object of this Bill, and I maintain that I have shown from the remarks which I have made that the Memorandum of the Bill is not a misleading statement, but is a perfectly accurate statement of the history of the flash point of petroleum up to the present date. The Bill which I have the honour of moving might have been drafted in this way: we might have taken the Act of 1871, which fixed the flash point at 100, and eliminated the clause which inserted the open test, and inserted the clause from the Act of 1879, which insists upon the Abel close test; and in that case we should have arrived at precisely the same result as by this Bill, which allows the Act of 1879 to stand with regard to the Abel close test and reverts back to the flash point of 100 instead of 73. That is the object of this Bill, and I think the Memorandum fully bears out the intention of the wording of the Act. Now, the next point I should wish to call the attention of the House to is this: it may be said that it is to some extent ancient history to go back to 1879 and 1868 with regard to this matter, and it may be said that the flash point of 73 has, during the last 30 years, practically been satisfactory to this country, and that there has been little or no complaint. I would at once say that the evidence of a large number of the experts who gave evidence before the Select Committee—men of considerable ability and of undoubted distinc-tion—was in favour of raising the flash point of petroleum oil. I might mention Lord Kelvin, Dr. Attfield, Professor Mendeleef and Sir Henry Roscoe, and a considerable number of others; and if you turn to the evidence either of Mr. Redwood or Sir Frederick Abel you will find that while they, in their evidence in chief, are opposed to the raising of the flash point of petroleum, yet they admit 852 that in their judgment it would be safer to raise the flash point of petroleum oil from 73 to 100, and that there would be a likelihood of the diminution of accidents if the flash point were raised; but that they are afraid that the cost to the public would be so materially raised as to interfere with what is commonly described as "the poor man's light." Then there is the evidence of Professor Chandler, who came over in the interests of the Standard Oil Trust Company, who went very largely in the same direction, and who showed that if you could get an oil at a flash point of 100 which burned as well and as readily as the oil of to-day, and that the price would not be materially raised to the consumer, ho said that he believed that for every degree you raised the flash point you added a degree of safety to the oil that was used. Now, as to this point, why it is necessary that the flash point should be above 73 degs. When you are using a paraffin lamp and the oil in the reservoir is feeding the wick and the lamp is alight, it has been found from a largo number of experiments made by Mr. Spencer, the chief officer of the Public Control Department of the London County Council, who has devoted a very considerable amount of time during the last five years to research in this matter, that with a glass receiver to a paraffin lamp there is a tendency to add to the temperature of the oil over and above the temperature of the room in which the oil is burned, to the extent of from 10 to 15 degs.; and in the case of a lamp with a metal receiver the temperature of the oil is sometimes added to from 15 degs. up to as much as 25 degs. Now, if the oil flashes at 73 degs., and you raise the temperature of that oil to 85 or 90 degs., you have a vapour given off in that receiver due to the rise of the temperature which, in any case of overturning or sudden draught down the chimney of the lamp, or accident of that character, is likely to produce the ignition of the vapour in the reservoir or cause an explosion. Undoubtedly the evidence showed that explosions of a detonating character in connection with paraffin lamps are few and rare, yet the ignition of the vapour in the reservoir in any receiver is likely to cause a fracture on account of the heat generated in that ignition, and this has given rise to a very large number 853 of the accidents which are recorded, and which have increased during the last few years. Now, in connection with this question, it is obvious that if you have the flash point of your oil raised to 100 degs.—and the oil in the receiver of a lamp when burning in a glass receiver or in a metal receiver seldom rises above 90 degs. temperature—you have the temperature of the oil under the flash point of the oil, and you are not likely to have a large amount of dangerous vapour evolved in the burning of that lamp, and the Abel close test is practically a test of the receiver of a lamp in use. It is a remarkable thing that the attention of Sir Frederick Abel was never drawn to this aspect of the case when he was reporting lately upon the question of the flash point of petroleum oil. In connection with this matter I might point out that Sir Frederick Abel himself was asked to report upon what flash point should be fixed for petroleum used in the Army and Naval depots of this country, and he recommended that the flash point should not be 73, but that it should be 105 degs., and he said that the reason for this was that in barracks the condition of life was such that it was necessary to take larger precautions than with men who were living an ordinary civilian life. He thought that, with the usual carelessness of soldiers, they might mix up their ammunition with the petroleum, and he thought that generally the condition of barracks, according to his evidence, was an absolute disgrace to the Army of this country. He was asked in cross-examination as to whether he thought the condition of the poor in the East End of London was not considerably worse than the condition of well regulated barracks; and whether, if it was necessary for the safety of the barracks and of our soldiers only to use oil with a flash point of 105, it would not materially add to the safety of the poor people in London and in our large cities to use only oil of a similar flash point?; He said, in reply, that he had no knowledge of the East End of London, which, apparently to my mind, is entirely begging the question which was put to him at that time. I might also point out that the flash point of oil used in lighthouses is from 120 to 150, and this is considered necessary where it is essential to protect property 854 of this character. In the case of railway companies and large dock companies very often you find that the petroleum in use has to be of a higher grade flash point than that in common use at 73 degrees, and, therefore, I say that the deduction to be derived from these facts is that if you raise the flash point of petroleum oil you are increasing the safety of the consumer of that oil. I might point out that the Anglo-American Oil Company themselves some two years ago were advertising a new oil of their own, and it was called the "White Rose Oil." That advertisement described this new oil as being the finest oil on the market, and it stated—Its purity adds so greatly to its safety that families can use 'White Rose' with as much confidence as they would use gas.This is the description given of an oil the flash point of which is 103 degs., which they have put on the market, and which they say is safer and a better oil, and burns brighter than the common oil of 73 degs., which is the ordinary oil of commerce; and they further stated that the price which they were going to charge for it was going to be very small indeed over and above the ordinary oil of commerce. Of course, when the Committee was sitting, the attention of one of the directors of the Anglo-American Oil Company was drawn to this statement, and he said that it was only advertising bunkum, and was done for advertising purposes. I ask them, Are we to accept this statement that it was advertising bunkum, and at the same time not make very large deductions from the argument about the greatly increased cost of the oil in case the flash point was fixed at 100. If on the one hand they are prepared to lie to the public, then it is reasonable to presume that they are prepared to lie in their own interest to the Committee of this House, and the evidence which was given by an expert from America, while it showed that in his opinion it would add a penny per gallon to the cost of the oil, yet I believe that that was a very large exaggeration of the true facts of the case. Now, in this controversy, while we are dealing with the question of America, I will allude to the statement which has often been made that the flash point of the oil used in the United States of 855 America is low, and that practically it is lower than the flash point at present in use in this country. There have been laid before the Committee three tables upon this matter—there were the tables of Mr. Redwood, Mr. Stewart, and Mr. Gray, all three of them gentlemen of considerable ability in dealing with this matter, and the comparison of these tables shows that dealing with 47 States there was no law in 15, according to Stewart, and that throughout 20 States there was a flash point of 100 degrees and over. According to Mr. Gray, there were 19 States with a flash point of 100 and over, and Mr. Redwood found that there were nine States with a flash point of 94 and over. Both Mr. Stewart and Mr. Gray found that there was no State that had a flash point lower than 73. There were 12 over 80 and under 100, and 13, according to Mr. Gray, over 86 and under 100. Mr. Redwood's figures are by no means so like in parallel as those of Mr. Stewart and Mr. Gray, who differ somewhat from each other in their deductions, but are much more in accord with each other. Now, if we take one State, the State of Iowa, which has a flash point of 105 degs., some of the facts in connection with the history of that State are of interest in connection with this matter. The Anglo-American Oil Company, when that matter was before the American Legislature, used every effort which is open to American politicians and to American wire-pullers to prevent the flash point being raised to 105, but the flash point was eventually raised to that figure, in spite of the fact that the copy of the Bill was abstracted from the possession of the Clerk the day before it should have received the signature and become law. What has been the result? Why, that in a population of 2,000,000 of people during the last 14 years there has been no death from explosions in connection with the use of paraffin lamps.
§ *MR. RECKITT
I do not state that it appeared in the evidence, but, under the circumstances, I think I am entitled to make the statement for what it is worth, although it is not in the evidence. As far as I can make out—and I have made inquiries from sources which I believe to 856 be perfectly reliable—there were no deaths from this cause in Iowa for 14 years. Now, there have been a number of accidents from paraffin lamps in London during the past seven years, and there have been 191 deaths from this cause, with double the population of Iowa. I will leave the House to draw its own inference from this fact. If I turn to Scotland and the North of England, where the use of paraffin oil with a flash point of 103 degs. is common to the people of those districts, you will find that accidents and deaths in connection with the use of paraffin oil are extremely rare, and in many parts of Scotland almost unknown. That, to my mind, speaks largely for the advantage of a high flash oil to be used by the people of this country. But when you turn to England and to London and other districts, you find that accidents and death in connection with the use of paraffin oil have increased, and are upon the increase. If you take the number of fires in London, according to the return of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, made in 1876, the number of deaths in connection with accidents from the use of paraffin was one, whilst in 1897 it was 21, and the percentage in connection with the number of fires has risen from 3 to 24.1. Now those figures to my mind show, at any rate, that there is a case to meet, and that there is a need for legislation which should, if it is at all possible in any way, try and minimise the number of deaths and the number of people who are injured in connection with lamp accidents. If you take the number of accidents due to petroleum lamps in the city of Glasgow, and in Edinburgh, where the flash point is 105, it is only 1 per cent.; and if you take London it is 13.5 per cent. If you take Amsterdam, where the flash point is 70 degs., the percentage is 37 per cent.
§ *MR. RECKITT
I believe it also includes those fires in manufactories as well, but if it includes manufactories in one case it includes them in all the others, so that the weight of my statistics is not materially affected by that point. But the question which I would like, in conclusion, to deal with is the question of cost. Now, in arguing the flash point of 857 petroleum oil, the question of cost was one which weighed very largely upon the minds of honourable Members of that Committee who did not vote in favour of raising the flash point to 100, and, for my part, I must confess that it was not until I had satisfied myself that to raise the flash point from 73 to 100 would not materially raise the price of petroleum oil to the general consumers in this country that I myself voted in favour of raising the flash point to 100. The reasons which weighed with us then, and which weigh with us now, are that you can buy Scotch oil at 105 degs. at the same price as you can buy American oil at 73 degs.; and you can buy Russian oil at a flash point of 107 degs. at the same price as the American oil at 73 degs. I have also here with me amongst my papers a copy of a telegram from New York, saying that there is a firm there who are willing to supply and guarantee a flash oil at 100 degs. Abel close test at one-half cent extra cost per gallon over the cost of the 73 degs. oil in use at the present time, which is an increase of one farthing per gallon, and even that increase of one farthing is likely to disappear as regards the consumer on account of the general competition which is likely to go on in this country. Now, seeing that the variation in the price of the American 73 degs. oil in England in the year 1895 was during that period 4½d. per gallon, without even the competition of Russia with the higher grade oil, the extra cost of one farthing taken into consideration with the variation in the market—a variation which in some cases amounted to 4½d. in the year—the extra cost of one farthing is not at all likely to materially increase the market fluctuation of the price of petroleum oil. But the evidence of those who argued that the price would be largely increased depended upon the testimony of an oil refiner from New York, who described to the Committee how he would raise flash oil from 73 to 100, and he said that it would cost him so much more because he would have a residue for which he could not find a market. Then he was asked if he had to manufacture de novo from crude oil whether he would adopt the same process as in the case of the 73 degs. oil, and he said if he had to manufacture an oil of 100 degs. he would proceed by a different process, and ho 858 stated that he had forgotten to make any experiments as to what the cost of that process would be, although he had had six months' notice that that was the point upon which we wanted him to give evidence. When he was asked what was the price to be got for naphtha he declined to state it, but those who turn to the papers and look at the price of American oil and naphtha will see that naphtha is fetching a larger price in the London market than the lamp oil. As to the question of supply, the figures of the expert from the new fields in Java, Sumatra, and Borneo show enormous increases in the imports into both India and Japan, and there is a general decline or a want of proportionate increase in the oil from America and Russia, while the oil from Eastern countries is rapidly, if not supplanting, at any rate is taking the whole of the new supply which is required. These oil fields are new, and have only been partially developed, but I believe that even if it is still maintained, or even shown that it will require the absorption of 30 per cent. more of the crude oil to manufacture oil at a flash point of 100, that even in spite of that fact the enormous oil fields of the world are capable of keeping up the supply, and the competition would be such that the price to the consumer would be regulated by the general competition, and not by the cost of the production of the oil at the present time by the present machinery. I feel I have taken up a large amount of the time of the House, but I have done so because I think that this is a matter of considerable importance. I have done my best to lay before the House some facts in connection with this subject; and I would, in conclusion, remind honourable Members of the remarks so often repeated by the present Under Secretary to the Home Office, that the first consideration of the Government in connection with this matter should be the safety of the public. Are we to put aside this reform on account of what I might describe as a momentary inconvenience to the trader? Are we to put aside this reform on account of a manufactured agitation against this Bill, against the raising of the flash point? If we can, by turning our attention to this question, by means of legislation save a few lives; if we can prevent only a few accidents to poor people; if we can protect somewhat 859 better the property of the people of this country, then I think this Bill deserves well of the consideration of this House. I beg to move, "That this Bill be now rend a second time."
§ MR. A. CROSS (Glasgow, Camlachie)
I rise with great satisfaction to support the Second Beading of the Bill brought in by the honourable Member for Brigg. I will endeavour, Sir, in what I desire to say, to be as brief as possible, though I hope the House will bear with me if I recall the fact that I have taken a somewhat prominent part in connection with this Bill. I happen to have been an original member of the Committee which conducted an inquiry into the question, and to have served on the Committee in the last Parliament. Sir, I brought to the deliberations of the Committee an entire ignorance of the subject, but I also brought that quality in which this House boasts—namely, an absolutely unprejudiced mind. I was perfectly disinterested, and if, Mr. Speaker, in the course of five years' inquiry', I have come to hold an earnest opinion, it is because I am earnestly convinced, and when I remember that the question is one which concerns the safety of the people of this country in their homes, I think it is a question with regard to which I do well to be earnest. If I were not earnest I should be almost guilty of a crime. I shall, perhaps, best serve the interests which this Bill seeks to promote if I address myself at once to the crux and essence of the case of those who are opposed to the raising of the flash point. It is alleged that the raising of the flash point will have the effect of making illuminative oil, which is a necessity of the poor, dearer in price. Now, Sir, following in the line of my honourable Friend the Member for Brigg, I traverse that statement. The only two witnesses who were called before the Committee on that matter afforded no information upon the essence of the question, and, as far as those two witnesses were concerned, the Committee remained entirely ignorant on the subject.
§ MR. A. CROSS
It is within my distinct recollection that an intimation was conveyed, either informally or directly, to the Standard Oil Company that they were expected to furnish witnesses with regard to the question of price if the Committee recommended the raising of the flash point of oil. They had fair warning months before, and the witnesses presented themselves on this footing; but, after they had been examined, we were in precisely the same position as we were at the commencement. If any candid man will read their evidence I venture to say he will be as ignorant of the matter as he was before. I draw attention first of all to the supplies of petroleum now on the market. The Anglo-American Oil Company, which practically possesses the monopoly of the market of this country, sent us last year 2,700,000 gallons; Russia supplied about 900,000 gallons; and the Scottish companies 450,000 gallons. It is true that the Scottish companies started their trade with a high standard of flash oil and stuck to it, not merely from commercial considerations, but also upon humanitarian grounds; but I want to deal with American oil. It is true that the American witness, Mr. Paul Babcock, partner in the Standard Oil Company, gave us no information on the details of this question, but the Committee were in possession of information from other sources. We had the evidence of three distinguished chemists, which went to show that by extracting from the 73 degs. flash oil imported from America 8 per cent. of naphtha, an excellent and safe burning oil at 100 degs. can be obtained without an increase in the present price of oil. In the process of manufacture in America, where 100 gallons of crude oil are treated, the results are- that they get 60 gallons of 73 flash oil, 20 gallons of 100 degs. flash fine water-white, and 20 gallons of residue. The loss, therefore, is entirely confined to 8 or 10 per cent. on the 60 gallons of 73 flash oil, which is something like 5 per cent. on the whole of the oil. I have procured the prices from the New York Produce Exchange, and I find that the highest price reached for 73 degs. flash oil, free on board at New York, during the last four years is 5 cents. a gallon in bulk; and the lowest 861 point, which was reached in October, 1897, was 2.90 cents. per gallon. The average price in that period was 4 cents. per gallon, equal to 2d. per gallon. Deducting from this price the cost of transport to New York, and the producer's profit, said to be large, the cost of production at the factory cannot be more than 1½d. per gallon. If enough naphtha is abstracted from the oil to raise the flash point to 100 degs., the cost of production will only be raised 10 per cent. at the very outside—more probably not more than 5 per cent. I rest my whole case on this point, and I challenge the right honourable Gentleman or any honourable Member to upset my figures. If I am reminded that there will also be a loss in making the oil up to 100 degs. flash in heavy oil I differ. There is a "cracking" process, by which it is as easy and practically as cheap to produce oil flashing at 100 degs. as at 73 degs. Fifty per cent. of the oil coming into the market is oil made under the "cracking" process. I have seen a written offer within the last few days from the outside manufacturers of America, undertaking to supply oil flashing at 100 degs. at a rise in price over the oil flashing at 73 degs. of only a farthing a gallon. These manufacturers are willing to contract for a number of years, and I shall be happy to supply the right honourable Gentleman with full particulars—¼d. per gallon is the very outside of it. Now, such an increase of price would scarcely be felt by the consumer. The honourable Member for Brigg has already alluded to the selling prices of oil at which the public gets supplied in this country. I have before me a list of the prices of oil supplied by wholesale dealers in London, and I find that the prices varied from other causes in the course of single years from ⅝d. to 4½d. per gallon, from such causes as freight, cost of distribution, profits to agencies, etc. So much for oils at present on the market. I should like to add a word or two about the oils which are not in the market, but which are rapidly becoming available for the market. The Russian oil fields are hardly touched yet, although they are supplying hundreds of thousands of gallons. In America, while it is notorious that every effort is being made to sup- 862 press the production in order to keep up the price, there is an enormous production going on. In Canada, the production will still largely increase. In Roumania, large fields are being opened, and in Galicia, Java, Japan, and Borneo, the production is being rapidly developed, The House will realise what is meant by the supply of oil in Borneo when I mention that concessions have been granted to the extent of over 180 square miles of land, and that the flash point of the oil of that country is 150 degs. Now, Sir, the remedy which this House ought to seek in order to prevent a further increase in the price of oil is free competition. Let us welcome oil, whether it comes from Canada, Russia, or anywhere else, but let us at the same time insist as a necessary condition of its purchase that it shall be at a safe flash point. Now, Sir, I should like, if this House will bear with me, to say one word as to why we have brought in this Bill. Having regard to the fact that the Government are going to bring in a Bill in a few days, it has been suggested that we should have waited and seen what they had to say on the subject. It appears to me that there is a complete answer to that suggestion. In the first place there was no mention of petroleum legislation in the Queen's Speech; and, in the second place, there is reason to believe that the Bill which the Government will bring in will deal with the storage of oil and the regulation of lamps—questions of such complexity and difficulty that I think they might be very well left to the Bill of which the right honourable Gentleman is in charge. The honourable Member for Brigg has dealt with the contention that in this Bill we are introducing a change of great magnitude. As a matter of fact, this Bill only proposes to re-enact that which Parliament did enact in 1861, and intended to enact in 1868, and by subsequent legislation. The principle laid down by Professor Letheby was that the flash-point is the temperature at which the vapour would begin to be freely evolved, and should be higher than the temperature to which the oil under ordinary circumstances would be exposed, whether in store or in lamps. That is the principle on which we proceed. We maintain that it is unsafe to permit an oil to be sold in this country which is 863 of such a nature as to evolve inflammable explosive vapour at any temperature which is lower than that to which it is likely to be exposed in ordinary use. I would remind the House that there is hardly a kitchen in any of our large towns, or drawing-room for that matter, in which there is not a lamp burning, and in which the temperature is higher than 73 degs. On many of our summer days we have a temperature of over 73 degs., and whenever you have a temperature over 73 degs. that oil is giving off a vapour, an invisible vapour, which is as inflammable and combustible as gunpowder itself: and which, if exploded, is certain to carry destruction to all the objects with which it comes in contact. It is urged that explosions do not often happen with petroleum oil. I saw in a leading journal the other day a statement that no explosion ever occurred with petroleum oil; but honourable Members of this House who are curious on these subjects should read an admirable reply to that article by Mr. Spencer, of the County Council, whose labours on this matter deserve the greatest amount of credit, and I am sure they will satisfy themselves that explosions do frequently occur and cause death to the persons in the vicinity of the lamps. But I base my case not on what happens when an explosion occurs, but on what happens under the ordinary conditions of life when a lamp is upset in any man's kitchen, or in any room in the house. If the oil in the lamp is heated to its flash point it gives off all over the room an invisible inflammable vapour, and if the wick touches the vapour floating about the lamp an explosion occurs on a small scale. The oil is scattered in a spray-like form, carrying fire and general destruction with it. But if the oil is of a quality with a flash point of 100 degs., at the time of its discharge from the lamp it would be at a temperature usually of 90 degs. The flame of the lamp instead of exploding the oil would be extinguished by the oil. To put it plainly. If you take two oils, one with a low flash point of 73 degs., or under, and the other of a flash point of 100 degs., and heat them up to 80 degs., if you put a match into one, that oil will blaze and flare, but if you put a match into the high flash oil the match will be extinguished. That is the great advantage 864 of a high flash oil when a lamp is upset. I promised the House not to be tedious, and I trust that I have not gone beyond the limits which my experience of and interest in this question have justified. I apologise to the House for having taken so long, and I thank honourable Members for the patient hearing they have given me.
To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.'"—(Mr. Kimber.)
§ *MR. KIMBER (Wandsworth)
I am surprised, and I am sure many honourable Members of this House share my surprise, that so large a portion of the speeches of the honourable Members who moved and seconded the Second Reading of this Bill should have dealt with the subject of lamps. Now, let me say at once that whether this Bill passes or whether it does not pass, lamps will not be affected in any way whatever. Lamps will go on burning oil either at a high flash point or at a low flash point just as before. So long as careless people can have access to lamps, accidents will happen to the end of time. That, I think, obviates the necessity of my dealing with arguments such as were used by my honourable Friend who has last spoken, as to what would happen if the oil in the lamp used in the room reached a certain temperature. Lamps have been instrumental in forcing this question on the House and on the public. If serious accidents happened to careless people, or to innocent people who are not careless, they were thrust on the attention of the House, and hence the Committee which has been sitting for some years. I have no doubt that these accidents caused some confusion in the minds of some of the Committee, and some of the witnesses who came before the Committee. I shall not go into the question of lamps at all, or as to the temperature at which, or the conditions under which, the oil in them, if ignited, will explode. I do not know how people can suppose that when a lamp is burning the temperature of it can be as low as 73 degs., or even 100 degs. It is difficult to believe that. If you try the experiment of putting your finger on the metal 865 near the burner you will soon experience a temperature more like 212 degs., which is boiling point. But before dismissing the question of lamps I must say one thing. A large and valuable portion of the Report of the Committee which sat so long on this question, and which included the two honourable Members who have put this Bill before the House, contained recommendations as to what this House should do in the way of legislation in regard to lamps, and that ought, no doubt, to be discussed and considered at the same time that legislation on the other part of the subject is undertaken. That part of the recommendations in the Report of the Committee as to what should be done in regard to lamps is conspicuous by its absence from the Bill now before the House. What is the Bill? It is proposed by the Bill to put a last brick in the edifice of the legislation which for some years has passed through the House on the subject, not of lamps, but simply on the question of storing, handling, and transit of oil—oil not ignited at all, but oil that is as cold as it can be—regulating the conditions under which some of the oils at least ought to be put, in order to render them perfectly free from accidental explosion or ignition. This Bill, then, deals only with the question of handling, storage, and transit of oils. In 1871 a Bill was passed, which the honourable Member for Brigg has correctly, though not very clearly, described as fixing 100 degs. Fahrenheit as the temperature under which if oil gave off inflame able vapour it should be subjected to certain regulations. In the Paper attached to this Bill the honourable Member says he wishes to restore the flash point of oil imported into this country to that point. But he did not tell us, as the fact is, that 100 degs. line was to be ascertained by a certain test, which test was set out in the schedule of the Bill. In 1879 that Bill was continued and made perpetual instead of being annual, but it was altered in one important respect. In the intervening eight years it had been found that the open test, as it was called, of 100 degs. was really only equivalent to the close test, the proper scientific test, of 73 degs. The Act of 1879 did not really alter the temperature at which the line was to be drawn, but it substi- 866 tuted the more accurate test, and it defined the line to be taken on the Fahrenheit scale, by that test, as at 73 degs. Practically that is admitted in the Report of the Committee 73 degs. under the new test was the equivalent of 100 degs. under the old one. This is taken for granted, it is assumed, all through the Report of the Committee, and the evidence of the witnesses is that that was so. The honourable Member himself says in another part of the Paper he has attached to this Bill, that there was an error of 27 degs. in the Bill of 1879, and that his Bill was intended to rectify that error and to put it right. What the Bill of 1879 enacted was—that all oils which give off a vapour under 73 degs. Fahrenheit under the altered test set out in the schedule of the Bill should be subject to the specific regulations of the Act of 1871. If the honourable Member does not admit that this was the equivalent of the 100 degs. by the open test, I shall venture to ask him why he did not produce the evidence of witnesses to show that it was not so. Evidently he could not, but I take his own admission in this Report in support of my argument. Now, that being so, I want to know the raison dêtre of this Bill. Is it to go back, is it to ask the House to go back from the legislation of 1879 and restore the legislation of 1871, which is admitted to be defective. What can be the reason of this? Is it to be assumed that the House was less wise in 1879 than it was in 1871? There is nothing in the Report of the Committee to show that we were more ignorant after the large amount of experience which the intervening eight years had given us. Why are we asked in this House in 1899 to repeal the Bill of 1879, which simply corrected a mistake in the Bill of 1871? I hope I shall be able to show the House that there is another reason for introducing the present Bill besides that alleged of rectifying the so-called error in the Bill of 1879. What is the trade in oil in this country? It amounts to 160 million gallons per annum, of which 30 million gallons are below the flash point of 73 degs., and 34 million gallons with a flash point of above 100 degs. For the sake of round figures I shall call them each 30 millions; that is, 60 million gallons are outside the limits of the argument which the honourable Member has used 867 to-day. There remains, therefore, 100 millions of gallons of oil which by this Bill would be put under these onerous conditions which now only apply to the 30 million gallons with a flash point under 73 degs., and would still hold free 30 million gallons that are above 100 degs. flash point. Now, I do not want to touch the honourable Member for Camlachie on a spot in which he is a little tender, by calling him a Scotchman.
§ *MR. KIMBER
I do not want to allude to persons from whom these particular oils with different flash points come; but still, some come from above the Tweed. It so happens that nearly all oil which comes from north of the Tweed is above the flash point of 100 degs. You will therefore see that the oil manufacturers north of the Tweed with their oil of 100 degs. have at present to meet in competition 100 million gallons of oil with a flash point between 73 degs. and 100 degs. And if they can induce Parliament to pass this Bill extending the onerous duties and obligations which are now limited to oil of 73 degs. by putting up the flash point to 100 degs. then some or all of the competitors with these northern traders would be handicapped. The honourable Member did not state it as clearly as that. It was not his business to do so, and I have no fault whatever to find with him for not doing so. He laboured hard to show that it would make no difference in the price. That is the old argument of the protectionist. It is an axiom in trade that duties of any kind, not only pecuniary duties but special obligations, licences, conditions of storage in premises or in transit along the streets—all these mean an increase in price. And it is an axiom in economic language that such duties always fall on the consumer. It is not essentially necessary for me to answer that portion of the honourable Member's argument. It is impossible for this House to consider some of the arguments used by the honourable Member, because the details of facts and figures on which he bases them cannot be tested here. He says his statements can 868 be relied on, but whether they can be relied on or not, they are subject to so much controversy and open to so much scientific observation that little consideration can be given to them here. It is sufficient for me to show that his competitors in trade will be seriously handicapped to his advantage. The honourable Member produced to us from the other side of the Atlantic an allegation that oil at a high flash point can be produced without increased cost; and he asked us to accept that as gospel. If the high flash can be produced without increased cost, why in Heaven's name is it not done now, when they could take so much more profit and not be subjected to the onerous obligations to which I have referred. The House will see, therefore, that there is evidence that one part of the trade have a very great interest in having the flash point line drawn differently from what it is now. Whether this interest is the prompting motive of the Bill, or whether it is not, it is not for me to say. I do not want to introduce motives. I do not blame these four Scottish Members for the attitude they took up in the Committee, or are taking up in this House. They have a right to be there, and to maintain the interests of their constituents. But, all the same, it is not an unfair observation to note the interesting coincidence that those gentlemen who took so active a part in the discussion of the flash point, and who secured the passing majority of one in a Committee of 15—
§ HONOURABLE MEMBERS: No, no!
§ *MR. KIMBER
It was, at any rate a very small majority—a majority of one or two—but I need not labour that point. It was a very curious coincidence, that the very four Gentlemen who are so active and persistent in pressing the raising of the line of flash point are the same Gentlemen who come from the localities in which the great interest to which I have alluded lies, and where a large section of the trade would be benefited at the expense of the remainder of the trade. 869 This is a Protectionist Measure—a Measure in favour of a portion of the trade—whether Russian, or Scotch, or American I am not going to say—but it is a Bill in favour of that portion of the trade which deals in oil of a flash point above 100 dogs, and would enter into trade and meet with less competition than before if the Bill passes. Let us see what will be the effect of this Bill on the great public, because the honourable Gentleman who moved the Bill began by claiming that public interest was the virtuous principle of his Bill. The Mover told us it was not until he came to the conclusion that there would be no rise in price that he resolved to move that the flash point should be raised. But I observe that he put a little qualifying adjective into his statement. He did not venture to say that there would be no rise in price, but that there would be no material rise in price. But any rise in price is to handicap the poor.
§ MR. RECKITT
When I said there would be no material rise in price, that was when the Committee was sitting. Now I say that there will be no rise in price at all.
§ *MR. KIMBER
The honourable Member says that he has now arrived at the conclusion that there will be no rise in price, but the facts are all against him. He does not require to prove what nobody can prove or what would take place in a given set of circumstances. We have, however, the logic of the past to inform us, and I would quote from the Report of the Committee of which the two honourable Members were members. The Report says—and it confirms my statement—that—if the stringent restrictions applied to oil under 73 degs. are applied to petroleum under 100 degs. it would practically have the effect of preventing the use of such petroleum for domestic purposes.
That is to say, that there would be probably 100,000,000 of gallons which the poor would not be able to use on account of the price being raised.
§ MR. KIMBER
Well, we will see. What does the Report say, "The petroleum oil below 100 degs. close test is 78½ per cent. of the total supply." That is the supply which goes to the poor. One of the witnesses before the Committee, Professor Dewar, stated that there were no less than 10,000,000 lamps burning this oil every night in this country, or 4,000,000,000 lamps a year, and that he considered the average number of accidents from these lamps over six years was only 121 per annum.
§ MR. A. CROSS
These were figures obtained by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, and they only refer to fatal accidents in the City of London.
§ *MR. KIMBER
I will take the honourable Gentleman's correction. On the question of price, what does the Report say? It says at page 12, "It appears that the difference in price at present"—they are reporting a fact, not an opinion—the difference in price at present between the ordinary oil of 73 degs. (Abel close test) and that of 100 degs. (Abel close test) is from 2d. to 4d. per gallon, and that there is, practically, no difference in the illuminating properties of the two grades…The difference of the prices is largely affected by the locality in which the oil is sold"—and in a second paragraph, I find—gentlemen of great experience in the petroleum trade stated their full belief that the increase of cost would be only 1d. per gallon or less.But 1d. per gallon means three-quarters of a million of money to the consumers of this country, who surely ought to be considered. The trade, I maintain, are interested in this matter, although the honourable Member himself disclaims the idea that the trade should have any particular benefit. I am in favour of giving the trade every benefit, and that we should not put too many restrictions on the trade by grandmotherly legislation as to lamps and so forth. I do think that as regards one of the first necessaries of life to consumers, restric- 871 tions should not be put in the interest of any section of the trade. I think that the facts entitle me to draw the conclusion that this Bill is not a Bill required in the interest of the general public; in fact, that it is a Bill against the interests of the public. It evidently arises from the different interests of the three great sections of the oil trade. Undoubtedly, in the nature of things, the different classes, all with different flash points, have different qualities, and perhaps, appeal to different markets. But it is not for this House to put on to any section of the trade a handicap by which other portions of the trade may be benefited, and by which the price to the large consuming public will be increased. I think I need not trouble the House any further. I have endeavoured to be as brief as possible. I have not gone into details, but have dealt with general principles. I hope I have so stated my case that the House will feel justified in rejecting the Bill; and I move that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.
§ On the return of Mr. SPEAKER after the usual interval,
§ MR. WEBSTER
Mr. Speaker, in rising to second the Amendment for the rejection of this Bill, I do so on precisely the same grounds which actuated the honourable Member for Wands worth—namely, purely and absolutely on public grounds. I have no interest in this trade other than, as a Metropolitan Member, to prevent, as I believe, the invasion of the rights of a large number of my constituents. The honourable Member for the Brigg Division of Lincolnshire, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, which I venture to say he did, from his point of view, in a statesmanlike way, pointed out that it was undesirable, and I quite agree with him, that we should in any way raise the question as to our feeling towards the inhabitants of the United States, or Russia, or anywhere else. He rather inferred that the agitation against the Bill which he and some of his Friends had brought forward was purely a manufacturers' agitation. He referred to the fact that a great deal of literature had been sent to Members of this House on the subject, 872 and I sometimes wish myself that there was not quite so much literature flying about. But upon this question the literature has not been confined to those who are opposing the Measure. This morning I received two documents, one duly signed by the honourable Member for the Brigg Division and a number of his friends, and the other unsigned. I cannot hold the honourable Member for the Brigg Division or any of his friends responsible for an unsigned document. The document says that to raise the flash point would not be to raise the price. The honourable Member for the Camlachie Division of Glasgow said, on the other hand, that it would increase the price by one farthing per gallon, and I find, on referring to the Blue Book, that it is very distinctly stated that it would probably increase the price by 1d., and perhaps 2d., per gallon. Therefore, we have three different statements. I am not going into any controversial question with regard to the Standard Oil Company, or in regard to Russia, but I do think it is unfair for a document like this to be sent to honourable Members. The document commences, "Shall this Trust dictate to the House of Commons?" That is merely claptrap. The British House of Commons cannot be dictated to by anybody.
§ MR. WEBSTER
I do not say who sent it. I simply said that the circular was received by me in the ordinary course. I said also that I received one from the honourable Member as well. We will now come to the question whether or not there has been any agitation. From one point of view I will acknowledge that there has been an agitation to some extent. Newspapers, like other people, change their views. I find that on 16th September 1895, in a newspaper, the name of which I will afterwards announce, it was stated that two more inquests had been held on persons who had been killed by lamp explosions. The newspaper I am referring to was the "Star," and this paper said that it was stated at the inquest that the particular kind of lamp which caused these deaths had been the cause of 300 deaths during the past 12 873 months. Although the "Star" then acknowledged that the explosions were caused by the bad lamps used, they have since started a low flash campaign. This question is one which affects London very considerably. I will not challenge the accuracy of the figures quoted by the honourable Member as to the number of deaths which have occurred from lamp explosions in London, but I should like to say that the amount of petroleum oil used in manufactures in London is very great. I find, in Appendix No. 1 of the Blue Book, that there are no less than 41 manufactures carried on by means of petroleum. These manufacturers are licensed by the London County Council, and employ a vast number of working men. If the honourable Member succeeded in raising the price of petroleum by even a halfpenny per gallon it would do considerable injury to many trades in the Metropolis.
§ *MR. RECKITT
May I point out to the honourable Member that the Bill does not affect the oil used in manufactures?
§ MR. WEBSTER
I am aware that it does not affect that oil to so great an extent, but, at the same time, there is no proposal in the Bill to deal with oil used in manufactures. You cannot prevent oil being used in these manufactures with the lowest flash point. Therefore, your Bill will be absolutely nugatory in those manufactures. In the majority of lamp accidents, the explosion is caused by the imperfect kind of lamp used by the working classes—I know that is a fact, for I have served on the Fire Brigade Committee—but there is no provision in this Bill dealing with the manufacture of lamps. The Legislature insists on safety lamps in mines, but ignores the class of lamp used in the poorest dwelling. One of my objections to the Measure is that it does not go far enough. I think the House should wait till they see the Measure which will be brought forward on behalf of the Government by the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Birmingham. The argument drawn from the statistics of accidents caused by petroleum lamps is a mawkish piece of sentimentality. According to the Report of the Registrar-General, the total number of deaths from accidents 874 from paraffin lamps for the six years from 1888 to 1894 was 786—or an average of 122 each year—whereas in the same period, 4,085 persons met their deaths by falling downstairs. Is the Legislature, therefore, to insist that only one-storey houses should be built, or to prevent people crossing the road at Piccadilly or Charing Cross because a certain number of people lose their lives at those crossings? The honourable Member for the Camlachie Division of Glasgow acknowledged that London was really the open market for this oil. I understand that about 116,000,000 gallons of oil come into this country annually from the United States, whereas only 23,800,000 gallons come from Russia. It the Bill passes into law, there is no doubt that it will divert a great deal of trade that now comes from the United States to the United Kingdom into other channels. I speak with some amount of reserve on this question, because, as a Scotchman, I should not like to do anything to injure a Scottish interest. But I do think the composition of the Committee was one of the most astounding features in the case. I find that on the crucial point as to whether the flash point should be raised from 73 degs. Abel test to 100 degs. Fahr., eight Members voted on one side, and six on the other. The whole of the six represented large urban constituencies in England, while of the majority who carried the resolution four represented districts round Glasgow, where the shale oil industry is carried on. The President of the Committee did not vote, but if he had voted I dare say he would have voted with the minority. The Bill only deals with one recommendation of the Committee, and leaves untouched the question of cheap glass lamps, which are such a frightful source of danger. A vast number of the lamps used by the working classes are very badly manufactured, and I hope that when the Government bring in their Measure they will make provisions for stamping lamps in the way suggested by the Committee. The real object of the Bill now before the House is to encourage the Russian and Scotch oil industries as against the American, and it will make it more difficult and costly for the working man to get an adequate light in his house 875 in the evening. Sir Henry Roscoe, while strongly advocating the raising of the present flash point of 73 degs. Abel test for the purpose of storing and handling, is equally strong in his opinion that there should be no prohibition of the use for illuminating purposes of petroleum of low flash point. He says—If; is, in my opinion, perfectly impossible to legislate to the effect that nobody shall burn a low flash illuminant of any kind which has a flash point below a certain temperature. For instance, in the streets they burn ordinary naphtha.Sir Frederick Abel and Mr. Redwood have expressed it as their conviction that the chief danger is in the lamp, and the "Daily News" of 21st September 1886 stated that—A lamp containing an oil of high flash power is more liable to become heated than if it contained a comparatively light and volatile oil, in consequence of the much higher temperature developed by the combination, and of the comparative slowness with which the oil is conveyed by the wick to the flame.I notice with some astonishment that reference has not been made to one of the most important witnesses that the Committee had before them, but who, I am sorry to say, has since passed away. I allude to Col. Sir Vivian Bering Majendie, K.C.B. What did Sir Vivian Dering Majendie say? The Member for Bristol (Sir Edward Hill) put the following question to him—May I take it that in your opinion there is not sufficient evidence to cause us to believe that a reduction of the flash point would, at any rate to any very large extent, obviate the accidents enumerated?And Sir V. D. Majendie replied—The effect of the evidence upon my mind is that that is not the most effective way of approaching the prevention of lamp accidents. Nobody can doubt, I think, that to reduce the flash point would lead to a reduction in the number of accidents; I venture to think that the gain would not be commensurate with the disadvantages which would attend the raising of the flash point.The honourable Member for Bristol then asked him—And I take it that in your opinion a statutory prohibition of the sale of oil, say, at the present flash point, would be attended with inconvenience to sundry industries.876 The reply which Sir V. D. Majendie gave to that question was as follows—You could not prohibit it, the sale of oil, below a certain flash point, altogether, because there are a great many industries which are absolutely dependent upon a low flash oil.Sir V. D. Majendie also said he did not see how the use of lower flash point oil could be prevented in lamps. He said that Parliament might lay down that it should not be sold for use in lamps, but he did not see how they were to prevent anybody who had got a low flash oil from using it for any purpose he liked. Unfortunately that distinguished and absolutely impartial witness, who gave this evidence on Friday, 22nd April 1898, and who was to have been re-examined on the following Wednesday, passed away in the meantime. His evidence is evidence which the honourable Member who moved the Second Reading of this Bill will have some difficulty in getting over. I have touched on the question from a Metropolitan point of view and from a scientific point of view, but let me now ask the House of Commons to consider how this Bill will be regarded in the United States if we pass it. We are not entitled to inflict injury upon a nation which at the present time is becoming more and more friendly towards us. As I have already said, if this Bill has any raison d'être it is to encourage the Russian oil industry and the Scotch oil industry against' American. It will harass trade and commerce, and will put up the price of oil one half-penny per gallon, and make it more difficult for working men to have an adequate light in their homes. Honourable Members laugh, but I ask, Has not the working man as much right as anyone to have a good light in his home?
§ MR. WEBSTER
I believe that is so; but let us look at Germany. There is no country in Europe in which so much is being done for the working classes as in Germany. They have an old age pension scheme, which we do not possess, but their flash point is as low as 70 degs. The class of lamps sold in Germany is better than the rubbish sold 877 here, and I hope that in the Government Bill something will be done to improve the class of lamp which is allowed to be sold in this country. I have much pleasure in seconding the Amendment which has been moved by the honourable Member for Wandsworth.
§ MR. TULLY (Leitrim, S.)
I rise to support the Bill brought in by the honourable Member for the Brigg Division of Lincolnshire. I think the speech we have just listened to is characteristic of what I will describe as the moderate knowledge on this subject, which exists not only amongst the public but also amongst Members of this House. He has stated that the effect of this Bill will be to prohibit all oil being brought into this country which is under 100 degs. flash point.
§ MR. TULLY
The honourable Member said it would prevent oil under 100 degs. being burned by the working classes. That is not the case. The effect of the Bill will be to cause oil under 100 degs. flash point to be placed under the same restrictions as oil which is now under 73 degs. flash point. At present there is a large amount of oil imported into this country under 73 degs. flash point, which is used in manufactures and in naphtha lamps. The raising of the flash point to 100 degs. will not prevent oil being brought into this country under 100 degs., or prevent the use of the lower standard oil in manufactures, or by the working classes. The effect of this Bill will be to enlighten the people as to the dangers of burning oil under 100 degs. flash point. The honourable Member who spoke last has referred to the petitions which have been signed extensively by retail dealers in the oil trade against this particular Bill. Many of the traders in my own constituency have signed these petitions and forwarded them to me, but when I asked them if they really understood the question they replied that they did not. They simply signed these petitions because they were in the position of tied houses. They had either to sign the petitions or were threatened by the Anglo-American Oil Company that they would not get their usual supply of oil. I do not attach any im- 878 portance to petitions secured in that manner. It has been said that this is a question of Scotch oil against American oil, and that no one spoke in favour of raising the flash point except Members who represent constituencies above the Tweed. I know very little about Scotch oil, but I think anybody who has burned Scotch oil and has experienced its fumes will not be likely to use it again. The question of Scotch oil as against the oil that is brought from all the rest of the world is really a very small one, because the output of Scotch oil is comparatively trifling as compared with the output of oil from America and Russia. I speak as the only Irish Member who sat on this Committee. I have no interest in Scotch oil. I am a large consumer of oil in a particular industry which I carry on, and would be affected by an increase in the price. But what concerns me is the number of accidents that have occurred in my own part of the country from the use of this dangerous American oil. It was I who first raised this question. I was instrumental in getting this Committee appointed, because, within a short distance of where I live, there had been an explosion of paraffin oil at a public rejoicing, by which two boys were burned to death and 14 others were roasted. Honourable Members laugh, but I cannot see where the joke comes in. American oil is nothing else than murder oil. In New York and Brooklyn there were so many persons burned to death by explosions of this murder oil that the American Legislature, in spite of the great influences opposed to the proposal, passed laws prohibiting the sale of any oil under 100 degs. flash point in New York and Brooklyn. The very oil which Mr. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Trust cannot sell in the States of New York and Brooklyn is imported into this country, with the effect that it burns and roasts to death our friends and our own people. That is one of the reasons why I take my stand in supporting this Bill. One honourable Member said the effect of the Bill would be to raise the price of oil by one penny per gallon, which would mean a total increase in the price of this oil of three-quarters of a million sterling. Well, even if it would—and I deny that it would—it would be a very cheap price to pay for the safety of the 879 public. Anybody who reads the frightful list of deaths caused by explosions of this oil will, I am sure, feel himself bound to support a Bill which would prevent this murder oil, which is not allowed to be sold in New York and Brooklyn, from being imported into this country. Lord Kelvin, one of the highest authorities on this subject, is of opinion that the sale of oil for illuminating purposes of a flash point lower than 130 degs. open test (equal to 103 degs. Abel close test) should be prohibited by law unless there are thoroughly practical reasons to the contrary. He believes that this would greatly diminish the number of lamp accidents, though he is of opinion that 103 degs. is not a safe minimum, and that 120 degs. Abel would not be too high if practicable. Mr. Spencer contends that, though carelessness and neglect are contributory causes, yet lamp accidents are mainly due to burning oil of comparatively low flash point in lamps of unsafe construction. As soon as the American Legislature raised the flash point to 100 degs. the fires in Brooklyn and New York disappeared, and the percentage of deaths from this cause went down as low as the percentage in the city of Glasgow, where they use a safe oil—namely, Scotch oil This fact alone makes a sufficient case why this House should pass this Bill. We have been told that the passing of the Bill would increase the price of oil. I am able to controvert that from the information I obtained on the Committee, and from the answers I obtained to the questions put to the expert witnesses who came before us. I asked one of the American witnesses what the price of the oil was in New York and Brooklyn before the flash point was increased, and what it had been since, but I could get no answer. Another American witness who came up gave us most elaborate statistics, with the object of showing that we should raise the price if we raised the flash point, but when I asked him the same question which I put to the other witness he was in the same state of ignorance, and said that that was not in his department. I take it, from the way in which they evaded the question, that there has been no increase at all, and that this oil is sold at the same price as it was before the flash point was increased to a safe figure. 880 I remember, when I first called attention to this matter, being informed by a gentleman engaged in the oil trade that a ship load of oil was allowed to leave New York for Ireland without being sufficiently tested. It landed in Ireland, and around a small circle in the West of Ireland there were a number of explosions and deaths in an incredibly short time, all of which were traced to this oil. The lives and the safety of the public of this country should not depend on such indifferent supervision on the part of the American authorities, but we should insist that the oil which is allowed to come into this country should be raised to a flash point of 100 degs. It is quite true that a man may use naphtha for purposes of business, but if we raise the flash point of oil we prevent people having more than a small quantity at a time. We do not keep out 73 degs. flashing point oil altogether. The public and the oil dealers will have to choose, if this Bill passes, whether they will sell oil which will be subject to these restrictions, or sell oil at 100 degs. flash point, which will not be subject to these restrictions. By an extra distillation America can produce a safe oil. I deny that by raising the flash point we shall increase the price of oil. Competition will insure that the price is not raised. I think it is the duty of the Members of this House to support the Bill, in order to safeguard the lives of the people of this country.
§ *SIR E. HILL (Bristol, S.)
I venture briefly to address the House on the Bill now under discussion—firstly, because I have the honour to represent one of the Divisions of Bristol, a city which occupies no less than the third place of importance in connection with the Petroleum Trade, importing 381,343 barrels of petroleum every year; and, secondly, because I was a member of the Petroleum Committee, which sat for four years, giving the subject exhaustive and careful attention. Sir, I took my seat upon that Committee with a thoroughly open mind. I had no knowledge of petroleum except that which may be gained by a fairly considerable household use. I had no interest in American, Russian, or Scotch oils to bias my votes either way. I was naturally most desirous of ascertaining 881 the cause of accidents, and of discovering in what way they might be prevented or seriously reduced. At the same time, I was strongly impressed with the fact that petroleum was the poor man's illuminant—brightening his home where the expensive gloom of a candle had previously prevailed, and enabling his long winter hours of leisure to be agreeably and profitably employed—and that, therefore, nothing must be done which would tend to make his illuminant dearer, unless very strong reasons could be shown for such an interference. Sir, I do not hesitate to express my opinion that the Rill now before the House possesses two defects, each one of sufficient importance to justify its rejection. In the first place, it would fail to eliminate or even seriously to reduce accidents; and, secondly, it would cause great inconvenience to the trade and to private individuals, which would certainly raise the price. The Bill seeks to raise the flash point from 73 degs. Abel close test to 100 degs. Abel close test. By so doing, all oil below 100 degs. would be placed upon the same footing as oil under 73 degs. is at present, i.e., it would be deemed spirit, and subject to the very needful regulations as to storage for spirit now in force. And here I cannot help expressing my astonishment at the suggestion made by the promoters of the Bill in the explanatory Memorandum, that to raise the flash point as proposed would only be reverting to the original point of 100 degs. The flash point of 1871 was ascertained by what was called the "open test," which was soon found to be inaccurate. Sir Frederick Abel invented a more accurate test, which has been received all over the world as practically accurate, and is called the "Abel close test." When this test was applied to the flash point of 1871 it was found that the 100 degs. open test was only equal to 73 degs. Abel close test. All that was done in 1879 was to call the flash point of 1871 by its proper name— 73 degs. Abel close test. If to raise the flash point to 100 degs., as the Bill proposes, or even higher, would mean an immunity from accidents, I should then feel that it would become a subject of grave consideration whether the inconvenience and cost would practically admit of its being done. But I could not come to such a conclusion from the evi- 882 dence given before the Committee. Lord Kelvin stated that he deemed 103 degs. dangerous, and named 120 degs. or 130 degs. as the flash point, if practicable. Considering the accidents that have happened with high flash oil it seems impossible for a moment to contend that low flash oil can be deemed responsible for all accidents. And this is the opinion of most of the eminent men who gave evidence. Sir Frederick Abel, Professor Dewar, Mr. Redwood, and Mr. Spencer saw no practical advantage in altering the flash point from 73 degs., and Sir Vivian Bering Majendie, K.C.B., whose sad death we all deplore, did not recommend any alteration, and I know was of opinion that safety must be sought in other directions, especially in the direction of lamps, of which the Bill takes no notice. If honourable Members will make an experiment for themselves, by saturating a cloth with 73 degs. flash point oil, and another with 100 degs. flash point oil, and will apply a light to each, they will find that while in theory 73 degs. flash point oil should ignite quicker than 100 degs. flash point, there is practically no appreciable difference. All illuminants in careless or dissipated hands are dangerous, and although I believe proper supervision of lamps (not contemplated in this Bill) would do much good, if a lamp upset with oil heated far beyond any flash point suggested, be brought into contact with fire, ignition must take place, whatever may have been the original flash point. If we turn to foreign countries we find that in Holland, Belgium, Sweden, and Italy the flash point is 72 degs.; Germany, with its paternal Government, is satisfied with a flash point of 70 degs.; in China and Japan, with their inflammable wooden houses, it is only 70 degs. to 72 degs.; while in India, where the thermometer often stands from 100 degs. to 110 degs., and sometimes even 120 degs., the flash point is only from 70 degs. to 72 degs. It appears from Returns, which arrived too late for the use of the Committee, that in America the flash point is from 63 degs. to 73 degs. in 11 States, from 73 degs. to 100 degs. in seven, over 100 degs. in four, while in 10 States there are no regulations at all. In face of these facts, it is difficult for the House to come to a conclusion that 883 the mere altering of the flash point will make any appreciable difference whatever in the number of accidents. Then, Sir, as to the inconvenience of the raising of the price of the oil. I had the honour of introducing to my right honourable Friend the Under Secretary for the Home Department a deputation which, with one exception, represented the whole of the distributing trade in Bristol, the West of England, and South Wales. These gentlemen, who had been engaged in the trade since its commencement, and whose opinion ought to be considered valuable, were loud in their condemnation of this Bill as needless and useless, and one which would certainly increase the cost. I have had a very large number of signatures from retail traders all in the same sense. I am aware that this controversy has assumed somewhat of a national aspect, and efforts have been made to excite the public by sensational leaflets, pamphlets, and newspaper articles against what is styled "Murder Oil." But such literature only serves to fill the waste-paper basket, and can have no effect upon those who give the matter calm consideration, and attach the importance they deserve to the opinions of the great authorities I have named. Sir, it is because I believe that the raising of the flash point from 73 degs. is not needful nor desirable for the prevention of accidents, because I believe great and needless disturbance would arise to an important trade (by means of which 10,000,000 lamps are lighted every night), because I do not wish to see the poor man's illuminant needlessly raised in price for the benefit of a comparatively small section, and because I rely upon a Bill being brought in by Her Majesty's Government which will deal comprehensively with the whole subject, that I shall vote against this Bill.
§ *MR. URE (Linlithgow)
Sir, no one who, like the right honourable Gentleman opposite, or like myself, has tried his hand at a Report, gathering up the conclusions to be drawn, and marshalling the evidence in support of them, will be likely to underrate the difficulties connected with the questions involved in this discussion. But I think 884 it is possible to extract from its 1,200 pages of evidence the salient facts upon which the House must rest its conclusion, and to trace with some confidence the path upon which legislation, to be successful, must necessarily proceed. The frequency of accidents arising from lamp explosions was the main point which induced the House to appoint the Petroleum Committee. Everyone will agree that, if practicable, the House should take some means to prevent the deplorable loss of life arising from these accidents. This could be done by either preventing the light being brought into contact with the inflammable vapour arising from the oil—by means of a proper lamp, carefully attended to and kept in proper order; or by preventing the creation of the inflammable vapour altogether—by ensuring that oil in the lamp could not be brought to that temperature at which it would give out this inflammable vapour. One guards against the danger; the other removes the danger altogether. The latter is the method of the Bill. The Under Secretary for the Home Department has characterised as "inaccurate and misleading" the Memorandum of the Bill. I acknowledge responsibility for the substance and form of that Memorandum, and I hope to be able to demonstrate to the House that its accuracy is unimpeachable. I stand by every line and syllable in the Memorandum. The Memorandum sets out that the object of the Bill is to give effect to the intentions of the Legislature as expressed in the very Act of Parliament passed with regard to petroleum except the last; and to cure the blunder which is to be found in the last Act of Parliament. I think that accurately summarises the language of the Memorandum. The demonstration of its accuracy is easy, and, happily, can be made within a brief compass. Our first attempt at legislation was in 1862, when we laid restrictions upon all petroleum which gives off an inflammable temperature under 100 degs. Fahr. Did Parliament intend what it said when it imposed that restriction? No mode of ascertaining the flash point is laid down in the Act; but it is an incontrovertible proposition that there were methods known and in constant use by which it was possible to ascertain the flash point of oil with as great certainty as can be done to-day 885 by the method prescribed in the statute of 1879. It is certain that in the hands of intelligent and honest operators this method ascertained with scientific accuracy the flash point of oil, and it is equally certain that the man who then advised the Government was in the habit of constantly using a test by which the flash point could be ascertained with as much certainty as by the Abel test. Now did Parliament mean 100 degs. or some other temperature? Was it intended to prescribe an inaccurate and misleading method dishonestly applied? No, Parliament meant what it said, and that the flash point should be ascertained by the best known methods then in use, honestly and intelligently applied. The reasoning upon which the Act of 1862 proceeded was that the temperature in the lamp would never, under ordinary conditions, reach 100 degs., and that, therefore, that limit might safely be fixed. The condition of oil in a lamp is the condition of oil in a close space, and not an open space. The conclusion is inevitable. Parliament meant what it said when it laid down that 100 degs. should be the flash point. I now pass to the statute of 1868, which prescribed a method of testing. At that time no one suggested that the flash point was too high, or that the temperature of oil in the reservoir of a lamp under ordinary conditions did not reach nearly 100 degs. When the Bill was brought before Parliament the flash point was 110 degs. The Government of the day took the advice of three chemists, and, on their report, they fixed the flash point at 100 degs. They further prescribed a test, and insisted that it should be rigidly adhered to. It was in constant use for a long period of years, and was known to ascertain the flash point with very great accuracy. Undoubtedly, when the three chemists' fixed upon 100 degs., they really intended what they said. Subsequently, I admit, an open test was substituted, but it turned out to be fallacious and misleading. The question is, did Parliament intend that the flash point should be lowered to 73 degs.? The right honourable Baronet the Member for Manchester, N.E., who, as repre- 886 senting the Government of the day, was responsible for the insertion of the new test, surely will not say that he intended that the flash point should fall something short of 100 degs., for when he remitted the question to Sir Frederick Abel, he straightly enjoined him not to give way on any question affecting the efficiency of the test. Sir Frederick, when before the Committee in 1896, was asked questions with regard to the test which was substituted for the three chemists' tests. The question was put to him whether the substituted test was a more satisfactory one, and he replied that it yielded a more generally satisfactory result. In answer to further questions, he said he made experiments for the purpose of ascertaining the difference between the results arrived at, and in the end he came to the conclusion that the test prescribed by the Act of 1868 was the more reliable. After that, I venture to assert that Sir Frederick Abel, when he substituted the open for the chemists' test, thought it at the time a better, more reliable, and more accurate test, and it is now certain that the Parliament and Government of the day, together with their chief adviser, intended, whatever else they might have done, to fix the flash point at 100 degs., and nothing short of it. Then we come to the Act of 1871, which, while repealing all prior legislation, re-enacted the main provisions, and retained the open test in the schedule of the Act of 1868. Will the right honourable Gentleman say that when the Act of 1871 was passed Parliament intended to lower the flash point to something less than 100 degs. It is impossible to say that, and for this reason. In 1871, the discovery had not been made that the open test substituted by Sir Frederick Abel was an inaccurate and misleading test. As the right honourable Gentleman knows, it was not till July 1875, four years after the Act of 1871 was passed, that a letter was writen to Sir Frederick Abel, asking him to make full inquiry into this question of tests, so that for four years, at any rate, after 1871, the Government had not their eyes open to the fact that a blunder had been made 887 in 1868. And it was not until August 1876, when Sir Frederick Abel's Report was issued, that everyone knew that the test which had been inserted in the 1868. Act, and re-enacted in the 1871 Act, was fallacious, misleading, and inaccurate, and that the public safety had been sacrificed. If I am right in this, and I know of no flaw in the argument, I think the right honourable Gentleman opposite will agree with me in the statement that the Memorandum of the Bill is rigidly accurate, and that this Short Bill is intended simply to correct a mistake, and to give effect to the intentions of the Legislature as expressed in all these Acts of Parliament. I come last to the Act of 1879. By that time an accurate, scientific test was known to all the world; and in that Act a correct test was substituted for that which had been discovered to be an erroneous test. If that had been all, and ordinary minds thinking in the ordinary way would say that that was all that should have been done, there would have been no Petroleum Committee, no vast mass of evidence collected, and no discussion to-day upon this Bill. And, what is more to the purpose, we should not, I believe, have had to deplore the long list of fatal accidents and serious injuries which have had to be chronicled during these intervening years. The Act of 1879, however, not only corrected the test, but it also lowered the flash point. No man, at that date, suggested that 100 degs. was too high a flash point, and everybody agreed that it was the right one How, therefore, it came about that, having corrected the test, you should have lowered the flash point by exactly 27 degs., has never yet been explained, and no one ever made the smallest attempt to defend the Act of Parliament. It was wrong-headed in the extreme, or perhaps I should say heedless in the extreme; there was absolutely no justification for it.
§ *MR. COLLINGS
DO I understand the honourable Member to say that the flash point was lowered in 1879 by 27 degs.?
§ *MR. URE
Certainly not. The right honourable Gentleman has wholly misunderstood my argument. He very well knows that in the hands of an extremely careful, skilful, and honest operator, the test will yield an exact and accurate flash point, and it was only in the hands of a man who performed it un-skillfully, heedlessly, and dishonestly that a lower temperature was declared. In 1879 the gross mistake was made of lowering the flash point 27 degs., contrary altogether to the intention which the Legislature had expressed in all these prior Acts of Parliament. It was exactly as if a man had come every day 27 minutes late for an appointment, had then discovered that his watch was wrong, and that you had given him the correct time, but bid him at the same time to always come 27 minutes behind time. I summarise the petroleum legislation thus. It is divided into three stages. In the first you have a correct flash point, but with no means of finding it out; in the second you have a correct flash point with a wrong means of finding it out, and in the last stage you have a correct means of finding out the wrong flash point. The object of this Bill is to fix a correct flash point with a correct means of finding it out. It is, in other words, to restore a correct flash point and to retain the accurate means of finding it out. The effect of the Act of 1879 has been to exclude altogether from domestic use oil with a flash point under 73 degs., and the supporters of this Bill maintain that the effect of it, if it is passed, will be to exclude from domestic use all oil with a flash point under 100 degs. Such restrictions are put upon oil under 100 degs. as are now imposed upon oil under 73 degs., and exclude it from use for burning in lamps. That, we firmly believe, will be the effect of passing this Bill. I candidly admit it, and if I believed it would not be the effect I say it would not be worth while troubling about the Bill. If the Measure becomes 889 law there will be no oil used with a flash point under 100 degs., and we believe that by this and this only can you secure safe oil for the lamps of the people. That view proceeds upon past experience. We are encouraged further by all the evidence which has been taken before the Committee, and by all the experience which has been gained during the past 30 years. Time is too short, and I do not propose in my speech to deal with any of the expert evidence given before the Select Committee. Hut by far the most valuable testimony was that of Mr. Alfred Spencer, of the Public Control Office of the City of London, who made certain investigations at the request of the Committee. He made in all 95 experiments with burning lamps in order to ascertain the temperature of the oil in the reservoir after the lamp had been burning for from three to five hours. He used various kinds of oil and various kinds of lamps, including metal with metal wick tubes. Dr. Stevenson McAdam made 66 experiments of a similar kind, giving a total of 161 experiments, and the results may thus be briefly summarised. In 10 cases the oil in the reservoir, after the lamp had been burning from three to five hours, was found to be under 73 degs. That means, in plain language, that out of 161 cases 151, if the flash point were at 73 degs., would have had their oil in a dangerous condition, because the reservoir would be filled with inflammable vapour. Then they found in 13 cases that the oil, after burning for from three to five hours, was above 100 degs., and in each instance the high temperature was explained by the fact that the lamps were of an unusual description, having metal reservoirs and metal wick tubes, which tended to increase the heat. And, what is most important of all, having in view what we are told is to be the proposal of the Government, in 96 cases out of the 161 the oil was found to be above 85 degs. Fahr. In other words, if the flash point were fixed at 85 degs, then in these 96 cases it Would have been in a dangerous condition. Indeed, the evidence was overwhelming in favour of raising the flash point to 100 degs. if complete safety were to be attained. And if we 890 had all been quite satisfied that this would not have resulted in an increase of price to the consumer, we should have unanimously recommended it. It is obvious that the question of price was therefore of first importance. That was not a question which the Petroleum Committee left out of view. We were almost unanimous in thinking that if there was to be no increased cost to the consumer by raising the flash point of oil we would do well to raise it. We might differ with regard to the extent of the benefit, and I readily concede that we did not agree as to the amount of benefit which might be gained. Still, we all thought that if it could be done without increasing the cost to the consumer it would be well to take that preliminary step. Obviously, all the elements which enter into the question of cost are not susceptible of definite ascertainment. But there are, I think, two elements which are susceptible of ascertainment— one, the cost of manufacturing, from the crude, oil with a flash point of 100 degs., and the second, the prospect of disposing of the increased residue so gained. Briefly, but quite accurately stated, the method of raising the flash point is to drive off so much more of the lighter vapour and to retain so much more of the heavier vapour. If you raise the flash point of oil you will have more naphtha and somewhat less of burning oil. The House will, therefore, see that the crux of the case is, would the manufacturers be able to dispose of the naphtha? The increased cost is infinitesimal. We have definite and clear evidence from no fewer than seven witnesses with regard to the cost of manufacture, and the net result was that if the flash point was raised to 100 degs. the cost would be about l–10th more than the present cost, or about 2 cents per gallon. That was the nett result of the evidence. In addition to that, we had the clearest testimony from those who had actually made experiments, that the oil would be of unimpaired quality and a good burning oil. The nett increase of the cost, assuming that the naphtha was unmarketable, would be something like from ½d. to ¾d. per gallon. 891 But the House will see that we did not propose to rely solely on the evidence of experimentors on this side of the ocean. After all, this is a question which the Americans themselves are best able to solve, and from them we expected to receive the most valuable evidence. At any rate, so thought the Committee, and at an early stage of our deliberations we suggested that American witnesses of skill and experience should be invited to come over and enlighten us upon this question of increased cost. After waiting for a period of three months the long-looked-for witness at length appeared on the 22nd July 1896, in the person of a Mr. Paul Babcock. He was the only witness of practical experience sent by the Americans to give us light upon what turned out to be the most controverted topic of all. It seems well worth our while, therefore, to ascertain what was the nett result of his evidence. He came to us with very high credentials. In answer to a question by the Chairman, he said he appeared before us in the capacity of a willing witness, and he turned out to be a very willing witness indeed. He also said he was a practical refiner, that he was a general manager of the King's Company Oil Works, where 10,000 barrels of crude petroleum are distilled every day of the year, that he was also a member of the Committee of Practical Experts, who were consulted by all the large manufacturing interests, and that he was a director of the Standard Oil Company. He added that he was not a scientist, but he had a practical knowledge of the daily work of oil refiners. He said that he understood that Committee desired to be furnished with practical testimony, and that he was there to give it. Now, I think, the House will admit that his credentials were adequate. Let us see how he supported them. In the first place this practical refiner detailed to us at great length an experiment by which he proposed to convert the 73 degs. flash oil, which could not be sent over to this country if this Bill passed, into 100 degs. flash oil. He stated with great circumstantiality the nature of the experiment, and then added that it was a dismal 892 failure, as any man of practical intelligence could have told him be-forehead, and as Mr. Babcock and his manager knew very well before the experiment was made. He made haste to add, after spending fully half an hour of our valuable time in detailing an absolutely useless experiment, that he desired it to be distinctly understood he would never think of making it that way. It was quite obvious to us that there was a deliberate attempt made to throw dust in the eyes of the Committee. I therefore ventured to ask Mr. Paul Babcock if he would be good enough to tell us how he would go to work if he had to raise the flash point to 100 degs. tomorrow. He then explained to us a totally different process which he would at once set into operation. But when I asked him the innocent question what increased cost to the consumer would be entailed, he answered, "I certainly cannot tell you that." Yet that was the only question he had come to us to answer; it was the only question upon which his evidence would be of the smallest value to the Committee. At the end of an absolutely ineffective examination, he wound up with the oracular sentence—If the laws of Great Britain should be so altered as to prevent the importation of refined petroleum for illuminating purposes which did not stand 100 degs. Abel flash test, I think the effect on the price would be very great.There was not a member of the Committee who could not have done as well. I would back the right honourable Gentleman opposite to do a great deal better. This is flabby indeed, compared to the trenchant rhetoric in his famous letter to "The Times" of the 14th July 1898. But rhetoric is somewhat misplaced when devoted to ascertaining the price, the fraction of a penny per gallon which the consumer will be required to pay if the two and a half million barrels of 73 degs. oil which are sent over to this country every year come across as 100 degs. oil. My objection to Mr. Paul Babcock's evidence is that from the beginning to the end of it there is not a single fact, nor a single figure, nor a 893 single incident of his experience which could have enabled the Committee to form any judgment upon that question. I do him, perhaps, injustice when I say that he left the witness chair without throwing some light upon the important controversy that he came to elucidate. There was put into his hands an advertisement which he himself admitted had been circulated by the Anglo-American Oil Company, advertising an oil of Standard Oil Company manufacture. It was not low-flash—it was 104 deg. oil, and it was offered to the public in these alluring terms—'White Rose' is the finest grade lamp nil ever produced from petroleum, and is a desirable and valuable substitute for the slightly cheaper, but vastly inferior, oils sold by many dealers. ' White Rose' burns in the ordinary lamps, and affords a flame of great brilliancy and power, and without incrustation of the wick. It is entirely free from objectionable odour, and its fire test is so high as to make it the safest petroleum lamp oil in the world, Explosion is guarded against, and families can burn 'White Rose' oil with the same assurance of safety as they can gas. Its original cost is only a trifle more per gallon than the ordinary grades of lamp oil.Well, Sir, the House will be anxious to know what, in the opinion of Mr. Paul Babcock, is a comparatively trifling price. I was curious to know, and I ascertained the fact that it was exactly one penny per gallon, so that any member of the public may at any time buy oil at the flash point of 104 degs.—the most pure, most economical, most brilliant in the world—for exactly one penny per gallon above the price of the 73 degs. flash point! That, Sir, speaks volumes. That, Sir, really solves an immense mass of conflicting testimony. Depend upon it, if this is the best the Americans can do there can be no substance in this case presented by the American oil trade in favour of the view that if we raise the price of oil we shall increase the price and deteriorate the quality. A more complete and hopeless breakdown I have never, in all my experience, seen, than this attempt of the Americans to show that an increase in our safety would be accompanied by a deterioration in quality and an increase in price. They themselves did their best; and the House may take it 894 from me—I have read every syllable of the evidence—that this was the best they could do. If this is their best, we can see how hollow and flimsy their case must necessarily be. Let me say, in conclusion, that I have heard it said in some quarters that this is a Scotch Bill, and that the sole and simple object of this Bill is to give some encouragement to the Scottish oil trade. A greater mistake than that it would be impossible to make. It is a national question. It is a question which affects the lives and limbs of Her Majesty's subjects throughout the whole of these realms; and, if I am to discriminate among the various nationalities which make up the United Kingdom, I would say that Scotland had the least interest of all in this question, because Scotland consumes a smaller proportion of this dangerous oil than any other of the countries composing the United Kingdom. There is an enormous demand in London, more than in any other part of the country, for this dangerous oil. Sir, it is a London question rather than a Scottish question. I heard one honourable Gentleman say it was to benefit the Scottish oil trade, because they would then be able to supply the 100 degs. flash point to the whole of the consumers in the United Kingdom. That honourable Gentleman can hardly be aware that it would tax to the utmost all the refineries in Scotland, and it would very soon exhaust their resources, if they were to supply for a single year the consumption of burning oil required in the City of London alone. We cannot supply the United Kingdom with 100 degs. flash point oil. It was an open secret, I think the right honourable Gentleman will agree with me, if it be a secret at all, that very early we saw that the trade interests were excited about the question which we were investigating. It was quite obvious to him, as it is quite obvious to me, that the American oil industry believed that their interests would be promoted if the flash point were left unchanged; and it was equally plain to us all that the Scottish oil industries believed that their interests would be furthered if the flash point of burling oil 895 were raised; but I challenge the right honourable Gentleman to point to a single allusion, to a single sentence, in this vast mass of evidence which is calculated to throw a single direct ray of light upon that question which he, in that famous letter to "The Times," said had occupied by far the most prominent place in our inquiry, whilst the question of public safety receded into very modest proportions. On this question I have a perfectly open mind. I have not given any consideration to it. We were assured, Sir, from many sides, that our investigations and deliberations were being carefully watched by every country in the civilised world whose people used burning oils in their lamps, and we were further assured that whatever conclusion we came to they would probably accept—that whatever course we adopted they would probably follow. If that be true—and I have no reason, for my part, to doubt it, for nowhere else in the world has so prolonged, so anxious, so minutely detailed an investigation been made—then I venture to express a confident hope that before many years have passed, and, perhaps, as the result of this day's discussion, no civilised country in the world will tolerate by its law the use of unsafe oil in the lamps of its people.
§ *MR. COLLINGS
Mr. Speaker, I agree with the honourable Member who opened this Debate in his statement that this is a most important question, and I will add to that that I believe there are few questions more important than the one which has been raised by him this afternoon. Now, I must ask the indulgence of the House for a longer time than I should have liked to occupy in replying to the many points which have been raised by honourable Members who are in favour of this Bill. I can, for the second time, congratulate my honourable Friend opposite on the skill with which he has raised the structure of this question on one of the smallest and most obscure bases that can be found. The "Three Chemists" were his invention—the term "Three Chemists" he has again brought forward, 896 —a matter that happened 30 years ago, as the basis and the reason of all the difficulties we have encountered, and he again asserted that the flash point was then lowered 27 degs. Well, Sir, the term "27 degs." was never invented until 11 years after the period which my honourable Friend has referred to, and how he can apply it to 1868 is difficult to imagine. But, Sir, I think we can let that ancient history alone. I will refer to one or two points which my honourable Friend stated, while they are in my mind. He said that there were trade interests occupying that Committee, and at the same time he took us to task for saying that the public safety had taken a back seat. Well, Sir, no one who reads the proceedings of that Committee can come to any other conclusion than that, from first to last, it was a Committee which was mainly an arena of trade interests. When we consider the thousands and tens of thousands of pounds which were spent in sending men from the Black Sea, St. Petersburg, Scotland, from America, all supporting their various interests—if that were all done because certain poor people met with lamp accidents, then philanthropy has got to a higher pitch than I thought it had. There was one other matter the honourable Member stated—that we cannot find a remedy for the present state of things through dealing with the lamps. Well, Sir, we had but one point, I think, upon which the witnesses, without exception, were unanimous, and that one point was as to the lamps. I believe it was the only point upon which those who gave evidence had anything in common. Another point he made was that you can remove the existence of accidents by removing inflammable vapours from the lamps. Now here comes in my complaint respecting this Memorandum. A Memorandum outside a Bill is of the utmost importance to inform those who may not be acquainted with the technicalities of the subject and the wording employed, but there is one condition to its usefulness, and that is, it should be correct. I am going to sustain what I say—that it is absolutely incorrect in this instance. The honourable Member says: Remove 897 the cause of accident by removing the inflammable vapour. Well, Sir, he forgot that every lamp is filled with either air or vapour, and that all vapour is inflammable. Now, this Memorandum states that the flash point of petroleum is the lowest temperature at which it begins to give off inflammable vapour. That is absolutely incorrect. Every kind of petroleum, whatever the flash point, whether it be zero or it be 200 degs., is ever giving off vapour, and to give the idea to the public or to the House that that is the meaning of the flash point is to mislead. The flash point is not the lowest point at which it gives off vapour, as the Memorandum says.
§ *MR. COLLINGS
All vapour is inflammable. There is vapour given off from water ("Oh! oh!" and laughter). What I mean to say is that all vapour given off by petroleum—
§ *MR. COLLINGS
I used the word petroleum—is inflammable. Therefore, what is meant really by the flash point is, when you heat the oil sufficiently that it gives off vapour enough when a light is applied to give forth a flash.
§ *MR. RECKITT
Might I ask the right honourable Gentleman if he will explain the difference between his statement and that in the Memorandum?
§ *MR. COLLINGS
The Memorandum says the flash point—I will read it "is the lowest temperature at which it begins to give off inflammable vapour."
§ *MR. COLLINGS
That is not the flash point. The flash point means when these inflammable vapours have come to combine, and have increased sufficiently to give a flash when a light is applied to them—a wide difference. Now, Sir, my honourable Friend re- 898 ferred to the Government Bill, and the Mover of the Second Reading of this Bill took credit to himself that the Government had only decided to bring in the Bill after the fortune of the ballot had enabled him to introduce his Bill. It is nothing of the kind, I can assure him. The Government decided to deal with this question long before even Parliament met, and, in consequence, before he could have given notice to introduce his Bill. Our Bill has long been in preparation, and it is in a forward state. We cannot very well deal with the question in a one-clause Bill. It is an intricate question. It has to do with the lamp itself; it has to do with handling and storing the oil, with the wholesale part of the trade and the retail part of the trade—all questions following one upon another, and inter-dependent; and after the settlement and consideration of these questions we hope to introduce a Bill that shall, and I believe will, settle this very important matter. It will deal with most of the recommendations by the Committee. Those recommendations were passed either unanimously or by very Large majorities, with the exception of one. That one was passed by a bare majority, and is the only one dealt with in the Bill before us. Now, the Government cannot, even if they wish, deal in this piecemeal fashion, and to adopt this Bill would be simply to tie their hands and to prevent them from doing what I believe they will do.
§ AN HONOURABLE MEMBER: Why?
§ *MR. COLLINGS
Because it is very simple on paper to raise the flash point to 100 degs., but the ramifications of the present law are very great, and it would upset the whole conditions of the present law. I would ask the House for a moment to consider the article we are dealing with. Years ago, when this petroleum was a luxury for rich people—we may remember it, many of us—its price was 3s. 6d., and 3s., and 2s. 6d. per gallon; but the competition of American petroleum has brought down the price to 6d. and 8d., or whatever the price may be—at any rate, has brought it within the reach of the poorest classes of this country, and it is 899 therefore constantly called the poor man's light. At the time my honourable Friend refers to—namely, 1868—there was a merely insignificant amount imported. I think it was about 5,000,000 gallons; and at the present time it is about 185,000,000 gallons. Now, there is one particular point I wish the House to consider, that of this vast total, this vast quantity of 185,000,000 gallons, the Bill of the honourable Member, if passed, will put no less than 78 per cent. of it out of the market. That is an important consideration. If that Bill passes—and I acknowledge the candour of the honourable Member in admitting that that will be the effect of it—it will put 78 per cent. of oil out of the market, because there is 78 per cent. of it that is under 100 degree flash point. But that is not all. The ordinary petroleum is something between 73 degs. and 75 degs., and that almost entirely is used and burnt by the working classes and the poorer classes of this country. Now, that has been admitted by my honourable Friend to be the object of the Bill. It would not only do that, but it would prevent the trader from using it. There are vast quantities used by railway and other companies, farmers, gardeners, and people in the country. All of them will have their supplies put out of the market, and they will be compelled to buy oil at above 100 degs. flash point. I think the House will agree that this is a vast change, affecting, as it does, the trade and commerce of the country, and the House will agree that this change should not be made without good cause. Now, what are the arguments brought forward in favour of raising the flash point? I believe the one which has had the greatest effect outside the House is the assertion, repeated and repeated, that England has been made the dumping ground of oil that the Americans will not use at home, and which they are unable to export to other countries but ours. If that were the case, I, for one, would not be here opposing this Bill. But it is the very opposite to the fact. The honourable Gentleman who introduced this Bill quoted certain statistics in the Report. He knows well that at the instance of a member of that Com- 900 mittee I have secured, through the Foreign Office, an official Report from America. I agree that it did not come in time to be used by the Committee, but I think it is important, and copies of it have been sent to each honourable Member who was a member of the Committee. And according to that Report, what do we find? I venture to think that the official Report acquired through the Foreign Office is far more accurate than any other can be. Now we find, first of all, that there are ten States that have no law at all on the subject; they burn anything or use anything, and there is no regulation of any kind. Ten did not reply, but in answer to what the honourable Member said—I think he said there was hardly any State that used the 73 deg. or lower-flash point oil—I find that there are five States that have got 63 degs. as their flash point.
§ *MR. COLLINGS
It must be a scientific man who can reduce the figures and get the equivalent from one to another, and the equivalent is given in the Report.
§ *MR. COLLINGS
I am not a scientific man, and I take it that the honourable Member is not either. Therefore, the best we can do is to submit it to those who are scientific men. There are five States who have the 63 degs. flash point, and seven who have a flash point of 73 degs., six who have various degrees from 73 to 100, and only six States who have a flash point of 100 degs. and above. Then we have abundant evidence to the effect that it is very doubtful to what extent the law is put in operation. For 901 instance, my honourable Friend, I think, opposite, instanced New York State. Yes, but a witness said, there is the 100 flash point law there, but the State has refused to carry it into effect. Besides that he adds—With regard to New York, it makes but little difference. There were 350 to 500 fires in the State attributed to petroleumSo much for America. Go to Australia, Victoria, New Zealand, and most of our Colonies. Go to Germany, who followed our Bill, immediately we had passed it, in 1879, and adopted the Abel test, but thought our flash point was too high and put their flash point no less than 3½ degs. below ours. Germany was followed by Austria, Italy, and most of the countries of Europe, and the Reports practically say that the whole of Europe has nothing up to or above 100 degs., and most of the countries have the 73 degs. flash point, the same flash point as ourselves. If we go to the East: In China the flash point is 70 degs., in Japan the flash point is 71 degs., Switzerland has 73 degs. to 75 degs. And there is our great dependency of India, which I suppose honourable Members will pay some attention to, and which I would like, seeing the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton present, to draw attention to for a moment. I forget the date exactly, but Lord Kimberley, when he was in office, sent out a request that the Indian Government would inquire into the question with a view of stating if there was any necessity for altering the flash point. The Government of India took 15 months or more to make that inquiry, and on the 24th April 1895, they sent their Report to my right honourable Friend, who was then Secretary of State. It contained most interesting reports, which are all published in the Report of the Committee from Bombay, Calcutta, and all parts of India. I will not trouble the House with reading what conclusions are contained in the Report to my right honourable Friend sent by Lord Elgin and the Members of the Government. This is the answer sent by Lord Elgin. After reporting the steps that were taken, he winds up by saying—The returns which we have now received show that there have been few lamp accidents, 902 and that their occurrence does not appear to us to justify the raising of the present legal minimum flash point, and we see no reason for modifying the opinion previously formed by us in regard to this matter.Well, I think that counts for something, at any rate as far as the experience of other countries goes. It upsets the contention completely that England is made a dumping ground for this oil. The fact is, the quantity imported into these islands, vast as it is, is a mere bagatelle to the quantities consumed in other parts of the world. Now, the second contention is the one of the "Three Chemists"—that there was a test recommended by the "Three Chemists," and that that was intended to be embodied in the Act of 1868, but that in the course of a week from the introduction of the Bill Sir Frederick Abel, after conference with some of the oil trade representatives, altered the test. Well, that is absolutely denied by Sir Frederick Abel. Can my honourable Friend say that Sir Frederick Abel, after having been notified that the Government wanted the test not reduced—can my honourable Friend say that he was got at?
§ *MR. COLLINGS
Then it is an error on the part of Sir Frederick Abel. I do not know that a man of Sir Frederick Abel's eminence might not, if he were measuring the distance from the earth to the stars, make an error of a few feet, but to suppose that a scientific man would make an error of 27 degs. in a total of 100 degs., is to put him down to a very low scale as regards ability. And, therefore, I think we must pass that over—that Sir Frederick Abel made a mistake of 27 degs. Now, I pass from that point, because it is absolutely of no importance what took place during 1868. What was done was repeated in 1871 and 1879. If there is an error, the error by admission has existed for 30 years, and there was as much reason for raising the flash point 30 years ago as 903 there is at the present day. Now, Sir, I say that what took place then is of no importance, and I would ask the House, Is it right that a great revolutionary change should be based upon the disputes of two experts, two professional men, which took place 30 years ago over the relative merits of two tests, and over a commodity which at that time very few people knew much about? Now, Sir, we have facts and experience, and they form the best basis of all for legislation—we have the facts and experience arrived at for the last 30 years, not only in Great Britain, but in all the countries of the world. I wish to speak for one I moment as to the suddenness of this question of the flash point. The question was never raised till 1891 which gave rise to the appointment of this Committee. During the whole of the time in which Colonel Majendie and Mr. Redwood were preparing a Bill, they came in contact with the whole trade, and with the interests represented by Scottish Members and Irish and English Members, and the question of the flash point was never raised at all. I am reluctant to keep the House so long, but there have been many points brought forward. For instance, the honourable Member mentioned the coroners. Well, the chairman of the Coroners' Society of Great Britain gave his evidence, and he said—I know nothing at all about Hash points. I think the construction of the lamps is the only thing to account for these fatal accidents.And I think that that disposes of any weight to be placed on the coroners' evidence with regard to the flash point at all. It has also been said that a high test was recommended for the War Office and the lighthouses, but if the honourable Member had read a question or two further on, he would have seen that Sir Frederick Abel distinctly declared that these recommendations had no reference whatever to light, but to storage only.
§ *MR. COLLINGS
Yes, there is the 120 degs. flash point in lighthouses, but 904 that did not prevent the terrible accident last year in the Crosby lighthouse, where three people were burnt, though they had seven gallons of oil only to feed five lamps. It did not prevent accidents with Scotch oil, for instance, in my honour able Friend's own constituency, at Broxholme, where there were 11,000 gallons of oil burnt, and one person lost her life—that with the best Scotch oil. That does not mean that that oil is not safe. You may sum it up in this—that all petroleum is safe with ordinary care, and none of it is safe unless ordinary care is used. We have had an interesting speech from an Irish Member. I would beg him to read the evidence of the Irish witnesses. Every one opposed the idea of raising the flash point. Sir Charles Cameron, Officer of Health in Dublin, who was certainly one of the most practical witnesses we had, said that in three years there had been 36 lamp accidents in the metropolitan area of Dublin, with a population of 350,000 persons, and he goes on to say that he should be sorry to interfere. He says—It is a great blessing to a poor family to have a good light instead of the miserable candle of olden times.Honourable Members spoke of Mr. Spencer. Mr. Spencer gave the greatest assistance to the Committee, but they must remember that he carefully guarded himself; he said what is worth my while to quote. He said—The experience gained from lamp accidents has brought me to the conclusion that all, or nearly all, would have been impossible with properly constructed lamps.Now, I ask the House to consider whether it is the fact that there has been an increase in the number of fatal lamp accidents? Taking the Registrar General's Returns, I find that for the past eight years there have been varying numbers, making an average of 129 per annum, and when you remember that we have 10 millions of lamps burning not only on a single night, but ten millions every night, making 365 times 10 millions of separate lights, I say it is a proof of the great safety of this illuminant when we have such a comparatively small number of fatal acci- 905 dents. The wonder is, when we read the Committee's Report as to the kind of lamp commonly used, as to the miserable character of these lamps, many of them penny lamps, that instead of 100 accidents there are not 100,000. Now, Mr. Speaker, I will not detain the House for more than a few minutes longer, but there is one thing that I want to point out. Are honourable Members convinced in their own minds that these accidents are caused by the low flash? I know there are thrilling stories about "the deadly 73 degs.," and none of us can compute such statements as we have read in the papers. But, Sir, a week or two ago a certain paper was indiscreet enough to give the places and dates where these inquests were held. I thought, "Now, here is an opportunity for investigation," and I wrote to the coroners of each of these places, and they courteously sent me the sworn depositions connected with each one of those accidents. I have them here. I am not going to read them; but this I will say, and say as a matter of certainty, that there is not a single case in all these depositions, and 60 of them I have here out of a total of 120—not a single case in which you can ascribe the accident to the quality of the oil; not one. The majority of them are abundantly explained, I am sorry to say, by drunkenness, violence, and recklessness, but there is not one that bears out this description of "the deadly 73 degs." And these are the misstatements that have been so industriously circulated in order to rouse public feeling! I take up the coroners' depositions. Here is one: "Dropping a lighted lamp." Here is another accident: "A glass lamp carried by a little girl; she fell; a man in the room was drunk, and the child was left helpless." Mere was an imbecile girl with a lamp—(some laughter)—I do not know that this is a laughing matter—here was a cheap lamp dropped by the deceased.
906 Here is another case: "Deceased was lighting the fire by pouring oil upon it, and thereby set herself on fire." Another lamp was upset by a drunken man. Here is another accident caused by a dog, which the people tied to an old ricketty table and then left the house, and the dog, of course, upset the table and so burnt the house. These are the harrowing tales—and so you might go on. They are all of the same kind, except one, and in that I notice that the County Council sent their inspector—it was described as a very bad case—and he reported that the oil which caused the accident was 103 degs. flash. I do not attach any importance to its being 103 degs. If it had been 100 degs., and an accident had happened, it would have been the same, as in the case of Lord Romilly, who sustained two accidents, by the second of which ho lost his life, while burning 110 degs. oil. I have no time to deal with the question of cost; but I simply ask honourable Members, as business men, in this House, whether or no you can dislocate a trade to the extent of 78 per cent., whether it be oil or cotton, or anything else, without interfering with the cost of the article? The honourable Members—both of them—have proved too much. The survival of the fittest we all know is an inexorable law in trade, and if this Russian or Scotch oil be so much better than the low flash, be so much cheaper, or as cheap, then it is bound to put the inferior article out of the market. On these grounds, I would ask that this Bill be rejected; but there is another ground. The Government have a Bill to deal with lamps and with the whole question, which we hope to introduce. There can be Amendments moved to it. I have no hesitation in saying that the Bill now before the House would sacrifice the best interests of the working classes of this country, as it would lay a tax on them, not for the benefit of the country, but for the benefit of certain people who are at the bottom of the agitation, 907 in order to create a monopoly for their kind of oil. (Cries of "Withdraw.") I repeat that the object of this agitation is to create a monopoly, and that the tendency of that monopoly would be to increase the price that the poorer classes have to pay for their oil. On these grounds I ask the House to reject the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ *MR. GRAY) (West Ham, N.
I wish to offer a personal explanation. I find, to my surprise, that my name has been attached to the Whip issued in support of the Second Reading of this Bill this afternoon. Perhaps I may be allowed to make a short statement thereon. When the Bill was first projected I had no knowledge whatever that the Government were at all likely to deal with this question, and I certainly did express my desire to support this Bill. Unfortunately, the honourable Member in charge of the Bill has been absent from the House through illness, and I regret I have been prevented from holding any communication on the subject with the honourable Member from that time to the present. But I can hardly conceive that the statement I made to him on the occasion referred to was a sufficient justification for attaching my name to the Whip without my knowledge. I beg to say this much, because I propose voting against the Bill, in order that, before a final conclusion on the subject is arrived at, I may have the proposals of the Government in my hand. I should have been strongly disposed to have voted for the Second Reading of this Bill had it not been that I do not think it would be right, in view of the fact that we are likely to have proposals of a more wide-reaching character laid before us before the close of this Session on the authority of the Minister responsible for the work, to advance a Bill of a private character on a subject on which there is such diversity of opinion. I thought it only due to myself to offer this short explanation, as otherwise my vote in the Divi- 908 sion Lobby would not have been understood.
§ *MR. COMPTON RICKETT (Scarborough)
It appears to me that the arguments which have been put forward to-day resolve themselves into three classes. First, if we raise the flash point of oil we shall not prevent accidents. Again, if we raise the flash point of oil we shall increase the price of that oil; and, finally we are told that if we raise the flash point we shall be taking a step in a wrong direction—the direction of protection. But I do not think that to interfere with the use, or to put a limitation on the use, of oil could be a greater interference with trade than is a Factory Act. Therefore, I do not think | it is necessary to labour that point. One of the strongest arguments advanced by the right honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Home Office had reference to the increased cost which must follow the raising of the flash point to 100 degs. I think he said it would mean withdrawing from the market 78 per cent. of the American oil. But in my opinion that is quite a mistake. We do not withdraw 78 per cent. of American oil; we only induce the American refiner to withdraw a small percentage of that quantity, and he will, of course, place the rest on the market. The American refiner is not likely to lose the British market. The extra cost in refining is very small; there will be no additional cost for transport, and, therefore, the percentage of increase upon the gallon sold to the consumer must be quite infinitesimal. Then, again, the question of refining does not in itself determine the price of the oil. No doubt there would be a fight for the English market on the part of the American oil, but there is a sufficient margin of profit, and a sufficient amount of enterprise amongst American oil refiners to insure that they would not lose the English market. They will undoubtedly place a sufficient amount of oil flashing at 100 degs. to maintain their 909 present position in that market. The important matter of concern is to avoid accidents. We know that accidents are bound to occur. The gentleman who desires to give a hint to his wife will still throw a lamp at her, and the oil will take fire when the lamp is overset; but if there is no vapour there will be no explosion, and ignition will take place much more slowly. There will be fewer accidents, and few fatal ones. This is a matter for compromise. Already we have heard rumours that the Government are prepared to consider a flash point of 85 degs. If they are going to raise the question at all, it is hardly worth while to disturb the trade for the sake of 12 degs. The heat of oil in a burning lamp in this country does not exceed 95 degs., but frequently goes beyond 85 degs. To secure an absolutely safe oil you must reach from 110 to 120 degs. But why not accept the compromise of 100 degs., which gives a practical amount of safety without diminishing the illuminating quality. If the Government are once prepared to give up 73 degs. the sacredness of that standard is gone. We on this side of the House are not desirous of making this a Party question. We have more at heart the interest of the community, and we do urge the Government to reconsider their point and give us some indication that if they cannot accept this Bill they will embody a standard flash of 100 degs. in their own Measure.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
As the representative of an agricultural constituency I am bound to say I think I ought to be allowed to say just half a dozen words, on behalf of the agricultural labourer, upon a question that interests him so much. I am surprised that the honourable Member should bring in a Bill to raise the price and restrict the production of an article so much in use. It is said by honourable Gentlemen on the other side of the House that this Bill will not raise prices, but when we come to understand that something like 910 70 per cent. of the oils now used in this country would be thrown out of the market, and when we know that the prices have gone up in the North of England, I do not think much attention will be paid to such statements. Now, it really is extraordinary that honourable Gentlemen opposite, who are always accusing this side of the House of bringing in Bills which raise prices and create monopolies, should have brought in such a Bill as this. Some honourable Gentlemen remember, perhaps, the dismal dulness of the agricultural labourers' cottages years ago, before these cheap oils came in. Now, we do not want that state of things to recur, or to compel these poor men to give a larger price. When a Bill is brought in for the purpose of excluding adulterated produce such as milk and so forth, honourable Gentlemen opposite always scent protection, but when they bring in a Bill which raises the price and restricts the production of an article, it is quite another matter. It is the old story, that one man may steal a horse, and another may not look over the hedge. As an agricultural Member, I should like to diagnose these differences, but, in the interests of those whom I represent, I shall certainly vote against the Bill.
§ MR. TIMOTHY HEALY (Louth, N.)
there is just one question which I should like to ask the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury. The Committee which sat to consider this question was formed through a Debate raised by an honourable Member for Scotland in 1896. I was very much interested in the formation of the Committee, and I watched it closely. It was formed on the 19th of March 1896, and consisted of 12 Members. Now, when the House remits a question of this importance to a Committee, it is most important that the jury should not be packed. But in this case a very remarkable thing happened, upon which I shall ask the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury a 911 question. A month after the Committee was appointed—that is to say, in the month of April—the Committee, having been originally constituted of 12 members, two other members were added to the jury. It is said that the Scotch Members had no special interest in the matter, and had no special rights with regard to it, but the two Members who were added were the honourable Member for Linlithgowshire and the honourable Member for Stirlingshire, and I want to know why this preponderance of Scotch Members was placed upon the Committee. These honourable Gentlemen were added to the Committee at the instance of a Scotch Whip. Now, having seen the names of these Gentlemen down for this Committee, I, being anxious to have some explanation of their being added, and knowing it was the practice to take this business at a particular time, immediately after Questions, watched the matter very carefully; but, strange to say, these Gentlemen were added to the Committee immediately after the unopposed business—directly you had done Prayers. Now, is that the way to do a thing of this sort, which is of the greatest interest to millions of people? Now, I received a letter to-day from the Paris house of Rothschild. It is the first time that the Paris house of Rothschild have ever honoured me with a letter. I opened the letter with fear and trembling. I thought perhaps my account was overdrawn, or that perhaps some unusual form of benevo-
§ lence was about to take place; but nothing of the kind. It was only a notification from this eminent Paris house of Rothschild that they would be enabled to compete with America if this House only passed this Bill. It is unusual to find the House in the temper it is in at the present moment, and it is unusual to see a Minister dealing with a Rill which affects persons of every shade of politics in the country as this Measure is being treated by the honourable Member the Under Secretary for the Home Office. Is all this benevolence? If it is, it is the most oleaginous form of benevolence that I have ever known. And I have come to the conclusion that this is simply a struggle for the coppers of the poor between Rockefeller of New York and Rothschild of Paris, and there is not a pin's point to choose between them. I prefer, in a matter of this kind, affecting the general interests of the country, irrespective of politics, to be guided by the scientists who have the good of the country at heart, and by the Department most immediately concerned in the question, and I think the House of Commons would do far better to follow the efficient guidance that we have had than follow the Paris house of Rothschild.
That the word 'now' stand part of the Question.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 159; Noes 244.—(Division List No. 43.)915
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Birrell, Augustine||Cawley, Frederick|
|Allen, Wm.(Newc.under Lyme)||Blake, Edward||Clougn, Walter Owen|
|Arrol, Sir William||Bond, Edward||Coghill, Douglas Harry|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn)||Colville, John|
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert H.||Bryce, Rt Hon. James||Corbett, A. Cameron(Glasgow)|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Burns, John||Crombie, John William|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Burt, Thomas||Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)|
|Baker, Sir John||Buxton, Sydney Charles||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Caldwell, James||Dalrymple, Sir Charles|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Cameron, Sir Charles (Glasgow)||Dalziel, James Henry|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Cameron, Robert (Durham)||Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan)|
|Begg, Ferdinand Faithfull||Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Denny, Colonel|
|Bethell, Commander||Carlile, William Walter||Drucker, A.|
|Billson, Alfred||Causton, Richard Knight||Dunn, Sir William|
|Ellis, Thos. Ed. (Merionethsh.)||M'Kenna, Reginald||Stevenson, Francis S.|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||M'Killop, James||Stewart, Sir M. J. M' Taggart|
|Fenwick, Charles||Maddison, Fred.||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||Maden, John Henry||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Ffrench, Peter||Malcolm, Ian||Stuart, James (Shoreditch)|
|Fitzmaurice Lord Edmond||Marks, Henry Hananel||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand||Tanner, Charles Kearns|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Milbank, Sir Powlett Chas. J.||Tennant, Harold John|
|Gold, Charles||Molloy, Bernard Charles||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Gourley, Sir Edwd. Temperley||Montagu, Sir S. (Whitechapel)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Harwood, George||Morley, Charles (Breconshire)||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Hatch, Ernest Frederick Geo.||Morrison, Walter||Tully, Jasper|
|Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Ure, Alexander|
|Hazell, Walter||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. Howard|
|Healy, Maurice (Cork)||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Wallace, Robert (Perth)|
|Hedderwick, Thomas Chas. H.||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Walton, Jno. Lawson(Leeds, S.)|
|Hill, Rt. Hn. A. Staveley (Staffs.)||Oldroyd, Mark||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Holden, Sir Angus||Palmer, Geo. Wm. (Reading)||Warner, Thos. Courtenay T.|
|Holland, Hn. Lionel R. (Bow)||Paulton, James Mellor||Wedderburn, Sir William|
|Hozier, Hn. James Henry Cecil||Philipps, John Wynford||Weir, James Galloway|
|Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C.||Pickard, Benjamin||Welby, Lieut,-Col. A. C. E.|
|Jacoby, James Alfred||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Jones, David Brynmor (S'nsea)||Pirie, Duncan V.||Williams, Jno. Carvell (Notts.)|
|Kay-Shuttleworth, Rt Hn SirU.||Priestley. Briggs (Yorks)||Wills, Sir William Henry|
|Kearley, Hudson E.||Provand, Andrew Dryburgh||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)|
|Kilbride, Denis||Reid, Sir Robert Threshie||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)|
|Kinloch, Sir John Geo. Smyth||Richardson, J. (Durham)||Wilson, John (Govan)|
|Kitson, Sir James||Ricketts, J. Compton||Wilson, J.W. (Worcestersh. N.)|
|Langley, Batty||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)||Wilson, Jos. H. (Middlesbro')|
|Leng, Sir John||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)||Woodhouse. Sir J.T.(Hud'fd.)|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter||Woods, Samuel|
|Lloyd-George, David||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)||Wylie, Alexander|
|Lorne, Marquess of||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Wyndham-Quin, Maj. W. H.|
|Lough, Thomas||Schwann, Charles E.||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|Macaleese, Daniel||Scott, Chas. Prestwich (Leigh)||Yoxall, James Henry|
|MacDonnell, Dr. M.A.(Qn's. Co.)||Shaw, Charles Ed. (Stafford)|
|Maclean, James Mackenzie||Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarshire)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr.|
|MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)||Harold Reckitt and Mr.|
|M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Smith, Samuel (Flint)||Duncombe.|
|M'Arthur, William (Cornwall)||Souttar, Robinson|
|M'Ewan, William||Spicer, Albert|
|Abraham, William (Cork, N.E.)||Bonsor, Henry Cosmo Orme||Curzon, Viscount|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Bousfield, William Robert||Dalbiac, Colonel Philip Hugh|
|Aird, John||Bowles, Capt. H. F.(Middlesex)||Davenport, W. Bromley-|
|Allhusen, Augustus Henry E.||Brassey, Albert||Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.|
|Allison, Robert Andrew||Brown, Alexander H.||Donkin. Richard Sim|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Butcher, John George||Dorington, Sir John Edward|
|Ambrose, William (Middlesex)||Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Douglas, Rt. Hon A. Akers-|
|Anstruther, H. T.||Cavendish, V. C W.(Derbysb.)||Doxford, William Theodore|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, East)||Dyke, Rt Hn. Sir William Hart|
|Ascroft, Robert||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J.(Birm.)||Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Chamberlain, J. Austen (Wor.)||Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas|
|Austin, Sir John (Yorkshire)||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Fardell, Sir T. George|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Charrington, Spencer||Fergusson, Rt Hn SirJ (Manc'r)|
|Balfour,Rt. Hn. A.J.(Manch'r)||Clarke, Sir Edwd. (Plymouth)||Field, Admiral (Eastbourne)|
|Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W. (Leeds)||Cochrane, Hn. Thos. H. A E.||Field, William (Dublin)|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Finch. George H.|
|Barry, Sir Francis T.(Windsor)||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth)||Fisher, Sir William Hayes|
|Bathurst, Hn. Allen Benjamin||Cooke, C.W. Radcliffe (Heref'd)||Fitz Wygram, General Sir F-|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H.(Bristol)||Cotton-Jodrell, Col. Ed. T. D.||Fletcher, Sir Henry|
|Beach, W. W. Bramston (Hants)||Courtney, Rt. Hn Leonard H.||Flower, Ernest|
|Beckett, Ernest William||Crilly, Daniel||Folkestone, Viscount|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Cripps, Charles Alfred||Forster, Henry William|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Cross, Herb. Shepherd(Bolton)||Foster, Colonel (Lancaster)|
|Biddulph, Michael||Cruddas, William Donaldson||Fry, Lewis|
|Bigwood, James||Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Galloway, William Johnson|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.)||Garfit, William|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Currie, Sir Donald||Gedge, Sydney|
|Gibbons, J. Lloyd||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Gibbs, Hn A.G.H.(City of Lond)||Leighton, Stanley||Richardson, Sir Thos. (Hart'pl.)|
|Giles, Charles Tyrrell||Llewellyn, Evan H. (Somerset)||Ritchie,Rt.Hn. Chas.Thomson|
|Gilliat, John Saunders||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.||Robinson, Brooke|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk.||Long, Col. Chas.W.(Evesham)||Roche, Hn. Jas. (East Kerry)|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter(L'pool)||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward||Lowles, John||Russell, Gen. F.S.(Chelt'ham.)|
|Gorst, Rt, Hn. Sir John Eldon||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Lubbock, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Ryder, John Herbert Dudley|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Sandys, Lt.-Col. Thos. Myles|
|Graham, Henry Robert||Macdona, John Gumming||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Savory, Sir Joseph|
|Green, Walford D. (Wednsbry.)||M 'Calmont, H. L. B. (Cambs.)||Scoble, Sir Andrew Richard|
|Greene, Hnry. D (Shrewsbury)||M'lver, Sir Lewis(Edin., W.)||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W)|
|Gretton, John||Maple, Sir John Blundell||Seely, Charles Hilton|
|Greville, Hon. Ronald||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Gull, Sir Cameron||Massey-Mainwarins, Hn. W.F.||Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)|
|Gunter, Colonel||Maxwell, Rt. Hon. Sir Herb. E.||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Halsey, Thomas Frederick||Middlemore, Jno. Throgmorton||Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)|
|Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord Geo.||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Smith, Hn. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robert Wm.||Milward, Colonel Victor||Stanhope, Hon. Philip J.|
|Hanson, Sir Reginald||Monk, Charles James||Stanley, Hn. Arthur (Ormskirk)|
|Hardy, Laurence||Montagu, Hn. J. Scott (Hants)||Stanley, Edw. Jas.(Somerset)|
|Healy, Thomas J (Wexford)||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy||Stanley, Henry M. (Lambeth)|
|Healy, Timothy M. (Louth.N.)||More, Robt. Jasper (Shropsh.)||Stanley, Lord (Lanes.)|
|Heath, James||Morrell, George Herbert||Stock, James Henry|
|Helder, Augustus||'Morris, Samuel||Strauss, Arthur|
|Hermon-Hodge, Robt. Trotter||Morton,Arthur H.A.(Deptf'd.)||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Hill, Sir Edwd. Stock (Bristol)||Mount, William George||Sturt, Hn. Humphry Napier|
|Hoare, Ed. Brodie (Hampst'd)||Murray, Rt. Hon. A. G. (Bute)||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Hobhouse, Henry||Murray, Chas. J. (Coventry)||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd. Univ)|
|Hornby, Sir William Henry||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)||Thorburn, Walter|
|Howard, Joseph||Myers, William Henry||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Hubbard, Hon. Evelyn||Newdigate, Francis Alexander||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Hudson, George Bickersteth||Nicholson, William Graham||Usborne, Thomas|
|Hutchinson, Capt. G.W. Grice-||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Valentia, Viscount|
|Jackson, Rt. Hn. Wm. Lawies||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir Wm. H.|
|Jebb, Richard Claverhouse||O'Connor, J. (Wicklow, W.)||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||O'Neill, Hn. Robert Torrens||Ward, Hn. Robt. A. (Crewe)|
|Jessel, Capt. Herbert Merton||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay||Warde, Lt.-Col. C. E. (Kent)|
|Johnston, William (Belfast)||Palmer, Sir Chas. M. (Durham)||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Parkes, Ebenezer||Webster, Sir R. E. (I. of W.)|
|Jolliffe, Hon. H. George||Pease, Herb. Pike (Darlington)||Whiteley, George (Stockport)|
|Kemp, George||Percy, Earl||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir John H.||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur||Williams, Jos. Powell-(Birm.)|
|Kenyon, James||Pilkington, Richard||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Kenyon-Slaney, Col. William||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H.(Yorks.)|
|King, Sir Henry Seymour||Pollock, Harry Frederick||Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart-|
|Knowles, Lees||Pretyman, Ernest George||Wyndham, George|
|Lafone, Alfred||Priestley. Sir W. Overend (Edin.||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy|
|Lawrence, Sir E. Durning-(Corn)||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Purvis, Robert||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr.|
|Lawsou, Sir Wilfrid(Cumbrlnd)||Pym, C. Guy||Kimber and Mr. R. G.|
|Lea, Sir Thos. (Londonderry)||Rankin, Sir James||Webster.|
|Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne|
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to. Second Reading put off for six months.