Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a sum, not exceeding £133,098, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1900, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Committee of the Privy Council for Trade and Subordinate Departments.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE (Exeter)
said that before the Committee entered upon a detailed criticism of the Vote, he was anxious to detain it for a very few minutes while he submitted some observations in connection with the general position of the Department of the Board of Trade in the hierarchy of the State. His excuse in doing so was that during the last few years he had had the honour to be closely connected with the Associated Chambers of Commerce, and in that capacity he had had many opportunities of observing the multifarious duties discharged by the Board of Trade. It was possibly not within the knowledge of some Members of the Committee that when a discussion on the constitution of the Board of Trade took place in 1826 a motion was made, and carried by a majority of 11, that the President of the Board of Trade should receive a salary of £5,000 a year, and that his position should be made equal to that of a Secretary of State. In the course of the discussion Mr. Robertson, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that he himself had held the Office of President of the Board of Trade, and that, in his opinion, the duties of the office, both mental and bodily, were as hard as those of any Minister of the Crown. The President of the Board of 1431 Trade, at that time combined with his duties those of Treasurer to the Navy, for which he received a salary of £3,000, in addition to the £2,000 at which his salary was fixed. It might be of interest to remind the Committee that at that time the number of officials at the Board was only 24, whereas now there were between. 500 and 600. He did not, of course, wish to weary the Committee with a great number of statistics, but it would not be without interest to remind them that in 1826 the total population in this country was, in round numbers, 20,000,000, and the pursuits mainly agricultural. The population now was some 40,000,000, and the pursuits of the people were rather commercial than agricultural. At that time the wealth of the country was estimated at something over three thousand millions. The last trustworthy figures that he had in his possession were those for 1885, when the national wealth was put at something like ten thousand millions, and, of course, it had considerably increased since. Taking the shipping tonnage in 1826, the total was something over two millions, mainly sailing vessels, whereas now it was nearly nine millions, mostly steam vessels. In the same way the railway mileage was, in 1826, 500, while now it was 21,500. Lastly, the value of the commercial exports in 1826 was £31,000,000, and now the exports were over £234,000,000. In addition to that, he would remind the Committee that an immense number of duties had been imposed on the Board of Trade since 1862. He was perfectly aware that there were many honourable Members who thought that some of those duties had been unnecessarily imposed on the Board. They had, however, been imposed on the Board, and its work had pro tanto increased. It was rather curious that in this country, almost alone amongst the leading countries of the world, the immediate interests of commerce were entrusted to a Minister who was at all events not nominally of the highest Cabinet rank. The Committee would remember that in 1879 a Resolution was carried in the House recommending the creation of a Department of Agriculture and Commerce which should be placed under the control of a Secretary of State. Although that Resolution was never given full effect to, and only a Minister of Agriculture was created, yet he thought it was the uni- 1432 versal feeling of the House that too much importance could not be attached to the vast commercial interests entrusted to the Board of Trade. If he had in any way made out a case, he thought the present was not an inappropriate time when Her Majesty's Government should take the question of the position of the President of the Board of Trade into their serious consideration, and he asked them either to appoint a Committee, or to take such steps as they thought fit, to see whether something could not be done to alter the position of that official. Nothing, of course, could be expected this year, and by the time that any practical steps could be taken next year the life of the present Parliament must necessarily be drawing to a close, and his right honourable Friend would not, unfortunately for himself, derive personally any great advantage from a change until, at all events, he and his colleague's had gone to the country. There was one other general consideration which prompted him to make these remarks, and that was that whilst he hoped and believed every right honourable Gentleman who was called upon to perform the responsible task of tendering advice to Her Majesty was a sincere advocate of peace, there were two Ministers who were, departmentally, bound to be the strongest peace advocates, namely, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade; in other words, it was their primary duty to foster that great commerce which was the very lifeblood of our country. He thought that if the House could do anything to ensure that the President of the Board of Trade should be placed in such a position that he could speak with as high authority in the Cabinet as any of his colleagues, it would be worth the while of the House to make any sacrifice of public money.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
It is perhaps a. delicate matter for one who has filled that position to which my honourable Friend has referred to say anything upon the topic he has raised. I will not, therefore, venture further than to bear my testimony to the fact that the work of the Department has increased enormously, and that increase has not been lessened by the fact that every few years some new function has been thrown upon it by statute. The work has become not only very heavy, but 1433 very multifarious. There is the enormous subject of shipping, there is the large subject of railway management, there is the great subject of bankruptcy, everything that concerns electric lighting, everything that concerns our fisheries, the whole department of labour, everything that concerns the commerce of the nation, and the commercial organisations of the country, and, last of all, the work of keeping an eye on the whole business of Private Bill legislation except that which falls to the Local Government Board. I think, therefore, it may fairly be said that the Department in point of the quantity of work and the importance of work, is quite on a level with the other principal Departments of the State. I might illustrate the growth of the Department by mentioning to the Committee that it has now spread from its original building into three or four or five other buildings; and therefore so far as the quantity of the work goes, so far as the nature of the work goes, so far as the importance of the work goes, the commercial interests in the country are every year becoming more important, and are to a large extent the foundation of our foreign policy. In all these respects the Department may fairly claim to be placed upon a level with the other Departments.
§ *SIR C. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
pointed out to the Committee that it would be impossible to consider this matter without considering at the same time the re - arrangement of work between the Government offices. The work of the Board of Trade was absolutely mixed up with that of the Foreign Office as regarded treaties and tariffs, and it was also mixed up with the Home Office as regarded its Labour Department. In fact there was absolute clashing between the Board of Trade and the Home Office; indeed, a certain amount of work was done twice over. As regarded inspection, the Board of Trade was also mixed up with the Home Office. The matter could not be satisfactorily dealt with without considering the question of the redistribution of work between the various Government Offices as a whole. To increase the salary of the President of the Board 1434 of Trade without touching the larger question would be a most imperfect treatment.
THE FIRST LORD OP THE TREASURY
I agree to a certain extent with the right honourable Baronet who has just sat down, that possibly a survey of the whole of the multifarious work of the administrative Departments, and a redistribution of that work would be advisable. But when we are dealing with so complex a society as that for which the Government of this country is responsible, it is quite impossible to draw a sharp line of distinction between the work of the Departments. It is inevitable that the Foreign Office should have something to say about commerce, and it is impossible for the Colonial Office to carry on its work wholly distinct from the Foreign Office, and I do not see why the Board of Trade and the Home Office should not have a certain doubtful and nebulous margin where their spheres of labour are conterminous. Sir, my honourable Friend who sits behind me (Sir Stafford Northcote) and the right honourable Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bryce) have, I think, in no sense exaggerated the growth of the work of the Board of Trade in the last generation. The growth goes on with increasing celerity and shows no sign of diminution. But this is true not of the Board of Trade alone, but almost as much—I should be inclined to say quite as much—of the Local Government Board and other Departments, whose work has been increased not so much by Statute as by the increased business of the world and the increased intercourse between different nations. Take, for example, the Foreign Office, and draw up a list of the dispatches it receives from day to day and compare it with the number received in the times, say, of Lord Palmerston, and honourable Members would, I think, be astonishe at the growth, and feel what enormous labour it throws on the shoulders of the Minister responsible. If that is true of the Foreign Office it is no less true of the Colonial Office; and if it is true of the Colonial Office it certainly is no less true of the Irish Office. I believe there was a time when the Irish Secretary was considered to occupy a post of considerable emolument and leisure. That, 1435 I imagine, is not the view taken either by its present occupant, or by any of those on either side of politics who have held it of recent years. But the growth of the work of the Colonial Office, the Foreign Office, and the Irish Office is not so much due to the increased statutory duties thrown on them, but the work of the Board of Trade and the Local Government Board has been very largely increased by statutory enactments. I do not suppose a Session passes but what additional responsibilities are thrown on these two offices, involving additional labour to their heads and the staff, and the inevitable and consequent necessity for, from time to time, largely increasing those staffs. Under those circumstances I think my honourable Friend is not wrong in urging that if we had a blank sheet to deal with, and if we were not, as it were, trammelled by the history of the various Government Departments, and if we had to arrange the salaries of Ministers in proportion to their labour, there would not be the difference there is at present between, for instance, the Local Government Board and the Board of Trade and the older offices in the State, and I think it quite possible that the time may not be very far distant when the whole Question will be reconsidered. It is evident that the position of the President of the Board of Trade cannot be dealt with in an isolated way, and that there must be a general survey of the whole work of the Government Departments, and a general and uniform plan adopted in their treatment. My honourable Friend seemed to suppose that the opinions Members of the Cabinet express to each other are valued in proportion to the salary of the Gentleman who utters them. I can assure him that this is not the case; but, as in all other assemblies of persons, of course on equality, the weight of individual opinion depends on the individual, and not on any extraneous or fortuitous circumstances.
§ SIR S. NORTHCOTE
said he did not mean for a moment to suggest that his colleagues in the Cabinet would not treat the President of the Board of Trade with respect, regardless of his salary. He only meant that the public, rightly or wrongly, might, think he had not the same weight.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The public, then, are wholly mistaken, as they are about many other subjects connected with the Cabinet. But I need not dwell upon that point; after all, it is not the main point. On the general Question I quite recognise that the growth of the great offices which have been referred to has produced a certain anomaly in our present system, and at no distant period that anomaly may be considered and, if possible, corrected.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
I think the Committee generally will feel that the honourable Baronet opposite was well justified in bringing forward this matter, especially in the quiet and temperate way in which he has done so. He suggested, I think, the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the matter, but I hardly think myself that that would be, at this stage at all events, the proper and most convenient course to take. It would be rather a matter for the Government themselves to inquire into and take, as the right honourable Gentleman has said, a survey of the whole distribution of duties between the different Departments, and consider whether in any respect some of the most important of those Departments, at the present moment at all events, do not appear to be placed at some disadvantage as compared with others. I do not know if any levelling is to take place, what particular course that levelling process would follow. There is a process which is called levelling up, and there is another which is called levelling down—that is a chapter I shall not open or look into. But I do think there is a certain truth—whether a sentimental or material truth really does not very much matter—in the allegation that one or two of these great Departments have the appearance, judged by the ordinary standards of dignity and importance, Of being inferior to the others. The preponderate feeling of the Committee being in favour of an examination of the whole question, I think it would be well if the right honourable Gentleman and his colleagues would consider, during such leisure as they can find, the question which has been raised. The honourable Baronet who has raised the subject no doubt represents considerable feeling outside the House.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES (King's Lynn)
said he hoped the right honourable Gentlemen on both sides of the House who had taken part in the discussion would not think that the Committee welcomed this amicable and friendly, if not preconcerted, suggestion. It had been suggested that in some quarters a Minister was estimated by the salary he received. He did not think any such conclusion was formed by anybody either in the House or the country. The work of the Board of Trade had undoubtedly accumulated. It dabbled in shipping and bankruptcy, ran a newspaper, and spent its time suspending captains' certificates. But he was not impressed by the success which had attended its work, and he certainly could not say of it, nihil tetigit quod non ornavit.
Motion made, and Question put—
That Item A (Salaries), be reduced by £100, in respect of the Salary of the President of the Board of Trade.—(Mr. Maddison)
§ MR. MADDISON
, in moving the re-reduction of the salary of the President of the Board of Trade by £100, said he desired to refer to matters connected with railway safety, which he thought the right honourable Gentleman in his administrative capacity had not dealt with in a way that would commend itself to the Committee. The question of the safety of railway men was one of considerable importance. There were engaged in the manipulation of the railway traffic, quite apart from clerks, mechanics engaged in shops, and other railway employees, 220,000 men. The general average was about 500 killed and over 4,000 injured each year. These were very large figures, and he was quite certain they were sufficient to warrant honourable Members paying close attention to the causes which resulted in that terrible casualty list. In 10 years there were 4,751 men killed and 30,271 injured, making the terrible number of accidents, fatal and non-fatal, in the last 10 recorded years no less than 35,022. Worked out in percentages, and deducting those not engaged in railway traffic, they found that one man was killed in every 621 employed in 1897, and one in 69 injured. Figures such as these deserved very careful attention, and imposed on the President of the Board of Trade the continuous obligation to make 1438 every endeavour to reduce them. In shunting, a more dangerous form of railway work, according to the return which the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade granted him last year, there were no fewer than 18,291 accidents in 10 years, and the percentage in 1897 was one man killed in every 203, and one in 12 injured. Honourable Members had said that there had been a gross exaggeration of the number of casualties with respect to shunting. They admitted the truth of the figures quoted with respect to shunting as a whole, but so far as uncoupling and coupling vehicles was concerned, argued that there were only 19 men killed in 1897. Railway directors appeared to regard 19 shunters killed as something so small as not to make it worth while to mention it at all. But in compiling the Board of Trade Returns, which were given by the railway companies unchecked by the President or his Department, he had to depend entirely, not only upon the general total of accidents given to him by the company, but as to the category in which those accidents were placed; and when the Committee remembered that the agitation for automatic couplings was not a few months old, as some honourable Gentlemen seemed to imagine, but that it was a very old agitation, and that the principle at stake was once embodied in a Bill which received a Second Reading in the House. He thought, without being. uncharitable to the railway companies it was only fair to them to state that there was not a single accident placed under the head of coupling or uncoupling which did not strictly belong to it. In addition to that there was an item in the same table of "falling between vehicles." Now, he had no means to ascertain from what quarter those accidents came, but there was a strong suspicion that some of them might fairly be placed under the head of coupling and uncoupling; but, of course, he must take the only material at his disposal, viz., the statistics of the Board of Trade And what did he find? For the last 10 recorded years there were 3,524 accidents amongst a total of 18,000 employed in the grades of goods guards, brakesmen, and shunters. Honourable Gentlemen opposite and their friends in the country said that there was no need 1439 for the suggestion for automatic couplings, because there was an appliance in use, called the shunting-pole, which obviated the necessity for going between vehicles, and thus removed the danger. The returns did not support this statement, the figures for the five recorded years showing an increase of 23 per cent. in the number of accidents over those in the previous five years, though the shunting pole was in operation. The shunting pole had been used very widely by some of the goods carrying railways, the North-Eastern especially, which was one of the heaviest mineral carrying railways and one of the heaviest of goods lines generally; and it had been in increasing use on the various lines of the kingdom. Yet the fact remained that there had been this large increase in the number of accidents. The shunting pole was the outcome of a similar agitation which was denounced up and down the country as being merely intended to harass capital. The man was a fool who wanted to harass capital; they wanted to develop it. Last Session the President of the Board of Trade promptly granted a Return on the subject of the accidents. But the right honourable Gentleman was not content with that alone. His mind was considerably disturbed about the accidents, and at the end of the year, with a commendable desire to reduce the number, he sent Mr. Hopwood, the head of the Railway Department of the Board of Trade, to inquire into the system of coupling in America, where the automatic coupler and other appliances had been in use for a long time. And what did he find? He found that in 1897 there were 219 less men killed and 4,994 less men injured in the work of coupling and uncoupling cars than in 1893. If that great reduction in the loss of life and limb had been brought about, by one improved appliance, was there not reason to think that similar results would have, followed its introduction in this country? He admitted that the method of tabulating statistics was not quite the same in the two countries, but there could be no getting, away from the broad fact that the number of men killed before the introduction of the automatic coupler and afterwards showed that a reduction had taken place under the most unfavourable circumstances, because there was only 70 per 1440 cent. of the stock fitted with these automatic couplers. This meant that men had had to handle stock sometimes with the automatic coupler and sometimes with the old-fashioned hand method. Honourable Members would, therefore, see that there was some danger of the men getting confused in the two methods and so falling victims to accidents. The reduction of 50 per cent. in the number of accidents, therefore, by no means indicated the full value of the automatic coupler. Mr. Hopwood concluded his Report with a very judicious reference to the experience of his Department as to block-working, the inter-locking of points, signals, and the use of continuous brakes, remarking that the Regulation of Railways Act of 1889 afforded a precedent to follow with respect to further improvements in railway safety.
Order, order! I must ask the honourable Member how he connects the Board of Trade with this matter? What power has the Board of Trade to insist on railway companies using automatic couplers?
§ Ma. MADDISON
I connect the Board of Trade with railway safety generally. I am merely pointing out that there is great loss of life on railways, and I suggest that automatic couplings and other things would reduce it.
What power has the Board of Trade to insist on the railway companies using automatic couplings?
§ MR. MADDISON
They have the method of issuing circulars, and a Bill has been introduced on the subject, but that, of course, I must not refer to.
§ MR. McKENNA (Monmouth, N.)
observed that on the point of order the President of the Board of Trade had recently received a deputation on the specific point of the safety to be obtained by the use of automatic couplings, and thereby rendered the subject in order on this Vote.
I think the. honourable Member is entitled to criticise the action of the President of the Board of Trade in having referred this matter to a Royal Commission.
§ MR. MADDISON
said that was his point but he had perhaps travelled wide of it. He thought he should be in order in discussing the question of railway safety by referring to the deputation received by the President of the Board of Trade from the Mining Association of Great Britain; and the right honourable Gentleman had also met a deputation of private waggon-owners. And what did he find? The waggon-owners deputation had transformed the whole situation, and now it was found that not only the question of automatic couplings, but the labelling of waggons on both sides and the working of hand brakes from each side had been referred to a Royal Commission. He had proved that automatic couplings had been sufficiently defended to warrant legislation being introduced, and the other reforms were declared by the right honourable Gentleman to be non-contentions. But what was the effect of the appointment of a Royal Commission? It was an obstacle to the application of all the ordinary methods which the right honourable Gentleman might supply. There would be one answer during the life of the present Parliament to any honourable Gentleman who appealed to the President of the Board of Trade, and that was, that it was impossible for him to interfere, because a Royal Commission was considering the subject, and the Report must be awaited before action could be taken. In his opinion, the right honourable Gentleman. had allowed a financially-interested opposition to influence, to control, and, finally, to compel him to surrender.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said he wished to bring before the Committee an instance of great oppression on the part of the Board of Trade, not so much on account of the instance itself, as because it seemed to be typical of a persistent misapprehension by the Board, of Trade of the purpose for which a certain very unusual power was given to it, and an instance also of the cruel manner in which that power was abused and inasmuch as there was no Board of 1442 Trade, except the President himself, he was forced to move the reduction of his salary. On the 29th March last there was brought before the two local justices at Liverpool a dispute between Captain Beveridge of the barque "J. V. Troop," and one of his crew named Youl. The vessel had gone a deep-sea, round voyage from the United States to Australia, thence to Hong-Kong, and thence to Liverpool, and on arrival at Liverpool Captain Beveridge summoned Youl for an assault, alleging that while at sea, in the course of the voyage, he found Youl whistling, and he spoke to him on the subject. Youl thereupon went for him with a knife, upon which Captain Beveridge struck him with a belaying-pin and put him in irons. Youl, on the other hand, declared that he was only whistling, that he was struck many times by the captain, and that he did not think he had a knife in his hands. According to the newspaper reports, the evidence was of a very contradictory character, but after hearing it the magistrates decided in favour of the seaman and against the captain, and fined the latter £5. His complaint was of the subsequent action of the Board of Trade, which he thought was oppressive. On the same day a letter was written to the Board of Trade by a Mr. Neale, solicitor to the Seamen and Firemen's Union.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON (Middlesbrough)
said it was absolutely incorrect to say that Mr. Neale was acting for the Union in any way.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said he did not make himself responsible for the statement. Mr. Neale, at any rate, wrote to the Board of Trade calling its attention to the ease, and three weeks afterwards Mr. Neale received from the Board of Trade this letter:—
§ "Board of Trade,
§ "April 20, 1899.
§ "Sir,—With reference to your letter of the 29th ult., relating to the conviction of Mr. E. R. Beveridge, master of the ship J. V. Troop,' for an assault on J. C. Youl, one of the crew, I am directed by the Board of Trade to inform you that in pursuance of the power conferred upon them by section 469 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, they have suspended Mr. Beveridge's certificate as master for three months."1443
Now, he assumed, although the evidence was contradictory, that this offence was committed. But he also assumed, as as he was equally bound to assume, that the penalty inflicted by the court after hearing the evidence was an adequate penalty. Furthermore, he fully admitted that the Board of Trade had power in section 469 to suspend or cancel the captain's certificate. He said "had power," but he also said it was under no obligation. The President, indeed, seemed the previous day to suggest by his answer that the Board was bound either to suspend or cancel the certificate. That he entirely denied. The word of the section was that the Board of Trade "may" suspend or cancel the certificate—not that it "shall," or that it "must," and the word "may" was used because it clearly pointed to the exercise of a discretion by the Board of Trade, and because, undoubtedly, if discretion were used the section gave to the Board a valuable reserve power. If, for instance, it were shown in the course of a conviction that the captain, the mate, or the engineer were guilty of habitual drunkenness, were afflicted with some latent form of insanity, or showed gross carelessness or incapacity, then undoubtedly the Board of Trade, after due examination, would be wholly justified in exercising the power given to it by this section. But if such were shown, then undoubtedly the proper course would be, on finding the officer unfit, to cancel his certificate because of his unfitness. In this case, however, the Board of Trade clearly did not hold him to be unfit for the position to command, for it did not cancel his certificate, but only suspended it for three months, and then left him free to return to his command. And, here, in passing, he might say that it must be quite manifest that in the exercise of the power given to it by this section, it was never right to suspend a certificate as a second punishment. It could only be right to cancel the certificate, because the man had been shown to be unfit to hold it.
That was not his view alone—that was the view of the Royal Commission which reported on the 1st July 1874. They said—
We are of the opinion that the present system under which the certificate of a master or other officer is suspended, very frequently only for an error of judgment, should be entirely discontinued, and that neither the Court of Inquiry nor the Board of Trade should have the power of dealing with the certificate. We think that the certificate of the officer should never be suspended, but that in cases to be provided for by express enactment, the tribunal before which the officer is tried "—
Mark, not the Board of Trade, but the tribunal—
should have the power of cancelling either all his certificate or, at its discretion, his higher certificates,
But meantime, this judicious recommendation not having been adopted, the Board of Trade had the power which the Committee thought it should not have. Now, how did it exercise that power? Beveridge was found guilty, as he had said, of the offence. He was adequately punished. So far as he could ascertain, it was the letter of Mr. Neale that first moved the Board of Trade. What was in the letter they did not know, for the Board of Trade refused to give it. Whether there were any other letters they did not know, for the Board would give no information. Whether in addition to this and probably other letters there were any interviews at the Board of Trade they did not know. What they did know was that there were neither letters nor interviews with Beveridge, the accused man. What they did know was that, without writing a line to Beveridge, the Board wrote to Mr. Neale on the 20th April and intimated its decision to him. Now, what had the Board of Trade to consider? It had to consider whether this man, who had been guilty of the offence and had been adequately punished for it, should be by the Board of Trade punished a second time. What, under those circumstances, would be the conduct of any fair-minded man or Department? Why,
undoubtedly, to tell the accused man that there was a possibility of another and more serious penalty being inflicted upon him, to call upon him to state if he had anything to say, to hear him in his own defence; to hear, at any rate, his reason, if he could give any, why the second sentence should not be passed upon him. That was what anybody with any power of inflicting a second punishment should do, and does, except the Board of Trade. That was that the Admiralty did when a naval officer was convicted of an offence of which the Admiralty deemed it right to take cognizance. It never inflicted a professional penalty on him in addition to that already inflicted without calling upon him to make a statement in his own defence. That was what the Medical Council did when any doctor or surgeon had been convicted of any offence before removing him front the register, or depriving hint of his licence to practise. It heard what the man had to say. That was also what the Bar did. That was also what the attorneys did before they took each other off the rolls. It was what everybody always did, and always had done, except only the. Spanish Inquisition, the Venetian Council of Ten, and the British Beard of Trade. Let the Committee remember that the Board of Trade knew none of the details of this case. The President avowed that he had no reports, whether official or otherwise. He did, indeed, say that the assault was a brutal one, but the fact that in the same breath he avowed he had no report of the case proved that this word "brutal" was a mere importation of his own into the case—he would not say with the intention, but certainly having the effect, of prejudicing it in the eyes of the House. An explanation or a defence of Captain Beveridge might possibly have put an entirely different colour upon the matter, but not one word was asked of him or even allowed to be said by him. He was not even made acquainted with the fact that he was being put a second time on his trial. The first intimation he had of it was the peremptory demand for his certi-
ficate. Yet the Board of Trade was not incapable of correspondence. It could correspond with Neale, it could hear one side, it could accept an ex parte statement, but is was too high and mighty, forsooth, to send a word to Beveridge or to call upon him for a statement of that other side which, like the Scotch judge, it thought might only confuse it. In order to realise the view of the Board of Trade of this and similar cases, attention must be given to the replies of the President of that Board to the questions he addressed to him the day before. The House would remember that, with lofty though courteous scorn, the right honourable Gentleman dismissed all idea of hearing the accused or of weighing evidence, and refused all reasons for the action that the Board had taken. This was worse even than Jedburgh justice, for under that system if a man was hanged first he was tried afterwards, but the President of the Board of Trade refused to try him either before or afterwards. Well, this unfortunate man Beveridge, being deprived thus of his means of livelihood, and having affixed upon hint this stigma, had been driven to leave the country. In the "Liverpool Journal of Commerce," of 26th April, he found a letter front him in which he said—
I write a few lines to you in haste, as in consequence of the suspension of my certificate I am leaving the country to-day for the United States, where I intend in future to make my home. I laboured and served for my certificate and, acquired it honourably, and have served my employers faithfully and honestly for 12 years giving them satisfaction, and endeavouring to do my duty to all those who were under me as well as those who were over me. I have not time to dilate upon the difficulties that shipmasters have with their crews now at sea; suffice it to say that it exceeds all their other worries and perplexties. My conscience is clear. I have done nothing to forfeit the confidence of my employers, nor to disgrace the honour of the profession, and I feel that the Board of Trade have dealt most unjustly in suspending my certificate, which, however, I will endeavour to do without.
To him that was rather a touching letter. He believed that Beveridge was not naturally a bad man, but had simply lost his temper, and had used unnecessary
violence. He thought it fair and right to read a spontaneous testimony to his character from his employers—
For several years past we have known Captain E. R. Beveridge, first as master of the barque 'St. Julien,' and then when in command of the barque J. V. Troop, and have always considered him a highly respectable, reliable, and capable shipmaster. In a recent letter from the owners they say that Captain Beveridge is a man of whom we have always had a very high opinion, and he had given every satisfaction.
That was the character that the man had held for 18 years. He trusted his motives would not be misunderstood in bringing the case before the House. He believed there was no man who yielded a greater sympathy or a stronger affection to the British sailor than he did. He knew him, and had been shipmates with him; he had some defects, but some splendid qualities. He was often cruelly handled; he had to endure bad food, bad pay, and bad treatment, though rarely in British ships, where food, pay, and treatment are better than in any others in the world. He was also aware that crews were sometimes extremely difficult to manage so as to secure the doing of the necessary ship's work, and the safety of the ship herself. One sea lawyer, one perverse agitator in the forcastle of a ship would spoil a whole crew, and make it almost impossible to get the ship's work done and discipline maintained unless by the use of violence. There might be faults on one side or the other. There might be faults on both sides. Undoubtedly, disputes would constantly occur. All he asked and claimed was that so far as the Board of Trade was concerned, the circumstances should be weighed fairly and justice done. Now, then, to summarise—he would say to the Board of Trade, Your Star Chamber sentence on Captain Beveridge is too self-confessed to be either inadequate or unjust. If his conviction showed that he was an improper person to command a ship, it was inadequate, because you only suspended his certificate for three months, and then left him to resume command. If, on the other hand, his conduct did not show that he was an improper person to command, the penalty already inflicted was adequate, and you had no ground for preventing him from commanding for a single day, and your sentence was, therefore, unjust. But just or unjust, you
inflicted it without hearing any defence. In this case, as in that celebrated case on the other side of the water—the Dreyfus case—the important question was not so much the guilt of the accused as the nature of the quality of the trial by which he was condemned. Here, as in the Dreyfus case, there was no publicity or report of the proceedings. Nay, one might almost say there were no proceedings except the stroke of the pen of a. Board of Trade clerk in a back parlour of Whitehall. Here, as in the Dreyfus case, they had no incriminating documents they could produce, nor any documents at all, unless, indeed, Neale's letter was to play the part of that bordereau of which they had heard so much. Here there was not even the appearance of the accused before the Star Chamber Court. There was not even an. intimation to him that he was being put upon his second trial. There was no request to him to state, if he could in any way, why sentence should not be passed upon him the sentence of the second punishment of the same offence for which he had already been punished. It was not, he repeated, as to this case alone that he felt strongly; it was because this case represented a most vicious and dangerous system. The President of the Board of Trade hardly rose to the conception of the power or of its appropriate use that this section confers upon him. It. was judicial power, if it was exercised with fairness, and after due hearing, it was a power which might work for good, although still dangerous in the hands of such a department as the Board of Trade. But if exercised as it was, secretly, without the control of publicity, without evidence, without the accused, without reply or explanation, it was not a beneficial exercise of a judicial power, but it was a form of tyranny belonging, perhaps, to the inquisition of Spain, but hitherto as muck unknown to us as it was odious to British principles and British history.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
said that the honourable Gentleman had been grossly imposed upon on this occasion, and he would give the other side of the story. He wished the honourable Gentleman to understand that the Seamen's. Union had had no connection with the prosecution in this case in any form, and that the solicitor named did not act 1449 for the Union. This captain was what was called a Nova Scotia captain. The vessel did not belong to the United kingdom, but to Nova Scotia; it was one of a fleet of 12 or 13 vessels which belonged to a company there, and he ventured to say that the. Board of Trade had more complaints in regard to the captains of that fleet than against the captains of all the other vessels in the United Kingdom put together. Only a month or two ago another captain in the same fleet was charged before the assizes in Liverpool with the murder of a Chinese boy, the steward of the vessel. And in July last year, another captain belonging to the same firm was summoned at the Swansea police court for brutally ill-using and assaulting the crew of his vessel. It had been the common practice of the captains of these vessels for years past to drive the men out of the ships at every port, in order that they might not get their wages.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
It is strong, but perfectly true; and the honouralde Gentleman could get information to back up his statement from the Beard of Trade. There had been numerous complaints in regard to the brutal conduct by these captains, and the ships were known as perfect hells afloat. No seaman had been known to make a second voyage in these ships on account of the brutal conduct to which they were subjected. Those captains got employment, in fact, with this particular firm because they were bullies and blackguards, yet the honourable Gentleman came down to the House with a. soft story about this poor unfortunate captain in the Liverpool police court, all because the Board of Trade had done its duty. What would have happened if any seaman had been charged with assault on a captain? He would have been sent to prison without the option of a fine, and that was where the captain ought to have gone if justice had been done in the case. He sometimes differed from the Board of Trade, but he ventured to say on this occasion he was in hearty accord with their action. If a captain was not able to maintain discipline without using violence, he was not fit to command a ship. His regret was that the Board of Trade did not 1450 take away the captain's certificate altogether, instead of merely suspending it for three months. He had been informed that in some of those ships they carried prize fighters as second officers and boatswains, who used belaying pins on the crew daily. That was not the kind of firm which the honourable Gentleman ought to champion in this House.
§ MR. SEELY (Lincoln)
said he would like to bring the attention of the Committee back to the question raised by the honourable Member for the Bright-side Division of Sheffield. As a colliery and wagon owner, he would like to refer to a speech of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Stirling Burghs, who said that the employers of labour in their action with regard to, the Government Bill on automatic couplings were influenced by carelessness for the safety of their men. He was not concerned to defend the Government against the attacks of the right honourable Gentleman, but as an employer of labour sitting in the House he did protest against the implication of the right honourable Gentleman that employers of labour and wagon owners, in any action they took in regard to coupling wagons, were influenced by carelessness of the lives of their workmen. He thought that on reflection the right honourable Gentleman would be sorry for the speech he had made, and for the implication which might attach to it. There was no doubt that Government Departments had by their action conduced to a certain extent to the safety of the working men in the country, but he held that for one man's life saved by the action of Government Departments, 50 men's lives would be saved by the general improvement introduced for the safety and security of their workmen by the thought and care of employers and their engineers. He would like to make a suggestion to the President of the Board of Trade in regard to wagons generally in this country. He could not agree with the honourable Member for Bright-side Division for Sheffield as to the value of the evidence being conclusive in favour of automatic couplings. He quite understood the risks connected with the coupling and uncoupling of wagons, and no one was more anxious than he was to diminish these risks. The principle evidence as to the advantage of automa- 1451 tic couplings had been taken from a report of what had been done in America. He did not think that anyone who knew America would be very much impressed with the methods of railway working there in regard to security. He did not deny the humanity of the Americans, but owing partly to the extent of the country, and partly to the desirability of rapid communication, greater importance was attached to rapid communication than to the individual safety of men. The long Civil War had made them also rather more careless of human suffering than those more fortunately placed at the present time. He could not himself attach very much importance to American opinion against that of those who were connected with railway management in this country. He had not himself seen automatic couplings in actual work in America, except 17 or 18 years ago, and then these were only attached to passenger carriages, and not to wagons. He had looked into what had happened in colliery sidings in the Midland district with which he was acquainted. There 20 million tons of coal were handled, and last year there was no fatal accident caused by the coupling or uncoupling of the wagons. And taking the whole of the colliery sidings throughout England, while there were 69 accidents connected with railway wagons, only four men were connected with coupling and uncoupling. He could not help thinking that though automatic couplings might be of use in preventing accidents in coupling passenger coaches, in colliery sidings their use would have a tendency to increase general accidents, as from the nature of the case they would be worked at greater speed than the present coupling arangements. Therefore, very careful consideration ought to be made before the Government insisted on the adoption of automatic couplings. He thought that the proposal of the President of the Board of Trade to appoint a Royal Commission on the whole subject was admirable, and he hoped that the result would be the discovery of a good automatic coupling. A great deal had been said on this question, and it appeared to be the impression that these wagons were owned mostly by large owners and railway companies. It was not realised that a considerable number of wagons were 1452 owned by small people who could not raise money for the purpose of making any large alteration. The President of the Board of Trade should make regulations for securing that the rolling stock was brought up to a certain standard, and the best thing the right honourable Gentleman could do to secure that end was to require the railway companies to purchase the rolling stock at a fair valuation, and then there would be great advantages in making these regulations not only from the point of view of the shunters, but also for the safety of the public. He would add his voice to what had been said by the Member for Brightside about labelling the wagons on both sides, for there was no reason why this should not be done. It would cost a small amount of money, and the present difficulty was that one tradesman could not make the alteration without the others did the same thing, because competition was so keen. He did not think the President of the Board of Trade could have very much knowledge on the subject or he would never have said that it would take two years to carry this labelling into operation, because it could be done in two weeks. He hoped the Royal Commission would be attended with good results in securing greater safety for the shunters in this country.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES (Durham, N.W.)
did not think that anyone would question the justice of what the honourable Member had said, because they were more anxious about the safety of workmen's lives than they used to be years ago, and he thought he was entitled to say that legislation had exercised a very quickening effect upon employers of labour in this respect. He thought the honourable Member who had just sat down at the close of his speech showed a little of the cloven hoof of which they complained. He had stated in reference to labelling that they should take care that injury was not imposed upon employers in reference to the expense. He did not quarrel with the honourable Member for having regard to the lucrative carrying on of his business, but when he reflected upon the number of accidents which annually occurred through the present disgraceful system of shunting, all that he could say was that the 1453 expenditure involved would certainly be the last element which he would consider. What had been the result and the experience in America Before the introduction of automatic couplings there the Joss of life was appalling, and in one year alone there were no less than 369 persons killed from shunting operations. Mr. Moseley's Report showed that in 1897, since the partial introduction of automatic coupling's, the number of fatal shunting accidents had decreased by no less than 219.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
I think the honourable Gentleman is getting a long way from the only point which is really open for discussion, which is the appointment of a Royal Commission.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES
said it appeared to him that the loss of life was germane to the appointment of a Royal Commission. He could imagine, as had been pointed out, that there was a difference between the rolling stock of this country and that of America, and he could understand that there was a difficulty in finding a standard automatic coupling.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
I must invite the honourable Gentleman to come more closely to the subject under discussion.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES
said he understood that there was to be a Royal Commission appointed to decide what was the best form of coupling to be used.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
It is not proposed to simply ask the Royal Commission to decide only what is the best standard of automatic coupling, and the honourable Member must not assume that.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES
asked what on earth was the Commission for? He understood that until it was decided what standard of automatic coupling Should be adopted that it would be objectionable for the railway companies to have automatic coupling. In response to the representations of the railway companies the right honourable Gentleman had proposed a Royal Com- 1454 mission, and unless it was for the purpose of meeting the point raised it would be interesting to learn what was the ground upon which the appointment of this Commission was necessary. In the year 1897 there were 97 shunters killed and 2,400 injured, and many of these injuries, although not fatal, had resulted in permanent disablement. In the face of those appalling figures, and of the example which had been set by America, the right honourable Gentleman had taken upon himself a very serious responsibility in shelving this question and dealing with it by a Commission. It was not too late for the right honourable Gentleman to respond to the appeal which had been so eloquently made.
§ MR. D. H. COGHILL
said he was authorised to oppose the Bill dealing with the subject on behalf of the railwaymen connected with the North Staffordshire Railway. Wherever working men had had an opportunity of using the automatic couplings they had been condemned by them. He reminded the Committee that the whole conditions of the railway system in England were totally different to those on the American system. In America they had long-distance runs, extending sometimes over a thousand miles, but in this country it was quite a different matter, the trains running short distances and wagons having to be added at frequent intervals. He had been told that American couplings would not work well on English railways with their many curves. The honourable Member read an extract from the "Railway Herald" referring to the automatic couplings used in connection with some of Messrs. Barnum and Bailey's carriages on the North Staffordshire Railway, and pointing out that on the curves it was most difficult to get them to act. One man was reported to have said that he would rather deal with 40 trains on the English principle than with man one on the American. He was very glad indeed that the right honourable Gentleman was now going to have a Commission before pressing the Bill. He only hoped that the result of the inquiry would be that a good coupling would be found. There was a large number of English patents as well as American, and he hoped there would be a coupling found which would answer all the conditions of the English rail- 1455 ways, which were totally different to the American system. As far as returns went in reference to the number killed on the railway, there appeared to be 19 deaths in this country to every 63 in America. If we wanted to have fewer accidents on our railways had not we better keep to a system which gave a smaller number of accidents rather than embark on another theory which had resulted in a much larger loss of life? Nineteen lives were far too many to lose, but he must remind the honourable Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield that 63 was a much higher rate. He thought that more attention should be paid to official figures if they were to decide the question. They were altogether in favour of the English system. He hoped the Committee would pause before they did anything which would throw any doubt upon the wisdom of the proposal of the President of the Board of Trade.
§ LORD E. FITZMAURICE (Wilts, Cricklade)
said they did not like to, discuss a question of this nature in Committee, because they were probably desirous of speaking on certain points which had been ruled out of order. The discussion had been confined in such narrow limits that it made a full consideration of the question impossible, and in that respect it was unsatisfactory. In the great railway centre of Swindon no question of late years had excited so much interest among the railway employees. Although there was a very great deal of regret in regard to the postponement of legislation dealing with automatic couplings, they felt that the labelling of wagons was a simple matter and they did not see why it should not be dealt with at once. He did not desire to labour these points, but he had risen to impress upon his right honourable Friend the very great desire which existed amongst railway employees that this question should be dealt with and settled as quickly as possible, and he hoped before this discussion terminated that the right honourable Gentleman would be able to give the Committee fuller information as to the appointment of this Commission, and how long he thought its inquiries would take.
§ MR. F. H. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
drew the attention of the President of the Board of Trade to the history of a somewhat similar matter in relation to the working of railways—the adoption of automatic brakes. He said that the necessity for automatic brakes was demonstrated by repeated accidents in this country; that the result of careful inquiries by the Board of Trade had been the issue by that Department of very strong recommendations to the railway companies do adopt automatic brakes. That action was followed by an emphatic circular insisting upon their adoption. It seemed to him unfortunate that this matter had not been forced to a head by legislation. He thought that, instead of sending this matter before a Royal Commission, it would be desirable to draft a circular of an emphatic and decisive character, giving an opportunity to the railway companies to exercise their discretion as to the best type of automatic couplings for the use of the railways of this country. If that circular were followed up with a tolerably clear statement by the Board of Trade of their intention to have recourse to legislation within a short period, he thought, that would be the most reasonable way of proceeding with the question. He did not dissent from the idea of an inquiry by Royal Commission, but thought this question might be dealt with more easily by a Departmental Committee, which would be a simpler and more expeditious method of dealing with the problems to be solved. He thought useful results would follow from the inquiry, especially with regard to rolling stock. Anything which would stimulate and hasten the change of the railway rolling stock in this country to the type with which travellers on the Continent and in America were familiar would be, of course, beneficial. The duty of the Department to make every endeavour to minimise the accidents so strongly set before the Committee by the honourable Member for Sheffield was fully recognised, and it was to be regretted that now, just as 10 years ago, a Conservative Minister had yielded 1457 to pressure and relegated to long and desultory inquiry a matter which might be dealt with more promptly. He thought the pressure brought to bear by the railway companies ought to be resisted, and he appealed to the President of the Board of Trade to take some step to hasten the adoption of automatic couplings.
§ MR. MCKENNA
said he wished to call the attention of the President of the Board of Trade to the language used by him when he received a deputation of the companies on the 16th March last, when he undertook to consider the introduction of a Bill dealing with the less contentious matters included in the Railway Regulation Bill. The President of the Board of Trade had since abandoned the whole matter, and submitted it to the consideration of a Royal Commission. It was particularly unfortunate when the right honourable Gentleman had committed himself to a certain line of action that he should have yielded to pressure, and withdrawn from a position which he himself knew to be the right one, and one in which he knew he had not only the support of his Department, but the strong support of this House.
§ MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
said that his experience was that the desire of the railway companies was not so much to guard the lives of their employees as to earn good dividends. Nothing was ever done to safeguard the lives of their employees until some action was taken by the Board of Trade. He urged the right honourable Gentleman to inquire into the matter by a Departmental Committee, which was far more competent to deal with it than a Royal Commission. If it were referred to the latter ho was convinced that nothing would be done for the next 20 years. He earnestly urged the right honourable Gentleman to take some steps to protect the lives of railway employees.
COMMANDER YOUNG (Becks, Woking-ham)
said from what had been said by the honourable Member for King's Lynn it appeared to him that a captain of a merchantman had been con- 1458 victed by the magistrates of Liverpool of assaulting a boy on his ship, and had been fined £4. He also gathered that the President of the Board of Trade had, without calling for any explanation from the captain, exercised the authority he possessed, and suspended his certificate for three months. He protested against such action on the part of the Board of Trade, because, in the first place, before a man had his certificate suspended he ought to be called upon for an explanation, in which it was possible he might justify his conduct before the Board of Trade. In the second place he objected for the reason that if such a power could be exercised in one Department it could extend to another, such as the Admiralty or the War Office, and he objected very strongly that any naval or military officer, because he had been convicted by a civil court, should be removed from Her Majesty's Service without having an opportunity given to him to justify his conduct before the authorities.
§ MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
said with regard to the point raised by the honourable Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield, that everybody was looking forward to most happy results from the Bill that was to be brought in. He did not understand why the Government, having such a majority, had been afraid to bring that Measure forward. He was afraid that they were on the downward grade, otherwise he could not imagine why they had taken the opportunity of withdrawing the Bill. The investigation by the Royal Commission would cover a far larger number of points than those contained in the Bill, and he could only hope that it would inaugurate much larger concessions than those now asked for.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
My honourable and gallant Friend the Member for King's Lynn finch great fault with the Board of Trade for having dealt with this captain in the way it did, he having been punished for an offence of which he was convicted by a court of summary jurisdiction. Whatever might be said on the merits or demerits of that particular case, it is a question for the Board of Trade to consider. I do not agree with the honourable and gallant Member that in dealin 1459 with this question it is the duty of the Board of Trade to retry the case. The words of the Act are perfectly clear, "The Board of Trade may suspend or cancel." The duty of the Board of Trade is to look into the circumstances of the case, and if the circumstances which led to the conviction are of such a nature either to merit the suspension or cancellation of the certificate, the President of the Board of Trade is to act at once. My honourable and gallant Friend seems to think that the whole of the information which the Board of Trade obtained of this particular case was derived from the reports of the case, but the Board had placed itself in communication with the officers at Liverpool, and it came to the conclusion that the offence was of such a character that, in the interests of seamen, the certificate should be suspended. My honourable Friend thinks we ought to have done one of two things—either have cancelled the certificate or left the matter alone.
§ MR. T. G. BOWLES
I say that the Board of Trade should have informed the captain of what they were about to do, and have heard what he had to say.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
It was sufficient for the Board of Trade that the man was convicted, and in the interest of seamen generally and of the owners, the Board of Trade were warranted in carrying out the provisions of the Act, and they considered that in suspending the certificate for three months a light sentence had been inflicted. My honourable Friend has spoken of the matter in such a way as to compel me to give information in regard to the offence for which the man's certificate was suspended. The statement of the chairman of the bench of magistrates before whom the case was tried was that Beveridge's cruelty consisted of attacking the seaman with a belaying pin, dragging him into the cabin by his ear, throwing him down, kneeling on his chest, holding him by the throat, beating him about the face, and putting him in irons for hours. No provocation was alleged except careless steering. When the men were asked to put him in irons they declined, stating that they saw no reason for doing so. The evidence was fully borne out by two seamen and the second mate, while the captain's was entirely uncorroborated.
§ MR. CARSON (Dublin University)
asked whether the right honourable Gentleman would tell them what was the captain's statement.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
They are not retrying the man; what they have to do is to look at the nature of the evidence, and I will undertake to say there is not a man in the House who thinks that a small line and the suspension of his certificate for three months is undue punishment for the offence. I am informed that precisely the same consequences would have followed in the Army.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES
asked whether it was not the fact that the captain alleged that the man went for him with a knife.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
What I have stated is that the captain's evidence is entirely uncorroborated. With regard to the Measure which I have introduced into the House, I do not complain of the tone in which the matter has been discussed. I am perfectly prepared to justify the action I took. As the Committee are aware, the Measure which I introduced was not a part of the Government's original programme for the Session. The subject has been under my consideration for a considerable time, and, as has been stated, I sent to the United States a special envoy, who was in possession of my entire confidence, with a view to finding out how coupling is dealt with there. The report which was made to me was of such a character as to induce me to make proposals to the House of Commons, proposals which are admitted to be of a model character. It is not my desire to impose on those interested any sudden action. I confess I was not prepared for the amount of opposition which my proposals have met with. If a Measure which is not part of the Sessional programme of the Government is brought forward by a Minister at the head of a department, and encounters the kind of opposition which this Measure has met with, it is not possible for that Minister to ask his colleagues to set aside the programme of the Government in its favour. The manner in which the Bill was received showed that it would not have been 1461 possible to carry it through the House without devoting to it a very large portion of the time of the Government, and even if we had been prepared to do that and it had been sent to a Select Committee, it could not have reached the Select Committee in time to receive that complete investigation which would have been insisted on, and so there would not have been time to complete any legislation on the subject during the present Session. There is not absolute hostility on the part of the railway companies and others interested. They say:—"We recognise that this arrangement has been in existence in the United States, but we do not believe it would be suitable for our traffic; if, however, by an inquiry before a competent tribunal you show us that it will have the effect of saving life and that it can be applied to our railways we are perfectly ready to agree to it, and do not care what may be the expense of adopting it. "That is not an unreasonable position for those who have large interests at stake to take up. The advantage of a Royal Commission is that they can proceed at once to this investigation, and if they can do that time will not be lost, but gained. The noble Lord, the Member for Cricklade, has asked when the Royal Commission is likely to be appointed and whether it is likely to proceed at once with its investigation. I may tell my noble Friend that after consulting my colleagues quite recently as to the tribunal before which this inquiry should be made, and having received their assent to the inquiry being made by a Royal Commission, I have not lost an hour in setting to work to get the Commission appointed. I have already been in communication with those gentlemen whose names I desire to submit to Her Majesty for appointment on the Commission, and I have received the assent of nearly the whole of them to serve. Before the House separates for the Whitsuntide recess I hope I shall be able to communicate both the names of the commissioners and the reference that will be made to them. Whatever may be the opinion of honourable Members as to the tribunal or as to the course I have pursued, at least the House cannot accuse me of any delay in endeavouring to get this matter before a competent tribunal. I am unable, of course, to express any opinion as to how long the tribunal will last, but I hope the Commission will set 1462 about this matter in a business-like way, and that the report may not be long delayed. The investigation which will be made by the Royal Commission will certainly not be restricted to the limits of the proposals made in the Bill. There are other important matters connected with the prevention of accidents to railway servants which will have to be considered by the Railway Commission, and I am happy to say that the private truck-owners and the railway companies have shown no reluctance whatever to having the whole question investigated by a competent tribunal. Great fault has been found with my action in this matter. I do not regret the action I have taken in the least. I consider that for the Government to have introduced a Bill of this kind has been a large step in the direction desired by those who wish to see this reform carried into effect. If nothing else has been done, the subject dealt with in the Bill has been advanced by many years by the mere introduction of the Bill. Whether I am right or wrong upon that point, I feel satisfied that the investigation that will take place will be one leading to proposals which the Government will have to lay before the House and which, I hope, will have the effect of greatly improving the position of the railway servants and of greatly diminishing their liability to accident. It is not desirable that I should go into the question of the merits or demerits of particular forms of couplings. That will be dealt with by the Commission, and, though I do not imagine that they will recommend any particular form of coupling, I believe they will come to the conclusion that automatic couplings are as superior to the present state of things as the power-loom was to the old hand-loom. Putting aside altogether the question of the saving of life, I cannot conceive that, if there exists something which can be applied to our railways to couple trucks automatically, the present condition of things can possibly remain.
§ MR. CARSON
referred to the case of Captain Beveridge, and asked if it was fair, When they had to go outside the conviction, to act upon statements of other persons which were never submitted to the accused and thereupon proceed to ruin a man who had had considerable service and whose only 1463 employment was the certificate he held from the Board of Trade. This man had been ruined, and he had had to go to America.
§ MR. CARSON
It would probably be a good job if others went there too. The only point he wished to make was that, if it became necessary at all to go behind the conviction and to hold any inquiry, the accused himself ought to be a party to it and ought to be allowed to see what statements were made. It ought not to be in the power of the Board of Trade, upon the hearing of one side only, to ruin a man by suspending his certificate, as was done in this case. For that reason he should support the Motion of his honourable Friend the Member for King's Lynn.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
congratulated the President of the Board of Trade upon his action in this matter. He wished to remind honourable Gentleman opposite that the right honourable Gentleman had not acted upon partial evidence. He had acted upon the report of the chairman of the bench of magistrates.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
It is not upon the report of the chairman of the bench of magistrates that I acted. It is upon other inquiries, but after my honourable Friend brought the case to my notice I communicated with the Court and got the report to which the honourable Member opposite has referred.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said he really thought the right honourable Gentleman had not treated them candidly. He certainly conveyed the impression, to the Committee, that his decision was taken upon the report of the chairman of magistrates. [Cries of "No."] Well, he did to him. He hoped the vicious practice which the right honourable Gentleman had adopted, and which was not adopted either by the Admiralty, the legal or the medical profession, or, he believed, by the War Office, of condemning a man unheard, would be discontinued.
§ MR. BRYCE
referred to the question of automatic couplings, and said he regretted the delay that was likely to occur before legislation could be passed. It was very probable that three years, or possibly more, would elapse before the Commission that was to inquire into the matter even reported. That would mean a substantial loss of time, whereas if the President of the Board of Trade had pressed forward the Bill he could have carried it through during the present Session, and he would have received abundant support from that side of the House. Whilst he frankly acknowledged the intelligence, the great ability, and zeal of the managers of the British railways, he considered that the companies remained greatly behind in many matters of railway organisation. An interesting series of letters which appeared in "The Times" in the spring or summer of last year compared the management of the English and American railways, and anyone reading those contributions must have been struck with the numerous points in which the American railways were proved to be far superior to those of this country, where the organisation and mechanical arrangements were better, and the traffic managed upon a more economical and effective system. This result in America was attributable in a large measure to the uniformity which obtained on the railway system, which was secured by having such a body as the Railway Association, by whose decisions the various railway companies were guided. If the different railway companies in this country could form a similar body it would be possible for it to deal with all matters affecting improvements in the railway system, and to bring about that uniformity which was so much desired. But as the companies themselves did not move in this direction it was necessary for Parliament to introduce legislation from time to time. Anyone travelling up to London on one of their great lines starting from the North, would see at every second or third station a goods train, and especially a coal train, shunted in order to let the fast train pass. That was essential in the present state of things. But if the companies could run their goods traffic at a higher rate of speed, as was now being done much more largely in America, they would have much less difficulty in 1465 working their fast traffic than they had at present. The dropping of the Automatic Couplings Bill had, at any rate, served one good purpose. It had called public attention to the enormous powers which vested interests in this country exercised, for the Government, despite its majority of 140, was obliged to haul down its flag because an attack has been made upon it by railway companies and wagon-owners. That, he contended, was the rather regrettable incident of the affair, and while he acquitted the right honourable Gentleman of want of zeal or energy in the matter, he could not sit down without expressing his disappointment that the Government should have proved so pusillanimous, and that a reform so admittedly urgent and desirable should thereby have been delayed for some years.
§ MR. J. WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)
said the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen had spoken as if this were a matter which concerned only the great railway companies. He could, however, assure him that this was not the case. He (Mr. Wilson) represented an association of private wagon-owners in Scotland, and on their behalf he thanked the President of the Board of Trade for having dropped the Bill. If the Measure had been carried, the whole construction of railway wagons and trucks would have had to be altered, but if wagon owners could be assured that automatic couplings would be the means of saving life no expense, would have been allowed to stand in the way. During the whole of 1897 there were only 19 accidents in the actual coupling or uncoupling of wagons, and accidents in shunting—which involve I many operations besides coupling or uncoupling—would continue to happen even if automatic couplings were adopted. He thought the President of the Board of Trade had the interests of the railway men very much at heart, and he could not help thinking that he had shown a proper spirit. The right honourable Gentleman had brought in the Automatic Couplings Bill somewhat hastily, and without the requisite inquiry. His eyes, however, were opened now, and he found it was absolutely necessary that there should be a careful and cautious investigation before legislation was proposed. He complimented him very highly on the decision he had come to.
§ MR. DONKIN (Tynemouth)
, referring to the case of Captain Beveridge, said there was nothing more dangerous, nothing more provoking to a captain, than to have a careless helmsman. Anyone connected with shipping knew that to bring a ship up within two or three points of the wind would be likely to take the masts out of her. He had seen a very good-tempered captain assault a sailor for careless steering and put him into irons. He wished to tell the right honourable Gentleman that to act in the manner and on the evidence only of sailors, and to suspend a captain's certificate, was an extremely dangerous policy, and would act prejudicially. He considered that a fine was quite sufficient without going further, unless they gave the captain a chance of a free and impartial inquiry into his conduct.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 81; Noes, 126.—(Division List No. 118.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ SIR J. LENG (Dundee)
rose to call the attention of the President of the Board of Trade to the peculiar constitution of the boards having the control of the lighthouses of the country. He was aware that a few days ago a deputation representing the Chamber of Shipping and the Associated Chambers of Commerce waited upon the right honourable Gentleman at the Board of Trade, and expressed to him their dissatisfaction that nothing had been done to redress what they considered a very serious grievance, namely, that the shipowners of the country were not represented on these boards. It was, however, not only the shipowners who took an interest in this platter, but the shipmasters. He knew that there was no complaint to be made under this head with regard to Trinity House Board, which consisted of a certain number of experts, but on the Northern Lights Commission, with the exception of a small number of representatives of municipalities, there was no representation either of shipowners or shipmasters. The various boards of shipping, mercantile marine boards, and chambers of commerce in the country were much disappointed that they were not directly represented on boards dealing with matters of direct interest to them.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
Order, order! I would ask the honourable Member how he connects the Board of Trade with this matter?
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
It is open to the honourable Member to do that. The Committee of Supply only deals with administrative matters.
§ SIR. J. LENG
Then I will advert to the question of administration and complain that these boards, over whom the right honourable Gentleman certainly has supervision, do not administer to the satisfaction of the shipowners. Proceeding, he said he could mention a case coming under his own observation with regard to the putting on of the lights and the extinguishing of them.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
Order, order! Is there any sum of money in this Vote in respect of the Northern Lights Commission?
§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, N.)
directed the attention of the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade to an important matter that arose en the discussion of the Estimates last year, namely, the question of workmen's trains in the neighbourhood of London. When the matter was brought before the right. honourable Gentleman about a year ago he promised that if definite complaints were made to him about the service of these trains he would send those complaints on to the railway companies, and do what he could to improve the service. Complaints were sent in, and the right honourable Gentleman sent them on to 1468 the various railway companies so precipitately that he had launched the persons who had made them into a sea of trouble. He hoped, therefore, the right honourable Gentleman would do what he could to stop the expensive litigation which had ensued, if it were possible to take action of that kind. The railway companies were obdurate in the matter rd workmen's trains, but power to deal with the matter lay to a large extent in the hands of the President of the Board of Trade. The railway companies were obliged to make adequate provision in the matter of the trains for the working population, and by Act of Parliament they were entitled to ample compensation for any loss sustained in making such provision. But it was a curious thing that the railway companies never sustained loss in this direction. Some friends of his had been associated together in bringing this matter of workmen's trains before the President of the Board of Trade. Practically speaking, they had taken action against nine companies. He pointed out that the cases might be referred to the Board of Trade, or, if tile companies were very obdurate, to the Railway Commissioners. Four of The companies had been brought to book and had made some provision to meet the requirements of those who lived along their lines. But all the other companies refused to yield to the representations which the President of the Board of Trade sent to them. Two trials had recently taken place, one held before Sir Francis Marindin, but the decision had not yet been announced on account of that gentleman's illness. He would be glad if the right honourable Gentleman would inform the Committee the result at which. Sir F. Marindin had arrived. One trial had reference to the London, Tilbury, and Barking line, and the other referred to the Metropolitan and District railways, to which companies strong representations had been made for a service at a very early hour to suit printers. He believed the decision in that case had been arrived at, and that it was against the Metropolitan and District Company, but he would like the right honourable Gentle-man to give the Committee precise information on the point. A much more important case had. been tried against the Great Eastern Railway. The Railway Commissioners announced their decision about a week ago, and it was 1469 of a far-reaching and sweeping character. It covered all the points for which the workmen had been contending. It decided that half fares should be charged, that proper workmen's trains should be run, that there should be sufficient accommodation, and went the length of ordinary special carriages for female's. That was the most far-reaching decision ever given under the Act. The difficulty they were in, however, was that the whole procedure had been immensely expensive, and greater than the poorer classes affected could bear alone. He believed that why the railway companies had done so little was because of the expense of the procedure against them. Four cases were still pending—namely, against the Great Northern, the London and North Western, the Brighton and South Coast, and the Midland Companies. Each of these corporations had no scruple about going to law, and were prepared to go to any expense. He asked the right honourable. Gentleman whether he had carefully considered the principles of the decision at which the Railway Commissioners had arrived, and, if they bore on the points in dispute with the other companies, whether he would bring pressure to bear on these companies to yield, and ask them to accept the decision and provide a proper service on their various lines.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshie, E.)
said he wanted some information from the right honourable Gentleman on two subjects. First, what progress he had made in regard to grants for piers and harbours. The right honourable Gentleman had told the House that he was prepared to entertain favourably application from any locality for grants for harbours, although he made some reservations as to the conditions which all applications must comply with. It was within his (the honourable Member's) knowledge that applications had been made for grants, and he. wanted to know what progress had been made in the matter. The other subject he wished information on was the construction of light railways. He ventured to think that the Act of Parliament dealing with light railways was one of the most satisfactory which this Parliament had passed. Almost all the orders which the Light Railway Commissioners had passed and submitted to the Board of Trade down to the autumn of 1898 had since 1470 been confirmed by the Board of Trade, and were in process of construction. But there were two exceptions, both referring to the county which he had the happiness to represent. Could the right honourable Gentleman inform him what were the causes for this delay? One was for a light railway between Frazerburgh and St. Colms, the order for which was issued on 7th June 1898. The other was a railway to Echt, the order for which was issued 6th January 1898. Neither of these schemes had been confirmed by the, Board of Trade. In regard to one of them he had asked the right honourable Gentleman a question on the 21st April, and the reply was to the effect that on 15th August 1898 the Board of Trade had forwarded a copy of the order to the promoters, and asked for revised prints for formal endorsement. He had been in communication with the promoters, who informed him that they were anxious to go forward, but that they could not do so without the assistance of the Treasury. One of the conditions of the Light Railways Act was that before the promoters could obtain Treasury assistance, some existing railway company should be prepared to construct the line. The promoters had obtained the consent of the Great North of Scotland Railway Company if the Treasury would give the grant. The Great North of Scotland were the promoters of the other scheme, the Edit. Possibly the delay was caused by the action, or inaction, of that railway company. He hoped the Board of Trade would endeavour to accelerate the issue of the confirming order, so that the construction of the line might be proceeded with.
said he had two small points to which he wished to draw the attention of the right honourable the President of the Board of Trade. The first was in connection with a declaration which the right honourable Gentleman had made some weeks ago in reply to a question as to grants-in-aid for piers and harbours. One result of that declaration was the receipt of an application for aid from Auchmithie in his constituency. Would the right honourable Gentleman explain in what further way they must comply to the conditions before grants were made? The people of Auchmithie had fulfilled all the known conditions for the 1471 grant, but by a series of unfortunate events the matter had dragged on for years. He wanted nothing but justice for this deserving case, and he hoped the right honourable Gentleman would confer with the Scottish Fishery Board and the Scottish Office in the matter. His other point was that under the Light Railways Act there was no provision for taxing the costs of those who appeared before the Commissioners. He did not know whether legislation would be necessary to give the Board of Trade that power, but it would be a great public advantage if they could arrive at the total cost of the construction of railways.
§ MR. BRYCE
said he desired to support what had been said by the honourable Member for Islington on the subject of workmen's trains; he ventured to express his belief that they would find themselves driven ultimately to adopt some more complete remedy for the problem than the Railway Commission could apply. The congestion of the traffic on the great lines coming into London was so great that either the companies would be driven to the very heavy expenditure of doubling their lines, or else they would have to adopt the policy which he was sorry had not been adopted long ago of endeavouring, instead of making London bigger, to carry the industries out of the metropolitan area altogether, and let the people live beside their industries. The difficulty of taking people in and out of London was increasing daily. As regarded the observations made by the honourable Member for East Aberdeen, he could confirm what the honourable Member had said. He would like to ask the right honourable Gentleman the President what would happen if a railroad company having obtained the decision of the Light Railways Commissioners in favour of a line they proposed to make, and having secured the withdrawal of other parties who had intended to make the line—what would happen if the railway company allowed the matter to hang over? Clearly the railway company ought to be bound to make the line in a certain time. If it left the line in the air, so to speak, was it the duty of the Board of Trade to step in and ask the Company to proceed with the scheme? He congratulated the right 1472 honourable the President of the Board of Trade upon the great success of the Light Railway scheme, and he would be glad to see it extended, as it must prove a great advantage to agriculture. He was informed that certain defects in the existing law had emerged which were making the procedure costly, and which would prevent light railways being made in some cases where there was a possibility of competition between different companies. He understood there had been cases in which proposals for light railways had been rejected, because it had been held that they would involve competition with existing railway companies. But even if so, the public gain, especially in wayside traffic, would be so great that the promoters ought not to be driven to come to this House for leave to make these railways, but ought to obtain it under the Light Railways Commission. He took the opportunity of repeating once more the question whether the railway companies were going to do anything for the unhappy cyclist. At present the machines were only carried at the risk of the cyclist, and the charge was heavy. He believed he had in this matter the sympathy of his right honourable Friend the First Lord of the Treasury, and that he would feel that cycling as a recreation and a. means of communication had become so much extended and useful that it deserved to be encouraged by the railway companies. His belief was that the railway companies were shortsighted in their present policy, and that if they met the demands of cyclists more liberally they would profit in the long run.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
In regard to the observations of the honourable Member for Isington in respect of the working men's trains I am glad that he appreciates the efforts made by the Board of Trade in the matter. I think that he and the association with which he is connected have done good public work in putting their shoulders to the wheel with regard to workmen's trains, and they have obtained concessions which have gone far beyond anything previously conceded. As the honourable Gentleman knows, I sympathise entirely with the view he takes that every effort ought to be made 1473 to provide facilities for the working people of London to get out into pure fresh air, and for going to and from their work at a cheap rate. I do not intend to trouble the Committee with all the details, but I may refer to one or two of the lines to which he has alluded. There has been, as he very properly said, a very important decision by Sir Francis Marindin in regard to the Tilbury line. Although unfortunately I cannot at the moment communicate the full particulars of that decision, I may tell the honourable Gentleman that it is a satisfactory decision from his point of view. In regard to the Metropolitan and District lines Sir Francis reports that there are very great difficulties in the way. He was not able to recommend the proposal to run a train at 3 o'clock in the morning, as these lines must be closed for a few hours during the night for repairs. The honourable Gentleman has referred to the applications before the Railway Commissioners, and has expressed satisfaction in regard to the decision in the case of the Great Eastern Company. It has undoubtedly had, and ought to have, an influence on other companies. The honourable Gentleman asked me to bear in mind the principles of these decisions and to make representation to the railway companies, and I am glad to assent to his request. I shall personally examine carefully the decision, and shall take such steps as I am advised in the hope that such facilities as are desired may be given without further trouble or litigation. The honourable Members for Aberdeen East and for Forfarshire drew attention to my promise this year to see whether I could not meet the wishes of poor localities who cannot themselves make harbours without the help of the Government. In the case mentioned by the honourable Member for East Aberdeenshire, he asks that I should use my influence with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to get it dealt with on similar lines to applications under the Light Railways Act. We have had a great number of applications, some of them I am afraid not within the area of the proposals I made, and I have thought that the best course to adopt was to take the same procedure as in regard to light railways. In conjunction and with the assent of the Treasury I have appointed a small Departmental Committee similar to that which 1474 considers applications for light railways. All applications for grants for harbours are to be put before this Committee to see whether they come within the limits laid down which would justify the Treasury in granting assistance. The honourable Member for Forfarshire alluded to Auchmithie. I understand that the application is for a very small sum of money, £400 or £500. It seemed to us that that application should rather be made to the Scottish. Fishery Board than to our Board. I do not remember for the moment what the answer of the Scottish Board was, but the application will be dealt with by the Committee to which I have referred. I am unable to give the honourable Gentleman any idea as to the expense of the applications, but the expense of those made to the Board of Trade is very small. I will, however, make inquiry, and see what can be done. The Member for East Aberdeenshire spoke of two applications to the Light Railway Commissioners. The honourable Gentleman knows that the difficulty does not lie with the Board of Trade, but with the Great North of Scotland Railway. My honourable Friend talked as if sonic private persons had promoted a Bill, and then handed it over to the railway company which was rather interested in not going on with it.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
They did not exactly withdraw their scheme. As I understand it, the name of the Great Northern Railway Company was substituted in the Order for that of private promoters. The delay has certainly not lain with the Board of Trade. I do not know that it is any part of the duty of the Board of Trade to insist on these orders being carried out if the promoters do not wish to proceed. I will, however, see whether the matter cannot be brought to a focus one way or the other. The right honourable Member for Aberdeen alluded to what he considered a defect in the Light Railways Act in regard to where competition would come in. I have seen one or two cases in which it seemed rather hard that the 1475 provisions of the Act should prevent an Order being made; but there have been cases in which it was clear that the object of the application was competition. The clause of the Act is very specific If there is to be competition the promoters must proceed in the usual way by a Bill in the House. I do not think it would be wise just now to amend an Act which is working extremely satisfactorily. I have always considered that the right honourable Gentleman and myself are pioneers in this undertaking, and that I have only carried out what he had so well begun. We are immensely indebted to the Light Railway Commissioners who have so generously and disinterestedly given their valuable services to the country in this matter.
§ On the return of the CHAIRMAN, after the usual interval—
Motion made, and Question proposed
That Item (A) Salaries be reduced by £50, in respect of the Salary of the President of the Board of Trade."—(Mr. Havelock Wilson)
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
moved to reduce the salary of the President of the Board of Trade by £50. The question he wished to bring before the Committee was one of considerable importance, as he had to complain very much indeed of the right honourable Gentleman's conduct with b regard to the manning of British ships. In 1894 the late Mr. Mundella appointed a Committee, and for over two years that Committee gathered evidence from seamen, engineers, shipowners, and others interested in the mercantile, marine. It was a, very representative Committee, and in the end they reported that in their opinion a large number of British ships were seriously undermanned, and that it was necessary that legislation should be passed to prevent, undermanning, on the ground that it was dangerous to send Fillips to without, sufficient crews. Out of 17 members of that Committee 13 signed the majority report, and two of them were representatives of the Board of Trade. They complained not only of the insufficient number of men employed on the decks, but also that the stokehole and firemen's department was not sufficiently manned; and they drafted a scale which provided that no 1476 fireman work more than 2½ tons of coal in tropical climates and not more than three tons in cold climates. The Committee did their work thoroughly well, and he had not heard the right honourable, Gentleman complain in any way during the discussion with regard to the legislation passed that, the Committee had not done their work thoroughly well. The right honourable Gentleman. was moved to bring in a Bill by which he declared that ships were undermanned. That Bill did not go quite so far as he should have liked, but he did not object to it, for he recognised that, under the Bill it, would become the duty of the President of the Board of Trade and his officials to draft a scale giving out instructions as to when a ship was sufficiently manned.
Attention having been called to, the fact that there were not 40 Members present, the House was counted, when 40 Members being present—
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON (continuing)
said the Maiming Committee drafted a scale which was not entirely to his satisfaction, but, it was a. very light scale indeed; but he recognised that it was better to have that scale than nothing at all, and he agreed to it. When the Manning Act was passed, the power was left to the President, of the Board of Trade to draw up instructions as to the number of officers, superintendents, and surveyors, but to his amazement and to the astonishment of all men connected with the shipping trade, the. President of the Board of Trade had thrown overboard all the recommendations of the Manning Committee, and had drafted a scale even worse than that recommended by the minority report of the. Manning Committee, which was signed by four, all of them shipowners. They recommended that no ships should go to sea with less than three deck hands in each watch, and that the watches should be so arranged as to have: always, one competent man at the wheel. The work of the Manning Committee cost something like £30,000, and all they had got from the Board of Trade was contained in. a shabby little leaflet, containing instructions which, he ventured to say, no one could understand. Those instructions provided that foreign-going steamships 1477 over 200 ft. in length and not less than 700 tons gross when proceeding to sea should have, independently of the master and two mates, a sufficient number of deck hands available for division into two watches, so as to provide a. minimum effective watch with a competent hand at the wheel, a look-out man, and an addditional hand on deck available for any purpose. That instruction only applied to foreign-going steamships, and did not include vessels sailing on the coast. It did not matter what size the vessel might be. She might be a, vessel carrying 4,000 tons of cargo, but if she had got three hands—and there was nothing to specify in the instructions whether they should be able seamen or ordinary seamen—it would be quite sufficient. That was not the worst part of the business, for many of the vessels that were now carrying those hands and were foreign-going vessels when they commenced their voyage two of the men were put to work during the day, and in the night time they slept in all night. That left only two hands in each watch to do the work, so that many of those vessels during the night had no one on the look-out; and he had called the attention of the right honourable Gentleman that day to a case where no lookout was kept, and in consequence of this they were running short-handed, and, by putting two men to sleep in all right, they were not taking any part in the navigation of the ship. The reply of the right honourable Gentleman was that in this case there was a fault of discipline of not having a proper lookout, but, as the collision was not attended with material damage or loss of life, a Court of Inquiry would have no power to deal with the officer's certificate, and, under the circumstances, he did not propose to take any further steps in the matter. He never asked the right honourable Gentleman to take any action against the captains or the officers, for they were not responsible. If a vessel left a port in the United Kingdom without a sufficient number of men to constitute the crew and to navigate her with proper care, the responsibility should not be thrown upon the officers of a ship, but upon the shipowners. He wanted to know where the fault of discipline was. The men had got their work to do on board ship, and 1478 it was a common occurrence when a vessel left with a cargo of coals to have the holds of the ship swept and cleaned out, and this was generally done by taking one man out of each watch, and the officer in the daytime, instead of being on the bridge looking after the navigation of the vessel, was employed with those two men in the hold of the vessel, cleaning it up ready to take in the cargo. The Board of Trade had had their attention called to this matter mere than once, and, if they wanted to satisfy themselves as to whether it was a common occurrence, they would find, by turning to the evidence given before the Manning Committee, that quite a large number of witnesses, both officers and seamen, testified to this very common practice of running ships without any proper look-out at all.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
Does the honourable Gentleman say that this particular ship was undermanned?
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
How does he know that? Does he know the number of men on board?
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
said the vessel he alluded to carried six able seamen and 2,000 tons of cargo. He did not say that, according to the Board of Trade instructions, the vessel was not sufficiently manned, but the point he was complaining of was that the vessel was not sufficiently manned from a practical seaman's point of view, and he hoped the right honourable Gentleman would not misunderstand him on that point. The right honourable Gentleman must know that a ship must be undermanned if they have to take a man away from the navigation of the vessel to do the work which those men were doing.
§ * THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
How does the honourable Gentleman know that men were taken 1479 from the look-out to do other work? Does he know what work they were put to?
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
replied that he put the question to the right honourable Gentleman because the complaint was made to him by a seaman who had served in the vessel, and that was the ground of his argument.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
Let the honourable Gentleman state what work they were taken front and what work they were put to.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
said he was afraid the right honourable Gentleman desired to be furnished with too many particulars, and he did not see what he had got to make such a large noise about. It was sufficient for him to know that one able seaman was taken cut of each watch, to be employed during the daytime painting and clearing out the hold, and, consequently, in the nighttime, instead of having three hands in each watch, there was only two seamen in each watch, and therefore a proper look-out was not kept on board that ship. That was not the only case.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
said he would give them if the right honourable Gentleman would not be in a hurry, for he had come well armed with ammunition, and the right honourable Gentleman would not have the opportunity of saying upon this occasion what he said last year, that he had taken advantage of him by failing to give him proper notice of the matters he intended to bring up. He had furnished the President of the Board of Trade with a list of the questions with which he intended to deal, and he did not think he would have any cause of complaint on that score. He complained, in one instance, that a vessel was carrying passengers which was not registered to carry passengers, and he was informed in reply that the vessel in question, "The Tuscan Prince," carried no passengers during February and March, that it held no passenger certificate, and carried no surgeon. The owner stated that two lifeboats were on board, and that when 1480 she left Plymouth she carried seven able seamen, and of these six were British and one Greek. They might have furnished a little more information and stated that when she arrived at Plymouth six Greeks belonging to the crew were sent to prison in Plymouth because they refused to proceed any further with the ship because she was unseaworthy, and six Britishers were shipped in their place. He wanted the Board of Trade to inquire a little further into this matter, and he relied upon that statement made to him by the crew of that vessel. He was told that they carried 100 pilgrims, and he wanted the Board of Trade to inquire, how a vessel without a passenger certificate was allowed to carry passengers, because pilgrims were not cattle, and would come under the category of passengers. This vessel carried passengers without any Board of Trade certificate, and he should like the right, honourable Gentleman to inquire whether that statement was correct or not, for he, gave it on the authority of cam of the, seamen. His complaint was one of general overwork in consequence of the vessel being shorthanded. If the right honourable, Gentleman's instruction had had been in accordance with what was recommended by a Committee well qualified to deal with the question, and recommended by two of his own Departmental officers, he could not understand, when the regulations actually came to be framed, why the opinions of those officers were thrown overboard. They signed the majority report, and they fully recognised that the scale framed by the Manning Committee was a very moderate one, but the opinion of the minority had evidently been accepted, and the opinion of the two Departmental officers ignored altogether. With regard to the manner in which this scale had to be carried out, the instructions provide—In case of any such vessel lodging articles of agreement, and failing to have six deck hands in addition to the master and two mates, the superintendent or deputy-superintendent should draw the master's attention to the fact, and immediately report the case in writing to the resident detaining officer or surveyor to the Board of Trade.He did not understand how the Board of Trade Department could draft such an instruction as that. It was a very common occurrence for vessels to arrive 1481 in the Tyne and in Cardiff at 12 o'clock in the day, only calling for bunkers. They discharged their crew and engaged another crew to be on board the vessel at five o'clock at night. How was the superintendent to have time or opportunity to communicate with the detaining officer? He would further like to call the attention of the right honourable Gentleman, to the fact that many deputies who signed on crews were merely young fellows of 18 or 19 years of age, with no experience whatever of shipping matters. He had himself examined the articles of one of the Prince Liners, and he found no stipulation whatever in the articles of agreement as to the number of men that should be carried. There was a place in the articles were it stated that so many of the crew should be retained as able-bodied seamen, but in this particular case there was no provision made at all as to the number that should constitute the crew, and he had no doubt this was due to the way in which the crew had been signed on before one of these young deputy-superintendents. Coming to another Department, he should like to know why the recommendations of the Manning Committee with regard to the stokehole department were thrown over board, and why were their instructions disregarded? Did the right honourable Gentleman know that in consequence of firemen being overworked in tropical climates that it was a very common occurrence for those men to commit suicide through being overheated, or does he mean to say that such cases do not occur? This was a very serious matter indeed for firemen, for very often only three or four were signed on, and they did not know what sort of a ship it was until they got on board, and after they had once commenced work, it did not matter how laborious it might be, they were compelled to go on to the end of the voyage or else be thrown into prison for refusing duty. If there was anything in connection with labour which required regulating he ventured to say that it was the position of these firemen on board ship. One evil was this—that in a large number of vessels the engine-room department was so short-handed that the engineers very often took two or three firemen from the stokehole and put them into the engine-room to do greasing work. That caused no end of 1482 trouble, for the taking of men out of the stokehole to do other work imposed more work upon the other firemen, and the result was that they refused duty, and were put into prison for it, and then people come forward in this House and talked about the bad conduct of British firemen. In connection with the firemen's department there were what were called field days. That meant extra work on the homeward passage after the men had done their four to six hours on the fires, when they were called upon to do painting, scrubbing, and cleaning out engine-rooms, instead of resting. After man had done four or five hours' firing it was positively cruel and disgusting to ask that man, instead of having his rest, to go and do cleaning in the engine-room. There was a case in point happened in Glasgow. On the Sunday morning these men were called upon to do this kind of work. They were quite willing to do their usual turn on the fires, but not the field days. The result was that they were brought before the court and fined two days pay for refusing duty on Sunday. He took the case to another court, where is was tried by one of those worthy Glasgow sheriffs whom he thought were great Sabbatarians and would uphold the Sabbath at any cost. It appeared, however, that there was no Sabbath for sailors or firemen, and this worthy sheriff said they had refused to do their ordinary work and that the commands of the master must be obeyed, no matter what they were. In Liverpool a few days ago 10 or 12 sailors were sentenced to seven days' imprisonment for a similar offence. Now, what did the right honourable Gentleman do? Did he make any provision for this state of things in this shabby little scale? No; the Board of Trade ignored the firemen entirely, and no provision was made for this class of work. He desired to ask why they had ignored the recommendation of the Manning Committee that firemen should not work more than two and a half tons of coal during each 24 hours in tropical climates? Did the right honourable Gentleman think they should do more than that? Very often they were compelled to do more, with the result that many of them were driven out of their minds entirely. The Returns of the Registrar-General proved his case up to the hilt on that point. No provision was made with regard to the coasting vessels. With regard to this 1483 question he did not know whether the right honourable Gentleman's officers reported or not, but he himself had reported cases to the Department. He called the right honourable Gentleman's attention to a vessel of over 700 tons and 200ft. in length that was only carrying four hands. His reply was that the Beard of Trade did not consider that this vessel was undermanned. The same vessel formerly used to carry six or seven hands, but she was now running with only four, and yet, in the opinion of the Board of Trade, this vessel was well and sufficiently manned. There had been a great number of inquiries appointed by the Board of Trade, and they had actually condemned other ships as unseaworthy and undermanned of the same tonnage which only carried four hands After citing a number of inquiries appointed by the Board of Trade which had decided that vessels were not sufficiently manned with four or five able seamen, he said that in spite of these findings the Board of Trade issued an instruction which went far beyond what the courts had already found. The High Courts had condemned in this country cases where they had only four able seamen on board. What were four able seamen to man a vessel of seven or eight hundred tons? As long as he could remember even the colliers trading round the coast had six or seven able seamen, but the same boats running today were only carrying four. Had there been any great change in the labour saving appliances? The only change effected was that many of those vessels which used to carry yards on the foremast very seldom used those yards, and they had now been taken down. That was the only change made, and yet those vessels were now running with four hands although they used to carry six or seven. He had sent a long letter to the Board of Trade with regard to the General Steam Navigation Company's boats sailing from London, which were not carrying six hands because the Board of Trade instructions allowed them to run, with less than six, and the shipowner was not going to put on more hands than were necessary. He wished to ask, Was it fair to the owners of fully-manned vessels like those owned by the Great Eastern Railway Company to allow other ships to endanger the lives of their passengers and crew by running around the ocean undermanned in this way? He knew 1484 why this was done, for it was the Federation's business. The Shipping Federation had got charge of the Board of Trade now and everyone connected with it. Those regulations were practically the recommendations of the minority of the Manning Committee, only much worse; and the right honourable Gentleman's advisers brought forward this document, which was not creditable to the Board of Trade. He wanted to know if they were to continue to risk lives by allowing ships to go undermanned in this way? He had put questions to the right honourable Gentleman in regard to an accident which occurred on board a collier running round the coast which came into Tilbury dock. She was short handed, and only had five hands, and two of them were in the boat with the lines. That left three hands on deck. Now, if there had been another hand on board to gather in the slack of this deck rope the accident would not have happened. The result was that while this unfortunate man was doing this work single-handed his leg got into one of the coils and was cut off, and he died the next day. In a similar accident not long ago a sailor had both his legs cut right off. He had asked the right honourable Gentleman whether he intended to hold any inquiry with regard to the death of these two men. There had been a coroner's inquest, and the jury said that in their opinion if there had been another man there the accident would not have happened. He had asked the President of the Board of Trade if he intended to take any further action with regard to these cases, and he had replied that he did not intend to institute proceedings. It was not correct that the widow had received £25 from the shipowner, although she had been offered £5 by a clergyman, for the owners had not had the courtesy to communicate with the woman herself directly, but they had sent a clergyman or curate several times to make very impetinent inquiries as to what she was going to do, and this clergyman offered to leave £5, which the woman refused to have, because they intended to fix the responsibility upon the shipowner for the death of this man. Nevertheless, the responsibility rested with the Board of Trade, because if they had carried out the recommendations of the Manning Committee there would have been more men on board this ship, and that accident 1485 would, in all probability, not have occurred. And when he asked the Board of Trade to institute further inquiry they refused. And why? Was a sailor's life not as valuable as any other life? He ventured to say that if an accident occurred in a mine, and a question was put to the Home Secretary, in which it appeared from the circumstances that the management was to blame, there would be an inquiry at once. Of course, miners had got votes, and sailors had not, and consequently they had no political influence. The circumstances were such as to justify an inquiry being held; and he could go on for some considerable time quoting cases of this kind, but he thought he had said sufficient to prove to all fair-minded men that the seamen had not had justice done to them by the right honourable Gentleman, because he bad not carried out the recommendations of the Manning Committee, when 13 members out of 17 signed the majority report, and two of them were Board of Trade officials holding very high and responsible positions, and who, he thought, were the principal advisers of the President of the Board of Trade. Their recommendations had been entirely ignored, and the inquiry held by this Committee, which cost the country so much money, might as well never have been held at all. And why was this? Simply because the shipowners had got such great influence, and they were able to control the Government Department. The shipowners were able to use scurrilous abuse through the columns of their so-called papers in defaming the President of the Board of Trade and the permanent officials of his Department He had read very often with disgust the abuse levelled against the right honour able Gentleman and his Department by those shipowners' papers. There was some very nasty things indeed which had been said with regard to the right honourable Gentleman in those shipowners' papers, and if seamen's papers had dared to make such charges they would have been very quickly condemned, and there would have been quite a storm. The right honourable Gentleman and his officials had been, described as barnacles of the Board of Trade," as leeches, and as parasites. Those were the little soft names which they were being called by the respectable shipowners' journals, which were financed by men of education and position. The seamen's papers 1486 had never Sot down to that level yet, and what he had to say he would say with courtesy and respect, and if he did hit out he hoped he would hit out in a straightforward manner without giving any undue offence. He would now leave the manning question and come to another matter with which the right honourable Gentleman and himself had had considerable difference of opinion. He referred to the accommodation of their friends the lascars on board British ships. The last time he ventured to argue this point with the right honourable Gentleman he lost his temper, and he trusted that upon this occasion he would not do so. For several years he had called the attention of the President of the Board of Trade to the fact that certain shipping companies, and principally one of the wealthiest in the country—the P. and 0. Company—had robbed the seamen of their proper accommodation. Last year the reply of the Board of Trade was that this was a very important matter, which was receiving their attention, and it was stated that they were in correspondence with their legal advisers upon the matter. That was last August, and yet they had not received the legal opinion of the Attorney-General. He had read the law very carefully, and he might tell the right honourable Gentleman that the Imperial Merchant Shippings Act applied to all vessels registered in the United Kingdom. He had been told by an eminent legal gentleman that no legal man worth his salt would give an opinion opposite to that which he had just stated. He had asked for a Return of the correspondence that had passed between the Board of Trade and the P. and 0. Company, and also with the Secretary for India, but he could not have a copy. Now, what were the complaints made in 1893 and 1894? Mr. Penny, a shipwright surveyor, was called upon to inspect these vessels, and in his report he said that the stench was so abominable that for some time he was not able to complete the survey, and he reported that the accommodation for these lascars was not sufficient. How was it that the P. and 0. Company could run their boats without proper accommodation? When should they get at the end of this business with regard to the lascars? He could promise the Committee that as long as there was any uncertainty about the matter, and as long as the Board of 1487 Trade failed to enforce what he considered to be the law he should never fail to take every opportunity of calling attention to this subject. He did not only complain of the lascars, but also with regard to the vessels trading on the coast. He had drawn attention to a British vessel sailing on the Thames where the crew had only 52 cubic feet of space, and the forecastle was only some 4ft. 5in. high. Now, that vessel had been passed by a Board of Trade surveyor, and he wanted to know how that come about, for this official had definite instructions to see that there must be 72 cubic feet of accommodation and 6ft. from deck to deck. He had many other cases, but he did not want to take up more time upon that point. He thought he had said sufficient to satisfy the Committee that there was something radically wrong, and that it was about time that it was put right. His own opinion was that these surveyors were subjected to pressure by the shipbuilders, many of whom were shipowners, and if one of these Board of Trade officers got too busy, insisting upon what was right, he was told that he was too interfering and was removed to some other place where he would not be quite so busy. He had said already that the Shipping Federation had taken charge of the Board of Trade. A deputation waited upon the right honourable Gentleman the other day from the shipowners, asking that the Shipping Federation officials should be granted the privilege of having licences to engage and supply seamen. It was represented to the right honourable Gentleman that all the Federation officials were experienced captain's, masters, and, in fact, quite a competent lot of men. He might say that the principal Federation official was an ex-inspector of police, and was never on board a ship in his life. Another of their officials was a dock labourer, another a butcher, and two of their officials at Middlesbrough were recently discharged for being drunk and receiving money from seamen. The seamen alleged that they had been blackmailed by some of the Federation officials who were now holding positions in that organisation, and yet the right honourable Gentleman said he could not understand why the shipowners, in their collective capacity, should not have the power to engage and supply those men. Why had they a 1488 Board of Trade at all? Why ask this Committee to vote thousands of pounds to maintain a mercantile marine office in the principal ports with a staff of superintendents and deputies and outdoor officials whose business it was to look after the engagement and the supply of seamen? Why engage all this staff if they intended to hand the business over to the Shipping Federation? He would rather the President of the Board of Trade say, "We will dispense with the whole business, and give you the right to sign the men on and discharge them in your own office." He knew what this would mean to the sailors when those men got their licences. They would be able to do what they did during the recent dispute in Glasgow, when they employed all kinds of crimps under the disguise of a licence to engage and supply men. Another remarkable case was that in which a young Russian serving aboard a Russian steamer was persuaded by one of the Federation officials to desert. He did desert his ship, and was sent on to Glasgow, put aboard the "Duchess of York," and shipped as a fireman, although he never did a day's firing in his life. It was reported to the Board of Trade, but no action was taken, because the Federation denied the evidence, although the men who signed the statement were prepared to testify to the truth of it on oath. The Board of Trade did not take any action because it was afraid to disturb the friends of the Shipping Federation. All he wanted was fair play between man and master, and if the right honourable Gentleman granted licences to those Shipping Federation officials he would make a serious blunder indeed. He reported another shameful case to the right honourable Gentleman. A steward at South Shields, who had 30 years' experience, was told by one of the Federation officials of a ship that wanted a steward. He went to the Federation office and saw Captain Robinson, the Superintendent, who gave him a letter to the captain of the ship, which, however, was not to recommend him for the berth, because it said that Captain Robinson did not know the man, although he had a Federation ticket and a good discharge, adding that he had a good steward whom he would send along later. That was contemptible meanness. Of course, Captain Robinson had some 1489 friend in view who was prepared to give a bigger fee for the privilege of getting him the appointment, and he gave the man a cowardly letter which practically told the captain not to employ him. Was Captain Robinson about to be supplied with a licence by the right honourable Gentleman? Mr. Lawes was questioned about the matter, but all he said was that Captain Robinson had no experience; but if he had no experience he had no right to occupy the position he did. The next matter had regard to continuous discharges. The right honourable Gentleman had promised shipowners that seamen should have continuous discharges, and the right honourable Gentleman said to the deputation that there was one thing he would insist upon, and that was that there should be reference in the continuous discharge to character, conduct, and ability. What did it matter to the right honourable Gentleman whether seamen had continuous discharges or certificates? On the continuous discharge would be recorded the name of the ship, the date the seaman joined the vessel, and the date of his discharge, but the right honourable Gentleman proposed to go further, and to give the captain the privilege of entering on the discharge a reference to the man's character, whether it was good, bad, or indifferent. Seamen did not object to continuous discharges, provided there was no reference to character, conduct, and ability. He could see a smile on the right honourable Gentleman's face, but he would not object to continuous discharges if sailors and firemen were given the right, whenever a captain gave them bad discharges and if they felt aggrieved, to have the case properly tried on its merits by some tribunal—either a Board of Trade Committee or some other Committee. But what the right honourable Gentleman proposed was that the captain should have the sole right to decide whether a man's conduct was good or bad. He would give one or two cases to show how dangerous that was. A short time ago the steamer named the "Star of Victoria" arrived in London. The firemen had been asked to do field days during the voyage. They did two, but were called upon to do three and objected. Those men had excellent characters from the same captain on the previous voyage. On their refusal he said that they refused duty, and he en- 1490 tered the offence in the official log-book. When the ship arrived the men were served with summonses to appear at the West Ham Police Court, charged with disobeying the lawful commands of the master. He took up the case for the men. The magistrate dismissed the case, and ordered the captain to pay the men five days' wages. It was evident that the captain was in the wrong, but in order to have revenge on the men he declined to report on their character, although he had given them splendid discharges on the previous voyage. If the continuous discharges which the right honourable Gentleman proposed were in force the entry would have been made that the captain declined to report on character or conduct. Was that fair treatment? He had another case in hand. Some men signed a six months' agreement. After 2½ months the captain told them they might take five days off, but at the end of another voyage he wanted to deduct the wages for those days. The matter was submitted to the shipping master, and he decided in favour of the men, whereupon the captain declined to report. If the men had had continuous discharges that would have been entered against them, although they had not been guilty of any offence, and they would have had trouble in securing employment. If the right honourable Gentleman would only provide some court where seamen when treated in such a shameful manner would have a right to appear, he promised the right honourable Gentleman his support for continuous discharges; but it would be a shameful thing if the captain had the sole right without appeal of giving a man a character. It might be said that it was only troublesome British seamen who caused difficulties, but it happened that the men on the "Star of Victoria" were foreigners, and the men in the last case mentioned were foreigners also. The right honourable Gentleman was going to appoint a Departmental Committee. Why a Departmental Committee? Why not a Committee of the House of Commons? If they had a Committee of the House of Commons they should be able to bring sufficient evidence before it that would justify it in deciding in favour of the reforms which he was suggesting. But the right honourable Gentleman was to have a Departmental Committee composed of officials, who might be very 1491 good men in their way, but who would be certain to decide in favour of the right honourable Gentleman's idea, whether it was good, bad, or indifferent. If they had a Committee of the House of Commons both shipowners and seamen could be represented, and evidence could be taken. There was another matter which they did not appear to get any further with, and that was the Consular Shipping Office in New York. In March 1899 he called the right honourable Gentleman's attention to the state of affairs that existed in that office, and the right honourable Gentleman stated that if his statement were true that state of affairs would be put an end to at once. His statement had not been disproved up to now. During the time he was in New York, what he saw in that office was enough to bring the blush of shame to any man who called himself a Britisher. He asked the Committee to imagine a small room filled with the vilest crimps and robbers who, when sailors got their money, snatched it out of their hands, and asked them to follow them and settle up elsewhere. When I called the attention of the right honourable Gentleman to the matter he said it would be immediately remedied. What had been done since? Nothing but correspondence. He had a letter from the crew of the ship "Aladdin," which would give some idea of the kind of business transacted in the Consular Office in New York—Dear Sir,—Knowing the interest you take in the treatment and shipping of seamen, I beg to send you the following statement on behalf of the crew 'Aladdin.' We signed on in New York on the 22nd of last July, agreeing to work 90 days, the boarding master getting 50 dollars, or £10 8s. 4d., in lieu of advance, a shilling to be due to us at the end of the said number of days. We came on board next morning, the vessel lying in the river. Most of us were only two or three days ashore. We were to be settled up with as soon as we got on board; but it was the old, old story—that settling up never came. There was not one man amongst us who had got from the boarding master more than the value of £2, and we had to pay £8 8s. 4d. for nothing. The shipping master Brennen received £2 1s. 8d. for taking our names and sending us on to the Consul to sign. If we speak while in that gentleman's office we are stopped from shipping and turned out, being told that we have got too much to say, though we may pay 10 dollars for it. We were told that this ship was going to Calcutta, but when we got on board we found it was going to Java. In consequence of this and the way we were treated some of us refused to work until we saw the Consul or someone acting for him. The night before we sailed a tug-boat came alongside, having on board a crowd of 1492 boarding masters, and Mr. Brennen's (shipping-master) clerk. As soon as they got on board they started to use some of the worst language that it was ever my lot to hear, and I have heard some choice expressions in my day. Some of those gentlemen were visibly under the influence of drink. They called on us with curses and threats to come aft, and they would soon settle whatever was the matter with us. We went aft, but we could see from the first what it was going to be. Brennen's clerk said that he came aboard on behalf of the Consul. We stated our troubles before him and the chief officer of the ship, and after some talk they and the boarding masters promised to let us have what we required next morning, some of us being without oilskins, blankets, and most other articles one requires at sea. One of the men, namely, Hermann Surenson, had been very sick since he came on board, and he went into the cabin to ask to see a doctor. One of the boarding masters, John Humphrey, called in one of the runners, and in the presence of our chief mate, the steward, and some of the crew, he said, 'Here is the doctor, he will cure you quickly.' The runner then struck him a violent blow on the face, and said, 'Get forward, you son of a b—,' and this man's eye was black and bruised for several weeks after. After this noble piece of work they took their departure, the loudest of them all being the gentleman who acted on behalf of the British Consul. The most of our crew are married men, and have families dependent on them. Now, you know, as you have been across here, that there is no protection for the sailor either ashore or aboard, or even in the Consular office. The boarding masters, runners, etc., are allowed to enter there as well as seamen. Hoping you will have this matter taken before the proper authority, I remain, yours truly, JAMES O'MAHONY, A.B.That letter was signed by 14 of the crew. He sent it to the Board of Trade, and the Consul-General having been communicated with, said he never heard anything about the matter, that the men were signed on in the usual way, and that they made no complaint. But they had no chance of making a complaint. They asked to see the Consul and a lot of ruffians were brought off in a tug boat and one of the men was brutally assaulted. When he protested in the name of British seamen to the Vice-Consul at New York he was told that those men were in the Office to, represent the seamen's interests. He could not understand the delay on the part of the Government. If they were not satisfied let them send one of their officials to New York to inquire into the matter. Let them inquire of Mr. Johnson, solicitor, of New York, who had taken the greatest possible interest in the case of seamen, and who had protested more than once to the British Consul. He would tell the right honour 1493 able Gentleman that it was not only in New York that it was complained of, but in nearly every port in America the business was conducted in the same way. He wanted to know when they were likely to get these defects remedied. They were not likely to be set right by correspondence. If the right honourable Gentleman said he had no jurisdiction over British Consuls, the Foreign Office had, and the Foreign Office ought to interfere. It was the duty of the right honourable Gentleman to urge the Foreign Office to take action. Again, was it true that provisions condemned as unfit for use were turned over and placed upon other vessels going to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean? He had been informed, on reliable authority, that provisions which had been condemned on vessels bound through the Suez Canal and round the Cape of Good Hope as unfit for use had been transferred. If this were true, had the Board of Trade inspectors no power in such eases to order the goods to be destroyed? He urged the Department to do something in the way of appointing a larger number of nautical surveyors. At the present moment there was only one nautical surveyor in all Scotland who had any knowledge of the storage of cargo and the general outfit of a ship, and the result was that at ports like Burntisland nearly every foreign vessel went out overloaded. Moreover, there were a number of comparatively speaking large ports where there were no surveyors of any kind. Burntisland was a port where a large number of foreign ships loaded. They were allowed to load deeper, they carried cargo cheaper, and had consequently driven British vessels pretty well out of the port. He desired to know if the right honourable Gentleman intended making any provision for the appointment of a Board of Trade official to look after those ports. The nearest Board of Trade officer to Goole was the officer at Hull, who had no opportunity whatever of looking after the ships which loaded in the port of Goole. He thought some steps should be taken by the Board of Trade to appoint more officials. He urged that the medical officers of the Board ought to be treated with more respect and consideration, and ought not to be compelled to send their Reports to the shipwright and nautical surveyors before they were submitted to the Board 1494 of Trade. They should be allowed to send up their reports direct. But the most serious charge that could be brought against the Board of Trade was in connection with the alteration of the North Atlantic winter load line. They all knew how Mr. Plimsoll fought in that House to secure justice for the seamen, and the establishment of a load line. It was after a great struggle and a stormy scene in the House of Commons that a load line was passed, and he believed all respectable and honest shipowners blessed the day when that Act came into force. But there were those who were prepared to sacrifice human life for profit, and were not satisfied with a dividend of even 45 per cent. The shipowners had taken the advantage of having a friend in office to get the North Atlantic winter load line altered. The right honourable Gentleman called the Committee together to consider the question, and, though the shipbuilders, shipowners, and insurance companies were all represented on the Committee, the right honourable Gentleman had refused to allow the officers and seamen to be represented. That Committee had received evidence, but the evidence had never been published, though the alteration in the load line had been made. He hoped the House would insist on this evidence being published. What had been the result of the change? Had it made ships safer? No! In less than four weeks during the last winter eight large steamers foundered in the Atlantic, and 320 lives were lost. When would the Board of Trade inquire into the loss of these vessels?
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
said that at the moment he could not give the names. Surely no honourable Member disputed his word in face of the reports which had appeared in the newspapers! He could not believe that honourable Members took so little interest in shipping matters that they were not aware of the fact that eight ships had foundered in the Atlantic Ocean during the months of January and February. 1495 What was the object of the right honourable Gentleman in asking for the names? Was it not the right honourable Gentleman's duty to know the names of the ships?
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
The honourable Gentleman has stated that certain alterations have been made in the load line, and that in consequence of that alteration 320 lives have been lost.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
said that was just one of the ways the right honourable Gentleman had of endeavouring to turn the tables against him. He never suggested that any of the eight ships were lost in consequence of the alteration of the freeboard. What he did say was that eight ships foundered, and over 300 lives had been lost, and that, in view of the danger, the freeboard ought to have been levelled up instead of down. He asked again why on inquiries had been held into the loss of these ships. Was it because the Board of Trade thought the matter not worth inquiring into? When eight vessels disappeared about the same time there should be a special inquiry, because it was evident that there must be something radically wrong with the loading and building of those ships. There were many other matters to which he desired to call attention, but he felt he had already taken up more time of the House of Commons than he was justified in doing; but the matters to which he had referred were of such importance that he felt he would not be doing his duty to the men he represented if he did not avail himself of every opportunity the Rules of the House afforded in order to bring these questions forward. He hoped the right honourable Gentleman would give his consideration to the questions raised, and concluded by moving to reduce the Vote by £50.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
Mr. Lowther, the honourable Member has accused the Board of Trade and myself of attempting to undo Mr. Plimsoll's work without proper inquiry, and of altering the freeboard in a way which has unduly reduced the margin of safety which previously existed; and he then proceeded to give what I 1496 thought, and what the Committee thought, were illustrations of the evils which had followed the alteration of the load line. If I had not challenged the honourable Member, the Committee would have been under the impression that these 320 lives had been lost in ships in consequence of this alteration. The honourable Member asked how it happened that these vessels were all lost about the same time. The North Atlantic passage in winter is a dangerous one, and there have been some terrific gales during, the last winter. That is the way I account for the unhappy loss of lives that has occurred; but to connect this disaster with the alteration of the load line is an outrage. There is no connection between the two matters. The number of British ships lost with all hands in the North Atlantic last winter was nine. The proposals of the recent Load Line Committee have been given effect to, but there is no reason whatever to believe that any one of these missing steamers had not sufficient freeboard. Four out of the nine were bound by the new regulations of which the honourable Member complained, and had two inches more freeboard than were formerly required, while of the remaining five one had two inches more, and one had five inches more clear side than the old Rules required. These were the vessels in which the lives were lost to which the honourable Member referred, and to which he has connected the alteration in the load line.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
I am aware of that, but if I had not called upon the honourable Member for an explanation, the Committee would have been left under a wrong impression. The honourable Gentleman talks about the Board of Trade having undone Plimsoll's work Plimsoll's work had nothing to do with the fixing of the original North Atlantic winter load line or the present one. The Committee which sat in 1884 reported that the time might come when it would require to be reconsidered. There was a very anomalous state of things existing. There was a hard and fast line drawn in the North Atlantic. North of the line ships were subjected to extra freeboard; south of the line they were not; and it was alleged that ships, north and south, traversed the same course 1497 coming across the Atlantic, which, I believe, was largely, if not entirely, true. It was complained that this was an indefensible state of things, and a Committee was appointed to consider the matter. Representations were made that the whole question of extra load line ought to be considered, that ships had altered greatly since the Report of the original Committee, and the same condition of things to which the 1884 load line applied no longer applied to many ships in 1899. Every one of the surviving Members of the Committee of 1884 was added to the Committee. Sir Francis Jeune was chairman of the Committee, and no one more capable or more desirous of safeguarding the interests of all concerned could possibly have presided over the Committee.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
Will the right honourable Gentleman explain why captains, engineers, and seamen were not represented on the Committee?
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
They were not on the original Committee of 1884. Ships' architects, builders, Lloyd's Register, and representatives of various underwriting associations were on the Committee. Does the honourable Member suggest that these gentlemen, and especially the underwriting associations, are not as much interested as any seaman in ships not going to the bottom? The value of seamen on the Committee to consider an extremely technical question would have been absolutely nil. The honourable Gentleman was a witness before the Committee, and, in cross examination, he was compelled to admit that he himself knew nothing about freeboard.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
I absolutely deny that, and I hope the right honourable Gentleman will not make that statement without producing the evidence to bear him out.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
The honourable Member has Left me so little time to reply on the various points raised that I cannot go into the evidence. The evidence has not been published, but I will communicate with the Chairman of the Committee (Sir Francis Jeune), and if he knows no reason why the evidence should not be published, I am quite willing to publish it.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
said it was a rule of Debate that a Minister should lay 1498 on the Table a copy of a document from which he had quoted. The right honourable Gentleman had referred to a statement alleged to have been made in evidence by the honourable Member for Middlesbrough which the honourable Member had denied.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
I have not quoted, and I have offered to publish the evidence.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
In the meantime I deny the statement of the right honourable Gentleman that I said before the Committee I knew nothing about the subject.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
I have the evidence here, and the answer given by the honourable Member, when asked if he had studied the Load Lines Rules, was—I cannot say that I have the knowledge of this matter that the Committee had who sat to inquire into it.I am quite ready to modify my statement; I do not wish to misrepresent the honourable Member. I should have said the honourable Member admitted he was not acquainted with the technicalities of the subject.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE
I accept the denial of the honourable Member, and will proceed to deal with some of the points raised during the discussion, but the honourable Gentleman has left me so little time in which to reply that my remarks must be very brief. Upon the question of undermanning, there is a long-standing difference of opinion between myself and the honourable Member, who is in favour of a manning scale which the Board of Trade are of opinion could not possibly be worked, having regard to the great variety of vessels and of conditions. But we did pass an Undermanning Bill, and although the honourable Member is not content with our regulations and our proceedings under that Bill, the regulations of the Board were issued after consultation with the Members of the Committee and a large number of owners and others interested in the shipping trade. I do not say there are not vessels which have got away improperly manned, but we have every reason to believe that no vessel has got away from any port with a lower manning scale than that laid down in our instructions. With 1499 careful regard to security of life, it is necessary that owners should not be subjected to disadvantages in competition with foreign trade. There are one or two cases to which the honourable Gentleman has alluded, into which I shall be glad to inquire further if he will communicate with me. So far as lascars are concerned, it is quite true there has been considerable delay in settling this particular point. Lawyers are generally slow, and in this particular case there are a very complicated lot of statutes to be consulted. I hope before many days have passed that we shall have the matured opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown. The honourable Member has referred to several ships, but I can find no such vessel as "Sunshine" in the List, but will make inquiries. The honourable Member asks me why I am so much in favour of a continuous discharge. I think a form of continuous discharge would be a document which would be of great value to a seaman and enable him to get employment It would be a certificate of character and good conduct, and I think if we were to omit all reference to ability and good conduct from the certificate it would largely discount its value. The matter has been referred to a Committee in which the honourable Gentleman has no confidence, but in which I have every confidence, and we will wait for the result of that Committee before coming to any conclusion. As to the reference to the Consular Office in New York, I am bound to say that I am not at all satisfied with the position of things there. We have been in communication with the Foreign Office on that subject, so as to see what can be done. The honourable Gentleman will therefore see that I am alive to the gravity of the case. With regard to the number of nautical surveyors, I shall be glad to supply the honourable Gentleman with information on that point, but I should have thought that Burntisland was not a port where a Board of Trade Inspector was required. I will, however, make some further inquiries into that matter. I am afraid I have only dealt in a perfunctory manner with the honourable Gentleman's speech, but that is necessitated by the little time he left me in which to reply to his remarks. The honourable Member is entirely mistaken when he assumes that we are actuated by any other motive than a desire to do our 1500 utmost to protect seamen from the evils of which complaint has been made. Nothing shows more clearly that the Board of Trade is not influenced by fear of abuse than the fact that it ignores the gross and outrageous language that is used in some of the shipowners' papers against myself and the Department.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
The reply of the right honourable Gentleman on many points has been very satisfactory, and I therefore ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. WEIR
criticised the action of the Board of Trade in regard to piers and harbours, and expressed the hope that special consideration would be given to poor districts in this matter. The honourable Member was proceeding to discuss the means of communication between passengers and guards, and the overcrowding of railway carriages, when
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 134; Noes 55.—(Division List No. 119.)
§ Original Question put accordingly, and agreed to.
§ And, it being after Midnight, the CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Resolution to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.
§ House resumed.