§ * MR. BELL (Derby)
Much has been said since the assembling of this present Parliament on the South African question and the colonies generally, but this evening I am going to direct the attention of the House to something which I consider equally as important as even the question of South Africa. The subject to which I desire to draw attention is the enormous number of accidents which occur on our railways to those employed, and it is with a view to getting the Board of Trade to administer the Act of last year in a better manner than it has been administered up to the present time that I now intervene. The Act to which I refer was placed on the Statute-book on the 1st of July last, after a Royal Commission composed of representatives of both Houses of Parliament, together with experts from both the employers and the employees in the railway service, had considered the subject and reported. This Commission was not of the ordinary, orthodox style of Commissions, but one which carried out the task assigned to it in a workmanlike and satisfactory manner, and carried it out in a very short space of time, concluding with recommendations which were agreed to unanimously. This Report, which hon. Members of the late Parliament have been able to see, but which hon. Members who, like myself, are new to the House of 532 Commons, have not had the opportunity of perusing, and probably are not familiar with, shows that the members of the Commission were unanimous in their opinion. I will quote a paragraph from their Report. They themselves have written—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 to diminish the preventable loss of life and injuries sustained by a deserving portion of the community.I think that is a very definite and emphatic opinion, and it is the more remarkable from the Commission having among its members representatives of the railway companies. I will draw the attention of the House to another paragraph which, to my mind, is the strongest and most important of the whole lot. They say that—Lives that could he saved are lost, and men are injured unnecessarily. Ought the State to remain quiescent, and leave it to chance or to the will of individuals to apply a remedy? Even if the remedy is left in private hands, surely an obligation of a positive character should be imposed upon them to effect it.The result of that Report was long discussions in this House, and a Bill was introduced by the late President of the Board of Trade, the present Home Secretary.
That Bill was one of considerable strength, and was very positive in some of its clauses, but, owing to the enormous opposition offered by representatives of the railway companies and private wagon owners, both inside and outside this House, the right hon. Gentleman the then President of the Board had to minimise, or considerably modify, the clauses in that Act. In spite of that, however, the measure, when completed, set forth a schedule enumerating twelve subjects or headings under which the Commissioners declared themselves of opinion that steps should be taken immediately to prevent accidents. These twelve subjects are very simple in themselves. First we have "brake levers on both sides of the wagons." That is a very simple matter, and one I will deal with more particularly later on. The 533 second is "labelling wagons." Presently I will explain to the House the pernicious effect of having traffic labelled on one side only of the wagons. The third is "movement of wagons by propping and tow-roping"; the fourth, "steam or other power-brakes on engines." These things appear to be very simple, as I said, in the case of brake levers on both sides of wagons. One would hardly believe that it would be necessary for an Act of Parliament to be passed to compel railway companies or private wagon owners to label wagons on both sides, or even—in the case of companies—to adopt such appliances as power brakes in order to prevent accidents on their railways. The fifth subject is "Lighting of stations or sidings when shunting operations are frequently carried on after dark." It is needless to say, Mr. Speaker, that anyone who believes or would listen to the statements put forward by the railway companies inside and outside the House would hardly credit that it is necessary to have an Act of Parliament to compel them to fix up in their yards the lights that are essential to enable the men who carry on these dangerous avocations to do their work with the highest degree of safety. The sixth subject is "Protection of point rods and signal wires and position of ground levers working points." That is another simple matter, and the House will agree that it ought not to be necessary to have either rules of the Board of Trade or Acts of Parliament to compel employers' precautionary measures in connection with point rods, signal wires, and so forth. Then, the seventh subject is "Position of offices and cabins near working lines"; the eighth, "marking of fouling points"; and the ninth, "construction and protection of gauge glasses." Many a man has lost his eyesight in consequence of the bursting of a gauge glass. These are preventable accidents, and I maintain that the Board of Trade should set out in a more active way and put forth greater energy than it has done up to now in order to prevent these accidents from occurring. The tenth subject is "Arrangement of tool boxes and water gauges on engines"; the eleventh, "Working of trains without brake vans upon running lines beyond the limits of stations"; and twelfth, "Protection to permanent-way 534 men when relaying or repairing permanent way."
Now, I submit that the enumeration of those twelve matters on which protection is required is an evidence to the Board of Trade that the workmen whose interests are in question are engaged in what is called "dangerous trades." It is a clear indication to the Board of Trade that the employers in these respects can adopt measures by which many of the accidents which would otherwise occur may be prevented. But what is the position? It is this: that notwithstanding the Act which has been in force since the 1st July, 1900, the accidents to railway servants—fatal and non-fatal—are largely on the increase. The return given in the Board of Trade Report for the last six months of the year 1900 has not yet been published. The last I have is for the half-year ending 30th June, 1900. Now, I find from perusing this report—without going into the whole of the details—that accidents have been very largely on the increase, and I find, on comparing the monthly reports from the Labour Gazette with this report for the half-year ending 30th June, 1900, that the fatal accidents were 33½ per cent. higher than in 1896. Imagine that, Sir! The fatal accidents have increased on railways to the extent of 33½ per cent. in five years. Non-fatal accidents have increased by 11½ per cent. Now these accidents, as no doubt a large number of Members are aware, were principally amongst three or four grades or sections of those employed on railways. I have taken out here a short schedule of the four grades which occupy, perhaps, the foremost place, so far as risk is concerned, on railways. Take first the grade of shunters. There are only 9,244 of these men employed, and of these in the six months ending 30th June last year 23 were killed and 347 injured. Goods guards come next—second on the list—and of these there are 14,720 on our railways. There were 20 killed in the six months and 436 injured. Firemen are third on the list, numbering 21,821, and of these 13 were killed and 266 injured. Then come the drivers, of whom there are 22,237, and of these 12 were killed and 202 injured. These four grades combined give a total of 68,022, and of that number 68 were killed and 535 1,251 injured during the short period of six months. I know there is very great objection on the part of railway companies to State interference, and I am not here to advocate anything that is arbitrary, even against railway companies, but I do maintain this, that the State has a distinct right to interfere where it can prevent accidents, fatal or otherwise, to His Majesty's subjects.
Let us compare for a moment the case of the mechanics who are employed by these same railway companies with that of the railway employees. The mechanics number 68,661, or 639 more than the men in the four grades I have enumerated. Of these 68,601 mechanics employed 10 only were killed and 19 injured in the same period that 68 of the railway-men were killed and 1,251 injured. Now, Sir, what I want particularly to point out here is that the mechanics, or those employed in the works of the companies, are subject to statutory supervision. They are under the Home Office, and the Home Office inspectors can at any time when they think it desirable, or when they feel inclined, go to the factory and inspect them, even on anonymous reports or complaints. It is evident that this inspection is not without its effect in preventing accidents, when we find that with a higher total number of men employed than the men in the four grades I have referred to there have only been 10 killed and 19 injured in the six months. I maintain, therefore, that I am justified in insisting that the Board of Trade should be active, and utilise to the fullest extent the powers conferred upon it by the Act of 1900 for the Prevention of Accidents.
There is one thing I want to bring prominently to the attention of the President of the Board of Trade, and it is that since the passing of the Act at the commencement of the last half-year the responsibility which has rested upon the Board of Trade has been greater than it was previously. Unless something is done by the Department to reduce or diminish this large number of accidents occurring amongst railway-men, the responsibility for this enormous loss of life and injury to limb, or at any rate for its increase, will rest with the Board of Trade. There are various 536 things which should be done, and many of them should be done immediately, and I trust that after calling the right hon. Gentleman's attention to them it will not be necessary for me at a later stage of the session to repeat what I am saying here to-night. Some people—even Members of this House—who are interested in the railways will very likely say that they welcome complaints from their men, and are always ready to pay attention to them. Sir, I do believe that many hon. Members of this House, who hold positions on the directorates of the various companies, and many railway directors outside, do sincerely desire to hear complaints, and respond to them, but we men know how difficult it is for complaints to reach their ears. There are such a large number of superintendents and officials of various degrees through whom the complaints have to pass that they very often do not reach the high authorities. Complaints have to run the gauntlet of crowds of interested officials, who throw every kind of obstacle in the way of their reaching those persons for whom they are intended and who would have the power to redress the grievances. I have here several instances, of which I will only mention a few, where complaints have been made sometimes by the men themselves and sometimes through their organisation. But they have too often been ignored by the officials of the companies, accidents in this way being allowed to continue. I am not going to particularise any of the large number of companies here to-night. I do not propose to specialise any of them, but it is necessary to give a few typical cases, and I must, therefore, mention the railways; but it should be understood that the general principle and my remarks apply to one and all of the railways throughout the kingdom. It is true that there are some railways which give more attention to these things than others; it is also true that some give better attention to the Board of Trade recommendations and to various other things with a view to reducing the number of accidents than others. In fact, the Report of the Royal Commissioners themselves states that there are some companies who are ready to comply with the recommendations of the Board of Trade, whilst others ignore them, consequently it is necessary that the Board should be active so as to 537 allow no negligence in these matters, and so as to secure everything being done to reduce the number of accidents to railway servants.
I take a few typical cases of what has recently occurred. One case I am about to mention is that of a man who has been seriously injured, in fact I believe he has since died of his injuries. I believe notice had been sent to the railway company, or to the general manager of the company, calling his particular attention to this class of danger in 1899, but I understand it has not been remedied at all. I am told indeed that no attention at all has been given to the matter. The complaint is as to a particular class of engine that is employed on the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway. These engines have on them pumps instead of injectors for inserting water into the boilers. These pumps have sometimes to be attended to after the engine has perhaps climbed up a steep incline with a heavy train. The driver is obliged to use all the steam power he has till he has got to the summit of the incline. Very often he is not able to put water into the boiler until he has got to the summit, and it is then very often found that the pumps are full of air. It is necessary to let this air out before the pump can get to the water. The pet-cocks of the pumps are sometimes not connected with the footplate, which is desirable in order to avoid the necessity for the engine driver to walk along the framing of the engine to open the cocks in order to let out the air. Engines on other railways with these pumps have a connection to the footplate, and the driver can open the pumps without leaving the footplate. Well, the top of the framing along which the men have to walk is less than three inches wide, and the pumps have to be frequently attended to, otherwise they will not work. The attention of the general manager of the company was called to this so far back as 28th March, 1899, but no notice was taken of the matter. The men had to continue walking round the framing of the engine, and in the case to which I have referred the fireman, after attending to the pet-cock of the pump, fell from the framing of the engine on to the ballast, which caused concussion of the brain. 538 He thus sustained very serious injury' and I believe that he has died in consequence of his injuries. I find also that there are various other things—the details of which, however, I will not trouble the House with—which ought to be put before the House. I hope to be able to put them before the President of the Board of Trade in another way, so that the matter, at any rate, may not escape his attention and be overlooked, and so that the engines may be inspected or examined by the Board of Trade.
I may say that the reason I make these remarks here this evening is in order that the Board of Trade may do something, and that speedily, in the direction of putting a stop to the danger which this case demonstrates. I know it is very objectionable to railway companies to have inspectors examining into their arrangements, but I must say that I fail to see why railway companies should be exonerated, or any of their plant, yards, stations, premises, or anything else should be exonerated from statutory inspection any more than the premises or works of other employers' factories, shops, and things of that kind. Every other employer has to have his plant, machinery, shop, factory, or foundry subjected to State interference, and I fail to see why railway companies, of all employers in the country, should be exempted from this interference. The only reason I can find for it is that railway directors perhaps have been rather more powerful in this House than other employers, and, objecting to interference when it has been proposed, have been successful in getting themselves exempted. I find that a shipowner cannot even build his ship, cannot launch his ship, cannot load his ship, cannot man his ship, or cannot even feed his men, or berth his men, without being subjected to State interference. If such is the case with regard to ships, surely we, have a right to expect to see that the State should interfere in the case of another dangerous calling and should see whether or not shunting yards are in a proper condition and are fit for the persons who have to work in them? Surely we can expect the State to intervene and ascertain through their own officials whether, for instance, 539 there is sufficient light in this, that, or the other yard. Surely we can expect the State to see whether obstacles such as point-rods, signal wires, and ground levers for working points, which are known in the railway service as death-traps, are sufficiently removed out of the way of those who have to work in the yards. It is in this direction that I ask the President of the Board of Trade to do all he can to render the work of railwaymen less dangerous, and to do it speedily. I readily admit this, that had not the General Election taken place when it did, probably something more would have been done. I do not for a moment say that there has been any laxity on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the present President of the Board of Trade. I know that he has lately succeeded the present Home Secretary in the position he now holds. The present Home Secretary it was, practically, who brought about the measure as to the administration of which I am now referring. The right hon. Gentleman was familiar with the Act right through, and, probably, had he remained at the Board of Trade, he, through his knowledge and experience, would have been more active than the present right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, who is not so familiar with these subjects. No doubt it was necessary for him to spend some little time in acquainting himself with the facts and circumstances surrounding the particular subject to which I am now drawing his attention, but I think that since last October, now six months gone, the right hon. Gentleman has had sufficient time to give effect to the provisions of the Act. I hope he will now give practical effect, and give that speedily, to the measure which has given him so much power.
Then there is the question of steam or other power brakes on engines. I desire to say a word or two on this, as the question of providing power brakes on engines is one that should not be delayed. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, in reply to a question I addressed to him a week or two ago, said that the railway companies were doing all they could to give effect to the schedule of the Act. That 540 may be correct so far as it applies to some companies, but it is incorrect so far as it applies to others. I venture to suggest that unless pressure is brought to bear upon them the managers of railway companies will not put themselves out of the way at all in order to give full effect to the Act of 1900. I have here a report as to engines, ten in number, turned by the Great Northern of Ireland Railway since the passing of this Act out of their repairing shops. In many cases the engines were in the shops for general repairs, but yet they have all been turned out without the power brakes specified in the Act. Now, if the railway companies are so ready and willing to put the Act into effect without pressure from the Board of Trade, why, I ask, did the Great Northern Railway of Ireland turn out ten engines they had had in the shops for repairs without trying to apply to them the power brakes referred to? The result of the engines being turned out without power brakes has been illustrated by one typical incident which I will mention. An accident occurred on the 9th of last month through an engine working a ballast train running into a platelayers bogey a mile south of Portadown. It went into a gang of platelayers, and one man was killed and another was injured so seriously that he is not expected to recover. I am told that this accident would not have occurred had this engine possessed the power brake. That is only one case out of a large number I could mention, but I am not going to trouble the House with a great number of details. If the President of the Board of Trade or the House desire to have the details I shall be very pleased to submit them, but I know they do not. Therefore I would simply mention one or two typical cases under each of the headings I have here, in order to show the House how prevention can be applied in these cases, and how the present absence of regulations operates to the detriment of railway men. I find in regard to shunters—shunting yards and shunting operations—that in many cases—in the majority of instances I am sorry to say—signal wires, point rods, and so, forth are allowed in between the lines on which the men have to carry out the shunting operations. Shunting opera- 541 tions even with the best of point rods and with all obstacles out of the way are dangerous enough, and I do hope that something will be done to compel the railway companies to remove these obstacles out of the way. The result of these obstacles being allowed to continue on the lines in the shunting yard is very lamentable. In the day time it is bad enough, but imagine a man working in a shunting yard at night time when he has to walk astraddle, as it were, in order to avoid point rods and signal wires, and when he has to dodge out of the way of ground levers, holding his light turned upon the wagons he is shunting with one hand, whilst in the other he holds his shunting pole, six feet long! How is it possible that he can see all the obstacles in his way and take necessary precautions to avoid them? Therefore I think the companies should be compelled to take these things away. As long as they do not remove them themselves, the Board of Trade should step in and require them to do it.
Then there are other matters which, I claim, should come under State supervision. There is the question of putting lads to do the important work of shunting. I have here a report which refers to a youth of sixteen years of age being employed by the South-Eastern and Chatham and Dover Hail-way at Tunbridge as late as the 17th of February last. An accident occurred, and the coroner's jury, and all the evidence, in fact, condemned the employment of a boy of sixteen years of age in such dangerous work as that of shunting. In this case I maintain that the Board of Trade ought to take the responsibility on itself and declare that lads like this should no longer be permitted to follow this dangerous occupation. It may be said that boys as well as men were allowed to work in other dangerous trades, such as in mines, but in those cases the State interferes, and I do not see why they should not interfere in this case. I do not think I ought to specialise or particularise any shunting yard, for almost every railway in the kingdom is a sinner more or less in this direction. They do not light their yards sufficiently or protect the men by removing from their paths the obstacles to which I have referred. Therefore, 542 I maintain that the Board of Trade should intervene, and if they have not a sufficient staff to enable them to do the necessary inspecting work, the staff should be increased so that the Act of 1900 may be put efficiently into operation. I find that the Irish railways are perhaps the greatest offenders in connection with this subject. [Hear, hear! from the Nationalist Members.] I find from reports I have from the Great Southern and Western, the Midland Great Western and the Great Northern of Ireland—on these railways nearly the whole of the shunting yards are badly lit and some not lit at all, and that so far as protection of point rods and signal wires and so on is concerned, such protection is almost out of the question. I maintain that the present number of officers that the Board of Trade have at their disposal is absolutely inadequate to do the work of protecting the life and limb of the many thousands of men employed on these and other railways. To my mind, the two sub-inspectors employed by the Board of Trade would be insufficient even to look after the Irish railways, to say nothing of those in this country. There is another matter of great importance, if not of the greatest importance, to which I desire to call attention, and that is the necessity of doing something to get rid of the obnoxious shunting pole upon our railways. It is very much nursed and cherished by the railway companies, and two or three weeks ago, in reply to a question put by me the President of the Board of Trade said that nothing was being done in this direction, but that they had not lost sight of it. But they have had it "in sight" for the last twenty years, and I hope that we are not going to keep it in sight at such a long distance in the future. The number of accidents which happen to rail way men through the shunting pole cannot be calculated by the return in the Blue-book, because the accidents are given there as occurring through coupling and uncoupling operations.
There are scores of accidents which happen to men employed in our shunting yards which do not arise from coupling or uncoupling, but which take place through the men having to carry this six-foot shunting pole about with them to do their work. To my mind, to require a 543 man to move about in a shunting yard coupling and uncoupling wagons, with a six-foot shunting pole in one hand and a light in the other, is like requiring a soldier to go into an engagement with a gun in one hand and an umbrella in the other. That might appear ridiculous to hon. Gentlemen, and no doubt it was. But it was equally ridiculous to expect a man to do shunting work with a pole six feet long in his hand. Three weeks ago a fatal accident occurred, not through the use of the coupling pole, but through it being carried when not used at the time of coupling or uncoupling. One end of the pole caught and penetrated the body of a man who was oiling his engine as the shunter passed. I claim that one accident of that description is sufficient in itself to condemn any such instrument as the shunting pole. There are plenty of automatic couplings to be selected from which are applicable to the working of our railways, and I claim that the Board of Trade, in the interest of the safety of life and limb, should insist upon the adoption of something in that direction on all our railways, and not allow the companies to adopt automatic couplings in their own way and at their own time. I could give a large number of instances of accidents through the want of automatic couplings. I have selected cases from the different railways, so that it could not be said that I had singled out one railway as an object of attack more than another. I have given you a typical case that occurred to a man, not one using the pole or engaged in the act of coupling or uncoupling, but another person altogether—and this is only one instance out of a number I could have mentioned.
I desire further to call the attention of the President of the Board of Trade to the absolute necessity there is for having some system of uniformity with regard to the brake levers that you have on rolling stock. It has been laid down in the Act that brake levers shall be applied to both sides of the wagons. It is true that there are a large number of companies experimenting by putting levers on both sides of their trucks, but every company has its own idea as to a brake, and each company has its own brakes. What I wish here to draw attention to 544 is the great danger in a lack of uniformity. In the first place I would illustrate that by pointing out that the Great Western are building twenty-ton trucks. I believe that is a step in the right direction, but I would further draw attention to the fact that instead of having a brake that is handy they have a wheel brake attached to the side of the truck. Now, I would ask hon. Members who have seen railway operations carried on to imagine the difficulty a man must be under in a shunting yard going about amongst moving wagons turning a wheel here and there. What, I would ask, are his chances either of protecting the company's property by a quick application of the brake, which is very often necessary, or even of preventing himself from stumbling and meeting with a serious accident? The Caledonian Railway have another kind of brake; the Lancashire and Yorkshire have yet another, and the Great Northern have still a different kind, and I think the majority of the companies have adopted one sort of brake or another, but they are not all alike, and in that lies the danger. The danger in a difference of brake is this; that the wagons of the different companies bearing different brakes go from one place to another; one section of employees are accustomed to use a particular description of brake, and through the necessity of the exchange of traffic which takes place on our railways men accustomed to one sort of brake may have half-a-dozen brakes from another railway to deal with of a totally different kind. When a man goes to apply a brake which is absolutely new to him, and which he has never seen before, and is totally ignorant as to how it operates, and knows nothing of its power, in applying such a brake he is likely to meet with an accident, and of that I had intended to give an illustration, but I will not go into detail now. I will give the details more fully to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade on another occasion and in another way if he desires it. The main point that I desire to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman is the desirability of bringing about uniformity in the matter of brakes.
I come now to a very simple matter which will in itself show the House how desirous the companies and 545 the private wagon owners are of preventing accidents on our railways. It is simply the question of labelling on each side of a wagon. These labels do not cost a large sum of money by any means. I have a very large number of them here as specimens, and I should think that many thousands of them might be got for a few pounds. I have no fault to find with the size of the labels, but what I desire to point out to the President of the Board of Trade is, that since this agitation has been going on and the Royal Commission came into existence, some of the railway companies, I am bound to admit, have done a great deal in the way of labelling the wagons on both sides, but the companies have not brought sufficient pressure to bear upon the colliery owners and upon private owners of wagons throughout the country to induce them also to label their wagons on both sides. The result is this: that of a large number of wagons which get into the shunting yard, one will be labelled on one side and another will be labelled on the opposite side, and these wagons, so mixed, will have come from different parts at different times and will be going in different directions. They have to be identified in the yard, and when they are labelled on one side only the railwayman has to creep under one to see where the next is labelled to. Shunting operations are taking place the while, and a large number of accidents take place whilst the men are going underneath a wagon or between two others to find out the destination of each. Since the passing of the Act of 1900 I find that a few colliery companies have adopted the system of labelling on both sides; but I desire to point out to the President of the Board of Trade that the system they have adopted is so useless that they might as well not have adopted it at all. I have here a number of labels bearing the address "to" or "from" certain collieries to or from "Wicker, Sheffield." That is a yard where exchange of traffic takes place between the Midland and the Great Central, and so forth. When the trucks get to "Wicker, Sheffield," they have not reached their destination, and that is where the danger exists. The wagons have to be marshalled there to be sent to the suburbs of Sheffield itself. It will not give me satis- 546 faction until not only every wagon has been labelled to its destination and station, but even the name of the consignee has been put on both sides, so that a wagon labelled to Sheffield will go there without the railwayman having to go from one side to another to ascertain where it is to be sent to.
This is an important matter, which I hope the President of the Board of Trade will not overlook. If he does overlook it the Act will not confer the amount of benefit that it was intended it should confer, and it will not prevent the accidents it was intended it should prevent. I earnestly ask the right hon. Gentleman not to overlook this matter. I have here some sheets of names of collieries that only label their wagons on one side. I do not know that I should gain anything by particularising these collieries, but I leave it as a general question, and I hope the President of the Board of Trade will, under the powers conferred on him by the Act, notify the railway companies that after 1st May next they will be penalised in accordance with the penalties of the Act if they do not have every wagon carried by them on their lines labelled on both sides. To do this they do not require new appliances or machinery. All that is necessary is that they shall give instructions that when a man has labelled a wagon on one side he shall go round to the other side and affix a label there also, in each case giving the consignee's name. There are also a large number of other dangerous subjects that I desire particular attention to be drawn to, and I am going to specify one or two, in order that the President of the Board of Trade may take measures to put a stop to that which is a fruitful source of accidents. I wish to call his attention to the large number of lads who at present are subject to a very dangerous occupation—namely, that of lighting signal lamps. That occupation under the best of circumstances is a dangerous one, but under the actual circumstances in which the lads have to do it it is most perilous. The South-Eastern and Chatham and Dover Railway lads have to walk on the coping stones of arches to get to the signals to light the lamps. I have here a list of the cabin concerned—eight or ten of them—and I hope the President of the Board of Trade will look into the matter. As to the question I put to the right hon. Gentleman 547 to-day. I do not say that the answer I received has not given me satisfaction. It is that he has not yet received the report of the inspecting officer who inquired into the fatal boiler explosion on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway I will leave what I had intended to say on that subject over until another day, but the question is of too great importance to be neglected, and I hope the President of the Board of Trade will not, at any rate, neglect to make full inquiries into the case. This is the second boiler explosion that has occurred, I believe, within the last twelve months—one on the Great Eastern and the other on the Lancashire and Yorkshire. Prom the reports of the two experts that I employed to investigate the case—an engineer and a boiler maker—so far as the explosion on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway is concerned, it is, to my mind, imperative that the Board of Trade should exercise the power now given to it and inspect not only the yards and other premises of the companies, but that some responsibility should be undertaken by the Board in the interest of public safety—leaving out of question the employees of the companies—even for the inspection of locomotive boilers. The right hon. Gentleman may examine and see whether he has, under the present Act, power to inspect locomotive boilers. I believe he has, but if he finds that that is not the case, I trust that the House will not be content until such power has been conferred on the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade should protect the interests of the public, of the employers and their workmen, and of all classes of His Majesty's subjects. The accidents I have referred to may appear to the minds of my hon. friends here as being insignificant, but a perusal of the Returns of the 30th June of last year will show that these accidents are of a very serious character. What do we find? Why, we find that out of the 1,251 non-fatal accidents which occurred in the six months to railway men, thirty-five were of the loss of legs or feet, eleven of arms or hands, seventeen of fingers or toes, six were fractures of the skull, fifty seven fractures of legs or arms, forty seven fractures of the collar-bone or ribs, and thirty-three fractures of other bones. I will content myself with enumerating these accidents, without going into the 548 others, which are given in the tables, and which are also serious. I say that when all these legs and feet and arms and hands have been lost and fractured in one six months on our railways, to say nothing of the lives that have been lost, I trust the Board of Trade will see the necessity of exercising to the full the power now given to it. I trust that when this House comes to discuss the Board of Trade Estimates this time next year, and I may have to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, I shall not be able in anyway to criticise any laxity on his part in giving effect to the powers now reposed in him by the Act of 1900.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD of TRADE (Mr. GERALD BALFOUR,) Leeds, Central
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Derby into the details of the dangerous operations he has described, the particular accidents he has referred to, or the general statistics he has cited It will probably be sufficient if I make the admission, as I do most fully make it, that everyone who has read the Report of the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into Railway Accidents must have arrived at the conclusion that the Commission were justified in expressing the opinion that "the deaths occurring and the injuries sustained among railway employees are unnecessarily great in number, and can, by means of authoritative action, be diminished." I make that admission, as I say, most fully. But the principal object of the hon. Member for Derby seems to have been to complain that up to the present time the Board of Trade has not administered the Act passed last year as effectively as it should have done and might have done. It is to that point I will especially direct my attention. The Railway Employment (Prevention of Accidents) Act was passed last year, at the end of the session, at the end of July. The autumn holidays followed close on that, and then—as the hon. Member has himself remarked—came the General Election at the end of September, which interfered with any steps that might otherwise have been taken, and then came the change of Government, and these events all caused delay. When, however, early in November I was appointed to my present office, I endeavoured to establish an Advisory Committee, to draw up the rules contemplated by the Act in respect of the twelve 549 scheduled subjects. There was, I admit, considerable delay in appointing that Committee, the reason of that being that I was anxious to have on the Committee representatives both of the railway companies and of the men. The railway companies, however, for reasons which I readily understood, though I did not agree with them, were unwilling to nominate representatives to sit on the Committee, because they held that if they did so it would prejudice their right to any appeals they might desire to make under the rules which the Committee was to draw up for the sanction of the Board of Trade. The negotiations with the railway companies and my endeavours to get them to nominate representatives caused much delay; and ultimately I was obliged to give up all hope of having an Advisory Committee, and I appointed the Committee from the officers of the Department, with Lord James of Hereford as chairman, that noble Lord having kindly consented to occupy that position. That Committee has sat for some time, and has been occupied with the task of drafting rules for the consideration of the Board of Trade. I am happy to say that they have now brought their labours to a conclusion. I have this morning received the draft rules they have prepared. I will take care there shall be no delay in advertising those rules and in carrying out the necessary preliminaries to final sanction being given to them. In addition to the action I have described, I may say that the Board of Trade has also by-letter directed the attention of the railway companies to certain complaints as to dangerous operations referred to in the schedule to the Act. The hon. Member has himself described a good many dangerous operations, none of them, I think—or, at all events, hardly any of them—outside the scope of the schedule. The rules which have been prepared by the Committee of the Board of Trade—the draft rules—will apply to all the dangerous operations set out in the schedules of the Act of last year, and I trust that when the hon. Member has an opportunity of seeing the draft rules he will be satisfied that they will effectually carry the purposes of the Act into operation. It is only fair to say that many of the railway companies, including the most important of them, have issued instructions in respect of the twelve sche- 550 duled matters, and it will be found when the rules are promulgated that they have been practically put into operation by these companies. This will show that the Board of Trade have not been indifferent to the carrying out of the Act of last year. I can assure the hon. Member that it is the intention of the Board to administer the Act vigorously, and I trust that a year hence the result of our action will be shown in a diminished list of accidents.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
replied that two additional inspectors had already been appointed, and if experience showed that their services were insufficient to carry the Act into effect, application would be made to the Treasury by the Board of Trade for permission to employ a larger staff.
§ MR. ASQUITH (Fifeshire, E.)
I rise to make two observations on a subject which must have engaged the attention of the House. The first is that everyone in the House will agree that the hon. Member for Derby was justified in calling attention to the subject; and the appal ling list of accidents he was able to bring forward, the accuracy of which, I am afraid, no one can deny, shows that this is a matter of very great importance. But I must add that I am very glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman opposite that steps have been taken, and are now in a forward state, for the purpose contemplated, and therefore of giving effect to the Act for the first time. Unfortunately, although this Act was passed last summer, practically nothing has been done to give effect to the intention of Parliament. I quite accept and acknowledge, however, the force of some of the dilatory pleas advanced by the right hon. Gentleman—the General Election, the change of officials, the difficulty with the railway companies, and so forth. All these matters might fairly be taken into account. My object is to join in the appeal of the hon. Member for Derby—and I am sure I am addressing willing ears—that the intentions of Parliament shall be promptly and effectually carried out, and this appalling, and to a large extent aviodable, loss of life and limb prevented.