§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £139,395, be granted to His Majesty to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1904, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade and Subordinate Departments, including a Grant in Aid."
§ SIR EDWARD STRACHEY (Somersetshire, S.)
said he desire to draw attention to the question of railway rates, 117 which the President of the Board of Agriculture had suggested was a matter for the Board of Trade. The right hon. Gentleman, in speaking on the point, had suggested that for one Department to draw the attention of another Department to a subject of this nature, was as difficult as it was for one nation to approach another, and he had thrown out a hint that the Board of Trade was not giving all the assistance it could in the matter. That certainly ought not to be the case. What agriculturists wanted was that the Board of Trade should take up this question on their behalf and ask the railway companies to reconsider their rates generally in the interests both of agriculturists and small traders, who were not in a position to protect themselves These classes particularly needed this help for they were not organised like the big industries. If the President of the Board of Trade were as alive to the interest and urgency of this matter, so far as it affected his Department, as the President of the Board of Agriculture was, he would look into the question and bring such powers as he possessed to bear upon the railway companies in order to help the small trader and the small agriculturist. Why was it, for instance, that the Great Eastern Railway Company charged only a very moderate rate for the carriage of agricultural produce, while the Great Western charged excessive sums for exactly the same kind of work? Again, the London and North Western carried 48 lbs. of agricultural produce a distance of thirty miles for 6d., whereas the Great Eastern carried the same kind of produce seventy-two miles for a like amount. Why should these discrepancies exist? Again, the Great Eastern carried a cwt. of agricultural produce thirty miles for 9d. at owner's risk, while the Great Northern and Great Central charged 1s. 2d., and the Great Western 1s. 5d. Could not the right hon. Gentleman look into these matters? Surely if he had no power to act he could remonstrate.
§ SIR EDWARD STRACHEY
said the Board of Trade at any rate did remon- 118 strate on occasion. These were not the only discrepancies which gave rise to complaint. He thought they also had good reason to protest against the bad system which the companies were now adopting of setting up such rates as "owner's risk" and telling their customers that they must either adopt those rates or be bound by the companies' statutory rates. Surely the President of the Board of Trade could interfere in matters of this kind. The imposition of minimum rates often prevented a farmer supplying his produce direct to the consumer in large cities. He had know cases in which farmer had desired to supply milk to London Clubs, but had found it impossible to do so because the companies insisted on a minimum charge which put a prohibited price upon the produce. He wished the right hon. Gentleman, who seemed to look at these matters from the point of view of a railway director, would take up the attitude which had been adopted by the President of the Board of Agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to be amused at that suggestion, but he could assure him that agriculturists had the greatest possible confidence in the President of the Board of Agriculture, and it would be well if the traders of this country could feel equal confidence in the President of the Board of Trade. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would take that opportunity of promising to do something to help the small agriculturist and trader, and in order to give him a chance of so doing, he begged to move a reduction of his salary by £100.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A (Salaries) be reduced by£100, in respect of the Salary of the President of the Board of Trade."—(Sir Edward Strachey.)
§ MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottinghamshire, Rushcliffe)
said he wished to associate himself with the spirit of the remarks of the hon. Baronet, though he did not think it necessary to draw a comparison between the personnel of two Government Departments. The question of railway rates was far more important and pressing than the President of the Board of Trade seemed to imagine. Ten years ago the Member for South Islington 119 moved in that House a Resolution condemning the railway companies for the use they made of their powers under the Act of 1892, and the result was that a Committee was appointed to inquire into the matter. That Committee unanimously agreed upon certain recommendations, some of which he feared had not been carried out. The attitude of the railway companies was pretty severely condemned in the Committee's Report, and they then looked, as they now looked, to the Board of Trade to protect the interest of the public in the matter of railway rates. The present state of matters, when any one who had dealings with the railway companies with respect to the transit of commodities on a small scale found it very difficult to get to know the precise rates the companies were authorised by statute to charge, left very much to be desired. He strongly urged the President of the Board of Trade to look into the Report of the Select Committee on Railway Rates of 1893 and to keep an open ear to the complaints that came before the Department from time to time. He desired especially to call attention to the administration of the Railway Employment (Prevention of Accidents) Act, 1900, an Act which resulted from the appointment of a Royal Commission in 1899, of which Lord James of Hereford was President, and on which he had the honour of sitting. That Commission investigated the question of the lamentable number of deaths and injuries among railway employees, and it unanimously decided that the number was unnecessarily great. Upon their Report the then President of the Board of Trade the present Chancellor of the Exchequer brought in a Bill which became law in the following year, and it was in reference to the administration of that Act that he wished to say a few words that afternoon. He thought the Committee had some reason to complain that ii was only that afternoon that they had been furnished by the Department with the figures for last year He hoped the new Financial Secretary to the Treasury would endeavour to secure a reform in that direction in future years These Reports ought certainly to be presented to the House before Easter in each year.
120 Now the figures for last year showed there were 435 deaths of servants of railway companies, excluding servants of contractors, and 3,806 injuries, and all must acknowledge that the tale of killed and wounded was too high. He believed a strong administration of the Act would effect a great reduction in these figures. The Act gave the Board of Trade power to make rules, under twelve specific heads, which would ensure greater safety to railway servants. These rules dealt with technical matters, such as the provision of brake locks on both sides of a wagon. The twelve rules were understood by the Royal Commission to have been agreed to by the railway companies, yet three of them had not been carried out, the railway companies having objected and interposed unexpected and rather, as he thought, unreasonable delays. The Board of Trade ought to insist, in the strongest possible way, on all the twelve rules being carried out. There was no question, speaking broadly, but that the greater number of the railway companies provided most efficient appliances for the safety of life and limb, but in the case of railways, as well as of mines, it was necessary that the State should lay a heavy hand on the laggards. That duty was placed in the hands of the President of the Board of Trade, but he ventured to say, he hoped respectfully and not discourteously, that the right hon. Gentleman was a little too frightened of exercising the powers he possessed. He was well aware of the delicacy of the relations between a State Department and employers of labour, but they ought to lay down the principle that the safety of life and limb should be the paramount interest, at whatever cost. He meant to say nothing that would reflect on the personal desire of the right hon. Gentleman to carry out this duty, and he hoped that discussion would nerve his arm to carry out the Acts. Speaking as a shareholder in railway companies he had always held that safety of life and limb was paramount, and that no dividends should be paid until the safety of every one employed on a railway was assured. He hoped the result of that discussion would be that the Board of Trade would see that the railway companies carried 121 out the Acts of Parliament in the spirit in which they were passed, and would thus secure absolute safety of life and limb for railway servants.
§ MR. BELL (Derby)
rose to support the remarks of the last speaker, and at the same time to add a few observations of his own in regard to the question of hours worked by railway servants. The President of the Board of Trade in August last, replying to a Question, stated that the special Return he had obtained in the previous December of the hours of railway men was so unsatisfactory that in the following December he would call for another. He appreciated the kindness of the right hon. Gentleman, but felt that he then made a great error in notifying the railway companies four months beforehand that he was going to call for another return. He would preface his remarks by saying that he had always endeavoured to substantiate his points, and to state nothing but facts. There were no employers more ingenious than the railway companies in deceiving the Board of Trade when a Return was desired. He did not apply this remark to the directors or the managers of railways, but to the subordinate officials, who deceived their chiefs, and through them the Department. Two years ago he complained of the indifferent manner in which the Board of Trade carried out the Act of 1893, and of the undue delay in attending to complaints. He had now to make the same complaint again. In December 1899 he complained to the Board of Trade as to the hours of the men employed at the Motherwell depôt on the Caledonian railway, and gave examples, and in February 1902 he repeated the complaint. In both cases he received a formal acknowledgment, but he had received no further reply, and he had been recently informed that the hours worked by the men at that depôt were still the same as in December 1899. He was sure the House would bear with him and would agree with him that for such an enormous amount of time to be occupied in looking into a matter of this description was very unsatisfactory. It would seem that the company's officials hoodwink the Board of Trade.
122 They did not bring a full and correct report to the Board of Trade, or make a special effort to obtain the information required by the Department, so as to let them know the exact and normal working of the employees. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade notified the companies that he was going to call for a Return for December, and the companies, almost without exception, sent private—or he should not use the word "private," but official circulars round warning their people what to do for December. He had a few of these circulars with him, and he would read them. He would read one or two and ask the House to accept the others as being somewhat similar. Here was one—
§ "GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY.
§ District Superintendent's Office.
§ "Swansea, November 29th, 1902.
§ "Hours of Goods Guards.
§ "Dear Sir.—Relief guards have been put on at Carmarthen Junction, Landore and Neath, and I wish you to personally instruct your guards to wire well in advance for relief when they are likely to be on duty over twelve hours.
§ "Acknowledge receipt,
§ "(Signed) J. REES."
§ It was possible that neither the Directors nor the General Manager knew anything about this circular. This was issued on November 29th in view of the Returns which we wanted being taken in December. But so anxious is Mr. Rees to see that the hours worked in December were not more than twelve hours per day that he sent round another circular as follows:—
§ "GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY."
§ District Superintendent's Office.
§ "Swansea, December 3rd, 1902.
§ "Long Hours of Goods Guards.
§ "In cases where guards have been on duty long hours and relief could not be obtained, they should show on their journals at what station application for relief was made; also the times of booking on and off duty.
§ "(Signed) J. REES."
§ "GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY.
§ "Divisional Superintendent's Office.
§ "Swansea, January 12th, 1903.
§ "Relief to Goods Guards.
§ "Dear Sir—You may now discontinue sending me the daily returns of goods guards relieved. I must, however, ask you to see personally that sufficient guards are booked out for relief purposes, and also to spare no effort in keeping the hours of the goods guards as near as possible to sixty hours per week.
§ "The guards must also be reminded that they must continue to wire forward for relief when they are likely to be out about twelve hours or more—Yours truly,
§ "J. REES."
§ It would seem that he urged the officials to do their utmost to get the hours down so that they should not exceed sixty a week. For railway men to work sixty hours a week was one of those things he had always complained of. He had frequently spoken strongly against it. It frequently happened that the men were called upon to work excessively long hours for three or four days in the week, and then play off for one or two days, so that at the end of the week they might not have done more than sixty hours. He had objected to the sixty hours because it gave local officials power to work men on as many days as they liked exceptionally long hours so long as they gave them relief for a day or two during the week in order to keep their average down to sixty hours. Then he had another circular relating to the Great Central Railway:—
§ "GREAT CENTRAL RAILWAY.
§ "Locomotive Department.
§ "Wigan, December 1st, 1902.
§ "Notice to Drivers and Firemen.
§ "All men are hereby instructed that in the event of delays taking place when working trains which may prevent them from working through to destination without being on duty twelve hours or over, relief must be obtained at the nearest convenient point to avoid this. Besides all locomotive depôts men are employed at Guide Bridge, Barnsley Junction, Stairfoot, and Broughton Lane.
§ "Special arrangements will be made at these places and at Mexboro', Sheffield, Retford, and Barnetby; and in addition to applying to the foreman or loco, inspector in charge, drivers must give the longest possible notice by wire from any station or signal box if they had been on duty long enough before reaching such 124 places as to incur any chance of twelve hour being exceeded before booking off in the ordinary way.
§ "(By order)—GREEN, Foreman."
§ A strong point he had to make was that from Manchester the officials of the Great Central Railway Company sent orders to Ardwick, where they had a large number of train men employed, such as "for twenty-six goods guards to be prepared to go with the 6.25 train on Monday"—that would be on the 1st December or the first working day in December—"and take up duty at various places along the line viâ Barnsley Junction, Sheffield, Woodhouse, Beighton, Godley, Dunford and Macclesfield" These men were simply sent round in this way during December in order that relief might be provided, care being taken that the goods guards should not under any circumstances make more than twelve hours a day during that month. When December was over then these men returned to their own stations, and so far as the company was concerned—or the local officials—little thought or care had been given about the matter since. Then the North British Railway Company issued a circular—
§ "NORTH BRITISH RAILWAY.
§ "District Traffic Superintendent's Office.
§ "Long Hours of Trainmen.
§ "During the month of December there must not be any interference with the booked working of trains without authority, and only by suspension after all concerned have been consulted.
§ "All concerned are requested to do their very utmost to keep the hours of all trains within the proper limit. Yours truly,
§ "ALEX. KIDD."
§ That was issued by Alexander Kidd, and he presumed he was the district officer of the North British Railway Company for the Coatbridge district. He specified particulars during the month of December, but there was another North British circular from Mr. T. Philip, of the Carlisle district of the same Company—
§ "NORTH BRITISH RAILWAY.
§ "Carlisle, 17th November, 1902.
§ "Hours of Duty.
§ "Please report specially to me daily from now to 31st of December, every case in which the day of any one of your block signalmen 125 exceeds twelve hours from start to finish and the cause thereof Every effort must be made to keep the signalmen's hours within the limit.
§ '(Signed) T. PHILIP."
§ Here was a very significant circular from the Great Southern and Western Railway of Ireland, dated November 25th—
§ "GREAT SOUTHERN AND WESTERN RAILWAY.
§ "November, 25th, 1902.
§ "Signalmen and Shunters, etc., Working over Twelve Hours per Day.
§ "Dear Sir—I have a particular reason why this Return rendered to the Superintendent of the Line from the stations in my district should be nil for the month of December. I must, therefore, ask you personally to see that no man at your station is allowed to work beyond the allowed hours, but, if necessary, a fresh man to be put to do the work by calling upon an adjacent station for assistance, or communicating with me in ample time. Anyway, as already stated, there must be no working over hours, and I look to you personally to prevent it. Acknowledge.
§ "(Signed) W. BEDDOES."
§ He had several more of these circulars, but he thought it was hardly worth while to weary the House with them. He was sure the House would accept from him that the whole of the circulars were to the same effect as those he had read. Now that, in his opinion, proved conclusively that when the Board of Trade did try to put into operation the powers they had under the Act that was in existence, in the interest of the employees on the railways, advantage was taken of them by the local officials in this manner. As he said before, he did not attach blame to the directors or the high officials. He did not believe that the directors of the companies, or even the managers, were familiar with this kind of thing. He had no doubt the last circular he had read, and one or two of the others, had emanated solely from local officials, and that no director in the House would be able to say that he was aware that such a circular had been issued. What he desired to see was that the Department should get some explanation from the managers and some undertaking to look into the matter. Managers might say that these things did not occur, but as a matter of fact they did. He was happy to be able to say that the hours of railway workers had been greatly reduced from what they were; still they were considerably 126 above what would appear to be the case the Return for December which the right hon. Gentleman is having prepared. He was not going to dwell any longer on the hours question. He had said sufficient about that to show how the matter stood, and he was sure the right hon. Gentleman would give attention to it. He had anticipated being able to deal with it last year, but he had not had an opportunity of speaking on the Board of Trade Estimate, so that he had to forego the matter.
The next point he had to mention was one his hon. friend the Member for Rushcliffe had spoken upon, viz, railway accidents amongst railway workers. The railway companies dealt with the Board of Trade in this matter just as they did in regard to the question of the hours of railway men—not, perhaps, with the I acquiescence or knowledge of the directors or chief officials. These latter were advised by their subordinates. When they asked for information, misleading information was supplied to them by people who wanted to save themselves from a difficulty, and to obviate the evil he would suggest—and this he I would press most strongly on the Board of Trade—that there should be an additional number of sub-inspectors appointed—sub-inspectors to deal exclusively with railway matters under the Accidents Act, 1900. He found there was already an item on the Estimates for two additional sub-inspectors. It was on the Estimates for last year. There was a similar item on the Estimates the year before. Therefore I the right hon. Gentleman had got the money for two additional sub inspectors for three years, and yet they had not been appointed. He maintained that it was absolutely necessary that these men should be appointed at the earliest possible moment. He ventured to anticipate that the reply of the right hon. Gentleman would be that the companies were doing all in their power to carry out the new rules. But that was what any employer might say. There was no employer, be he one of the slow ones referred to by his right hon. friend, or be he one who had desired to see these rules carried into effect, who could not say that. But, as the House knew, they had had since 1900 an Act for the
prevention of accidents to railway servants, and the strange part of it is that while they had an Act specifically for the purpose of preventing railway accidents (which was a laudable thing as far as it went), yet the officers of the Board of Trade did not put into force their powers with a view to preventing accidents from happening, but simply to deal with accidents after they had happened. That was not satisfactory to him, and he did impress on the President of the Board of Trade the necessity of doing something—anything which was in his power—to prevent these accidents from occurring. He found that the Home Office had 120 inspectors and assistant and sub-inspectors under the Factory and Workshops Act They had thirty-eight inspectors and assistant inspectors under the Mines Act; that was 158 inspectors to carry out the Factory and Workshops and Mines Acts, whilst at the Board of Trade, to deal with an industry which employed so many hundreds of thousands of men, and which was so much more dangerous than that of the factories and workshops, they had none. He found that railway employees were so divided that one section came under the Home Office, and these, though employed in work that was less dangerous than that of the train men had inspectors to watch their interests, whilst the others had not. In the former group there were 100,000 men, whilst in the latter Tinder the Board of Trade, whose work was far more dangerous, there were 200,000. He pleaded for these that the two inspectors for whom the right hon. Gentleman had the money should be appointed. He had had their salaries for two years and was now asking for another £400. But he would not dwell further on the subject. Here were the Board of Trade Rules. They had been issued by the Board of Trade, and the House was familiar with them. He had also with him the Act which gives power of inspection to the Board of Trade in this matter. Section 13 says—
The powers of the Board of Trade for the inspection of railways shall include power to inspect any railway for the purpose of ascertaining whether there is any ground for proceeding under this Act, or whether there has been any contravention of, or default in Compliance with, any rule made under this Act.
That was clear and distinct as to where there should be inspection, but, again, he desired to point out, as he did in reference to the question of hours, that the railway companies had a way of deceiving the Board of Trade when they make inquiries. One Clause of the Act—Clause 15—said that the Board of Trade might, with the concurrence of the Treasury, appoint or employ such persons as appeared to them to be required for carrying the Act into effect, and might hold such inquiries and make such experiments as they thought expedient for that purpose. The companies all fought the Board of Trade in this matter, and he was happy to say that the Board of Trade fought them, and he never neglected to render the Board what assistance he could. One particular company fought the Board of Trade, even getting an adjournment of an inquiry and a re-hearing of the case before the Railway and Canal Commissioners, and that was the Taff Vale Railway Company. On the Penarth Branch they run trains of fifty or sixty trucks and the men have to ride on the trucks without any protection whatever. The Railway and Canal Commissioners decided that there should be brake vans on these trains, but the railway company protested against this. He did not believe that brake vans were being run there yet. He was glad to say that the Board of Trade sent down their Chief Inspector, Colonel Yorke, in whom everybody had full confidence, in order to see what arrangements had been made for the working of the traffic. On the day of Colonel Yorke's visit the railway company put in operation a system of working which they had never done before. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to look into this matter before the Board gave its decision. Let the Board of Trade send down some one on a day known only to the Board itself to see how the work could be done. He had furnished the Board with details of the working. He was bound to say that this was playing fast and loose with an important Department of the State and with the House of Commons. Humble Member though he was, he could assure the Committee that he was not going to sit down and allow this sort of thing
to go by when an opportunity presented itself for bringing it forward.
§ He had a complaint to make in regard to the right hon. Gentleman's own Department. He had failed to impress on the permanent officials of the Department the absolute necessity of carrying out the Acts of Parliament as the Home Office did in all cases. He frequently got complaints from men as to danger arising from want of protection, and when he submitted them to the Department he was asked whether the men themselves had laid the complaints direct before their employers. He would ask the Committee what was the use of the Act of Parliament? The Act was passed to give these men the opportunity of having their hours regulated and that they might have their lives and limbs protected without having to make complaints direct to the employers. There were too many men who would have to suffer if they had courage enough to call the attention of officials to complaints of this description. He had in his hand a communication from the Board of Trade, dated 18th December, with regard to a complaint on the part of men on the Great Eastern Railway in connection with the fogging and flagging of trains. The Board of Trade wanted to know whether the complaint had been sent first by the men to the officials. His point was that it was a matter of indifference to the Board of Trade whether or not the individuals had made their complaint direct to the officials. There were too many instances of men having been dismissed or removed because their complaints had made them objectionable to officials. It was the business of the Board of Trade to ascertain whether the complaint of the Great Eastern Railway men was one that should be attended to by the Department, and whether the duties they had to perform were a source of danger to them. If so, the Board should see that the men were protected in their employment. He could bring scores of men to prove that they were penalised if they brought forward these matters. That was the reason why the men were afraid to make complaints. He had to-day received a letter from a railway servant, William Edward, stating that he had been accused of writing to the Board of Trade with respect to the 130 condition of the engines on the Metropolitan Railway. This man totally denied that he had done so. He could prove by scores of similar cases that men were interfered with, not by the directors, managers, or chief officials of the companies, but by the subordinate officials. He urged that practical men should be appointed as sub-inspectors in order that accidents might be prevented. The right hon. Gentleman had got the money. It was not necessary to appeal to the Treasury at all. There were plenty of men to select from, and the right hon. Gentleman should not hesitate to appoint them at the earliest possible moment.
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
said the Railway Rates Select Committee, of which he moved and carried the appointment, to which the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division had referred, made many recommendations, and he was satisfied that in revising the maximum rates they had commenced a practical reform. He was bound to say that he thought the railway companies had done something, at any rate, to make an improvement with regard both to rates and the conditions of traffic. If there was one thing more hopeful than another in connection with this, it was the tone of the whole debate. He could, remember that only a few years ago an indictment in very strong terms was made on the points discussed, against the railways To-day, although there were still some charges made, there was a disposition to acknowledge that, whether by legislation or administration, some marked improvement had been made. As one who at that time took an active part in relation to the question of railway rates he desired to say that much in the direction of reform had undoubtedly been effected. And by recognising the necessity for doing something in the direction desired the railway companies were acting in the interest ultimately of their own shareholders, a consideration which ought never to be overlooked, because he thought a policy of reasonableness and enterprise was most advantageous to the companies themselves. The tone of the debate indicated that some progress had been made, and it gave the best hope of effecting something in the same direction in the future. His hon. friend the Member for Somersetshire had referred 131 to the feeling on the part of agriculturists. He desired to say for the commercial bodies that they were still by no means satisfied. There was no question more frequently raised in Chambers of Commerce than that of railway rates. It was a notorious fact that in certain cases rates were actually prohibitive, especially in relation to small consignments. If there was one cause of complaint more than another it was in regard to the preferences still given to foreign imports as compared with home produce. That was not peculiar to this country. It seemed to be a very general practice. He was in the United States recently, and he found that it existed there to a large extent, not only in favour of particular produce, but also in favour of certain ports to which the companies could control traffic. But complaints were sometimes made in regard to railway rates which on investigation showed that if the consignors knew a little more as to the actual rates and conditions, some improvement might be effected by themselves.
A great cause of complaint that might be made against railway companies was not in relation to rates so much as to the conditions of transport. He thought the conditions of consignment notes were, in many cases, highly oppressive. The differential rate between owners' risk and company's risk was frequently so great as to make the latter prohibitive. The consequence was that goods were necessarily consigned at the lower rate, if any profit was to be made at all. He knew particularly that in the furnishing trades this was a very general complaint to the London and other Chambers, and was very restrictive of that and other forms of industry. In that way the enactment of burdensome conditions was virtually a means of raising the railway rate and had frequently become oppressive. He was inclined to doubt whether spasmodic pressure, such as this Amendment, on railway companies in the end produced the advantages desired. His hon. friend had said something about the great question of the relation of this House to railway companies in regard to railway rates and hours of labour. He admitted that they ought to see whether more possibly could not be done in this 132 House in the interests of commerce; whether the House could not devise for itself the means of taking up practical Commercial reforms. Let there be Commercial Committees and Agricultural Committees. But, after all, how seldom could the time be obtained at present to discuss great practical, industrial, commercial, or agricultural questions. It was the impotence of the House which made it difficult to deal with these matters, and that difficulty would continue until; there was some new scheme for the allocation of public time. He was quite satisfied that the cumbrous and costly character of the appeal to the Railway and Canal Commission by the general public, and still more by the individual traders, was a great obstacle to any improvement. The Inter-State Traffic Commission in America was the hunting ground of the Trusts, and those connected with great organisations of that nature, both in attack and defence; but, like the Railway and Canal Commission here, it was very rare that the individual trader went there. The traders found that the cost was absolutely prohibitive. Until some means could be devised to enable the small trader to appeal to a small local tribunal, such as the county court, and so to afford him the means of procuring the fulfilment of the law, any great reform would be most difficult. He was satisfied that the cumbersome and costly character of the Railway and Canal Commission procedure was the great bulwark of the railway companies in preventing justice being done to the private trader.
He had had the honour of sitting on the Hours of Labour of Railway Servants Committee. He thought that what was done by that Committee, and the remonstrances made, had not been without effect, and that the Board of Trade had done something in the proper direction. He was glad to hear from the hon. Member for Derby that on the part of some of the classes of railway servants there was less complaint than at the time of the appointment of that Committee. At the same time, the number of accidents was still very large, though less than in America and on the Continent. It was not in the interest of the railway companies or their shareholders that there 133 should be costly accidents, and it was not in the interest of the employees that they should be exposed to some risks which they had to run. He thought something should be done to check what was thus a real impediment to productive industry. The debate which had taken place that day would, he trusted, convince not only the public, but the railway companies and their shareholders that the objects sought to be attained by the railway employees must be a joint one with the companies themselves, and, so far from seeking to gain advantage from excessive hours of employment, with a consequent risk not only to the employees but to the travelling public, and with great penal results to the companies, the hours of labour might be further restricted by a little more care and regulation on the part of the few companies who were now the chief of fenders. He knew the difficulties of legislation, but he hoped his right hon. friend would find time to refer to the Reports of the Committees on the subject. Some of the recommendations which had not been carried out, would, he was sure, commend themselves to the right hon. Gentleman, and he hoped the result would be beneficial to the men employed, to the companies themselves, and to the commerce of the country.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
said that he supported in the warmest manner the protest of the hon. Member for Derby, in regard to the non-appointrnent of further sub-inspectors. He knew that a great deal had been done under the Prevention of Accidents Acts in regard to some questions of safety—such as those which depended upon adequate spaces for work, the due lighting of shunting yards and sheds and railway stations. He recognised from the right hon. Gentleman's replies to questions that beneficial action had been taken in that direction; but any one who followed these matters must be well aware that the improvements introduced on those points alone were comparatively small and limited. What was wanted was a more thorough, more scientific, more practical investigation into the causes of all accidents which occurred from week to week, month to 134 month, and year to year on the railways. As the congestion of the traffic increased, as the number of junctions and lines were multiplied, it was perfectly obvious that the sources of danger to the men at work also increased. He ventured to draw attention to the larger staff employed by the Home Office in regard to factory and mine inspection; and to express the opinion that the Board of Trade was absolutely undermanned for thorough inquiry into railway accidents and fatalities. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was in a position to reply that day, and if not he would put it down in the form of a Question on the Paper, but he wished to know the number of cases in which sub-inspectors or other officials of the Board of Trade had been sent down to attend inquests upon individual railway servants whose lives had been lost at their work. This was a very important matter, to which he had drawn the attention of the House before. Some years ago he put a question to the then President of the Board of Trade and elicited the fact that the powers under one of the Railway Acts by which a Coroner could ask for the attendance at inquests of an official of the Board of Trade were very rarely exercised. But the Board of Trade had the power, on its own initiative, to require that immediate telegraphic notice of any fatality on a railway should be given to the Board of Trade; and they could, if they chose, send down one of their inspectors to attend an inquest and to investigate and report to the Board of Trade the probable cause of the accident and the circumstances under which it took place. Experiments were to have been initiated under the Prevention of Accidents Act of 1900 in regard to couplings. He thought it was time that Parliament should have some statement from the Board of Trade as to the exact position in which this matter stood at the present time. They should also have some assurance from the light hon. Gentleman that the matter would not be allowed to drag itself out from year to year, but that the energies of the Board of Trade would be applied to solve this problem in the decisive way in which it had been solved in the United States.
135 He himself always felt somewhat guilty when the Act in regard to railway hours of work was criticised in this House. That Act was substantially his own proposal, and carried out almost in his own words which he had inserted in Mr. Mundella's draft. A large responsibility rested on him for heaving left it to the railway men to make their complaints themselves to the Board of Trade. He was bound to say that the working of that Act was, in that respect, not effective. The last report of the Board of Trade dwelt on the fact that there had been an increase of representations from workmen from between twenty and thirty to something like 100 last year. Before that, with the exception of the first year or two after the passing of the Act, the number of complaints by workmen had been exceedingly limited indeed. The hon. Member for Derby had really touched the situation with a needle when he said that a complaint if it did not bring dismissal stood in the way of promotion. He acknowledged that Sir Francis Hopwood and other officials of the Board of Trade had always endeavoured to shield the interests of railway servants who made complaints. These were regarded as confidential; but hon. Members knew perfectly well that there were sources of information in regard to these complaints which superintendents and foremen carried to railway directors. Therefore there was the essential difficulty that, in regard to complaints, the Act had, it seemed to him, totally failed. He wished to refer to one point in the hours return which showed how faulty and inadequate the present administration of the Act was, and how faulty was the principle on which the Board of Trade were working in this matter. In looking over the return of instances during December, 1902, in which excessive hours had been worked of twelve hours and upwards on the principal railways, he found that whereas on the Taff Vale line, the North Eastern, the Midland, the Brighton, the Great Northern, the Great Eastern and the Great Western the percentage of goods guardsand goods engine drivers, brakes men and firemen who worked excessive hours averaged from 80 per cent. to 97 per cent., on the North Western, 136 which was highly to the honour of that line, the percentage of goods' guards during the same period who had worked excessive hours was only 13 and the percentage of goods engine drivers was only 22.46. Every one knew that the North Western had to deal with mineral traffic just as much as the other great lines, and had similar difficulties with regard to fog and other matters. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman to take into consideration the enormous discrepancy which existed between the North Western and the other great lines, and he thought that the Board of Trade ought to exercise its powers to the full in order to bring about the same wholesome results on the other lines. The speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Islington opened up various points which he would not enter on, but, with regard to railway rates, he wished to support in the very strongest way one point in the hon. Gentleman's speech, and that was the impracticability, so long as the present régime remained, of small traders and small agriculturists or agricultural societies having any chance whatever against the great railway companies on the question of rates. That was where an imperative reform, either legislative or administrative, was needed.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said he thought the Board of Trade as such, had no particular reason to be dissatisfied with the debate. Most of the criticisms were directed, not against the Board of Trade, or the administration of the Board of Trade, but against the railway companies. The hon. Gentleman the Member for South Somerset, who initiated the debate, complained that the rates for agricultural produce were not such as to encourage agriculturists in the business which they carried on. The hon. Gentleman compared the action of the Board of Trade in this matter with the action of his right hon. friend the President of the Board of Agriculture and said that his right hon. friend had always called attention to the subject whenever he could, and had promised to bring the question before the Board of Trade. The hon. Gentleman would perhaps be glad to hear that, as a matter of fact, his 137 right hon. friend had not so far brought any case of excessive railway rates before the Board of Trade. His right hon. friend might be engaged in collecting such cases, but up to the present the Board of Trade had not received from his right hon. friend any complaints as to excessive rates for agricultural produce. He thought the hon. Gentleman, and also to a certain extent the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Islington, mistook the duty of the Board of Trade in this matter, it was not the duty of the Board of Trade to consider the various rates charged by the various railway companies, and to make remonstrances. Such a duty as that was not imposed on the Board of Trade by Statute, or in any other way. What surprised him, however, was that in the debate no reference was made to the Clause in the Act of 1888, under which traders or agriculturists or others who were aggrieved were at liberty to bring their case before the Board of Trade, and the Board of Trade was thereupon empowered to make representations to the railway company concerned.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said he was not inclined to agree with the hon. Gentleman. There were complaints made in 1896, and a conference followed which resulted in the railway rates complained of being reduced. The hon. Member for South Somerset yesterday moved the rejection, though he did not persist in his Motion, of an omnibus Bill promoted by the Great Western Railway Company, the ostensible reason being that the rates for milk charged by that railway company were higher than they ought to be. So far as he was aware, since the conference to which he had referred, there had been no complaints made to the Board of Trade by farmers or milk dealers under the Act of 1888; and yet the hon. Gentleman complained that the Board of Trade not only did not use the powers they possessed, but had not used powers they did not possess. Before making his complaint, it would have been more reasonable on the part of the hon. 138 Gentleman, and those he represented, to have made representations to the Board of Trade under Section 31, of the Act of 1888. Until the Board of Trade had been asked to put into force the powers they possessed, surely they could not be blamed for not putting into force powers they did not possess. With reference to the questions raised by the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division, the complaints again were not so much against the Board of Trade as against the railway companies. The hon. Gentleman did indeed complain that the information supplied by the Board of Trade was not supplied at an earlier date. They did their best in the matter, and he could assure the hon. Gentleman that there was no intentional delay in the preparation of the Returns. He did not think there was really any case for charging the Board of Trade with taking more time than was reasonable and necessary for the preparation of the Returns.
§ MR. JOHN ELLIS
said that did not represent what he stated. What he said was that Committee of Supply being opened they were asked to criticise the right hon. Gentleman's Department, although none of the figures with reference to railway accidents had been laid before hon. Members until two o'clock that afternoon. Any commercial concern would have prepared the tables much earlier. His complaint was not against the right hon. Gentleman personally. The Board of Trade sinned just as the Home Office and the other great Departments sinned. But the House of Commons ought to have the figures with reference to these Acts before they were asked to discuss the administration of the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. GERALD BALFOUR
said if he understood the hon. Gentleman correctly, no Estimates at all were to be taken until all the Returns bearing on them, had been presented.
§ MR. JOHN ELLIS
said the hon. Gentleman should not misrepresent him. He did not say that. The right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that practically Supply was not opened much before Easter, as up to the 31st of March they were discussing Supplementary 139 Estimates. He never said that no Vote should be taken before all the figures had been presented to the House.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said he was sorry if he had misrepresented the hon. Gentleman. It was quite contrary to his intention. The Return to which the hon. Gentleman referred was a Return of accidents and casualties. It was not a Blue-book, but was a Return of the proceedings of the Board of Trade under the Railway Accidents Act. If the hon. Gentleman thought the Return which furnished him with facts and figures was too late, he was very sorry that it had not been issued earlier. The figures were somewhat numerous, and lie could assure the hon. Gentleman that no time was lost in preparing the Return and laying it on the Table of the House. The number of railway accidents which occurred during the year 1902 was 435. No doubt that was a very large number; but he ventured to say that no country in the world, having regard to the proportion of railway servants employed, and to the train mileage, could show such a satisfactory record. He was quite certain that in America it would be absolutely impossible to show anything like such a satisfactory result. Not only that, but he might point out that there had been a very considerable improvement of late years. If they took the year 1893, the total number of fatal accidents was 446, and the number of servants employed was 381,000, and the train mileage run—passenger trains—was 177,000,000. In 1902 the fatal accidents were 435, and the number of persons employed 575,000. That showed a very marked improvement; and as to the train mileage, he believed that that would show a great improvement also, though he had not got the exact figures up to date. However, the train mileage for 1901 would be sufficient to show the position; whereas in 1893 the train mileage as to passenger trains was 177,000,000, and goods trains 141,000,000, in 1901 the mileage of passenger trains was 224,000,000, and good strains 173,000,000. He thought it would be admitted that within the last ten years or so a very marked improvement indeed had taken place, and the number of accidents had 140 been greatly reduced. Next, as to the Railway Accidents Act, the hon. Member had said frankly enough that the complaints which had been made were directed against the railway companies rather than against the Board of Trade; but while there might have been some delay when he first came to the Board of Trade, he might venture to say any delay that had occurred after about the first two months from his taking office had not been due to the Board of Trade. The hon. Member for Derby would bear him out in saying that the Board of Trade had done everything it could to draw up rules, and get them passed as rapidly as possible. It was true that the railway companies had made full use of their opportunities under the Act, but he could not see that they could be blamed for seeing that their interests were safeguarded, though he doubted whether they would be the earners by the appeal they had made to the Royal Commission. He did not blame them for appealing, but he could assure the hon. Gentleman that the Board of Trade had done what it could to secure a satisfactory set of rules being carried out. The hon. Member for Rushcliffe had asked a question as to whether the companies had appealed in respect of Rule 1. The answer was in the affirmative. A considerable number of companies had appealed, and until the appeal was disposed of it would be impossible to bring that Rule into force.
He thought that the hon. Member for Derby really had not much to complain of in regard to the action of the Board of Trade. The hon. Member said that the returns should be surprise returns; but, while he admitted that the returns were not so satisfactory as they could wish, still they showed a distinct improvement. That improvement was not sufficient to justify them in taking no further steps, but with regard to a surprise Return he would remind the hon. Member that in order to get a fair Return, as the month of December had been taken for the Return of 1901, it was necessary that the same month should be taken for 1902. As to the statement that Returns of a bogus character were made, he had no official knowledge of that; but if the hon. Member was in possession of information to that effect he should be very glad if he would communicate with him. With all due 141 respect he could not accept statements made in that House as conclusive without evidence on which he could go. As to additional sub-inspectors, the hon. Member for Derby had pointed out that the Board of Trade had taken money for two additional sub-inspectors, but those inspectors had not yet been appointed. The money had been taken because experience might show that they ought to be appointed, and if necessity was shown he should not hesitate to appoint them. For the express purpose of dealing with the work in connection with the administration of the Railways Accidents Act two assistant inspectors had been appointed, but no additional sub-inspectors had been appointed since 1893 or thereabouts. He had before him a list of the inquiries which had been made by sub-inspectors, and he found that from 1895 to 1902 the number of inquiries sub-inspectors carried out had been about 300. In the year 1901, 191 inquiries were made by assistant inspectors, and in 1902 the number was 240. The hon. Member asked the Board of Trade to adopt a system which had never yet been adopted by it. He asked it to adapt the factory system of inspection, as administered by the Home Office, to railways. There was nothing in the Act dealing with railway administration, and there was nothing in that system to suggest to the Board of Trade that it should adopt it. To inquire whether or not the rules were being carried out as the hon. Member suggested would require an army of inspectors. So far from two additional sub-inspectors being able to do the work, he doubted whether forty or fifty would be sufficient. In any case he could not admit that any Act yet passed had placed, or had intended to place, on the Board of Trade the duty of carrying out any system of inspection such as obtained under the Home Office.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
pointed out that if there was any weakness in the powers of the Board of Trade the only people who could introduce legislation to remedy the defect were the Board of Trade themselves.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said that was an entirely different matter. Questions of legislation could not be discussed 142 on the Estimates, but if at a proper time proposals of that sort were brought forward he would be prepared to state his reasons for thinking that any such change would be undesirable. Then the hon. Member for Derby had said that when complaints had been made, the Board of Trade, instead of inquiring into those complaints, had asked that representations should be made to the employer. He did not know the case to which the hon. Member referred, but it did not seem altogether unreasonable for the Board to suggest that in the first instance the complaint might have been made to the employer. He would, however, make inquiries into the particular case to which the hon. Member alluded. The complaints of the hon. Member for South Islington, who recognised that in regard to the matters raised in the discussion there had been a considerable improvement during the last ten years, were against the railway companies rather than against the Board of Trade. If the traders had any complaints with which the Board of Trade could deal under Section 31, let them make them. Until they did so, the Board were really not in a position to approach the railway companies. He appealed to all who had communicated their grievances to the Board of Trade to say whether the Department, when the complaints were reasonable, had not always shown itself ready to approach the railway companies, and, so far as they could by conciliatory action—they had no compulsory powers—attempt to procure the alterations desired. The proper plan for those interested to adopt, was to form an association for joint action. It was not the business of the Board of Trade to introduce a Bill giving the Board of Agriculture the powers possessed by the Agricultural Board of Ireland. In reply to the hon. Member for East Northampton, he could not say in how many cases coroners had asked for the presence at inquests of officials of the Board of Trade, but if the hon. Member would put down a Question he had no doubt he would be able to give him the information as to whether the Board would be prepared to send down officials, whether asked for by the coroners or not; he had no reason to suppose that the facilities possessed by coroners in 143 that respect were insufficient. He had never been able to accept the principle of the Bill in which the hon. Member was interested, by which the presence of officials of the Board of Trade at such inquests would be made compulsory, but he could not on the present occasion explain his reasons.
§ MR. CHANNING
asked whether the right hon. Gentleman, during his administration, had of his own initiative sent officers to attend any of these inquests.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said that, so far as he was aware, it had not been done, but he was certain that if any such request had been made by a coroner it had never been refused. The Board had not yet exercised its powers under the Prevention of Accidents Act to make experiments with respect to couplings, nor did he think it desirable that they should do so. A large fortune undoubtedly awaited the inventor of a really satisfactory form of automatic coupling, and a great number of ingenious men were at present engaged in attempting to solve the problem. The railway companies themselves from time to time were making experiments to see how far the inventions brought before them were satisfactory, and at many of those experiments the railway inspectors of the Board of Trade had been present. Further than that he did not think it desirable for the Board at present to go. He did not say it might not ultimately be expedient for the Board to utilise their power under the Act, but he thought that far more satisfactory results were likely to accrue from private enterprise in this matter than from any action a Government Department could possibly take.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)
did not agree that the majority of the criticisms and complaints which had been made were rather against the railway companies than the Board of Trade. He thought the supervision and control of the Board over the companies might in many cases have been more energetically exercised for the protection of life and limb, and it was no answer for the right hon. Gentleman to play 144 off America against Great Britain in the matter of railway management. In no country in the world could railway management, from the point of view of the safety of passengers and employees, possibly be worse than in the United States. Public opinion had not the same force in America as in England, and trusts and syndicates had not yet acquired here the influence they were able to exercise over the States and Federal legislatures of America. If railway companies attempted to do in England what they did in America the Board of Trade would be compelled by public opinion to resist them to a greater extent than was possible in America. America was the last place outside this country that he should select to be the guide, philosopher, and friend of industry capital, or commerce for this country. In matters like railways the country was relatively new, and public opinion did not operate in America as it did in this country, and to the credit of the House of Commons be it said, they had greater power over British railway companies than there was in America. The President of the Board of Trade must remember that in automatic couplings public opinion in America had compelled the arbitrary railway companies to do more to prevent accidents to life and limb than during the past three or four years the President of the Board of Trade had been able to extract from the railway companies in this country. It was to the credit of the American legislature and the men that, thanks to the introduction of automatic couplings, the railway companies in America had reduced accidents 20 to 50 per cent. two years after the automatic couplings were adopted. Judged by his own comparison the right hon. Gentleman was not up-to-date in this matter, and his administration with regard to automatic couplings for the prevention of accidents was not so good as it was in America. The right hon. Gentleman said the Board of Trade had no legal power to act to the extent to which had been assumed. But was that so? The Act of 1900 was not an Act to enable the Board of Trade to inquire into accidents after somebody had been killed or to give them facilities to shut the stable door when the horse had been 145 stolen. The title of the Act itself implied a duty and asserted an obligation, and it was called "the Railway Employment (Prevention of Accidents) Act, 1900." The second Sub-section of the first Clause stated that—Where the Board of Trade consider that avoidable danger to persons employed on any railway arises from any operation of railway service,then they shall act. If hon. Members went further on in the Act they would find that Clause 13, provided that—The powers of the Board of Trade for the inspection of railways shall include power 'to inspect any railway for the purpose of ascertaining whether there is any ground for proceeding under this Act.What Act? The Act referred to was the Railway Employment (Prevention of Accidents) Act, 1900 Clause 15, Subsection 3 further provided that—It shall be the duty of every railway company to give all reasonable facilities for conducting any experiments made by the Board of Trade for the purpose of this Act.His complaint was that under Subsection 3 of Clause 15, the Board of Trade had not made the necessary experiments, not only with regard to automatic couplings, but with regard to other things. They had not taken the powers they should have done, and had not carried out either in the letter or spirit what the Act placed upon them. All he asked the right hon. Gentleman to do was to read Clause 1, Sub-section 2, with Clause 13, and it would be seen that all through it was asserted that the Board of Trade had the power to experiment and make representations which they had not done to the extent they ought to have done. He was not irritated and out of temper, but he wished to protest against the hon. Member for Derby being asked to carry out and be practically the medium, not to say the authorised or unauthorised spy, for the Board of Trade, to do work for the railway companies that the sub-inspectors should do under the authority and responsibility of the State. It was mot the business of trade union officials, or of Members of Parliament either, to ferret out from railway employees, or from dismissed or existing railway servants, certain defects or lâches, but it was the business of the Board of Trade inspectors, with the full responsi- 146 bility of their duties, to make reasonable inquiries, and upon those inquiries to make reports both to railway companies and the Board of Trade.
The next point raised by the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division was a reasonable complaint that the Returns for 1902 might have been presented sooner, and he personally shared that view. If the Returns which ought to have been presented to the House for the year ending 1902 had been before them, the President of the Board of Trade would have been able to institute comparisons favourable to his Department. Looking at what was called the dummy Return which had been issued, he found that the; were seventy-nine fewer persons killed this year as compared with last year, and no less than seventy-five fewer people had been injured during the same period. If they had been able to compare last year's figures with figures for this year, some of the criticism to which the Board of Trade had been very properly subjected might have been removed or mitigated both in quality and quantity. He thought that three-and-a-half months was too long a period for this particular Return to take for preparation, and he trusted that in future years, before the Estimates were discussed after Easter, they would have this particular Return to guide Members of Parliament in forming proper opinions upon this question.
The Board of Trade seem to view with horror and almost with indignation the suggestion that inspection should be carried out on the railways as in the factories. He saw no reason why this should not be done. After all the railway field of industry was probably the most dangerous of all industries. Let him give a practical point. Take the great railway works at Crewe. Of the men employed there in shops under the Home Office, one in 3,000 was killed every year, but in regard to shunters one in 264 was killed every year, and one in seventeen injured.
For forms of government let fools contestWhate'er is best administered is best.When they had in any industry one in 264 killed and one in seventeen injured as against one in 3,000 killed when the workshops were properly 147 inspected by the Home Office, it did seem to him there were reasonable grounds for asking for inspection. Why did he ask for inspection of railways? Apart from the facts he had already mentioned, he would give a simpler, and in some respects a better example. When the Home Office inspector went into a chemical works, or a large factory or shipyard, or an engineering works to have a look round, he did not go in a fussy, impudent, and obtrusive way, or like an official jack-in-the-box, asking people to carry out his suggestions at once. The inspector invariably took a look round, accompanied by a member of the firm, and if he saw a piece of gear or machinery that might be better protected, with his experience and knowledge, not of one particular form of works but of many forms, he took the best yard or the best factory and workshop as a standard to work up to, he would probably say to that particular firm, "Now, Mr. Brown, don't you think that cogwheel might have a guard round it, and that the expenditure of a few shillings here and there would probably prevent you having to pay £300 compensation to the widow of a man that 5s., perhaps, would prevent from being killed? "The result would be that in this way an enormous amount of money might be saved to employers, and a great number of men be prevented from being killed or seriously injured. When Colonel Yorke, or some of his colleagues, were instructed by their duty, or by the President of the Board of Trade, to go down and inquire into some railway accident, what happened? Colonel Yorke, or some other inspector, would go down to the scene of the accident, and in a fair, and impartial, and able manner make reports upon it. The inspector might report that engine-driver So-and-so ought to have done this, or that guard So-and-so ought to have done the other, or he might report that the railway company might have done this, or that the regulation under which they worked was defective on that particular day and ought to be improved. He wanted Colonel Yorke to go down the day before the accident came off, and he wished him to be wished him to be wise 148 before the event and not after, as he invariably was. He did not believe in too many inspectors. He believed that a bureaucratic governed State was a badly governed State.
He was in favour of stiff penalties and the appointment of well-paid and efficient officials. If a railway company did not do what was reasonable swingeing penalties should be imposed. They could not get the desired condition, of things to prevail, in connection with a service of over 600,000 men, unless-they had a small staff of peripatetic sub-inspectors whose duty it would be to prevent accidents by going to the foremen of shunting yards, and giving reasonable notice of what should be done in the light of the best possible experience. He wanted to say a word as to the justice of the criticism of his hon. friend the Member for Derby. The President of the Board of Trade had said that railway accidents had diminished considerably in recent years. Well, of course they had. What was the House of Commons for, if it was not to insist upon reasonable precautions being taken to stop the needless massacre of men, and the injuries which too frequently occurred on railways? There had been an improvement, and it was because of the increasing desire on the part of the more efficient railway managers to improve their railways for passengers and workmen, and in so far as railway managers were working in that direction they were grateful to them. But he should like to point out that enormous though the improvement might have been in some grades of labour from the point of view of safety, it was not comparable with the increased safety that the railway managers had been able to give to passengers. He would just quote one figure. In the year 1901, the return for which was the last available, there was only one out of 71,000,000 passengers killed on our railways. The President of the Board of Trade would be glad to know that that was about 20 times better than in America. On the other hand there was one in 1,173 men killed on the railways.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
said he got the statement in the right hon. Gentleman's own report. Hon. Members might challenge his opinions, but he would try to induce everybody in the House to have some regard for his facts. He would give a better fact. One in 2,500,000 passengers was injured, but one in 137 of the men was injured. An accident on the railway was something more serious than having a tooth taken out by a West-End dentist. Out of every 240 shunters one was killed, and out of every seventeen one was injured. He did not wish to exaggerate, but the statistics he had quoted were taken from the Report of the Board of Trade. They proved that through the action of the House of Commons, enlightened public opinion, sympathetic newspapers, and successive Presidents of the Board of Trade, stimulated by reasonable criticism in this House, there had been an enormous improvement in the safety of passengers and of railway men, but that was no reason why they should stand still. It was no answer for them to be told that we did these things better than in America. Of course we did. Industrially, America was hell with the lid off. [Laughter.] The President of the Board of Trade might smile, but he would give one illustration. He was speaking recently to one of the greatest captains of industry in this country—a gentleman who held the same political views as the President of the Board of Trade, a strong individualist who was opposed to trades unionism, and who resented anything in the nature of Socialist legislation. He employed between 5,000 and 6,000 men. He said to this gentleman, "Well, you have been to Pittsburg, sir "The gentleman replied that he had, and that he had seen 12,000 men there but that he did not see a grey head or a smile. That was a type of industry which they had not in this country, and it would not be to their credit if they had. He asked the President of the Board of Trade not to go to the worst country in the world for comparisons with the old country. He could only say that in this matter Britain led the way. One of the reasons why there were fewer cases of lead poisoning, why mine accidents had fallen and why passengers and 150 workmen on railways were safer now than they were a few years ago was because in this House, without fear or favour on either side, the representatives of masters and men pursued the line of levelling industry up and making the British standard the best they knew of. It was not so good as it might be, and it was in order to assist in making it better that he supported his hon. friend the Member for Derby.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
said it was satisfactory to hear that of late there had been considerable improvement in the matter of accidents on railways, and they all hoped that that improvement would still continue. He wished to go back for a moment to another subject, and to say a word on behalf of the agricultural traders with regard to railway rates. They needed assistance from the Government more than any others. He was sorry that the Minister for Agriculture had not been present during the debate. He wished in the first place to refer to one aspect of the agricultural question which had hitherto more or less escaped attention. The agricultural trader in a great number of instances was very differently situated from the trader in the large towns. In the case of foreign goods imported into this country, the town trader had the advantage in nearly all cases of competitive rates, but in the case of the farmer in the agricultural districts, it was very common for him to have only a single line with absolutely no competition whatever. His right hon. friend had said that if the agriculturist suffered from unfair rates he ought to form associations for the purpose of making complaints and bringing them before the notice of the Board of Trade. It was easy for people living in towns to form associations for their own protection, but the position of farmers was very different. They were busy men living widely scattered, and it was extremely difficult for them to find time to form associations, even though they suffered from unfair treatment with regard to railway rates. His right hon. friend had also stated that the Board of Agriculture looked after the interests of the agriculturists, and that as a matter of fact, the Minister for Agriculture had 151 never brought forward a single case and submitted it to the Board of Trade, urging them to take action. He must leave it to the right hon. Gentleman to settle that point with the Minister of Agriculture—but for his part he desired to say that he gladly recognised the extreme activity of the present Minister for Agriculture, and his constant efforts on behalf of that interest. But what he wanted to point out was that if complaints were made on behalf of the agricultural interests in regard to railway rates, these complaints should not be bandied about from one Department to another; for if that was so, he could only say that it seemed to him the unfortunate farmer was extremely likely, between these two stools, to fall to the ground. Over and over again during the last dozen years representations had been made to the Government, by deputation and otherwise, on the question of the unfair railway rates of which agricultural traders complained. These complaints had been invariably accepted not only by this but by other Governments, and assurances had been given that where these things were shown to prevail the agriculturists should have better treatment in the future. He hoped that the Committee would have a more satisfactory answer from the President of the Board of Trade than had yet been received. He earnestly pressed on his right hon. friend that this was a most serious question, and if what had been stated was the only reply they were to have it would be gravely resented, not only by those hon. Members who represented agriculturists in this House, but also by agriculturists in all parts of the country.
§ MAJOR SEELY (Isle of Wight)
said he wished to draw-the attention of the Committee to a danger which the Board of Trade had the power to mitigate. He referred to the lack of communication between light-ships and the shore. This was no academic matter, because the loss of life round our coasts was continuous. The National Lifeboat Institution did annually save hundreds of lives, but still a great many were lost; and the number lost or saved frequently depended largely on the quickness with which communication could be made between the wrecks 152 and light-ships, and between the lightships and the shore. It would be in the recollection of the Committee that many years ago a Royal Commission was appointed to consider this matter, and that that Royal Commission recommended that all parts of the coast should be linked up by telephones, and that the light-vessels should be linked up with the shore. Most of these recommendations had been carried out, but it had been proved that the cables between lightships and the shore were liable to be interrupted in bad weather. During the last two and a quarter years there had been forty-eight cases of interruption to communication in stormy weather, in the case of cables between light-vessels and the shore. These interruptions had varied in length of time from a few weeks to some months, and during that period, when ships were grounded on, say, the Goodwin Sands, many lives might be lost owing to the absence of communication. It might be said that the difficulties of communication by cable were inherent, and that nothing could be done; but, in point of fact, they knew that this was one of the cases where wireless telegraphy could do all that was required; and therefore he had ventured to bring the matter before the Committee. Of ail the extraordinary cases of neglect of taking precautions in a matter involving life and death, this was the most extraordinary. In the month of July, 1900, nearly three years ago, a question was asked by the hon. Baronet the Member for Cambridge on this very subject, and the reply of the President of the Board of Trade was that the matter was being considered. It had been pointed out by the hon. and gallant Member for Yarmouth that certain light-vessels off the German coast were already in communication with the shore by means of wireless telegraphy, and that the system was in working order. The reply of the representative of the Board of Trade was that that indeed was the case, that the system was working well, and a hope was expressed that in a short time there would communication established between our light-ships and the shore. From that time till now questions had been asked in the House, some by himself and some by other hon. Members, as to the time 153 when that communication would be made, but the answer had always been that the matter was under consideration. It did seem to him that the time had come now when some kind of decision should be come to on the matter. For the sake of the right hon. Gentleman, the head of the Department himself, it would be wise that he should come to some decision before the next winter season. If there were a wreck on Goodwin Sands at night, and if the notification of the wreck could not be conveyed to the shore, and if the wrong lifeboat were despatched to the wreck, there would be great loss of life, and the most bitter obloquy would be thrown on all concerned, and, above all, on the right hon. Gentleman. It seemed to him that this matter was supremely simple, since it had been done by Germany three years ago, and that it could be done by ourselves.
He knew that there were difficulties in the way in negotiating with various persons concerned—with Signor Marconi, with the Admiralty, and with the Post Office; but he could not conceive for a moment that arrangements could not be made with Signor Marconi or the other holders of patents, without prejudice to other rights, by which, for the purpose of saving life, communication could be made between the light-ships and the shore. Of his own knowledge he was aware that such arrangements could be made, and he most earnestly urged on the right hon. Gentleman to come to an agreement without delay. It might be thought that the possibilities of shipwreck were remote, but anyone who studied the wreck-charts must know that the wrecks on the East and North Good wins were extremely numerous—amounting to many tens, in the course of a year. Within this very month and the month preceding they had been within an ace of a terrible disaster to a vessel carrying a large number of passengers, solely owing to the absence of wireless telegraphic communication with the shore. This vessel was observed by the light-ship, but there was on board the light-ship no means of communication with the shore. Then there was the case of the "Douvre-Calais "boat with 478 passengerson board 154 on 2nd March last, which got into difficulty on account of a breakdown of machinery in a gale of wind. Had not that ship been fitted up with wireless telegraphic apparatus, it was extremely probable that, if she had been wrecked, everyone on board would have been drowned. It must be evident to the Committee that such a fortunate accident could not always be relied on, seeing that the number of vessels so fitted up with wireless telegraphic apparatus was necessarily very small. There was the case of another vessel this very month in which a large number of passengers and sailors were in jeopardy of their lives for want of communication between light-ship and shore. He put it to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, that, seeing we were the foremost maritime nation in the world, that the tonnage of our ships was immeasurably greater than that of any other nation with shorter coast lines and fewer difficulties in establishing this wireless communication; seeing that repeated pledges had been given by the President of the Board of Trade that this matter should be dealt with; and seeing further that the matter was supremely simple—the whole thing could be done in a month—that the right hon. Gentleman should give some assurance to the Committee that something should be done in the matter before the next winter set in.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said he did not wish to conceal from himself that this was an attack on the salary of the President of the Board of Trade. He should have expected that after the long but very soothing speech the right hon. Gentleman had delivered, all the attacks seemed to come to an end. His language was conciliatory, his manner was ineffable, his arguments addressed to the subjects he was dealing with seemed conclusive. But it was the misfortune of the President of the Board of Trade that his good deeds or misdeeds extended over the whole habitable earth, from the Falkland Islands to the most distant regions. There was scarcely a sphere of modern life which his Department did not touch. He would say nothing of the ability of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman 155 was as successful in the Board of Trade as he had been in Ireland; and he was quite sure that whatever position the right hon. Gentleman occupied he would fill with distinction and credit—whether in a Chair of Poetry or Metaphysics on the banks of the Isis, or in a Bath chair on the shores of Mentone. He sympathised with the appeal made by his hon. and gallant friend behind him to the President of the Board of Trade, but he would remind him that in most cases where accidents occurred within view of a light-ship, it was possible to communicate with the shore by firing signal guns. It was only in the case of very distant light-ships where wireless telegraphic communication would be useful.
§ MAJOR J. E. B. SEELY
said that the whole contention of the National Lifeboat Institution was that when gun signals were given, the wrong lifeboat that is, the lifeboat with wind and tide against her often endeavoured to proceed to the rescue.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that that might sometimes be the case, but not often. No doubt they were very much behind in all Government Departments. He had been informed by the representative of the Kingdom of Siam that for ten years they had been using the electric light in Bangkok ten years be ore it was first introduced into London and the same thing was true, no doubt, in regard to wireless telegraphic communication. There were many grievances against the Board of Trade, but his chief grievance was their diplomatic action in regard to the Sugar Convention. No doubt there was an excuse for the right hon. Gentleman there, because the diplomatic duties had been put upon him by the Foreign Office, for which the Board of Trade was not equipped, and diplomatic misconceptions and mistakes had necessarily been made. However, other opportunities would arise for discussing that question and he would not dwell on it now. His present argument was that the right hon. Gentleman ought, in justice, to have some amount of his salary taken away on account of his Ministerial misdeeds in regard to what was known as the Morgan Shipping Trust. The right hon. Gentleman had not only 156 committed misdeeds in his executive action, but he violated the duty imposed on him under the Merchant Shipping Act. As the Committee was aware, nearly a year ago negotiations were begun between Mr. Pierpont Morgan and His Majesty's Government, in order to come to some agreement with regard to a large number of British ships sold to Mr. Morgan made by private persons. Then Mr. Pierpont Morgan made some agreement with the Board of Trade not yet disclosed. You might train a poodle to perform many interesting tricks well-fitted to amuse a select company, such as to sit up and beg for sugar, or to fetch and carry—but you could not train him to draw a badger; and when an agreement was arrived at between Mr. Pierpont Morgan and the right hon. Gentleman, it was not for him to say who played the part of the poodle and who the part of the badger. His first complaint was that he had been entirely unable to obtain any information on the matter. He asked for information month after month; month after month it was promised to him, and month after month he failed to get it. The right hon. Gentleman gave him almost an undertaking that he should have the information before Easter; but Easter had come and gone, and still he had not had it. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman said that he thought he was in a position to undertake that the agreement would be ready for execution by Easter, and he promised that, on its execution, it would be laid on the Table of the House. He did not complain of the small space of time that had elapsed since Easter, but of the great length of time that had elapsed since the first inception of the agreement, and of the continued lack of information regarding it.
That was his first complaint; but he had a much more serious complaint than that. Between 900,000 and 1,000,000 tons of English shipping had been sold to foreigners, and had become their property, and now in consequence of the neglect of the right hon. Gentleman to perform the duties imposed on him by Statute, he was allowing these foreign ships to still carry the British flag and to retain their British register, with the result that great mischief was being done to 157 the British proprietors of really British ships. When he asked the right hon. Gentleman in April of last year whether when a British ship was sold to a foreign company having its principal business abroad it ceased to be British and was disentitled to a British register, the right hon. Gentleman replied that if such a sale took place the vessel would lose its British register. He was then satisfied with that; but since then, the right hon. Gentleman appeared to have altered his opinion. On the 23rd of March the right hon. Gentleman said that the arrangement with Mr. Pierpoint Morgan did not involve the transfer of ships, but the transfer of shares in British companies. But under the agreement, as far as he knew of it, with that transfer of the shares went the transfer of absolute dominion over the property of the ships, with the right to use, abuse, or destroy that property. Every element of property was transferred to and acquired by the American Corporation represented by Mr. Pierpont Morgan and now known us the International Mercantile Marine Company. That being so, it was impossible to maintain that these vessels had not ceased to be British ships. It was no use telling him that by some hocus pocus the ships were represented by the shares alone, and that these were by some legal fiction still the property of British companies subject to under the direction of, and the servants of Mr. Pierpont Morgan's Corporation. If the real elementary dominion over the ships had passed, as undoubtedly it had, to the American corporation, having its principal place of business in America, these vessels ceased to be the property of British subjects in every respect. The words of the Act were as clear as possible, and there were a whole series of penalties against the assumption of British nationality or the use of the British flag by foreign vessels, such as he claimed these vessels were. The person to enforce such penalties was the right hon. Gentleman, and under the Act he was the person who was to authorise prosecutions and who was to approve every form of registry. Without the right hon. Gentleman, even the name of a ship could not be changed, much less could her nationality be changed. 158 He maintained that the right hon. Gentleman was acting contrary to his duty in allowing these ships to retain the British flag and British nationality when they had ceased to be British ships. Under the Act, if a child were born on board a British ship it was registered as a British subject but if on a foreign ship it was not so; and the right hon. Gentleman by continuing to allow vessels which were not British, to fly the British flag was creating British babies who were not British subjects at all. That was a distinctly improper thing for the President of the Board of Trade to do.
It might, perhaps, be thought that this was a mere academic question. That was not so. It was a very material question which seriously affected British shipowners, because of the difference between having a British register and an American register, even if these ships could get an American register, which he very much doubted. His own opinion was that they were not entitled to any flag at all; and that in some respects they had the attributes of a pirate. These vessels, by retaining the British register and the British flag, were enabled to have an advantage in their trading as compared with what they would have if they had not possessed that flag; and he was informed by competent shipowners that that advantage amounted to 20 per cent. on the whole of their working expenses. Were they to cease to have a British register, to which he maintained they were not entitled, they would immediately be subjected to 20 per cent. additional expenditure. If that were so, and he had no doubt it was so, the result was that by the action, or rather want of action, of the right hon. Gentleman, which he was bound to take in defence of the purity of the British registry and the retention of the British flag to-British ships, these vessels were now competing under false British colours with British shipowners, and they had an advantage of 20 per cent. in their expenditure, which they would not have if the right hon. Gentleman did his duty. Therefore, this was not an academic question, but a question of very serious importance to British shipowners, and they were entitled to know exactly 159 where they stood. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman that England claimed an income tax on money earned abroad when the controlling influence was in this country. The analogy was more than complete. The brains that controlled these ships were the brains of Mr. Pierpont Morgan and his associates. Even if there were subsidiary companies in this country, they had to obey Mr. Pierpont Morgan and his associates. The brains were in America; and just as England taxed money earned abroad when the brains were at home, he claimed, by the strictest analogy, that these vessels must be foreign vessels. He defied the right hon. Gentleman to quote the opinion of any law officer of the Crown contrary to what he had stated. The Act itself was as clear as an Act could be; but if the right hon. Gentleman had the opinion of any law officer of the Crown that his contention was wrong, and if it could be shown that these vessels were still in law British vessels although all the elements of property in them had passed to American owners, he would respectfully bow to such a high authority. But he did not believe that any law officer of the Crown would give such an opinion. He saw a highly qualified legal hon. Gentleman opposite, and perhaps he would tell the Committee whether ships bonaâ fide owned in America could continue to be British ships. If he were right, then certainly the right hon. Gentleman had very seriously neglected his duty. Having in view the very serious consequences that must ensue, the fact that the right hon. Gentleman was allowing foreign vessels to enjoy British privileges would he feared, cause the right hon. Gentleman to be known not as the President of the Board of Trade, but as the President of the Board for the Destruction of British Trade.
§ MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
said he wished to offer a suggestion to the President of the Board of Trade. The right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well the importance of seeing things with his own eyes, and making inquiries on the spot. The right hon. Gentleman did that himself in Ireland when he was Chief Secretary, and he now asked him to visit the North of Scotland in order that he might inquire into the 160 working of the Light Railways Act in that part of the country. The Act was not a success, because the people were unable to fall in with all the requirements of the Board of Trade. The Board ought to be more liberal in providing funds for the construction of light railways in the North of Scotland. As the right hon. Gentleman's efforts were so successful in Ireland, he hoped he would turn his attention to the Highlands of Scotland, and if he did he would have the thanks of the Highland people. There was only one railway company north of Inverness, and it was unable to give financial assistance for Light Railway Schemes; the landlord were unable to do so, and the people were too poor. Light Railways would be a great boon to the people and agriculture in the far north, and he hoped the President of the Board of Trade would consider the need of arranging for more favourable terms for Light Railways in the Highlands. He also desired to ask what progress, if any, had been made towards the adoption of a uniform code of railway by-laws. Another point upon which he would like some information was as to when the Metropolitan and Metropolitan District Railways would replace their present mode of steam traction by electric traction. With regard to steam trawlers, he would suggest that more care should be taken to require steam trawlers to have their numbers on the funnel and other conspicuous part. The Board of Trade had power to enforce these regulations, and to impose penalties, but the small fine usually imposed is ineffective.
§ MR. LOUIS SINCLAIR (Essex, Romford)
said although he had a Motion on the Paper to reduce the Vote for the salary of the President of the Board of Trade, he held the opinion that the right hon. Gentleman was very much underpaid, and that the office of the President of the Board of Trade should be raised to as high a status as possible. He also thought the staff of the office of the Board of Trade was underpaid. Having regard to the state of our trade and commerce we should have the best administration of this Department that it was possible to get. It was evident that our commerce was not progressing as it should. Ports were being closed against 161 us, and our commerce was being taken away by rival nations. That was shown by the fact that, whereas in the last ten years our commerce had only increased 16 per cent. that of America had increased 75 per cent.; and all other nations were increasing their commerce whilst ours was practically at a standstill. The Committee had been informed by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture that he had not in the matter of rates had many glaring anomalies brought to his notice. He would like to give a few I general facts which affected the agricultural community of Essex to such an extent that they could not compete with the foreign producer. Where men could bring their produce to market in their own carts they could do well on the land, but where they had to depend upon railways they could not compete owing to the through rates given to foreigners. Apples from Folkestone, for instance, cost 24s. a ton to bring to London, whilst apples from Normandy, through Folkestone, cost only 15s.
asked how it was suggested that the President of the Board of Trade could alter that. Rates had to be altered by Act of Parliament, and that being so, they could not be discussed in the Estimates. The hon. Gentleman should bring in a Bill. The Committee was not sitting to-day for the purpose of considering legislation; they were sitting for the purpose of considering the administrative work of different Government Departments, and the hon. Member must confine himself to that point.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
said it was manifest that a great grievance was felt throughout the country in consequence of the privileges conceded to foreigners, who could bring their produce to our markets at a cheaper rate than we could get them there. The Board of Trade Returns showed clearly that our own colonies were taking less from us than they did before; the neutral ports were gradually being closed against us, and our trade, instead of increasing, was diminishing. One of the most important factors in the administration of a country which depended upon commerce was that that trade should be administered on modern lines, so that we were able to 162 compete with our rivals and that our traders could be told what to do to hold their own in our own markets. With regard to home affairs, although the right hon. Gentleman had been most sympathetic, and had done his best to amend the Patent Laws, still the fees for obtaining patents were too high, and the patents themselves did not give sufficient protection. A great deal might also be done to put into force our bankruptcy laws. Traders by becoming bankrupt became richer than they were before, and by trading under the names of their wives they got credit, and defrauded the public at large. Then again, he submitted that the restrictions and regulations of the Board of Trade with regard to shipping was unfair with regard to the British shipowner. Foreigners did not comply with the law with regard to the load line, for instance, which was strictly enforced against the British owner, and the same remark applied to the carriage of emigrants. I It was grievous to see the whole trade and commerce of the country administered by a Board which had not the status of a first class Department, and the head of which consequently had not the assistance of officials of the same class as those in the higher Departments. He sincerely hoped that the inquiry which had been promised would soon be set on foot, so that it might be decided what functions should be exercised by the Board of Trade, and what by other Departments.
§ SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)
said he did not altogether agree with the particular grievance in connection with the shipping combine to which the hon. Member for King's Lynn had referred. It was undoubtedly the case that when ships flew the British flag they were entitled in both foreign and home ports to many services on the part of the British Consulate and the British Government. What was still more serious, it might lead to a British Government being held responsible for the conduct of vessels flying the British flag, and certainly the British Government would be expected to demand and enforce amends for any wrongs perpetrated on the British flag. That was the condition of things which deserved. 163 serious attention, and to his mind it was a graver feature of what had taken place than that to which the hon. Member for King's Lynn had adverted. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman had any power to prevent this——
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
referred the hon. and learned Member to paragraphs 713 and 717 of the Merchant Shipping Act.
§ SIR ROBERT REID
said he remembered the substance of the clauses in regard to the duties of the Board of Trade, and also of the clause prescribing the conditions under which vessels might be registered and fly the British flag. But since the Merchant Shipping Act was passed, great changes had taken place in the manner of holding British ships. They were owned in sixty-fourths, and the sixty-fourths used to be held by private owners. Now a large number of ships were held by companies, and often by single-ship companies. The domicile and the management of those companies was in this country, and he believed that on that ground income tax had to be paid on their profits. That being the state of things in the eyes of the law, those companies were British companies, and the consequence was that, although really in substance the whole interest resided abroad, yet under the Statute the ships were wholly owned by British owners, viz., by British corporations, and were therefore entitled to be registered as British ships. Probably the right hon. Gentleman had taken the opinion of the law officers; if so, they had probably said something to the effect he had just indicated. In that case the right hon. Gentleman could not be blamed, because he could not transcend the law of the country; that power was reserved for other distinguished Members of the Government. Under these circumstances he could not concur in censuring the right hon. Gentleman for not administering his Department properly. But he could not help thinking that the subject itself, though the evil at present might be so comparatively small as not to require legislative action, was a serious matter, and that if it was to go on to any extent the right hon. Gentleman 164 would have to consider the propriety of initiating legislation.
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
asked the right hon. Gentleman to take into consideration the desirability of increasing the grant for the expenses of the Advisory Committee of the Commercial Intelligence Department of the Board of Trade. Compared with foreign countries the Intelligence Department was on a scale altogether inadequate for the purposes it had in view, and the work of this Committee would be greatly restricted unless the Grant was increased. With regard to the Lighthouse Fund, assurances were given when the Act of 1897 was under discussion that the accumulation of that fund should be limited to £100,000. The fund already amounted to £345,000, and he desired to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he did not think that was a tax on the shipping industry which might well be abated. Lastly, who was responsible for the action to be taken in connection with the St. Louis Exhibition? Had the right hon. Gentleman, as head of the Board of Trade, anything to do with this important matter? There had been a great deal of mystery about it, and the Committee ought to be informed who was responsible for dealing with a matter of the greatest commercial and of considerable political importance.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that his submission with reference to the Morgan Combine was that not a particle of the real essence of the property resided with the corporation in this country. The whole dominion, control, and rights over the property, the essence of the property itself, rested solely with the corporations abroad. It was on that ground alone that he claimed they were no longer British ships.
§ SIR ROBERT REID
said he had tried to explain that in substance he agreed with that view, but although the shares in the company which owned the shipping, might belong to a foreign corporation, that did not constitute the foreign corporation the owner in the eye of the law. He thought it inconvenient and wrong, and that it might well be amended, but it was no use blinking the 165 actual fact that in the view of the law the owner was a British corporation, and that therefore there was no violation of the statute.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that surely the real owner was the corporation which had dominion over the property.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said the question of wireless telegraphy was rendered difficult by the fact that the Government had no power over communications made from this country outside the three-mile limit. In Germany and France the position was otherwise, and consequently those countries were probably able to deal; with the question more satisfactorily and conclusively than this country had been able to do. Here many difficult questions arose in connection with wireless telegraphy, and until those questions had been definitely settled by the various Departments concerned, such as the Admiralty and the Post Office, he could not undertake to carry out the wishes of his hon. friend—which was also his own wish—that the communication between lighthouses and the shore should in many cases be carried out by means of wireless telegraphy. He perfectly recognised the importance of that communication being established, and as far as his Department was concerned, he could assure the Committee that no effort would be wanting to secure the desired result as soon as possible. With regard to the criticisms passed on the Board of Trade by the hon. Member for King's Lynn in reference to the Morgan Combine, the Prime Minister had stated that when the agreement had been laid on the Table of the House, an opportunity would be afforded for discussing the whole subject. He therefore thought it would be very inexpedient to enter into the question at the present stage. With regard to the agreements connected with the shipping combine and the Cunard Company, both of them would be laid on the Table of the House, and when that had been done, an opportunity for discussion of the whole subject would be given to the House, as promised by the Prime Minister. He was sorry for the delay, but a question 166 had arisen at the last moment which made it unavoidable. A very few days would elapse before they would be able to lay the Papers on the Table, and it would not be inexpedient to anticipate discussion now. The Government had, of course, received the opinion of the law officers before arriving at their conclusions, and the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite would have an opportunity of discussing the question in its legal as well as its political aspects. The hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty had asked a question in reference to granting more favourable terms to the promoters of light railways in the congested districts of Scotland. It appeared to him that legislation would be required to effect any change in that direction, and he thought that the inducement of the Treasury to offer more favourable terms to promoters of light railways in certain districts of Scotland was rather a matter for the Secretary for Scotland than for his Department. If the Secretary for Scotland was of opinion that exceptional terms should be offered for promoting light railways in Scotland, then he should make representations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Secretary for Scotland was in a better position to judge upon this matter than he was.
As to the by-laws, the Board of Trade had no power to require uniformity of by-laws among railways, although they had more than once suggested to railway companies that they should make their by-laws uniform. So far, those representations had not had the desired effect, but the Board of Trade would continue to press the matter upon the attention of the railway companies. The hon. Member had further asked whether he was in a position to say on what date electric traction on the Metropolitan Railway would be established. He was afraid that he was not in a position to answer that question, but if the hon. Member would put down a Question in the ordinary way, he would endeavour to obtain all the information he could. As to the trawlers, this was a question with which he was not so familiar, but he would see what the powers of the Board of Trade were, and ascertain what could be done in the direction of exercising them. With reference to the point raised by the hon. Member for 167 Romford, he should be very glad indeed I to see the salaries of the Board of Trade staff raised. The hon. Member for South Islington had asked one or two questions. In the first place he had inquired as to an increase of the grant to the Advisory Committee of the Commercial Intelligence Department. The grant-in-aid to j the Advisory Committee of the Commercial Intelligence Department was £1,000 a year, which accumulated when it was not all used in one year for sub-sequent use. As the hon. Member knew, they had sent Commissions to Siberia, Persia, and South Africa in connection with the Board of Trade. Although the Commissions to Siberia and Persia were to be paid out of the fund at the disposal of the Advisory Committee, his right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had consented to defray the expenses of the Commission to South Africa out of a separate fund.
§ MR. DOUGHTY (Great Grimsby)
asked whether anything was intended to be done to lessen the contributions of the shipping community in respect to the maintenance of lighthouses. He thought the Committee ought to know which Department was standing in the way of this reform being carried out.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said that no Departments were standing in the way of this reform, for they were all anxious to do it. As regarded the lighthouses, he was of opinion, after a careful examination of the subject, that they would be able to make a substantial reduction in the contribution required from the shipping community. He denied that any Department was standing in the way of the connection of the lighthouses by wireless telegraphy.
§ MR. FITZROY (Northamptonshire, S.)
asked whether no complaint had been received at the Board of Trade as to railway rates through the Board of Agriculture.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
So far as I am aware, no specific complaint has been forwarded to us by the Board of Agriculture.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. HANBURY, Preston)
My right hon. friend is no 168 doubt perfectly right when he says that so far as he is aware no such communication has been received from the Board of Agriculture; but, as a matter of fact, to his Department have gone several complaints from the Board of Agriculture.
§ MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
drew attention to the great difference in freights to South Africa from this country and from the United States. The right hon. Gentleman had instituted some sort of inquiry with regard to the possibilities of British commerce in South Africa, with a view to obtaining information which would be useful to the manufacturers of this country. That was a very popular move, and he should like to ask how far that inquiry had gone. He wished to know whether they would have reports issued shortly, or would they have to wait for some considerable time. If such an inquiry was properly conducted, they ought to be able to get information of very great value to the manufacturers of this country as to the facilities for the development of business in South Africa. He thought the right hon. Gentleman would be performing a very useful public duty if he would endeavour to bring pressure to bear upon the large shipping rings to lower their freights in such a way as to give British manufacturers some sort of a chance of competing on fairer terms with their rivals in other countries. The right hon. Gentleman could do nothing which would be so popular as devoting his attention to this subject. Was the President of the Board of Trade aware of the enormous charges made by these shipping rings, which made it almost impossible for British manufacturers to have a chance? Was he aware of those facts, and was he able to hold out any hope that he would be able to get those charges reduced, so as to give British trade a fair chance so far as South Africa was concerned?
§ MR. WHITLEY (Halifax)
said he supported what had been said by his hon. friend the Member for Kirkcaldy with regard to British trade in South Africa. It was not, however, quite correct to say that the President of the Board of Trade had done nothing, for he had made a speech in Leeds a few months ago in which he spoke very 169 strongly indeed against the action of this shipping "combine," which was having such a bad effect upon British trade in South Africa. That speech was very acceptable as far as it went, for it showed that the right hon. Gentleman desired to do something, if he could, to break down this monopoly which was having such an injurious effect on British trade with the new colonies. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he had followed up that speech by action of any kind. He wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman had been able to persuade the War Office and the Colonial Office, which were likely to be shipping large quantities of goods at the expense of the British taxpayer, that it was in the interest of British trade that they should decline to support a monopoly which, if he was correctly informed, gave a preference against British goods. Certain large and important contracts had gone to the United States for no other reason than that the freight thence to South Africa had been as much as 50 per cent. less than from this country. There was no question of greater urgency and importance to British trade at the present moment than this.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
said it appeared to him that there was something wrong about the Department. They were told that complaints were made and that the President of the Board of Trade was not aware of them. That was not a satisfactory state for any Department to be in. He thought his hon. friend the Member for Derby could hardly be satisfied with the answer he received.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said that some months ago a Commission was sent to South Africa to inquire into the question of trade with the new colonies, and when that Commission returned there would be no delay in publishing their report. If it should appear convenient to publish a preliminary report, that should be done. The question of shipping rings was, of course, a very difficult one. He thought his speech at Leeds had had, as it was intended to have, the effect of consider- 170 ably reducing the freights which were at that time being charged. What he suggested was that the Government Departments concerned should regard themselves as if they were members of the trading community, and should use their powers, if possible, to obtain a reduction of freights for the public in general. He had been in communication with other Departments, and especially with the Colonial Office, on the matter.
§ MR. DALZIEL
said he did not agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the reduction in freights was the result of his speech at Leeds. The reduction had been really due to competition. What he complained of was that the Government supported the high rates charged by the ring, and gave no encouragement whatever to the competitors who were responsible for the reduction which had taken place.
§ MR. WHITLEY
asked whether he was correctly informed that the Government Departments, with which the right hon. Gentleman said he had been in communication, were shipping all their goods by the ring, and in that way supporting instead of weakening them.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said the Committee looked upon the right hon. Gentleman as the guardian of British trade, and therefore he was entitled to ask for an answer.
§ COLONEL ROPNER (Stockton)
said that the so-called shipping ring consisted of a good many lines running to Cape Town and elsewhere which had been in existence a good many years. Merchants had been in the habit of shipping not whole cargoes but small quantities of goods to South Africa, and consequently were not in a position to engage a whole steamer, but had to ship by lines which were running. Up to a certain point there was no opposition to these lines, but he was pleased to say, as a shipowner, that there was opposition now both from this country and America, with the result that the liners were reducing their rates as far as they could in order to drive the new comers 171 out of the trade. Merchants, however, must not expect anything like the rate of 10s. per ton to be maintained, because no steamer could possibly carry goods at less than 20s., and if goods were taken at 10s. it was simply because the liners were opposing the new comers. This was a matter that was sure to right itself, and he could not see how the Government could interfere. The liners had a right to form a ring, and until opposition broke up their ring they had a perfect right to stick out for as high rates as they could possibly obtain. To say that the President of the Board of Trade should put the matter right was an absurdity. The liners, just as much as merchants, had a right to do as they pleased, and it was for the opposition to combine among themselves, obtain steamers of their own, and send out their merchandise, not by fractions and small quantities, but by a full cargo.
§ MR. CAWLEY (Lancashire, Prestwich)
said that the hon. Member for Stockton had mistaken the point. The carriage to South Africa from America was 50 per cent. less than from this country, and their point was that the Colonial Office and other Departments shipped goods to South Africa by the ring steamers. They wished the President of the Board of Trade to bring his influence to bear on these Departments to see that all the goods shipped by the Government should be shipped in vessels running in opposition to the ring, and thereby bring down the rates of the ring. At present he understood all the goods from the Colonial Office were shipped by ring steamers, and therefore they supported the ring as against the general traders. He insisted that the President of the Board of Trade should bring his influence to bear at once on behalf of the general traders and not back up the ring.
§ MR. HELME (Lancashire, Lancaster)
said that all round the coast there were a large number of fishermen who were employed during a few months of the year in sailing pleasure boats for the people who visited seaside towns. He was a Member of a County Council which encouraged the study of navigation amongst these fishermen so as to enable 172 them to handle their boats with greater ability, and consequently with a greater measure of security to those who entrusted their lives to their care. He had communicated with the Board of Trade in regard to what were called "Skippers' Certificates," which were granted to seamen after qualification, because he contended that the conditions of the examinations for these certificates required reconsideration. He must admit that the Department had given very careful and sympathetic attention to his plea, but it appeared that there were limits beyond which the advisers of the President of the Board of Trade would not allow him to go. In reply to a deputation of fishermen who brought their case before the Board of Trade on the ground that though much of the work of these men was done within three miles of the shore, yet they frequently sailed much greater distances—to Holyhead and the Isle of Man, for instance—the right hon. Gentleman said that the Board of Trade were not prepared to relax the existing rule which demanded two years' service in deep-sea fishing boats before the certificates-were granted. The difficulty was in defining the expression "deep-sea fishing boat" and a cook or steward who served on a so-called "deep-sea fishing boat" might present himself for examination, and if he passed the examination obtain a skipper's certificate. A cook or steward on a "deep-sea fishing boat" was therefore better off in regard to the skipper's certificate than the fishermen to whom he referred, who went with their boats a considerable distance out to sea. He asked the President of the Board of Trade to look into this matter and see whether some arrangement could not be made which would allow of an alteration in the existing rules for granting the skipper' certificate.
§ MR. HARWOOD (Bolton)
said he wished to bring the attention of the Committee back to the subject of the South African shipping ring. The importance to this country and to South Africa of this matter did not seem to be realised. He had just come from South Africa, where he had found a bitter sense of wrong in regard to the ring 173 steamers. The system had been worked in such a way as to practically throttle trade. Not only were the most outrageous freights charged, but a system of rebate was held in terrorem over traders.
The hon. Member must confine himself to criticism of the action, or want of action, of the Board of Trade, and not discuss the general question.
§ MR. HARWOOD
said that his point was that the Government were not doing their duty to South Africa, and to the trade between this country and South Africa, in regard to their action towards this shipping ring. The Government gave the ring the mails to carry, and generally imparted strength to it. We had made sufficient sacrifices for South Africa to feel that the Government was bound to do everything they could to promote business between this country and South Africa, which produced very little food, most of which had to be carried there by sea. He believed that shippers in Germany and in the United States had a better means of trading with South Africa than the merchants and manufacturers in this country, and he insisted on behalf of the traders both here and in South Africa that the Government ought to put their weight in the scale against the shipping ring.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said he should like to recall for a minute the attention of the Committee to an incident which had occurred that afternoon, and which in his long recollection and experience of the House he had never seen paralleled. His hon. friend the Member for Somerset moved a reduction of the Vote on the specific ground that the complaints of agriculturists as to railway rates had not received sufficient attention from the Board of Trade. The President of the Board of Trade denied that such complaints had been received by his Department, and then the President of the Board of Agriculture stated specifically that the complaints had passed through him and his Department to the Board of Trade. There should be some further 174 explanation on the part of the Government in regard to this matter.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
(who was very indistinctly heard) said he could only repeat that so far as he was aware no complaints had been brought forward to the Board of Trade. His right hon. friend, the President of the Board of Agriculture, had stated that certain complaints had been forwarded by his Department to the Board of Trade, and he could not gainsay that positive assertion or carry the matter further until he was in a position to go to his Department and consult the documents there. He might then ascertain exactly how the matter stood between his right hon. friend and himself. As far as he could recollect he had not known of any such complaints having been made, but if he had misled the Committee he must express his regret.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
said that the remarks which had just fallen from the right hon. Gentleman showed what a peculiar state of things existed in the Government. He did not remember any other instance in which the heads of two Government Departments had so contradicted each other on a matter of fact which must, at any rate, be in the knowledge of their subordinates, and which should be in the knowledge of the heads of Departments. A representation from one Department to another was a matter of so much importance that he could not for a moment suppose that any subordinate would keep it from the knowledge of his chief. The matter could not remain as it stood, and he thought that the Committee would feel that it had got to be cleared up, and that they should know what was the state of things between these two important Departments, the Board of Agriculture and the Board of Trade. He might express the opinion that under the circumstances it was hardly becoming for one Department to contradict another without further notice being taken of it. In regard to the question of shipping rates it was quite true, as had been said by the hon. Member from the North of England opposite, that the powers of the Board of Trade to interfere with the 175 rates which shipping firms chose to charge were very limited, if they existed at all. But it was also true, as had been stated by hon. Members from Yorkshire and Lancashire, that the Government were shippers themselves, and they could use their shipping orders to bring down freights. It would be right for the President of the Board of Trade to represent to the other Departments of the Government that they ought in their capacity of shippers to endeavour to prevent rates being charged which were injurious to our traders and also to the traders in South Africa. As to the question raised by the hon. Member for Derby, he should like to express the opinion that the Board of Trade had hardly done as much in the way of limiting the hours of labour of railway servants as might have been done. He was quite sure that that was from no want of earnestness on the part of the President or the Secretary of the Board of Trade, and he thought that the strong expression given in Committee would have the effect of strengthening the hands of the Board of Trade, and that the railway companies would not, in future, oppose so dogged a resistance to the representations made to them by the Board of Trade.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said he could not allow what the right hon. Gentleman opposite had said to pass without comment, especially as it affected his old colleague and constant friend, the President of the Board of Agriculture. He could only regret that his right hon. friend was in such a position as to prevent him giving that undivided attention and free criticism to the Estimates in which he used to indulge. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had suggested that his right hon. friend's conduct was improper.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that the charge really came to this, that the President of the Board of Agriculture had neglected to do his duty and failed to bring certain grievances of agriculturists, of whom he was the champion, before the Board of Trade. Naturally enough his right hon. friend got up and denied 176 that he had so neglected his duty, and the President of the Board of Trade did not venture to question that denial. He said that his knowledge was negative; but it might become positive in a minute, for the right hon. Gentleman had a subordinate sitting under the gallery, from whom he might learn whether representations had been made, and then he would be able to make a proper apology.
§ MR. BROADHURST (Leicester)
said he hoped the President of the Board of Trade would undertake to investigate the question of the shipping rates to South Africa; and that he would make substantial and determined representations to the other Departments of the Government, in order that they might transfer some of their patronage to the free shipping lines. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that he had communicated with the Colonial Office and the Foreign Office. He wished to know if the representations of the right hon. Gentleman had been received by these Departments, as there appeared to be a laxity in the receipt of communications from one Department to another. If the right hon. Gentleman would promise to throw himself into this question, and endeavour to break down the prohibitive rates to South Africa, he would give a large measure of satisfaction. The Committee wanted a definite promise from the right hon. Gentleman that he would exercise all his influence and energy in trying to relieve British trade with South Africa from this great bar, and especially with the newly acquired colonies. Leicester was a great shipper of soft goods to that part of the world, and its greatest competitors were American and German manufacturers. All his constituents asked for was that they should have the same facilities for shipping to South Africa as the Americans and Germans had. If the right hon. Gentleman would give an assurance that no stone would be left unturned by him and his Department to break down this monopoly he would satisfy the Committee at that stage.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said he had already stated that he had made 177 representations to the other Departments, more especially to the Colonial Office, that one way and the best way, perhaps, to get the rates reduced was for the Government to regard themselves as a trader, and by means of the large amount of goods shipped by them to South Africa to secure better terms for the public at large. He could do nothing further. It remained with the other Departments to determine what action they would take.
§ MR. DALZIEL
said he was sorry that the replies of the right hon. Gentleman on many points were incomplete. With regard to the shipping rates, the right hon. Gentleman stated that he made representations to other Departments. What reply did he receive? Was it satisfactory, or was it unsatisfactory? Did it encourage him to persevere, or was he treated with silent contempt? Surely they had a right to expect that if a Minister of the Crown wrote a letter upon an important national question, he should be able to tell the Committee what reply he received. The right hon. Gentleman's knowledge was very imperfect, and he had not that grasp of the affairs of his Department which the Committee had a right to expect. He himself was rather in a difficult position with regard to the Amendment. The Amendment, in effect, asked the Committee to censure the right hon. Gentleman because he had not acted on the complaints which had been made to him by another Department. The right hon. Gentleman said that he had not received such complaints, and if he had not received them, he himself would be inclined to support him. But the Committee had the unprecedented spectacle of the President of the Board of Agriculture telling the right hon. Gentleman that he had stated to the Committee, to put it mildly, something that was inaccurate. Therefore, the Committee was asked to decide between the statement of the President of the Board of Trade and the statement of the President of the Board of Agriculture. That was a position which the Committee
§ ought not to be asked to assume; and if there was ever a case in which a vote ought to be postponed it was assuredly the present case. The right hon. Gentleman could not obtain the information with regard to the charge made against him until he had looked up his letters to see what complaints had been made. Therefore, in order to give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of obtaining the necessary information he begged to move that Progress be reported.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress; and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Dalziel.)
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said that the position taken up by the hon. Gentleman was a very unreasonable one. It was quite obvious that information on the matter could be afforded on the Report stage of the Vote, and the only result of the Motion of the hon. Gentleman would be the indefinite postponement of that stage. He would, of course, inquire into the exact state of affairs between himself and his right hon. friend the President of the Board of Agriculture; and if he found he had made a mistake he would express his regret en the Report stage of the Vote. But until he could ascertain definitely, the matter must remain as it was.
§ MR. DALZIEL
said that in view of the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman, he felt inclined to accept his suggestion; but he hoped the Report stage would be taken at an hour when there would be an opportunity for discussion.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said he would convey that representation to his right hon. friend the Leader of the House.
§ MR. DALZIEL
said he hoped the representation would be successful. He begged leave to withdraw his Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 90; Noes, 206. (Division List No. 66.)181
|Allan, Sir William (Gateshead.)||Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbt. Hy.||Black, Alexander William|
|Allen, Chas. P. (Glos., Stroud)||Atherley-Jones, L.||Bolton, Thomas Dolling|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Brigg, John|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Jacoby, James Alfred||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Bryce, Right Hon. James||Jones, William (Carnarvonsh.||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Kearley, Hudson, E.||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Burns, John||Kitson, Sir James||Scares, Ernest J.|
|Burt, Thomas||Leese, Sir Jos. F. (Accrington)||Spencer, Rt. Hn. C. R (Northants|
|Caldwell, James||Leigh, Sir Joseph||Taylor, Theo. C. (Radcliffe)|
|Cawley, Frederick||Leng, Sir John||Thomas, A. (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Lloyd-George, David||Thomas, Sir A. (Glam., E.)|
|Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark||M'Kenna, Reginald||Thomson, F. W. (York, W. R.)|
|Crombie, John William||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen||Tomkinson, James|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Palmer, Sir C. M. (Durham)||Ure, Alexander|
|Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.)||Partington, Oswald||Wallace, Robert|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Pearson, Sir Weetman D.||Walton, J. Lawson (Leeds, S.)|
|Duncan, J. Hastings||Price, Robert John||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Dunn, Sir William||Priestley, Arthur||Wason, E. (Clackmannan)|
|Edwards, Frank||Rea, Russell||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney|
|Elibank, Master of||Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries||Weir, James Galloway|
|Fenwick, Charles||Rigg, Richard||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Fuller, J. M. F.||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)||Whiteley, G. (York, W. R.)|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Robson, William Snowdon||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||Roe, Sir Thomas||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Russell, T. W.||Wilson, H. J. (York, W. R.)|
|Harwood, George||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Hayter, Rt Hon Sir Arthur D.||Shackleton, David James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir Edward Strachey and Mr. Bell.|
|Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Chas. H.||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)|
|Hutchinson, Dr. Chas. Fredk.||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick, B.)|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Cook, Sir Frederick Lucas||Hall, Edward Marshall|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow||Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F.|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Hamilton, Rt Hn Lord G (Midd'x|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge||Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robert Wm.|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S||Hare, Thomas Leigh|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Cranborne, Lord||Harris, Frederick Leverton|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Cripps, Charles Alfred||Haslam, Sir Alfred S.|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Crossley, Sir Savile||Haslett, Sir James Homer|
|Balcarres, Lord||Denny, Colonel||Hatch, Ernest Frederick G.|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r.||Dewar, Sir T. R. (Tr. Haml'ts||Hay, Hon. Claude George|
|Balfour. Rt. Hn Gerald W (Leeds||Dickson, Charles Scott||Heath, Arthur H. (Hanley)|
|Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch||Doogan, P. C.||Heath, James (Staffords. N. W.|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Dorington, Rt. Hon. Sir J. E.||Helder, Augustus|
|Bartley, Sir George C. T.||Doughty, George||Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T.|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benj.||Doxford, Sir William Theodore||Hoare, Sir Samuel|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Duke, Henry Edward||Hogg, Lindsay|
|Bignold, Arthur||Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Houston, Robert Paterson|
|Blunndell, Colonel Henry||Faber, E. B. (Hants, W.)||Hudson, George Bickersteth|
|Bond, Edward||Fardell, Sir T. George||Button, John (Yorks, N.R.)|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Jameson, Major J. Eustace|
|Boulnois, Edmund||Fergusson, Rt. Hn Sir J. (Manc'r||Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Jeffreys, Rt. Hon. Arthur Fred|
|Bull, William James||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Johnstone, Heywood|
|Butcher, John George||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Keswick, William|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. J. A (Glasgow||FitzGerald, Sir Robt. Penrose||Knowles, Lees|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Fitzroy, Hon. Edw. Algernon||Laurie, Lieut. -General|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Flower, Ernest||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Forster, Henry William||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire||Foster, P. S. (Warwick, S. W.||Lawson, John Grant|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Fyler, John Arthur||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Galloway, William Johnson||Leveson-Gower, Fredk. N. S.|
|Chamberlain, Rt Hon J (Birm||Garfit, William||Lockie, John|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn J. A (Worc||Gibbs, Hn A.G.H (City of Lond||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine|
|Chapman, Edward||Godson, Sir Augustus Fredrick||Long, Col. Chas. W. (Evesham|
|Charrington, Spencer||Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Gore, Hn G. R. C. Ormsby-(Salop||Lowe, Francis William|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Gore, Hn. S. F. Ormsby- (Linc||Lucas, Reginald (Portsmouth)|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Lundon, W.|
|Coddington, Sir William||Graham. Henry Robert||Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Greene, Sir E. W. (Bury, St. Ed.||Macdona, John Gumming|
|Collings, Right Hon. Jesse||Gretton, John||MacIver, David (Liverpool)|
|Colston, Chas. Edw H. Athole||Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||Maconochie, A. W.|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Gunter, Sir Robert||M'Calmont, Colonel James|
|M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Ed'nburgh, W||Pym, C. Guy||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|M'Laren, Sir Charles Benj.||Handles, John S.||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Majendie, James A. H.||Rankin, Sir James||Thorburn, Sir Walter|
|Malcolm, Ian||Ratcliff, R. F.||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Manners, Lord Cecil||Reid, James (Greenock)||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.|
|Maxwell, W. J. H.(Dumfriesh.||Remnant Jas. Farquharson||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.||Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Milvain, Thomas||Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Morgan, D. J. (Walthamstow)||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.||Walrond, Et. Hon. Sir W. H.|
|Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer||Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Mowbray, Sir Robt. Gray C.||Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
|Muntz, Sir Philip A.||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter||Wharton, Et. Hon. J. Lloyd|
|Murray, Rt Hn A. Graham (Bute||Royds, Clement Molyneux||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Nicholson, William Graham||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)||Wilson, A. S. (York, E. R.)|
|O'Brien, P. J. Tipperary, N.)||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath|
|Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)||Seely, Maj. J. E.B. (Isle of Wight||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Parkes, Ebenezer||Sharpe, William Edward T.||Worsley-Taylor, Hry. Wilson|
|Peel, Hn. Wm. E. Wellesley||Simeon, Sir Barrington||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart|
|Pemberton, John S. G.||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)||Wyndham, Et. Hon. George|
|Percy, Earl||Skewes-Cox, Thomas||Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.|
|Pilkington, Lt.-Col. Richard||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Smith, H.C (North'mb. Tyneside||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir Alexander Acland-Hood and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Pretyman, Ernest George||Spear, John Ward|
|Purvis, Robert||Stanley, Edw. Jas. (Somerset)|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. SOARES (Devonshire, Barnstaple)
said the question he desired to raise was rather of local interest, though it also had considerable Imperial interest attaching to it. Last year it was raised by the hon. Member for the St. Ives Division of Cornwall, and this year would have been raised by the late Member for Camborne but for the Committee having been unfortunately deprived of his presence. It related to the provisions of harbours of refuge on the coasts of Devon and Cornwall. This he considered was a most opportune time to raise this question, having regard to the fact that the Press stated that on Thursday next the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 to distribute, and the fact that the Government were going to give £12,000,000 to the Irish landlords. If the Government had so much to give away then he would plead for a little of their riches.
§ MR. SOARES
said what he was asking for was a Committee of Inquiry into a suitable site for a harbour of refuge. A Committee had already reported that a harbour of refuge ought to be made, and 182 he now asked for a Committee to inquire into the most suitable site.
§ MR. SOARES
pointed out that he was criticising the action of the President of the Board of Trade in not appointing a Committee to enquire into the most suitable site. Year after year lives were lost which were one of the most important assets of the State. The life of a sailor in full possession of his faculties was to the State worth £1,000. The Select Committee which investigated this matter in 1884 discussed two questions, first, the provision of great national harbours of refuge, and secondly, the provision of small harbours of refuge for fishermen. With regard to the provision of large harbours of refuge the Committee were unanimously of opinion that one ought to be provided somewhere between the Land's End and the Welsh coast, and with regard to a harbour of refuge for fishermen one ought to be provided on the north coast of Cornwall. There had been many reports to the same effect, and what he now asked for was a Committee of Inquiry as to the most suitable site. A Parliamentary Committee thought a harbour of refuge was absolutely necessary, and all Members representing 183 divisions on that part of the coast were agreed that it was necessary. They were not urging the Board of Trade to put the harbour in any particular constituency, but were quite willing to be guided by the opinion of his experts. Last year when the matter was brought up the answer of the President of the Board of Trade was most unsympathetic. The right hon. Gentleman said that if the harbours were constructed vessels would hug the shore and so run unnecessary risks. That argument seemed to be on all fours with the argument that they could not have a fire station in any particular street lest all the people living in the street should be tempted to set their houses on fire. The right hon. Gentleman also said there was sufficient refuge at present. The right hon. Gentleman meant, no doubt, that ships could run under the lee of Lundy, but that was not sufficient refuge, and small vessels could not run there if there were many large ones already there, because of the risk of the small ones getting crushed if a great sea came on. Then the right hon. Gentleman said he would find one third of the cost of the harbour if the locality would find the rest. But everybody knew that the people of the locality were mostly agriculturists.
§ MR. SOARES
said he would not discuss the matter further than to say that the localities were unable to assist the right hon. Gentleman in the matter, and the question before the Committee was simply whether a Committee of Inquiry should be appointed to inquire into the most suitable site for these harbours of refuge, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not refuse to grant this most reasonable request.
§ MR. SPEAR (Devonshire, Tavistock)
emphasised the reasonableness of the request, which had his entire support. He quite agreed it was a national question. The shipping concerned was up and down Channel chiefly. When they recognised the importance of the shipping interest, and remembered that during 184 the last six years our imports and exports had increased by £167,000,000, they surely ought to take every step that was practicable to afford protection to those engaged in this important branch of national work. He felt that as an influential Committee had reported in favour of a harbour of refuge they ought to decide which was the most advantageous place for the protection to be afforded; and then proceed to carry the idea into execution. Everybody recognised the importance of economy at the present time, but all sections would agree that money expended in saving life was well expended in the-interests, not only of humanity, but economy as well.
§ SIR WILLIAM ALLAN (Gateshead),
having had practical experience of the coast in question, supported the appeal which had been made. Forty years ago he was on a vessel which was caught in a south-west gale and sprung a leak. They made for the Bristol Channel. As the ship began to settle down they had to take to the boats, in which they drifted about for fifteen hours before they were picked up. Had there been a harbour of refuge on that coast the ship and cargo could all have been saved. There was a real necessity for a harbour of refuge on the north coast of Cornwall and Devon. There were many sites and plenty of material, and the President of the Board of Trade would only be doing his duty to the State by causing inquiry to be made as to the best site for such a harbour.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said this matter had been discussed every year since he had been President of the Board of Trade, and he was afraid he would not be able to satisfy the hon. Member who had raised the question on the present occasion, as he could only repeat the reply he had previously made. The Committee to which the hon. Member had referred reported that as a general rule it was not expedient to make grants of money for harbour construction, but to that rule it made certain exceptions, one of which was that a harbour of refuge should be made somewhere between Land's End and the coast of Wales. But the kind of harbour the 185 Committee had in view was one of those great national harbours—Whose site, extent, and mode of construction should be determined, not only by considerations of how the Navy and Mercantile Marine of the country may best be protected from storm, but even more by considerations of strategic defence and Imperial policy.In other words, a great naval harbour. That Committee was appointed in 1884, and reported in 1886, so that nearly twenty years had elapsed without any move having been taken, either by the present or any other Government, in the direction suggested by the Committee. He ventured to say, moreover, that if a move was to be made in that direction, it would be for the Admiralty rather than the Board of Trade to take the initiative, because the Admiralty would be principally concerned in a harbour of that kind. The Committee further suggested that grants of public money might be made "to a limited extent in aid of works which provided refuge purely for fishermen," and as a part in which it might be desirable to construct such a harbour, they mentioned the coast of Cornwall between St Ives and Hartland Point.
§ MR. SOARES
The report says:Your Committee believe it falls entirely within the province of the Government to provide a much-needed refuge in this district.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said that if the hon. Gentleman thought the passage inconsistent with the other he could only say it was impossible to quote the Committee to advantage. However that might be, a long time had passed since the Report was made, and the subject had been repeatedly under the consideration of Governments, and
§ not only those of one Party. When the Party opposite was in office, nothing was done. Since then the Government had adopted a general policy with regard to these applications for the construction of harbours at the public expense. They had appointed a Committee, called the Harbour Grants Committee, to which all applications from local authorities were to be made. He had repeatedly suggested that application should be made in the first instance by the local authority. It could then be considered in the regular way by the Committee appointed for that purpose; and he had gone further, and said that, in this particular case, he was prepared to urge on the Treasury that they should not require the full contribution which, under the Treasury rules, would be ordinarily required from a local authority making such application. Beyond that he did not see, at the present moment, he could possibly go without absolutely upsetting the whole policy decided upon by the Government in connection with grants-in aid for local harbours. He again suggested that the local authorities should be the first to move in the matter, and if they did he could assure them any application made by them would receive every consideration.
§ MR. SOARES
Having regard to the extremely unsatisfactory reply, I beg to move a reduction in the Vote of £200.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That Item A (Salaries) be reduced by £200, in respect of the Salary of the President of the Board of Trade"—(Mr. Soares.)
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 67;. Noes, 167. (Division List, No. 67.)187
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Craig, Robert Hunter(Lanark)||Hayter, Rt Hon Sir Arthur D.|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Crombie, John William||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Chas. H.|
|Bell Richard||Dalziel, James Henry||Hutchinson, Dr. Charles Fredk.|
|Black, Alexander William||Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.)||Jacoby, James Alfred|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Duncan, J. Hastings||Jones, William (Carnarvonsh,|
|Brigg, John||Dunn, Sir William||Kearley, Hudson E.|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Edwards, Frank||Kitson, Sir James|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Fenwick, Charles||Leigh, Sir Joseph|
|Burns, John||Fuller, J. M. F.||Leng, Sir John|
|Burt, Thomas||Gladstone, Bt. Hn. Herbert J.||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen|
|Caldwell, James||Griffith, Ellis J.||Newnes, Sir George|
|Cawley, Frederick||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||Norman, Henry|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Hayne, Bt. Hon. Charles Seale-||Pearson, Sir Weetman D.|
|Rea, Russell||Sullivan, Donal||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Rigg, Richard||Taylor, Theo. C. (Radcliffe)||Whiteley, George (York, W.R.|
|Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)||Thomson, F. W. (York, W. R.)||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)||Tomkinson, James||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Roe, Sir Thomas||Ure, Alexander||Wilson, H. J. (York, W. R.)|
|Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)||Wallace, Robert||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Shackleton, David James||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Shaw, Thomas (Hawick, B.)||Wason, E. (Clackmannan)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Soares and Mr. Charles Allen.|
|Shipman, Dr. John G.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Spencer, Rt. Hn. C. R (Northants||Weir, James Galloway|
|Strachey, Sir Edward||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H||Maxwell, W.J.H. (Dumfrieeshire|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||FitzGerald, Sir Robt. Penrose||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Fitzroy, Hon. Edw. Algernon||Morgan, D. J. (Walthamstow)|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Flower, Ernest||Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Forster, Henry William||Muntz, Sir Philip A.|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Foster, P. S. (Warwick, S.W.||Murray, Rt Hn. A Graham (Bute|
|Balcarres, Lord||Fyler, John Arthur||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r.||Galloway, William Johnson||Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn Gerald W (Leeds||Garfit, William||Peel, Hn. Wm. R. Wellesley|
|Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch||Gibbs, Hn A.G.H (City of Lond||Pemberton, John S. G.|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick||Percy, Earl|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benj.||Gore, Hn G.R.C. Ormsby-(Salop||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Bignold, Arthur||Greene, Sir E. W. (Bury St. Ed.||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Gretton, John||Purvis, Robert|
|Bond, Edward||Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith||Gunter, Sir Robert||Randles, John S.|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Hamilton, Rt Hn Lord G (Midd'x||Rankin, Sir James|
|Bull, William James||Hanbury, Rt. Hon Robert Wm.||Remnant Jas. Farquharson|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Hare, Thomas Leigh||Ridley, Hon. M. W (Stalybridge|
|Butcher, John George||Harris, Frederick Leverton||Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Glasgow||Haslam, Sir Alfred S.||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H||Haslett, Sir James Horner||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye|
|Cavendish, V.C.W.(Derbyshire||Heath, Arthur H. (Hanley)||Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Heath, James (Staffords. N. W.||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Helder, Augustus||Russell, T. W.|
|Chamberlain, Rt Hon J (Birm||Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T.||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn J. A (Worc||Hoare, Sir Samuel||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Chapman, Edward||Hogg, Lindsay||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)|
|Charrington, Spencer||Houston, Robert Paterson||Seely, Maj. J.E.B. (Isle of Wight|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Hutton, John (Yorks. N. R.)||Skewes-Cox, Thomas|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E||Jameson, Major J. Eustace||Smith, H C (North'mb, Tyneside|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Jebb, Sir Richard Clayerhouse||Stanley, Edw. Jas. (Somerset)|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Johnstone Heywood||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Collings, Right Hon. Jesse||Keswick, William||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir Jn. M.|
|Colston, Chas. Edw H. Athole||Knowles, Lees||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Cook, Sir Frederick Lucas||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow||Lawson John Grant||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge||Leveson-Gower, Fredk. N. S.||Valentia, Viscount|
|Cripps, Charles Alfred||Lockie, John||Walrond, Kt. Hn. Sir William H|
|Crossley, Sir Savile||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
|Denny, Colonel||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S.||Wharton, Rt. Hon. J. Lloyd|
|Dickinson, Robert Edmond||Lowe, Francis William||Willough by de Eresby, Lord|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E.R.(Bath|
|Dorington, Rt. Hon. Sir J. E.||Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred||Worsley-Taylor, Hry. Wilson|
|Doxford, Sir William Theodore||Macdona, John Cumming||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart|
|Duke, Henry Edward||MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Wylie, Alexander|
|Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Maconochie, A. W.||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Faber, E. B. (Hants, W.)||M'Calmont, Colonel James|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir Alexander Acland-Hood and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hn Sir J. (Manc'r||Malcolm, Ian|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Manners, Lord Cecil|
Question put, and agreed to.