§ Question proposed, "That a sum not exceeding £250,700, including the supplementary sum of £31,000, 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, 1910, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Committee of the Privy Council for Trade, and subordinate Departments."
§ Mr. WALTER HUDSON moved the reduction of the salary of the President of the Board of Trade by £100.
§ I do this in order to call attention to the question of the administration of the Act dealing with the hours of railway servants. This Act gave the Board of Trade a discretionary power in order to bring within reasonable limits what had been the seriously long hours worked by railway-men in different parts of the country. In its early stages I am bound to say that the Act proved very beneficial. A very great deal of effective work was accomplished after it came into operation. Men in the running departments of railways had been working unlimited hours, and there was a limit set by the Board of Trade where work was considered to be excessive. The point fixed was 12 hours, and above 12 hours was deemed by the Board of Trade to be excessive. Even in the early years of the Act very many complaints were made do the case of signalmen—one of the most important class of men on railways—who have to manipulate the points at signalling stations for main line expresses, and who have to work the points and signals for shunting operations in half the railway yards of the country. During 1618 the years 1904, 1905, and 1906 many of the men employed in the signal boxes, were reduced from 12 hours to 10, and even from 10 to eight hours, under the instructions of the Board of Trade. There is a record in the Reports which have been issued that one company alone, in the case of 117 signal boxes, reduced the number of hours as the result of the intervention of the Board of Trade. What we have to complain of now is this, that while in the running departments—that is, the engine drivers, the firemen, and the guards —they commenced to administer the Act at a limit of 12 hours, they are continuing to do it to-day. It is quite true it might have been a reasonable point to begin with, although it was very much argued in this House at the time of the passing of the Act, especially by right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Bench, that the hours should be fixed at eight. We have however, to look at the exact position in Which we find ourselves to-day. It must be conceded there is a much greater strain upon the endurance, not only of engine drivers, but of firemen and all concerned in the working of railways, yet the State Department says the hours are only excessive when they are over 12 hours. I want to call the hon. Gentleman's attention to the exact position in which we find ourselves so far as the Returns are concerned. While I say this, I want to emphasise the point, so far as the men with fixed hours, as signalmen, there has been a mighty improvement during the period of the operation of this Act, but there has not been that marked improvement in the other grades or the running department.
§ If you turn to the last report for March of this year, published quite recently, and if you analyse the figures returned by many of the companies all over the country, you will find there is a tremendously high percentage yet comparatively. I will quote some of the figures, and let me point out that they represent the time from the start to the finish, deducting any time that had been spent in travelling home when relieved from responsible duties. Thus, if a man went out in charge of a train in the morning, and if he were relieved at a station 20, 30, or 40 miles from home, they would only count the time up to the time he was taken off at that particular station. In this report the time travelled will, therefore, not be counted. I take the figures for the Midland and Great Northern joint line, and in passenger guards for that month 41.81 1619 per cent, worked over 12 hours, passenger engine-drivers and firemen 52.48 per cent., and goods engine drivers and firemen 57.41. Then, coming to goods guards and brakesmen, another most important class of the running men, we have 64.41 per cent. That is an illustration of what is happening at the present time. I am one of those who argue, and with some reason, that extra pay for overtime helped to reduce the hours. In very many cases it does, but it does not reduce them altogether. I will give you one illustration of where it is not so effective as we could wish. Take the case of the North-Eastern Railway. For the month of March passenger engine drivers and firemen totalled 25.61 per cent, who worked over 12 hours.
§ Mr. HUDSON
This is taking the days of working. There was that number of men out of the number of men employed. Then goods engine drivers and firemen total 54.44 per cent, and goods guards and brakesmen 21.86 per cent. Those are cases where overtime is paid for at the rate of time and a quarter, and yet it does not effect the reduction of hours even to the ordinary normal standard day. This is a Report made by the railway companies to the Board of Trade. The men have nothing whatever to do with it. Indeed, some few years ago I called in question even the accuracy of these Reports, and found that they understated instead of overstated. Now, let us take an illustration of what is reported for the United Kingdom as to these running grades. Passenger guards and brakesmen for the month of March show a total of 15.54 per cent, worked over 32 hours. Passenger engine drivers total 22.38 per cent.; goods guards and brakesmen, 23.15 per cent., and then you come to the goods engine drivers and firemen, which is generally the worst class, and you have 30.50 per cent. I would say that the Board of Trade really should, in the administration of this Act, deem hours to be excessive over 10, instead of over 12. If I was to consult my own feelings I should say eight hours. I want the hon. Gentleman to remember that nearly the whole of the men I am referring to have a 10 hours' standing day, and it almost seems to pass comprehension how the Board of Trade can allow two hours in every day's work to be worked before they deem the hours are excessive. I am certain that the railway companies themselves, as a rule, would not fix a 10 1620 hours' limit if they thought it was reasonable to get 12 as a standard for a day's work. What we are asking to-day for all the men I have mentioned is, I think, a fairly reasonable claim, considering the work the men have to do with regard to manipulating the whole of the mechanical inventions that can possibly be put upon our trains. We do not complain of that, but then there is the increase in mental strain in consequence of the large amount of traffic, the high speed, and the speeding-up that has taken place during the last few years. I know that so far as complaints are concerned under the Act, for which I paid due credit to the Board of Trade for having done a great deal in its early history, it is quite true they have dwindled down to 14 cases of complaints during the last year, but the fact also remains that that is very largely due to the ineffective way in which the Board of Trade have dealt with those cases. I do not find that there are many, if any, cases at all during recent years where the Board of Trade has deemed hours to be excessive unless they were over 12. I speak from experience, mixing with men up and down the country, and I say that they are losing faith in the effectiveness of this particular Act which was passed for the specific reason of keeping hours down within reasonable limits. It is quite true the Act takes the responsibility for its administration from the Board of Trade itself, and that it places the responsibility and onus of complaint upon the men or a representative on their behalf, and that it leaves to the. Board of Trade discretionary power to say whether the hours are excessive or whether they are not. What we want also, and I think what we ought to have from the Board of Trade, is to reduce the figure. If it was reasonable in 1894 to deem that all hours over 12 were excessive for this class of men, then by the same method of reasoning 10 hours is excessive now.
§ Sir FRANCIS CHANNING
I should like briefly to support what has fallen from my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. W. Hudson) on the subject of railway hours. I have always felt this Act has been insufficiently worked, and I might almost say, without; disrespect to the Board of Trade, inadequately interpreted in its intentions by the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade has largely, we know, relied upon personal representations of railway servants with regard to their excessive hours, which, it seems to me, is not the correct interpretation of the intention of the Act. The intention of the Act, with 1621 which some of us had a good deal to do at the time it was passed, was undoubtedly to give the Board of Trade a perfectly free hand to ascertain whether the hours were excessive, and to interfere with those hours without any direct complaint by the men themselves, which might expose them to disabilities in the course of their service. I think that the case made out by my hon. Friend is a very strong case. I do not know whether my hon. Friend (Mr. Tennant), who now so excellently represents the Board of Trade, is aware of the circumstances under which this question originally arose. Those of us who worked this question many years ago will remember that the present Lord St. Aldwyn, who was one of the ablest representatives the Board of Trade ever had, dealt with this question in an exceedingly broad-minded spirit. He at once agreed, on the question being laid before him, to have returns called for from the railway company on the 10-hour basis as well as the 12-hour basis. In doing so he recognised the principle which my hon. Friend is now contending for, namely, that a 10-hour limit was the natural and proper limit for the running departments, and that a 10-hour limit was a, fair measure of a man's physical ability in dealing with the different duties of manipulating and running traffic. That was shown in several reports brought before this House. Those returns were simply startling and stupendous. The hon. Member for Newcastle is perfectly right in saying that the figures, taking 12 hours as the limit beyond which excessive labour is presumed, present startling returns, but if we had 10 hours as a fair day's work, the proportion of railway servants called upon continually to discharge their duties for periods in excess of 10 hours would startle the House, and the feeling of security of the passengers, and would excite real sympathy with the men who are compelled to work for those enormous hours. The figures of the returns for October, 1908, and March, 1909, are extremely disappointing to everyone who has worked at this question, as some of us have, for many years past; they do not reflect credit on the Department in whose hands this matter rests, and who could rectify these figures if they chose to apply the whole power of the office in pressure on the railway companies. The figures are discreditable to the Board of Trade and to many of the railway companies.
§ Sir FRANCIS CHANNING
I will tell the hon. Baronet why. If he refers to the returns of excessive hours of work on railways during the last two or three years he will find one notable circumstance, namely, that the London and Northwestern Railway has greatly distinguished itself by eliminating the enormous proportion of excessive hours formerly worked. I ask, as I asked four or five years ago, why, having before them that object lesson of the perfect practicability of one great railway company in the country almost eliminating hours of labour in excess of 12, the Board of Trade, with the powers at their disposal, still permit, month after month and year after year, a large proportion of the other railway companies to go on imposing these excessive hours of duty upon their servants? I have not attempted to analyse the number of cases of over 12 hours; I do not think they sufficiently illustrate my point; but I will give one or two figures which I have taken out during the last few minutes showing a number of instances, which seem to be absolutely scandalous, of men being compelled to work for 15 hours. On the Great Eastern Railway, in October, there were 223 instances of goods drivers and firemen being on duty for 15 hours, and in March there were 196 such cases. On the North London Railway there were, in March, 248 such cases of passenger engine drivers and firemen, and 104 in October. In the last return there were on the Brighton Railway 110 cases of passenger engine drivers and firemen, and 100 on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. Without wearying the Committee with further statistics, I think these facts are serious, and deserve the full consideration of the Board of Trade. In reference to coupling accidents, in the United States very strong compulsory legislation was passed in 1893. I know that their rolling stock is of a different character from ours; but my point is that the requirement of automatic couplings throughout the railway system resulted in a reduction of fatalities from 2,727 in 1893, to 1,693 in 1897; and I believe that that diminution has been maintained. Exactly the same kind of thing happened in connection with the Board of Trade. Lord St. Aldwyn passed a very important Bill, with regard to automatic brakes and the interlocking of signals and points, and that Act had an enormous effect. Anyone who takes the trouble to examine the statistics of fatalities on railways will know that that Act produced a great diminution in the number 1623 of accidents. Recent returns on the couplings question and the memorandum of Colonel Yorke are familiar to all who have followed this question. Colonel Yorke, on the ground of the disturbance to trade, the character of the rolling stock, and the enormous change it would make, rather deprecates any hasty action. There may be a great deal of force commercially in that contention, especially in the present condition of the railway companies; but I want to impress upon the Board of Trade that wherever the bold policy of going to the root of the matter has been adopted, very extensive results have speedily followed in the reduction of railway fatalities, both in this country and in the United States. It is high time that we had a further effort to diminish the number of fatalities in connection with coupling operations. There were 28 deaths in 1900, 23 in 1903, and 16 in 1908. There has been a diminution in the number of deaths, but the number of cases of injury in coupling operations has increased from 565 to 675. So that it cannot be said that there is any real improvement in the condition of affairs. A bold policy is practically recommended by Mr. Askwith, of the Board of Trade, who dwells on the fact that some of the railway companies have instituted a regulation forbidding men to use a pole to couple trucks when they are slightly in motion unless the buffers are actually in contact; and he rightly remarks that the institution of that rule has greatly diminished the number of fatal cases and of serious injury. Therefore, if the Board of Trade rests on the contention of Colonel Yorke that it would be too serious a matter for the finances of the railway companies and private truck owners to alter the general conditions at one stroke, I would appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to consider whether it might not be wise for the Department, at any rate to insist that all railway companies should secure a certain amount of safety by adopting such a rule as that to which I have referred, under which men are not allowed to couple or uncouple with a pole trucks in motion, or unless the buffers are actually in contact. Many years ago I drew attention to the fact that the Board of Trade did not hold inquiries into minor accidents to railway servants in their daily work. The number of such cases in which the Board of Trade made inquiry into the causes of the accidents was ex- 1624 tremely small. That has been greatly mitigated by the appointment of practical inspectors of excellent railwaymen, who' understand the difficulties of the work. But although the attention drawn to the matter resulted in an immense increase in the number of these inquiries, there are still inquiries held in only one case out of three. In the case of a big railway accident an inspector of the Board of Trade is immediately sent down to inquire into its causes, but in two cases out of three where railwaymen are killed or seriously injured no such inquiry at all is made. I say that that state of things ought to come to an end. As in the case of miners, or of factory men, who are killed, or seriously injured, so in this dangerous trade the Board of Trade, being responsible for the technical working of the railway system, and for the protection of these men, should, as a matter of course, hold an inquiry in every case. It seems to me that it is in these practical matters that the Board of Trade can most fully vindicate their position. I do not want them to act in a way which would be oppressive to the railway companies at the present time. But the suggestion I have made with regard to coupling operations is one which would cost the railway companies absolutely nothing, and there are many other ways in which, without inflicting any capital expenditure upon the railways, the safer working of the railways, and the shortening of the hours, which are grossly excessive, might be secured by action on the part of the Board of Trade.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
If I had been aware that a discussion on this matter was going to come up I would have taken some steps to go into the statistics which the hon. Baronet opposite has given to the Committee. I listened with great attention to his speech, and so far as I can gather from his figures he says that the injuries to railway servants in coupling accidents in England—I suppose he means the United Kingdom—last year were 600 odd, and that out of those there were only 25 deaths. On the other hand, in America, he said, though they have adopted automatic couplings with very great success, the injuries were something like 1,600.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Then England is still more favourable, without automatic couplings, than is America. Of course, the conditions of railway traffic in America and England are very different. I would point out to the hon. Baronet that, leaving out any questions of humanity, with which he does not credit railway directors, that the latter have to pay, or rather the shareholders through the directors have to pay, very large sums of money in compensation for accidents. That sum is increasing year by year. Therefore, merely from pecuniary motives, the railway directors would be most anxious to do all they can to avoid, certainly the deaths and any injuries, for they also are compensated. It is quite a mistake to suppose that railway companies are not taking, and do not desire to take, precautions for avoiding these accidents, which, of course, we all regret. I would point out that if the hon. Baronet had been in the habit, for seven or eight years, of coupling in a certain yard that he would probably get a little callous to the danger. He has done it so of ten successfully that he does not always take the precautions which he ought to take. Very often these accidents occur owing to the men being so accustomed to carry out their duties without any harm to themselves that they get a little bit callous about the manner in which they carry out their work, and so fatal results follow. As to the question of automatic couplings, one of the reasons the companies have not adopted these is that no automatic couplings have hitherto been introduced which are an improvement upon the existing couplings. There are a great many things to remember in putting automatic couplings upon carriages. You must be quite certain that they would not break during the journey. It is not merely a question of coupling wagons, but a matter of seeing that the train shall be as strong and safe as at the present moment. At any rate, however badly railway companies are managed at the present moment the deaths and injuries in this direction are not so great as they are in America. Then the hon. Baronet, as I understood him, apparently wishes the Board of Trade to interfere in questions of excessive hours without any complaint having been made by the men. He went on to say that in his opinion the men did not make complaint because they were afraid that they would be dismissed, or 1626 degraded, or fined if it was found out that they had made complaints. That is contrary to the fact. No railway company ever takes any action to dismiss a man or refuse him promotion because he has made a complaint to the Board of Trade on account of his working excessive hours. The companies have no wish to prevent an Act of Parliament or the directions of the Board of Trade which have been sanctioned by Parliament to be given effect to. Even if they wished to do so the men apparently are powerful enough to raise such an outcry that no railway company would be able to stand against it. The railway companies have no desire to conceal the lengthy hours which their men work. The hon. Member below the Gangway did not, I think, give absolutely credence to the statement on that head made on behalf of the railway company.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
So far as I know there is no attempt to conceal the excessive and lengthy hours worked by the men. True returns are made to the Board of Trade. But it must not be forgotten that it is not always easy to work a railway to time. Goods guards work long hours, I believe, sometimes. That may be due to a block on the railway. No Board of Trade or legislation can prevent that. It requires more lines. If the lines were quadrupled that might have some effect, but that means money. And when a railway company comes here to get powers to raise money to do work its Bills are always stopped because some particular section of the House desires some particular advantage for itself, and will not allow the Bill to go through until that particular advantage is given. I cannot acquit hon. Members below the Gangway from participation in that. So long as hon. Members do that they cannot expect railway companies to rush to this House and widen their lines, and so carry on their traffic with less blocks and less delay. The question of the long hours is no doubt one which is an extremely difficult question to manage. The general tendency nowadays on the part of railway companies is to keep their hours within reasonable limits. The hon. Baronet referred to the case of the London and North-Western Railway Company and the North London Railway Company. I suppose he is aware that the London and Northwestern control the North London?
§ Sir F. CHANNING
The case I referred to was the excessive hours actually worked on the North London. The figures of the London and North-Western were very favourable.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. Baronet also referred to the Great Eastern Company, and gave figures, as I understood him, showing that in March there were 220 cases of men working over 15 hours, and in October 120 cases of men working excessive hours. Well, of course, that sounds a very large number of cases. I do not know how many men the Great Eastern employ. They must be a very large number. If you divide the number of men employed by 100 you will not, I think, find that many men out of the total have worked 15 hours for, at any rate, more than one day in the month. There is no question that these long hours are not worked regularly, but occasionally. So far as I am personally concerned, I do not think the Board of Trade can be blamed for not taking sufficient action. My own idea is that they take rather too much in regard to railway companies. I think if the hon. Baronet and other Members of the House were directors of a railway company, and had to consider how many requirements were made by the Board of Trade, how many questions were asked, and how the Board are continually asking the railway companies for all sorts of details about everything over which they have any kind of control, they would not accuse directors of neglecting their duty. I am not at all sure that the Board of Trade might not save themselves a great deal of unnecessary trouble if they trusted a little bit more to the railway companies. I can assure the hon. Baronet that the railway companies are not in any way neglectful of their duty, and they are not so bad as they are sometimes made out to be.
§ Mr. F. MADDISON
The hon. Baronet who has just addressed the House is, I think, satisfied that this is not an attack upon the humanity of railway directors, nor is it an attempt to ignore—at least, it is not on my part—the good work which has been done—but done very much too late. Like the hon. Baronet, I was not aware that this Vote was coming on or I would have armed myself with some statistics. He rightly said that he thought that accidents in America were much worse than they were in this country. I remember when his Bill was passed by the late Lord—then Mr.—Ritchie I said a few words on that occasion and I 1628 described the American railways as slaughter-houses. I said that as compared with our own they were very much more dangerous. In fact, up to a few years ago—and I am one of the admirers of the Great Republic —one had to say that there was practically no regard paid to human lives at all on the railways. If you do not get into an American train pretty quickly you are left, and you are told to get the next one. The whole spirit of the place appeals to me to a considerable extent as a passenger. But when it comes to the; men, then I am bound to say, in my softer moods, I am not prepared to side with the hon. Baronet with respect to the ineffectiveness of the couplings. I can assure him if he will get the statistics before the introduction of automatic couplings of the accidents due to the couplings and uncouplings it is really almost like a romance. Even in the pioneer days of the automatic couplings the impression made upon the statistics of fatalities and non-fatal accidents was very great. I know that by some strange freak, which does happen, some 12 years after there was a year or two in which the effect, so to speak, had gone back, and there was a period when the increased safety was not maintained. But there is no doubt, and I think no American railway man would deny it, that the effect of the automatic couplings on American railways has been a great boon to the men, and has saved them enormous numbers of lives, and also, what is often almost as bad, if not worse, saved men from mutilations and maimings which made them wish themselves dead. Therefore, I must say that personally I am not satisfied with the Board of Trade's attitude to this great question—that of improved safety through automatic couplings. I cannot help paying my tribute to the hon. Baronet for the consistency with which he has attempted to improve the conditions of railway men. I know that the Board of Trade are bound by these things, but I think it is very unfortunate that Colonel Yorke, who is a very competent inspector on the Board of Trade, seems to be too much impressed and encumbered by the financial aspect of these matters. I think the gallant Colonel could very well leave it to the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) to look after and attend to the financial interest of the railway companies. That interest is always looked after for the railways in this House. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City tried to show, and to some extent he succeeded, 1629 that it is to the monetary interest of the railway companies to conduct their lines safely both as regards their own men and as regards their passengers. That is quite true, and it is, I believe, the great operative motive which has generally had a great deal to do in bringing down the casualty rate. I am still heretic enough to connect self-interest with a great many good things in this world. The whole history of the improvement of railway companies is due to the constant pressure of public opinion and of the Department and of this House generally upon the railway companies. They did not like the block system; they resisted it as long as they could; and as for the continuous brakes, I do not know if the hon. Baronet the Member for the City was in the House at the time, but I am sure if he was he would have been among the prophets of evil who would have predicted all kinds of terrible calamities which would follow if the continuous brake system was adopted. What is the fact? Whoever looks back upon these old Returns on continuous brakes will see the mighty struggle that was going on, but now you cannot find a passenger train without continuous brakes, and no railway director would be so foolish as to oppose this reform to-day, and I think I shall yet hear the hon. Baronet the Member for the City get up in his place and express his great delight when the first step is taken to adopt automatic coupling. Something was said by the hon. Baronet about inquiries into every accident which occurred on the railway lines. I want to be perfectly fair to the lines, and I think there are accidents that occur where the cause is so obvious that the moment a practical railway man at the Board of Trade saw the Report and the evidence at the inquest, he would at once see that there was no means of going further. A tribute was paid to the practical character of the sub-inspectors of the Board of Trade. I share in that tribute entirely and without wishing to go into any detail I may say I was disappointed that when an addition was made to the men, those who were appointed were not practical men. They were not of the status of the inspectors, and they had not the practical knowledge of the sub-inspectors. I do not know that they require any additional inspectors, but I say to the hon. Gentleman who represents the Board of Trade here that at any time it is decided to strengthen the practical inspectors' staff I would ask 1630 him to make sure that men are appointed who have had experience of working on the line, who know the need and the conditions of work, who have been in charge of goods or have been on the engines or on the permanent way, and not gentlemen who come out of the manager's office, who are neither fish, flesh, nor good red herring. Let the inspectors appointed be practical men, and not the other class to which I refer.
I would like to point out that the hon. Member for Newcastle, in quoting this Return, was quite justified, I think, in calling the attention of the Board of Trade to the many excessive hours which, existed, and here, again, I am bound to say that these Returns show a very great improvement from what they were 15 or 20 years ago. In these old Returns the columns showing work for 15 and 16 hours a day were very often very crowded—I really think it is a burning shame that railway men should be subjected to such hours. If there is one class of men that deserve the best attention, it is the men who work our traffic on the railways. I would like to call attention to the great difference in these figures. Just take the Great Eastern—there you will find that of the passenger engine drivers and firemen no less than 50 per cent, were on duty for more than 12 hours in the month of March. When you come to the same grade on the Great Northern, you find that less than 23 per cent, were on duty more than 12 hours in the same month. If the Great Northern can do that, why should the Great Eastern have 50 per cent, of their men working more than 12 hours, and when we turn to the Great Central—and the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade knows something about the Great Central—when you turn to the Great Central I am glad to say that there is not one person in any of those grades that were on duty more than 12 hours in that particular month. Surely the Board of Trade have in this discrepancy some reason as to why they should make further inquiry than they are doing. These excessive hours must be stopped, and if the President of the Board of Trade would just take up the emphatic stand that these excessive hours must not be permitted, I venture to say that they will be put an end to. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway is one of the most congested bits of railway in the whole country. What do we find? We find that in the case of guards and brakesmen there was not 6 per 1631 cent, of these men working more than 12 hours in March last. Does anyone mean to tell me that if the Lancashire and Yorkshire can work for a whole month with less than 6 per cent, of guards and brakesmen working over 12 hours, and that the Great Central can work without any, that there is any reason why the Great Eastern should work 81 per cent, of their men more than 12 hours in the same month? I think these discrepancies are the best justification that the Board of Trade could have for taking stronger action than they are doing. It is nearly 20 years ago since I wrote to the official organ of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants in favour of 10 hours. I am sure I will not be regarded as a very advanced revolutionary. I wrote in favour of the 10-hours' limit. Surely that is a modest request, and I think those lines of progressive safety in these matters would be found, if the Board of Trade issued terms putting away from them altogether the 12 hours' standard, and then let the nation see how many hours are worked not above 12 hours but above 10 hours. I am sure the railway directors of this House will come to this conclusion that their property is more secure, and that their own position would be safer all round, if they bore in mind and discharged the responsibilities which must follow from possession of property. Surely it is the very minimum of such reformation to say that the railways of England have accepted the rule, except in an emergency which cannot be helped that no one shall work more than 10 hours and in some of the grades it shall be even a shorter day of 8 hours.
§ Mr. F. W. VERNEY
Having a very strong interest in one of the railway companies—not a pecuniary interest, but in so far as that railway company goes through the Constituency I have the honour to represent, and as they have a great works where men are employed not too many hours, but, on some occasions, not as many hours as people would wish, as they have to work sometimes for a short time—I wish to emphasise what has been said by my right hon. Friend who has just sat down. The curious thing is the extraordinary contrast, which, to the outsider, is perfectly inexplicable. The figures not only give differences in 10, or 20, or 30, or 40 per cent., they vary so enormously that one does think that there must be some real reason which, of course, does 1632 not appear upon the tables which give mere totals. We may assume them to be absolutely accurate, as no doubt they would be, for no one wishes to impute to the railway companies that they would show anything or give any figures that were not quite capable of explanation. There is one thing that may be said in regard to these railways companies, namely, that those that look best are by no means in the worst financial position. I think that some of the railway companies that have the best financial positions as shown by the return of these tables look after their men best. Therefore, I think there is a strong presumption that it is not necessary for railway companies to work their men inordinately long in order to make dividends for their shareholders. That would not appear from the returns of the railway company which give an analysis of the work in these tables. The American conditions are very different, indeed any comparisons that can be drawn between America and this country have no very strong bearing upon these things. First of all the number of miles travelled must be considered. It is perfectly well known to those who have travelled over American railways, particularly if they have been standing upon the footplate of an engine, that the character of the American line is very different to what the best railways laid down in this country are. The conditions of work are also very different. The Board of Trade should very seriously take these matter into consideration, and I hope we may find that other railway companies in this country will work up to the standard set by the best companies whose experience shows that such standard has produced the most satisfactory results.
I wish to ask the hon. Member in charge of this Vote several questions, which will probably save us a considerable amount of trouble later on. I have had occasion to put to the hon. Gentleman and to the President of the Board of Trade a great many questions on the subject of the lighting of the coast of county Down. I wish to pay a tribute to the hon. Member, because since his appointment the particular object which I have had in view has been furthered more rapidly during his term of office than during the tenure of office of his predecessors. The hon. Member will recollect that some time ago he disclaimed having very much power over the Irish Lights Commissioners in connection with works which had 1633 already been sanctioned by the Board of Trade. Undoubtedly experience das shown that at all events since the hon. Member came into office he has exercised considerable power over the Irish Lights Commissioners in dictating their policy. For three years, in association with the hon. Member for North Down, I have pressed the Board of Trade to look better after the lighting of what is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous parts of the coast of county Down, where the weather almost invariably during the autumn season and also during the winter and the spring is extraordinarily severe, and to that we also have to add the disadvantage of a very strong current, whether ebbing or flowing. It is so strong that when the wind is against the tide it is almost impossible for any of the old-fashioned lighted buoys to be of any value whatever. On other parts of the coast, where the general effect of storms is to make waves of considerable height and length, these ordinary lighted buoys can undoubtedly cope with the difficulty, because the long billows merely rock the buoys to and fro, but do not extinguish the light; but in the troublesome waters of the particular locality to which I refer in the Strangford Lough the sea is in a constant state of choppiness which makes it extremely difficult for one of those buoys to keep alight. I have been watching carefully to see what would happen when the Board of Trade had brought sufficient pressure to bear upon the Irish Lights Commissioners, and the result of my personal observation was that the wrong class of buoy was moored in that particular locality. I asked for reports to be sent to me to show that such was the fact. Week after week, when the buoy was moored I received communications from various shipping companies trading along the North Coast of Ireland, and in all cases they complained that the lights were extinguished at night, and consequently this buoy became not a source of guidance for shipping but actually a danger to navigation.
There is a special Vote for Harbours, and I am afraid I cannot allow this discussion upon this Vote.
I was under the impression that upon the salary of the President of the Board of Trade it would be possible to raise the question as to whether the right hon. Gentleman should not bring pressure to bear upon the Irish Lights Commissioners.
The point which the hon. and gallant Member is raising comes under a separate Vote, and, therefore, it cannot be raised on the question of the President of the Board of Trade's salary.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I understand my hon. and gallant Friend is dealing with the question of lighting under the Irish Lights Commissioners, and this does not come in under the Vote for the Harbours.
§ Mr. H. J. TENNANT
I think this question has to be raised on this Vote or not at all. It is upon this Vote that the money is voted for the Irish Lights Commissioners.
I was trying to impress upon the Government the necessity in future action of making it clear to the Irish Lights Commissioners that the buoy which is to be permanently moored off this very dangerous and rocky coast should not be one of the old-fashioned pattern, but one brought up to modern requirements. Year after year in the Strangford Lough the tale of shipwrecks and loss of life on this part of the coast is simply appalling, and that is why I have taken this opportunity of raising this very important point. What I wish to emphasise most is that care should be taken in selecting the spot for mooring the buoy, and also the class of buoy to be placed there. We know that the type of buoy which has been moored there as a temporary measure has not fulfilled its function, and it has been so unsatisfactory that the Irish Lights Commissioners have had to change the place of mooring nearer to the bar mouth. I hope the hon. Member will consult the fishermen on the spot who live by small trading there, and I am sure they will impress upon him the necessity, of getting some information from them as to the exact spot at which the buoy should be moored, because a couple of miles one 1635 way on the other makes all the difference to the shipping passing, not only North and South, but to that which navigates in the narrow waters. I hope the hon. Member for North Down will co-operate with me in urging that this matter should be pressed to a satisfactory conclusion. I quite understand that some time must elapse before the hon. Member can actually arrange that this buoy is placed in its proper position on account of notice having to be given to foreign countries and to our own Colonies with regard to the change of the position of a lighted buoy. I can quite understand that some time must elapse, but it cannot be too often urged that the making of this change is absolutely necessary before the heavy weather sets in again. Every year we have had to come to this House and call attention to some foreign vessel lying a total wreck off this coast. Once a vessel touches this particular part of the coast it is very rare indeed that it can be got off, and it almost immediately becomes a total wreck, and very often there is serious loss of life. I know the hon. Member is very sympathetic on this question, and I do not urge this matter upon him in any spirit of hostility. I hope the interest he has shown during his tenure of office will be continued in connection with this matter.
Another point I wish to deal with is in regard to the Supplementary Estimate for Labour Exchanges. Upon looking through the papers in connection with this Vote the sum of £31,000 for Labour Exchanges struck me as rather a heavy item. I have had one or two questions put into my hand referring to an answer to a question given by the First Commissioner of Works as to the amount of money that would be necessary to supervise any action taken by the Board of Trade in regard to Labour Exchanges. I was surprised to hear the First Commissioner of Works place the total sum at £9,339 to cover the cost of staff and other expenses for the purpose of supervising this work. To require such a large sum as that for clerks or Commissioners in the First Commissioner's Department to watch over the expenditure of the Board of Trade with regard to Labour Exchanges appears to me to be out of all proportion to the benefits which are to accrue. I do not suggest that we should divide the Committee against this Vote, but this is an item which I think requires some explanation from the Department concerned. This is only for eight months, so far as I 1636 can make out, and the salaries for the Labour Exchanges amount to £19,000, while the travelling expenses come to £6,000 and the London Traffic Branch to £2,590. The estimate in the London case was £1,590. It will be seen that these salaries are very much in excess of what I think it will be agreed would be considered reasonable to carry out the schemes which have been so fully explained to us on former occasions by the President of the Board of Trade. This £30,000 is to be spent to enable people to find work; that is the whole idea. It is considered necessary to spend this enormous sum of money in order to enable employers on the Clyde who discover they require a few more shipbuilding hands to obtain them from the Tyne or the Thames, where the pressure perhaps is not so great. I know from experience that, as a rule, one is able without any trouble at all to get men to augment a staff which is perhaps working at high pressure if they send a message to one of the other yards. The Labour Exchanges are to supply what has hitherto been done in a more or less rough-and-ready way by having offices built, with clerks in charge, to take the names of those who call to ask for employment and where they can find it. I do not mind so much large towns like London, Glasgow, and even Belfast having Labour Exchanges, but I think it is rather an expensive improvement of present conditions to start with salaries and incidental expenses amounting to £31,000 for the first eight months.
It must be remembered that this Vote under discussion does not cover Vote 9a, which includes £70,000 for furniture, rents, new works, and alterations, whilst there is an additional £10,000 for the First Commissioner of Works for the supply of supervising clerks. It seems to me there is a duplication of work, and that we are starting on a very expensive scale indeed. Even granting you are assisting people to a certain extent to find work. I cannot see why you should start on such a gigantic scale as is indicated by these figures. I hope the hon. Gentleman will tell us whether the salaries of these inspectors and clerks are to be on a very high grade or whether this sum of £31,000 will cover a very large number of clerks. If a few are to get enormous salaries it will mean that after the first eight months, when more exchanges are open, the first to receive salaries under the scheme will set the example for every other appointment made, and we may then, look, not 1637 for £31,910, but for something like £80,000 or £90,000 in order to pay the staff who are looking out for work for other people. I thought when the scheme was introduced we were to proceed tentatively, and to feel our way before rushing into this enormous expense. I would not like it to be thought I was against any scheme to assist people to find employment, but I do protest against starting in this very extravagant manner.
§ Attention called to the fact that 40 Members were not present.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Caldwell)
On this, the last day of the Committee of Supply, it has already been ruled that it is not in order to interrupt proceedings by a count, as under the Standing Order on the days appointed for concluding that business of Supply no dilatory Motion may be moved, and the proceedings are exempt from the provisions of any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House. Consequently it is not possible to take any action which would prevent Supply being finished at 10 o'clock in terms of the Standing Order.
I have put my two points as clearly as I can, and not in any carping spirit, but in an endeavour to try and discover what the views of the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Vote are upon these two subjects.
§ Mr. A. MOND
I am bound to say a few words on this occasion, because of the great interest which is taken in the subject of railway amalgamation by the commercial community. That question has come before this House in a very acute form several times during this Session, and the action of the President of the Board of Trade and the account he has given on various occasions have caused a very great deal of comment among the trading community and organised bodies of traders. I think it is only right in their interests, as well as in the interests of my right hon. Friend, that this fact should be brought home in public discussions of this character. We have had during this Session three occasions on which the question has occupied the attention of the House. The first occasion was the consideration of the Great Eastern, the Great Northern, and the Great Central Railway Bill. That discussion lasted three nights. The action of the President of the Board of Trade on that occasion is in the memory of most of the Committee. There was a very strong opposition to the second reading of the 1638 Bill, and that was fully recognised by the President of the Board of Trade. In order to meet that opposition he asked the House to give a second reading to the Bill, and he promised that an Instruction would be put down so that we could utilise the Bill in order to go into the whole question of railway amalgamation. The Bill on that condition obtained a second reading. The Instruction was duly moved, but the Bill, we know, was afterwards withdrawn. I should like to quote one word from that Debate, because it has some bearing on a point I am coming to. The President of the Board of Trade, speaking on 5th April, said:—I propose to secure that these thoroughly able and competent persons should help us and call witnesses who would unfold before the whole nation the essence and the main features of the great question of railway amalgamation.It was no fault of the President of the Board of Trade that the Bill was withdrawn and that the Committee was not set up. In order to carry out the promise he made he set up a somewhat unfortunate tribunal, in my opinion—a Departmental Committee—to deal with this question. It is a very unpleasant duty for any Member, and especially for me personally, to criticise in any way the constitution of that Departmental Committee, but I would like respectfully to point out that a great many resolutions have been passed by representative trading bodies—I only received one from the Cardiff Chamber of Commerce the other day—expressing disappointment with the composition of the Committee. They consider an undue amount of influence has been given to gentlemen who are either representatives of railway companies or who are, in the minds of traders, by their training and bringing up, liable to be prejudiced in favour of railway companies. I do not wish to press that point personally, but that impression has been strongly created. Traders feel their representation is too weak, more especially because they have no legal expert who is thoroughly conversant with their case to examine and cross-examine witnesses. We have the advantage on that Committee of having one gentleman who was a solicitor to a railway company and is now a director, and another gentleman who was until recently the very able and energetic secretary of the Railway Men's Association. Although I have no doubt men of that standing will be impartial, still they are more conversant with the railway case than with the traders' case. I understand complaints have been made—and very strong ones—by Scotch traders, 1639 to the effect that they are not represented on the Committee. They, I understand, have very strong grievances on this question. The Mansion House Traders' Association, at a conference, which was attended by over 200 delegates from all parts of the country, passed a resolution asking that traders should have greater representation on this Committee. There is no doubt that Chambers of Commerce and large bodies of traders generally are bitterly disappointed with their representation upon this Committee. I am sorry it has fallen to my lot to deal with this matter, because it may be suggested that I am aggrieved because I have not been called upon to serve on the Committee; but I think I may be acquitted of any personal ambition, because nobody is particularly anxious to serve on a Committee of this kind, which involves a great deal of labour. There is another point which arose during the Debate on the Taff Valley Railway, and that was with reference to the scope of the terms of reference to the Committee. I think the hon. Member who represents the Board of Trade is quite right in his interpretation of those terms. I had imagined that they were a good deal wider, but I do hope that the language in which they are framed will not be utilised in a narrow sense. We were promised that the whole subject of railway amalgamation should be investigated, and we were disappointed to learn, in reply to a question a few days ago, that the sittings of the Departmental Committee were to be held in private, and that the evidence was not to be available in the usual way, although it might be purchased. It seems a curious method of unfolding this question before the whole nation to hold a practically private inquiry. That certainly seems to be scarcely carrying out either the intentions or spirit which, the traders gathered, were aimed at by the President of the Board of Trade. I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman is not anxious in this very important matter to arouse against him self the suspicions of the trading community. I am glad to be able to congratulate him on the success with which he has settled a very important dispute in the Scotch coal trade. But what traders feel in connection with this question of railway amalgamation, is that the Board of Trade appears to have taken, not the impartial attitude in trade disputes, which might be expected of it, but that it leans towards 1640 the most powerful and better organised side of the railway companies. That is an unfortunate impression for the President of the Board of Trade to create. I regret it should prevail. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman intends that it should. I believe he is anxious to protect all interests alike, and that he is also anxious to be regarded by the traders as their friend. I hope my hon. Friend who to-day represents the Board of Trade will say a few words to reassure the trading community, and that he will give us some hope of an enlargement of the Departmental Committee by adding one or two more names. I submit this rather in the capacity of a friend of both parties. I am anxious that this great question, if it is settled, should be settled on a basis acceptable to both sides, but I must add that unless the present composition of the Departmental Committee is modified I am afraid such a result will not follow its labours. The organised traders will declare that their representation was too small on the Committee, and consequently whatever opinions are expressed by the Committee cannot be taken as binding upon them. What I want to see is this question settled once and for all. I think it is an unfortunate thing that some of the organised bodies of traders have not been more fully consulted with regard to representation on this Departmental Committee, and I hope that that point will be reconsidered as well as that terms of reference, with a view to interpreting the latter in the widest sense, thereby allaying the growing storm of indignation among traders throughout the country—a storm which the Board of Trade should do its best to avert as much as possible in the interests of this country.
§ Mr. STEPHEN GWYNN
I just wish to add one word to what has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Down in regard to the lighting of the Irish coast. He spoke for North Down. I wish to say a word for the West Coast. I have on more than one occasion forwarded to the President of the Board of Trade representations from harbour and other authorities in Galway on this subject, and I do hope that pressure will be brought to bear upon the Irish Lights Commission with regard to the extremely unsatisfactory condition of lighting of the coast from Galway down to Clare—a condition productive of much danger owing to the defective harbour accommodation. It is a matter which should be seen to as soon as possible.
§ Mr. H. J. TENNANT
I do not at all complain of the tone adopted by hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in this Debate this afternoon, especially on the very important subject of the hours of labour for railway servants. On the contrary, I have not very far to look back to when, on the same subject, I was advocating very much the same views. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. Hudson) was quite right in stating, if I may say so, that the Act of 1893 has been beneficial in its administration and has most enormously reduced the hours of railway servants in this country. I was glad the hon. Gentleman mentioned that, because it is perfectly true that the hours of railway servants have been considerably reduced since the late Liberal Government passed that Act in 1893. I should like, if I may be allowed, to make the position of the Board of Trade quite clear upon this subject of the hours of labour. We have been taken to task because we have not insisted upon certain grades of railway servants having as short a day as 10 hours, or even eight. I am one of those who would like, however, to see all the hours materially reduced, and I am also one of those who believe that, within reasonable limits, the greater the reduction of hours that you can make, the more likely you are to receive an increased and improved output. I do not know whether you can say that of railway servants so much as you can of some other classes. But what I wish the Committee to realise is that it is not perfectly fair or true to say that in all classes we demand a 12-hours' day. I do not say the hon. Gentleman did say that, but that is rather the impression conveyed to my mind, and I think it might be the impression conveyed to the mind of a casual listener to this Debate.
In point of fact, what the Board of Trade do is to say that the hours of engine men, goods guards, and brakesmen shall not exceed on the average, under ordinary circumstances, 10 hours a day or 60 a week, and are on no one day to be more than 12. That is rather a different thing from saying that we allow a 12-hours' day. We allow a 12-hours' day, but we say that, ordinarily, it ought to be 10 hours. Take the passenger guards: We say that they should have a maximum of 12 hours, that in the case of the signalman the maximum is 10 hours, except in some unimportant places on the line where 12 hours may be 1642 allowed. But at the junctions and important places, eight hours is the ordinary limit, and these have by far the larger portion of the men in the signal boxes. Then, again, with regard to shunters. The hours of labour are not to exceed 10 a day, in busy places, though in other cases 12 may be allowed as a maximum. In the case of the staff of porters and others 12 hours is to be the maximum. That is the position we occupy, and that is what we lay down, and I should like to remind the hon. Gentleman that our discretion was given to us on the recommendation of a Select Committee, upon whose Report the Act of 1893 was passed. In the arrangement of hours the dangers not only to railway servants and their fellow-workmen, but to the travelling public, should be the governing reason. I quite agree that it is perfectly possible to argue that not only the safety of the men themselves and of the travelling public and the colleagues of the workmen ought to be the governing feature of the situation, but that also the general social position is a question which we have before us just now, and that also ought to enter into the matter. If Parliament were to lay down that no railway servant shall work more than ten hours, Parliament is competent to do so on the social aspect of the question, which is desirable from many points of view, but I would point out that the Board of Trade do not possess any such power, and they must consider, and only consider, the safety of the worker and the safety of the travelling public.
§ Mr. HUDSON
My point is, that the Board of Trade have power to call for returns and re-schedule the work, and they fix the maximum at 12, and we say that 10 would be equally a reasonable proportion.
§ Mr. TENNANT
Of course, the hon. Member is perfectly within his rights in saying that, inasmuch as we have now a 12 hours' maximum, we might progress a little and cut it down to 10 and see how that answers. I do not quarrel with him for saying that. All I say is that it is not an easy thing to do. You cannot do it by a stroke of the pen; that is not a reasonable thing to ask us to do, but there are limits, as the hon. Member would be the first to admit, and I have given the limits of the various grades, and I do not think I need labour it any further.
§ Mr. TENNANT
They have been in force several years—I cannot say how long, but I will inquire if the hon. Gentleman wishes to know. A number of figures have been brought before the Committee with regard to percentages of hours of labour, but I wish the Committee to realise that these figures of 40 per cent, and 61 per cent, would not represent the number of days over 12 hours, but the percentage of the men employed who have worked over 12 hours on one day at least. For instance, the Great Eastern goods drivers worked for 196 days for over 15 hours, it was said, in one of the figures which have been quoted. But if you take the total number of days worked by those men it is 29,311, and it works out at 67, not 1 per cent, of the days worked. For instance, if you employed the same man every time you worked more than 12 hours, it would hardly work out that you employed that man 14 and 15 hours every day. I do not know whether I have made myself clear, but it works out like this. Take the return in one case. It shows that 61 per cent, of the goods guards on the Great Northern Railway worked for some one or more periods 12 hours a day; but if you take the whole of the periods worked by the goods guards that only represents 1.2 per cent, of the days worked.
§ Mr. HUDSON
It is quite true. The report gives 61 per cent, of the men who work over 12 hours a day.
§ Mr. TENNANT
Yes, it is true that there were 61 per cent, of these goods guards who worked over 12 hours, but if you take the whole of the periods worked by the goods guards it only represents 1.2 per cent, of the amount worked. That is not really very much. Out of every 100 days worked there was only 1.2 of over 12 hours. I want the Committee further to realise the percentages of duties exceeding 12 hours by one or more in the last eight periods when they have been returned. For April, 1907, the return was 3.31 per cent., in July of the same year it was 2.65 per cent., in October 4.02 per cent., in January, 1908, 2.57 per cent., in April 99 per cent., in July 1.04 per cent., in October 1.12 per cent., and in March of this year it was down to 91 per cent. This is an almost continuous improvement, and it relates to 38 of the most important companies, and to all the guards and men included in the returns.
§ Mr. HUDSON
Can the hon. Gentleman tell me the position with regard to the hours worked over 10 for the whole of the men?
§ Mr. TENNANT
No, I cannot tell him that. We used to get returns of all the hours worked over 10, and another return for hours over 12, but some years ago it was dropped. It was very difficult to get, and involved an enormous amount of labour, and, what is more, it was almost impossible to ask railway companies, employing people alike in busy places and in places which are not busy, as all railway companies must do, to restrict the whole of their hours to ten. Where there is great pressure of work it has been the policy of the Board of Trade to ask the companies not to employ men more than 10 hours, and in some cases not more than 8, and I do not think you can expect the Board of Trade to go further than that. Further, under the Conciliation and Arbitration Board, which has been set up by the agreement of two years ago, these questions of the hours of labour can be brought before them and settled. In one or two cases we find that the arbitrators have reduced the hours which the Board of Trade considers reasonable, and I make a present of that to the Committee as against the Board of Trade, but the reduction has only been very small in amount. I daresay if there are cases of hardship, if they were brought before the arbitrator, they would be seen into and then we should know whether our ideas are correct or the ideas of the hon. Gentleman who wishes the hours reduced very much more.
Now may I come to the question of accidents. I think it will be admitted that there has been a very large reduction in the number of accidents both fatal and non-fatal. The fatal accidents in the moving of trains or movement of railway vehicles have been reduced from 441 to 376. I still think that is a very large number, but it is infinitesimal compared to what they kill in the United States. It is a reduction of 65 deaths in the year, and there has been a reduction of 601 injured. Trespassers, including suicides, are 479, whereas servants are only 376. Considering the enormous number of persons—over 400,000—who are perpetually working, in and out, in very dangerous places, with trains going past at all speeds, in the dark and wet, liable to accidents of every kind, the figure of fatal accidents is almost remarkable. It 1645 does not fill me with indignation at the directors of the company being callously indifferent. I think really great strides have been made towards the improvement of the conditions and the safeguarding of human life, and though I should like to see the strides increased, I think the railway companies have brought them down as much as can be expected. The question of automatic couplings was raised by the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. F. Maddison), who told the Committee that the introduction of automatic couplings in the United States produced a very considerable diminution in the number of accidents. That is quite true, but in spite of the fact that they have automatic couplings they kill ten times as many people as we do, while they employ, roughly speaking, twice as many. The reason why the introduction of automatic couplings in the United States produced such a considerable diminution in the number of accidents was because, prior to the introduction of this form of coupling, every man had to get between the wagons before he could couple up, and it was extraordinarily difficult to do that without serious if not fatal accident. Generally with regard to couplings I used to occupy the position which the hon. Member for Burnley occupies in urging previous Presidents of the Board of Trade to insist on automatic couplings. I have seen automatic couplings, but I have never seen one which gave me great confidence in its being an article of which you could say, "there is a thing which is absolutely reliable, strong and flexible in going round the curves." Colonel Yorke, who has more experience of these matters than I have, says there is no individual automatic coupling in which he could say he had confidence. I would remind the Committee that in a dangerous calling like the working of railway traffic the fatal accidents are not very many. I, of course, should like to see shunting accidents and coupling accidents reduced, but I do not feel at all confident that there would be any diminution in the number even if we were to introduce the form of automatic coupling to which the hon. Member referred. There might be a rule such as was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Sir F. Channing) that trucks in motion should not be coupled until the buffers are in contact.
§ Sir F. CHANNING
What I pointed out was that the Railway Department of the Board of Trade has stated that several railway companies have adopted that rule, 1646 and my suggestion was that the Board of Trade should exercise its power with the railway companies to make it universal.
§ Mr. H. J. TENNANT
I shall be glad to inquire into that matter and let my hon. Friend know whether we can actually adopt the suggestion. In regard to the question of the inspecting staff raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Maddison), I am informed that all the appointments have been made from the ranks of railway men who have experience, and who are quite competent for the work with which they are entrusted. [An HON. MEMBER: "That refers to the sub-inspectors."] That is so. I understood my hon. Friend to say they had not had railway experience. [An HON. MEMBER: "He meant the higher ones."] I think the House knows very well that we get the higher ones from the ranks of the Engineers. We may congratulate ourselves on having the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire with us. After the experience he had in America riding on the frame of engines, I am surprised that he should have lived to represent Buckinghamshire. Attention was called to the variation in the figures with respect to the hours of service. In regard to that I have to say that in some oases they do employ men here and there for 12 hours, though not very often. When they do that, even though seldom, it makes a brave show in the figures. On some railways they do not do it at all. In regard to the Great Eastern Railway, I think a remonstrance has been made. Explanations have been asked, and we have not yet received them. My hon. Friend the Member for Chester (Mr. Mond) found fault with the constitution of the Committee. Nobody suggested that the Committee was meant to be representative. It was meant to contain experts on railway matters. As to the appointment of Mr. Speaker's Counsel, a gentleman of very large experience in railway affairs, I personally can see no reason why he should be supposed to be more on the side of the railway companies than on that of the traders. He is a distinguished lawyer.
§ Mr. MOND
His only experience of railway matters was that of a barrister practising on behalf of railway companies. He was, I believe, the standing counsel of the London and North-Western Railway Company for a large number of years. He conducted cases on behalf of railway companies, and he must know their case better 1647 than that of the traders. He has not had an opportunity of getting practically acquainted with the matters of which traders complain.
§ Mr. H. J. TENNANT
I am quite unconvinced as to the unsuitability of that particular gentleman to act on the Committee. I know he is supposed to be a railway companies' man, but I cannot admit that he is so. The same has been said of another member of the Committee, and I should think he was no more a railway companies' man than the others. He was a railway director for about a month; then he gave up the office. He is a land-owner, but I do not know that he carries on any active trade himself. I must say if I had the formation of a Committee I should put everybody upon it—everybody who was not interested on one side or another. We want to get an impartial tribunal, and directly you begin to try to get representatives of various interests there is no end to it, and, moreover, you never satisfy the different interests. The Committee has only nine or ten members, and, with one or two exceptions, they are quite independent men. I think I am right in saying that the President of the Board of Trade in appointing the Committee did not mean it to be representative, he meant it to be authoritative. My hon. Friend said that the traders were anxious to have a representative. The Board of Trade has already offered one trader a place on the Committee in substitution of the Noble Lord the Member for Maryle-bone (Lord R. Cecil), who resigned. We are trying to get a representative of the Scottish traders, but we have not yet succeeded. Two traders have been offered the position, but they have declined to join the Committee on the ground that they cannot spare the time to come to London. My hon. Friend also said that there was an impression on the public mind that the Board of Trade was pro-railway, and was not impartial in matters in which big railway questions were concerned. I cannot imagine how my hon. Friend could bring forward such an idea—I will not say charge.
§ Mr. TENNANT
The Board of Trade is, and I hope always will be, completely impartial. What we do realise is that railway companies are in a very serious situation, a situation much more serious than my hon. Friend the Member for Chester 1648 realises. Whenever they come to this House they are nearly always subjected to one demand or another. Whenever they ask for money for new undertakings the public insist upon getting facilities; labour insists upon shorter hours and higher pay; and everything that can be done is done to increase the advantages which the public enjoy and increase the reward of labour; and it is all at the expense of the unfortunate railway companies. The result is that you cannot get any development at all. If the House wants the railways of this country to be improved and increased facilities given to the public this fact must be borne in mind. That is all that the Board of Trade say. We want to increase the public facilities; we want to try and get better facilities and greater advantages to serve the trading interests, and to shape the railway policy of the country so as to develop further the whole general commerce of the country; and we find the greatest difficulty in doing it. If in adopting that view we are going on behalf of the general traders to oppose everything put forward by the railway companies, I think it is very hard on the railway companies. Our sole object is to try to improve the trading facilities of the public by means of the railways. We will not do that by acting always against the railway companies. My hon. Friend, I think, talked about the railway companies being the more powerful side. That is really not my view. I do not know where he thinks the power of the railway companies lies. It seems to me that the power of the traders and of the other interests is not only equal to, but greater than any power of the railways that has been brought to my notice. I now come to the points raised by the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gwynn) and the hon. Member for Down (Captain Craig). In reference to the buoy at Strangford Lough Bar, I am perfectly aware that the coast that has to bi lighted by this buoy is a very dangerous coast, and that there have been very serious wrecks with loss of life and ships in the vicinity. I made representations to the Irish Lights Commissioners that this matter ought to be reconsidered, and it was reconsidered, and a conference was held between the Irish Lights Commissioners and Trinity House on 19th May this year, and on 11th June the Commissioners informed the Board, as a result of the conference, that they had decided to withdraw the buoy at Strangford Lough Bar and place it in another position. The hon. Gentleman (Captain Craig) asked me whether I would 1649 see that on this question there was some consultation with local people. The exact site has been a matter of considerable controversy locally, and, t think, has been more or less decided upon; but with reference to that subject and to the lighting of the Galway coast, which has been referred to by the hon. Member for Galway, of course, I shall be very glad to forward to the Irish Lights Commissioners any information which the hon. Member for Down or the hon. Member for Galway think should be laid before them. With regard to Labour Exchanges, I was invited to give a synopsis of the general policy under the Labour Exchanges Bill. I am afraid that I really cannot tell very much more than is actually contained in the document presented to Parliament. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Winston Churchill) presented to Parliament some time ago a financial statement, from which it will be observed that the number of officers employed will probably be over 800. The effect on the cost of salaries and wages when the scheme is in complete working order is estimated approximately at £95,000. That is a very large sum of money. The hon. Gentleman (Captain Craig) asked me why such a large sum of money was wanted for these services. All I have got to say is when you have got to employ 800 persons you cannot pay a smaller sum. Of course, in the Estimate you are only taking £19,000 this year, and there will be £6,000 for travelling expenses, as a certain amount of travelling must be necessary at this early stage in developing Labour Exchanges. I hope that I have answered all the questions that have been addressed to me by hon. Gentlemen both as regards railways and Labour Exchanges, and also the Strangford Lough Buoy, and I thank the Committee for the patience with which they have heard me.
§ Mr. F. W. VERNEY
With regard to the last few words which have fallen from my hon. Friend (Mr. Tennant), having served on the Committee which discussed this question of Labour Exchanges, I remember that it was brought out very clearly that a matter of this kind required an experiment on a large scale to do any good at all. Certain things can be done tentatively and on a small scale at first and be increased afterwards, but I remember very well coming to the conclusion, which was shared afterwards by the remainder of the Committee, that to do any good 1650 whatever with such an enormous question demanded an experiment on a large scale, and therefore I think this is a justification for the spending of the considerable sum of money that is necessary to embark on this question. If this measure is to be successful, an immense improvement must take place, not by way of creating labour, but by way of organising the labour and directing it into the most profitable channels.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Vote agreed to.