(7.15.) CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)
rose "To call attention to the excessive hours worked by railway men and other disabilities they suffer; and to move that in the opinion of this House, the Government should exercise their power to call for Returns of the hours exceeding twelve per day worked by railway servants, and of cases where work is resumed with intervals of less than nine hours." He desired to draw attention to the wording of this Resolution. He moved it in this form because he was given to understand by his hon. friend the Member for Derby that he had had the assurance of the Board of Trade that he was not armed with powers to deal—
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. GERALD BALFOUR, Leeds, Central) (interrupting)
said that there had been a mistake in this matter. The Board of Trade had power to deal with the subject under the Act of 1889.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
said that was just the point which he was about to bring before the House, namely, that the 1084 Motion was moved in this form through an error. On investigating the matter, it had been found, as the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade said, that by the Act of 1889 the right hon. Gentleman had the power. He (Captain Norton) had therefore thought that he should move the Motion in this form—"after the word 'should' instead of the words 'be armed' insert the words 'to exercise the," because it was quite clear that if the right hon. Gentleman had power—and personally he (Captain Norton) maintained that he had, and the right hon. Gentleman himself now agreed with it—he had not fully exercised it. He would not attempt to enter upon the general question as to the advisability of limiting the hours of labour for railway servants further than to repeat what he had stated in previous debates in the House, viz., that the question, first of all, of limiting the working hours of adult males was acknowledged on all hands to be one that it was the duty of the Government to deal with. In this particular class of labour—he would not say when they were dealing with a monopoly, for be preferred not to use that word—when they were dealing with great corporations responsible for the welfare and health of 400,000 employees over a system of fifty railways, and responsible also for the lives of hundreds of thousands of passengers yearly, there could be no doubt whatever that it was well within the duty of the House to limit the hours of labour of those employees to any extent that was necessary for the safety and well-being not only of the employees themselves, but also of the passengers. A. Question was put by the hon. Member for Derby on the 21st January, to the President of the Board of Trade, and that Question practically embodied the whole case which they desired to lay before the House. In his Question the hon. Member pointed out that what were known as "the running staff," namely the drivers, firemen, and guards of certain trains, and more especially of goods and mineral trains on various railways throughout, were frequently working hours ranging from between fourteen and twenty and upwards at stretches, with intervals of only from three to six hours off together. The 1085 reply which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade gave the hon. Member for Derby was as follows—The Government have no evidence before them that the facts are as stated by the hon. Member.He (Captain Norton) would not attempt to place that evidence of facts before the right hon. Gentleman, because he was sure it would be fully placed before him by the hon. Member for Derby in a manner more convincing. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say, referring to the Act of 1893—But I must remind the hon. Member that the Act pre-supposes specific representation in each case or class of cases.A week later—on the 27th January—the right hon. Gentleman put a further Question. He asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he was aware that during the ten weeks ending the 21st January no less than forty-one separate and distinct representations were made by him to the right hon. Gentleman, and that in 125 cases the stretch of duty ranged from fourteen hours to thirty hours. The reply of the right hon. Gentleman was that the Board of Trade had received the representations referred to by the hon. Member, and were dealing with them. But the right hon. Gentleman exonerated himself by saying that the representations concerned in all only eleven companies — that fifteen of them were from one Scotch Company, five from another Scotch Company, and only one from an English Company. In other words the excuse of the right hon. Gentleman for not dealing with the Question was that the defaulters in those cases were limited to three particular railways. One would have thought that that was a great reason why the right hon. Gentleman should deal with the matter.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
That was a reason not for not dealing with it, but for not applying to all the railway companies generally for the Return for which the hon. Gentleman asked.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
pointed out that the reason for asking for these Returns was not so much that they might be furnished by the railway companies, as to bring the matter before the public—to call public attention to the fact that the railways 1086 were failing in their duty—in order that pressure might be brought to bear upon those of them who failed to do their duty. There was one special reason why he had taken up this case — which properly belonged to the hon. Member for Derby—and that reason was that there was no one who attached so much importance to discipline as he (Captain Norton). He knew how necessary it was where large bodies of men were employed on various kinds of duty, and where matters could not be regulated with the case that they could be regulated in factories and workshops, that discipline should be maintained. The railway servants themselves throughout the Kingdom had shown a marked unwillingness and disinclination to bring serious complaints before the Select Committee in 1892. Major Marindin made it quite clear that the tendency on the part of the men was to be absolutely uncomplaining, and when asked as to whether they did their turns on duty cheerfully and uncomplainingly, Major Marindin answered, "Yes, I think so." There was scarcely any necessity to place the evil of long hours before the House. It had been proved over and over again, and in many cases of bad accidents it had been shown that they were due to men having been on duty for an undue length of time. Everybody knew that when a man was over-worked, and his nervous system was over-strung, a complete lapse of memory was likely to ensue. It was not unnatural for a man who had been in a box for nine or ten hours to suffer from complete lapse of memory. Major Marindin, putting it at its lowest point, declared that these long hours on the part of the men were bad economy. The hon. Member for Derby would prove that there had been practically very little improvement through the whole railway system since the Royal Commission sat. The Report went on to say—It involved, as they knew, very serious risks. As a matter of fact, out of 257 inquiries which took place in four years the number of occasions on which attention was called to long hours was no fewer than forty-seven. The number of cases in which the men had been at fault was found to be eighteen, whereas the accidents attributable to the working of long hours by the men were nine.So far as the safety of the public was concerned, the diminution of the hours would give them security. He fully 1087 admitted the difficulty in which the railway companies were placed, and for that reason he did not suggest that the hours of all railway servants should be limited to a fixed time. In his opinion, such a thing as that was impossible, owing to the variety of duty which the men were called upon to perform, and the difference between "the running staff"—as it was called—and what might be termed the stationary staff. It had also been suggested that there should be a classification of signal boxes, but he thought such a thing as that was scarcely possible, and everybody knew perfectly well that men would rather be on duty in certain signal boxes for twelve or fourteen hours than put in six hours in other boxes. He did not approach this question so much from the point of view of the men as from the point of view of causing as little friction to the managers of the railway companies as possible; secondly, causing diminution and liability to accidents affecting passengers; and thirdly, diminution in the number of accidents occurring to drivers, shunters, guards, and other servants of the railways. He did not, therefore, take a one-sided view of the matter. But he found that many cases of accident arose from long hours, and that no sufficient effort had been made by the companies to bring about an alteration. He might use the same words with regard to the Board of Trade, and say that no sufficient effort had been made by them to exercise their influence and control over the railway companies with regard to this matter. The companies might do very much more than they did to rectify the evil. He was not one of those who would like to see the Board of Trade take over the management of the railways of this country, because he thought that that would be unworkable. He only suggested that they should use the influence they undoubtedly possessed to bring pressure to bear on the defaulting railway companies to make them reach the standard to which certain great railways had arrived. The Select Committee of 1892, in dealing with this question, said—Your Committee think that, in the interest of safety, this practice should, as far as possible, be diminished, so that each day should stand by itself, and that the arrangements of the com- 1088 pany should be so framed as to prevent the booked time of drivers, firemen, and guards from exceeding sixty-six hours per week or twelve hours in any one day.That was a very good statement against those who were for making the hours of labour for drivers, firemen, railway guards, and so forth, a fixed number of hours; but it must be remembered that the drivers of what were called shunting trains, which carried goods and left them at various stations, had a far easier time than men who took express trains down the main line. These men did not themselves object to take an excursion down the line, say to Brighton, in a day of twelve hours, because, during a great deal of that time, though they were available for duty, they were not actually engaged, and were, therefore, resting. But with regard to those who were put to too great a strain, those cases the right hon. Gentleman must deal with under the powers which he possessed.
He would like, next, to draw attention to the Resolution which was unanimously adopted at the Executive Meeting of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, which represented 400,000 railway people who worked throughout the country. It was to the effect that the law should be altered so as to allow the Board of Trade Inspctoers to make inquiries and report the result without having the names of the men affected divulged. That was only fair, because of the immense pressure which could be brought to bear by employers upon employees. Attempts had been made in other countries to limit the hours of railway servants. In Switzerland, for instance, it had been done with comparative success, and by an Act of 1890, it was set forth that the hours should not exceed twelve, and that with certain exceptions the runningstaff should have an uninterrupted rest of ten hours. It was also provided that there should be fifty-two holidays in the year, seventeen of which were to be Sundays. He did not refer to either Belgium or Germany, because in both those countries the majority of the railways were under State management, but in France the Minister for Public Works had power to act and compel the railways in this matter. They had also rules limiting 1089 the number of hours on a certain number of days of the locomotive men. In 1897 there was an attempt made in the French Parliament still further to strengthen those Acts in the way of limiting the hours of railway servants. Everything went to show that the President of the Board of Trade had at present ample powers to deal with these questions, and it was manifestly his duty to use those powers to a greater extent than they had been used in the past.
There was one other matter to which he should like to draw the attention of the House. There was a tendencyion the part of employers—and railway companies, large corporations as they were, were no exception — to exercise over their servants a certain power which they had no legal right to exercise, by which those employees were interfered with in the enjoyment of their rights as citizens. No doubt that would be denied by those who were interested in or controlled the great railway companies. He was not going to say that it was the rule, but that certain railway companies did exert such a power could not be denied. There was the comparatively recent case, in connection with the Great Eastern Railway, of the stationmaster at Swaffham being censured for signing a petition in favour of the School Board. Surely if there was one thing in connection with public life in regard to which every individual in the country ought to have a perfect right to exercise his discretion, it was that of the education of his child. Yet this man, because he favoured a Board School—perhaps on religious grounds—
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
I think it bears on the Motion in this way, Sir—To call attention to the excessive hours worked by railway men, and other disabilities they suffer.I was about to deal with one of the other disabilities, viz., that of being deprived of the right to exercise the privileges of citizenship.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The words quoted by the hon. Member do not appear in the Notice of Motion. They simply state 1090 the matters to which the hon. Member originally desired to call attention, and he then proceeds to formulate his Motion. The discussion must be confined to the terms of the Motion which the hon. Member put down.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
In that case, Sir, I have concluded my remarks, my contention being that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has full power to exert influence over all railway companies throughout the country in the direction of not unduly working their employees, but that he has not exerted that power to its full extent.
§ *(8.37.) MR. BELL (Derby)
I rise to second the Motion moved by my hon. friend, and I do so in order that I may be able to present to this House sufficient facts in connection with the hours worked by railway men to form what the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, in reply to a Question put to him by me on the 21st January, referred to as a prima facie case to enable him to ask the railway companies for a Return of the hours of all their men. My hon. friend who opened the discussion has referred to that, and I will not follow him upon it; indeed, I do not propose to occupy the attention of the House on this subject any longer than necessary to set forth clearly and distinctly the very excessive hours that railway men are called on to endure in following the responsible avocation of engine-drivers, firemen, goods-guards, and brakesmen on the whole of our railways. I have in my possession particulars of a very large number of eases—more than I propose to burden the House with, but they are at the disposal of any hon. Members who may desire to see them. If hon. Members wish to have the particulars, of course I can give as many as they desire, but I have summarised, as far as it is possible for me to do so, the number of cases in each instance in which I have made a representation to the Board of Trade under the Hours Act of 1893, and I have classified them so as to set forth the number in each case appertaining to the different and particular railways. And I venture to suggest. Sir, that I shall prove conclusively to this House that the hours worked today on our railways are 1091 as bad as they were during the years 1890 and 1891, when Parliament considered the subject so grave and important that it ordered a Royal Commission to inquire into it. That Commission sat for two years inquiring into the hours worked by railway men. As a result of that inquiry, and the Act which followed in 1893 (which was based upon the recommendations of the Royal Commission), the hours of the men were considerably reduced. Nearly the whole of the railway companies, if not the whole of them, put forth every effort to bring about a reduction in the hours, and to a large extent their endeavours were attended with success. For a number of years at any rate the hours of the men were reduced to a very reasonable point. And, Sir, what I term reasonable is a working day of twelve hours maximum. I am not one of those who hold that all railway men should at all times and continuously be called upon to work even twelve hours each day, but I do say that twelve hours as a maximum is sufficiently long for men engaged in such dangerous and responsible oocupations as those of the railway service, and upon the proper discharge of which the lives of the traveling public more or less depend. But in recent years that time has been considerably exceeded.
I have here a summary of cases which, for the sake of convenience, I have made as short as possible. I will deal first with the North British Railway. I have submitted to the Board of Trade 22 representations—and I would here explain what I mean by a "representation." A representation is not a reference to a single instance of long hours, but it has to do with a depôt at which there may be 20, or 50, or 100 men at work, and I lodge a complaint with regard to the long hours of the whole of those 20, 50, or 100 men, and in that case I should consider the complaint one representation. Well, I have submitted to the Board of Trade, within the last three months—and I would ask the House to mark the period — 22 representations relating to the North British Railway. They relate to 17 different depôts, or centres—and I would here further explain that depôts are locomotive sheds, or headquarters of the train - men. In some instances 1092 they are far removed from any particular goods or passenger station. That is why I use the word depôts—to cover all locomotive sheds, and centres of the train-men. I have made these 22 representations on behalf of the men on the North British Railway, in regard to 17 depôts. I have complained that the hours worked, in one or more instances, varied from 14¾ to 22 per day, and that refers to each representation. In relation to the Caledonian Railway, I have submitted 5 representations concerning 5 depôts, and in each representation I have complained of one or more instances of the hours worked, varying from 14½ to 16¾. I will give the details in one instance. I have figures relating to many of them, but I will content myself with giving those relating to only one. During one week commencing November 18th, a driver and fireman made the following hours — 15 hrs. 30 mins., 12 hrs., 14 hrs., 12 hrs. 25 mins., 13 hrs. 10 mins., and 12 hrs. 35 mins., or a total of 79 hrs. 40 mins.
Now I come to a more important railway than even the Caledonian — the Great Central. I have made 12 representations to the Board of Trade on behalf of the men employed on the Great Central at nine different depôts, my complaint being that in one or more instances the hours worked have varied from 16¼ to 30¾. I refer to continuous duty. I will give the number of hours worked in one instance. They were 18 hrs. 15 mins., 13 hrs. 40 mins., 10 hrs. 15 mins. 20 hrs., 14 hrs. 35 mins., and 16 hrs., or a total of 92 hrs. 45 mins. Another instance in connection with this railway has to do with a case illustrating the custom prevalent on our railways of booking men off for 1 day—allowing them to work 5 days of long hours and then booking them off for 1 day. There is a week's working for men in 5 shifts only—13 hrs. 35 mins, 13 hrs. 5 mins. 16 hrs. 50 mins., 10 hrs.. and 18 hrs. 50 mins., or 72 hrs. 20 min. for the 5 days. To put the thing fairly I have here the working of a main line express goods train on the same railway. I have a record of 28 days' consecutive running of that train, and I find that the hours worked by the men employed on it were as follow:—18 of them worked between 15 and 20 hrs. 1093 at a stretch. On 27 out of the 28 days the hours ranged from 13 to 20. I have the running of another express goods trains on the same railway for 28 days. On 10 of these days the record of hours worked was over 15, on 9 days 16 hrs., on l day 19 hrs., on 1 day 21 hrs.,and on 7 days from 12 to 15 hrs. I submit that these instances are sufficient to warrant the House, or any other body invested with power, insisting upon a change. I give the House another instance out of several on my sheet, and I will content myself with one:—On one day in December 13 goods guards worked 30 hrs. 45 mins., 22 hrs. 5 mins., 23 hrs. 5 mins., 20 hrs. 20 mins., 23 hours, 24 hrs. 30 mins., 21 hrs. 50 mins., 22 hrs. 30 mins., 20 hrs. 50 mins., 21 hrs. 30 mins., 20 hrs. 50 mins., 19 hrs. 50 mins., and 24 hours. Thus there were 13 cases of men working from over 19 to over 30 hours. In submitting these cases to the President of the Board of Trade I covered the list with these words—On the 21st November 3 men worked excessive hours—one 17, another 14, and a third l6½ hours. On the 22nd 1 man was on 16 hours, and another 15 hrs. 20 mins. On the 23rd 5 men were worked respectively 17 hrs. 15 mins., 14 hrs. 25 mins., 10 hrs. 40 mins., 16¾ hrs., and 14 hrs. 50 mins. On the 25th the number increased to 7:—15 hours, 17 hrs. 50 mins., 17½ hours, 15 hrs. 10 mins. 21 hrs. 5 mins., 15½ hours, and 15¾ hours. On the 26th 2 men worked 17 hrs. 10 mins., and 15 hrs. 40 mins. respectively. On the 27th 5 men worked 14½ hours, 14 hrs. 25 mins.,16 hours, 14 hrs. 50 mins., and 20 hours. On the 28th 3 men worked 15¼ hours, 17½ hours, and 15 hrs. 40 mills. On the 29th there were 7 cases again:— 15 hrs. 5 mins., 15¼ hours, 15 hours, 21 hrs. 25 mins., 17 hours, 17½ hours, and 30 hrs. 40 mins.I stated to the Board of Trade as follows:I would draw your attention to the last case mentioned. It may be urged by the Company that the long hours were in consequence of fog, but on some of the dates mentioned there was absolutely no fog, and vet there is no perceptible difference. I trust you will make strong representations to the Company, for these abnormally long hours are alike detrimental to the welfare of the men and the public safety.I now come to the case of the Midland Railway, to show that the condition of things of which I complain is not confined to one railway. I made 3 representations to the President of the Board of Trade of 15 instances concerning 15 different depôts. One or more instances in each case showed hours varying from 15 to 29. I would here call attention 1094 to the fact that these cases come from Sheffield—or a number of them, at any rate. I made a similar complaint to the President of the Board of Trade on November 1st, 1889. I then made a representation to the Board as to the long hours worked, and I gave a statement to the effect that during the previous week eighteen guards worked upwards of 100 hours. The reply I received from the Board of Trade on November 8th was to the effect that there was nothing in my letter to show that the representation was authorised by the men concerned, and asking whether the complaint was made at the request of the men. On November 10th I wrote again to the Board to the effect that the complaint was laid by the Secretary of the Sheffield Branch of the A.S.R.S., and that complaints from him were regarded as authentic by me. On November 30th, 1899, further representation was made to the Board that the previous week over fifty guards had worked upwards of 100 hours, and that one man had worked 126 hours. I venture to suggest that it is almost impossible to make this House and the country believe that men are constantly employed on our railways such an enormous number of hours as is here shown. Let me here express a hope that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade will not suppose for a moment that I desire to make an attack on him. I want to strengthen his hands, if possible, so as to break down this systematic overwork. But I have received no reply from the right hon. Gentleman, up to the present moment, to the complaints I lodged with him on November 1st, 1899. On the 19th of this month I submitted to the right hon. Gentleman no less than forty-one examples of long hours ranging from 84 to 116½ per week. These facts are almost incredible. The House will experience great difficulty in giving credence to them; but I can assure the House that I am only too familiar with the extraordinary circumstances I am relating.
I will give one or two other examples of hours worked. I will give one week's working of one man—I have other instances, but it is useless to give them all, especially as the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has a record of them at his office. On the 1095 first day the goods guard in question worked 16 hrs. 20 mins., on the second 16 hrs. 10 mins., on the fourth 15 hrs. 15 mins., on the fifth 25 hours, on the sixth 16 hours, and on the seventh 17 hrs. 5 mins., or a total of 105 hours 50 mins. for the week of six days. Here is a case of a man working seven shifts in six working days:—He happened to start work in the early hours of Monday morning, that is to say immediately after midnight on Sunday, and he finished about noon on the following Sunday, his hours being on the seven successive shifts, 15 hrs. 10 mins., 11 hrs., 14 hrs. 10 mins., 22 hrs. 55 mins., 15 hours, 13 hrs. 30 mins., 24 hrs. 50 mins. or a total of 116 hrs. 35 mins. Here is another case of 98 hours and 30 mins. worked by one man in five working days. First day 13 hrs. 50 mins., second day 25 hrs. 35 mins., third day off duty, fourth day 16 hrs. 50 mins., fifth day 22 hrs. 30 mins., sixth day off duty, and seventh day 21 hrs. 45 mins. I will not trouble the House with any more cases of the description. But here is a case from Nottingham on the Midland Railway—one of several which I have supplied to the right hon. Gentleman. On the first day the goods guard worked 21 hours, on the second he was off duty, on the third he worked 11 hrs. 15 mins., on the fourth he was off duty, on the fifth he worked 29 hrs. 50 mins., on the sixth 17 hours, and on the seventh 16 hrs. 45 mins., or an aggregate of 95 hrs. 50 mins.
Now I go to another table, so that the House may not think that these things only occur in isolated instances. Here are a number of goods guards who have worked upwards of 14 hours a day at one station. For the week ending December 5th, 1901, 75; December 12th, 53; December 19th, 63; December 26th, 54; January 2nd, 1902, 13; January 9th, 22; January 16th, 31; January 23rd, 24; and January 30th, 13. These are the number of guards, who, for each week in succession, worked more than 14 hours per day. I claim that these cases are strong enough to warrant the taking of any measure necessary to put down such abuses. I take the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. In connection with that railway within the past three months I have made ten representations concerning eight depôts, and one or more instances 1096 of hours varying from 14¼ to 24½ per shift were included in each representation. Then as to the Great Western, I have made eight representations concerning six depôts, one or more instances of hours varying from 15 hours to 19 hrs. 40 mins. per shift being included in each representation. In the case of the Brecon and Merthyr Railway, I have made four representations. It is only a small railway. I do not believe they have more than four depôts, and I have made representations concerning three. I have complained of hours ranging from 16¼ to 19¼. In reference to the Taff Yale Railway, I have made two representations concerning two depôts, the hours in that case ranging from 15¾ to 16¼. And as to the Great Eastern Railway, I have made two representations concerning two depôts, the hours complained of ranging from 14 to 16. In the case of the Great Northern Railway, I have made three representations concerning three depôts, one or more instances of hours varying from 16 to 17¾ being included in each representation. In the case of the Midland and South-Western Junction Railway, I have made two representations concerning one depôt, and one or more instances of hours varying from 21 to 22 were included in each representation.
Now, as an instance of what is done on some railways, I will mention a case which concerns this very railway, viz., the Midland and South-Western Junction. Those who took any interest in the Commission of 1891–92 will remember that the death of a guard was practically traced to the long hours worked. The Commission itself stated that that was the case. The man, it seems, had been on duty 29 hours, if I remember rightly. That was traced—29 hours on duty when he met with his unfortunate fatality. I do not know what hon. Members will think of this if they picture to themselves travelling behind an engine-driver and fireman who had been on duty for these enormous hours. I venture to say that many an hon. Member of this House would not feel very comfortable on a railway journey if they knew that such a condition of things as that existed. This is the case I refer to which occurred on the Midland and South-Western Junction Railway. The driver, it seems, with the 1097 fireman, signed on at 9 a.m. on February 17th. They worked a goods train from Cheltenham to Andover Junction, and a goods train back to Cheltenham on the 18th. After being on for 27 hrs. and 10 mins. continuous duty, the driver and fireman were changed to a passenger train which they worked forward to Cheltenham where they performed some shunting. They signed off duty at four o'clock p.m. on February 18th. Thus when they had finished their shift of duty they had been on thirty-one hours, working a passenger train during the last few hours.
I have given a few instances of long hours on Scottish railways and English railways, but the Irish railways do not form an exception to the general custom. I find that during the past three months I have made two representations to the President of the Board of Trade concerning one depôt, in which I have given one or more instances of hours varying from 16¾ to 18¼. I wrote to the Board of Trade—I am requested to draw your attention to the very long hours of duty which the men stationed at Cavan are called upon to work.As cases in point I give you particulars of the hours worked on the 10th and 11th of January. January 10th:—Driver and fireman, 14 hrs. 55 mins.; Signalman, 17 hrs. 15 mins.; Shunter, 17 hrs. 15 mins; Store Porter, 16 hrs. 15 mins.; and these men after having been on 14, 17, 17, and 16 hours on the 10th, did duty on the day following, thus:—Fireman, 15 hrs. 10 mins.; Signalman, 21 hrs.; Shunter, 19 hrs. 40 mins.; Assistant Shunter, 19 hrs. 40 mins.; Goods Checker, 19 hrs. 40 mins. I trust the House will accept and note some of the examples. These are not all I have. The balance I have sent on to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, for his own verification.
Let me give another example of the manner in which the men are overworked — it forms another kind of complaint as to the men being compelled to resume duty after heavy work, with only very short intervals for rest. Indeed, you cannot call the intervals rest at all in many instances. I will give an example. A driver goes on duty at two o'clock in the afternoon (I have the instance here), and he finishes 1098 at twelve o'clock midnight. That is what one would call a fair ordinary day's work of ten hours. Of that we do not complain. But what we do complain of is that he should have to be out again at 6.5 a.m., and work until 9.45 p.m., and that he should have to start afresh on the third day at four o'clock a.m., and work until five o'clock p.m. From start to finish this was 51 hours, but the man had only two short intervals of 6 hrs. 5 mins., and 6¼ hrs. for rest, the actual hours worked out of the 51 totalling up to 38 hrs. 40 mins. And we call the intervals intervals for rest, but. anybody who knows anything of the working—and there are many here who are interested in railways who do know perfectly well that a man does not rest during the whole of the time he is off. It takes a driver an hour to prepare his engine before he goes out with his train, and when he has finished his house may be a mile away from the company's premises, and he may have to spend some time in walking there. And here we find a man going on again with only 6 hrs. 5 mins. interval from 6 o'clock a.m. to 9.45 p.m., or 15 hrs. and 40 mins. continuous duty, and the same man we find going on at 4 o'clock a.m. for another 13 hours continuous duty, coming off at 5 o'clock p.m.
I do not make complaint of the treatment meted out to the men on all occasions. I am not, and I hope I never shall be so narrow-minded, and so regardless of the rights of others, as to claim amelioration for the men without taking the circumstances of the railway proprietors into consideration. I have always endeavoured to be fair. I have regarded with an eye to justice and equity every case which has been brought under my consideration. I examined every application. I admit—I agree—that railway directors, railway officials, and railway shareholders deserve consideration. Were this a question of wages between the employers and the employees, there might, perhaps, be room for compromise, but there is no room for compromise in matters so serious as these. Not only are the railwaymen concerned, but the general public also are concerned. Hon. Members may say "What have the conditions of labour of the drivers 1099 and firemen of goods trains and goods guards to do with the general public? The public do not travel on goods trains!" That is true, but are there not a multiplicity of junctions, and sidings, and stations on our railways? And if these are congested with traffic, if the drivers, and firemen, and guards are physically exhausted, if they are asleep when they pass a signal, is it not very possible that someone may have serious reason to say that goods trains after all have something to do with passenger trains? There is a custom to book men to work a week's hours in five days. It is the general custom for the drivers and firemen of goods and mineral trains to be booked on duty for five days only in each week. The men get one day's rest; but the object of giving the day is not that they may rest, but to prevent them making overtime. The men are paid on a certain scale, and they do not get consideration for working straight off the reel, so long as they do not work more than 60 hours a week. The result of the system is that there are few complaints of long hours, for if the men do not work long hours they do not get a week's pay.
The Select Committee of 1891–92 referred to the system of booking men to work a week's hours in five days, and what they said is worth repeating here, as it has a bearing on the matter we are considering. They said—Your Committee think that, in the interest of safety, this practice should as far as possible be diminished, so that each day should stand by itself, and that the arrangements of the Company should be so framed as to prevent the booked time of drivers, firemen and guards from exceeding 66 hours per week or 12 hours in any one day.I venture to think that hon. Members will agree with that Report of the Committee, and now I am going to quote a very impartial and fair-minded man—a man whom all parties are agreed is fair-minded, the late Chief Inspector of the Board of Trade, Major Marindin. He reported on an accident which occurred in Castlecarry in 1894, and said—In this case the member at fault had not been at work for any great length of time, but it appears from the evidence that the normal hours of work of all the men—signalmen, drivers, and guards—are about twelve hours, which is too long a period for any men to work continuously, and should be tolerated 1100 only where the work is of a very light and intermittent character, with considerable intervals for rest.Lieutenant Colonel Yorke, the present officer of the Board of Trade, reporting in January 1899, on the collision which occurred at Three Counties Station on the Great Northern Railway, says—This man (the driver) had been on duty exactly twelve hours, and perhaps this fact renders it possible to take a lenient view of his fault, for it can hardly be expected that a man who has been at work for so many hours, especially during the night and early morning, can maintain that degree of vigilance and caution which is essential for safety. And the Company should, I submit, be reminded that the Board of Trade regard 10 hours or there-abouts as the limit beyond which the hours of duty of a driver and fireman, should not extend except in cases of emergency.Now I come to a more recent Report, one of the 14th of this month, in which Major J. W. Pringle, R.E., dealt with the accident which occurred at Chelsea Station. This inspector in the course of his Report said—It is difficult to see what excuse can be made for such culpable forgetfulness, unless it be found in the fact that Mausell had been on duty some 13 hours at the time of the occurrence and had more onerous work to do than he could efficiently perform.I may say in connection with this case that one hour of the man's work really belonged to his mate. By some mutual arrangement between the man who caused the accident and his mate in the next shift—the day shift—one did 13 hours duty and the other 11 hours. It is evident that the man having been 13 hours on duty was rendered unfit.
The subject is of great importance, and the risks so great, that I would even refuse to allow men, however much they might desire it, to work these excessive hours on our railways. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, when I put my Question to him, certainly seemed to think that a greater number of cases ought to have been submitted to him than have been submitted, in order to make out a prima facie case for his interference. Now we have evidence, and I hope to prove to the House that it is impossible to get the men to make complaints, for the simple reason that they are interfered with if they do. I venture to think that there will be Gentlemen 1101 here who are connected with the railways, who will get up and say that there is no interference with the men who make complaints. But I have worked too long on the railways not to know that the men are intimidated. It may very well be that no one in the House who is a director knows of this. These cases never come before the directors. And why? I will explain. The Board of Trade, working on a complaint of long hours of engine-drivers and firemen and guards, from Nottingham for example, will ask for a return. They will communicate with the Company, who will communicate with the smaller officials at the depâts asking them to suppply the information wanted. Some officious foreman who has to get the information at first hand goes bouncing up and down the yard saying:—"Some one has been complaining about the hours here. I wish I could find out who it is. I would take care that he did not have the chance of complaining again." That is the kind of intimidation that is practised. It often occurs; I will give instances of the intimidation of men for daring to complain that the hours they worked were excessive. I have two instances relating to the North British Railway. Two drivers had been on duty for 11 hrs. and 30 mins., and 11 hrs. and 40 mins. respectively, when they were requested to work another train. They refused, and took their engines to the shed. When they signed off they had been on duty for 12 hrs. and 50 mins. and 12 hrs. and 40 mins. respectively. For refusing to perform the additional work after being on so long, both men were suspended for one day. There is the intimidation. That is a sample of what happens to men for refusing to work long hours. Here is another case on the Caledonian. An engine driver had lodged a complaint with his superior officer as to the hours he had to work, and he had said that something should be done to reduce them. The driver was sent for by the Locomotive Superintendent, severely censured, and threatened with instant dismissal if he made such a complaint again. He was told that the Company required the interference of no third party in these matters. My 1102 correspondent who sends me the details of the case says—The hours are something terrible—as high as 99 in one week—and the men have to turn out on duty with only about 6 and 7 hours rest…. They are afraid to make complaints, lest they should be dismissed their employment.I venture to say that half the railway men in the country are in a similar position to this; they dare not make complaints. They are intimidated by the smaller officials, indirectly it may be. I have here the case of another driver on the Great Western Railway. He was dismissed by the Company for getting out particulars of long hours worked from the pay sheet. He appealed to the Board of Directors, and appeared before them, but his dismissal was confirmed. The Board of Trade in their Report issued in August last year, seemed to compliment the Railway Companies pretty freely for coming forward voluntarily and reducing excessive hours their men formerly worked. But the men know that their hours are as long now as ever they were during 1890, and 1891, and 1892. So indignant did the men feel at the compliment paid to the Company, which they knew to be founded on an inaccurate view of the situation, that they literally bombarded me with complaints. They will use any means in their power to get information so that the real facts may be known. The House will appreciate the difficulty in the way of any one single person arriving at the facts—of getting the hours worked by all the men employed on the railways. Many of them do not keep a record of the time they work. And the Railway Company have got to know that some of the men are a bit ingenious, and they therefore remove the time books out of the way, so that a man who may be inclined to copy a little bit as to the time worked by others shall not have the opportunity to do so. On the Great Western Railway, as I have said, a servant copied from the pay sheets the hours of work, in order to refute the statement in the Return of the Board of Trade that the hours of the men on the railway were reasonable; and this, of course, being a breach of discipline, he was dismissed. He appealed to the directors, but they, like all directors, upheld the action of the superintendent 1103 and officials. To-day I received a letter from a woman, who says—I understand you are taking up cases of long hours, so I send you my husband's for the past fortnight. He went on duty at 10 minutes past 2 on Tuesday morning, February 11th, finished Saturday night, February 15th, with 71 hours some minutes for five shifts. He went on duty on Sunday, February 16th, and in seven shifts up to the following Sunday morning worked 99 hrs. 35 mins., or 170 hours for twelve shifts—50 hours more than is supposed to be worked in that time. Two other guards went home this morning with 91 hours and 98 hours. Just before Christmas a guard, neighbour to us, made over 100 hours in seven shifts, beginning one Sunday a.m. and finishing the next Sunday at dinner-time…. The companies work men like this, then when they give up dead beat and go on the club to recover, want to know if they mind being medically examined, to see if they are fit for the position of goods guard, or they must have a lighter job, with, of course, less wages.Now, Sir, I venture to think that there are few people either in this House or out of it who adequately appreciate the difficulty of the position occupied by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. He seems to be—to use a phrase frequently employed as illustrating the awkwardness of a situation—"between the devil and the deep sea." He has on one side of him the railway directors, who form a large body in this House, and many of whom are members of the Government, and on the other side he has my humble self—only one individual, but representing the whole body of the railway workers throughout the United Kingdom. I feel, Sir, that my influence has not the magnitude of that on the other side; still I am undismayed, and whilst I say that, I assert without contradiction that I have never—and I hope I never shall—presented anything to this House which will not bear the fullest investigation. Therefore, I am looking forward to a full measure of support. I feel confident that the right hon. Gentleman has considerable influence brought to bear upon him in the responsible position he holds—that he is put under pressure many a time not to be too free with his hand in dealing with the complaints of railway men.
I have read with much interest—and I will give the House the benefit of it—an extract from a report of a speech delivered by the right hon. Member for North Leeds, the Chairman of the Great Northern Railway Company. Speaking at the 1104 half-yearly meeting of the Great Northern shareholders on August 9th, 1901, in reference to the Prevention of Accidents Act, the right hon. Gentleman said—At this particular time the Board of Trade is engaged in the task of what I may call forging fresh fetters for railway companies, following the Act which was passed called the Prevention of Accidents Act, and involving large expenditure…. and I do not hesitate to say that in my humble opinion it is the duty of the Government, in the interests of the traders of the country at such a time of pressure as this, to deal as tenderly as the situation will afford. (Applause.) I need not say this view is impressed upon the Board of Trade, and I hope wherever you have the opportunity to present this view to public attention that you will not neglect to do so.In this, Sir, I maintain we have an admission, on the part of the Chairman of one of the great railways, that pressure is put upon the Board of Trade. I, in turn, would put pressure on this House. My point is that whatever may be the position of railway shares and dividends, these excessive hours worked by railway servants should cease. Life and limb to me are much more precious that all the dividends of all the railways in the country.
Now, I do maintain, and I hope to prove, that to some extent, indirectly, these very excessive hours conduce to railway accidents. I find in the Report of the Select Committee of 1891–92, these words—It may certainly be assumed that, where the hours of a signalman, driver, or guard have been extended to the length repeatedly proved in the evidence which has been laid before your Committee, there must almost necessarily be physical exhaustion, which would be incompatible with the proper performance of his responsible duties, and, consequently, involve very serious risks.Sir, the remarks of the Committee of 1891–92 are my remarks to-day. I do not know that it would be a bad thing for Members of this House to try what it is like to sit for six consecutive days sixteen hours in this House, never being able to get out of it. I make bold to say that after a week of it, although they would have no signals to look after, or time to keep, or trains to watch for (as railway men have, though they may be falling asleep), they might fall asleep, yet no danger would arise—the nation would be safe — but I doubt whether they would care to try the ordeal again.
1105 Let hon. Members, then, imagine the position of these men employed on our railways, on engines, and in brake vans and shunting yards, following up these dangerous avocations under such excessive hours. I maintain that these long hours have a bearing indirectly on accidents, and I have proof of the fact. I have here the figures, as supplied by the Board of Trade for ten years ending 1900, as to the railway servants killed or so injured as to cause the loss of limbs — hands, feet, fingers, or toes — in accidents to trains or by the movements of railway vehicles. Only cases in which amputation has taken place are given in the list of injuries. I will not weary the House by giving the figures for each year, but in 1891 they were 549 killed, 72 losses of legs, arms, hands, or feet, and 32 losses of fingers or toes. The Report of the Commission in 1892, from the evidence of such gentlemen as the late Mr. Lambert, the General Manager of the Great Western Railway, and Mr. Aspinall, the present General Manager of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, had a great effect. I have no hesitation in saying that it was through that Report that the number of accidents to railway men showed a material diminution. As the hours of employment were reduced in consequence of the Report, so did the number of accidents decrease. In 1892 the number of fatal accidents went down from 549 to 534, and the loss of legs, arms, hands, or feet was 75, and the loss of fingers or toes 23. In 1893 the Hours Act passed, and the recommendations of the Commission were brought into force. One of the results of that Act was that a much larger number of men were engaged on the railways—50,000 more. Yet, in spite of there being so many more men engaged in the work of the railways, so good was the effect of the new Act that in 1895 the number of fatal accidents went down to 460, the cases of loss of legs, arms, hands, or feet fell to 67, and the cases of loss of fingers or toes to 19. I am bound to say that the Board of Trade contributed to the good effect produced on the railways. There is no doubt they did put forward their best energy and effort, and that only in very few cases indeed, and under very special circumstances, were there any men allowed to work more than 12 hours. And this im- 1106 provement continued right down to 1896. The accidents, both fatal and non-fatal, went down. In 1894 the fatal accidents were 479, the loss of legs, arms, hands or feet 70, and the loss of fingers or toes, 28. In 1895 the figures were:—Fatal, 412, and non-fatal, 57 and 30; and in 1896 the cases were — fatal, 447, and non-fatal, 49 and 30. But since 1896 the figures had grown again.
The right hon. Gentleman the present President of the Board of Trade is not responsible, for he did not then occupy his present position. But the accidents have grown and grown until they are as numerous as they were in 1891–92, and they have grown just as the hours of working have grown and grown. In 1897 the fatal accidents, which in 1891 were 549, had grown to 510, in 1898 they were 504, in 1899 531, and in 1900 583, while the number of non-fatal accidents, involving the loss of legs, arms, hands, or feet, were respectively 62, 91, 85, and 95, and the accidents involving loss of fingers or toes were 24, 40, 29, and 30. The total number of fatal accidents in the ten years were 5,039, and of non-fatal 1,068. Lumping the two categories together, I maintain that these figures disclose a state of things too serious for this House or any one else to wink at. The House is bound to, at any rate, do something by which permanent influence will be brought to bear on the railway companies to put an end to the excessive hours of labour.
Here is something from the Report of the Commission which sat in 1892 in reference to the failure of some railway companies to keep the hours of working' down. Major Marindin, in his evidence, said—What I have said before is, that I do not think that up to the present time, or nearly so, the railway companies have been in earnest in the matter of trying to seduce the working hours.I repeat what he said in 1892 here in this House at the present moment— "Railway companies are not in earnest in this matter. It is not their particular desire to reduce the hours." Major Marindin said—I think the first people to consider it should be the directors of a company; they ought to consider the willingness of the men and to reduce the hours, but, as I have said before, the hours of railway servants have to 1107 be reduced within reasonable limits, and if the railway companies will not do it I think somebody else must do it for them.Major Marindin speaks there about the willingness of the men to do the work, Sir, he was speaking about the finest body of men in the United Kingdom. No body of men in the United Kingdom take greater interest in the welfare of their employers than the railway men, and for that reason I ask the House for greater fair play than they are receiving at the present time. Before the Select Committee in 1892, Mr. Channing asked Major Marindin—Is not that largely true of the railway men that you have been brought into contact with, all over the country, that they are not a complaining lot of men, but are a manly, loyal set of men to their employers?Major Marindin's reply was—I have said in public, and I repeat it, that I do not think there is a body of men in the world who are a finer set of fellows from top to bottom and all round than railway servants.Then Mr. Channing asked—They do their turns of duty cheerfully and uncomplainingly?to which the answer was—Yes, I believe so.Now, what I wish to say is—and this is my last remark—that the companies must submit Returns to the Board of Trade. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade said in his reply to me the other night that this would impose a tremendous amount of labour on the railway companies. But I maintain that even if it does, that should not be taken into consideration. I will say this: It is very little good I have at any time to say of the London and North Western Railway Company, in particular in regard to their treatment of their employees; but I am bound to confess that this Company, since the Act of 1893 has been in operation, do not permit their officials to over-work the men. It is not the men who work, but the officials who permit them to work more than twelve hours, who are dealt with. On the London and North Western Railway, when there is fog or snow or anything else, every man must be relieved in about twelve hours. And if the London and North Western Railway can do that, every other Railway Company 1108 can do it if they make up their minds to.
The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade made the objection the other day that I had not made out a primâ facie case. I hope I have done so tonight. What will be the result of requiring these Returns? Why, if the Railway Companies are not sinners in the matter of over-working their men—that is to say, if they are like the London and North Western Railway Company—it will be an easy thing, and one involving no labour for them, to send in blank Returns and say, in reply to the question as to how many men have worked over hours, "Nil." If the Companies do not work their men over twelve hours—do not overwork them—they will have no Returns to make, but if they do continue to work them these excessive hours (and I have demonstrated, I hope, to the satisfaction of the House, that they do systematically all over the country), they should be compelled to send in Returns. What I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade is this, that the companies should be called on every six months — somebody suggested every three months, but I don't want to be too hard on them—to furnish Returns of the hours worked above twelve or whatever other standard may be fixed. Where the Board of Trade find that the hours are systematically above twelve, they should take powers under the Act of 1893. I understood the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, in a reply tonight to the mover of the Motion, to say that he had power to call for Returns, but there should be a definite standard laid down. The companies should be required to send in every six months a Return of all hours worked beyond twelve hours per day, and of cases in which men have had to resume duty with less than nine hours rest. With this order imposed, I venture to say that in two years time there will be little or no complaint to make, because where the hours were excessive, or the intervals for rest too short, it would be only in cases of emergency, in regard to which I should be the last man to make a complaint. I do hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way clearly to laying down a Standing 1109 Order that these Returns shall be sent in every six months. That in itself would automatically affect the hours and reduce them to what is fair and more reasonable.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That in the opinion of this House, the Government should exercise their power to call for Returns of the hours exceeding twelve per day worked by railway servants, and of cases where work is resumed with intervals of less than nine hours."—(Captain Norton.)
§ (9.36.) SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
The object of this Resolution, notwithstanding some ambiguity in its terms, is perfectly clear. It is to secure that in cases where hours beyond the limit plainly stated in the Resolution have been worked, publicity should be given to the fact, although no penal consequences are attached; that is to say, that where hours exceeding twelve per day have been worked, or where the interval of rest between periods of work has been less than nine hours, the cases should be carefully tabulated by the railway companies, and the Government should have power to call for a Return of them, so that, those instances being made available, as they would be, for publication, it would be possible for public opinion to be in formed as to whether or not proper precautions were taken on the various railways for the safety of the public. I do not think any hon. Member would suggest that proper provision is made for the safety of the travelling public when trains, either goods or passenger, are worked by men who have already been through long periods of duty. It may be suggested,,and I believe it is the fact, that these long hours are worked for the most part by the guards of goods trains, that these goods trains are shunted from time to time, and that they do not directly affect the safety of passengers. But how many accidents—of which many are fatal—are there which arise from collisions between goods and passenger trains, simply because of a want of care, or, possibly, a want of alertness, on the part of railway servants; and how far are those railway servants excusable by reason of over-work? There is a class of servants not mentioned in the speech of the hon. Member for 1110 Derby whose working hours might fairly be returned under this Resolution. I refer to railway clerks. They possibly are not so directly connected with the question of public safety as are the guards, but there are many cases in which railway clerks work seventy-five or eighty hours per week, irrespective of Sunday duty, excursion traffic, and public and bank holidays. That is a matter of humanitarianism, a matter connected with the provision of reasonable opportunities for education for these men, which would come within the purview of this Resolution, although I frankly admit that its chief object and incidence, if carried by this House, will be as regards those railway servants upon whose alertness depends the safety of the public.
I will quote to the House for what they are worth some figures as to the hours worked by some of the railway men in my own constituency. The particulars I am about to give are not spasmodic or exceptional; they represent the hours systematically worked in Bradford and the surrounding districts. I may say also that I am making this statement on behalf of my hon. friend and colleague as well as myself, the knowledge of the facts being with us equally. I should not, for obvious reasons, mention the company to which these figures refer. There are three companies working in the district, but it is not desirable that any attack should be made on a particular company, or that anything should be said that might identify the men who had supplied the figures. One man worked 80 hours 55 minutes in six days; another worked 74 hours 5 minutes in six days; another, 73 hours 25 minutes in six days; another, 82 hours 35 minutes in six days; another, 70 hours 40 minutes in five days; the average hours of eight men being 14 hours 5 minutes per day. These figures are poor; they are not eloquent or significant, as were some of the figures quoted by the hon. Member for Derby; but they have this about them, which brings them out as compared with those of the hon. Member—they are figures which I am assured represent the systematic and customary average with many of the men in the district to which I refer. Is it reasonable to expect that men who have worked more than 14 1111 hours out of the 21, should be as alert as they would be if worked for a shorter period? Having had experience of what work is, I assert that no man at the end of such a period is as alert or as fit for duty as he ought to be, or as he would be if worked for a more reasonable number of hours.
§ SIR FORTESCUE FLANNERY
The whole of the men to whom I have referred are goods guards. I heartily support this Motion. There are no direct penalties attaching to it, except perhaps some expense to the railway companies—an expense which, as the hon. Member for Derby has shown, is not shrunk from by the London & North Western Railway. But I believe the Motion, if it be carried, will have the effect of organising this information which the Board of Trade ought to have, and that railway companies—if there be any—who desire to work their men longer than they ought to be worked, will shrink from such a Return and from the publicity which it involves.
§ *(9.15.) MR. NANNETTI (Dublin, College Green)
said that the arguments which had been placed before the House had been taken from an English point of view, and he would like to state what was thought in Ireland with reference to the number of hours which railway servants were compelled to work on Irish railways. He contended that the regulations in Ireland were not adequate to meet the requirements of the workers, and while they had in this country practically a rational day's work for railway servants, in Ireland the hours of labour varied from 15 to 20 hours out of the 24. That was not reasonable, not only for the men, but as regarded the public safety. So far as the regulations to protect these men in Ireland were concerned, they had been more honoured in the breach than the observance. He had in his possession a Return of the men who had met with accidents on Irish railways, and it transpired at an inquest in one case that the man had been working 16 out of the 21 hours. 1112 This man, after working 16 or 17 hours, was called upon when his energies had been exhausted to do other work, and he met his death. He contended that it was the duty of the Legislature to make such accidents as that impossible. That man might have been called upon to go and do other work which would have endangered the safety of the public. In Ireland the travelling public were at the mercy of the railway-companies in this respect, so far as supervision was concerned. These men in Ireland were compelled to work extraordinarily long hours, and on behalf of the men and also on behalf of the travelling public, he asked was it fair or right that they should sit quietly by, and allow the lives and the safety of the travelling public to be endangered by men who were obliged to work such long hours? The point he wished to impress, upon the House was that they should insist upon the railway companies recognising that there was a duty which they owed to the public as well as to their servants. A case recently occurred in Ireland of an employee who had paid into the funds of a certain railway company, and this entitled him to certain advantages at death. When he died the representatives of the men's organization insisted that justice should be done, and they claimed that the relatives of the deceased were entitled to what was due to the man from the company. The railway company disputed these demands, and a fellow employee of the deceased stood out for justice to the widow and orphans of this poor man. What was the result? That man lost his situation.
§ *MR. NANNETTI
said it was part of the system in existence in Ireland, and he thought he might have been allowed to refer to it. He would, however, confine himself to the other part of the subject. The excessive hours worked by railway servants in Ireland ought to appeal very strongly to hon. Members of the House, for in many cases these long hours were responsible for the loss of life. There was one case in which a man fell off the engine after having been on duty sixteen hours on the two days 1113 preceding the accident, and the report of the Inspector who investigated this case stated that this man could not have been so alert and fit for duty as he would have been had he not been working such excessive hours.
§ *MR. NANNETTI
said the man he alluded to was a fireman. That man was engaged as a fireman, and compelled to work sixteen hours. If the hon. Member who interrupted was on a train which met with an accident on account of the long hours worked by the men, would he feel that the company was acting properly towards the travelling public? While it was the intention of the Legislature that the men should only work proper hours, it was a law "more honoured in the breach than the observance." It was especially the case so far as Ireland was concerned that men worked the long hours complained of. The companies there took advantage of the men, with the result that, while the men suffered themselves, the travelling public had to run the risk of injury as well. It was not a state of affairs that should exist, and it arose from the railway companies exacting too much from the men. The hon. Member for Derby had not unreasonably asked that the requirements laid down by the Board of Trade in this matter should be carried out. He was satisfied that they were not carried out so far, at least, as Ireland was concerned. What was wanted in Ireland was that the men should not be compelled to make reports of the cases themselves, but that proper inspectors should be appointed, who would see that the requirements of the Board of Trade were carried out, and that the travelling public was safe-guarded in the working of the traffic. Under the present system the grievances of the men could not be properly looked into, and in support of this contention he instanced the case of a respectable man in Ireland who attempted to protect his interests as a member of his trade society, and was not only dismissed from his employment in that country, but had been followed to England, with the result that he had been for several months practically a pauper. 1114 In consequence of his having shown where a dereliction of duty was taking place on the part of the railway company, he became a marked man. The hon. Member for Derby had done his duty in bringing the facts before the House and he deserved the thanks not only of railway servants but also of the travelling public. Railway companies that harassed their employees should be made to fall into line with those companies who acted in a proper and generous spirit towards their men and were sensible of their responsibilities to the travelling public.
§ *(10.5.) COL. LOCKWOOD
it is impossible to make any complaint of the way in which the hon. Member for Derby has brought the subject before the House this evening. He is to me always a most picturesque figure, if I may say so, in the House, because he represents a large and important body of men in this country—men to whom the public owe generally their safety in the journeys they make, and to whom the railway companies—I speak of railway companies generally — owe a great deal for the loyal service they render to us. With the broad principles brought before the House it is impossible to find any fault, nor do I think there is any man who is not prepared at once to accept the fact that long hours and overwork are not only bad for the individual but dangerous to the public, and injurious to the railway companies themselves. I was fortunate enough to hear most of the speech of the hon. Member for Derby, but he must recognise the fact that it is impossible for any of us to controvert the particular statements he brought before the House this evening. I am perfectly ready to accept them in all good faith, for I am sure that he never makes statements without inquiring into them and satisfying himself as far as he can that they are correct. But he must see that it is impossible for any one to contradict these statements or to go into the variety of cases which he has brought before the House. He entered into the very difficult and thorny question of how railway men were to make complaints. My experience in the Army is much greater than that of the railway, and I know that there were cases in the old days in regiments where complaints were made by men to non-com 1115 missioned officers and where the complaints were not always dealt with as the superior officers would wish. It is one of those facts which, as anybody will admit who knows what it is to have a great body of men under inferior officers, must always occur. It occurs in the Army, and I should be the last to say that it does not occur in the railway service. I can assure the hon. Member for Derby that all the directors of railway companies, as far as I know, are anxious to discourage to the utmost any attempt at intimidation on the part of the officers of the company. The directors, I believe, are honestly anxious that all complaints made by the men should arrive before them in the form in which they are made, that no intimidation should be practised to keep the men from making complaints, and that their case should be fairly laid before the directors and the superior officers. But the hon. Member for Derby no doubt knows better than I do that at the present time the men who have to work excessive hours have the power to ask for an inquiry by the Board of Trade. That power exists and has often been exercised, but if he and the general body of railway servants think that any comfort and satisfaction can be got out of such a Parliamentary Return as is asked for, I should be the last man to resist it. It would give considerable trouble, no doubt, and I have serious doubts myself whether it would effect the purpose the hon. Member for Derby has in view. But if he thinks it would afford satisfaction to the public, and if he thinks the House of Commons would get any good from a six months Return of the hours worked over twelve per day by railway servants I should not attempt to resist it.
§ (10.13) MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)
We have listened, not for the first time, to a characteristically temperate and genial speech by the hon. Member for the Epping Division, and if every railway director in and out of the House of Commons was in the habit of talking to Labour representatives and Labour Members of Parliament with that courtesy and fairness which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has just displayed, I venture to think that some of the disputes that too frequently occur between capital and 1116 labour might be adjusted with greater advantage to both sides. The hon. and gallant Gentleman very freely admitted the representative capacity, the fairness, and the general accuracy of the statement put forward by the hon. Member for Derby; and he said with some degree of truth that it was very difficult to follow in detail some of the statements which the hon. Member for Derby had made. But it was impossible for the hon. Member for Derby, however fair and accurate he wished to be, to submit in advance a statement to different railway directors of the hours of working of their employees, and ask that they should be checked off. But what did he do? He practically exonerated the London and North Western Railway Company and said that that company was the only one against which his charges could not be laid. I would point out to the hon. and gallant Member for Epping that if the hon. Member for Derby can discriminate in this way and show that he has been impartial in his criticisms, and has not attacked the London and North Western Railway Company, it is obvious that the statement he made against the other railways is equally worthy of acceptance across the floor of the House. I venture to say that if the hon. and gallant Member for Epping would prevail on hon. Members on both sides of the House who are directors of railways to adopt the London and North Western system of hours, he would get over the chief objection which the men had to the rules and practices of these other companies. I believe that prevention is better than cure. I believe that we have had too many Commissions, Blue-books, and Reports, but so long as they are justified by the facts of the case we shall have to have them. I should like to see the railway companies so set their house in order in regard to the twelve hours' day that there should be no need for endless investigations or of a penny being spent on them. If ever there was an illustration of the advantage of having labour representatives in this House, I think we have had a signal example of its efficacy this evening. We have had, on an industrial question which affects, roughly speaking, 600,000 workmen, a practical man, with an intimate knowledge of the situation, with official facts at his command, and, 1117 above all, with the loyalty and authority of his constituents supporting him, making one of the most remarkable presentments of a case that I ever heard since I entered the House of Commons. He has given us cold facts, unquestionable figures, chapter and verse in regard to special railways, and, above all, the names of the men at the back of the figures. The hon. Member has given us the short and simple annals of the poor railway men in a manner I never heard presented before; and I venture to say that if railway directors were to listen to the hon. Member for Derby they have got sufficient justification for them to take steps to put on immediate stop to the state of things which the hon. Member revealed. The hon. Member asks that a Return should be laid on the Table of the House every six months of the number of men working more than twelve hours a day. That is not an unreasonable request. Last year it was said that only nineteen complaints had been received by the Board of Trade. I do not accept these figures at all. I believe 1,900 is nearer the truth, if we can accept, as I do, the statement of the hon. Member for Derby. If the Return would be costly, that can be avoided by the railway companies pulling down the hours of labour per day from seventeen and eighteen to twelve at once. If that were done, of course the cost would disappear. We have a right to ask from the Board of Trade how it is that, notwithstanding there had been only nineteen complaints, all those extraordinary instances quoted by the hon. Member for Derby had been allowed to occur. I gather that the hon. Member for Derby has made complaints in regard to all these cases, but beyond the ordinary official acknowledgment, nothing has been done.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
Inquiry is being made into every one of these cases under the Act in the ordinary way.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
My answer to that is that if the inquiry is to be as perfunctory and as limited as it was in 1901, 1900, and 1889, when the inquiry was only applied to a microscopical portion of the total number of cases, as was stated by the hon. Member for Derby, it will not be of much good. I think that the speech of the hon. Member for Derby warrants at once an immediate inquiry, and that the results of that inquiry should be presented to the public as soon as possible, I find from the right hon. Gentleman's last Report that the complaints to the Board of Trade have gone down from 156 in 1895 to 19 in 1901. But during the same period the number of men killed had increased from 442 to 559; while there has been a wonderful increase in the number of men injured I believe that is due to the fact that the investigation into the long hours worked has not been so vigorous, drastic, or efficient as it should have been. I had the proud privilege of taking part in what I consider to have been the best strike that ever took place in Great Britain or Ireland against long hours. That was the railway strike in Scotland in 1891. That strike failed because the strike leaders, as happens with politicians, bit off a little bit more than they could swallow; that is, they struck against good as well as against bad railways. But that strike did not involve a question of wages, or intimidation, or association; it only involved the question of hours of labour. I venture to say that public opinion throughout the country was almost unanimously in favour of the men's demand for shorter hours. That strike failed in its immediate aim, but its failure brought about legislative action Parliament demanded that there should be no more strikes, involving the arrest of the business and commerce of the country and bringing the nation to a verge of civil war and public opinion compelled Parliament to impose on the railway companies certain conditions as to the hours of labour. But what do we find happening in the interval? Ten years have elapsed since then, and if the statements of the hon. Member for Derby are true, we are rapidly approaching to the condition of long hours which prevailed 1119 in 1890–1891. I believe that if we can by legislation give a reasonable maximum number of hours work to men engaged in their daily calling, we ought not to invoke the arbitrament of a strike, and that we could prevent these industrial conflicts arising over the question of long hours.
Now, Sir, there are many Members in the House who were not present when the hon. Member for Derby made his statement. He gave instance after instance of engine drivers, firemen, goods guards, passenger guards, and shunters, who were working 70, 80, 100 hours per week, and he gave instance after instance of drivers, firemen, goods guards, and passenger guards, working continuously 20, 24, 30 and 32 hours right off. The Leader of the House, in bringing in his new Rules for our personal and domestic comfort as legislators, said that all of us know what it is to sit here for eight hours at a stretch. It is physically exhausting, and any man who has tried an all-night sitting and gone home with the milk, knows that it is physically exhausting even when we have nothing to do but to listen to each other. But I ask the House to think of an engine-driver getting up in the black gelidity of a misty, frosty November morning, and stepping on to the foot-plate of his engine at four o'clock, on the North British or Midland Railways — I am glad to say not on the London and North Western Railway—and stopping on that foot-plate, probably lashed by rain or sleet. The sense of duty induces him to suffer uncomplainingly, and he also does not care to have the mark of a complaint against his name. I maintain that no railway company has a right to ask him to remain on the foot-plate for twelve hours, and then, with only a break of an hour, to go on to the footplate for another spell of twelve hours. When we consider that that is repeatedly done both on passenger and goods trains, it is subjecting men to the temptation to be lax in their duty; to be careless, and not to have that vigilance which can only spring from a healthy mind, a restful body, and from moderate hours of duty. To work eighteen hours continuously on a breakdown is bad enough; to work for twenty-four hours down a 1120 well, or as a member of a breakdown gang, is bad enough; but to ask a man who has lives behind him, and who is on an engine that is in itself valuable, and, if anything happens to it, is very frequently the source of cruel injury to firemen, guards, and passengers, to work all these hours is asking too much.
I have a suggestion to make. We read a good deal in these days of a "wayside inn," and about neutral persons arranging differences between nation and nation. I believe Lord Rosebery's great cry at the present moment is efficiency. He expresses himself as in favour, and I believe he is, of great domestic reforms. I have myself helped at meetings where he has denounced the long hours of tramway men and busmen. I see with some degree of pleasure that he has become a railway director. He has become a director of the Great Northern Railway; and I would suggest to him that he should put his illustration of the "wayside inn" into practice, and, as a director of the Great Northern, meet my hon. friend the Member for Derby at a neutral meeting place, and go over the long hours of the English railway worker, and, in a word, give practical expression to his sympathy with equal rights for all white railway men, instead of confining his attention, mainly, to the Uitlanders of Pretoria and Johannesburg. I should be delighted to see Lord Rosebery and my hon. friend the Member for Derby at such a meeting place, and I should be glad to guard the door. If these two gentlemen came together in the spirit displayed by the hon. Member for the Epping Division, capital and labour would be able to draw up a modus vivendi by which these long hours might be abolished.
Sir, I need not go further than the speech of the hon. Member for the Epping Division. He said that long hours were dangerous to the men, were not advantageous to the companies, and were certainly most disastrous to the public. What is it that my hon. friend the Member for Derby asks for? He asks that we should know how long these hours are; that we should know how dangerous they are to the companies by ascertaining the hours of overwork; and that we might be able to measure the risk that long hours involve to the 1121 public by ascertaining the facts. Above all, I am myself convinced that, if you take cases of long hours on duty, and apply them to the proportion of men killed and the proportion of men injured, you will find that the long hours were coincident with accidents, and that the deaths and injuries synchronised with overwork. If that be so, it is not to the interest of the railway companies to overwork the men, or to the interest of the men that, through overwork, they should lose proper control, and subject themselves to risks and dangers which, with shorter hours, they would not be asked to face. Even if railway directors and the men themselves were willing to continue this condition of things, it would be unfair, unjust, and dangerous to the travelling public, and it ought to be stopped. How can it be stopped? It can be stopped in this way. The Act of 1893 says that if it be represented to the Board of Trade by or in behalf of the servants or any class of the servants of the railway company that the hours of labour are excessive, the Board of Trade can intervene. My hon. friend the Member for Derby has represented that the hours are excessive. He has proved his case, and in proving it has established that which has been applied to another institution, namely, that long hours are useless and dangerous, and ought to be abolished. As a preliminary to their abolition, he asks for a Return of the hours of work, and never in my life have I associated myself with any proposal more gladly than with the reasonable request so felicitously put by my hon. friend.
§ *(10.33.) MR. BUTCHER (York)
I confess I find myself in sympathy with almost every word that has fallen from the hon. Member for Battersea. There is one general principle in relation to this subject, as to which I venture to think every hon. Member will be found to be in accord; and that is that we should do everything in our power to discourage and to prevent excessive hours of labour which might be dangerous to the men themselves, or to the travelling public. More especially is that so with regard to drivers, firemen, and guards, for whom continuous attention is necessary, but it 1122 is also true of men engaged in the most dangerous employment in the country, I mean in the shunting yards of the great railway companies. The necessity for the limitation of hours is also especially true as regards men who are employed in the difficult duty, demanding, as it does, continuous attention, of a signalman in a busy cabin. My hon. friend the Member for the Epping Division has truly said that not only is the limitation of hours important in the interest of the men and in the interests of the travelling public, but that it is most important in the interests of every well-conducted railway company in the country. But if there are, and I feel there are, cases still in this country where railway companies do not recognise their duty to their men and to their own interests, then I say legislation should intervene. Upon that I think we are all agreed. The question is what is the best mode of effecting this object which we all desire.
I think there was some misapprehension in the mind of the hon. Gentleman who framed this Motion. I believe it has been altered since it was put on the Paper, and, as altered, demands that the Board of Trade should call for a Return of the hours above 12 per diem worked by railway servants. I have not the slightest objection to the Board of Trade getting any Returns that might be useful, but I do not very much like the terms of the Motion even as altered, because to my mind there are many classes of railway servants for whom twelve hours work a day would be too much. Take the drivers or guards, or firemen. Take another case, the case of a signal-man in a busy cabin. In most busy cabins the men do not work more than eight hours a day, and in some they work less, and I am quite certain that twelve hours would be greatly too much in many of these cabins. Again, in busy goods stations, twelve hours continuous work in shunting operations—which, next to the shipping industry, causes most deaths by accident — twelve hours would be a great deal too much. Therefore, I venture to suggest that if we are to have a Return it ought to be a Return in a satisfactory form. But I do not think that the object we have in view will be 1123 effected by any Return. What we want to do is to put the Board of Trade in motion, and to ask them to make representations to the companies which would have the effect of limiting excessive hours. The Act of 1889 made it compulsory on the companies to make Returns in the form which the Board of Trade thought advisable. That provision did not succeed in lessening the death rate of railway servants, and in 1891 a Committee was appointed by the Unionist Government of that day for the purpose of inquiring whether, and if so, in what way, the hours worked by railway servants could be restricted by legislation. That Committee reported in 1892, and a Bill was brought in on the lines of the recommendations of that Committee by a Liberal Government in 1893. I venture to think that if that Act is taken advantage of by the railway servants of the country in the way it was intended it should be, it would give us what we want. The hon. Member for Battersea, suggested a "wayside inn" meeting, but I do not know that that would be a very successful way of ending these excessive hours of labour. I venture to think that a vigorous working of the Act would be better, because the Act provides that if it is represented to the Board of Trade by or on behalf of the servants, or any class of the servants of a railway company, that the hours of those servants or that class are excessive, the Board of Trade should inquire into the matter. The Act goes further, because it gives the Board of Trade power, if they think there is reasonable ground for complaint, to call on the railway company concerned to make a new schedule of hours, and they have also power by which they can compel the railway company to adopt a schedule framed by themselves. I venture to think that if railway servants would only use that Act, and use it effectively, as I should desire they would, although I do not say it would do everything it would effect much in the desired direction.
§ *(10.15.) MR. JACKSON (Leeds, N.)
I do not think my hon. friend the Member for York was present in the early part of the debate, because, listening to his speech, I think one would come to 1124 the conclusion that he had proved that no remedies further than those which the railway servants have at their disposal at the present moment were required. He has referred to the Act of 1891, which was also referred to by the hon. Member for Battersea; but I do not think the hon. Member for York quite appreciated the action taken by the Board of Trade. He apparently is of opinion that the Board of Trade had neglected to take action after representation had been made.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
The right hon. Gentleman will pardon me when I say that if what the hon. Member for Derby said be true, as to the many instances of overwork which he stated by the score and by the hundred, I cannot reconcile that condition of things with the small number of nineteen complaints which were received and inquired into by the Board of Trade. Either the hon. Member for Derby over represented his case, or the Board of Trade have not dealt with the cases as the facts warranted.
§ *MR. JACKSON
If the hon. Member had been listening to what I was saying, he would have heard me say I was referring not to what he said, but to what was said by my hon. friend the Member for York. I do not think that there is any inconsistency between the facts quoted by the hon. Member for Battersea and those quoted by the hon. Member for Derby; because the hon. Member for Derby referred, as I understand it, not to the year 1901, but to the present year. In the year 1901, as the hon. Member will see from the Report made by the Board of Trade, only nineteen complaints were received in all. That is interesting, if it be true, because it shows plainly that from the year first taken, 1894, when there were seventy-two complaints received to deal with by the Board of Trade—in 1895 that number was rather more than doubled; it was then 156—from that year onward to 1901 the number gradually fell off, till in that year the complaints received were, only nineteen.
§ *MR. JACKSON
I do not understand that the hon. Member intends to suggest that there is any inaccuracy in my description. The facts he gives to the House are for a different period to those which are in this Report. The hon. Member for Battersea referred to one period, the hon. Member for Derby refers to another. There is no suggestion that the Board of Trade have neglected to take, in any one of the cases of complaint lodged with them, the action prescribed for them by the Act of 1891. In one particular the hon. Member for Derby was quite right; he said the number of complaints which had been lodged in 1901 were so small that the Secretary of the Board of Trade, in reporting on the fact, pointed out what was simply the truth, that according to the figures, year by year, it would appear that the Act had been very beneficial, and that in his opinion a great portion of its work had been done. Surely that is only a statement of fact, on information presented to the Board of Trade, and there is no reason for suggesting that in the year 1901 any more pressure was put on railway servants to prevent them making complaints than there had been in the previous years. As a matter of fact, the hon. Member for Derby was quite frank about the matter; he said that the railway servants were indignant when they saw what credit the Secretary of the Board of Trade was giving to the companies, and how small the number of complaints were. And what happened after this indignant feeling on the part of the railway servants? The Board of Trade had forty cases of complaint within a very short time of that statement, which, to my mind, looks rather like cause and effect. All I would say is this. I have listened to the debate, and I might say a stranger listening to the discussion tonight might think there was some connection between accidents and these long hour cases which have been put up. I say there has not been one tittle of evidence adduced to the House tonight connecting directly as a cause of accident any of the long hour cases that have been put forward.
Do not, for a moment, let me be misunderstood. I am just as much opposed to an engine driver or railway servant working long hours as the hon. Member for Derby, or the hon. Member for 1126 Battersea, or anybody else, and, speaking as I do as a railway director, I say there is no justification for the supposition or suggestion that it is the wish of the railway directors to have the men work long hours on their systems. I do not know by what peculiar secret my hon. Friend's company, the North Western Company, succeed in effecting and compelling absolutely that no man shall ever be on duty more than twelve hours. We have not been able to do it.
The hon. Member for Battersea will forgive me if I am disposed to contradict him when he says that engine drivers are sometimes thirty hours on the engine plate. Such a thing could not be, and does not exist. The hon. Member for York spoke of twelve hours a day being far too long, in his opinion, for a driver to be on an express passenger train. How far does the hon. Gentleman think the express train would run at fifty miles an hour for a man to be on the footplate twelve hours?
All I want to make clear to the House is this. I sympathise with the desire to avoid these long hours, but do not let us exaggerate. I know there are cases—and this is what I want to draw to the attention of the hon. Member for Derby, because he will at once appreciate the distinction. There is a great difference between being "on duty," and being on the footplate of an engine, or at work, and no one knows better—and I do not say this offensively—than the hon. Member for Derby himself that in all these cases of long hours, it is not intentional on the part of the management that these men should be on duty so long. I have known cases in the company of which I have the honour to be a director, where men have been advised and called up for duty, and have not been able to take up that particular duty for six hours after they had been called up. Sometimes at Peterborough in the coal yards there is a state of congestion and difficulty; trains are arranged at night to start in the morning, and notice is sent forward, and men are "advised" to take up the duty at a particular time. But a block has occurred and set back everything, and the engine driver—and this also applies to the fireman and the guard—of the train many and many a time, especially if we have a glut of traffic 1127 coming in over which we have no control, or if we have a sudden fog in London which bl cks the trains as far as Peterborough and further north still, has never got on his engine. In many cases of that kind, although they had been waiting hours and hours for the train, the train has been cancelled and these men have never taken up their duty, though they have been "on duty" all the time. I repeat, on the cases of long hours which has been quoted, I am sure we may be allowed to reserve our decision until an opportunity has been found to have them inquired into.
Now, it has been stated, and more than once, as an absolute fact, that almost the safest place in the world is a railway. I have examined from time to time Reports of inquiries made by Board of Trade Inspectors into accidents; I have watched carefully in order to learn from those inquiries whether there could be any possible connection between long hours cases and accidents, but anyone who has studied those Reports will come to the conclusion that there is no evidence whatever that the long hours cases have been the causes of accidents in this country. With regard to the accidents which occur to men, and which have been quoted by the hon. Member for Derby, I am sure the hon. Member does not wish the House to think that if there had been no long hours cases there would have been no such accidents.
§ *MR. JACKSON
I say, with all respect, that the hon. Member failed to quote a single particle of evidence in support of that view. I would be really and honestly glad of information, and if the hon. Member has such evidence I wish he would remove the impression which is firmly fixed on my mind that hitherto there has been no evidence connecting the two things. I do not say it is not possible, but it has been "if" all the way through—the evidence 1128 of Major Marindin, to which the hon. Member referred, was that, if so and so, a certain course would be desirable. But in dealing with facts do not let us confuse the issue. The point I wish to put to the House is this, that although we have heard a great deal tonight about these accidents, which we all deplore—and nobody more than railway directors—do not let us mix up two separate and distinct questions. We regret the long hours, but there is no foundation, as I believe, for the impression that any actual connection exists between the long hours and the accidents.
Then the hon. Member for Derby said something about pressure and intimidation. I have been a director of a railway for about twenty years; for some time past I have filled a position of responsiblility which is by no means an easy one or one free from anxiety. I have striven to the best of my power, both by precept and by example, to encourage the men and to do the best I could for them in their several positions; and I can say with a clear conscience, and without the slightest hesitation, that I have never had brought to my knowledge the slightest particle of evidence, direct or indirect, that indicated that any man on the Great Northern system was intimidated or in any way had pressure brought to bear upon him to do that which otherwise he would not do. I will go further. On our system, and I believe the same rule appertains to all railway companies, if a man has a grievance his right course is to state it through his superior officer, his immediate chief; failing to get redress in that way, it is recognised that the man has an appeal to the directors. That appeal, when made, I have never known to be refused in any case whatever. Do let us, therefore, look at the facts in the face. The position of a railway administrator is not one free from difficulty. Everybody expects his traffic to be carried and delivered at the moment he wants it, and no doubt there are times when it is extremely difficult to get through the work. Here let me associate myself with the hon. Member for Derby. Speaking of the men as a class, I do not believe a better class of servants exists in any industry in the world. I have known cases quite recently, 1129 even on our own line, in which, for promptness of judgment, discretion, nerve, and courage, the men were deserving of the highest praise. Such a case was recognised lately by the Chairman of the Traffic Committee of the Company with which I am connected, in a substantial and graceful manner, by telling the men directly what was the opinion of the Board of the manner in which they had acted in extremely difficult circumstances. We all have one desire, and that is to do the best we can in the administration of these great companies, but it is not always easy. I want to make it clear to the House that, so far as my experience goes, no pressure or intimidation is brought to bear on the railway servants by the directors, or, so far as I am able to learn, by the superior officers of the men. Not only may rail way servants, if they have a grievance, go to the directors, but they may go to the Board of Trade directly or even indirectly. A post-card can be sent, bearing no name whatever. In many cases in which railway companies are called upon to make explanations they absolutely do not know the name of the person who has complained. I think, therefore, the House may dismiss from its mind the notion that such pressure as has been suggested is brought to bear upon railway servants. If such pressure were exercised I would be the first to stand by the side of the hon. Member for Derby.
§ *Mr. JACKSON
I believe I am just as much entitled to speak on behalf of every other railway company, so far as my knowledge goes.
§ *MR. JACKSON
As regards public safety, I have, at all events, suggested to the House that there is no evidence connecting long hours with accidents. I believe railway travelling in this country is as safe as in any other part of the world. But what is the House going to do by this Resolution? I believe the hon. Member for Derby referred to some observations of mine with regard to the "forging of fetters" by the Board of Trade. I feel, and I have often expressed the feeling, that the Board of Trade has pressure put upon it by the House of Commons, frequently with an incomplete knowledge of the real facts of the case, and railway companies are hampered and put to great expense, many times unnecessarily and for no good purpose, by reason of the restrictions of the Board of Trade. Therefore, I have no particular fancy for the Board of Trade in matters of this kind. During the time of the Railway Rates agitation, and during the inquiries which resulted in the Act for the Prevention of Accidents on Railways, the information which the railway companies were called upon to supply in many cases took their chief officers the best part of a week to obtain, and sometimes it was almost impossible to get it. I say have a right, as a railway director, to appeal to the Board of Trade to avoid hampering the administration of railways in cases where, in my humble judgment, possibly guided by the practical knowledge of those with whom I am associated, I am led to the conclusion that such hampering is doing harm. I am against these Returns. I am not against giving information which is calculated to promote a good object. I do not know what view my right hon. friend is going to express. My hon. friend the Member for the Epping Division of Essex went further than I would go. He said that the multiplication of these Returns entails an amount of labour of which not a single Member of this House who has no knowledge of the inside can have any conception, as they involve the examination of the hours of coming on and going off duty of every individual servant of the company. I say they entail enormous labour and great cost, and they ought not to be pressed on the companies without sufficient reason. If my right 1131 hon. friend feels that, as ten years have elapsed since the return under the Act of 1889, a similar Return might now be called for, to enable a comparison to be made, as the hon. Member for Derby very fairly put it, between the state of affairs then and now, I think that is the very utmost he should ask for. I believe it would answer all the practical purposes the hon. Member has in view. I know how unpopular railway shareholders and railway directors are, and what a fallacy it is to suggest that railway directors are a powerful party in this House, but surely I am within my right in claiming—and I believe this will readily be conceded to me—that those who see matters from the inside, and, therefore possibly have some knowledge which those who see the case only from the outside do not possess, should be permitted from time to time to state their views to the House.
§ (11.15.) MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
I shall confine my remarks to a very few of the many points which have been raised in this very interesting debate. I think everybody who heard my hon. and gallant friend the Member for West Newington, and my hon. friend the Member for Derby, will admit that they put their case with great care, fairness, and moderation, and the debate has proceeded on those lines. Although I cannot agree with all that was said by the right hon. Member for North Leeds, I think we all feel that he has added some practical considerations which ought to be borne in mind before we come to a decision upon this question. The reason for putting forward this Motion is that the Act of 1893 has not proved a complete success. That Act was intended to reduce the hours of railway servants, by giving the Board of Trade power to require the railway companies to submit schedules of hours of working, whenever a complaint was made by railway servants. In point of fact, although a number of such complaints have been made, in which the Board of Trade have taken action—and I believe there is no allegation that in any case in which a complaint has been made, that complaint has not been gone into and dealt with by the Board of Trade—at the same time, it is 1132 perfectly clear, from the fact stated by the hon. Member who moved, and the hon. Member who seconded this Motion, that there still exist a great many cases in which the hours of labour are far too long. Even the right hon. Member for North Leeds did not attempt to traverse that proposition.
§ *MR. JACKSON
I do not think there was a single case pointed out where the booked hours were long. I think the management of the railway would be highly culpable if the booked hours were inaccurate.
§ MR. BRYCE
I think if hon. Members will look at the reports of inquiries held by the Board of Trade, they will find cases where the booked hours were too long. I think it is clear, upon the face of those reports, that even the booked hours are far too long. But why has the Act of 1893 not been a complete success? I cannot understand, even after the statement which has been made to us, why the number of complaints addressed to the Board of Trade has dwindled down, but I am told that it is owing to the delays which have taken place, on the part of the Board of Trade, in dealing with these cases. The result has been that impatience has arisen, people have become disappointed, and they have concluded that it is no use bringing forward complaints; and consequently complaints have become fewer and fewer every year. Under these circumstances my hon. friend asks for these Returns, which can be ordered by the Board of Trade under the Act of 1889. I do not understand the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade to dispute that he has the power to do this, and therefore there need not be a great deal of argument upon this point. I think it is more important to inquire why the Act of 1893 has not completely succeeded; because I believe that if my hon. friend the Member for Derby were to press for a more vigorous enforcement of this Act, he would effect more than he can possibly effect by having these Returns. What is the case which the hon. and gallant Member for West New- 1133 ington and the hon. Member for Derby have proved? They have proved not only that the hours of railway servants are too long in a great many cases, but that I there is an increase of accidents, and the right hon. Member for North Leeds has not shown any reason why these accidents should have increased. In spite of all the attention given to this question, accidents are increasing, and therefore my hon. friends have a very strong ground for insisting that this fact ought to be considered.
I will meet the challenge which has been thrown out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds, and I will show that there is some connection between accidents and long hours. Major Marindin, in his evidence before the Committee of 1891, said that in the number of cases of accidents he investigated during four years, there were forty-seven in which attention was called to the long hours worked; in eighteen of those forty-seven cases, men had been at work for too long hours; and in nine, the accident was to some extent attributable to long hours. There has been no subsequent collection of statistics similar to those I have just quoted, but I think that here we have a case which meets the demand of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds.
§ *MR. JACKSON
The right hon. Gentleman seems to have forgotten for the moment that all these statistics are always available for every year. The Report on every inquiry made by the Board of Trade is published, and I have watched with the greatest care in every case to see how many hours the men have been on duty, and in what way, if at all, the inspector who made the inquiry connected the accident with the hours. The right hon. Gentleman has forgotten that these statistics are still available.
§ MR. BRYCE
My reply to the right hon. Gentleman's observation is, that no systematic calculation of the relation of hours to accidents has been made since Major Marindin gave that evidence. 1134 I have no doubt that the proportion of those four years holds good now. This is the last case in which those statistics were tabulated. I do not think, however, that there is a single hon. Member of this House who could not, rom his own recollection, supply some case where there has been some connection between the number of hours of labour and the accident. I remember a case in which a signalman had been on duty so many hours that he had become practically dazed, and was totally unfit for his duty. The thing is too obvious to the common sense we can bring to bear on the matter to require any further argument. It is perfectly clear that, if a man has been at work for perhaps 27 hours continuously, he cannot be competent to discharge his duties as a signalman, a driver, or a goods guard. The case put by hon. friend the Member for York is not one which is very much to the point. These accidents do not occur so much in the case of drivers of passenger trains, because the engines are changed at different points of the journey, and the engine driver is not for such a long time continued on duty. It is in the case of the goods trains that the difficulty arises, because their hours are not only very long, but very uncertain, and unexpected delays arise, which oblige the men to be kept at work much beyond their booked time. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman opposite will correct me if I am wrong, but my impression is that you have always the same fireman and the same engine driver together on the same turn of duty, and if one is exhausted or overcome by sleep, the other by doing the whole of the work becomes exhausted at the same time, and, therefore, you get both of them fatigued. The real danger is not so much in the booked time as in the excess, and, although I admit that it is not always possible for a railway company to keep to the booked hours, and that there must be a certain number of emergency cases, I am very far from believing that the most is done for dealing with those cases. The case made by my hon. friend the Member for Derby is not only a case of continuous hours upon one or two days, but of an excessive number of hours often during the whole week, and that cannot be explained by the theory of emergency which 1135 is plausibly put forward by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. If a man is employed for 116 hours per week, it is perfectly obvious that that man cannot be fit to go on with his work, and no temporary emergency caused by excess of traffic, or fog, or accidents blocking the line, will explain cases of that kind. I am afraid that it will be necessary, if railway companies are to deal properly with cases of that kind, they will have to enlarge their staff, and so relieve the men who are over-fatigued by an excessive number of hours per week.
I come now to the question of what is practical to be done. Although I believe that my hon. friends are well entitled to insist upon these Returns, and although I hope the right hon. Gentleman will grant them, and grant them in an ampler measure than has been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Leeds, I do hope that something will be done to carry out the Act of 1893 more vigorously. I do not at all deny that there is a great deal of difficulty in the matter. I had to administer the Act for more than a year at the Board of Trade, and no one was more anxious to work the act fairly than Sir Courtenay Boyle and Sir F. Hopwood, who were then at the head of the Railway Department, but it was constantly represented to me, and I felt there was a great deal of force in the representations, that it was necessary to proceed very cautiously in the matter, and that it was easier to lead railway companies than to drive them. Although the right hon. Member for North Leeds says that railway directors have no power in this House, I venture to say that there is no body in this country that has a greater vis inertiœ than the railway companies. Therefore, I should not venture to press the Board of Trade to act with severity or haste in endeavouring to bring the railway companies rather more up to the mark, because I feel that the relations between the Board and the railway companies, which ought to be amicable relations, will be much better if the railway companies are induced to move by persuasion rather than by compulsion. It should be remembered that the only remedy the Board of Trade possesses is to bring the railway companies before the 1136 Railway Commissioners, and that is a process which involves very considerable delay and also a certain amount of uncertainty. It is evidently the duty of the Board of Trade, when taking a case before the Commissioners, to select a strong case, in which it is certain that it will receive a decision which will be instructive and typical for other cases to come. At the same time, when I bear in mind that this Act has now been in force for eight years, and I see how few are the cases in which the Board of Trade appear to have acted, while it has acted in all the cases brought before it, and in which the hours of labour have, in fact, been reduced, and how many are the cases which are apparently still pending owing to the recalcitrant behaviour of the railway companies—
§ *MR. JACKSON
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to be unfair to the railway companies. They have plenty of sins of their own to bear, but I know of no case in which the word which the right hon. Gentleman has applied to the railway companies is justified.
§ M. BRYCE
We are becoming extraordinarily sensitive. I will certainly withdraw the word recalcitrant or any term that gives offence to my right hon. friend the Member for North Leeds. I will substitute the term that the railway companies have not been particularly expeditious. All I say is that if hon. Members will look at the Reports issued by the Board of Trade on this subject in the last few years, they will see that every year there have been a number of cases in which the railway companies have objected to the course which the Board of Trade suggested, and in which the Board of Trade have not been able to get their proposals adopted and carried out. In every 1137 case where the Board of Trade thought that the objections were reasonable, they have said so, but in a good many other cases they have stated in these Reports that the railway companies have refused to comply with their request, and that that refusal continues. I ask whether that is not, in the opinion of those who consult these Reports, a fair statement of the case in the circumstances, and subject to anything which the President of the Board of Trade may be able to tell us. He may be able to give further reasons, and, if so, I have no doubt they will be solid reasons, why the Board of Trade have not taken more drastic action, but I would say that the impression made upon my own mind by this debate, and by the cases adduced by my hon. friends, is that the time has come when rather more might be done than has yet been done, and when some more serious effort must be made to reduce what every one must admit is—not only in the interest of railway employees, but in the interest of the travelling public—a very serious national evil.
§ (11.35.) MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The question with respect to which this Motion has been brought forward is one which is likely to command the sympathies of the House. We are all grateful to the railway servants on whose care and vigilance a great deal of the safety of the travelling public depends. The hon. Member for Derby made the principal speech from that side of the House, and I think everybody will admit that the railway servants have in him an able defender, and one who, making allowance for his point of view, is capable of stating his case with great moderation. I think it will be equally granted that my right hon. friend the Member for North Leeds has stated his case on behalf of the railway companies with equal force and moderation. There is another point, I think, upon which there 1138 is a general concurrence, and in this I include my right hon. friend the Member for North Leeds. I think we must all admit that between accidents on the railways and long hours some connection there must necessarily be. It is impossible that men who have been working until their energies are exhausted should have the same physical and mental alertness as they would have if their hours were comparatively short. I am disposed to agree with my right hon. friend that the amount of direct evidence on this subject is not quite so great as might be expected. I think it has been forgotten by more than one hon. Member who has taken part in the debate that as a contributor cause of accidents long hours are certainly not responsible for more, probably, than a small fraction of the accidents which occur. Accidents are a natural and necessary consequence of the inherent danger of railway work itself, and there is not only no proof forthcoming that the majority of accidents are due to long hours, but I am convinced in my own mind that while they are no doubt a contributory cause of accident, they are only so to a comparatively limited extent. The House should distrust any argument based on the assumption that we may trace a close correspondence between the number of accidents and the hours which are worked.
Now, there are certain points which, I think, should be borne in mind by the House, and which have been to some extent lost sight of in this debate. If legislation to regulate the hours of railway servants has been accepted by Parliament, it has been accepted on the ground of safety, and of safety alone. That is an important matter to bear in mind, and it at once puts out of court the suggestion of my hon. friend the Member for the Shipley Division, that the protection given to men working on railways should be extended to clerks and others who are in railway employment. That is a suggestion which I, for my part, 1139 cannot listen to for a moment. It must also be remembered that a large number of railway accidents are probably unavoidable. No matter what precautions may be taken, no matter what legislation we may pass, no matter how carefully we administer the laws, still there will be a considerable number of accidents. It is impossible in railway work to avoid cases occasionally in which hours must be worked far longer than any one desires to see worked under normal conditions. When a breakdown occurs, and in a number of other eventualities, a railway manager cannot avoid the necessity of increasing the work of railway servants. We must always expect that long hours will be worked on railways in emergencies. There is another point. The hon. Member for Derby has cited a number of cases in which hours of undue length have been worked; but in considering how far those would justify us in anything like a new departure in legislation, we must take into account the number of persons employed. I venture to say that the actual number of cases where the hours of work have been excessive, as compared with the number of persons employed on our railways, will really be found to be comparatively small.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I am quite prepared to admit that all railways are not on a par in this matter. Statistics of accidents are apt to be misleading, unless you have all the circumstances before you. Though accidents may have increased, I think it will be found that 1140 they have not increased in proportion to the increase of traffic. It is obvious that there again, if you wish to form any conclusion as to whether there has been an improvement with respect to safety on railways, it is necessary to consider not only the number of accidents, but the number in proportion to the greater number engaged in railway work, and also the increased traffic. That is an important consideration, and one which may lead us to another conclusion than that which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen has arrived at.
The Board of Trade is asked by the Motion before the House to put in force the powers it possesses to call for Returns of the hours exceeding twelve hours a day worked by railway servants, and of cases where work is resumed with intervals of less than nine hours. The House may ask how a Government Department possessing these powers do not put them into execution. In order to explain this matter, I am afraid I must ask the House to look back for some years, so as to get some light thrown upon the subject. About twelve years ago this question of long hours attracted a great deal of attention in this House. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer was President of the Board of Trade in 1889, he brought in a Bill, afterwards passed into law, which contained a clause giving the Board of Trade the very powers referred to in the Motion now before the House. What were these powers? They were that every railway company should make a Return to the Board of Trade of the hours exceeding twelve per day worked by railway servants, and of 1141 cases where work is resumed with intervals of less than nine hours. That appears to me to be a very salutary law. Why, then, have these Returns not been asked for, for a considerable number of years? The reason is this, that that clause in the Act of 1889 was superseded, after inquiry by a Committee, by the Act of 1893; and although this particular clause was not, as a matter of fact, repealed, it fell into desuetude.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I am aware of its existence, but so completely has it been forgotten and buried, that I confess that I did not know of it until lately. Now the House will observe that the Act of 1893 was intended to be a substitute for this particular clause, and to provide a better remedy for the evil. Therefore, the contention before the House amounts to this, that the Act of 1893 has been a failure, and that we ought to go back to the provisions of the Act which it superseded in order that the control of the Board of Trade over railway servants might be more effective. Now, is there any justification for that? Has the Act of 1893 been a failure? The hon. Member for Derby claimed that it had been, and the right hon. Member for South Aberdeen made the same statement.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
"It had not been a success" was the phrase used by the right hon. Gentleman. But these are assumptions, I venture to say. The 1142 hon. Member for Derby has referred to the fact that the complaints made under the Act of 1893 had decreased from 156 in 1895 to nineteen last year. A very curious deduction has been made from that diminution in the number of complaints. Some hon. Gentlemen have gone as far as to say that because there have been fewer complaints, therefore the Act has been a failure. That appears to me to be a very extraordinary inference to draw; and the very opposite inference has been drawn by the officers of the Board of Trade. One of the inspectors, Sir Francis Hopwood, in his Report, states that he hopes the falling off in the number of representations is an indication that the Act has done the work for which it was placed on the Statute Book. There is no doubt that the evil of too long hours existed formerly; it is also true that if it does exist now, the Statute provides a remedy. But the complaints made to-day are not that the number of hours worked are largely in excess of twelve hours, but that the twelve hours work has not been reduced to ten hours, and ten hours to eight hours. I submit that that fact alone, instead of proving that the Act of 1893 is a failure, shows that it has been a great success. The complaints made last year only numbered nineteen, but during the last four months, through the activity and instrumentality of the hon. Member for Derby, they have mounted up to between sixty and seventy. I take it that the inference drawn by the officers of the Board of Trade as to the success of the Act of 1893 has not pleased the hon. Member for Derby and his friends, and they have shown much greater activity in searching out cases of complaint in order to prove that in reality the success of the Act has not been so great as it has been represented to be. I do not object to that; 1143 it is a very natural course for the hon. Member to take, and it is no doubt his duty to do so, but the mere fact that he cites these cases is an admission that they are sub judice. He says "Here is a proof that the Act is not a success." But that argument does not convince me. Some of the cases he quotes may have explanations of a very plausible character; and I am not prepared to say, until I go into them, what conclusion I can draw from them.
The position at the present moment is this. The hon. Member for Derby says that the Act of 1893 has not been a success. I doubt that conclusion, and believe that it has been a success. But I am perfectly willing that the matter should be brought to a test. Though I do not think there is a case for requiring these Returns from the railway companies on the ground that any laches on their part has been proved, I suggest that as ten years have now passed since the Committee reported, we should have again from the railway companies a Return which may be compared with the Return obtained under the Act of 1899. The House will then be able to make a comparison between the condition of things today and the condition of things as it was when the Committee made their Report ten years ago. If it be true that the Act of 1893 has been a failure, and that the hours of work of railway servants at the present time are unduly long, as they were ten years ago, it will be for the House to consider whether any further action should be taken. It does not appear to me that we should go further at the present time. In these circumstances, I would be prepared to accept 1144 the Resolution if it were slightly amended I would suggest that it should run thus—That, in the opinion of this House, the Government should exercise their power to call for Returns of the hours exceeding 12 hours a day worked by railway servants whose duty involves the safety of trains and passengers, and of cases where work is resumed with intervals of less than nine hours.That would give a Return exactly comparable in every respect with the Return obtained under the powers of the Act of 1889.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, because he was of opinion that the House was prepared to come to an immediate decision without that Motion.
§ (12.0.) Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 151; Noes, 144. (Division List No. 50.)1147
§ Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, the Government should exercise their power to call for Returns of the hours exceeding 12 per day worked by railway servants, and of cases where 1148 work is resumed with intervals of less than nine hours.
§ Adjourned at ten minutes after Twelve o'clock.