HC Deb 01 May 1901 vol 93 cc348-80


Order for Second Reading read.

*MR. JACOBY (Derbyshire, Mid)

I beg to move the Second Reading of this Bill for many reasons. The first reason is, that it has received a large amount of support in my constituency, and secondly I have confidence that it is a Bill which is in the direction of providing protection from dangers to a large number of the working classes of this country. This Bill is not new to Parliament. In 1895 a similar Bill was carried without a division, and it was referred to a Select Committee, but it was unfortunately lost. That action of referring it to a Select Committee was, however, of advantage to us in drafting the new Bill, because in our new Bill we have carried out the recommendations of that Select Committee. In 1897 this Bill was contested in this House. It was opposed officially by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division, and notwithstanding that opposition, the Bill was carried by a majority of 66, but, alas! I am sorry to say that like so many private Members' Bills it was only carried to be thrown into the political dust bin. We hope that on this occasion, if we are successful in carrying the Bill, and we get the assent of the House to refer it to a Select Committee the Government will so far assist us, and that it will be no longer a pious opinion of a Wednesday afternoon, but a real and useful measure in the interest of the working classes.

What is the object of the Bill? The object of the Bill principally is to grant certificates to persons in charge of engines and boilers, but it does not apply generally. It does not apply— to any boiler or engine used exclusively for domestic, agricultural, or farming purposes, or to any boiler or engine used in the service of His Majesty, or to any boiler or engine used by a railway company, or to any boiler or engine used on board a steamship having a certificate from the Board of Trade, or to any road traction engine or steam roller. These modifications have been put in the Bill as the result of the deliberations of the 1895 Committee. I am bound to say that I practically regard the Bill as a mining Bill. Of course, the action of the Bill will have more to do with the engines and boilers in connection with mines than in any other industry. The Hill chiefly applies to persons in charge of engines and boilers used for the winding of workmen or minerals at the shafts of mines. The persons in charge must hold certificates, and these are divided into two classes. A person taking charge of any boiler or engine is described in Clause 6— (1) A person taking charge or control of any boiler or engine to which this Act applies, of five horse-power or upwards, or of any engine to which this Act applies, used for winding workmen or minerals up or down the shaft of a mine, must hold a first-class certificate or a special certificate of service under this Act. (2) A person taking charge or control of any other boiler or engine to which this Act applies must be the holder either of such a certificate as aforesaid or of a second-class certificate under this Act. An important part of this Bill is that with regard to the winding of men and minerals up and down mining shafts, and although this Bill is largely supported by all classes of labour, as represented at the Trades Union Congress, and although behind the Bill is the National Federation of Enginemen, which consists of over 23,600 members, there is a great fact in connection with the Bill that in every mining constituency there is not only a strong desire for this Bill, but pressure is being put upon their representatives to come here and support the measure. We know that it is a matter of great importance to the 750,000 men who work our pits, and also to 580,000 men who work underground, and I would respectfully suggest to the House that in the interest of humanity, if for no other reason, no quibble or foolish obstruction should be indulged in, and that, at any rate, we may have an opportunity of taking the sense of the House upon this simple and important question.

I would ask the House to follow me on one point, namely, that this Bill introduces no new principle, and that there is undoubted precedent in favour of the measure. In 1862 the House passed a Bill requiring that certificates should be granted to seagoing engineers, and Mr. Milner Gibson, who was in charge of the Bill, said that the engineers having important duties to perform with relation to the safety of the life and property entrusted to their care, it was desirable that there should be some test of qualification. In the course of the debate certain Members of the House thought that there would be some difficulty in securing a supply of sea-going engineers, on account of the certificates, but that was not found to be the case. I venture to say that if this Bill becomes law it will in no way harass mine-owners or others, because there will be no difficulty in finding men who will have to be certificated under the Act, and, on the contrary, it will be a great safeguard to the lives and limbs of workmen. This precedent having been adopted, and the Board of Trade—a Government Department—and Lloyd's having accepted the principle of granting these certificates to sea-going engineers, what is the objection to extending the principle, so that it may apply to land boilers and engines. I know that there are many more practical men in this House who will speak with far greater force on this subject than I can. I have only very briefly introduced the measure, but I consider it an exceedingly important one. My hon. friend the Member for Mid Durham, who takes an active interest in this question, will no doubt speak upon it. I feel that I have only done my duty to my constituency, and I feel certain that every Member who votes for the measure will receive the thanks and gratitude of thousands of working men in this country, who go to their work with their lives in their hands. I beg to move the Second Reading of the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Jacoby.)

*MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)

said the chief question the House had to consider was whether this Bill would or would not conduce to the additional safety of the men employed in taking charge of engines and boilers. He did not believe the Bill was going in the right direction to promote that object. Happily, at the present time we were living under conditions whereby the dangers arising from the working of engines and boilers were steadily diminishing. He found from the last issued Report in connection with the working of the Boiler Explosions Acts that only seven cases were attributed to ignorance or neglect on the part of the boiler attendants, and the report further stated that the figures for the last ten years seemed to indicate that a steady improvement had taken place. He was not surprised that the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill desired that it should be referred to a Select Committee if it passed the Second Reading. That was analogous to the course taken last year with reference to a Bill dealing in another manner with the possibility of reducing the number of accidents from boilers. The Report of that Committee had not much bearing on the questions raised by this Bill, but the Committee did report that boilers working in and about mines should not be the subject of further legislation, as those boilers fell under the Mines Act, and were already under inspection. The mover of the Second Reading had not made any suggestion that engines and boilers used in factories, workshops, and places of that kind were not properly looked after, or that if certificates were granted to the persons in charge any increase of safety would be obtained. From the Report of the Boiler Explosions Committee it appeared to him that the cause of the diminution of the risks of explosions was the gradual discontinuance of old and obsolete forms of boilers. It was from these that explosions were most likely to arise. The Bill before the House was, as had been stated principally a mining Bill, but at present the certificated manager of a mine was, together with the owner and agent, under the Coal Mines Regulation Act, made criminally responsible for the employment of competent persons to take charge of the engines and boilers of the mine, and that was a greater security for safety than would be provided by the proposal in this Bill, which merely contemplated civil responsibility. In fact, there was a danger of a mine manager who now took care to satisfy himself as to the competency of the man he placed in charge of engines and boilers saying, if this Bill passed, that he had done his duty if he employed a man holding a certificate. He therefore submitted that the rules contained in the Coal Mines Regulation Act provided a better system for securing that competent persons should be employed than could be derived under this Bill. Supposing the Bill passed into law, and the certificated attendant was prevented by illness from proceeding to his work, the manager might not be able to find another certificated man to fill the vacancy for the time, although there might be more than one capable man in the employment who did not hold a certificate. The manager in that case would be unable to avail himself of the services of such a capable man, and he might be forced to take another who, although certificated, was not familiar with the particular boilers in use at the place.

Clause 19 of the Bill which the Home Secretary was bringing forward followed existing legislation in providing for increased safety in connection with boilers in factories and workshops. That clause provided for the periodic inspection of boilers by a competent person, leaving upon the user the responsibility of selecting the inspector. By the Bill before the House the responsibility of providing the examination test of competency was thrown on the Home Secretary, and it was obvious if he made the standard too high there was a danger that there would not be enough men to manage the boilers throughout the country, while, on the other hand, if the qualification was too low, what was the use of it? He did not think that much more could be done in the direction of bringing about greater safety than by following on the lines of existing precautions. Every mill and factory with which he was acquainted had some fit person to manage the engines and boilers. Surely it was rather an extraordinary thing for hon. Members to bring forward a Bill without showing first of all that a degree of danger existed which made it desirable to proceed on different lines than those on which they were going now. He regarded as a dangerous feature of the Bill the provisions which brought the Board of Trade into a department of work which at present was wholly under the Home Secretary. In matters affecting the safety of workmen it was better to leave the entire responsibility on one Department, rather than to split it up between two. It would be necessary to move the clause to provide the money for the purpose of enabling the Home Secretary to carry it out, because though Clause 15 provided that the Secretary of State should have the entire management and control of all such examinations, and should have power from time to time to make regulations, with respect to subjects, times, and places, the evidence to be given by applicants of physical ability, experience, and character, and other matters, and there were certain fees to be exacted from applicants, there was nothing to show that these fees would be adequate to meet the cost of the examinations. The objection to the test by examination was that it could only test certain qualifications and not the whole. The actual technical qualifications were necessarily very small. It would not be difficult for a person of ordinary intelligence to acquire the technical knowledge necessary to get a certificate. With regard to the physical qualifications, he did not know what the Home Secretary was to do. Was he to make a man run and jump about the room? No examination could test what was most essential for this kind of work—steadiness, presence of mind, and all those things which were so conspicuous in the British working man. Safety, so far as mines were concerned, would arise from insisting on the carrying out of the regulations of the Home Office under the Mines Act. The scheme of second class certificates he regarded as wholly illusory and absurd. There could be no value in certificates granted by the Home Secretary on the recommendation of persons whom he did not know. He moved that the Bill be read a second time upon this day six months.


I rise to second the motion for the rejection of this Bill, on the ground that I do not think such legislation is required. In Clause 4 there are a very great number of exemptions. It states— This Act does not apply to any boiler or engine used exclusively for domestic, agricultural, or fanning purposes. Now, with regard to boilers used in farming operations, this Bill should apply to them more than to any other class of boilers, because we know that agricultural labourers who have not been properly trained are frequently put in charge of these boilers, and their employers know as little about boilers as they do themselves. It is in connection with such boilers that accidents occur. This Bill has been before Parliament for many years, and it has been only by making these exemptions that it has received the support it has. Further, "any boiler or engine used by a railway company" is exempted, though I do not see why it should be. A large number of boilers are used by railway companies, and in exempting them a large percentage of the boilers throughout the country are struck out. Again, "any boiler or engine used on board a steamship, having a certificate from the Board of Trade," is exempted, thereby increasing the percentage struck out, and lastly, "any road traction engine or steam roller" is exempted. I should like to know whether the last-mentioned class includes motor cars, because if there is to be a skilled man on every motor car it will materially restrict the use of these vehicles. The only way the promoters of this Bill have been able to bring it forward without meeting with an opposition which would sweep it out of the House of Commons at once, has been by making repeated exemptions which, I venture to say, are most undesirable. The employer is now responsible for the engine and boiler being properly cared for, and if an accident occurs he probably suffers as much as anyone. Therefore it is his businsss to see that a proper man is put in charge of his boiler. To establish a system of appointments, to be dependent upon the examination of a Secretary of State, appears to me not to be the way to encourage the right class of men to take care of boilers. Another matter which ought to be remembered in discussing this Bill is that most boilers are now insured in properly organised societies, and one of the duties of the societies is to see that not only are the boilers properly looked after, but that the proper class of men are in charge of them. That meets the object of the Bill to a great extent. The examination by a Secretary of State would, to my mind, be most unsatisfactory, and would result in the issue of certificates to men who have some technical knowledge but no experience. I therefore support the motion of my hon. friend, and trust that if the House passes the Second Reading it will insist on the details of the Bill being examined in Committee. I happened to be a Member of the Committee which considered the Bill in 1895, and the exemptions proposed at that time, although they were not as numerous as they are now, killed the Bill. I am convinced that the Bill will be a great hindrance to trade in this country if it is passed.

Amendment proposed— To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.'"—(Mr. Tomlinson.)

Question proposed. "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

MR. JOHN WILSON (Durham, Mid)

With reference to one remark of the hon. Member opposite, I am quite willing, speaking for myself and others interested in this Bill, to allow the Bill to go through the House without further discussion, and to have it sent to a Select Committee where the opposition of hon. Gentlemen can be put to the test of examination and cross-examination. If hon. Gentlemen would agree to that course the discussion might be very much shortened. But if hon. Gentlemen will not give any indication of assent, it then devolves on us to show reasons why this Bill should be passed. I am very much afraid that the mover and seconder of the motion for the rejection of this Bill have not read its clauses. For instance, the hon. Member who has just spoken turned a negative into an affirmative. He enumerated the exemptions, and then in order to controvert the position we have taken up, he asked how would it be if motor cars had to be driven by skilled men.


I asked whether motor cars would be exempted.


I do not see myself why a gentleman should not employ a qualified man to drive his motor car, just as he employs a skilled coachman to drive his horses. I do not see why motor cars should not be in the same category as traction engines. The hon. Gentleman, however, wants us, like the fable of the old man and his ass, to alter and modify our procedure until the Bill is destroyed altogether. The promoters of the Bill have had to meet various requests for exemptions, and have excluded certain things in order that we might get the general principle affirmed by the House—namely, that men in charge of engines shall have a certificate in order to show their competency by passing an examination. The hon. Member for Preston also spoke about the provisions of the Bill, but if he has read them he has missed one important provision. He asked what would happen in case of an emergency arising. Clause 7 provides for such cases, because it provides that any person may take charge of an engine "in case of a sudden emergency."


May I be allowed to say that I did not overlook that provision. What I should like to know is, who is to be the judge of a sudden emergency?


I have been surprised at many things the hon. Member has said in opposition to this Bill, but I think what he has just said is the climax. Who would be the person in any works to select a man to take charge of an engine should an emergency arise? It would not be a workman, but the foreman or the engineer of the works. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman's own business capabilities would have led him to know exactly who the person would be to select a man in such circumstances.

MR. PENN (Lewisham)

Would a strike come under the head of an emergency?


If these interruptions continue, and if I have to define every word of the Bill, we shall require another day or two. I must leave it to hon. Members' own mental qualifications to ascertain what would come under the category of an emergency. I do not know if I could satisfy hon. Members by defining a strike, but meantime, I will leave the question to employers and employees. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Preston was really in earnest when he talked about the second-class certificate.


Yes, Sir, I was quite in earnest.


Then the hon. Member's power of imagination must be very vivid when it enables him to imagine that a man must come up to London to show his physical ability by leaping over chairs. I am not aware that leaping over chairs, or any other obstacles, is part of the training of an engineer. I am surprised that the employers of labour should raise any objection to the requirements of this Bill. It will not affect their position in the smallest iota. If I were in this House as long again as I have been, I would never give my sanction, to any Bill that contained the smallest particle of injustice to any employer. I have looked on this Bill from the employers' point of view, and if I were an employer I certainly would give it all the support I could. There are two main principles in, the Bill; one is that boilers should be under the charge of competent persons, and the other is that engines should be in the charge of competent persons, who had shown their competency by passing an examination before such a tribunal as a Secretary of State might appoint. It has been said that there is no necessity for this Bill, that the loss of life is not great, and that the calamities are not sufficient to justify it. How many lives should be lost before hon. Gentlemen would be convinced that some steps should be taken—


I disclaim any such idea as loss of life in this matter. I oppose the Bill in the interests of safety just as much as the hon. Member supports it in the interests of safety. The argument I used was that it did not proceed on lines of safety.


Did the hon. Member suggest or not that there was no necessity for this Bill?


No, Sir. I did not say that there was no necessity for this Bill. I would take every precaution desirable for safety, but I contend that this Bill does not proceed along the lines of safety.


Did the hon. Gentleman say that explosions were less numerous now than previously?


Yes, Sir. I said that to show that we are proceeding at present in the direction of safety.


It is not profitable to lengthen this discussion, but I have in my hand the last Return, and I think it is now fitting I should quote from it. In Appendix D of the Report on Boiler Explosions for 1900, I find that there were thirteen explosions, resulting in the death of thirteen persons and injury to twenty-five persons. The marginal note states— Loss of life and injuries. None of the explosions held to be accidents. It is further stated— The causes of these explosions have been clearly ascertained, and in no case has an explosion been attributed to unavoidable accident. It is also stated— The Chairman pointed out that this explosion was not accidental and that it would not have happened if each furnace had been fitted with a fusible plug, or if the left hand water-gauge had not been shut off, or if both the upper and the lower cocks or right hand water-gauge had been opened and closed in a proper manner for the purpose of ascertaining that both cocks were clear. I submit, in the light of this statement, that if there had been a competent man, qualified to manage the boiler and to look after its technical construction, this explosion would not have happened, and I ask is it unreasonable that some steps should be taken to secure competent men for such work? Another marginal note is— No periodical examination by competent persons. And the reference adds— It may be assumed that these explosions would have been prevented by periodical examinations by competent persons. Then, in five cases of explosion it is stated that— the boilers were worked for periods of 17, 7, 17, 20, and 8 years respectively without proper examination by competent persons. Again it is stated— Many explosions are due to ignorance on the part of owners and users of boilers, ignorance which embraces not only want of knowledge of the properties of a boiler, but of the necessity for having it periodically examined by a competent person. I submit that the appendix contains ample evidence as to the necessity for taking steps for the protection of life and limb, especially around the great works of this country, where the population is becoming more and more congested.

The first section of Clause 6 of this Bill provides that— A person taking charge or control of any boiler or engine to which this Act applies, of five horse-power or upwards, or of any engine to which this Act applies, used for winding workmen or minerals up or down the shaft of a mine, must hold a first-class certificate or a special certificate of service under this Act. Let me ask hon. Gentlemen in this House, if they are in sympathy with anything in the shape of humanity, whether, if they were in a cage going down or coming up a shaft 600 feet deep or more, they would not feel safer in their minds if they knew there was a man at the engine who was thoroughly competent, and had proved his competency by passing an examination. I speak as a miner who has ridden up and down shafts day after day, and I say I should feel far more assured myself if I knew the man at the handle was properly qualified, and every hon. Member would feel the same. It is not a case of a man having charge of a ship, but a man having charge of the winding engines of our collieries. It is no answer to say that the best man who can be found anywhere can be placed at the engines. How about the second class? They are the engineers shunting in our works and factories. All we say with regard to them is that they shall have the testimony of two respectable men—it may be, their employers—to their capacity. Where is the hardship? There is no hardship. I pass by the humour of the hon. Member for Preston. I think there is a large vein in him of Mark Twain in the way in which he sketched out the certificate; but I say this House ought not to form a judgment against this Bill because of a caricature of the certificate. I have said that the Bill will be beneficial to the employers; the hon. Member said it was not beneficial, that the employers now could have the best man to be got. But the real suggestion seems to be that the employers of labour shall have in their hands the power to employ any man they like in these delicate and dangerous positions.

It has been said that it would limit the number of men to be obtained. I say that is against the experience of the country, and, in fact, in direct opposition to it; where an Act has been passed requiring men to be qualified for particular positions, the number of people seeking places is a direct contradiction to any such statement. I have referred to the Mines Act. In that Act there is a provision that men should be examined for "management." Such a thing was not required until the Act was passed, and I say now, coming from a county which, however small geographically, is large from an industrial point of view, that instead of the Act limiting the number of managers there are men enough in the county of Durham, holding certificates and working in the pits, to fill the position in every colliery in the country. If this Bill were to pass tomorrow, and men were forthwith to require certificates, it would in no way limit the number of men who would qualify for the position. Let me point out a matter which is incidental to this question. There is a great deal of talk about educating the working-classes technically, that they may be better instructed in all the matters connected with their business. This is one way to that end. This Bill suggests that those who are connected with boilers should study mathematics. It is an incentive to men to technically educate themselves, and if we once enlarge the state of mind, and lead men into a line of thought, we add to their education and we increase their knowledge.

Now, I want to say to the representative of the Home Office that the right hon. Gentleman is always willing to give what assistance he can, and, in the event of this Bill being passed to-day, we shall be willing for it to go to a Select Committee. The present Home Secretary, when President of the Board of Trade, received a deputation which by some mistake brought this Bill before him instead of another, and he took the opportunity to refer to it. This is what he said— This is not in any shape or form a party question, as is clear by the fact that (though I was not present at the time) the House of Commons has given a sanction to the proposal put forward in your resolutions. And really the only difference, as far as I understand, between the Government and those who promoted the Kill which was read a second time last year, is whether or not this matter required careful consideration by a Committee of the House of Commons, where witnesses can be called. And then he concludes—and I would like the Secretary to the Home Office to follow this— I do not doubt that if such a measure were introduced again, and the Home Secretary might deal with it, one of the conditions would be to investigate the matter of means of a Select Committee. I put that observation of the present Home Secretary before his representative in this House, and I conclude with the hope that the Government will give facilities for the passing of this Bill now, and for sending it to a Select Committee.


I hope the House will allow me to speak a few words upon this subject, which interests me very much, connected, as I am, and have been all my life, with a mining and industrial district. I am not surprised that working men whose lives are exposed to danger every moment of their existence should look to this House to defend them against those dangers. I think the anxiety which they feel has been so fully and ably expressed by the hon. Member who spoke a few moments since that I need not deal with it, but I do not think the House would be acting justly if we were to peremptorily reject a Bill of this class. We have had for many years great anxiety felt as regards the legislation and inspection with regard to boilers. We have a Department which investigates this subject and reports year after year; but notwithstanding the periodical inspection and the annual report, the position of boilers was considered by a Select Committee last year. The arguments which led the House to appoint the Committee are now the considerations which have brought this Bill before the House. I do not think we should be acting justly if we did not allow the Bill to proceed, and I certainly hope that, whatever may be the future condition of the law, the Bill now before us, or any Bill following the same lines, will not apply to the coal mines. I do not think the collieries, which are subject to special legislation, should be subject to ordinary legislation when special Acts are brought in for their case; and although I do not agree with that part of this Bill, I do not think that is a sufficient reason to vote against it. I think the desire of the working men is such that the House cannot reject this Bill. I hope the result of the discussion will be an investigation, not fragmentary and incomplete, as it will be if it relates to boilers alone, but covering the whole ground of engines and boilers. Then we shall have all the facts of the case before us, and then I believe the House will be in a position to pass some legislation that will do justice to the interests of all concerned; which will not be hard upon capitalists, but which will relieve the workmen from that anxiety which they now certainly feel, and which ought to be terminated by the action of the House of Commons.

*MR. EMMOTT (Oldham)

I have pledged myself to support the Second Reading of this Bill, because I was told it was required to prevent accidents which occur in winding men up and down colliery shafts. That was the reason that was given to me, and I shall vote for it with pleasure, because I desire to see the matter referred to a Select Committee. At the same time, having looked more carefully into this Bill since I pledged myself to support it, I may say it appears to me to cover a much wider ground than those who support it laid before the House. The hon. Member for Mid Derby, who moved the Second Reading, referred especially to mines, and the hon. Member for Mid Durham to engines and boilers, but neither made out any case in respect of the accidents that occur at the present time. Neither did they differentiate between engines and boilers, although we have had, under the Boilers Explosions Acts full records of boiler accidents for many years. The Select Committee which met to consider this subject on the 14th May, 1895, passed a resolution that no evidence should be taken in this Committee as to agricultural engines, locomotives, and steamship engines. Having excluded these they next came to the conclusion that there was no use calling evidence at all on the Bill. Such a Bill has never been considered by a Committee, and I desire that the subject should be considered by a Committee. The intention of this Bill is to preserve life and prevent accident among miners, but its general effect will be to make a specially-favoured, class of engineers and boiler hands in every trade. Having looked carefully into this Bill, I believe it is not required except in the case of collieries. I believe in that direction there is reason for greater care being exercised in winding, and that some of the labour is not sufficiently well paid in that department. That is a matter that might well be discussed and considered by a Select Committee. This Bill applies to steam-engines, and boilers, and with regard to engineers I certainly think some figures ought to be laid before the House before we pass a law which will affect the 100,000 or more engineers who are running engines in this country.

With regard to boilers, we discussed the matter last year, and it was found that the class of accidents which might be prevented if this Bill becomes law came for the most part under three categories—through the safety-valves being over weighted, or screwed down; through the pressure gauge being inaccurate, or stopped up; and through deficiency of water. With regard to the third, deficiency of water, I do not believe there is a boiler attendant in the country, however incompetent he may be, who does not know it is dangerous to have a deficiency of water. Only part of these explosions arise from a want of technical knowledge upon the part of the engineer; the rest are due to carelesness, neglect, or some mistake on the part of the attendant. Now I wish to make that point good, and I have analysed the returns of the explosions for the last three years. There are only fifty altogether which can be said to be due in any sense to mistakes, carelessness, or neglect of the attendant; fifty accidents, causing forty-two deaths and eighty-eight injuries. Of course that is an appalling number, and the House would be glad to see it remedied. There were three of them which caused most fatalities and did most damage. In those three explosions there were twenty-two deaths and thirty-three injuries. Those three explosions were not one of them due to anything that this Bill would rectify in any degree, though some of them were caused by want of attention on the part of the attendant. In one case, No. 1,173, where ten lives were lost and twenty-three people were injured, the explosion was caused through the safety-valve being screwed down, and the Report of the Board of Trade says that the man who screwed it down was qualified as a fitter for this kind of work. So that the explosion was not caused by any want of technical knowledge on the part of the man whose action clearly led to the explosion. No. 1204 was an explosion which occurred at Sheffield. It was due to the attendant being misled owing to the water gauge being choked up, and was not due to ignorance. What I wish to point out is that the most serious explosions which took place in these last five years have all been caused, not by want of technical knowledge on the part of the attendants, but by some carelessness or mistake or misapprehension, and that this Bill would not do away with mistakes and miscalculations and carelessness. Faults of that kind depend far more on the character of the men than upon the technical training which they may have received. If this Bill were to become law the definition of a boiler would make it apply to every chapel or school or building which had a boiler—I am, of course, speaking of a 101b.-pressure boiler; I do not mean a mere heating boiler—and I think that is a somewhat serious matter. Then, again, the engines to which it is to apply are only engines worked by steam, the result of which would be the greater use about coalmines of gas-engines, which might be attended with quite as much danger as steam-engines in the matter of winding.

The omissions from this Bill are also very extraordinary. Why should agricultural boilers and boilers used for farm purposes be excluded? That is a class of boiler which certainly ought to be brought within the scope of this Bill. Nor do I see why railway engines should be excluded, and if this Bill is to be passed I do not think they should be excluded. Altogether, I think there are serious objections to the Bill as it stands, but in regard to those objections I think they would be better considered when this Bill goes before a Select Committee. I shall therefore vote for the Second Reading of this Bill.


said the lucid and powerful advocacy of the hon. Member for Oldham would have bad more weight if the foundation upon which his speech rested had been more accurately laid. The hon. Gentleman had stated that the Bill, if passed, would cover such a wide range of boilers as to include those used in chapels and churches and public buildings.


said he particularly said he did not refer to heating boilers. He had said boilers of 101b. steam pressure.


said the hon. Gentleman certainly conveyed to him the impression that it would include boilers for heating purposes; and he was glad to hear the hon. Gentle man's correction. He quite agreed that there were too many omissions from the Bill; the boilers, for instance, which were most likely to explode were agricultural boilers used in the farmyard. His principal object in rising, however, was to call attention to the penalty which existed as regarded certificates. It was a fact, which those who were acquainted with or had anything to do with shipping would recognise, that no steamship went to sea that was not in charge of one or more men who had a technical knowledge how to deal with the engines safely, and who held certificates, and he did not see why the principle of requiring persons in charge of boilers to hold certificates should not be extended to engines and boilers on land as well as at sea. Objection had been made as to the difficulty of holding examinations, but he believed the difficulty might easily be got over. At the present moment the responsibility rested on the employer that the man whom he selected should be capable, and if he made a mistake, and selected the wrong man, the burden lay upon him. If, on the other hand, examinations were held and certificates granted, the employers would be benefited to the extent that if they selected a man with a certificate the responsibility for that man's incompetence would rest upon the Government and not on the employers. It had been suggested that this was an idea to raise the wages, and done entirely in the interests of one class of employees, and that if the Bill passed there would not be a sufficiency of men; but that was not so. At the present time there was a sufficiency of men for any situation that offered, and there was no difficulty whatever. The hon. Member for Wigan had in his very valuable speech stated that it was only reasonable that men, anxious for their lives and limbs, should have this Bill fairly considered. He desired to point out to the House that it was not only the men who were driving the boilers who were in danger—the range was far wider than that, and it was in the wider interest of the general public, who were often injured in these explosions, that he supported the Bill.

MR. CHARLES M'ARTHUR (Liverpool, Exchange)

said he would like to ask a question of the promoters of the Bill. He gathered that it was intended that the scope of the Bill should be confined to land employment and should have no application to merchant shipping.


said it was the intention of the promoters that merchant shipping should be excepted from the Bill.


said that as one who had something to do with a similar Bill which passed its Second Reading by a great majority in 1895, he desired to offer a few remarks on the present occasion. This Bill did not in any way affect the employers; it was a progressive measure, and the idea was to get a more enlightened and better class of man—a more scientific class of man—to handle and work the engines and boilers. As an employer of men who attended to engines and boilers, nothing would give him greater satisfaction than to know that every one of them had certificates. He could not conceive why the mover and seconder of the rejection of the Bill should have taken up the position they had. They appeared to think the Bill was going to prejudice a class. He was old enough to remember the opposition that arose upon the certifying of steamship engineers. There was the usual bogey and the usual dream, but a better class of men were obtained to look after the ships, men who knew what an engine and a boiler was, men who could do the calculations of horse powers and consumption of fuel, and he was surprised to see employers of labour now standing up against that principle. It was against the spirit of the age that there should be employers of labour afraid to raise the standard of their men. The apprentices in his shops were attending the technical schools at night, for the purpose of obtaining certificates for engineering, and becoming better men, better engineers, and better citizens, and becoming of more value to the nation. They wanted to produce a better class of men for the management of their boilers and engines, and no opposition whatever ought to be offered in that House to any Bill which was calculated to give the working classes higher hopes and aspirations, and a better technical knowledge of the work in which they were engaged. He would go even further. He would not have a man standing on the footboard of a locomotive who was not certificated. He knew many drivers in his own constituency, and hon. Members would be surprised if they were told of the attainments of these men, acquired through attending night and technical classes. Many men now running mail trains had a surprising knowledge of mathematics and engineering. They were the men who could be depended upon to run trains at sixty or seventy miles an hour; they were steady, and knew every part of the engine. Now this was a Bill to raise the status of working men in the country. We were always being told that Germany was far in advance of us in technical knowledge and education. He believed that that was true, for he had had examples of it in his own works. In face of that fact ought they to oppose the passing of a Bill which meant practically raising the status of this particular class of men? They could not do without these men. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the rejection of the Bill was an employer of labour in the north of England. Would he not be better satisfied if he knew that every engine-man in his works held a certificate of competency?


I should certainly not be more satisfied because the engineers held the certificate of the Secretary of State for the Home Department than if employers were left free to make their own selection.

MR. WILLIAM ALLAN, continuing

, said five or six years had elapsed since a Bill of this nature was before the House. He recommended its adoption in the interests of the safety of human life, and that argument was justified by the startling figures he held in his hand in regard to explosions and their results, since the subject was last debated. In 1894–5 there were 114 explosions, causing death or injury to 112 persons; in 1896–7 the numbers were 80 and 102 respectively; in 1898–9, 68 and 103, and in 1899–1900, 59 and 89. Bearing in mind these figures, there ought surely not to be a word of opposition in any shape or form to the Second Reading of the Bill. He sincerely hoped that the right hon. Gentleman who represented the Home Office would show the greatness of his sympathy by recommending that the Bill be sent to a Select Committee, where its details could be thoroughly examined, and any small defects swept away. The Bill could then be passed into law for the benefit of humanity.

MR. SCOTT-MONTAGU (Hampshire, New Forest)

, asked the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill if the promoters were willing to exclude steam motor-cars from its operation, seeing that they were now very largely used in this country.


In reply to the hon. Gentleman, I desire to say that we are quite prepared to exclude steam motor-cars from the Bill.


I am glad to hear that, and have no more to say.

MR.URE (Linlithgowshire)

said the concessions so readily made by the promoters of the Bill appeared to have disarmed all criticism. No one could have listened to the debate without having the fact brought home to his mind that the objections put forward might have had great force before a Select Committee, but had no value whatever as directed against the principle of the Bill. What was that principle? It was that Parliament should take additional precautions to ensure the competency and efficiency of the men in charge of the engines and boilers in our great factories and mines. He admitted that there was a precaution already in existence which was outside the range of Parliamentary action, and that was due to the self-interest and feeling of the employer. It was never to his interest to employ an incompetent or inefficient man. But if that argument were advanced in opposition to the Bill, there was a fatal answer which could be made to it. It proved too much. It was put forward with great force when the Mines Act was being debated, and when they were asked to ensure the safety of working men by insisting that the manager of the mine should be a certificated man. The objection was urged too when they were pasing the Merchant Shipping Act, which prescribed that precautions should be taken to ensure that those in charge of ships and marine engine boilers should hold certificates of efficiency. But every argument of that kind proved too much, and was therefore valueless. It was true that a certificate from the Home Office would not necessarily secure efficiency and sufficiency all round. It must be conceded that no examination would ensure, for example, that a man's nerves would be steady in an emergency, and that he would be gifted with fertility of resource at such a time. But they could by means of examination and certificates ensure that a man had the requisite technical knowledge, and that he had proved to the Department his possession of such physical ability, experience, and character as justified his being placed in charge of an engine or boiler in a mine or in a large factory.

A most extraordinary line of argument was taken by the hon. Members who moved and seconded the rejection of the Bill. They complained of its limited application and narrow scope. If that were really their main objection to it, why not let it go to a Select Committee, which could, if it chose, enlarge that scope? The very object in sending the measure to a Select Committee was to enable evidence to be taken which would instruct them as to what were the proper limits and scope of such a Bill. He was strongly in favour of the measure being made applicable to engines in mines. One hon. Member opposite had suggested that a Bill of this kind was not required in the case of mines, because the Mines Regulation Act and the Special Rules already gave quite sufficient protection. But he was familiar with the Mines Regulation Act and Special Rules, and he ventured to say that there was no provision either in the Act or in the Rules which struck at the mischief this Bill was intended to remedy. Hon. Members had taken objection to the Bill because it did not include domestic and agricultural engines and boilers. But if the measure were sent to a Select Committee the opportunity, as he had said before, would be afforded of either striking out objectional provisions or enlarging the scope of the measure. He took it that the promoters of the Bill, knowing the feeling of the House, had decided not to be too ambitious. They had followed the line of least resistance, and had adopted the course which experience suggested was the only one likely to lead to a successful issue of the Bill. But he had not the slightest doubt that they would lend a willing ear to any proposal from hon. Members on either side of the House to enlarge the scope of their measure. The hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection of the Bill laid great stress upon, and indeed made merry with regard to, the proposal for a Second-Class Certificate. Now, he was not in love with the Second-Class Certificate himself. But what was that certificate? It was to be given only to those who were in charge of very modest engines and boilers, engines of less than five horsepower, and boilers of something less than ten pounds pressure. It was quite possible there had not been any serious accidents in connection with engines and boilers of that kind, and, therefore, they might well sweep away that particular provision without touching the principle of the Bill, and without in the least degree impairing its efficiency. Since the speech of the hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill, they had not had even a hint of objection to the principle of the measure, and he would therefore appeal to the House to allow it to go to a Second Beading with a view to its being considered by a Select Committee. He represented a mining constituency, and he had not heard a single word from a single miner there in opposition to the Bill. He had had on the contrary numerous communications and urgent messages from miners in favour of it. He was not amazed that they unanimously supported it, in view of their personal acquaintance with the terrible responsibility which rested upon those who were put in charge of the engines and boilers in our great mining enterprises. They naturally were anxious that the House should do all it could to mitigate the terrible results which followed from incompetent and inefficient men being placed in charge of engines and boilers. There were many instances in which such terrible results had followed. [AN HON. MEMBER: Name them.] A Second Reading debate was not the proper time for quoting statistics, but if the hon. Member who had interrupted him would assist in sending the Bill to a Select Committee, he could promise him plenty of figures to justify the statement he had made.

COLONEL PILKINGTON (Lancashire, Newton)

said he had listened with very-great interest to the discussion, and he had also listened in vain for any argument which proved the necessity for passing the measure. He wished to allude to the many exemptions which were being made from the operation of the Bill. The locomotive engine of the railway company was to be exempted from inspection. The hon. Member for Gateshead had spoken in terms of very high praise of the drivers of these locomotive engines, but the engines were not to be brought under the Bill, although the Member for Oldham had, as he thought, conclusively shown that if any class of engine ought to be subjected to examination it was the locomotive boiler. Then the domestic-boiler was to be left out. There was no inspection of that now, and one would have thought that in bringing a measure of this sort before Parliament the promoters would have suggested an inspection of boilers which at the present time escape it. Then there was the case of the agricultural boiler. He had the honour of sitting on the Committee on Boilers, and he thought it was pretty generally admitted that if there was any boiler which ought to be inspected it was the agricultural boiler. Yet it was not to be brought under this Bill! Exception was also to be made in the case of road traction engines and steam-rollers. His hon. friend the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool asked for the exemption of merchant shipping, and that was conceded almost before he had concluded his remarks. Another hon. friend asked for the exclusion of motor-cars from the Bill, and was at once assured that they would not be brought under its operation, although if anything was a source of danger it surely was the motorcar, which went flying about the roads and was as liable to explode and kill people as any other piece of machinery. What was to be inspected under the Bill The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading was a very fair man, and was thoroughly respected on both sides of the House. He spoke, however, as if the present inspection of mines and factories was of a casual nature, and was not thoroughly done. But the House well knew that the inspection of boilers and engines and plant in mines throughout the country was of a most searching character; indeed the Committee who sat on Boilers stated in their Report that the boilers belonging to mine-owners of this country were already sufficiently inspected. Again, so far as factories were concerned, there was a whole army of most efficient inspectors, whose powers had been increased year by year. The Bill was, in fact, brought in to secure the inspection of boilers and engines which were already inspected up to the hilt, while it failed to deal with those engines and boilers which were at present subjected to no inspection, and were, consequently, a source of danger. He submitted that no case had been made out for the Bill, or for sending it to a Select Committee. He did not believe that small Bills of this sort wore in the best interests of the country, of working-men, or of owners of mines and factories. The Government, as it had done in the past, should undertake legislation of this nature, and he hoped, therefore, that the House would not read the Bill a second time.

*MR. NORVALW. HELME (Lancashire, Lancaster)

said he thought they were all agreed that the underlying principle of the Bill was to protect the lives and limbs of persons engaged in places or living near where boilers and engines were used, and he held therefore they ought to send it to a Select Committee, so that it might be examined in all its aspects. It seemed, on the face of it, to be a Bill specially needed in regard to mines and to factories, and he was satisfied that the owners of these industrial undertakings would not take exception to the provision, seeing that in places where boilers and engines of great power were required those, now placed in charge of them would be competent to pass such can examination as was indicated in the Bill. One of the main objects of the Bill was, however, to deal with those smaller concerns in which the necessary ability on the part of engine and boiler hands had not hitherto been secured. It appeared to him that the Bill should go a step further, and render compulsory the inspection of all boilers. This was especially necessary in the case of boilers worked at high pressure. It was known that small employers often bought second-hand ones, and it was the inspection of these and old boilers that was specially desirable in the interest of public safety. There were a large number of cases in which engines were used in works in the north—in bleaching, dyeing and finishing, and printing and other industries—and it had been the custom in recent years to introduce machinery to which small engines were attached, so that the man in charge had only to turn the steam off and on when he needed it, instead of keeping the whole works under steam power when it was not needed. These were cases which showed that enquiry as to the exact wording of the clauses dealing with the number to be overlooked by one man, and he therefore hoped the Bill would be sent to a Select Committee. Thanks to the development of patent feeders, mechanical stoking was now largely resorted to, and to meet present-day requirements it would be sufficient to insist that a competent engineer should be placed at the head, in responsible charge, whilst the requisite number of labourers would do the mere manual work of wheeling the coal. He did not like a system of second-class certificates.


I can assure my hon. friend who introduced this Bill that the Government yield to no one in their desire and anxiety to support any measure that would have the effect of improving the means of saving life. But we are bound carefully to examine the details of any Bill brought forward with that object. The hon. Member and those who followed him spoke of the Bill as being mainly a miners' Bill. If the Bill had been confined to winding engines it would have been a very different matter. But it goes much further than that; it covers an area which I think very few hon. Members realise. It takes in—with the exceptions which have already been pointed out by several speakers—all the boilers and engines of the United Kingdom, prob ably 200,000 or more in number, and it would require the formation of a force of 300,000 certificated men to deal with them. This force has very fairly been described as a privileged class. That is the scope of the Bill as it stands, and it is a very curious fact, which I gathered in listening to the debate, that there is not a single feature of the Bill which has not been opposed by one or other of the supporters of it. The whole debate has shown that there is a great diversity of opinion even among the supporters of the measure. On the point as to what is the principle of the Bill, even they are not agreed. The Bill changes the principle on which we have hitherto gone, that principle being to cast the whole responsibility on the steam user or owner. That has been the principle acted upon in the past, and I think it is the very best principle. At present the responsibility rests upon the employer, but if you compel him only to employ a certificated man you at once shift the responsibility to the Government. Does any Member of the House wish that to be done? I think it would be a very bad thing for the working man if such a principle were adopted. This change has been repudiated by several Committees which have sat to consider the matter. There was a Committee in 1870–1871, the leading point in whose Report was that steam users should not be relieved of any responsibility, but that they should be left free to choose the best men they can obtain to look after their engines and boilers, it being felt that they would have the best knowledge of the character of the men they selected. The Committee which sat last year drove home that recommendation in their Report. They said it was of the greatest importance to maintain the responsibility of the owners of the boilers for their safety, and they did not recommend any further legislation with regard to mines, because they thought that they were already sufficiently provided for. The Committee, however, did recommend that there should be a periodical inspection and general examination of boilers, the want of which they held, and held rightly, are the main causes of accident.

Although, if this Bill were passed, it would cause an enormous amount of inconvenience to the employer of labour, by preventing him selecting, the man whom he believed to be most fit, the Government will not stand in its way, provided it can be shown that by its passing there is any prospect of securing a diminution in the number of accidents. The House is aware that every explosion which occurs in the United Kingdom has to be reported within twenty-four hours to the Board of Trade. Last year fifty-nine explosions were so reported, and all were inquired into. In some cases only a preliminary inquiry was needed, but in others there was a regular commission of inquiry, with full powers to call for Papers and to take evidence on oath. I have referred to the inconvenience likely to be caused to manufacturers. It is quite true that there is an emergency clause, but I think the hon. Member rather avoided dealing with that, and it struck me that if a strike were not declared an emergency, the whole trade of the country might be brought to a standstill within one hour. The hon. Member also referred to four or five explosions, but I venture to assert that not one of these he quoted would have been prevented if this Bill had been the law of the land.

MR. JOHN WILSON (Durham, Mid)

I have sent away my Papers. Will the right hon. Gentleman kindly name the cases he refers to.?


Let me say at once that I am not speaking in opposition to the object of the Bill. I am only showing that it will not, as framed, secure the object aimed at. We all agree that that object should, if possible, be attained. Now I come to the cases cited by the hon. Member. The first is overheating and want of attention to the water gauge. The next is over-heating with shortness of water, the attendant being probably deceived by the water gauge.


Would not that be want of skill on the part of the man, if he could not tell by the gauge the amount of water?


Overheating through shortness of water—surely, that was a case of neglect, not want of knowledge. Last year the Government acknowledged, or said, that this want of inspection was the reason for these acci dents. It is the cause of nearly all the fifty-nine. They insisted on periodical and thorough inspection, and therefore I must refer hon. Members to Clause 19 of the Factories Inspection Bill recently introduced, which if it becomes law will provide a measure which will not only cover every one of the cases I have named, but prevent or be one of the best means of preventing every accident of a similar nature. I should not perhaps be in order ill doing more than to refer hon. Gentlemen to that clause.


The right hon. Member would be quite in order in reading the clause with the view of showing that it covers the ground taken by the Bill.


I am much obliged. It is shown that all these accidents occur from want of inspection or the water gauge being out of order, and Clause 19 of the Factories Inspection Bill makes provision for proper safety valves, steam and water gauges, and for periodical inspection, internal and external, of all steam boilers in factories and workshops. The inspector is not to examine, but he is to be responsible for seeing that these precautions are carried out. I think hon. Members will admit that that is a great advance, and will do away with accidents which are shown to be mainly the result of neglecting precautions, which will, if this Factories Bill passes, be enforced by law with severe penalties for neglecting them. So the Government cannot be accused of being lax in this matter. This does not include mines, the Report of the Select Committee whose recommendations have been adopted being that they thought mines sufficiently dealt with. My hon. friend knows that mine owners are compelled to appoint a competent person, and there is a compulsion clause in the Mines Act of 1897 which enforces heavy penalties if rules are not carried out. These points taken together render its application to mines unnecessary. The Member for Oldham, while supporting the Second Reading, seemed to me to show most conclusively that the whole Bill would be ineffective. I say it is a revolutionary measure effecting a change of principle. It takes all these responsibilities from the steam user, and practically places them on the Government, because the House must bear in mind that the result of these inquiries which are instituted in the case of every accident is the imposition of a penalty more or less heavy upon the employer, even though he can show he is not personally responsible. If there is evidence of neglect or want of attention, if he was fined, would not he have a right to say, "You have prevented me selecting the best man for this employment, a man whom I knew to be careful and sober, and who had a level head, and you compelled me to get a certificated man whom I did not know." The question is whether we should not lessen the undoubted responsibility which now rests on the owner. I agree with all my hon. friend has said as to the accidents being reduced to the lowest possible number, but I am not prepared to say that he has conclusively shown, that they will be. It appears the promoter of the Bill is going to exclude from its operations the explosions on ships. If he does that twenty-five out of the fifty-nine explosions would be left untouched, and if he takes away much more there will not be anything left. By my statement I hope it will be understood that I am most desirous of promoting anything which is calculated to effect the end in view. The one point I wish to impress upon the House is that the provisions of the new Factories Inspection Bill do meet, will meet the majority, if not the whole, of the cases of accident. I must just say one word as to the examination for certificates. The Bill does not say what the Secretary of State has to do—what form the examination is to take, or what the cost of it is to be, or where it is to take place—and I must protest against the imposing on the Secretary of State the granting of a certificate upon, the recommendation of two men. Nothing would be more likely to get an unsatisfactory class of men than that. I think this Bill should be, most safely guarded. Under these circumstances the Government will not oppose the Bill.


What about the Select Committee?


The Government will not oppose it. They are ready to meet the House as far as threshing this matter out, and no doubt the Committee will deal with this Bill in a far more satisfactory manner than a Committee of this House.

MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

said that the right hon. Gentleman had kept the House in expectation during the whole of his speech, and had now said the Government would not oppose the Bill. He congratulated the Government on the progress they had made since 1897, seeing that they had advanced to the extent of not opposing the measure; but he was rather surprised, having regard to the tone of the right hon. Gentleman's criticism, that he had arrived at the conclusion he had. The Bill was first brought forward in 1895, and the Second Reading was carried without a division. It came up again in 1897, and, in spite of the attitude of the Government, was carried by a large majority. It had since been demanded by an increasing number of those most affected, and whose lives were imperilled by the neglect of those who managed boilers, and the men employed in mines, who suffered from a want of care on the part of those at the winding engines. The demand had become so pressing that a deputation had two years previously waited upon the present Home Secretary, and he could not refuse a Commission. All the criticisms which had been heard to-night were criticisms directed to the details of the Bill, and particularly to the omission of certain kinds of engines and boilers used in certain employments, which might have been included—although if they had been included he was not prepared to say how much the House would have heard of persons who were in possession of motor cars and agricultural engines—or criticisms like that of the Under Secretary for Home Affairs, which might have equally been directed against the Factory Acts, and the Mining Acts, and the Merchant Shipping Acts, as against the Bill before the House.


said he had laid great stress on the fact that the Government, by their clause in the Factory Bill, had gone in the direction which the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think he was deprecating.


said he thought the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman was inconsistent with the provision in the Factory Bill. This Bill would not relieve the employer of responsibility, but would greatly increase the number of competent and qualified men, and would be a stimulus to the men to improve their education. He was glad that the Government had arrived at the decision not to oppose the Bill. He hoped the Bill would be read a second time without a division, and would be at once referred to a Select Committee.

SIR ALFRED HICKMAN (Wolverhampton, W.)

said lie would not oppose an inquiry which might lead to something which would lessen the risk to the lives and limbs of the workmen, and he would support the proposal to refer this Bill to a Select Committee.

MR. HELDER (Whitehaven)

said his name was on the back of the Bill, and be looked upon it very much as a registration Bill for those in charge of engines and boilers. There were two classes who would be affected by it, those at present in charge of the engines and boilers and those who would come after them. With regard to those in charge at present, where they had attended to their business well they should be allowed certificates without examination. With regard to the others, who came afterwards, he believed with the march of education they would be able to obtain the certificates required when it became known that they would be required, and so become much more useful members of society.


said though he bad not changed his opinion he did not wish to stand in the way of an inquiry before a Select Committee. He therefore asked leave to withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment by leave withdrawn.

Bill read a second time, and committed to a Select Committee.