§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Secretary Ritchie.)
§ *MR. TENNANT (Berwickshire)
I think that in welcoming this Bill I shall be expressing the sentiments of the whole House. There are only two points in connection with this measure upon which I will venture to offer any remarks. Those points are, firstly, the arbitration proposals, and, secondly, the class of workers who will not come under the protection of the Bill proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. Upon the point of arbitration I would only say that we have an analogy under the Factory Act, which I venture to think has worked very disastrously to workers in factories and workshops. I regret very much that this system has found its way into the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman. I understand that the railway servants of the country have accepted the tribunal which he proposes for determining cases in dispute, and I only wish upon this point to offer a prophecy that the railway servants will live to regret their acceptance of the arbitration proposals under this Bill. I wish now to come to my second point, namely, that of the large body of railway servants who undergo all 1278 the dangers and risks of shunting, and of all other operations incidental to railway working, and who will not come under the scope of the right hon. Gentleman's Bill; I mean the workers upon locomotives in factories. I have been four years the chairman of a Committee appointed to inquire into and report upon certain miscellaneous dangerous trades, which made a Report upon this subject in 1896, and we made eighteen specific and definite recommendations, which are evidently of a similar character to those which are anticipated under this Bill. I should like to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the Report of that Committee to which I have alluded, especially to the schedule of accidents in Appendix IV. The record of those accidents is not complete, and it was impossible for the Committee to get an absolutely complete list of the accidents which occur to those employed upon locomotives in factories. The list has been compiled from all the available sources, such as the Returns of Her Majesty's inspectors of factories, Board of Trade Returns, reports from trade union secretaries, newspaper reports, etc. That is the case we have to meet, and I doubt whether it is in the power of the right hon. Gentleman or any of his colleagues in other Departments to get a complete list of the accidents to the men employed upon locomotives in factories which do not come under the Board of Trade. There were fourteen fatal accidents between October, 1894, and December, 1895, in one small 1279 district in the North-east of England alone. I claim for these men working on locomotives in factories the same protection as is being offered to the men working on the great trunk railways. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to look very carefully into the Report which I have alluded to. I have asked questions repeatedly upon this question in this House. On the 20th July of last year* I asked the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary—Whether his attention has been called to the case of George Burnam, who recently received fatal injuries while shifting a bogie along some rails at Messrs. Cammell's works, Sheffield; and whether, in view of the rider added by the coroner's jury to their verdict of accidental death, which was to the effect that there was not sufficient room at the sides of the line for the men to work in safety, he will consider the advisability of issuing, at an early date, special rules embodying the recommendations of the Dangerous Trades Committee which apply to the use of locomotives in factories.And the right hon. Gentleman replied—I am making inquiries into the case referred to. As regards the second paragraph of the question, the dangers attending the use of locomotives in factories seem to be closely connected with the questions which have been referred to the Royal Commission on Accidents to the Servants of Railway Companies and Truck Owners, and I must await the Report of the Commission before deciding as to the issue of special rules on the subject. In the meantime, the factory inspectors will do their best to secure improvement of the conditions where possible.My point is that these men are now outside the Board of Trade regulations, and here is a unique opportunity to include them under this Bill now that this measure is before the House. No protection whatever is offered for these railway servants. When I received that answer from the Home Secretary I forwarded it to Lord James, who replied that he would do the best he could, although he was afraid that the matter did not come within the scope and power of his Committee. I particularly ask the right hon. Gentleman's attention to this matter, because if he does not take these men into his Bill I do not really see how they are to get any protection at all. I am simply asking the right hon. Gentleman to extend to these men that protection which they deserve, and which he is extending to similar servants upon the*See The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. lxxiv., page 1,376.1280 great trunk lines. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at page 14 of the Report of the Royal Commission he will see what they say in regard to "dead" buffers. They say—The evil effects of the dead buffers, especially upon the railway traffic and rolling stock, were so clearly recognised by the railway companies that in 1889 a resolution was passed by the associated companies resolving that no wagons having dead buffers built after that date should be received on the line of any company—and by this resolution the owners of such wagons, for the most part private persons or bodies other than railway companies, are bound.If private owners and private persons are now bound by that rule, surely they might be bound also by the rules which he proposes to make under this Bill. I do ask him either to accept my proposition that these persons should come within the scope of this Bill, or else that he should bring pressure to bear upon the Home Secretary to induce him to bring them within the scope and protection of the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman has under his charge.
§ MR. LYTTELTON (Warwick and Leamington)
I desire to express my gratitude to the Government and to the right hon. Gentleman on behalf of my constituency, which contains a good many railway men, for having introduced this measure. I consider that it is very creditable to the Government that they have not disappointed us with regard to social legislation because of the war. Many of us at the general election gave very strong expressions of our desire to further social legislation, and it certainly is a matter of very great importance to those of us who did so to see a Bill of this character brought forward. It seems to me that this Bill falls within the category of those measures which, without doing an injustice to the rich, confers a most emphatic boon upon the poor. This Bill, I think, will save many violent deaths and prevent the infliction of many agonising injuries if it is passed into law. I should like to say one word of very hearty congratulation to the Royal Commission which sat upon this matter, and particularly to Lord James who presided over it. It is not infrequently the case with Royal Commissions that there is a tendency on the part of those who form them to endeavour to accentuate their differences rather than 1281 the reverse. In the case of this Royal Commission, presided over with wonderful tact and judgment by Lord James, its members appear to have had a most sincere desire not to accentuate but to isolate differences, and after sitting eighteen days they have arrived at a condensed Report thoroughly to the point, and which, if it is embodied in this Bill, will bring a very great amount of benefit to those immediately concerned. As for the need for this legislation, out of 400,000 railway employees, 500 lives are lost every year on our railways. In round numbers, I think there are 12,400 men injured every year on the same railways. This country might engage in a not inconsiderable war, and the result would not be more calamitous than a single year of these accidents on railways. These facts will all be found in the Report of the Royal Commission. I am not putting forward for the moment that there is any strict analogy between the case of passengers and railway employees, but it is very significant that, whereas in the case of railway employees no less than 1.24 per thousand are killed and 31 per thousand are injured in a year, of passengers only one in 7,000,000 is killed and only one in 568,000 is injured. It must be remembered that these figures include the men employed during all hours of the day and night, who are rushing over stations and facing points, and who have to deal with every conceivable kind of passengers, however idiotic. I think it is a great tribute to the great railways of this kingdom that they carry their passengers with such a marvellous result. Here I wish to pay also a tribute to the members of the great railway interests who were members of this Royal Commission—men like Sir George Paget and Sir Charles Seotter—for there was not a voice put forward on behalf of the great railway companies on this Commission to criticise these proposals; not a voice was heard in opposition on the ground of the expense which undoubtedly must ultimately fall upon the companies, who will have to put these proposals in force. So much with regard to the deaths that are caused every year on our railway system. The House will also be interested to know that the injuries which occur on our railway systems are enormous; 12,378 men on an average are injured every year, and I do not think I am exaggerating when I say 1282 that the injuries sustained by railway servants are generally of a very serious character indeed. They do not work, as many men work, with horses, which have the generous impulse to step aside when a man meets with a fall. Railway servants work on iron, and among wagons having great momentum and containing heavy weights. The accidents to shunters and platelayers from trains running along the lines are, as a rule, very serious, and do not give the victim a second chance. There are some very remarkable figures in the subject contained in a recent Board of Trade Return. Of men working on the permanent way ninety-nine on an average are killed, and only 239 injured. That is to say that nearly half the men who meet with accidents on the permanent way are killed outright. That will enable the House to form a judgment of the serious character of the injuries that are inflicted on them. It is worse still with regard to the men whose duty it is to stand on or cross the line. One hundred and twenty-three of these men on an average are killed every year, and 245 injured, or more than 50 per cent. are actually killed outright. The House will thus see the remorseless character of the injuries inflicted on these men. I remember reading a book written by a very clever man, who imagined a state of things far in advance of the present time, and one of the things he pictured was a number of machines broken up by the enlightened people of the period because of the injuries they had inflicted. That is not, of course, a practical proposal, but it illustrates the character of the life these men have to lead, and the dangers they have to face. I have said enough as to the urgency of this measure. It was unanimously recommended by a Royal Commission, composed of members representing the railway servants and the great railway interests, and I think it is honourable to the railway companies that they have not opposed these reforms, burdensome though they may be, and it is honourable also to the representatives of the railway servants who have accepted these benefits in the spirit in which they have been offered. One word as to the procedure of this Bill. The hon. Gentleman who preceded me, and who is more familiar than I am with the Factory Acts, uttered a note of warning with regard to what he called the arbitration provision in this Bill, which he considered 1283 to be analogous to that in the Factory Acts. I have always understood that the objection which exists to the arbitration clause in the Factory Acts is that the responsibility of the Home Office is delegated to an arbitrator outside the office. In this Bill the proposal is that the Board of Trade shall certify the dangerous trade, and shall initiate legislation after inquiry, and there is an appeal not to an outside arbitrator, but to the Railway Commission, which consists of railway experts presided over by a judge. The hon. Gentleman may therefore console himself if he imagines that there is a similar provision in this Bill to that in the Factory Acts. The proposal is quite different, and the tribunal of appeal has no analogy to that in the Factory Acts. This Bill, of course, embodies a tendency which is very frequent of putting additional work—I may almost say legislative power—on one of our great Departments of State. It is far too late now to object to such a tendency. But I would point out, and I think my right hon. friend the President of the Board of Trade has it in view, that it is worse than useless to pile important duties on a Government Department unless it is also given an additional staff. A multiplicity of duties has lately been imposed on the Board of Trade. It has to decide important engineering questions, to decide whether they will affect the trade of the country, whether they are reasonable or not under all the circumstances, and what period should be given to carry them out. These are all very difficult questions indeed, and deserve that a great deal of time should be spent on them. My last word will be that I trust the recommendation of the Royal Commission that a substantial addition should be made to the staff of the Board of Trade will find acceptance not only from my right hon. friend the President of the Board of Trade, but also from a more important body—the Treasury.
§ *SIR J. W. PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
I have listened to the comments of the hon. and learned Gentleman with considerable interest. He devoted a great portion of his speech to the injuries which railway servants receive. That is one of the melancholy facts connected with the carrying on of what are known as dangerous trades, and if it were not so the 1284 House would not be as unanimous as it is in passing the Second Reading of this Bill. At the same time, I would wish to enter a caveat, as one who has been interested all my life in two very dangerous trades—mining and railway work—and as one who has, perhaps, a longer experience than any other Member of this House in these trades. What I am a little afraid of is that the Bill does not clearly define what the duties of the Board of Trade are and what are the duties of the railway companies. The Bill is very generally drawn—rather confusingly drawn, if I may say so, with all due deference to the right hon. Gentleman's draughtsman. It does not deal with specific points, and that is a great disadvantage. I think, also, there is danger in taking responsibility off the shoulders of those who ought to bear it, and placing it in the hands of the Board of Trade and officers of the Government. It is most dangerous to those employed in the management of railways to take away the responsibility which ought to devolve on them. After a long experience of railway matters I can say that there is nothing that railway companies are more ready to adopt than anything which will prevent the terrible accidents which are so frequently before the House. So far as my vote is concerned, it will go, as it has gone on other occasions whore dangerous trade were concerned, in favour of doing everything that can be done in order to diminish the risk of accidents. A very excellent table drawn up by one of the railway managers was submitted in evidence before the Royal Commission. It shows that, taking the deaths from accidents in mines and on railways, that freedom from the Board of Trade in the case of railways has had the very same effect as being under the regulations of the Home Office. In the case of collieries there has been a steady decrease in the loss of life under the regulations of the Home Office, and the same in the railway world, without the regulations contemplated in this Bill; not, however, that this Bill is not required. I find that from 1876 to 1881 the deaths per thousand in mines was 2.39,and on railways 2.61; from 1881 to 1885 2 and 2.05; from 1886 to 1890 1.83 and 1.58; from 1891 to 1895, 1.52 and 1.52; and from 1896 to 1898, 1.37 and 1.24. That shows that the Board of Trade or the Home Office cannot do everything, and that care must be taken not to discourage those regulations and inventions which em- 1285 ployers of men are bound to provide. I know the right hon. Gentleman does not intend to take the responsibility off the shoulders of those who ought to bear it. I can see that all through his Bill. On some railway lines the loss of life is much greater than on others, and that, of course, should command the attention of the Board of Trade. After all, these regulations mean that you bring employers who are careless of the lives of their men up to the standard of those who are most careful. That is a very great point gained; it takes a good deal of the point off what my hon. friend opposite said to the effect that the railway companies are to be commiserated. I do not think the railway companies are to be commiserated for having to do that which is right and needful, to diminish the loss of life and reduce it to the smallest possible amount. But having done that, do not let us destroy the inventive powers of ingenious and practical men employed on the railways of this country, to whom this country owes so much, by placing certain inventions under the patronage, as it were, of the Board of Trade. I think there was a very great catastrophe just averted in connection with automatic brakes a year ago. If the automatic brake urged so pertinaciously in one of the Government departments had been adopted, it would have ended in a complete fiasco. There is something to me very pleasant and very tempting about the idea of automatic couplings. I have paid some attention to the question, and I very much doubt if we have yet got an automatic coupling which is a safe coupling, and likely to bring about less loss of life than there is with the old rudimentary couplings used. The figures laid before us do not boar the test of accurate examination. Those who have seen these automatic couplings at work in America (practical men) have pointed out to me how under the English system these automatic couplings would not be equal to what is required here. If automatic couplings are adopted, which I quite agree it will be necessary to do sooner or later, and the sooner the better, we have this great difficulty to face—they cannot be placed on the enormous rolling stock of the kingdom without a great deal of trouble and expense, although the automatic process may be applied to the new stock at comparatively little expense. 1286 Then you come to the difficulty in our large railway system of having one set of wagons with automatic couplings and another set without them, and your economic troubles begin. All these things have to be contemplated and thoroughly investigated when this Bill goes into Committee, which I hope will be a Committee of the whole House. The interest of the great transit trade in passengers and goods in this country must be very carefully considered; but human life and the safety of human life ought to be the first object in view in this House.
§ *MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
I am very glad to have the opportunity of saying a few words on this Bill, although I have not had the extensive experience of my hon. friend opposite. My experience is confined to working traffic on a small scale on what is practically a branch goods station. I hope that this Bill, with some amendment, will pass this session. Perhaps the most useful clause in the Bill is the one providing a better system of inspection by the Board of Trade of dangerous places. This clause especially commends itself very strongly not only to those who take a philanthropic interest in preventing injury and loss of life, but to those who have a practical knowledge of the working of railways. I hope that the inspection will be so arranged that it will work as satisfactorily as the inspections which are carried out by the Home Office, and that the inspection by the Board of Trade will be on substantially the same principles, which are approved of by men employed on railways, and that care will be taken to prevent any clashing between the work of the two Departments. Passing from that, I would turn to Clause 1. It is divided into three subsections, and in regard to the first, I think that the mode in which the subjects come under it and in the schedule is proper and right; only I hope that some method may be adopted by which in some of the subjects there enumerated the time for carrying out particular alterations maybe specified. I regret that there are two subjects dealt with in the Report which are not placed in that schedule. The first is loose shackles. I know that there is a greater degree of safety in coupling loose shackles than tight shackles; and I do not see that any great length of time would be required to adopt loose shackles 1287 universally. The Board of Trade might, perhaps, fix it at a year and a half. The other matter that might have come in is the use of spring buffers. There is no doubt that coupling is more safe with spring than with dead buffers, and I do not know why the Board of Trade should not at once in the Bill lay down some regulation for providing spring buffers. There may be some question as to what the period should be within which they should be provided—the Report of the Commission hints at ten years; but from what I have heard, in some parts of the country it is thought that a longer period may be required. Another matter is signal lamps. The real danger of working signal lamps is that the shunter has at present to use both hands; and it would be a great matter if a signal lamp could be invented which could be worked by one hand. Two workmen of my own spent their evenings last winter in inventing such a lamp; and it was tried by the London and North Western Railway Company. I do not know whether my hon. and gallant friend has seen it. I believe the London and North Western Railway Company have a lamp of their own, which I understand is a better one than the one I have referred to; and there might be a time limit within which the use of those lamps should be made imperative. I think that some observations may fairly be made as to the very broad and vague lines on which the third sub-section is drawn. It really gives enormous powers to the Board of Trade. I do not understand why, with all the experience the Board of Trade have had, they should not by this time have been able to appoach the exact kind of thing which they think should be introduced. I suppose they do contemplate under this clause bringing in things of very great importance, because no doubt sub-section 3 is the motive for Clause 12. Now, by that clause the Board of Trade may require some expenditure to be made which would be a very severe burden on the railway companies, even compelling them to break faith with their debenture creditors. I infer that they allude to such things as the reconstruction of shunting sidings or the compulsory adoption of automatic couplings, which would render much of the rolling stock of the companies valueless. I think we ought to try in Committee to define more clearly what it is that the Board of 1288 Trade want to do in these matters. With regard to this branch of the subject, the Report lays down some principles which ought to be observed. It says that where it is in contemplation to make general rules or specific orders care should be exercised so as not to unduly interfere with the trade of the country. The Board of Trade have introduced a clause which says that the Railway Commissioners shall inquire into this. Now what I wish to draw to the attention of the House is that in the provisions which give these vast powers to the Board of Trade some such restrictions as the Royal Commission suggested should apply to their rules in the first instance. Such restrictions should be inserted in the Bill itself, and the order required to be made should be subject to a provision against any undue haste being made to put it into operation. These orders of the Board of Trade may interfere very widely not only with the companies themselves, but with the general carrying trade of the country, and traders ought to be protected in some reasonable way in order to enable them to carry on their trade without undue apprehension. Although these may all be questions for Committee, it is only right that we should sketch out those matters which we think ought to be dealt with beforehand, and to which the attention of the Board of Trade ought to be directed. Now, I should like to say just one word as to the Railway Commissioners. I am one of the few in this House who have been a suitor before the Railway Commissioners, and I do not think that anyone who has been before that body in such a capacity is quite satisfied with that court. It is a very costly and very technical court, unable in many cases to give general effect to the decisions at which it arrives. I do not know whether the Board of Trade considers that the existing machinery is adapted to the necessities of its present work. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to say whether he has considered the present constitution of that court and what alterations he considers necessary to adapt it to the new work of dealing with rules and orders made under this Bill. These are a few of the matters I have thought it right to bring to the attention of the House, but there are others which will properly form the subject of discussion in Committee. So far as I am concerned, 1289 I think every effort ought to be made to pass this Bill through Parliament, and I agree with my hon. friend opposite that a Bill of such extreme importance ought to be discussed in Committee of the whole House.
§ *MR. MADDISON (Sheffield, Brightside)
I am sure after the two speeches we have listened to—the one of the hon. Baronet, and the other of the hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for Preston—great hopes are held that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade will be able to bring this Bill through all its various stages unaltered, unless it is further improved in the direction of safety. In both the speeches to which I have alluded, the hon. Members who made them admit the need of this reform and also express their desire to promote it. The hon. Member for Preston, to whose speech I listened with great interest, went into details, and spoke of spring buffers and other things, and appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to put them in a definite way in the schedule of the Bill. Now, I am quite certain if the hon. Member and others representing railway interests pursued their course in this direction, and saw the right hon. Gentleman on the subject, that he would not be an opponent of the Bill in that direction. With regard to what has been said about the Royal Commission, I also must pay my tribute of respect to that Commission for the manner in which it has done its work, although I do not think for a moment that the Commission exhausted its subject. No doubt it had to sacrifice some little thoroughness of inquiry and investigation in order that a Report might be obtained quickly. I do not complain of that, and, much as I am pleased at the introduction of this Bill by the right hon. Gentleman, I am not in the jubilant mood of a great many hon. Members of this House. Railway men have waited too long for reforms against which no arguments have been urged except the one that they will cost money. The right. hon. Gentleman was good enough to grant a Return of ten years shunting accidents, from which it appears that the whole number of men employed in this dangerous occupation—19,000—have been killed or injured during the last ten years. This is a matter which hon. and gallant Gentlemen will see the force of. Here is an 1290 army of the soldiers of industry 19,000 strong, and in ten years nearly every one of those men is put out of action, at one time or other, a large proportion being killed. That fact in itself is, sufficient to justify something being done. Last year many of us recognised that there was not sufficient force behind the right hon. Gentleman to carry his Bill, and I am only too pleased that to-day we have a Bill before us which stands a very fair chance of passing into law this session. As to the opinions we hold on this question, I may refer to the fact that in the Amendment I moved to the address last year, I asked for automatic couplings and a better inspection of railways; the first the right hon. Gentleman agreed to, the latter he did not. In this Bill I find nothing about automatic couplings, but the better inspection is granted. For more than a quarter of a century the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants have been advocating, at great expense, every reform indicated in the Bill and some that are not, and it has taken the whole of that time for this House to consider the question. This Bill cannot be called a bold attempt to deal with this matter, which is probably in its favour, as it increases its chance of passing into law. Neither is it in any way a final settlement, but it is a step in the right direction, and as such it will receive my hearty support. I do not wish, of course, to go into details on the Second Reading of this Bill, but I wish to mention one or two points which I think are worthy of consideration. In the first place I think the right hon. Gentleman might have taken a stronger line with respect to the twelve scheduled items. The House will know most of them. I venture to say that of these twelve items in the schedule, there is scarcely one—and I think the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade will agree with me—which ought not to be considered non-controversial. They are of such a kind as, looking to the course of the various debates, the evidence before the Commission, and the Report of the Commission, must be placed in the category of railway reforms the necessity of which has been absolutely proved; indeed some of these, such as brake levers, labelling wagons, and so on, the railway companies at their annual meetings and through the railway papers have said, over and over again, are matters 1291 which ought to be put into operation, and they raise no objection to them. But the clause contains these words, "that the Board of Trade may make such arrangements." I should very much prefer, of course, the word "shall," and I think there is a claim for this provision because automatic couplings and other things which might be mentioned are undoubtedly at the present stage not in the non-controversial category, and therefore the making of them compulsory would find, I know, some considerable resistance in this House, but surely the matters about which we are all agreed might have been secured by a compulsory clause and not one which leaves it entirely to the Board of Trade. Indeed, I would say as to the general principle of this Bill, that the Bill is precisely what the President of the Board of Trade will make it. With a bad President and a lax Department this Bill is not worth the paper it is printed on, but with an active President and a sympathetic Department you could do almost anything with this Bill. It may be said that we never have bad Presidents or a lax Department. That is a matter of opinion, but I should like to have a safeguard against what may happen. The President of the Board of Trade would have been well advised with respect to those things about which we are all agreed if he had made them absolutely compulsory. I have never in this House attempted to be arbitrary or reckless in dealing with the manipulation of railway traffic. Anyone who thinks that the complicated mechanism of railways can be made subject to the whims and caprices of even the most eminent Members of this House does not know anything about it. So far as a reasonable time limit is concerned, I, for one, should not be an opponent at all, because I realise the delicacy and difficulty of dealing with this question. I see, I think, another defect in the Bill. These rules require to be applied to each company in the kingdom. Here, again, I think that there are certain precautions that are admittedly necessary, and not only that, but are admittedly practicable and easy to put in operation with practically no cost and with very little time. I think that having once ascertained what these are, they ought to be put in operation on the North Eastern, the North Western, the Cambrian, and all other railways. On the contrary, 1292 there may be, I do not say that there are, certain companies that will require more pressure than other companies, sometimes rightly, and at other times wrongly. I think the class of rules to which I have referred should be of universal application. I am a little afraid of Clause 4. It says—The Board of Trade, in considering any objection to a draft rule, and the Commissioners in considering any objection referred to them, shall, amongst other matters, have regard to the question whether the requirements of the rule would materially interfere with the trade of the country, or with the necessary operations of any railway company.If that is just a pious concession to the railway companies I do not mind, but I cannot conceive of any great reform which would not be endangered by it. The small items I have referred to would not be touched by this clause, and that is why I want them placed in the same category. But how can you introduce any great change in railway appliances without interfering with the trade of the country, or with the necessary operations of any railway company? There is such a thing as a continuous brake. The Board of Trade do not say to the railway company, "You must equip your stock with a particular brake." The Department says it must be equipped with a continuous brake which conforms to certain conditions which are laid down by the statute, and positively there is no danger of this idea of running some patent to death. I do not see why this clause should make any improvement subject to interference with traffic, because there are only one or two ways it can interfere. If it interferes in the sense that there are little difficulties in the transition period, I call understand it. The experience of America with respect to their automatic coupler was simply this: They passed a law that said, "In five years all your stock must be equipped with automatic couplings." They eventually extended the limit to two more years. At the end of these five years 30 per cent. of the stock in America was still being coupled by the old-fashioned method, and the railway men had to contend now with the automatic coupler and now with the hand coupler. In the first year or two of that dangerous work a very large number of lives were lost. But under this clause a railway company might point out to the President 1293 of the Board of Trade, "If you introduce automatic couplers it will cause the men greater danger and interfere with our traffic," and therefore I cannot think that these words are necessary. Of course, another method of interference would be to force on a railway company some appliance which would positively prevent them working their traffic. If that was pointed out and shown to be the case it would end the whole business with that particular appliance. Therefore, I do think there was no need for these words. I have only to say one word about the Railway and Canal Commission. I agree with the hon. Member for Preston in regard to that matter. I do not think the Railway and Canal Commission is an ideal body to be the court of appeal in a matter of this sort. In fact, I should rather have thought that they were about the worst body that could have been selected for the purpose. The right hon. Gentleman may have other reasons which he will give us why this body was selected, but I certainly think we ought to be able to get together a small tribunal which would possess qualifications. I submit that in trying those appeals nobody except those possessing highly technical qualifications, it might be with the legal element in it, would be able to deal fairly with these questions. It is a question of fact, it is not a question of opinion. There will be allegations that appliances cannot be worked, and that they can be worked. It is not long legal arguments that are required, but practical knowledge of railway work that can alone decide these matters, and I say that in the interest equally of the public and the men. I want to say in conclusion that I rejoice in the great work of my respected predecessor in the seat I so unworthily fill as compared with him—Mr. Mundella. This Bill has been made far more easy by the fact that he was the first British Minister who sent into the shunting yards and other places of this country two practical railwaymen. They have been able to get into the nooks and corners of railway work. Before then we had most elaborate inquiries into the cause of loss of life to passengers, but you killed your railway men, and all that was recorded of them was some paragraph in a local paper which related the horrible fact. Now you have two men inquiring into accidents to railway men. When 1294 you do put practical men face to face with these great industrial dangers, I venture to say that not only this House but the country will respond readily and enthusiastically to the demand which is now being made on the railway companies by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, and I can assure him that there is a wide field that even his Bill has not covered. I believe that in all legislation of this character you should put human life before everything else; and, secondly, you should remember that railways are complicated pieces of mechanism. If these things are borne in mind then great results will follow.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY (Yorkshire, Shipley)
I desire to join in the congratulations to the Government for the introduction of this Bill. Of those congratulations I think the President of the Board of Trade in particular deserves the greater share, for the position in which he has been placed is one of extraordinary difficulty. In regard to the remarks made by the hon. Member for the Brightside Division, it appears to me that they contain a certain amount of contradiction. In one part of his speech he expressed a certain amount of enthusiasm in favour of the measure, and then he pointed out that the whole operation of the Bill will rest with the Board of Trade. I wish to say a word or two of reassurance to the hon. Member upon this point. Speaking from a considerable amount of experience upon this question, I believe I am right in expecting that this Bill, if passed into law, would be the basis of very energetic action on the part of the Board of Trade and the new staff which, under the authority of the Bill, would be set up. I think the most important speech which has been delivered so far is the speech of the hon. Baronet the Chairman of the North Eastern Railway Company. The hon. Baronet stated that he and those associated with him would support this Bill, and I think that assertion does more to support the action of the Government than any other statement which could be made in this House. I should like to associate myself with the words of congratulation used by my hon. friend the Member for Leamington upon the conduct of the Government in regard to this question of the safety of railway servants. The position in which the 1295 right hon. Gentleman has been placed is an extremely difficult one. Last year the Government introduced a Bill for the purpose of securing greater safety to railway servants, and that measure met with a large amount of opposition both inside and outside of this House. The result was that a Royal Commission of an exceedingly representative character was appointed. That Royal Commission has set an example, for it has altered the whole character of the public estimation of Royal Commissions, which are usually regarded as a means of postponing a question. This Royal Commission set to work with remarkable and, I venture to say, with unprecedented energy. It took evidence of exactly the character required, and it has presented a Report which is the basis of the Bill now before the House, and I venture to think that there is nothing in the Bill which is outside the strict limits of that Report. I think the Government are resting upon a solid foundation when they bring in a Bill identical with the recommendations of the Royal Commission. The number of casualties to railway men, upon which such stress has been laid is, to my mind, even less appalling than the regularity with which these casualties year by year occur, and the remarkable way in which they have increased of late years. There are 500 men killed every year, and 12,000 either maimed or injured every year on our railways. That is the story of all the Board of Trade Returns, and this slaughter has gone on year by year with scarcely any public attention being drawn to it. The Railway Servants' Society have sought to draw public attention to the matter; but until my right hon. friend, impressed with the importance of this question and with the humanitarian issues which surround it, entered into the question by his Bill of last session, I believe that scarcely any attention had been given to the subject. To do the shareholders and railway directors—who are well represented in this House—justice, I do not believe a single one of them would desire an increase of dividend or any economy of expense at the cost of a single life which could by any possible means be saved. A large number of these accidents have now been proved to be avoidable, and of that there is no doubt whatever. I venture to say that no financial loss to the railway companies 1296 will follow the operation of this Bill. I shall be able to show during the short time I shall detain the House that there is a counter column to the account, and that there is a saving to be expected from the adoption of some of the provisions of this Bill, which I hope will be insisted upon by the President of the Board of Trade. So long as this House and the public thoroughly understand the effect of the Report of the Royal Commission, which clearly asserts that there is a possibility of saving life, then I am sure that it will be impossible, notwithstanding any detailed objection which may be made to the Bill, to avoid the passing of this measure practically in its present form. Allusion has been made by the hon. Member for Brightside to the system in use in America. I was much struck with the words in the Report of the Royal Commission upon this question, which quotes a passage from the Message to Congress in the year 1889, sent by the President of the United States, in which he says—It is a reproach to our civilisation that any class of American workmen should, in the pursuit of a necessary and useful vocation, be subjected to a peril of life and limb as great as that of a soldier in time of war.Dealing with the avoidability of certain accidents, the Report of the Royal Commission uses these pregnant words—Having carefully considered the facts and figures above set out, we have come to the conclusion that the deaths occurring and the injuries sustained amongst railway servants are unnecessarily great in number, and can, by means of authoritative action, be diminished. If we are right in this conclusion we feel sure that every class of your Majesty's subjects will desire to see full and immediate action taken to diminish the preventible loss of life and injuries sustained by a deserving portion of the community.Until quite recently all this loss of life and limb fell upon the workmen, without any assistance except that afforded by insurance funds provided by the railway companies. It is true that by a recent enactment of this House compensation is given to the survivors of the men who lose their lives in the course of their employment upon railways. But the very purpose of this Bill is that prevention is better than cure, and the prevention of all avoidable accidents, as stated by the Royal Commission, is the object which is sought by this Bill, and it is an object which I venture to say this House un- 1297 doubtedly desires to see carried out. The reasonableness of the Bill is based upon the fact that it is an extension of an existing system of inspection of railways which have never had that system of inspection extended to them before. The Board of Trade has had the power for many years of inspecting steamships which carry passengers. This power is also possessed by the Home Office in relation to mines and factories. The system that will be inaugurated under this Bill will be identical with the system of inspection which has hitherto been so successfully carried out in regard to steamships, mines, and factories. There is no sufficient reason why that principle should not have been established long ago, and it is a matter for congratulation that it is now being established by this Bill. I believe that the clothing of the Government railway inspectors with increased authority as regards railways which they did not previously possess will work no real hardship to the railway companies, and will gradually reduce the waste of human life. The Board of Trade inspectors hitherto have not had the power of insisting upon the carrying out of these recommendations. I do not doubt that the Board of Trade will proceed cautiously, but nevertheless energetically, in regard to safety appliances. In the system of appeal which is set up by the Bill there is really nothing objectionable. I do not see anything unreasonable in the rules which the Board of Trade may make, for they can only make them after having recommended them to the railway company. There must, no doubt, be some sort of court of appeal, and I cannot see that there is any existing tribunal which is more competent to deal with such appeals as may arise than the Railway and Canal Commissioners. Possibly with more experience it may be found that a new tribunal ought to be established; but taking tribunals as they exist at present, I do not know of any tribunal which would be more competent for the purpose. To do justice to the railway companies I should like to inform the House that upon this question of automatic couplings many railway companies are already voluntarily trying them. The Bill provides that—It shall be the duty of every railway company to give all reasonable facilities (subject to 1298 the due working of their traffic) for conducting any experiments made by the Board of Trade for the purpose of this Act.That is an imposition upon the railway companies which I, for one, entirely support. It places upon the railway companies the conducting of experiments at their own cost in regard to adopting the best possible appliances. Automatic couplings have been very successful in America, both from a humanitarian and a commercial point of view, and I know that the North Eastern, the North British, the Great Northern, the Great Central, and the South Eastern Railway Companies—and possibly others—have been making experiments recently with automatic couplings, and I believe their adoption will be ultimately extended. On the Great Northern automatic couplings have been used in a way which has been entirely successfu and satisfactory, although I do not know the name of the particular patent which has been used. I believe that, when the difficulties attending automatic couplings have been overcome, the application of this improvement to our English railways will not only be a material advantage, but it will be found in the long run that there is a substantial counter side to the balance-sheet by the adoption of automatic couplings. The advantages may be divided into three sections. In the first place there will be less compensation for injury, because there will be a fewer number of workmen injured; secondly, there will be greater dispatch in marshalling—and on our large railways the clearance of the line with greater dispatch is of the utmost importance commercially; and, thirdly, there will be a less number of shunters required for doing a given amount of work than are employed at the present time, or else it will be possible to carry on more traffic with the same number of men. These matters, along with many other details mentioned in the schedule, are a fruitful source of accidents. There are the protective warnings to platelayers, the prevention of obstructions in goods yards and sidings, and the maximum hours of labour for men upon whose vigilance the safety of the public depends. I am not sure that the scope of the Bill includes such circumstances as those which were brought to light by the accident on the Great Western Railway on the 27th December last, which formed the subject of a question which I addressed to my right 1299 hon. friend on the 29th March last.* In that case the men had been working for fourteen or fifteen hours, and it was stated that the cause of the accident was the exhaustion of the engine-driver, who had been working for a continuous period of fourteen hours. That is a matter which seriously affects the safety of the travelling public. It not only affects the safety of the railway servants themselves, but there may be a great risk to the lives of hundreds of railway passengers. If the scope of the Bill does not include the regulation of hours in this respect, I hope the matter will receive the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman. There is one other point to which I should like to refer. The trail of the financier appears to me to be upon this Bill. I find that one clause of the Bill makes special provision for the control by the Treasury not merely of the amount to be expended under this Act, but also of the number of inspectors who may be appointed by the Board of Trade. It seems to me that if under our constitutional system the Treasury must have the power of controlling the expenditure of public Departments, at least we should eliminate such questions as the limitation of the appointment of the inspectors who will be required by the Board of Trade to carry out this Act of Parliament. The number of inspectors required under this Bill will not be very high, and I think that the Board of Trade may be safely trusted by this House to regulate the number, without giving special power to the Treasury to limit that number and to interfere with the action of the Board of Trade. I desire to support this Bill. After very careful consideration, and with the advantage of some practical knowledge of the questions which underlie this subject, I have no hesitation in saying that I believe this Bill will succeed in achieving the objects for which it is intended. It gives a control never before possessed by the Government in relation to railways, and in comparison with the Bill which was introduced last year it seems to me to be a distinct step in advance from that point of view, and yet the railway companies accept the measure with almost entire satisfaction. If that is not a triumph of statesmanship and even of diplomacy for the Government after what happened a year ago, then I* See page 700 of this Volume.1300 do not know what is. This Bill reconciles the interests of employers and employed, which in this case will prove to be identically the same.
§ *MR. RENSHAW (Renfrewshire, W.)
We have just listened to a speech delivered by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Leamington Division of Warwickshire, in which he has paid a well-deserved compliment to the railway companies of the United Kingdom for the care and attention which they have bestowed upon the question of saving the life and the limbs of those engaged in their service. I believe myself that there is no class in this House so interested in the saving of life and the avoidance of accidents on railways as those associated with the direction and maugement of the railways of this country. If evidence of that is needed, I think I might point, in the first place, to the ready acquiescence of the railway authorities in regard to the Commission appointed to make inquiry last year into this question. I might point to the fact that not only were there two very distinguished gentlemen associated with railways who sat as members of that Commission, but the railway companies also rendered undoubted service by the evidence which they were glad to have the opportunity of placing before the Commission. The Report showed the great advance which has been made in recent years in regard to the administration of railway matters from the point of view of the avoidance of accidents. On page 7 of the Report the Royal Commission state—It is to be observed that, in respect of the operations of railway servants generally, accidents have during late years greatly diminished. Thus the total number of fatal accidents to railway servants was in 1872 three times as great as in 1898.I take it that that is in itself a sufficient contradiction of the unfortunate statement which has been made by the hon. Member for the Brightside Division. I should like the House to bear with me whilst I place before hon. Members facts which will show that even the language of the Report does not convey to the country and to the Members of this House the real state of the case. I wish to bring to the knowledge of the House figures which will show that during the period which has elapsed between 1872 and 1898 there has been an enormous development 1301 of railways going on in this country. In 1892 there were 15,800 miles of railways in this country, but in 1898 we had 22,000. The number of passengers carried in 1872 was 420,000,000, but in 1898 the number was 1,500,000,000. In 1872 180,000,000 tons of goods were carried on the railways, but in 1898 the total was 379,000,000. I might go on quoting such figures, but I will content myself by saying that in 1898 nearly four times as many passengers were carried, twice the quantity of goods and minerals, twice the train mileage, twice the number of engines, three times as many railway carriages were used, and the number of wagons in use was more than double than what it was in 1872. I do not know whether the figures are available or not, but I think it will be found that the number of servants employed by the railways was nearly double in 1898 what it was in 1872, so that the real proportion should have been six to one, if regard is had to the enormous development of the railway system. It cannot be doubted that, in common with merchant shipping, mines, and factories, the work on and about our railways must be classed as a hazardous occupation. Accidents, however, are sometimes due to contributory causes, and while we have no accurate information or statistics as to the number of accidents which happen to the working classes on the railways due to their own carelessness as compared with the accidents which occur through no fault of the workmen, I think there are some important figures in the possession of the House with regard to another class of accidents. In 1898, in accidents to railway passengers, there were twenty-nine fatalities due to the railway companies, while 128 passengers were killed owing to some action of carelessness on their own part, showing a proportion of rather more than four to one. When it is remembered that this great railway work is carried on night and day, at great speed, for long distances, one must feel how difficult it must be to exclude danger altogether, but all will agree that it is desirable to minimise it in every possible way. This House itself, in the Bill which it passed in 1897 dealing with workmen's compensation, went a long way, if anything were necessary, to spur the railway companies to greater exertions than they were previously making to ensure the safety of life and limb of those in their employ. 1302 The hon. Member for Battersea sometimes contends that where insurance takes place there is no greater inducement in that direction under the Workmen's Compensation Act than before. That cannot be said in the case of railways. Railway companies are far too large and important bodies to be able to insure themselves against the additional responsibility which the Legislature casts upon them by the Act of 1897. Therefore this House, by the passing of that Act, by the obligations thereby placed upon the great railway corporations of the country, has done a great deal to make those companies, even solely upon the ground of economy, consider, perhaps more carefully than they did before, the question of the safety of their employees. The Bill now under consideration is the outcome of the labours of the Royal Commission. I should like to call the attention of the President of the Board of Trade to a few points in which this measure seems to go even beyond the recommendations of the Royal Commission. I do not offer these remarks in any critical or unfriendly spirit. I am quite sure that the Board of Trade have in the past heartily co-operated with the railway companies in endeavouring to do everything possible to minimise the risk of accidents; but everybody associated in the management of railway companies in this country feels that it is eminently undesirable that a feeling should grow up on the part of those responsible for the management of railways that there is any divided responsibility in regard to the administration. But in whatever degree you put additional and new power in the hands of the Board of Trade or their officials, in such degree you take away from railway managers that responsibility which ought solely to rest upon them. The result of Clause 1, it seems to me, will be to enable the Board of Trade to make rules not only with regard to the specific subjects named in the schedule, but under Sub-section 2 a general power is given to make rules where the Board of Trade consider that avoidable danger to persons employed on any railway arises from any operation of railway service. That seems to me to be a very wide power, and one capable, if it were put into execution in a drastic manner, of going beyond the recommendations of the Royal Commission. Sub-section 3 of the same clause goes even further. Under it the Board of Trade may by rule require 1303 amongst other matters the use or disuse of any plant or appliances. This seems to those with whom I am associated in railway working to be a tremendously large order. It is so inclusive that there is nothing connected with railway work which may not come within the language of that sub-section. In fact, the sub-section stands apart from the second sub-section, and seems to imply that it goes beyond that sub-section, and therefore it gives the Board of Trade much wider powers than those recommended by the Royal Commission. I should be glad to hear from my right hon. friend that it is not the intention of the Government that that sub-section should have that effect, and to have an assurance that Sub-sections 2 and 3 are intended to be directed to the same object, and that it may be found possible in Committee to unite the two sub-sections so that there may be no dividing whatever on that point. With regard to the general power, I would remind the House that the trend of present-day legislation is all in favour of laying down specifically in a Bill the matters which are to be dealt with by the Board of Trade under it. Under the Regulation of Railways Act, 1889, Clause 1 provided that orders may be made for any of the following things; and then there were specifically laid down the adoption of the block system, interlocking of points, continuous brakes on passenger trains. That was a definite and clear instruction, and there could be no misconception as to what the powers of the Board of Trade were. But the language of this present Bill is so very general in its character that it might be taken to mean all or anything, and the effect will be to reduce the feeling of responsibility and the desire to initiate reforms in regard to railway administration on the part of officials who ought to be responsible for them. It is doubtful whether it is desirable in the interests of good administration that such wide and general powers should be given. If new powers are to be given, they should be restricted to special branches of work, especially to those mentioned in the Report of the Royal Commission, and which are in the schedule to this Bill. Last year's Bill provided that orders in respect of automatic couplings should not be brought into effect for five years, and in regard to other points in the Bill it was proposed that a limit of two 1304 years should be fixed. The Bill now under consideration proposes no limit of that kind, and I would urge upon the right hon. Gentleman that when the Bill is considered in Committee there are certain points in connection with which some such limit should be inserted in the measure. The important question of automatic couplings come within that category. No general rules on the subject should be issued until a Report has been received from the Committee to which reference has been made, and a certain time should be allowed to the railway companies to make the change asked for. There was one other point dealt with in the Report of the Royal Commission to which I should like to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman—namely, the question of solid-buffer wagons. On this point also the Report of the Commission goes hardly so far as the provisions of the Bill before us. The statement of the Commission on page 14 of the Report is to this effect—The consequence is that the number of dead-butter wagons in use is yearly diminishing. The ordinary life of these wagons is stated to be from sixteen to twenty years, and as no new ones have been built for nearly eleven years the dead-butter wagons would apparently all cease to be of service at periods varying from five to nine years.The Report then goes on to recommend that ten years would be a fair and just limit of time to impose. Since I saw that Report I have made special inquiries upon this subject, and I find that, taking two large railways in Scotland, the North British and the Caledonian, the Report does not tally with the facts. Each of these companies has about 65,000 of mineral wagons upon its system, 58 per cent. of which are solid-buffer and 42 per cent. spring-buffer wagons. On the Caledonian Railway system, since 1889, 9,221 solid-buffer wagons have been put on. The first mineral wagon with spring buffers was put on in 1894, and of course all wagons building on that system at the present time are spring-buffer wagons. In addition to this number, which will show how large a proportion of solid-buffer wagons are still in use, about 20,000 tractors' wagons are to be found on the Caledonian system alone, of which number only 3 per cent. are spring-buffer wagons. The hon. Member for the Brightside Division referred to the schedule, and to the practical unanimity 1305 in regard to the matters dealt with therein. I agree that on most points there is unanimity, but there are three points out of the twelve to which I should like to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. Grave doubt is felt by those who are most experienced in railway administration as to the rule for a "look out" in connection with permanent way men. They prefer that the responsibility of the man in charge of the gang should not be diminished, but if there was a mechanical contrivance by which it was possible to warn the men it would be desirable as an aid. Another question is in regard to fouling points. Notwithstanding the evidence given before the Royal Commission, perhaps to some extent as the outcome of that evidence, there is a very general feeling in regard to the question of fouling points that yon may possibly render the work more dangerous by the operation of new rules in regard to the marking of fouling points. At present one man is responsible for the operation of shunting, but if a divided responsibility were set up under any rules in connection with fouling points in the shunting yards, great doubt exists as to whether more accidents might not occur. Another point is the working of trains on running lines without brake-vans. The language of the Report of the Commission is perfectly clear, because it contains the words "beyond the limits of the station," but the words are omitted from this schedule. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to insert that limitation, because otherwise great inconvenience will be caused to the working of the railway system in many parts of the country. One other point is that there seems to be in the Bill no power to rescind rules. The Factories and Workshops Act, 1891, provides specifically for the varying or the rescinding of an order. There is no such provision in this Bill; perhaps it has been overlooked. One part of the Bill deals with the question of the power to issue a specific order should the Board of Trade regard that as more likely to meet the necessities of the case than a general order. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to consider to what extent he can tell us the effect of a specific order in regard to any particular matter dealt with by the Board of Trade, and how far it would be possible for such an order to 1306 involve the acquisition of land. It must be perfectly clear to the House that where a specific order is made in regard to some particular matter which has been the subject of a Report to the Board of Trade, that specific order might involve the acquisition of land. I think it ought to be clear that the railway companies are not to be asked to do anything other than that which they have actual powers to do. One clause in the Bill deals with the subject of capital to be raised where necessary for the purpose of paying the expense of works in which the railway companies may be involved by the operation of this measure. That is important, because it shows that the Board of Trade contemplate the possibility of works being carried out of such a large character that they may involve a very considerable expenditure. On this point I should like to ask whether, having regard to the fact that railway companies are now working at very much greater expense than formerly—in 1872 the working expenses were 48 per cent. of the gross receipts, while in 1899 they had grown to 58 per cent., or an increase of about 20 per cent.—and that many of these works which might be ordered by the Board of Trade might involve expenditure not only out of capital but also out of revenue, the right hon. Gentleman will give us an assurance that sympathetic consideration will be given to an application, if made, to readjust the rates within the maximum rates the companies are entitled to charge, and that such additions should not be subject to Section 1 of the Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1894. The coupling and uncoupling of wagons has been dealt with, but I should like to ask what the precise meaning of Clause 13 is. Is it intended that Clause 13 should give the Board of Trade power to carry out experiments in regard to every conceivable subject connected with the railway system of the country? The clause provides that the Board of Trade may hold "such inquiries and make such experiments as they think expedient for that purpose," the purpose being that stated in Clause 1. Is that really the intention of this Bill? Is it not intended that these experiments should be limited to automatic or non-automatic couplings? On this point, I should like to ask whether the liability in respect of accidents which may arise in the carrying out of these experiments 1307 will also be borne by the Board of Trade and not thrown on the shoulders of the railway companies. I attach special importance to the question of time being allowed after the carrying out of the experiments for the companies efficiently to give effect to the recommendations of the Commission. I hope the President of the Board of Trade will find it possible to satisfy us on some of the points I have raised, and that when this Bill is passed it will fulfil the highest expectations of the Government and its friendly critics, and that many lives may be saved and many injuries prevented. I cannot say this without paying a deserved tribute to the splendid staffs of the railway companies; they are a noble body of men, doing their work in a splendid way, and I am sure they are appreciated not only by the companies which employ them, but also by the public whom they serve. I hope it will be found possible to make clear what precise railway operations are to be brought within the scope of the Bill, and that the danger of divided responsibility will be avoided. I believe it is most desirable that in the future, as in the past, those answerable for the administration and management of the railway lines of the United Kingdom should continue to feel that the safety of the public who travel, and of the servants who work on their system, is to them a matter of the first importance and gravest responsibility.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
I feel that the gratifying unanimity in the reception of this Bill and in the tone of the discussion has scarcely been broken by the numerous criticisms of the hon. Member for West Renfrewshire, who has just spoken. Everyone admits the evil; everyone praises the Royal Commission, and I think that the Royal Commission deserve considerable credit for the manner in which they addressed themselves to their work. Everybody feels that the State has now completely established its right to intervene in matters of this kind, and we have scarcely any of the old arguments in favour of the laisser faire attitude with which we used to be favoured. I feel, therefore, that in that state of unanimity, and with the Report of tie Royal Commission before us, one is really dispensed from dealing with the general aspects of the question as it might 1308 otherwise have been necessary to do. The President of the Board of Trade very prudently put representatives of the railway companies and the wagon owners upon this Commission, and as they assented to a unanimous Report, it is hardly possible for the companies now to come forward and use any of the old arguments with which we are so familiar against the intervention of the State in matters of this kind. If it were necessary to justify that intervention, we could find sufficient cause why we should deal with railway more than any other employment in the fact that railway companies enjoy a practical monopoly, that in their own areas they are exempt to a very great extent from all competition, and that the State has given them exceptional privileges, in return for which it may impose exceptional disabilities. The real point with which we have to deal in the Bill before us is as regards the powers to be given to the Board of Trade. I do not see how it would be possible to have any Bill dealing with this subject other than upon the plan proposed in this Bill. We cannot possibly specify the particular kinds of work which are dangerous, the particular extent to which the danger ought to be guarded against, or the particular distance to which even a Government Department may safely go in endeavouring to put pressure upon the railway companies. These things vary from time to time. New inventions may make all the difference, and if you were to specify these matters in an Act you might find that the Act was practically obsolete and inapplicable in a few years. Besides which, it has been the experience of Government Departments, and perhaps to a larger extent of the Board of Trade than of others, that more progress is made by having a flexible pressure, which may be increased in extreme cases, rather than a fixed rule to which everyone must conform. When you lay down a fixed rule you cannot go beyond the actual words of the statute, while, on the other hand, a Government Department, entrusted with such powers, is amenable on the one hand to the legitimate pressure exercised in the House of Commons, and on the other hand to the legitimate resistance of those who manage private industries. I thing everyone's experience of any Government Department is—certainly mine at the Board of Trade was—that one was exposed to an 1309 equal amount of pressure from both sides. On the one hand, there were constantly questions in the House, and Members like my hon. friend the Member for East Northampton shire were constantly making demands upon the Board of Trade to go very far indeed in the direction of putting pressure on the railway companies; and, on the other hand, the railway companies were able to impose a strong and effective passive resistance; and the Board of Trade had reason to believe that it was doing fairly well, and acting with substantial justice when endeavouring to steer an even keel between this opposite pressure from the two sides. I do not think it is possible to grant this reform in any other way than is now proposed, and therefore I am inclined to believe that the line taken in the Bill of specifying certain subjects as proper matters for experiment, and leaving a margin out side those matters into which the Board of Trade may like also to go, but at the same time subjecting the Board to an appeal and requiring it to observe certain conditions and precautions, is, on the whole, the best, and, indeed, the only plan. One of the criticisms which have been made referred to the Railway Commissioners. The scheme of this Bill is that the Board of Trade is to take the initiative, that it may make rules, but that those rules may be objected to by the companies or by the wagon owners, and that there is to be a sort of appeal to the Railway Commissioners, in case the railway companies think too much pressure is being put upon them. The Railway Commissioners are not an ideal body; they are very slow, and I know they have not given perfect satisfaction. On the present Bill I am glad to see that the appeal need not necessarily be to the whole of the Commissioners, but that power is given to frame rules under which the case can be heard by one Member only. That is a very proper course to take, and I do not think there will be any greater difficulty in dealing with such an appeal than there is in a case which a judge has to try. A Railway Commissioner has practical knowledge of railway affairs, and it is better, instead of summoning the Commission to debate these matters, that they should be given to one man to decide. I am glad to see, too, that he will have power to call in an assessor. In that way his position will be very much like that of an 1310 Admiralty judge in his procedure. Something has been said with regard to the obstacles which will be interposed in this matter by the railway companies. The hon. Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield seems to have a little fear that the Bill is too weak, and that the companies will be able to resist the Board of Trade, and that everything would depend on the person who was President of that Department for the time being. That may be, in a certain sense, true of all Departments, but it must not be forgotten that the Board of Trade is very amenable to pressure in this House The friends of the working men in this House are not at all slow to put on that pressure, and recent experience has shown that the House is not at all irresponsive to their claims. If the working men, through their representatives, choose to put on that pressure, I do not believe that any Government Department could long withstand it. I am glad to acknowledge that the railway companies have shown a very fair and reasonable desire to respond to the representations of the Board of Trade, but they are certainly slow, and want a little pressure. Anyone who is at all familiar with the railway system of the United States must be greatly struck by the extraordinary dilatoriness of the English companies in comparison with the American companies in introducing improvements both as regards the saving of life and the manipulation of traffic. Take the matter of automatic couplings. There can be no doubt whatever that the American railroad companies have been improving faster in this matter than we have in this country. Upon this subject I refer the hon. Members who questioned my statement to the report of Mr. Hopwood, which was laid before the House last session. There are some departments in which the waste of life on railways is greater than others, but in this particular case of automatic couplings America has been in advance of us. I am not saying this to the discredit of English companies, but I am going to give an explanation of it. It is said, in regard to this question of automatic couplings, that the American car, with its bogie wheels and its greater length, and with the less acute curves of the American railroads, is more convenient to its adoption than the railway system of this country. That may be, but if that is so, why do we not in this country 1311 adopt a better system of cars? I believe that longer cars, with bogie wheel arrangements, would really not only effect an economy in themselves, but would lead to that better system of automatic couplings which has resulted in so great a diminution of loss of life on the American railroads. The American companies have shown us the way in a great many points, and I am quite certain that if the English companies realised how much the American companies are in advance of them in many ways they would take far more pains than they do to obtain American experience and to imitate American example. They have shown us the way by the speed with which they have introduced improvements, though we have not yet copied them. They carry their goods at a greater speed, which, of course, may be due to the fact that there is greater competition, or it may be owing to the difference in the system of management. In this country we have a chairman, a general manager, and a traffic manager, but in America these positions are to a great extent merged into one, under what is called a president of the railway, who is more autocratic, and who carries out these experiments in a bolder way than is possible under the more timorous method adopted in this country. It is quite clear that automatic couplings are covered by Sub-section 3 of Section 1 of this Bill, and the hon. Member for West Renfrewshire must not think that the sub-section by which they are covered goes too far. He will see that the sub-section contemplates all that was said in the Report of the Commission. It was clearly contemplated that all work of shunting carriages should come within the scope of the work to be done by the Board of Trade. Therefore the President of the Board of Trade could not give way, but if he did I hope the House would refuse to allow this necessary and valuable provision to be struck out of the Bill. Now there is a point with regard to private sidings, both as to the rolling stock on the sidings and the arrangement of the sidings themselves. These are now exempted from the operation of the Bill, which does not take into account sidings attached to collieries, brickfields, or the like. This problem has two sides. In the first place, as regards the rolling stock used on private sidings, that which is of the same gauge as the railroad and is used upon the railroad is clearly within 1312 the purview of the Bill, because it will be carried on the railroad and must submit to the general provisions of the Bill, and all such stock used on those sidings must conform to the orders of the Board of Trade. But, where the sidings are so gauged that the stock used upon them will not run on the railroad, the rolling stock will not be touched by the Bill. That in my opinion is a serious omission, because, although I believe there are fewer accidents in proportion to the number of people employed on these private sidings than upon those of the railway companies, it is undoubtedly the fact that there are some accidents. There are enough accidents to make it necessary to have some regard to these particular sidings; my impression is that the Home Office has never dealt with these sidings; but this Bill gives the Home Secretary an opportunity of doing so. Whether he should deal with them or the President of the Board of Trade should do so is a matter between the two Departments; but it is quite clear that the matter is one which should come under the purview of this Bill, and the sooner the matter is settled the better, and I hope the opportunity will be taken of including them either in this Bill or in the Factories Bill of the Home Secretary which is at present before the House. On the general question, I do not know that there is anything I wish to add, except to express my pleasure at the tribute paid by the hon. Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield to Mr. Mundella, to whom I believe this Bill is due. I see no reason to doubt, if the Bill is worked properly by the President of the Board of Trade, but that the railway companies will show the same desire to work with the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think the Bill is seriously open to the criticism of the hon. Member for West Renfrewshire. I think it marks a great advance, and I heartily wish it a speedy progress into law.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. RITCHIE,) Croydon
I wish to join in the expression of satisfaction at the manner in which this Bill has been received in all parts of the House. So far as I can see, not a single sentence has been uttered against the Bill itself; all criticism has been directed to details more or less important. I think the attitude which has been adopted 1313 towards the measure by all those concerned was due to the appointment of a Royal Commission in which all parties had confidence to examine into the whole question, which was appointed at the request of the House last year. I am not one of those who find fault with the railway companies and wagon owners who took part last year in opposing the Bill. The Bill was founded on a Departmental inquiry, and I do not know that much complaint could be made against the companies when they said that, however satisfactory it might have been to others, to them at all events it was not an inquiry before an expert tribunal, and they would not be willing for legislation to take place until such an inquiry had been made. I saw nothing unreasonable in that proposal, and I did not think the inquiry which they demanded would lead to less demands being made than were made last year, but, on the contrary, that a full inquiry might lead to legislation of even a more drastic character than the proposals then made, and the result has justified my anticipations. A Commission was appointed which had the confidence of all parties concerned, and the terms of reference embraced were much wider in character than those included in the Bill last year, and the question was whether the railway operations or some of them were of such a nature as to require the House to deal with them. The success of the work of the Commission was largely owing not only to the skill, ability, tact, and businesslike capacity of Lord James, but also to the fact that all parties on it went into the matter with a desire to bring it to a speedy and satisfactory conclusion. The representatives of the companies on the Commission, Sir Charles Scotter and Sir James Paget, have done a great public service in the work they performed, in the way they discussed the subject which came before them. The result has been eminently satisfactory. Not only have the Commissioners brought their labours to a speedy conclusion, but their recommendations were unanimous; and when we are asked why we have introduced this provision into the Bill and omitted that, my answer is that the Bill is founded upon the unanimous recommendations of the Commissioners, and the Government have no desire to go beyond them or fall short of them. From the point of view of the 1314 railway servants I do not doubt that this Bill is more satisfactory than the Bill of last year. On the other hand, from the point of view of the companies, although a much more comprehensive measure, it is made more acceptable by the appeal which is given to the Railway Commissioners, which would safeguard them against what they may consider to be oppressive action by the Board of Trade. So I do not doubt but that the Bill, although it is of a more comprehensive character than the one introduced last year, is more satisfactory to all parties concerned. The framework of the Bill is the framework of the Royal Commission. I have been asked why only twelve points were dealt with in the schedule, and why we have not added to it. The reason is that Mr. Harrison, the general manager of the London and North Western Company, on behalf of the Railway Association, expressed his agreement before the Commission with every one of these twelve points, and they were adopted by the Commission, and we therefore thought we were justified in adhering to them. Objection has been taken to the Sub-section 3 of Clause 1, which provides that the Board of Trade may make rules requiring, amongst other matters, the use or disuse of appliances. Even if the schedule were added to, general power of this sort would still be necessary, and to omit that clause would so enormously damage the Bill that I doubt whether it would be worth having. It is wanted for two purposes—for the purpose of carrying out the obligations of the railway companies, and there are many cases where it may be necessary where certain rules should be made; but its main object is to secure that, where it is possible to obtain a coupling capable of application without requiring servants to go between the wagons, the Board of Trade should have power to make rules upon the subject. Much has been said about automatic couplings, but I never attempted to force any particular coupling on the railway companies; nor has anybody at the Board of Trade. Mr. Hopwood has been accused of strongly recommending a particular coupling, but he has never done so. Many couplings—not necessarily automatic—may be applied without the servant going between the wagons, and I am told that it is not at all unlikely that a coupling of that kind would be brought before the companies 1315 and accepted by them. The great object is to secure that the men shall not have to run the risk of going between the wagons, and any coupling, automatic or otherwise, which will secure that ought to be adopted. It has been said that nothing was said as to the time to be given for the application of rules made by the Board of Trade. Surely no one would imagine that the Board of Trade would be so unwise as to adopt some new device without allowing ample time, and even if they were the Railway Commissioners might be relied upon not to be so foolish. Still, if it is thought that some Amendment to secure this was necessary I shall not object to it. My hon. friend the Member for West Renfrewshire seemed rather afraid that Sub-section 3 of Clause 7 may be interpreted as giving power to the Board of Trade to make rules applying to some operations of the railway companies which are not of a dangerous character. He says that Sub-section 3 is a separate sub-section, and that it is not governed by the words of the previous sub-section. Well, I do not think there can be the least doubt in any lawyer's mind that Sub-section 3 is governed by the general clause. I can assure my hon. friend that the Board of Trade do not intend to interfere in the slightest degree with the railway companies other than in operations of a dangerous character, and if there is any doubt on that point it will be made perfectly clear in the clause when the Bill gets into Committee. My hon. friend also asked one or two questions about certain matters in the schedule, such as the working of trains without brake vans, etc. I have to say that Mr. Harrison, the General Manager of the London and North Western Railway Company, was examined by Sir Charles Scotter on every one of these points, and he assented to every one of them, and saw no difficulty in putting them all into operation. And until doubt is cast upon the evidence given by Mr. Harrison by some equally competent gentleman, I am inclined to adhere to the proposals he made, and to the recommendations in which he concurred. The hon. Gentleman says we have taken no power to rescind orders; but I imagine that we have power to make a new order, and in making a new order we could rescind an old one. My hon. friend also asked whether it was intended to limit to couplings the power 1316 of the Board to make experiments. I should be very sorry to have that power so limited. There may be many things connected with dangerous trades on the railways in regard to which the companies would be only too glad if the Board made experiments before attempting to deal with them by order. But every clause of the Bill must be read as referring only to dangerous operations; for the Board of Trade do not propose to make any experiments interfering with the management of lines. It is some years now since I myself became impressed by the awful loss of life and injuries to limb which occurred in connection with operations on railways; and no one who has examined the terrible statistics of killed and injured can doubt that it is a matter which requires the earnest and immediate attention of Parliament. It is not a matter which ought to be the subject of delay. If we are convinced that by any supervision on the part of the State some at least of those lives can be saved, some at least of those injuries can be prevented, an imperative duty is cast upon the shoulders of the House of Commons to endeavour by legislation to secure this additional safety for railway servants. No words of mine can be half as strong, half as powerful, or half as pathetic as some of the language used in the Report of the Royal Commission. It says—Operations carried on by goods-guardsmen, brakesmen, and shunters represent a far more dangerous trade than any trade or process except that of merchant shipping.And then it goes on to say further—Lives that could be saved are lost, and men are injured unnecessarily.Well, what a statement that is to make, and how it should make us all feel the responsibility of sparing no effort to put an end to such evils. The Royal Commission agreed to an unanimous Report. The Government have endeavoured to embody that Report in this Bill. We have not consciously added to it, nor have we consciously taken away from it. We should resist any attempt to make the Bill fall below the standard set up by the Report of the Royal Commission, and I believe that our determination to adhere to the recommendations of the Report will be supported in all parts of the House. I believe that if we carry this measure into law, as I feel sure we shall do very shortly, we 1317 shall have done as good a piece of work for the saving of life and the prevention of injuries to a class of servants well deserving of sympathy as the House has done for many a long day. I have been asked whether this Bill is to he taken in Committee of the whole House or in the Standing Committee. I propose that it should be referred to the Standing Committee. I am certain the matters which will have to be discussed will be more quietly and efficiently discussed in the Grand Committee than in Committee of the whole House. I rely upon members who serve upon that Committee to do their utmost to assist the Government in getting through with the Bill speedily, so that the evils which all acknowledge shall not continue one single day longer than we can help.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
The hon. Gentleman referred to accidents which happened not on main lines of railway. This Bill only applies to main lines, and not to private sidings. The Royal Commission made no recommendations on the subject of private sidings. But private sidings are under the administration of the Home Office, and no doubt the Home Secretary will consider whether the regulations which Parliament thinks it necessary to apply to main lines ought not to be extended to private sidings.
§ *MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
I wish to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman even more warmly on his speech than on the Bill, with every clause of which I have the heartiest sympathy. I may offer a special welcome to this Bill, because I am the only Member in this House who has up to now obtained the assent of Parliament to the principle of this Bill, having, in 1886, succeeded in carrying to a Second Reading the Railway Regulation Bill of that year,* giving the Board of Trade power to deal with the questions of block-working, interlocking of points and signals, continuous automatic brakes, and other points, as well as the question of couplings—in short with all the questions affecting the safe* This Bill was read a second time on 19th May, 1886, and committed to a Select Committee. (See The Parliamentary Debates [Third Series], Vol. cccv., page 1440.)1318 working of goods-guardsmen, brakesmen, shunters, and other matters. I was very sorry that this Bill could not be proceeded with owing to the dissolution in June of that year, because, as we are all aware, many of the evils to which the President of the Board of Trade has made such touching reference might thus have been prevented many years ago. I will only deal with the broad aspects of the Bill. The criticisms levelled at the Bill point to an undue interference on the part of the Board of Trade and an unnecessary increase in the standard of expenditure which may be imposed on railway companies and the owners of private wagons. What I wish to insist upon is that in assuming this grave responsibility, it seems to me that the Board of Trade is not only rendering good service in preventing accidents and giving protection to railway servants in some of the more dangerous operations which they have to go through, but that—though it may take some time—the ultimate economic effect of the Bill will be beneficial to the railway companies, to the private trader, and to all concerned. A real service which the Board of Trade will be doing will be, through central regulation, to bring about the highest standards and uniformity of working and of appliances. This will tend to stimulate inevitable changes in the character of the rolling stock and appliances used on railways, and which will eventually tend to the immense economic advantage of the railway system. Anyone who has gone into the conditions of trade, which are facilitated by the larger rolling stock, the immense freight cars used on American railways, and the increased speed attained by their engines, and the great economies in working thus made possible, must know that the step we have taken to-day must have economic results of vital importance to the railway system, as well as in their direct effect on the safety of the workmen. The period during which the changes ordered by the rules of the Board of Trade are to be carried out has been wisely omitted from the Bill. It is obvious that the periods of time must vary for different kinds of changes in the railway system. The only suggestion which I shall make to the right hon. Gentleman, and which I would be inclined to support in Committee, is that 1319 words should be introduced in the Bill to assure railway companies and private owners that adequate time will be allowed for carrying out experiments before rules and regulations are issued in regard to couplings. That is not made, as it should be, absolutely clear in the Bill as it stands. I may say that I have a slight preference for the form of the Bill as it was introduced last year. The Bill of last year was precise in its provisions, while the present Bill, though enlarging the powers of the Board still further and widening the scope of the Bill, does leave the Board of Trade more open to pressure. There may be pressure not only from the friends of labour in the House, but also pressure from behind the scenes by railway directors and owners of private wagons, who have already more than once paralysed legislation of this kind when we were hoping the best results from it. I welcome the strong and decisive words of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the third sub-section of Clause 1. He has made it perfectly clear that this Bill would not, in his opinion, be worth proceeding with at all if that portion of it were to be struck out. I sincerely trust that this spirit will govern the whole course of the Bill through its various stages in the House, and that we may also take these words to imply that it will be proceeded with in the same spirit when it reaches the other House. Having taken an active interest in this legislation from the very first moment I entered the House of Commons fourteen years ago, and having myself repeatedly urged the acceptance of these principles and similar provisions again and again in the House, I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon having so effectively carried out these objects in the present Bill, and in having thus associated his name with so admirable a piece of legislation.
§ *MR. PURVIS (Peterborough)
As representing a great number of railway men, I trust I may take leave to intervene briefly in this debate, because I took exception, in terms as strong as I thought good manners would allow, to the withdrawing of last year's Bill by the President of the Board of Trade; and so I am unwilling to give quite a silent vote in favour of the amends he has made us by his present measure. Last year's Bill came to grief because some considered that it had not been shown to be desir- 1320 able; others that it was not attainable; and others, again, that it was not necessary. But now things have taken a turn, for the Royal Commission has shown that the Bill is very desirable. It reports that the deaths of shunters have risen in number from 3.6 in a 1,000 in the year 1895 to 5.08 in 1898; and that 78 shunters in every 1,000 are injured. In the next place the Commission finds that the object of the Bill is attainable, for it reports what is even worse than the deaths and the injuries. It reports what is a grave indictment, that these deaths and injuries are more than need be, and can be diminished. And as to the Bill being necessary, the mere statement of all this at least carries with it proof enough that legislation is necessary to make the companies and other owners do what is needed to diminish the number of these deaths and injuries; first, because effect cannot be given to the recommendations of the Commission except by concert among the companies and owners, which concert, again, cannot be effectual unless it receives validity and sanction from the law; for be the general public persuasion as prevalent as it may in favour of the proposed changes, yet it is not the special interest of any one company or owner to set the example. What is everybody's business is nobody's business, and, consequently, in most, cases it will be ill done, and in many cases not done at all. And I will go further. Even if there were universal agreement among the companies, still it would need to be enforced by universal feeling among them, equal in compelling strength and rigour to the compelling strength and rigour of the law. But this is virtually impossible, because, amongst other things, one company or owner would feel the expense more than another. So much for the necessity for the Bill. How about the manner in which it deals with the subject matter? The Report of the Commission declares that time is needed to do all that is required, but also declares that a beginning should be made at once. I agree. Ancient wisdom lays it down that the beginning is half of the whole, and this Bill makes the beginning. Now, there are two ways in which to make the companies and wagon owners move in the desired direction. One is an enactment in detail dictating everything to everybody. This was the method of 1321 last year's Bill—after two years brakes and labels; after five years couplings and so forth. It seemed to many to stretch them one and all on a Procrustean bed, pulling out one company longer and lopping another company shorter, forcing them into uniformity by violent means, whether the arrangement should fit or not fit all railways alike. The Commissioners themselves failed to fix on any particular coupling. Not even any witness examined was able to do so, and that is the strongest of the reasons against a measure like last year's Bill, which enjoined couplings after five years, though what couplings will suit is even yet undecided. But by the same token, as they were apparently agreed on the expediency of adopting the twelve improvements mentioned in the schedule to this Bill, I am not sure these ought not to be made compulsory, which, however, is a Committee matter. Well, at any rate, the Commissioners deprecated the antecedent rule of thumb system, and favoured what does seem, on the whole, a more excellent way—dealing, if need be, with each particular railway or class of railway in the particular way required in that particular case or class, and this is the method of the present Bill. The Bill gives power to the Board of Trade to make and enforce rules for reducing or removing the risks to shunters or other railway men—these rules to apply, or not to apply, to any particular railway or class of railways, or, if that should fail to put the saddle on the right horse, then by Section 8 the Board of Trade may give direct specific order to use or disuse any appliance, and so effect the object of the Bill, on pain of penalty for disobedience, and by injunction to compel future obedience. Now, as it would be a violation of elementary justice to exact unwilling submission to all this by anyone without his being heard, so there is in this Bill what was not in that of last year—there is the right of appeal from Festus unto Cæsar, from the Board of Trade to the Railway Commissioners, or to a referee, so that if anyone concerned is not satisfied, and if the Commissioners or the referee find the objection is reasonable, then the objection shall prevail, and the rule or the order shall not be made. Finally, by no means the least popular and important is the provision, which was not in last year's Bill, as to railway sidings connected with 1322 a railway, though belonging not to the railway company, but to colliery or other wagon owners. Accidents happen to railway men on these private sidings, and no notice of them is given to the Board of Trade. The wagon owners do not report, because the victims are not their servants, and the railway company do not report because the accident did not occur on their line. Well, the Bill requires the railway company to give notice just as if the accident was on their line. In short, the Bill has the same object as that of last year; but it is more practical and just, more far-reaching and immediate in its action, than that ill-fated attempt, and tens of thousands of railway men who, after long and weary expectation, were last year deeply disappointed, will now rejoice in a measure which goes no little way to realise their highest hopes.
§ MR. BRODIE HOARE (Hampstead)
I do not think that Clause 12 ought to pass through this House without amendment. It is one of the most important clauses in the Bill, as it provides that by the simple fiat of the Board of Trade a railway company may break its contract with its creditors, and put new creditors in priority of old creditors. That implies a distinct breach of contract with the debenture holders, and it ought not to be passed without considerable investigation.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)
said the point raised by the hon. Gentleman with regard to Clause 1 2 was capable of a proper and satisfactory interpretation by the Grand Committee on Trade. He should not deal with it, because it was a purely financial question, and that being so it would be dealt with by somebody better acquainted with that subject than himself. But representing, as he did, the largest railway constituency of the kingdom, it was only proper that he should say a few words upon the Bill. It was not for the first time that the President of the Board of Trade had backed a good cause in a strong and sympathetic speech, and he believed that at the end of the session the Board of Trade would have the credit of passing, perhaps, the best Bill the Government had introduced 1323 this year. If the Bill only effected a tithe of that which some of them expected of it, the right hon. Gentleman would have added another to the many reasons which various sections of labour had for blessing his occupancy of the office he held. He desired to associate himself with all the kind praise which had been given to the Royal Commission, the Report of which had produced the Bill. Not for the first time Lord James had identified himself with industrial reforms, and in doing so had conferred a great boon upon the working classes of the country. He, however, wished to say a word or two about the railway managers and directors who not only gave evidence, but acted upon the Royal Commission, and he desired to do so rather to help the managers and directors against the action of their shareholders. He noticed that these gentlemen agreed unanimously to the Report of the Royal Commission, and he ventured to say that many of them would have gone much further than they did had it not been for the fear of their shareholders behind them. He believed that many railway managers and directors would be quite ready to introduce reforms upon their systems, with a view to the saving of life and limb, were it not that they were nervous and apprehensive of the action of the shareholders at the annual meeting, and therefore he thought the time had arrived when the House of Commons should support them, and when railway shareholders should be told that in many cases their dividends were only earned by the injury of their workmen, and in many instances their interest was only secured by the avoidable death of men whom they employed. When the House saw this happy agreement of railway managers and directors to improve the condition and safety on the railways, it was their duty to carry the feeling outside the House and tell the shareholders that they must give the managers and directors more power in the direction of this Bill than they had hitherto done. One good feature of the debate was the absence of party politics. It was a happy thing for the country that when questions of the safety of life and limb were before the House all party feeling disappeared. He sincerely trusted that we would never see the ideal condition which the right hon. Member for South Aberdeen seemed to think was necessary 1324 for railway management in this country, and that we should not assimilate the autocratic power of the presidents of the American railways. He was in America for five years, and anything more lamentable than the number of avoidable deaths that took place on the American railways it was impossible to conceive. He believed that such horrible slaughter was entirely due to the autocratic power of the presidents of railways, and the British system, with all its faults, was infinitely the better of the two. The Bill, in the opinion of the hon. Member for Barnard Castle, was too general; that was the usual character of every Bill of an experimental nature. It was contended that the Bill might tend to diminish the responsibilities of the railways themselves. He had no such fear. If the Board of Trade had had the arbitrary power possessed by the Home Office with regard to mines and other matters, the railway industry would have been made much safer than it is. The hon. Gentleman also thought that the Bill would deter invention; but, on the contrary, it would have just the opposite effect. Directly the Automatic Couplings Bill was introduced in the previous year, the inventors of automatic couplings sprang up like mushrooms on a damp morning. In his opinion this Bill would considerably stimulate invention. It was not the revolutionary Bill which had been expected by some hon. Members in the previous year. In the twelve reforms mentioned in it there was not one which was likely to put the railway companies to much expense in either money or time. Some other suggestions had been adopted long ago by other industries with very beneficial results, and the one thing which he regretted was that railway workshops had not been brought within the operation of the Factories Act, as they should have been long ago. With regard to railway traffic in general, the Bill indicated that railway traffic was a dangerous trade, or at any rate some portion of it was, such as shunting, platelaying, and the work of goods guards, and so far as those matters were concerned, the Bill was a step in the right direction. It gave the Board of Trade power to issue rules, and he hoped those rules would be strong and rigorously enforced, and, generally speaking, would have the same effect in diminishing accidents to life and limb on some of 1325 the railways that some of the rules of the Home Office had in other dangerous trades. The President of the Board of Trade ought to be supported in his action to make the companies take reasonable notice. Some companies would take a fortnight's notice and be satisfied, whilst others would take six months and not find that enough. He hoped that in this matter the President of the Board of Trade would be guided by the best companies and not by the worst. The penalties imposed by the Bill were simply ridiculous. The maximum penalty was only £50, and such a penalty was ridiculously small. There was nothing in Section 12 with respect to dead buffer waggons. He did not know whether it was intended to abolish them, but one thing was quite certain, and that was that the President of the Board of Trade ought to put them in the schedule of the Bill with an approximate date for their abolition. If it were provided that they were to be abolished three or four years hence, the best of the companies would comply within a shorter period, and other companies would have to follow. Although this Bill had been blessed so much by every speaker, he did not see the blessed words "automatic couplings." He did not see them in any of the sections, although they might be there. He did not grumble with regard to that, but, not seeing them, he was disappointed. He advised the right hon. Gentleman to exploit the unanimity of approval with which this Bill had been received, in order to bring in some stipulation with regard to the use of automatic couplings as soon as he possibly could. He should like something to be done also towards providing portable electric alarms for the use of platelayers apart from their look-out men, because while in clear and fine weather, when the look-out men could see, they were all very well, in the thick, foggy weather, and in those dull, damp days when the steam from the engines did not lift and they could not see, they were almost as badly off as the platelayers themselves. He noticed also that overhead bridges were not mentioned in the Bill, but these certainly ought to be built at such a height as would enable the railway man to stand upright on the top of the tender, and he asked that in all new bridges that were built more headway should be allowed. 1326 It would not entail any further expense on the railway companies than the old plan, and in many cases they were willing to do it, particularly in London. There was another point to which he would like to draw attention. There were many junctions and sidings and point places in a busy railway centre where, if an overhead bridge was not possible, there ought to be a subway from one side to the other, with connecting interval ladders. He would not criticise the Bill further now, because, as a member of the Grand Committee on Trade, he would have his opportunity of doing so later on. Public opinion, and the fear on the part of the railway companies of having to pay heavy damages, had enormously increased the safety of railway passengers, but he could not see that increased safety for the men had been attained. On the London and North-Western Railway, which was in many ways a model railway, of the 50,706 men employed in 1896 15½ per cent. were either killed, permanently disabled, or temporarily disabled for periods from three and a half weeks to four months. The condition of things shown by the statistics on this subject required an absolute power on the part of the Board of Trade, and almost tyrannical regulations, in order that the injury to life and limb might be diminished. At the same time he believed that accidents were sometimes due to carelessness on the part of the men, and he would advise railway men to be more vigilant and thoughtful in going about their work, and to avoid liquor as they would the plague. If this Bill were enforced it would be the beginning of good things for half a million of men upon our railways. He hoped the President of the Board of Trade would follow it up by administration of the best description, and whenever a railway director appealed to him in the future to be gentle to the railway companies let him point to the pæan of praise with which the Bill had been greeted by railway directors and railway shareholders in the course of this debate.
§ *MR. GRAY (West Ham, N.)
I had intended offering to the House a few remarks of a general character upon this Bill had I had the good fortune to attract your attention, Sir, somewhat earlier in the evening, and I felt that I might have justified myself in so doing by the fact 1327 that there are few districts in the country more closely interested in this measure than that which I have the honour to represent. Not only is one of the largest railway works in the country in my division, but there are some hundreds of the men working on the London section of the Great Eastern line resident in the district. I felt, therefore, it was my bounden duty to offer the House one or two considerations upon this matter; but at this late hour I hesitate to occupy the time of the House. But I am bound to mention one or two things, because I am not a member of the Grand Committee on Trade which will be considering this Bill later on. When the Bill was first published I adopted a course which I do not think is very usual. I invited the counsel of the men who are directly interested in the measure. I sought an interview with the platelayers, the shunters, goods guards, and so forth, to whom this Bill particularly applies, and I spent several hours with them in a discussion of the Bill line by line. This I can say, that their approval of the Bill was as cordial as that which has come from hon. Members who have taken part in the debate this evening.
§ Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present (Mr. CALDWELL, Lanark, Mid). House counted, and forty Members being found present,
§ *MR. GRAY (continuing)
I should have contented myself with their expression of approval, and given a silent vote upon the measure but for the fact that they emphasised in their discussions two points which I am bound to bring under the notice of the President of the Board of Trade. There was no shadow of doubt whatever that they looked upon the questions of automatic couplings and dead buffers as the two most important matters. They would have liked to see both those phrases in the schedule, and if I do not have an opportunity at the Grand Committee on Trade I should certainly, when the Bill comes before the House, vote for the insertion of those two phrases in the schedule, if for no other purpose than that of satisfying the men who are directly concerned that it is the intention of the Board of Trade to deal with those subjects. I noticed with very great satisfaction the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that Sub-section 3 1328 of Clause 1 did cover the intention of the Board of Trade to deal with the question of automatic couplings, but while he sees that very clearly, and while any ordinary reader of the Bill would also see it, I am afraid there are a great many men very closely concerned in this matter who fancy that because the words are omitted from the schedule the matter will be left out of the cognisance of the Board of Trade. Then there was the other question of dead buffers to goods wagons. I noticed, but I hope there was no significance in the omission, that the right hon. Gentleman made no reference to that subject whatever.
§ MR. RITCHIE
I am sorry I did not; but there were a great many different points raised in the discussion on the Bill and I may have omitted to refer to more than one of them. But if it is any satisfaction to my hon. friend, I may say that he need have no apprehension in regard to the question of wagons with dead buffers. That is certainly one of the questions which I think we shall deal with.
§ *MR. GRAY
Having obtained that statement, I do not regret the two or three minutes I have trespassed upon the time of the House. I am quite sure that had the debate closed without that assurance there would have been very great misapprehension outside as to the attitude of the Board of Trade on this subject. It was one of the questions specifically dealt with by the Commissioners. In almost the closing phrases of their Report they expressed the opinion that this should be one of the subjects included in the operations of the Board of Trade, and I am very glad to find that Sub-section 3 of Clause 1 will deal with that exactly as it will deal with automatic couplings. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that he proposed to adhere very strictly to the schedule simply because it was the schedule which had been adopted by the Commissioners and upon which all parties were agreed. I am inclined to think that that is merely a sentimental objection, and that it does not go much beyond sentiment. The Commissioners would have equally agreed that it would be desirable at no distant date to deal with automatic couplings.
§ MR. RITCHIE
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I did not say, 1329 or I do not remember having said, that I intended to adhere strictly to the schedule in the Bill because it was recommended by the Commissioners. What I said was, if I recollect rightly, that the schedule in the Bill was the schedule agreed to by the Commissioners, and hence its presence in the Bill.
§ *MR. GRAY
I am very glad to hear that also. It seems to me that I am playing the rôle of Socrates with some effect in regard to the two questions to which I have received very satisfactory replies. I gather not only that these two subjects are to be included in the operations of the Board of Trade, but that there is no insuperable objection to the mention of them being included in the schedule of the Bill should the Committee think it wise so to do. There are two other points to which I would invite the attention of the Minister in charge of the Bill. If he has the power to make an order, as he undoubtedly will have under the Bill, I take it that he certainly has the power to amend an order. I believe there is ample justification for the principle that those who have power to make an order have power to make an amending order. But I notice there is nothing in the Bill which will give any of the parties concerned the right to approach the Board of Trade with a view to obtaining amending orders. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give his attention to that before the matter comes up in Committee, because it is one of no little importance. There is a question which has not been referred to in the whole course of this debate, a question to which I attach very considerable importance. I am not sure that I shall be in harmony in this with many who sit on this side of the House. I have always held the view that trade organisations and trade unions can occupy and do play a very important part in dealing with trade questions, and that it is infinitely better for employers to deal with organised labour than with disorganised or unorganised labour. I equally hold that it is easier for a State Department to deal with representatives of an organisation than it is to deal satisfactorily with the individual applications of thousands of men. I have had no little experience of the operations of a great organisation with a State Department, and my experience is simply that the organisation acts as a spring buffer between the Department 1330 and the people concerned, and, as the spring buffer is desirable in railway operations, I am inclined to think the organisation is desirable in the dealings between a State Department and individual men. I am, therefore, hopeful that in the various representations which may be made by the men under this Bill, the Board of Trade will be prepared to receive those representations through the men's organisations. There is a phrase in the Bill——
§ *MR. GRAY
I am delighted to hear that, because the House will at once realise, whatever attitude they may take towards trades unions, that it is impossible for shunters or platelayers to cope with the skilled representations made by a great railway company. The men themselves would feel that they were placed at a great disadvantage in a contest of that character unless they could have equally skilled advice on their own side. If they can make these representations through their accredited organisations, or their officials, they will feel that they are in safe hands. My experience of such organisations is that frivolous complaints would be stopped by the organisation and never reach the Board of Trade, who would thus be saved a lot of unnecessary trouble and worry, and would get in a concrete form the wishes of the men on the subject. I for one am exceedingly pleased to hear that the representations of the men will be so received, and considered when so made. That, I think, removes any little fear the men might have that their wishes would not be fully considered. The opposition of the railway companies and of the shareholders has been met by the exceedingly ingenious device of allowing them to raise further capital for the express purpose of carrying out these Amendments. I should say that no railway company would dare to plead that it will cost them a very large sum of money to do what is required, because 1331 that would be self-condemnation at once; it would be positive evidence that they had neglected in the past those steps which they ought to have taken for the protection of their men. If there are many of these clauses in the schedule with which companies will have to comply after the Bill is passed, it will show that they have not adopted the precautions without compulsion. I do not think that any railway company is likely to take that course, and therefore the right hon. Gentleman is in the fortunate position of having the consent and approval of all parties. I would respectfully offer the right hon. Gentleman, and the Government which he represents, my warmest appreciation of their effort in this direction. If the function of Parliament be that of protecting the lives and limbs of those who, according to the Commission, lose them unnecessarily, then indeed Parliament is fulfilling its very highest work in carrying a Bill of this character. I endorse the sentiment which has already been expressed that no measure has passed through the House of Commons during this session which will be looked back upon with greater satisfaction than that of which the right hon. Gentleman has charge to-night, and to which the House is now asked to grant a Second Reading.
§ MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
I rise to join in the chorus of congratulation which has been offered to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade on introducing a Bill which seems to have much more chance of passing than the Bill he introduced last year. I had the honour of seconding an Amendment to the Address last year, and I mentioned then a few minor improvements and reforms which might be made for the regulation of railways in order to prevent loss of life. I am glad to see that most of those suggestions have been carried out—not because they came from me, but because they have been recommended by railway engineers and directors and others who sat on the Royal Commission. Though the Member for Battersea does not seem to have seen the possibility of the question of automatic couplings being included in this Bill, it is quite evident that it is contained there, and with regard to such an enormous step as that, I am sure this House is not accustomed to such wholesale and sweep- 1332 ing reforms. As in the temperance cause, we must try little by little to remove some of the dangers which beset the working man in that direction; so far as railway servants are concerned we must hope to make advance little by little. I am glad to see that in the schedule of the Bill before us a great many of these minor reforms are likely to be carried out. For example, the putting of brake levers on both sides of the wagon. The lack of that safeguard is a very fertile source of loss of life among shunters, as when there is only one lever they very often have to get underneath the wagon, the result being, the driver not knowing there is anyone engaged in that operation, loss of life. The labelling of wagons on both sides is also another great step in the right direction. The better lighting of goods yards is also included in the Bill. I am glad to see that in the schedule, Number 12, mention is made of permanent way scouts. I am afraid our platelayers are somewhat in the position of some of our artillerymen in South Africa; there are no scouts put out to warn them of threatening danger. That the loss of life among shunters is very frequent is borne out by a couple of questions I have recently asked with regard to accidents and loss of life in Manchester. There are one or two clauses of this Bill which seem to meet with the approval of the House as they met with the approval of the great body of railway workers. The question of making the rules has been thoroughly explained, and there is no need for me to go further into that question. But the inspection of railways before an accident takes place is a point upon which all railway men are unanimous, and an operation which they wish to see take place. Prevention is better than cure, but as far as I can see the Board of Trade have no special legal power to interfere in the regulation of railway stations and so on until an accident has occurred. The result of that is that very often on some railways, though many of them are splendidly managed, neglect takes place. Look at the Wimbledon station on the South Western line. An enormous number of trains pass through there every day, almost as many as through Clapham Junction, and yet the luggage is usually carried across the permanent way, because there is no subway. The result is that the loss of life 1333 at that station is astounding. That shows, the necessity for inspection. I do not see any reason why there should not be inspectors to travel about, so that their attention might be called either to a dangerous place or to the lack of proper appliances at a station. There ought to be no difficulty in allowing them to report to the Board of Trade upon such circumstances involving danger. There is some suspicion or mistrust in regard to the raising of special funds by the companies which may possibly be placed before the debenture stock of the railway. For my own part I think there is an obligation on the shareholders, and therefore on the railway directors, to protect the lives and limbs of their servants. I beg to say one word in favour of the shareholders. I do not believe that the general British public who are shareholders in railways are anxious to earn large dividends at the expense of the lives of those in their employ. The very great majority of them would prefer to receive a ¼ or ½ or 1 per cent. less dividend than see the lives of the men sacrificed. I know it is often said that these reforms will injure the poor widow who is dependent for her income on these dividends. My experience is that the poor widows are the very last in the world to desire to purchase their own support or happiness at the expense of these men. I do not wish to detain the House further, but I have not infrequently seen heart-rending cases where the breadwinner has gone out in the morning in the prime of life, and been brought home to his household either maimed or dying. I have seen the shock which the widow and children have suffered, and the deterioration of their own health in consequence of that shock, and therefore I am delighted to support a Bill which will in any small way tend to prevent such occurrences, and still more a measure which contains within it the seed of a far greater and wider-reaching improvement in the lives of railway workers.
§ *COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)
said everyone was most anxious for the safety of the men employed on railways, and there were many points in the Bill of which he approved, especially the provision for the better lighting of stations and sidings, it was not so much the mechanism in railways which caused the 1334 accidents as the want of light, and the drive and hurry on dark days in bad weather. He urged the Minister in charge of the measure to give proper time for the stock of the railway companies to be improved, allowing existing stock to serve its proper time, but requiring the new stock to be provided, in accordance with the system laid down. The Government should, however, be slow in dealing with the question of automatic couplings in view of the expression of the Commission on the subject. The Commission reported that before an automatic coupling was compulsorily employed the fullest practical test and trial should be made in order to ascertain the certainty and completeness of its action. The English lines were different from the lines in other countries, and changes were much more difficult owing to the greater amount of shunting which took place on them. The curves were so small that it was impossible, in some instances, to use automatic couplings upon them. He urged the Government to be very careful how they brought forward any recommendation in regard to the adoption of automatic couplings. On the whole, he was entirely in favour of the Bill introduced by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. KIMBER (Wandsworth)
I am sorry to add one word of alloy to the golden meed of praise which has been given to this Bill, although, in its main object, I am one of its supporters. I desire to remove from the face of the Bill anything which might be conceived to be a blot. I believe there is a blot upon this Bill. In Clause 12 power is given, by an arrangement made between the railway company and the Board of Trade, without consulting the debenture stockholders, to issue debenture stock to meet the expenses incurred by the operation of the Act. Many charities, public institutions, and trust companies have investments in the debenture stock of railways, which is looked upon as one of the highest forms of gilt-edged securities, and anything done by Parliament which would detract from that character would discredit it. But what are we to say if power is given after the issue of such a stock, with the express sanction of the Act of Parliament, by application to the Board of Trade, without the debenture stockholders being heard at all, to procure an order that certain expenditure which the railway company is 1335 called upon to make for the safety of the public or of its servants may be charged on the railway over the heads of the first debenture holders, making their security no longer a first debenture stock but a second charge? Such a thing would be an infraction of that right which recognises the inviolability of contracts once duly made between men or bodies corporate, and it would imperil the credit of one of the best securities in the market. I am aware that there is a precedent which can be quoted. The Regulation of Railways Act of 1889 applied a principle of a similar character, for it did not provide for the debenture stockholders being heard, or for anyone being heard on their behalf. That seems to me to be a very dangerous precedent to follow, and it was only intended to apply to companies which had exhausted their capital powers and which were hardly strong enough to raise funds for the purposes required. There can be no reason for this proposal in the present Bill, and I submit that it is a provision which will be detrimental to the companies themselves. A railway company in possession of its own railway must be assumed to be solvent and capable of incurring any expenditure which it may be called upon to make by the Board of Trade. If it is called upon to provide these appliances it is bound to find the money in some way, but it ought not to be possible to say to the creditors of a company, "You must provide these appliances and subordinate your securities." The company will presumably be solvent, and it has the power of raising money, and it must raise it on the second or the third security. If a railway company is not in possession of its own property the power contained in this Bill is not required. I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman will be willing to fairly consider any suggestion to remove what I consider to be a blot upon this Bill. We have a Bill before us which contains a large illustration of this principle. It proposes to put all simple contracts in front of and over the heads of the debenture stockholders, and this may tend to the destruction of that great Imperial credit which this country now enjoys in all securities which are under Parliamentary sanction. I am going to make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman. As there has been a precedent once before, I do not object to its 1336 being used again, providing there are safeguards. This Bill has got reasonable safeguards to protect companies against any arbitrary order of the Board of Trade without being first heard and without having lodged an objection. This Bill gives them the power to appeal to the Railway Commission. I want to know why, as regards Clause 12, which gives the power to superimpose the charge, these people should not be entitled to the same right to object, and the same right of appeal. That provision is absent from the Bill, and it is conspicuous by its absence. The House is aware of the principle upon which private railway Bills have been based. It is that the debenture stock is generally limited to one-third of the stock belonging to the railway, and that is a very large proportion. These debenture stockholders are numbered by hundreds of millions, and while we are dealing with the lives and limbs of a very large number of very deserving working men, yet, large as they are, they are not larger than the class of widows, children, and other people who are the subjects of trusts holding debenture stock. The suggestion I am going to make is that while this power remains in the Bill the Government should accept an Amendment providing that it shall not be exercised without some kind of notice, and some right to be heard, on the part of the debenture stockholders, whose rights are proposed to be interfered with. That is a principle of equity which has always been administered by all our courts, and which hitherto has always been observed by this House in all its legislation. Before our Grand Committees there are no means for private stockholders to be heard, and the only way for them to be heard would be by appointing a Hybrid Committee with power to hoar them. I am not suggesting that, because I do not believe in such Committees, and the best inquiry is a Grand Committee. I submit that principle to the light hon. Gentleman, and I hope he may be able to find some way of putting such a provision into the Bill.
§ *MR. BUTCHER (York)
I have listened with much satisfaction to the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. The general principle involved in this Bill, as I understand it, is one which is 1337 not in dispute. It is the principle that when a trade is found to be dangerous the State has a right to intervene and make regulations for the carrying on of that trade with a view to ensuring the safety of those employed in it. That is a principle which has been successfully applied to the great industries of mining, factories, and to our merchant shipping. Up to the present time it has not been very largely applied to railways, because I take it that the powers which have been conferred by Parliament upon the Board of Trade with reference to the regulation of railways have had for their object the ensuring the safety of the passengers rather than that of the employees of the railways themselves. An attempt is now being made to apply that principle for the purpose of ensuring the safety of the employees, and the question we have got to ask ourselves is, is there any class of work upon railways which may fairly be considered dangerous? The answer to that question is simple, for the figures furnished in the report of the Royal Commission show beyond all question that many branches of the railway industry may be considered as trades of the most highly dangerous character. As regards three classes of railway employees at any rate the figures given by the Royal Commission appear to me to show that the persons engaged in those branches are engaged in a dangerous trade. I allude to goods guards and brakesmen, permanent-way men, and shunters. The hon. Member for the Brightside Division has already given some figures as to the mortality from accidents to shunters, and they seem to me to be very striking. The figures given by the Report of the Commission show that the operation of shunting is one of the most dangerous trades in the country. As regards the number of fatal accidents, I find that the figures given on page 11 of the Report show that the proportion of killed from all causes per thousand employed in the occupation of shunting is 5.08, whereas the highest proportion of deaths per thousand in any of the other dangerous trades—that is, in the merchant shipping service—is only 5.1. Therefore the occupation of shunting appears to be almost as dangerous as that of the merchant service, and more dangerous than most of the other dangerous trades. It is impossible in the 1338 face of these facts to arrive at any other conclusion than that there are many branches of the railway service in which the occupation must be regarded as dangerous trades. There is one omission from the Report which I am sorry to notice, and that is the case of the railway porters. The case of railway porters is a very serious one, because I find that amongst them the number of deaths and accidents is very high. The number of railway porters throughout the country in 1898 was about 60,000. The total number of deaths in the year 1898 was 54, while the accidents numbered nearly 3,000. It may he perfectly true that most of them were of a trifling character, but when you find such a large number of accidents in that branch of the railway service, one would like to know more about the causes which led to them, and what suggestions can be made to avoid them in the future. I take it that this is a matter upon which the Board of Trade have power to make regulations, and if they find that these accidents to porters arise from preventible causes, no doubt they will make regulations to meet them. The Commission have arrived at the decision, after considering the figures, that there are certain cases of dangerous employment on railways, and it follows from that that there must be some department of the State appointed to inspect the railways so far as those dangerous occupations are concerned, and to make regulations for avoiding the deaths and accidents resulting from those occupations. The question arises, what department of the State should it be? We have heard it suggested that they should be put under the authority of the Home Secretary. I think the Commission has adopted a wiser course. As regards railways the Board of Trade has already very important statutory duties assigned to it in regard to the inspection of passenger lines and signals, the block system, and continuous brakes; and as we know by a Bill which has recently been passed, it now has the duty of preventing overwork amongst railway servants. It seems to me, therefore, that the Board of Trade should be the part of the State to which these new powers under the Bills should be given rather than to the Home Office. I think the President of the Board of Trade has exercised a wise discretion in following the recommendations 1339 of the Royal Commission. He has followed the line of least resistance, because their recommendations have been assented to by the representatives of labour as well as by the representatives of capital, and therefore I think the right hon. Gentleman has exercised the sound judgment in following the lines suggested by the Royal Commission. It has been argued that if we give too great power to the Board of Trade to make regulations for the working of railways, to a certain extent we diminish the responsibility of the railway companies themselves and their capacity for discharging those responsibilities. The real answer to that seems to me to be that we must trust to the intelligence and the good sense of the Board of Trade and its officials. This Bill provides as a safeguard that the Board of Trade shall not issue any regulations without giving the railway companies concerned an opportunity of making objections and of being heard in their defence. If the Board of Trade do not assent to the objections so made, then there is a further safeguard in the Bill, which consists of an appeal to the Railway Commissioners. I venture to think that with those two safeguards there is little danger that the powers of the Board of Trade will be exercised in an injudicious or oppressive manner. I welcome this Bill most cordially, because it deals with a subject which has been too long neglected. We have had it reported that injuries are occurring daily which might be prevented, and I am very glad to think this House is going to legislate upon that subject. I welcome this Bill as an honest and fair attempt to deal with a matter which is of vast importance to the community at large, and to discharge a duty which we owe to that large body of railway servants throughout the country to whom the public is so deeply indebted.
§ *SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
My constituents are very much interested in this matter, and I desire to say that they fully appreciate the efforts of the Government in bringing for ward this Bill. My hon. friend the Member for Wandsworth has spoken of this measure from a commercial point of view. I think it should be remembered that the safety of life and limb is of even more importance than the sanctity of debentures. It seems to mo that a Bill 1340 to provide the means of preventing accidents is quite right in providing that the cost of any experiments in that direction shall be put as a first charge upon the business. I think this proposal is fully justified by the circumstances. My. hon. friend spoke of the analogy of the Companies Bill, but the analogy seems to me to be rather with the Workmen's Compensation Act, for there is no question of life and limb involved in the former. I have known a good Bill spoiled by safeguards, and the one criticism I have to offer has reference to the appeal to the Railway Commissioners. My experience is that that tribunal is a very cumbrous and a very costly one, and it is consequently the refuge of the rich and the deterrent of the poor. The action of the Department might have been trusted, and if some safeguard had to be found a local tribunal in the shape of the County Court would have been a better one than the Railway Commissioners. An appeal to the latter tribunal means great expense to those who go there, and it is also a very expensive tribunal to the State. My hon. friend the Member for Battersea said that the men should be more careful, and I quite agree with that. I was a member of the Railway Hours Committee which sat in 1892, and which took evidence on this subject, and I was convinced that there are times when, owing to very long hours, the men are not physically or mentally capable of being as careful as they might be. I also agree with what was said with regard to the value of the proviso to hear trade organisations, for by their practical knowledge they not only pave the way to a settlement, but they give an additional security to that settlement being loyally carried out, as experience as a member of the London Conciliation Board has convinced me. I heartily approve of the Bill, and I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman has introduced it.
§ MR. RITCHIE
May I make an appeal to the House to allow the debate, which has been altogether in one direction, to come to a conclusion? As hon. Members know, the arrangement for the night has been made for the convenience of the House itself, and in order to prevent a sitting which would otherwise have required to be held on Tuesday. My right hon. friend has informed the House that it is necessary that the motion appointing 1341 the Committee on municipal trading should be disposed of before the holidays, and having regard to the fact that we have obtained permission to sit a little longer, I do hope the House will now conclude the debate on this Bill.
§ *MR. MCKENNA (Monmouthshire, N.)
Notwithstanding that appeal I wish to say a few words, and they will be extremely few. I wish to add my voice to the general chorus of approval which has welcomed this Bill. It is extremely satisfactory to hear that it is the intention of the Government to grant facilities for further proceeding with this measure, but I think attention must be called to two points. In the first place we have heard many rumours recently as to the probability of an early General Election. It is very desirable that the Government should not only grant facilities with regard to this Bill, but they should grant those facilities so early that there will be no danger of the measure being lost in the event of a General Election taking place. The second point is this. I trust that the strong expression of opinion that has come from Members sitting in every quarter of the House will strengthen the hands of the Government in their determination not only to get the Bill through this House, but also to see that it shall not emerge from the deliberations in another place in any emasculated form. We have known Bills of this sort to be passed through this House, and to lose all their vigour and vitality on account of Amendments introduced in another place. I hope the Government will not only act on the letter of the promise which has been made this evening, but also on its spirit, and that the Bill will be passed into law in as strong a form as it is passed through this House. My hon. friend the Member for Berwickshire referred to the position of private railways. It so happens that private railways are, for the purposes of legislation, neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red herring. The Home Office has nothing to do with them as factories, and the right hon. Gentleman does not see his way to bring them within the scope of this measure. I trust, however, he will be able to use his influence in order to have them included within the scope of the Home Secretary's Factories Bill.
§ MR. PATRICK O'BRIEN (Kilkenny)
I do not intend to add to the congratula- 1342 tions which have been offered to the President of the Board of Trade this evening. Speaking from the Irish point of view I accept the Bill for better or worse on the principle, of course, that it aims at bettering the condition of employees and safeguarding the public. If anything would make me doubt the statements I heard to-night about the excellence of the Bill, it would be the approval it has received from hon. Members interested in railway companies. I have rarely found a Bill praised by directors to be in the interests of the general public, and with that reservation I accept the Bill. I wish to direct the attention of the President of the Board of Trade to a matter which I think he will admit concerns Ireland. Clause 3 of the Bill states that there is to be an appeal to the Railway and Canal Commissioners. I think it is within the knowledge of certain hon. Members—it certainly is within my knowledge—that that body is neither known nor respected in Ireland. I had experience recently on a Committee on a Railway Bill, and witness after witness told us that they did not know of the existence of the Railway Commissioners, and the few who did know found it impossible to seek justice at their hands because of the enormous expense of appealing to that tribunal. If this Bill is to be of any use in Ireland, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider the advisability of setting up some cheaper tribunal where cases of dispute between traders and the railway companies, or cases of complaint by passengers, can be settled. The right hon. Gentleman is the man in the gap. He is now introducing railway legislation, and I ask him if it is not in his opinion a good opportunity for setting up some cheap and simple tribunal in Ireland. I am quite sure that my colleagues will endorse what I say, that there will be no possibility of getting justice from the railway companies in Ireland until we have a tribunal of appeal in Ireland. The hon. Member for South Islington, who is always practical, and who does not limit his knowledge to England alone, suggested that there should be an appeal to a county court judge in England. Surely it is oven more necessary to have in Ireland a tribunal at the hands of the people, to which they could appeal. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear the matter in mind, as it will be 1343 pressed on his attention again on a future stage of the Bill.
§ MR. COLVILLE (Lanarkshire, N.E.)
On behalf of a large number of Scotch railway men, I desire to add a word of commendation of the Bill. It was, of course, a great disappointment to many of my constituents, as well as to railway men generally, that the Bill of last year did not find a place on the Statute-book, and while the present Bill does not go the length that many railway men desire, it is nevertheless a substantial advance in the direction of further safety for the lives and limbs of those engaged in railway work. The hon. Member for Wandsworth spoke of the unfortunate position in which the holders of railway debenture stock will find themselves. A good many would like to be in that unfortunate position, even with the prospect of the change proposed by this Bill. I agree with the hon. Member for South Islington that some less expensive court of appeal than the Railway Commissioners is necessary, because it is notorious that the rich, and the rich alone, have access to that tribunal.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed to the Standing Committee on Trade, etc.