HC Deb 16 May 1906 vol 157 cc552-81
MR. ALDEN (Middlesex, Tottenham)

rose to call attention to the hours of railway servants; and to move, "That, in the opinion of this House, the hours of railway servants are still in many cases excessive, notwithstanding the operation of the Hours Act of 1893, and call for stringent action by legislation and administration to secure their reduction to a reasonable standard." He said that he recognised the efforts which the Board of Trade had made in regard to the hours of railway servants, and the improvement which had taken place in the conditions and hours of this large class of public servants. That improvement was largely the result of public debates in this House, and was also due largely to the action of the hon. Member for Derby, who he trusted would take some part in the present debate, because he was an expert in this matter and would speak with far more authority than he (Mr. Alden) possessed. There was, however, notwithstanding the advance which had taken place, room for further improvement, both as regarded the number of accidents and the hours of labour, and he trusted that suggestions would be made during the debate for further dealing with this evil. He would like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade on the interest he had already shown in this matter by the appointment of a Statutory Committee to examine and test appliances, with a view to minimising the danger to which men employed on railways were exposed. He had not the slightest doubt that such a Committee would be able to give satisfactory and sound advice to the great railway companies and to the Government itself. He believed that the hon. Member for Dulwich, who had just been returned to this House, did express an opinion when he was at the Board of Trade that this matter should be inquired into. But he was not sure whether that hon. Gentleman promised a Statutory Committee or not. At all events, he expressed an opinion in favour of it on behalf of a Government suffering at that time from mental and moral fatigue, but nothing was done. He was afraid that all Governments were inclined to give replies of that kind in regard to the appointment of Committees of Inquiry to all hon. Members who raised inconvenient questions, and that these promises were forgotten under what, he should call the pressure of less important business. He trusted, however, that this Government would not be content with expressing a mere pious opinion, but would take some action. Having heard so many expressions of goodwill in the House in regard to this matter, he was reminded of the saying of a late Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, who, when asked if his branch of mathematics had any practical bearing, said— Thank God, tins branch of mathematics has never been disfigured by any practical application. He trusted, however, that his remarks would be found capable of practical application. He would leave to the Seconder of the Motion, the hon. Member for Newcastle, the task, so far as illustrations were concerned, of proving their case, and would content himself with a very few words of historical survey and some few remarks about the hours of railway work. The Resolution referred to the operation of the Hours Act of 1893, more properly called the Regulation of Railways Act. That Act was the result of a Select Committee which sat for two years, and that Committee was itself the result of a serious railway strike in Scotland. There were two clauses in especial upon which the administration of that Act depended. One was to the effect that if it was represented to the Board of Trade by or on behalf of the servants or any class of servants of a railway company, that the hours of labour of those servants, or of that particular class, were excessive and did not provide sufficient hours of rest, the Board of Trade should have power to interfere. The other clause was to the effect that if it appeared to the Board of Trade upon any such representation, or otherwise, that there was any reasonable ground of complaint against any railway company they should have power to submit to that railway company a schedule of time for working which should bring the actual hours of working within reasonable limits, having regard to all the circumstances of the traffic and the nature of the work. Returns had repeatedly been called for by the House in regard to these matters, and had been supplied after long delay. It had never been felt, however, that those Returns were satisfactory or conclusive. The Act was a permissive Act, and it would be seen from the two sections to which he had referred that the onus of making the complaint as to the number of hours worked or any other unfavourable conditions fell upon the railway servant. Those who had experience of railway companies knew that those complaints when made must tell against the chances of a man's promotion, and that in many cases they led to his dismissal. Two days ago he got into a railway carriage where there were seven railway men who had just been relieved from duty. He entered into conversation with them and they complained of the length of the hours they worked. He said, "If, as you say, your hours are so long, why is it you do not make a complaint." They all smiled at him as if he were a child, and he knew the answer that they would give. They said, "If we made any complaint it would be traced, and if it were traced it would be all over with promotion for us and it might mean dismissal." His first point was that they could not expect the men to make complaints, because it was against their interest. His second point was that the Parliamentary Returns were not conclusive. His hon. friend on one occasion moved for a Return which was to be given in December, 1902, and three months notice was given of that Return. The railway companies made preparations accordingly. They issued circulars, and they would be very foolish if they had not done so, telling the officials that the hours of labour must be kept down. At all events there was a most astounding difference between the figures given for that year and those for previous years. In the Return for December, 1902, the number of cases of men working over twelve hours was given as 75,389. In regard to the next Return, which was called for in October, 1903, they did not have the same notice, and the number of cases of men who worked for over twelve hours leaped up to 99,586. Perhaps some hon. Members would say that the difference of the month in which the Return was taken accounted for the figures, but the difference was all in favour of the railway company, because December was the month of fogs and overtime, while in October the same considerations did not apply. The latest Return was asked for in May, 1905, but it was not received until February 1906, and even although the Board of Trade was undoubtedly doing its best he thought the railway companies might be made to quicken up their mode of giving these Returns. In March, 1905, on the Great Western Railway there were 4,821 cases of overtime, and of those cases 3,577 were cases of goods engine drivers and firemen and guards. On the Great Central, which employed a far less number of men, there were 1,871 cases, and 1,230 of those cases were in the same class of engine drivers and firemen. He should like to contrast those figures with those of the London and North Western Railway, who employed an enormous number of men, and was undoubtedly one of the most powerful organisations of men in the railway world. There were only 134 cases out of all the men employed on that system, of all grades, and 75 of those cases were cases in the same class of labour. He contended that if the London and North Western Railway could so organise their service as to reduce the cases of overtime to 134 per month, there was no reason why other railway companies should not be compelled to do the same. That would be a point for the Board of Trade to consider, it any railway company raised any difficulty and said it was impossible. The railways of Ireland were in this respect notorious. They were notoriously badly managed, and there would never be a revival of the prosperiy of trade in Ireland while they were managed as at present. He trusted the time would come when the Government of this country would see their way to nationalise the railways of Ireland. The general figures of the latest Return showed 73,686 cases of overtime, a decrease as compared with the figures of 1902 and 1903, though not so large a decrease as could have been wished. Of those; 73,000 cases, 48,000 were of men working thirteen hours, 17,000 cases of men working fourteen hours, and 4,678 of men working fifteen hours. That was a very serious matter, and no one could be surprised that accidents curred. Very responsible work was put on these men, and they were sometimes expected to take extra duty and work overtime when not in a fit condition. This surely was a matter that should come under the purview of the Board of Trade, and he was sure that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade would give his attention to it. Railway companies tried to explain away and minimise these matters as much as possible. For instance, the manager of the Taff Railway said that if they took every hour worked during the week by all grades of the service the overtime only averaged six and a half seconds per hour. That was minimising the matter with a vengeance, but the answer to that was that the law of averages might satisfy the railway company, but it would not satisfy the man who had to work-fifteen hours, nor would it satisfy the right hon. Gentleman, this House, or the public. The Return did not give any idea of the changed conditions of work in this matter. During the last few years British railways had been Americanised; expenditure had been reduced by the carrying of heavier loads with bigger engines. He remembered travelling on an engine for a few hundred miles in the United States, and while he watched the fireman putting on, not two and a half tons of coal as it used to be, but five or six tons for his journey, he could not but contrast his work with that which used to be done on smaller engines. At the end of his journey the man was exhausted and could hardly step off his engine. The companies put men on these engines and doubled the work they had to do and gave no compensating benefit by way of shorter hours of labour, but treated them list in the same way as they treated the men years ago, when they did half the work. The facts he had stated were proved by the number of firemen, drivers, and guards now employed. Since 1901 up to 1905 the number employed had decreased on four railways alone by over 5,000—not because traffic had fallen off, but because heavier loads and bigger engines had sensibly decreased the number of trains sent out and the number of miles run by trains. While he did not blame the railway companies for economising in this manner, he contended that the men ought to have some corresponding gain for the extra work performed. He appealed for increased power to be conferred on the Board of Trade to enable it to deal more satisfactorily with all companies with a view to shortening the hours of labour. Under those powers there should be a compulsory Return at stated intervals of all the hours worked over twelve. If it was necessary to amend the Act of 1903 to that effect, the right hon. Gentleman ought to see his way to introduce an Amending Bill for that purpose. The terms of the Compulsory Order should be clearly defined, because, if it was left to the railway companies to give their Returns as they chose, the facts would never be ascertained. The only possible procedure was to have a systematic Return. If railway companies knew that a Return had to be made they would make arrangements accordingly. The number of sub-inspectors should be increased and their powers extended. The chief work of sub-inspectors was to take note of accidents after they had occurred and to hold inquiries in respect to them. The wiser thing in his opinion would be to prevent accidents and sufficient inspection would prevent them. If they had not sufficient inspection at the present time it also called for action on the part of the Board of Trade and more sub-inspectors should be employed. It was not much to ask. Inspectors were now going about all over the country inspecting other industries. This was one of the largest industries in the country, and it seemed to him that there should be this inspection which was as necessary for the public welfare as for that of the men themselves. If inspectors were told off to visit the danger points on railways he believed many accidents would be prevented, but the inspectors should visit those places unexpectedly if they wanted the inspections to effect their purpose. The hours worked by the men were far too long and should be reduced, by legislation if necessary. The words in the Act "within unreasonable limits" were interpreted as a twelve-hour day. Was it too much to ask that those words should be interpreted as a ten-hour day, which, he contended, was quite sufficient? A ten-hour day was sufficient for most workmen on the railway, and if they were worked more it would be at the risk of life and limb. He thought the President of the Local Government Board would agree with him that if they could reduce the hours of labour of railway servants they would do something towards the partial solving of the unemployed problem. As it was no new men were being taken on as drivers and firemen on any railway. The numbers were decreasing. That meant more unemployed. If there could be a reduction of the hours of labour more men might be taken on. The President of the Local Government Board had more than once expressed the opinion that the lessening of the hours of labour of those engaged in the working of locomotion and transit was one way out of the problem of the unemployed. Meanwhile the Board of Trade was in the position of guardian of the public safety, and he trusted the President of that Department would feel it to be his duty both in the interests of the travelling public and in the interests of a highly deserving body of men to make some definite statement as to legislation in the near future.

MR. HUDSON (Newcastle-on-Tyne)

said he had to congratulate his hon. friend upon the excellent way in which he had opened up the discussion of this question. Had his hon. friend been an expert in railway matters he could not have done better, and he had considerably lightened his labours as seconder of the Resolution. He thought he could prove conclusively that long hours were not only prevalent to-day but were general. What was reasonably required was that not only should the Railway Regulation Act of 1893 be administered to the full but that that Act should be brought up to date. Might he trouble the House with a few general statements of the long hours of railway men as they existed today? Let them take the locomotive men on the North Staffordshire Railway. In October last year they ranged from eleven hours forty-five minutes up to fourteen hours forty-five minutes. The case of the goods guards at Wakefield, on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, was reported to the Board of Trade; no less than ninety-six cases occurred in which men were on duty for twelve hours for the week ending March 7th, the average time for which these men were on duty being practically thirteen and a half hours each. On the North British Railway at St. Margaret's, Edinburgh, long hours had been worked in the months of August, September, and October, a typical case being that of a man working for six days from September 18th to 23rd, inclusive, the shortest being ten hours fifty minutes, two days at twelve hours, one day it twelve hours twenty-five minutes, one day at thirteen hours five minutes, and one day at thirteen hours fifteen minutes. The same man worked on October 23 rd to 28th inclusive, and the lowest number of hours upon any one day was twelve, and the highest fifteen hours fifteen minutes. This was a locomotive man. On the same railway at Portobello the goods guards were working, and this was finite frequent, for thirteen, fourteen, and even fifteen hours a day, and it was a regular custom there for the hours of duty to exceed twelve per day. There was the case of a goods guard on the Caledonian Railway who worked seventeen out of twenty-four times on duty for more than twelve hours. In another case on the Barry Railway, the working for one man showed that for six days the consecutive times were thirteen hours ten minutes, fourteen hours thirty minutes, thirteen hours twenty minutes, fourteen hours ten minutes, fourteen hours forty minutes, and twelve hours twenty minutes. During a fortnight on the Brecon and Merthyr Railway there were no less than fifty-nine cases in which men were on duty for periods ranging from twelve to seventeen hours. On the Great Central Railway of England in the week ending October 28th, 1905, they had the following cases. On Sunday a goods guard worked thirteen hours twenty minutes at Sheffield station. On Monday, there were five cases of long hours, ranging up to fifteen hours forty minutes. On Tuesday, there were nine cases, ranging up to sixteen hours fifteen minutes. On Wednesday, there were ten cases, one of which reached nineteen hours fifty minutes. On Thursday, there were nine cases, ranging up to over fifteen hours. At Ardwick on the same railway, during one month, the hours ranged from a little over ten hours to eighteen hours per day, and at the latter end of the month, they found cases of goods guards who had been on duty thirty-two hours fifty minutes, while there were quite a number over twenty hours per day. Another case reported was that of the Swansea Harbour Trust. This railway was worked under contract, but the hours were terribly excessive. They ranged up to twenty-four, twenty-seven, thirty-six, and even forty hours duty at a stretch. It had been claimed on the part of the employers that the men did not object to those long hours. That was admitted, but the Board of Trade had no right to allow it, in the interests of public safety. There were many cases which were not correctly reported to the Board of Trade. He mentioned the case of a cleaner on the' Midland Railway, who, after being on duty as a cleaner from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., after an interval of five hours rest, went on the foot plate of the engine as a fireman for twelve hours twenty-five minutes, and he contended that in such a case the railway company ought not to return simply the time he had worked as a fireman. The Great Northern Railway were also sinners in this direction. The greatest possible difficulty had been experienced at Bradford by the goods guards in getting relief when they had done a full term of duty. From their point of view, the maximum limit, of twelve hours a day was too much, and at the very most that period should not be exceeded. A short time ago a report was made to the Railway Department of the Board of Trade that at Peterborough the locomotive men on the same railway worked up to eighteen hours a day, the hours worked being as follows—

Hrs. Mins.
Sunday 14 15
Monday 10
Tuesday 10 55
Wednesday 13 15
Thursday 15
Friday 14
Saturday 18 33

There was also a case on the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, where a signalman worked eight or ten hours in his own cabin, and was then called upon to do fog signalling for several hours—a different grade of duty altogether. At Purley signalmen were called upon to perform fogmen's work after finishing their ordinary duties in the signal-box. This caused them to work extremely long hours. The following were few instances of this—

Time on duty.
December 18th, 1904. Hrs. Mins.
A man worked as Signalman 13
Resting 45
as Fogman 10 15
Total from start to finish 24
March 18th, 1905.
Ordinary duty. Fogging duty. Total time.
Hrs. Mins. Hrs. Mins. Hrs. Mins.
8 2 20 10 20
8 45 6 16 45
8 5 30 16

with an interval of 2 hrs. 30 mins. in the last case.

He would also mention cases on the North Eastern line. There was a case at Hull, which was still pending, though it was first reported to the Board of Trade in November, 1904, The hours of drivers there were very excessive. They ranged from eleven to fifteen hours a id fifteen minutes. He was not blaming the Board of Trade at all, though he believed that under the late Administration there was a great deal of laxity, and it was not unusual for them to wait nine or twelve months, or even eighteen months, before any satisfactory reply was received that there had been an inquiry. In this particular case a reminder was sent to the Board of Trade in 1905, calling attention to the fact that it was nothing uncommon for the men to be on duty for thirteen or fourteen or even seventeen hours at a stretch. It was rather difficult to say when that inquiry would finish, if they let the company take their own time about it. Another class of case was that of station porters, He was prepared to admit that there was not the same degree of strain upon an ordinary porter as was put upon trainmen. Nevertheless, there was a limit of physical capacity, and there should be a limit of hours of work. One case was of a porter who worked from 6.30 a.m. to 9 p.m., with only 2½ hours for meals on a total of 14½ hours. The time from start to finish should at least be brought within reasonable limits. They were now spread over an excessive number of hours, and the case he had cited was typical of many of the porters on all the railways. Another case was that of the West Clare Light Railway men, who worked, according to the time-table, from twelve to eighteen hours a day. A light railway as compared with a trunk line in this country was of comparatively little importance, but the men on a light railway were worked as far as possible from the time they commenced to the time they left off duty. The railway companies got as much work as possible out of them. In the case he had mentioned this grievance was supposed to have been remedied, and he got a letter from the hon. Member for Derby on March 3rd of this year, informing him that the complaint made by the West Clare men had been put right, and that there had been a rescheduling of hours, which had satisfactorily settled matters. The most amusing feature of this incident was that when he received this letter he happened to be in Ireland, and made a few inquiries from the men who were well acquainted with the West Clare Railway, and one of the first questions he was asked was when was anything going to be done by the Board of Trade in regard to their long hours? That was after he had received the letter stating that the hours had been put right. He mentioned that merely as a typical case to show that even with the best endeavours of the Board of Trade through its railway department very little was done, and their representations had very little effect. Even when they secured a rescheduling of the hours they soon got back to the old system, and consequently they called for the rescheduling every year. What they asked for was a more stringent administration of this particular Act of 1893, if it was to be of any use whatever, so far as having a good effect in regard to shorter hours was concerned. The hon. Member for Tottenham rightly called attention to the Return for December, 1902, and this was proof positive that the hours could be reduced if there was a willingness to reduce them. They had been told that it was very difficult to bring the hours within reasonable limits, owing to the traffic and the nature of the work. He had worked for over a quarter of a century himself on the railway train. He knew that if there was a determination to keep the hours of duty within certain limits it could be done, generally speaking. They did not ask anything unreasonable. In cases of fog or accident it was quite possible that excessive hours might have to be worked in one or two cases. They were prepared to allow for these exceptional cases. What they said was that in the scheduling of the work there was no serious intention to bring the hours within the limit which the Board of Trade thirteen years ago considered to be reasonable, namely, a twelve hours limit. The Return for October, 1903, showed that in 64,624 cases men were on duty for thirteen hours; 22,046 for fourteen hours; 7,976 for fifteen hours; 2,673 for sixteen hours; 1,070 for seventeen hours and 1,120 for eighteen hours and over. He wondered how right hon. and hon. Gentlemen would feel when riding comfortably on the railways to and from their duties in this assembly if they knew that the men working the lines were so long on duty. It was considered at the present day that after ten hours work a man's powers of physical endurance were at an end, and that he required a rest. In view of the development of railway traffic, and the higher tension both physical and mental upon the men now, he thought there should be a revision so far as the interpretation of the Act was concerned. The Act was permissive and it was within the power of the Board of Trade to call for rescheduling in all cases where the hours exceeded ten per day. Exceptions might possibly he made in the case of branch lines, or in connection with some grades of the service, but for all practical purposes on the trunk lines of the kingdom ten hours duty at the utmost was enough in the case of 90 per cent, of the men engaged in the manipulation of traffic. The workmen also said that the onus of complaint should be removed to the State department. It was a great deterrent to men reporting to know that their promotion might be endangered, or that they might not receive fair treatment if they were found to have reported cases to the Board of Trade. It was quite true that anonymous reports had long been allowed, but that did not alter the fact that it was possible to find the men who had worked long hours, and to ask whether they had reported. When he was in the service he had heard an inspector question men as to whether they had reported. It would not be difficult for the Board of Trade to do in this matter something similar to what was done by the Home Office in the case of factories. He thought the Board of Trade might with advantage to the men, and the public generally, make inquiry wherever they found very bad cases. It was intended, under the Accidents Act of 1900, to take certain grades of the service which were considered dangerous under the supervision of the Department, in the same way as the Home Office under took the supervision of factories. This was one specific matter to which the Board of Trade should give their first attention in the interest of public safety, as well as in the interest of the large number of men employed. He and his friends trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would accept the suggestions they had offered. They were new, but looking to the altered circumstances, and to the fact that the Act had been in operation for thirteen years, they thought that the time had arrived when there should be a change in its administration and definition. The twelve hours day which thirteen years ago was defined as a reasonable maximum was not suited to the altered conditions of railway work, and they thought it would be reasonable now to define the maximum as ton hours. He had great pleasure in seconding the Resolution.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, in the opinion of this House, the Hours of Railway Servants are still in many casses excessive, notwithstanding the operation of the Hours Act of 1893, and call for stringent action by legislation; and administration to secure their reduction to a reasonable standard."— (Mr. Alden.)

MR. MCCRAE (Edinburgh, E.)

said he only intervened in this debate because he represented a large body of Scottish railway men. During a strike on the North British Railway in 1890, public opinion in Scotland was much stirred at the revelation of the excessive number of hours worked by the men, and the instances of long hours quoted by the hon. Member showed that the Act of 1893 had a great deal too much elasticity about it. The instances given really showed that some action on the part of the Board of Trade was called for. He thought the Board of Trade had a public duty to perform in this matter, and that intervention was loudly called for. Anyone who considered the question from an impartial standpoint must feel that ten hours were long enough for railway men to work. The strike to which he had referred was for a ten hours day. In the case of signalmen he should say that if they worked eight hours a day a sufficient strain was demanded from them, having regard, not only to the men themselves, but to the public safety. He hoped the President of the Board of Trade would not only accept the Motion in full, but that he would feel that some kind of action was necessary on the part of his Department. Personally he had given hostages to fortune in this matter, because he had assured his railway constituents that there was now at the Board of Trade a Minister who would look at those questions with a sympathetic mind. He believed there was a strong case calling for investigation in the interest of the public, and he hoped that his right hon. friend would see that it was his duty, not only to make full inquiry, but to take action when the hours worked showed that the Act of 1893 had been evaded.


desired to say a few words on behalf of the railway companies. He had no complaint to make of the temperate way in which the case of the men had been presented to the House, and as far as he knew the railway companies were not averse from any examination of the methods by which they carried out the administration of their lines. There were undoubtedly from time to time cases of overtime being worked by the men, but he thought that the number of such cases was smaller than hon. Members believed to be the fact. In regard to the Motion a great deal depended upon the view of the House as a whole as to what it would call "a reasonable standard." Some hon. Members would say that twelve hours a day, others that ten hours, and others again that eight hours formed a reasonable day's work, while some who had practical knowledge of railway work would agree that five hours on an express engine would constitute a sufficient strain on the mental and physical energies of a driver. It was, however, the general application of the principle of shortened hours to all railway men that the House had principally to consider. Of course complaints had been made to the prejudice of the men who made them. One hon. Member had said that these complaints were made anonymously; but he would point out that inquiry by the Board of Trade over such a large area into anonymous complaints was impossible. He himself had not heard of any case of dismissal or punishment as the result of an anonymous complaint. The Board of Trade made a yearly Report of proceedings under the Act, and on page 14 a table of cases inquired into since the passing of the Act was given. That showed that in the twelve years—1894 to 1905—there were in all 766 complaints. That was an average of seventy-seven per annum, and, as the Report pointed out, the figures for the last three years showed a great decrease in the annual average. It had to be remembered that there were about 600,000 men employed on English railways, and that no serious complaints had been made by any man confidentially or otherwise. In 1905, thirty-eight cases of complaints were received. In twenty-eight of these cases the Board of Trade reported that some action had been taken whereby the conditions would be improved, and in some of these cases the action had been taken voluntarily by the railway companies. With regard to the return which was made periodically for a stated month as to the number of railway servants who, during that month, were on duty on the railways of the United Kingdom for more than twelve hours, or who, after being on duty for that period, were allowed to resume work with less than nine hours rest, the way in which that Return was made was disputed by the railway company as unfair to them. It did not show the hours of interval for rest or of the time taken in travelling to and from work. The objections to the form of the Return made to the Board of Trade were fully and clearly stated by Mr. Inglis, the manager of the Great Western Railway, who showed the arrangement made by his company for the relief of men in their employment. Similar representations had been made by the managers of the London & North Western Railway Company and other railway companies which he need not specialise. But he would take an example from the Midland Railway, which was one of the companies complained of, as to the goods guards being on duty for an excessive number of hours. He might state that arrangements had been made by most railway companies to relieve goods guards and engine drivers whose trains were delayed on the road, and as wages were paid for the time spent in travelling from the point at which relief was afforded to the usual destination of the man relieved, that time had to be included in the Return as overtime. Taking the Midland Railway Return, it showed that a goods guard had been on duty thirteen hours and forty minutes. But of that time six hours and twenty minutes were occupied by debus, and three hours in travelling to and from his work. In another case the gross time of a goods guard on duty was fifteen hours and twenty minutes, but the total time waiting and travelling was only eleven hours and twenty minutes, while four hours and thirty minutes were taken up in travelling home. The Committee presided over by Sir M. Hick-Beach had pointed out that if an absolute standard of hours were insisted on the companies might be compelled to reduce the train service or even close stations in districts where there was very little traffic, in order to avoid the cost of the extra staff. The railway companies did not wish to overwork their men or to encourage overtime. They were fully aware that the safety of the public depended upon a man having his wits about him, and no man who was overworked and overstrained could give proper attention to difficult work. The driver of an excursion train might have six hours at the seaside out of twelve, and the shortening of his hours to ten would mean the shortening of the time of the excursionists at the seaside. The Board of Trade Return did not show the number of hours represented by delays and resting. Railway directors were not without feeling, and looked well after their men. The railway companies had nothing to hide or conceal from the House, and any inquiry instituted would receive every possible assistance from the companies.

MR. BELL (Derby)

said he felt indebted to the mover and seconder for bringing forward the Motion. It had been his misfortune or perhaps his privilege to bring this Motion before the House nearly every session since he was returned in 1900, and he was not a little gratified on this occasion to have the assistance of two hon. Members who had dealt with the details very fully and had relieved him to a great extent of that task. He was also gratified to find that the right hon. Gentleman who was now at the head of the Board of Trade was familiar with some of the statements which he had put forward previously. At the time of the passing of the Act of 1893 he would admit that there was a great flurry in the railway companies' offices, and a tremendous drop in the long hours worked upon the railways. But unfortunately for the men employed on the railways, the Government who brought in that Act were not in office very long to administer it, and during the reign of the late Government it was impossible to get the Act administered as it should be. He was hoping, however, for better things now, and he was prepared to give a reasonable allowance of time in order to see what the President of the Board of Trade was prepared to do. The Resolution was not of a very drastic character, and simply called for more stringent action by legislation and administration to secure the reduction of hours to a reasonable standard. The right hon. Gentleman had a very great deal of power over administration, and what he asked was, that this Act which had not been administered to anything like the extent it ought to have been should now be properly administered. In saying this he did not desire to reflect upon the action of the permanent officials of the Board of Trade, who of course were not called upon to frame the policy of the Department: that rested with the Minister at the head. Therefore he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade would pursue a more stringent policy with regard to administration, and if in a few years it was found that the Act did not give him sufficient power let him bring in a more stringent measure. It was quite clear that railway directors sitting in that or in the other House could not make themselves familiar with all the details of railway work, and even the head officials of the railways could not make themselves familiar with all the details; they had to collect them from the different districts and from subordinate officials. He asserted, however, that there were good grounds for believing that inaccurate Returns were sent to the Board of Trade. It was said that many of the railway men who worked fifteen hours spent six of them at the seaside, but that was not the case in many instances. His complaint was that the Returns were "cooked" before they were sent to the Board of Trade. That was, and always had been, his complaint. He held in his hand an original document in regard to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. He would not quote the exact time when the man went on duty or left duty, nor the date nor the place where the long hours occurred, because in previous cases where he had given such details as to overtime the railway companies had spent as much money in tracing particular cases as would, he believed, have sufficed to relieve the men of these excessive hours. When the case had boon traced the men had been interrogated as to when they sent their complaint to him, and why they did so. The Return in question made out by the man showed that he went on duty at 4 a.m. and came off at 7.40 p.m. He was a goods guard so that at all events he did not have any six hours at the seaside. When this Return went into the superintendent's office deductions were made of periods of from ten to fifteen minutes and ranging up to fifty-five minutes during the course of the day. This was done in accordance with an instruction that in making out a long-hours form "travelling time, etc., should be deducted." In this way the man's time was reduced by six hours and thirty minutes, and was reduced to nine hours and ten minutes. That was the way the time during which the man was on duty was reduced. He knew of a great many of these cases, existing upon other railways beside the Lancashire and Yorkshire. No doubt hon. Members who defended the railway companies in this House spoke in good faith, but the Returns were, he contended, dealt with in the way he had indicated. Moreover, if a man sent in a Return showing excessive hours, he might be chastised for doing so. With regard to the Return published under the Act of 1893 which had been referred to, there was a brief statement in it to the effect that the whole of the complaints under it from 1894 to 1905 only numbered 766 cases, and he remembered that when that Return was issued for 1904 the Secretary of the Board of Trade, Sir Francis Hopwood, made a very complimentary reference to the railway companies because in 1904 there were no more than eleven complaints under the Act. If it had only been a case of eleven complaints he would have considered the matter unworthy of notice, but, in a Return obtained for him by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor in 1903, they found a very high standard of hours of overtime, namely, 99,506 in one month. That figure did not compare very favourably with eleven cases in one year. He had already explained the reason why complaints were not made by the men. He could not understand why extraordinary and unnecessary delay occurred in securing these Returns. He might mention in reply to his right hon. friend the Member for Epping that in regard to the Midland Railway, although he did not like to specify any railway, if his hon. friend would only inquire how many complaints he (Mr. Bell) had sent in from that railway company during the last eighteen months he would find that they amounted to an enormous number; indeed, so numerous were they that he should have required assistance to bring them down. This was shown by a document he received from the President of the Board of Trade dated the fifth of this month, which referred to men upon the Midland Railway who had worked excessive hours. Under no circumstances should men be permitted to be on their engines or with their trains for such an excessive number of hours. The Board of Trade had had an admission from the Midland Railway that these long horns were worked, and it should not be allowed. In his opinion also it was necessary that something should be done in order to check the Returns of the railway companies. He had been in conflict with the Department on several occasions and found that they had no method of checking those Returns The method by which complaints were dealt with was that when complaints were received by the Board of Trade of long hours being worked, the railway company was applied to to supply a Return or schedule of hours worked over an area sufficiently wide to include the place complained of. The company sent the Return and it was then compared with that which he or the person complaining had sent in. If the statement of the railway company was favourable the Board of Trade said they could not further act. What he wanted to know was what guarantee had the Board of Trade that these Returns were accurate? He wanted some system by which they could be checked. If he sent in a complaint of men working an excessive number of hours and the Returns supplied by the company did not correspond or come up to the Return which he sent, why should the Board of Trade accept the Return of the company as against his? The Board of Trade was the judge in this matter, but the judgment was entirely on one side. What he wanted the right hon. Gentleman to do was, when he found the Return of the company differed from the Return of the complainer, that he should have some method of checking the accuracy of the Return. That could be done by an inspector or sub-inspector being sent down to look at the books in which the men signed on and off duty, and in which the facts appeared. The Act of 1903 would not be satisfactory until some such method had been adopted. If the right hon. Gentleman had not the power under the Act he hoped he would seek it. In any case it was in the interests of the men and of the public that such a course should be taken. Everybody knew that there were men on every railway who did not object to a few extra hours for a few extra shillings at the end of the week, but that was a matter that should be left out of consideration altogether. In one case in regard to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Hallway he made a representation which ultimately resulted in the hours being reduced at one particular depôt. Immediately men who were not members of his society got up a petition to protest against his action. That was essentially a case where the Board of Trade having received such a petition should have sent their officers down to ascertain whether the statements made by those men were correct or not. He knew they were not accurate, and he was not afraid to say either in this House or outside that the men who signed that petition were men who did all they knew to keep in with the gaffer and to curry favour. The inspector who inquired into the serious accident at Broad Street in August, 1904, owing to the mistake of a signalman, attributed it to the excessive hours the man had been working prior to the date of the accident. The signalman in question had worked continuously 50 per cent, longer every shift than he ought to have done. In most instances of personal injuries or accidents to the public it was found on inquiry that the men concerned had not been working very long hours at the time of the accident, but it did not follow that they had not been working excessive hours for days prior to the occurrence, during which their alertness and energy had been sapped. He urged the Board of Trade to hurry the railway companies in the matter of presenting Returns. Surely it was not unreasonable to expect them to supply information to the Board of Trade much quicker than they were accustomed to do. He had called for Returns for five years, and he should continue to call for them until there was a substantial reduction in the hours of the men. On each occasion when he had called for a Return he generally got it from eleven to thirteen months afterwards. The companies could obtain information quickly enough when they wanted it for their own purposes. Let the Board of Trade be as smart. The hon. Member for Tottenham in his very interesting speech had referred to the statement made by the general manager of the Taff Vale Railway Company, who was great on averages, and who said the average overtime worked by the men on that line was 6½ seconds per hour, but the figures from which he produced his average were as follows:—314 men worked for 13 hours, 39 men for 14 hours, 21 men for 15 hours, 5 men for 16 hours, 3 for 19 hours and 7 for 18 hours and over in one month. The fact that the average worked out at six-and-a-half seconds was not much consolation to men who had worked for eighteen hours. Owing to the adoption of larger engines and other changes the number of engine drivers, firemen, and guards employed on four railways had decreased between 1901 and 1905 by 5,600 men. With such a reduction of numbers in tour years, and with the excessive hours worked on the other hand, there was good reason why the President of the Board of Trade should co-operate with the President of the Local Government Board in an endeavour to get the Railway Companies to reduce hours within reasonable limits, and in that way help to case the congestion in the labour market. He asked the President of the Board of Trade to consider very seriously whether he had power under the Act of 1893 to take stronger measures to enforce the reduction of excessive hours, and in particular to check the Returns furnished by the railway companies by means of inspection of their books. If the right hon. Gentleman had not got that power he hoped he would consider whether he should not, in the very near future, ask the House to give it to him. If the railway companies knew that the Board of Trade might pay surprise visits to their offices and inspect their books they would take good care that the hours worked by the men were kept within reasonable limits. The evidence given before the Royal Commission by the railway companies was that it was absolutely impossible to reduce the hours of their employees, but the Act of 1893 altered the matter to some extent, and the railway companies were able to fall in with it. The companies would be able to do so again, perhaps with some little extra expense and inconvenience at first, but that would soon disappear if the new conditions were met by the companies in an earnest spirit. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would take the matter seriously in hand, and that by next year a great reform would have been made.

MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)

said they had just listened to a most able exposition by the hon. Member for Derby of the defects of the administration of the Board of Trade in regard to railways, and this Motion had been seconded by one of his oldest friends among the railway workers, the hon. Member for Newcastle, in an admirable and practical speech. He only wished to refer to two points. He wished to remind the House that although the Report of the Railway Hours Committee who sat in 1892 had been referred to, no allusion had been made to the suggestion made by Lord St. Aldwyn, who laid down that in his opinion a ten hours day was sufficient for the regular staff upon railways and an eight hours day for some signalmen. The Committee had reported that ten hours was a sufficient day's work and should be accepted as the standard, and he urged the President of the Board of Trade to adhere to that standard. The hon. Member for Derby had rightly complained of the intolerable delay which had occurred in obtaining Returns. Apparently it had been overlooked that in the year 1886 this House passed the Second Reading of a Bill which provided not for an occasional Return once a year, but for a Return once a month, if the Board of Trade required it, of all these excessive hours of labour. He wished to support most strongly the suggestion of the hon. Member for Newcastle that the initiative should be taken by the Board of Trade, so that the men should not be exposed to the risk involved in making complaints on behalf of their fellow workmen. The Board of Trade had ample power to obtain as frequently as it desired Returns of excessive hours. He hoped the President of the Board of Trade would follow the advice of the hon. Member for Derby and have these Returns checked, and the books inspected by an officer of the Board of Trade.


said the case of the railway servants had been stated in very moderate speeches. The cases of excessive hours given by the hon. Member for Newcastle must have made a deep impression on the few Members present at the time. For men to work fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen hours a day was beyond human endurance. That condition of things ought not to be tolerated. He regretted that some of these cases had not been brought to his notice before. He would be exceedingly obliged if hon. Members on both sides of the House would call his attention more specifically to cases in regard to which they would like him to take action. He agreed that a strong case had been made out for interference in many of these cases. For instance, in the case of the North-Eastern Company, subject to what he should find on investigation, he thought something ought to be done. The first complaint was made in 1904. He understood that the company made no defence of their action. They made promises of amendment, but that amendment was not forthcoming. He promised to look into the matter as soon as possible. He was not sure, without taking further advice on the question, whether the powers of the Board of Trade under the Act of 1893 were adequate to accomplish the objects which hon. Members had in view. The hon. Member for Derby, who was a great authority on these questions, suggested that they should check the Returns made by the railway companies, and that the Board should not accept without inquiry the Returns made by the railway companies.


When they differ.


said that first of all the hon. Member contended that when the statements of the men were controverted by the railway companies there should be some sort of independent investigation. He thought that a very strong case had been made out for that. There were difficulties to overcome. One difficulty was that the Board of Trade was understaffed, and they had very few inspectors. It appeared to be the impression in some quarters that the Board of Trade had an army of inspectors and that they could send them off to West Clare, to places on the North-Eastern Railway, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, the light railways, and others to inspect them and report upon the hours of labour. As a matter of fact they had very few inspectors, and they were very much understaffed in the office of the Board of Trade itself. They were also very much overworked, and they would be very glad to get a ton hours' day for the officials. This was a question which they were considering at the present time. He agreed that where there was a conflict between the men and their representatives on the one hand and the railway companies on the other with regard to hours of labour and matters of that character, there ought to be an inde- pendent inquiry. He was satisfied that the Board of Trade had power to do that under Clause 1 of the present Act. There was no limit to the powers of inquiry, and his hon. friend should have no cause to complain in that respect. As to the delay in the issue of Returns, he could not without inquiry say why it arose, but he was perfectly certain it was not due to the Board of Trade. Certainly a delay of a year in the issue of a Return for a particular month was an extravagant time, and the railway companies should be wakened up. He promised to look into that matter carefully at the earliest possible moment. Other suggestions had been made of a much more sweeping character, and he was not sure that he had yet had time sufficiently to consider them. Up to the present they had proceeded on the assumption that twelve hours should be the maximum standard of labour, and a reduction to ten hours would have a far-reaching effect. A good many railways in the kingdom were practically working at a loss, and he really did not know what would happen with the poor old Cambrian Railway if the hours were cut down from twelve to ten. [An HON. MEMBER: Let the State take it.] That raised a much wider question not under discussion. He did not know that he would agree with that suggestion, or that the State would make a good bargain. Shareholders could not be compelled to work a line at a loss. It was as much as many railways could do now to pay current expenses. It was not a question of what the railway companies said they could do; it was a question of actual results.


said his point was that ten should be recognised as the standard, and beyond that the hours should be considered excessive, and in no circumstances should they be more than twelve.


said the House must have more knowledge of the facts before adopting that view. Upon many light railways those who had put their capital into the undertaking never expected to see the colour of their coin again; but he was not prepared to enforce such a regulation against these lines or against small branch lines in the country, where the work was certainly not arduous and was carried on in a leisurely manner. If, however, the great main lines would conform to the twelve hours standard that would be a great step in advance. There had been only one champion of these companies in the debate, and he had been wisely chosen. He was a popular Member of the House, and the company chosen was the one against which there was the least complaint. The London and North-Western Company gave the least trouble so far as hours of labour were concerned; and if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman could persuade the other companies to conform to the standard of the London and North-Western Company there would be little to say; but, judged by that standard, their great rival, the Great Western, was notoriously bad. There was no excuse for such a rich and powerful company. With the little light railways in the country he had really some sympathy; they took their time and worked leisurely. There were the workmen on the Cambrian Railway—he did not think thirteen hours a day in their case would bring tears to the eyes of any man. He did not think there were many cases of nervous breakdown on the part of these men. His hon. friend the Member for Newcastle said he would make an exception in the case of branch lines, and would not enforce the same standard as on the busy trunk lines. It was not for him to criticise the management of great railways by men of ability and experience; but it seemed to him that when one great company had found it possible to adopt a twelve hours standard, pressure might well be brought to bear on companies like the Great Western and the Great Central to conform to that standard. In their criticisms Members had not done full justice to the Board of Trade. The Department had accomplished much under the Act. A few figures would illustrate this. A good deal had been said about goods guards. He would take the Great Eastern Railway, and he found from the Report that the percentage of days when thirteen hours and over were worked in 1895 was 19.78, but in 1905 it was reduced to 6.04. The percentage in the case of goods enginemen had also been reduced from seventeen to four. Many other instances could be quoted showing that a great deal had been accomplished. That a good deal more remained to be done he readily admitted. He would endeavour to carry the suggestions of his hon. friends into effect so far as the Act of 1893 would allow. He believed a great deal could be done with that Act. He wished the Board of Trade had greater power in individual cases. They had the power rather of suggesting schedules than of enforcing them. There was certainly the Railway Commission, but he was not sure that it was the best tribunal for dealing with hours of labour or for railway rates. But that was another story which he hoped the House of Commons would some day investigate thoroughly. He was obliged to his hon. friends for bringing this subject forward, and in the course of the next few months he hoped they would be able to clear up many of those cases in which there had been delay, and press the railway companies into conforming to the standard of twelve hours, which was rather high for any man.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, the hours of railway servants are still in many cases excessive, notwithstanding the operation of the Hours Act of 1893, and call for stringent action by legislation and administration to secure their reduction to a reasonable standard.—(Mr. Alden.)