HC Deb 21 May 1912 vol 38 cc1757-829

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £226,862, 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, 1913, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade and Subordinate Departments."[£135,000 has been voted on account.]


I beg to move "That Sub-head A (Salary of the President of the Board of Trade) be reduced by £100."

I move this reduction on account of the neglect of the Board of Trade in providing efficient regulations for accommodation in boats on passenger ships. The President of the Board of Trade is responsible to this House and to the country for the efficient conduct of the business of the Board of Trade, and therefore he is responsible that his advisers, whether an Advisory Committee or experts to advise, should give him the advice which is necessary to provide proper regulations. I do not wish to trench on the questions now being considered by a court which has been called by the President of the Board of Trade himself, but I do wish to urge most strongly that that court cannot possibly fill the place of this House in inquiring into the responsibility of the President of the Board of Trade himself. This Committee alone can deal with the President of the Board of Trade. In the case of the court, in the first place, it was called by him, and in the second place, it must report to him. Therefore, in spite of all declarations made by the Prime Minister in this House I maintain that that court is not competent to deal with the President of the Board of Trade himself, and that this House alone is competent to inquire into the question whether there has or has not been any neglect in the conduct of that Department. The Board of Trade made certain regulations on the advice of their Advisory Committee in the year 1888, and those regulations were allowed to stand for fourteen years until 1902 when they were revised, and again these regulations have been for the last ten years allowed to stand until at the present moment they are completely out of date. If the regulations made in 1888 and 1902 are read in conjunction with the knowledge that the ships with which they dealt were very much smaller than they are at present, it will be seen clearly that they were formed with the express object of providing boat accommodation for everybody upon a passenger ship. Sub-section (d) of the rules for steamships carrying emigrant passengers in the life-saving regulations of the Board of Trade clearly lays down that if the boats placed in the davits in accordance with the table do not furnish sufficient accommodation for all persons on board then additional metal collapsible or other boat of an approved description or approved light rafts should be carried. I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to the wording that if there is not sufficient accommodation for all persons on board, and I say that that distinctly shows that the people who framed those regulations did so with the intention of providing boat accommodation for all, or if not boat accommodation then raft accommodation, so as to provide in the event of disaster for the removal of every soul on board the ship.

The Board of Trade for over ten years has allowed those regulations to stand, and during those years the size of passenger ships has enormously increased. In the year 1902 the largest ship was certainly not 20,000 tons. The "Cedric" and the "Sultan," of the White Star Line, were partly cargo ships and not altogether passenger ships; and the largest passenger carrying ship at that time was the "Oceanic," of 17,000 tons. The regulations at that time did provide that there should be boat accommodation for everybody on board, even in that ship; but as years have gone by the regulations have been becoming more and more obsolete, and, no matter what party was in power, the Board of Trade has been slumbering along and has taken no steps at all to bring the regulations up-to-date. Yet the question of boat accommodation has been raised within the last five years, once when the Merchant Shipping Act was in Committee upstairs, and afterwards by means of questions asked in this House. The Board of Trade themselves apparently awoke to the fact that their regulations were hopelessly antiquated, for on the 4th April, 1911, they wrote to the Advisory Committee of the Board of Trade and asked them to go into this question of the number of boats to be carried on ships of 10,000 tons and upwards, and to send in their recommendations. The Advisory Committee reported on the 4th July last year, ten months before this tragedy took place in the Atlantic. This Advisory Committee to the Board of Trade did actually report to the President of the Board of Trade, and it did recommend him to very largely increase the boat accommodation on the ships, and to increase the raft accommodation as well. The damning fact which I think convicts the President of the Board of Trade of neglect in this matter is that for ten and a-half months no steps were taken to carry out the recommendations of his own adviser.

We are becoming quite used to Ministers coming down to this House and telling us that their advisers say this and their advisers say that. But it is the Ministers who are responsible to the House and to the Committee in this case, and I do not think that they have any right at all to shield themselves behind their advisers. In this instance it was their advisers who gave them good advice—who actually nearly a year ago advised the Board of Trade to increase the boat accommodation. Yet during the last ten or eleven months the Department has done nothing whatever to carry out the report of that Committee. The Committee made some very important recommendations. Under the old regulations a ship of 10,000 tons and upwards had to carry sixteen boats under davits, but the Committee recommended that the number of boats carried under davits in ships of 45,000 tons should be twenty-four under davits instead of sixteen. I ask the Committee to remember that only sixteen boats were carried under davits in the case of the "Titanic." The Committee also recommended an increase in the number of rafts and other boats, and the cubic capacity of those also was increased by some 1,000 feet. The total cubic capacity of the boat accommodation under the old rules was 5,500 feet for every ship of 10,000 tons, and that was increased in the case of ships of 45,000 tons to 8,300 cubic feet. The raft accommodation was increased by three-quarters of the total capacity in each case. The total result was that in every large ship of the "Olympic" class the boat and raft accommodation required to be carried was increased from 9,600 cubic feet capacity to 14,300 cubic feet capacity—nearly 50 per cent, increase in boat and raft accommodation. These were the recommendations of the Advisory Committee, and, as I have pointed out, nothing whatever has been done since then to carry out these recommendations. It is all very well for the President of the Board of Trade and the Prime Minister to tell the House and the country that we must wait until the "Titanic" Court of Inquiry has reported. That may be so now, as it has turned out, but it does not in the very least detract from their fault in not carrying out the recommendations of that Committee.

4.0 P.M.

In addition to the question of boat accommodation there is another matter upon which the Board of Trade has been very dilatory in forming regulations—that is with reference to wireless telegraphy. Wireless telegraphy has been in use on passenger ships—especially those ships crossing the Atlantic—for something like ten years, and during that time nearly all the ships that carry passengers across the Atlantic have equipped themselves with wireless telegraphy. In addition to that, nearly all foreign passenger - carrying ships have equipped themselves with different systems of wireless telegraphy. In face there are more wireless telegraph outfits of the Telefunken system than there are of the Marconi, but, whatever the system, every ship is equipped with wireless telegraphy. If the Board of Trade set out to make regulations, as they did, for the efficient conduct of the passenger-carrying trade under the British flag, I maintain that they should most decidedly have made regulations to deal with this question of wireless telegraphy, making it compulsory that these passenger ships must be equipped with a wireless telegraph outfit, and, in addition, must have a proper complement of wireless operators on board. Everybody who has crossed the Atlantic knows very well that there has been on a great many ships—I believe in all except in the very large ships—only one, at the outside two Marconi operators, though the safety of the ship and salvage of the ship may depend upon his efforts. There is also the question of whether a proper watch is kept on the other ships in the vicinity, and it would seem that here again the Board of Trade have been negligent in their duty and have not made proper regulations. In the tragedy which occurred the other day there seems to have been no doubt—even without going into the question which is being gone into by the Court of Inquiry— that they were helpless within three hours, that it was a perfectly calm night, and that, further, if a proper wireless watch had been insisted upon on other ships in the vicinity it might have been possible to have obtained help quicker than it came. None of those regulations have been made cither as regards boats or as regards wireless telegraphy. The President of the Board of Trade is responsible to this Committee, and, therefore, I see no objection at all in calling upon him to explain the attitude which the Board of Trade have taken up in this matter. It is quite true that he has had a very hard time in other ways, and that he has had very hard work indeed with regard to labour unrest, and so on. But if the Board of Trade has too much to do, and personally I believe it has, with regard to this Marine Department, then another Department should be set up, which should be responsible to this House for the great mercantile marine of this country. But as long as the mercantile marine is under the Board of Trade, then, no matter how much we admire the work of the President in other directions or criticise it, it is to him that we look for the proper conduct of those regulations, and it is upon him that we lay the blame when we say, as we do to-day, that those regulations are antiquated, and that the Board of Trade have not carried out their duties in the way in which they should.


I feel very strongly with the Mover of the Amendment that the Board of Trade is very much to blame in the absolute neglect and unconcern which it has shown in matters relating to shipping. Questions have been raised before the House as to the sufficiency and insufficiency of boat accommodation on the big liners. I venture to speak with some little knowledge on this subject, because I have served myself several years in the mercantile marine in sailing ships and steamships, and I have been more or less afloat all my life in various small crafts in all sorts of waters. Suggestions have been made that boats should be carried capable of accommodating all the passengers and crew. The regulations as they stand at present-are completely out of date. In the old clays, when the regulations were framed, boats were carried at a height of from 20 ft. to 25 ft. from the water, and under ordinary circumstances it was possible to lower those boats into the water. Now in these monster liners boats are carried at a height of from 60 ft. to 70 ft. from the water, and I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that it would be quite impossible to lower boats containing forty or fifty people from that height to the water. If the vessel was rolling, the boats would be dashed against the sides of the ship long before they reached the water and would be smashed to pieces. If the vessel had a list to port you could not lower the starboard boats at all, and if she had a list to starboard you could not lower the port boats at all. Under those conditions only half the boats would be available. If the weather on the occasion of the last two disasters had not been extraordinarily fine I do not believe a single boat could have been launched or a single person saved. From that point of view I venture to think that the Board of Trade are very much to be blamed for their absolute neglect to bring their regulations and conditions up to date. It is all very well drifting along allowing regulations to stand year by year because they have served sufficiently up to a point and until a disaster happens, but you want to consider those regulations from the point of view of the ships as they are built now and as to the probability of being able to use the boats at all. In connection with the suggestion that more boats should be carried, it is only occasionally that the existing boats can be used, and I do not think you are going to get any greater safety by carrying more boats.

The real way out of the difficulty is to have an expert Committee to consider whether some portion of the superstructure of those liners could be made entirely detachable or not or whether you could not get some method of launching boats and slips over the stern. Those are matters of a technical nature, and which from a competent Board of Trade should receive the consideration they deserve. But in connection with the equipment of ships, surely some little attention should be paid to the crews. The crew of twenty years ago consisted to a large extent of men who served in sailing ships and men who had some experience in handling boats. The crew to-day consists largely, as the President of the Board of Trade stated in answer to a question I put to him, of A.B.'s, that is men who have served three years before the mast in a steamer, or three years of scrubbing decks and scrubbing brass, who probably have never been in small boats and do not know one end of an oar from another. Then there is boat drill, which, as far as I have seen it, is an absolute farce. The covers are taken off and very rarely are the boats swung out, and never under any circumstances are the boats lowered or the men trained in launching the boats. Surely I think that a Board of Trade which did its duty, or attempted to do its duty, would pay some little attention to matters of that kind. I have no doubt it is possible to get crews with some knowledge of boat work. There are plenty of fishermen round the coasts and yachtsmen and men who live in small craft all the year round, and on every liner at least a man of that character should be appointed in charge of the boat. To show how negligent the Board of Trade is the public hardly realise that those monster liners are built without any supervision by Lloyd's or the Board of Trade at all. It will be a matter of astonishment, I have no doubt, to many Members of this House to hear that vessels like the "Titanic" and the "Olympic" were never classed at Lloyd's at all and built under no survey I am not suggesting, and I do not wish to suggest, I am very far from wishing to do so, that they are any the worse on that account. They may be better built and more work and more material may be put into them. On that point I have no information at all, but it is a little astonishing to realise that while you cannot build a house in London without having some sort of supervision and some inspection, that you can build an immense liner, carrying thousands of lives, without any supervision or inspection at all. I think that a Board of Trade that attempted to do its duty would pay some little attention to this matter. It is unfortunate, we know, that we have a President of the Board of Trade who does not understand the sea, as we have a First Lord of the Admiralty who knows nothing about the sea, and a Chancellor of the Exchequer who knows nothing about finance. Those are the conditions under which we live and are governed, but I do think it would be to the advantage of the country if a little more time was spent in attending to the proper duties of the offices than to have those constant measures of so-called social reform which occupy the time and attention of this House.


I hope that in any remarks I am going to make that neither the House nor the President of the Board of Trade will think there is anything of a party or personal character in them. I may make some strong remarks because this is a national question, and I should like to see it an international question, not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of the great mercantile shipping of the world. What the previous speakers have said as to the fact that the Board of Trade Regulations are not up to modern requirements is on the face of it true. The last regulation we laid down in 1894, which is eighteen years ago, since which time the mercantile marine has entirely altered in size, and in the number of passengers that are taken, and in many other directions. The Board of Trade Regulations, which were for ships from twelve to seventeen thousand tons, have remained the same for ships when they have gone up to thirty or forty thousand tons. What we find fault with the Board of Trade for is that they should have made their regulations up to modern requirements. That does not apply to the question of the "Titanic," but applies to their regulations before the "Titanic." What we object to is that it was not until the appalling catastrophe of the "Titanic" that the Board of Trade really made any efforts to carry out their own regulations or the recommendations of their Advisory Committee.

I think the Committee will agree that the question is one which should be handled very delicately. We must not do anything that will affect our commercial interests to the advantage of other countries and the disadvantage of our own. We remember very well the Plimsoll load line and its prejudicial effect on our mercantile marine. I have seen cases myself where Norwegians bought our steamers, which were sold as they could not make a very good profit when the load line was put on. Those steamers carried from three to four hundred tons more than we allow, which was most unfair to our commercial interests and to shipowners, and it was not until the load line was made International that that was altered. We can make any regulation the Board of Trade choose to lay down as to safety and life-saving appliances perfectly applicable to all other nations by making certain rules in our ports as we did with regard to the load line. Therefore we have got to handle this matter very delicately. It is perfectly within the power of the Board of Trade to let other nations know that those are our regulations, and that they do not come to our ports unless they subscribe to them. A great number of things have been brought into this Debate, such as watertight doors, wireless telegraphy, boat accommodation, and so on. I should like to refer to the question of watertight doors, because it is a matter with which I am intimately acquainted. The first thing to remember with regard to your life-saving apparatus is, that whatever you may elect as your life-saving appliances, your first efforts should be to give the ship every capacity for floating. We have tried for many years to do so on our merchant ships, and we make what are called watertight compartments. Take this as the belly of a great ship, and we cut three or four doors in every bulkhead to make the whole ship one compartment. To show how keenly I thought about this in days gone by, I may say that I wrote continually to the Admiralty pointing this out. If you pierce a bulkhead with the idea of making a watertight door you defeat your own object in making a watertight compartment. There is no question about it. May I give the Committee my experience in commanding ships at sea? I personally went on board every one of my ships, and wherever I saw a watertight door that was not necessary I ran a bolt through it and fixed it at the other end so that the door could not be opened. I give the experience of the "Victoria," which would possibly have been saved if she had had less watertight compartments. You cannot close the watertight compartments in a sudden rush. In a big compartment the rush of water is so terrific that you cannot close the door. If you had half a door in a bulkhead where you now have a full door with a sill, it would stop the rush of water to a certain extent, and you could close the door more easily. I quite agree that we must have some passage through, but it ought to be what we call a "scuttle"; that is, a smaller space that a man can get through, but not these great doors which invite a terrible disaster. Again, you must remember that the other scuttles in the ship would not be closed. In the case of the "Titanic" an enormous amount of water must have got in those scuttles. I do not know about the "Titanic," but from what I read the doors were open. The fact of there being doors at all militated against the ship being saved in the sudden and unexpected disaster that she met with. My point is, try and keep the ship afloat as long as ever you can, and then you will be able to use what life-saving appliances you may elect to have.

As my hon. Friend (Mr. G. Terrell), who evidently knows all about this case, said, you may put as many boats as you like on a ship, but there is not one day in twelve in the course of the year when you could lower the boats at all. If the ship is rolling three degrees, at a height of even half seventy feet, directly a boat with its load had got a swing it would go against the side and be smashed to smithereens at the first blow. Therefore do not overdo the boats. Do not overdo anything. I implore the House to look at the question from this point of view. Try to keep the ship afloat as long as you can, and then your life-saving appliances may be useful. Suppose the "Titanic" had kept afloat for twelve hours, perhaps all the people would have been saved. But suppose there had been a gale of wind. I have seen the suggestion that every ship should be accompanied by a consort, so that the people could be transported from one ship to the other. The people who make that suggestion evidently do not know anything about the matter. You could not transport the people in boats even if you had enough boats for all the ship's company, as we have or are supposed to have on a man-of-war. You cannot make regulations to guard against everything at sea. Your best plan, and it should be international, is to make such arrangements in regard to construction that the ship, after receiving a bad wound, will float for a certain time. The "Titanic," I take it, was wounded in the belly. I imagine, from what I read, that an eye stuck her underneath and cut open three or four watertight bulkheads in the belly of the ship. The two ends, which have no great flotation, would not float the belly. If she had been damaged very severely forward or aft, probably the belly would have floated the damaged end. Whether she had watertight compartments in the engine and boiler rooms, the same as the "Olympic," I do not know. I am in favour of these bulkheads. But again comes the consideration that a wound in the starboard side will give a terrific list to starboard; if the scuttles are open there is the danger of the water falling in, and, as my hon. Friend says, you cannot lower the boats on the other side. Therefore, I say again, do not overdo the question of boats. If you have enough boats, which do not interlock, you can get six or eight into the water fairly quickly. But if they interlock you will not get the same number into the water. You will lower one boat on top of another, which is a most serious thing if you have people in the boats who do not understand how to handle them. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will put all these things down and thoroughly investigate them, always bearing in mind that the first thing to have in view is to keep the ship afloat as long as possible.

Then there is the question of crews. The crews are not at all suitable under modern requirements. That you should have enough men to man the boats is an exaggeration. You could not do that having regard to commercial interests. What are the men doing who are not manning boats? Scrubbing decks and cleaning brass work is not very irksome. The old seaman has been eliminated. You should, at any rate, have enough men for there to be two or three to take charge of each boat. To have a man who can take charge of a boat is far more important than having six or eight men who can pull an oar. Wireless telegraphy, I believe, is mainly under the Post Office. There ought to be a sufficient number of wireless operators to keep up constant hearing night and day. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will put that down. With regard to passenger steamers, I spoke just now of how careful we must be to do nothing against our own interests. We know that passenger steamers that go across to France and Germany take British subjects. Any regulations that are made with regard to our mercantile marine should be applied equally to those steamers on the ground that if they do not agree to our regulations those passengers' lives may be endangered. I understand that there are only sixteen nautical surveyors at the Board of Trade to inspect 7,000 steamers with a tonnage of over 13,000,000. If that is so, the Board of Trade Regulations cannot possibly be carried out, because that number of surveyors cannot inspect all that is laid down as requiring to be inspected. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give some explanation on that point. It is a most serious matter, as it is only by surveying and inspection that we can hope to get ships of this mercantile marine going to sea under conditions laid down as safe. Without that inspection you cannot possibly hope that they will go to sea in the condition that they ought to be in.

Has the right hon. Gentleman carried out any of the recommendations of the Manning Committee of 1896? That was a very strong Committee, and its recommendations were most important, but, as far as I know, they have never been carried out. What we complain of is, that the Board of Trade did not carry out their own regulations in many particulars until they made an effort after the loss of the "Titanic." We want a full explanation on that point. Another point is that all the lifeboats should always hold provisions and water, as is the case with lifeboats on board a man-of-war. The idea of getting up provisions and water after an accident has occurred is all nonsense. It would be very difficult to do it on a man-of-war, but on a merchant ship, with all the excitement and embarrassment brought about by a collision, it is absurd to think that these details, which are very important, would be attended to after the accident has occurred. In every cabin there should be a notice stating the locality of the boat that the passengers are to go in, and the steward who looks after that cabin should be responsible to the Captain for the passengers going where they are supposed to go in the event of an accident. This sort of regulation gives confidence. There is no bother on a man-of-war, whatever happens, because the officers and men know what they are to do in any unforeseen circumstance. Such regulations are more needed in the mercantile marine than in the Navy. I think the life-saving appliances are inadequate, and in some cases inefficient. That is due to the fact that the inspection has not been what it should be, and it cannot be what it should be with the number of nautical surveyors at present at the Board of Trade The composition of the Merchant Shipping Advisory Committee is not satisfactory. I believe that to be the view of the mercantile marine. Further, the deliberations of that Committee are now in secret. Why? On such an important question they ought to be in public. Some time ago the Board of Trade had a Committee for experimenting on the capacity of boats. Has that ever been done in a practical way? Have the boats been lowered with their full load from the davit head? Have the falls been unhooked? Has there been any sea-way on when the boats touched the water? Have the crew pulled round the ship, or taken any practical means of knowing whether the boats are efficient if suddenly called upon?

As to boat drill and boat exercise I have never seen it done but once on any merchant ship in the world. I once saw it done on a P. & O. boat, at Alexandria. Other than that I have never seen a merchant ship exercise its boats in a practical manner with the boat crew and an officer in charge. I think that ought to be done if you wish to secure safety for those who travel in our mercantile steamers. My hon. Friend (Mr. G. Terrell) spoke of rafts. Here again, comes the same difficulty. The suggestion of rafts is beguiling. It is very good. But you must remember that ships have to go to sea; they have to fight very severe weather. To my mind it would be a very difficult thing to secure a raft in a way that would be useful and effective if a large body of people were wrecked, stored and provisioned and fitted with masts, sails and ballast, as she would have to be, at the same time having her fitted to the scantling of the ship so that it would be strong enough to take a tremendous blow of a wave in a gale of wind. Those things are all seamen's questions. They are practical questions, and can only really be answered and looked deeply at by practical men. I am not pressing for rafts or boats, but I am giving you the views of a seaman of a very long experience as to the difficulties you will have to encounter. Proposals are put forward in all good faith by the Press, and a large number of people—proposals such as the Gentleman who writes to me as a great discovery that if a ship had another two with her she would always save all the passengers. Those things are all very well-meaning, but they are not practical. I hope the right hon. Gentleman when he takes up this question—because it is a very grave one, and is one that must be looked into now—independent of what happened on the "Titanic"—will see that we have got to rub up our appliances, and our ideas, to that which is necessary for the present day, and not to what occurred eighteen months' ago. In conclusion I would remind the House that we must remember that we should never be able to build anything that will float, and that will not meet with disaster, provided you have an incompetent captain and officers, or an ignorant captain and officers, or a captain who shows error of judgment, or a captain who does not show that strong individuality and that personality which is as a rule bred in those who go to sea, but which must be very predominant and pronounced in an unforeseen emergency involving great danger.

The whole question wants most careful overhauling. I have endeavoured to show the difficulties that the Board of Trade will have to meet. I am confident that if the right hon. Gentleman puts on the Committee not altogether experts—for I have never believed altogether in experts on any question—but common-sense people, shipowners, and I would have representatives of the lower deck too, it will be well. You gain a good deal from knowing what the man on the lower deck knows. I have often consulted my men. I did not ask their advice; they would not respect me if I had done so. But I wanted to know what their views on certain questions are, and I have always told them that I did not imagine for one moment that it was certain I would agree with them. But it is an important point to know their views.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Buxton)

There are seamen and firemen on the Advisory Committee.


Oh, well I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon; but I hope he will have a new Committee altogether. I think he ought to have a new Committee altogether on these questions. I do not believe the Advisory Committee has the confidence of the mercantile marine at all. I should like to see a new Committee. You must have experts on it to take up the questions that only those who go to sea can know. But you must also have other people on it—engineers, constructors, and others—whose opinions will be very valuable. I would not hurry the Committee, but whatever you do, if I may offer my humble advice, do remember you want to keep the ship afloat, and do remember that whatever you design or you dictate as necessary for the safety of life in the British Empire you must insist that it is international and for the whole of the world.


I would like to intervene briefly in this Debate on a subject of interest to the public from the shipowners' point of view. I need hardly say that I am certain that every shipowner in the country will only be too delighted if we are able to have an impartial investigation into any one of these matters in which the public are interested. I think when that is done most people will come to the conclusion that the shipowners have been pretty right in their views. First of all, with regard to the question of boat accommodation. I agree entirely with what the Noble Lord and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chippenham (Mr. George Terrell) have said. I believe that theirs are the opinions that practically everyone holds who has any responsibility for the management of large ships. The idea that in any considerable proportion of cases people are going to save their lives by abandoning the big vessels and taking to rowing boats is entirely illusory. We believe it is simply a trap to make people think they are safe when they are not safe; and that persons who rely on escaping by means of the boats will find at the end that they do not succeed in being in as much safety as they hoped. They would have distracted their attention from what are the real facts and elements of safety to what is a very rotten reed, and one which I believe will fail them in any hour of need. That is the shipowners' view of the subject. The same generally applies to the rafts. The Noble Lord dealt with that point, to my mind, if I may say so, quite conclusively. After all, what would any detachable raft mean? If it is going to be of any use it would be deck cargo of the very worst and most objectionable character.


Far worse than deck cargo.


Yes, far worse. The first time you got into a real storm you would have it breaking loose. You might imperil the safety of the ship by all this rubbish on the deck, and if it got adrift on the deck it would stave in skylights and hatches and possibly bring the ship to grief. I think the Noble Lord will agree with me that it is a most dangerous thing in a gale of wind to have loose material, lumber of one sort or another, knocking about the deck. It would very considerably add to the dangers. That is why shipowners do not very much believe in this idea. People, too, have to remember that a ship has not only got to sail the seas, but it has to be commercially successful. By having various requirements as to safety, it is quite conceivable that you might make travelling almost prohibitive to poor people, yet at the same time to have done very little towards actually increasing the provisions for the safety of those people.

I want to say a word or two with regard to what the hon. Member for Chippenham has said with regard to classification at Lloyd's. A great many people do not class their ships at Lloyd's—my own firm among others—and that is done because the ships have such a high character that it is not necessary to obtain a Lloyd's certificate. If the underwriters and the persons who take the financial risk on the cargo were not satisfied as to the steps which the owners were taking they would take action which would make shipowners consider it worth their while to get a Lloyd's certificate. But it must not be supposed that no provision is made in this matter. You have either to get a Lloyd's certificate or a Board of Trade certificate for your load line, but it is not right that shipowners should be compelled to adopt any particular classification when they have got a satisfactory certificate from a proper authority. That is not all. You cannot carry passengers without a Board of Trade passenger certificate, and that involves again a survey by the Board of Trade, so that it is not possible for a vessel to go to sea with any large number of passengers with any sort of supervision in her construction. Of course you may or may not have supervision which is adequate. That is another story.

Most practical people are absolutely in agreement with what the Noble Lord has said on the subject of bulkheads. That is the real point—to try to keep the ship afloat as long as you possibly can, not for twelve hours only, but for a considerable period longer, so as to get her safely into dock, even if she may have to suffer misfortune. By this I believe you are more likely to attain the safety of the people on board ship if you can only drum it into them that their safety is bound up with the safety of the ship. With regard to doors and holes in bulkheads, I agree absolutely with what the Noble Lord has said. They are a snare and a delusion. You have no absolute guarantee that the door of the bulkhead as at present con structed is going to be shut at the time when it is required. It may be jammed not only by the rush of water, but a blow may put it out of truth and prevent it being moved. Even if you manage to get the door satisfactorily closed there is the further difficulty that the whole structure can hardly be as sound as if there was no door at all in it. If you are going to enforce the regulations, such as has been suggested, on large passenger steamers, no doubt it would mean that the passengers would have the trouble—


May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman for the moment? In the case of the "Prince George" we got 1,500 tons of water in her stern after she was rammed six inches below the water line by the "Hannibal." That water mostly all came in after the watertight doors were supposed to be closed. The doors had buckled, and the whole of the leakage got into this after-part. There was one bulkhead forwards in the after-part of the engine room, which was a solid bulkhead, and the safety of that ship depended entirely upon the loyalty of that bulkhead. We shored it up, and the shores held it. If that bulkhead had had a watertight door, so-called, that ship would have been at the bottom, of the sea now.


I think the Noble Lord and I are entirely at one on the subject of bulkheads. I think that is a matter really of the greatest importance that the ship should be divided up into compartments with bulkheads that have not got doors at all. There are cases in which it is necessary to have these doors, but they are not nearly as many cases as do exist. Of course, passengers going by these magnificent steamers have to remember that if you have to have watertight bulkheads that these must be carried up to the top of the ship, and not end three-quarters of the way, that will involve inconvenience to the passengers who may have to walk upstairs on one side of the bulkhead and downstairs on the other side when they want to see their friends. First and second-class passengers are often very unreasonable people. They expect to get a good deal for their money. They ask for all sorts of conveniences. And at the first sign of inconvenience, though it may be for the safety of the ship and for their own lives, they are the first to grumble. But the position of the shipowner ought to be made clear here. We must have ships subdivided properly by bulkheads. After all the real point, the essential point, is first and before everything else, to consider the safety of navigation, and that is the real and fundamental point in the management of the ship. The ship should be navigated with real care and prudence, and I think that is the point more than any other single point for those people who are responsible for the conduct of steamers of any sort or description to direct their attention to. No ship, however well constructed, and no ship, however well supplied with all sorts of the latest scientific improvements, is going to survive if you run her at high speed against a hard substance; and if you want speed you have got to concentrate your attention more upon the question of navigation than on anything else; and in doing that the public at large ought to give much more loyal support to navigators trying to improve it than they do. Who are the people mainly responsible for reckless navigation? Why, again, it is the passengers. Everyone knows that if a steamer is kept back for hours or days because of a fog or of unfavourable weather conditions, the passengers will go ashore, grumbling and cursing, because the captain did not push on more rapidly into port.

The House will probably remember a very serious shipwreck that took place four or five years ago—the case of the Great Eastern Railway steamer at the Hook of Holland. What ought to have been done was that the ship should have been taken back and should never have attempted to make the port under the then existing weather conditions. It was a fifty to one chance in favour of her getting in safely. Who would take such a chance if he realised that that was the case. Supposing the navigator of that ship had made for home, or said, "I will not take the risk; I will stay out for twenty-four hours until the weather improves." I wonder what the 130 passengers he had on board would have said. They would certainly have made it jolly hot for him and for what they would regard as his neglect of their comfort and convenience in not trying to get into port. That is the state of mind of passengers, but it would be far better for them to suffer any inconvenience than to undertake the risk in such a case. If passengers want a greater amount of safety it is for them to cultivate public opinion amongst those who are engaged in navigation, instead of taking risks simply in order to make a voyage in less time. They can bring an enormous amount of pressure to bear, not only upon the navigator, but upon shipowners, and if they are going to exercise their pressure in favour of speed I do not think that it is very reasonable to grumble if afterwards it turns out to be disastrous and not safe.

I believe one can fairly say that taking things all round over a period of years the conduct of the mercantile marine in this country has been thoroughly satisfactory, and the number of disasters that have taken place have been very small compared with the immense number and magnitude of the actual sailings and voyages undertaken, and nothing shows it better than the way in which insurance premiums have been steadily tumbling down in the last twenty or thirty years. I do not think that there is any reason whatever for feeling that navigation is attended with more risk than it used to be, and I should like to say for myself and my own firm that we, at any rate, have so little terror of the dangers of the sea and so little do we believe that there are going to be great disasters that we have not one of our ships insured. That is probably the best proof of the bona fides of our belief in the safety of our ships. If it is the wish of the public that there should be a general investigation of the Board of Trade Regulations, I cannot help thinking that everybody will be glad to have it as soon as possible, but I do not believe that when we do have such investigation we are going to find out very much amiss.


I do not think the President of the Board of Trade ought to have any cause to grumble at the Debate which has taken place this afternoon. I think it about time that such a Debate should take place, and that attention should be called to the position of the mercantile marine of this country. I believe the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord Charles Beresford) was labouring under a mistake when dealing with what is known as the Advisory Committee. I have some knowledge of that Advisory Committee. I have been a member of it for seven years since it was set up in 1906, and I may say that every member of that Committee is a man of practical experience. There are five shipowners I think on that Committee. [An HON. MEMBER: "Eight."] The Merchant Service Guild is represented by two Masters.




By two. The hon. Member who contradicts me does not know, but I do.


I was referring to an answer given by the President of the Board of Trade.


I happen to know all the Gentlemen on the Advisory Committee. I meet them very often, and I am quite right. The engineers are represented by two, the lower deck is represented by two, the Seamen and Firemen's Union have three delegates. Unfortunately, one of these gentlemen is away at present, and the President of the Board of Trade has filled his place. Besides these, there is a member of Lloyd's and there is a representative of the shipbuilders and constructors, and when the Committee require it they can co-opt others for various purposes, gentlemen who have extensive knowledge of shipbuilding or construction and ship work generally. I really think when the Noble Lord comes to see how the Advisory Committee is made up he will realise that he is labouring under a mistake. I do not say that the Committee could not be increased with good results, but I say that it is a good practical Committee, and that it has given a good deal of service gratis to the State. Passing from that, let me deal with the question that has been brought home to all our minds by the terrible catastrophe that occurred some weeks ago. I agree with-every word the Noble Lord has said with regard to ship construction, with regard to the ships themselves, and especially with regard to the kind of ships that are being built nowadays, and that they should be so constructed as to ensure that whatever happens you should get the longest possible flotation for the ship. And I agree with every single word the Noble Lord has said with regard to water-tight compartments. Everybody knows that every door weakens the construction of a watertight compartment, and I would even go so far as the scuttle.

What everyone would wish to see is these watertight compartments constructed as strongly as possible. But when you have that done you still want boats. I never agreed with anyone who says that boats are not capable of doing good work and doing good work even in bad weather. I owe my life on several occasions to having got off ship-wrecked ships in a small boat, to the stability and goodness of the boat, and to the seamanship of the men who handled her. But you could have too many boats on one of those ships. If you have boats you must have enough men to man them, and I would ask the President of the Board of Trade, in this connection, whenever the question of boat accommodation on large passenger ships comes up for consideration, not to pass over the question of the better manning of these boats. I daresay if you had a 100 boats on the "Titanic" you would not save many more lives than were saved, and I agree with every nautical man that I have met, and with whom I have discussed this subject, that had the weather been bad the chances were ninety-nine to one that not a soul would have been saved at all. You must have boats and you must have good increase in boat accommodation on those large passenger ships, but there you are up against the ship constructor. You have some Gentlemen in this House who view the piling of boats 75 or 80 feet above the water and putting in these heavy davits—and you must have these heavy davits until you find some other means of swinging your boats out—as tending to make your ship top-heavy. This matter should not be rushed. All these things demand time and critical attention, and you have to make them, as far as you can national questions, because you cannot hamper the mercantile marine of this country by making them do things the foreigner will not do.

I am a good deal of a protectionist when it comes to dealing with the foreigner, and in saying that I am thinking of the manning of the ships as well as of the commercial side of the transaction. I have for many years held the view that there were too many foreigners allowed into the British Mercantile Marine to the detriment of good men at home. I have heard grumblings and complaints by shipowners, but when the pinch comes give me a British seaman alongside me rather than a coolie or a Lascar or a Chinese. I say nothing about other foreign seamen. I do not want to take anything from the good sailor men of other nationalities whom I have met. The Board of Trade in dealing with these great questions will have to study every point. They will have to see that no damage will be done to the mercantile marine of this country. They must see that extra cost shall not be piled upon the men who build the ships, while at the same time reasonable consideration must be given to life-saving appliances to be carried by our ships.

5.0 P.M.

With regard to rafts, I must say I have not very much faith in them outside the British Isles or shorter voyages. I think rafts in the home carrying passenger ships are good things, and that they are good in the rivers and channels close to the coast, where if anything did happen it would be a very good thing to have a number of life-saving rafts which would float easily off the upper deck and would accommodate a good many people, but when you are dealing with long sea travels and with huge passenger steamers rafts, to my mind, in any great proportion are out of the question. You ought to have boat accommodation as far as you can increase it, but do not increase it to such an extent as to make the boats a risk to the stability of the ships. I have great faith in some of the collapsible boats. Something was said about the Berthon collapsible lifeboats last year, and I think there were a few of them on the "Titanic," and I think all that were got out did good service. Those are the principal points for the Board of Trade to take up without unduly hampering the shipbuilder on the one side or the shipowner on the other, because they should not be unduly hampered in dealing with a great commercial transaction. At the same time the lives, not alone of the passengers but also of the men who go down to the sea in ships, ought to be looked after by the Board of Trade. When the Board of Trade makes up its mind to do this, then and not until then will the country ungrudgingly give them that meed of praise they will deserve.


In rising to support this Amendment, I wish to state at the outset that I do not wish to make any party capital out of a great national disaster, nor do I wish to prejudge any recommendations which may be made as a result of the "Titanic" Inquiry. But, as a member of a great seafaring nation, and as the representative of an island Constituency which has lost considerably by this great disaster, I feel that the trust which we have hitherto reposed in a great Government Department to safeguard the lives of passengers and of our sailors at sea has been grossly misplaced. I regret to say that at present we who have hitherto led the legislation and the regulations of the world in all shipping matters are in the humiliating position of having the finger of scorn pointed at us by every other nation on account of our obsolete rules and regulations for life-saving. There is no doubt that no money has ever been grudged to the Board of Trade with regard to carrying out such regulations. We all know that this Government has raised the expenses of the Civil Service by many millions and the number of officials by many thousands, therefore I do not think it can in any way be said that we have grudged the money to pay salaries to officials for carrying out the duties imposed upon them by the Merchant Shipping Act.

What are the facts? As we all know, these regulations have not been revised for a matter of eighteen years. They were first passed in 1894, when the largest ship afloat was 12,000 tons, and to-day our largest ship is 48,000 tons. What might have been excellent regulations it does not follow that they are equally suitable for modem requirements. Moreover we are in the humiliating position of having to write an appeal to shipowners to provide more lifeboats instead of the Board of Trade having the foresight to come to Parliament long ago to compel shipowners to carry proper life-saving appliances. The remarks I am going to make are not founded upon mere hearsay and rumour, but upon what has been admitted across the floor of the House by the right hon. Gentleman in answer to questions put to him, and what has happened in minor debates which have taken place since this terrible disaster occurred. I should like to say a word or two about the Merchant Shipping Advisory Committee. It is all very well to say that it represents all parties, but we have not had a single name given to us to show that it represents the passengers or the public at large. It is composed of eight shipowners, two underwriters, two shipbuilders, two ships masters, two engineer officers and two men representing the Seamen's and Firemen's Unions. When the Government had an opportunity of co-opting two more members they co-opted a shipbuilder and another representing the shipowners. Almost in every case the Committee represents the shipowners' interests or people who are in the business to make money out of the conveyance of passengers and cargo. I do not say that fact makes them any the less careful in regard to the lives of passengers, but that is the fact.

The deliberations of this Committee are all held in secret, and nobody knows what takes place at their discussions, because they are not reported in the Press. If the meetings had been held in public they would probably have had some very solid advice from the great minds associated with marine affairs in this country. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will explain why it is necessary to carry on these deliberations in private any more than it is necessary that the Debates in this House should be carried on in private. To show the views of this body of shipowners and shipbuilders known as the Advisory Committee, I wish to point out that in their last Report, on 4th July, 1911, they actually advised a reduction in the minimum cubic contents of the boats required to be placed under davits. That is the effect of a Report which they made last year. That recommendation was not acted upon, but it shows the views of the members of this Committee, and their idea above all seems to be to save the shipowner from all unnecessary expense. I will explain what this means. The "Titanic" carried on board sixteen lifeboats under davits, and four collapsible boats providing life-saving accommodation for 1,178 souls. The Board of Trade Rules only stipulate for 960 souls, that is, there should be cubic capacity for 960, although the "Titanic" was certified to carry no less than 3,547 souls. And yet, although the Board of Trade Regulations stipulated in the case of the "Titanic" for a cubic capacity of 9,625 feet the Advisory Committee in their Report suggested that in the case of ships of this size that should be reduced to 8,300 cubic feet. No doubt boat space is not very remunerative, and it is much more attractive to passengers to have large swimming baths, reserved deck spaces, and large suites of rooms which pay much better than devoting the deck space to boat accommodation. I know an instance of a steamboat which is now plying for hire certified for eighty-three passengers, and it carries twenty-two lifebelts, four buoys, and no boat whatsoever, and yet it complies with the Board of Trade Regulations under the Division D, Class 6. I ask if the Board of Trade call that carrying out the duties entrusted to them of safeguarding the lives of passengers under the Merchant Shipping Act. I wish to refer to the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman in regard to watertight compartments. On the 18th April the right hon. Gentleman said in this House:— I wish the House, however, to understand that it has never been the intention of the Board of Trade Regulations, and, so far as I know, it has not been suggested by any responsible expert that every vessel, however large or however well-equipped as regards watertight compartments, should necessarily carry lifeboats adequate to accommodate all on board. That is a most extraordinary statement. It is a well-known fact that in the case of the Indian transports and men-of-war they do carry a sufficient number of lifeboats to accommodate all on board, or nearly all.




Yes, theoretically. The right hon. Gentleman said it would be impossible to carry more boats, and that it would be very inadvisable to overload ships by carrying a great number of boats. It is admitted that in the case of the "Olympic" and the "Titanic" instead of carrying only sixteen lifeboats they could have carried thirty-two or even forty-eight under the same davits. I think, therefore, it is absolutely futile to say they had not got the space and the means for carrying more boats if they had wished to do so, and there is no doubt that if these extra boats had been carried there would scarcely have been a passenger on the "Titanic" who would not have been saved in this great disaster. The right hon. Gentleman says that if the boats have proper watertight compartments it is not necessary that they should carry so many lifeboats, and, in fact, it is laid down in Rule 12 of the Regulations for life-saving that when ships of any class are fitted with efficient watertight compartments to the satisfaction of the Board of Trade they shall only be required to carry boats, rafts, and life-saving apparatus to the extent of one-half of the capacity required by these rules. I should like to know what steps the right hon. Gentleman took to see that these watertight compartments were adequate and proper? Are there any specifications as to watertight compartments embodied in the rules? The President of the Board of Trade is entirely responsible for these watertight compartments, because it states in this rule that the Board of Trade must have been satisfied or else he would not have allowed them to carry less boats than they ought to carry. As far as I know there are absolutely no regulations made by the Board of Trade as to proper specifications for the construction and the supervision of watertight compartments. I am not an expert in these matters, and I know there has been a great deal of controversy as regards watertight compartments. I do not believe this matter has ever been thoroughly threshed out by a Board of Trade Committee. The longitudinal watertight compartments have been condemned, and I believe they were the cause of the loss of the "Victoria" in 1893.




That was stated to be so by a great naval authority, because the vessel fell on one side.


The "Victoria" was rammed, as the hon. Member knows, and she had all her watertight doors open and all her scuttles open. There were some seven degrees of a list. Directly she began to fill the whole of the scuttles discharged water into her, and the water ran fore and aft and they could not close the doors. It had nothing to do with the fore and aft bulkheads.


It was stated by an architect that the cause of the disaster was that the longitudinal bulkhead filled with water. What I wish to say on this point is that the question of watertight compartments has not been gone into officially, and yet the Board of Trade allow these ships to carry less boats because they have watertight compartments, which are supposed to have been passed by the Board of Trade as thoroughly satisfactory, when we know this could not have been so, at any rate in the case of the "Titanic." I should like now to pass on to the examination of the boats. The right hon. Gentleman said, in answer to a question, that the boats were examined at least once a year, and, presumably, seldom oftener. Is that enough examination for boats constantly exposed to the weather and to the sun? They are examined only once a year. That does not seem to me to be proper supervision. Then, are they examined by ship surveyors or engineer surveyors? As a matter of fact, I believe most of the surveyors are engineer surveyors, that is to say surveyors only trained as regards boilers and engines who have nothing to do with ship construction. Surely the Board of Trade ought to employ proper ship surveyors who have a knowledge of the construction of ships and boats. As far as I know, there is no absolute specification for the construction of lifeboats. They are very often constructed of soft wood, clinker built, and do not stand the heat and the strain they get on board ship. Of course, everyone knows that the proper boats to have, properly seamed and rivetted, are expensive; but I think the Board of Trade is very negligent in not having laid down a proper specification for the construction of boats to be carried as lifeboats.

We also learned from the right hon. Gentleman that it was only last autumn he started to make experiments as regards the carrying capacity of boats to be carried on ships. If it was necessary then to make these experiments as regards their proper carrying capacity, was it not necessary to make them very many years ago. He is responsible for stating what sort of boats ships are to carry, and for laying it down in his regulations, and, surely, if these experiments are necessary now, they were necessary a long time ago There is another point as regards manning and boat drill to which I should like to draw attention. The right hon. Gentleman stated it is necessary, and it is in the Merchant Shipping Act, that in the official log it should be laid down whenever boat drill takes place. These logs are compulsorily available for the inspection of the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade must have been thoroughly well aware how very infrequent, taking ships all round, these boat drills were, and it is for the right hon. Gentleman to see that this is remedied by getting proper legislative power from Parliament. I think in that way the Board of Trade has been extremely negligent in this matter. Apparently under the Merchant Shipping Act there is no proportion between the number of seamen carried and the tonnage and passenger capacity of the boats, and, if the "Olympic," or even the "Titanic" had gone to sea with half its crew, the Board of Trade would not have cared a rap, and would not have been able to stop her doing so. The same remark applies to officers. There is no proportion between the number of navigating officers and the tonnage capacity of the ship. I believe as a matter of fact, all that would be necessary, as far as the Board of Trade are concerned, for the "Titanic" or the "Olympic" to have carried were the captain and the first and second officers and the first and second engineers. This has led to the great evil which is known as the "two watch system." That means an officer does not get his proper rest, and he cannot do his duty properly, a highly strenuous and hard duty especially in bad and foggy weather and in dangerous seas, such as frequently occur. The Board of Trade takes no notice of this system, although the matter is very important in regard to the safeguarding of the lives of passengers. Under it an officer may be four hours on duty and only two hours off. The Board of Trade, under Section 427, has the duty imposed upon them of framing regulations with regard to the number of persons carried. The rules they have framed are simply rules according to the size of the vessel. I think in that one instance alone they have not carried out the duties laid upon them by Parliament under the Merchant Shipping Act.

I should also like to draw attention to the very small proportion of white seamen to Lascars or coloured sailors carried by some lines. I think the Board of Trade at any rate ought to have stipulated that at least two white seamen for each boat should be carried. I do not know how the right hon. Gentleman or anybody in this House, in case of a disaster, would like to have his wife and children confined to the care of coloured and native crews simply. We all know these natives have not the same view as regards the paramount duty of saving women and children as white sailors. In fact, I believe the Chinese rule is that women and children should drown first, because they are not the bread-winners, and it is more important to save the men. Although these coloured sailors do their work in scrubbing and cleaning and mending the boats very well under splendid discipline, yet in times of emergency, I say they are not the proper people to save women and children in boats, and it ought always to be stipulated that there should be at least one or two white sailors in every boat. We heard a good deal about Chinese slavery a little time ago and about the employment of Asiatics, but I think this is a worse case than any case that could be brought against our party. We have heard nothing as to why the Board of Trade make no stipulation as regards providing night glasses and binoculars for look-out men. They may not always be of use, but they do not cost much, and it came out in the Inquiry that these were not provided for the crew. It seems to me rather negligent that a provision like that should not have been placed in regulations dealing with that sort of subject. There is another point to which I desire to call attention, and that is the control of wireless ship stations. The Government recently passed a Wireless Telegraph Bill, and I do not understand how it is the Board of Trade did not ask Parliament to give them power to have some sort of control over wireless stations on board ships. The Post Office only looks at a wireless station on a ship from the ordinary commercial standpoint, much the same as they would in opening a village telegraph station, but a much more important duty falls to the Board of Trade, and that is to see that if a ship claims to have a wireless telegraph station it should always be open in case of emergency as a life-saving apparatus. It is perfectly different from a commercial instrument for sending messages.

There is another point to which I do not think any hon. Member has drawn attention, and that is how it is at the present moment, ship-owners are allowed to contract out of their liability to pay damages to passengers in case of negligent navigation or causes like that. No railway company is allowed to contract out of their liability; if anybody is smashed up in a railway accident, their dependents have a right to claim damages. A man has a right to claim damages for injury in a railway accident, but, if he is drowned, his dependents have no claim whatsoever. As a matter of fact, there is no salvage attaching to the saving of human life at sea, and, if a vessel hears of another in distress and goes hundreds of miles out of her way to render her assistance, she would be out of pocket by doing that humane act. It is very hard because supposing an American had taken a ticket from America and had been going back in the "Titanic," he, because the contract was made in America, could have claimed damages from the White Star Company, but nobody else can claim damages, because the Company are allowed to contract out of their liability. I do not think the Board of Trade can claim that they have not had these regulations constantly before their notice. The regulation were made in 1894; they were gone through and added to in 1902, 1909, 1910, and as late as February, 1911. If this Advisory Committee had been worth its salt, it ought to have taken into consideration the possibility of a disaster to a great liner. They knew these great liners were being built. They must have known during the many times they have revised these rules that these big liners were being built. The "Oceanic" was built in 1899, the "Celtic" in 1901, the "Adriatic" in 1906, the "Mauretania" in 1907, and the "Olympic" in 1911. Therefore the Board of Trade must have been fully cognisant of the fact that these big liners were being built. Yet they allowed these obsolete regulations to remain in force, although they only contemplate a vessel of from ten to twelve thousand tons.

They must have known things were not as they ought to have been. If not, what was the reason of their sending out the notice to mariners to 1908? They must have had reason to think their regulations were not being carried out properly, and we shall be glad to learn what special steps were taken after the notice to mariners was sent out to see that things were in any way better. It is no use sending out a pamphlet to seamen. You want to see their duties are being carried out. It would be very interesting to know how many shipowners and officers have been prosecuted during the last two years for breaking the provisions under the Life-saving Rules, or the general provisions under the Merchant Shipping Act. I think it would be an eye-opener to the nation at large to see how lax the Board of Trade have been in seeing their regulations are carried out. This is a very serious matter. Since January of this year fifteen British ships have gone down with 430 lives, before the loss of the "Titanic." These things have been constantly occurring, and yet the Board of Trade have absolutely shut their eyes to the matter. I believe the Merchant Shipping Advisory Committee sent them in a Report last year, and it was only after this terrible accident they thought of recommitting them in a hurry, so as to save their skins. I think it would be much better if the Government looked a little better after their office duties instead of constantly bringing revolutionary proposals before the country, and instead of doing so much shop-window dressing. There have been too many changes in the presidency of the Board of Trade. I believe that since the Liberal administration have been in power there have been at least four or five different Presidents of the Board of Trade, and I suppose, that in each case the gentlemen holding the office thought the duties too hum-drum and ordinary for his superb talents, and therefore migrated to a more courageous scene, undertaking management of the Navy and Army. If they had attended more to business and less to introducing unnecessary and wicked legislation, they would not have brought down upon their heads the righteous indignation of the country in this matter.


I do not know exactly what line the President of the Board of Trade will take in reply to the various criticisms which have been directed against his Department, at any rate I hope that the reply will not be in any way an attempt to shelve the responsibility on anyone else. We know there are varied duties attaching to the office the right hon. Gentleman holds. He has to deal with questions of such a different character as bankruptcy proceedings, the management of joint stock companies, railways and tramways, water and gas companies, electric lighting companies, harbours and lighthouses, and, last but not least, with regulations with regard to the mercantile marine. If the right hon. Gentleman is unable to exercise effectively supervision over all this admittedly wide sphere of activity, the remedy of course lies in his own hands, but if he has made himself responsible for all these Departments, he must accept that responsibility and must not attempt to shelve it on to the permanent officials. It may be suggested that it is undesirable at the present time to deal with this question, in view of the fact that inquiry is being made into the circumstances which attended the "Titanic" disaster. But I would venture to suggest that we are dealing with facts which will not be in any way affected by the findings of that inquiry, whenever it may come to a conclusion, because the facts with which we are dealing, so far as this particular vessel is concerned, are well known. Here was a ship of about 50,000 tons burden, which had only just recently passed inspection by the right hon. Gentleman's officials. It had sailed from a British port under the British flag, and under regulations which admittedly had not been substantially altered since the year 1894. The result was, so far as the lifeboat carrying capacity of the vessel was concerned, although it carried 3,527 persons, there was only lifeboat accommodation—although it was sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the right hon. Gentleman and his officials—for 1,178 persons.

Another point to which I would like to draw the attention of the Committee is that this criticism does not, of course, apply merely to the "Titanic." It applies to every ship of over 10,000 tons sailing under the British flag to any port in the world. The right hon. Gentleman has utterly disregarded the changes that have taken place in the British mercantile marine during the last few years. Let me call attention to a statement made by his predecessor in office, now the Chancellor of the Exchequer, showing that he, at any rate, was fully aware of the alterations that were taking place. When that right hon. Gentleman spoke in this House on the introduction of the Merchant Shipping Act in 1906, he said that in ten or twelve years there might be as great changes in our mercantile marine as had taken place during the last twenty years, and he went on to add:— We want to be able to introduce regulations applicable to the changing circumstances of the hour, without having to have constant resort to the House of Commons for every change that may be required. That statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman, in his office, showed how precisely he appreciated the situation. He admitted that the regulations were out of date, and he stated that it was necessary that they should be brought up to date, so as to be applicable to the changing circumstances of the hour. What has the right hon. Gentleman done? In 1894 these regulations were up-to-date. I have taken the trouble to investigate as to the actual number of ships of over 10,000 tons in the years in question. In 1894 there were only two British vessels of over 10,000 tons, whereas now, in 1912, there are no fewer than 109 such vessels, thus showing that the conditions of the British Mercantile Marine have absolutely and completely changed. The right hon. Gentleman cannot say that his attention has not been called to this matter, because the late Member for Hackney drew his notice to it last year in the House of Commons in a question to which attention has been directed since the "Titanic" disaster. The right hon. Gentleman then admitted, in his reply, that the regulations had not been changed since 1894, and he added that the whole matter must be submitted to the Advisory Committee, a body largely consisting of shipowners and shipbuilders which held its meetings in secret. That body appointed a Sub-committee to deal with this question, and that Sub-committee submitted a Report to which allusion was made by one of the speakers who preceded me. We all know that the right hon. Gentleman took no notice whatever of the recommendations of this Committee; but on the 18th April, after the "Titanic" disaster had taken place, he made a statement to this House: These were the words he used:— In the last few days I have referred the matter back to the Committee for further examination. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman exactly what he means by the words, "the last few days." Does he mean before or after the "Titanic" disaster took place. If it was after that disaster, did he mean that the Report was sent back in the ordinary course of official routine, or were his words intended to imply that it was in consequence of the disaster that the matter was sent back to be revised. I cannot help thinking if he sent back the Report in consequence of the disaster it would have been more straightforward if he had made it perfectly clear, instead of conveying the impression that it was a mere coincidence, that the Report was sent back at that particular time. This is not merely a question of the provision of boats on ships. It is also a question of the manning of the boats, and it is a question which the right hon. Gentleman must consider. It is necessary that boats should be provided which are capable of being launched when an emergency occurs. I have taken a good many long voyages to different parts of the world, and I do not remember a single occasion on which I have seen boats swung out and the launching gear tested as it ought to be. I have come to the conclusion that in many cases the boats provided are in an absolutely unseaworthy condition. I am inclined to think that the regulations with regard to the provision of boats and for launching them have become practically obsolete. The only Member who spoke in the shipping interest referred to the case of the "Berlin" in 1907, and that case threw a great light on the manner in which these matters are managed by the Board of Trade. In consequence of an accident to the steamship "Berlin," by which a large number of lives were lost many questions were put to the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman, and the reply was to the effect that pending the formal investigation into the circumstances of that lamentable wreck it would not be expedient to make reference to certain matters bearing on the case. That is typical of the answers we get from time to time in this House in regard to these inquiries.

Take exactly what happened in the case of the "Berlin," and the result of the investigation which was conducted into that wreck. It was made clear to anyone who read the account of that disaster that the loss of life which occurred on that occasion was entirely attributable to the absence of effective line-throwing apparatus on board. If there had been a proper apparatus on board there' is no question that every person on board that ship would have been saved. An investigation was duly held, and strong recommendations were made that apparatus of this kind should be provided on all British ships in the future. Then the process of shifting responsibility began. The matter was referred by the Board of Trade to the Merchant Shipping Advisory Committee, who' reconsidered the whole matter, and came to no decision at all, except to refer the matter to a special Sub-committee. These appliances were tested all over the Kingdom at considerable cost to the British taxpayer. The Sub-committee, in the course of their investigations, visited the Mersey and the Tyne, then went to Dundee, and they finally wound up their travels in London. It would be interesting to know what was the expense of this investigation, because the Committee appear to have made an almost complete tour of Great Britain, and when they had completed their investigation they came to the decision to send the matter back to the Merchant Shipping Advisory Committee to reconsider the whole question anew. By this time a considerable amount of time had elapsed. Then the Merchant Shipping Advisory Committee issued a Report to the Board of Trade, urging the necessity for the further provision of some form of line-throwing apparatus on board all British ships. Then, of course, the whole thing completely fizzled out. The Board of Trade issued a circular—I have been able to obtain a copy of it—of an extremely anæmic character, in which they commended the recommendations of the Committee to the attention of those concerned, but regretted that they had no powers in the matter whatever. There the whole matter ended, and so far as I know there it stands at the present time, and no provision has been made to carry out the recommendations which were made at the Board of Trade inquiry into the circumstances which attended the wreck of the "Berlin."

The Board of Trade are continually finding an excuse for their inefficiency by stating that they have no power to act. That was their excuse with reference to this particular case. Have they ever applied here for powers to act in order to protect travellers and for the greater safety of our ships, and have those powers ever been refused to them? Do they ever seek such powers and find themselves unable to obtain them. The only object they have always had in view has been to satisfy public opinion for the time, and then, with their usual incorrigible slackness, to let things drift on as they were before. What is the use of the right hon. Gentleman making recommendations to the shipowners? In these days of keen competition to which allusion has been made, how does he expect shipowners to put themselves to heavy additional expense when their rivals who are less conscientious than themselves are able to ignore the recommendations of the Board of Trade altogether. Why should a shipowner who wants to do his duty be handicapped in favour of another shipowner whose only anxiety is to cut his expenses down to the minimum. If you are going to leave it to the shipowners it will be far better not to have any regulations of this kind at all. Then, at any rate, the travelling public would know where they were, and they would discriminate, when deciding to take a journey, probably in favour of the line which was able to state that it had made adequate provision for the safety of their passengers. But the position is that the Board of Trade professes to exercise control in these matters, whereas, in reality, it does not exercise control at all.

The question of the recommendations of the Manning Committee have already been referred to. I am not going to deal with them, but it is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs that, so far as I know, none of those recommendations have been followed up. I think the principal recommendation was that when ships were undermanned they were to be regarded as unseaworthy. Consider the manner in which the Board of Trade carried out that recommendation. They passed a Bill in this House stating that ships which were undermanned were unseaworthy, but they laid down no regulations as to what constituted an undermanned ship, consequently the whole thing was nugatory and void. In conclusion, I would say this: that this disaster which has attracted public attention to these matters has inflicted a blow upon the prestige not merely of the right hon. Gentleman and the Department which he controls, but unfortunately has inflicted a blow upon the prestige of the British Mercantile Marine. Here we have a case in which not only hundreds of British citizens, but hundreds of citizens of a foreign Power, connected with us by the closest ties of commerce, relationship, and friendship, have lost their lives. The result of the Inquiry which is taking place can make no difference whatever to the facts I have stated and which other hon. Members have stated in. the course of this Debate. It seems to me absolutely indisputable that there has been on the right hon. Gentleman's part a serious neglect of that duty which he owes, not only to the officers and men of the British Mercantile Marine, but also to the persons and passengers who travel upon the seas in British vessels, of whose interests and whose safety he is supposed to be the guardian.


I wish I had had the pleasure of the company of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who has just sat down, this morning at Waterloo Station. I should then have pointed out to him the signal over one of the trains—"North German-Lloyd Express." I should have indicated to him, what I gather from his speech has not been quite fully before him, the fact that every week, and on more than one occasion in some weeks, vessels flying foreign flags—German, French, and others—come to British ports and compete with British shipowners for passengers who ship in those British ports. It is quite easy to blame the President of the Board of Trade, and I for one agree with much that has been said by the last speaker, but I think it is necessary to bear in mind also that the right hon. Gentleman has had very considerable international difficulties to encounter. These questions of the preparations against the loss of life at sea and compulsory precautions to be enforced upon shipowners must be international questions. If the matter is not dealt with in that way, the result will be to reduce the employment of British seamen in British ships, and to penalise in competition British shipowners and British capital. I believe that the Board of Trade in framing their regulations have considerably more power than has been supposed by any speaker in this Debate. The Board of Trade have been framing their regulations with due regard to the, combination of safety from bulkheads as well as rescue by boats if the bulkheads fail. Where the bulkheads are, in the opinion of the Board of Trade's officers, such as to prolong the flotation of the vessel after she has been pierced in one or two compartments, then their requirements as regards the number of boats to be carried are less severe than if the bulkheads did not fulfil these conditions.

I, for one, am very strongly of opinion that in regard to the future the greatest importance should be attached to the provision of bulkheads. Prevention is better than cure, and it is infinitely more advantageous to safeguard the lives of the passengers by insuring the flotation of the ship, as far as one can, than by providing a large number of boats which would take off passengers after the vessel has foundered. The risks and dangers in transhipping passengers into small boats can have no reflex whatever in the circumstances of the "Titanic," because of the absolutely smooth sea and the mild weather which prevailed when that disaster took place. The great bulk of disasters at sea take place under circumstances of weather infinitely worse than those in the case of the "Titanic." Therefore I fear that the public mind has been misled very largely upon the question of boats, and has been withdrawn from the more important, more urgent, and more vital question of bulkheads. I do not think, although the Advisory Committee has been referred to by almost every speaker in this Debate, that any reference whatever has been made to the Bulkhead Committee, which the right hon. Gentleman has appointed within the last few days. That committee consists of something like a dozen of the leading men in the science of ship-construction and marine engineering, and I desire to compliment the right hon. Gentleman upon the selection which he has made, and to say I believe it is the general opinion of this House, and certainly in the shipbuilding trade, that whatever recommendation that Committee arrives at is likely to be a sound, fair, and reasonable recommendation, such as, in all probability he will be safe, in acting upon.

I should like to see the regulations of the Board of Trade in regard to bulkheads brought more closely into unison with the Admiralty regulations. I do not like to say that there are two large ships afloat which, in circumstances of collision similar to those of the "Titanic" might have survived, but I have heard that opinion expressed. The Admiralty, when they subsidise merchant vessels for war purposes, insist upon an arrangement of bulkheads for the protection of the engine-room in time of battle against shot, an arrangement of bulkheads which would afford the very protection that must be apparently lacking in a vessel which has transverse bulkheads only. In the case of the Admiralty Regulations, it is provided that on each side of the engine-room and the boiler-room there must be longitudinal bulkheads, running fore, and aft, with a very considerable space inside the shell of the ship, thus forming an inner skin, these bulkheads forming a space which is filled with coal, the main object being that the coal should be a protection against shot and shell for the engines and the boilers. In the particular case which the country is mourning at the present time, in which the outer skin of the ship was ripped longitudinally, there is no doubt whatever that several of the transverse bulkheads were injured. It seems from the evidence that in all probability—it is almost a certainty—the shell of the vessel considerably below the water line was ripped along in contact with the iceberg. Where you have bulkheads which are longitudinal in addition to the transverse bulkheads, such an injury as I have described, which probably took place in that unfortunate disaster, would not have the effect of filling so many compartments as to compel the ship to founder in a comparatively short time as in that case. I hope that the Bulkhead Committee and the Board of Trade, acting in unison, will arrive at the conclusion that the construction of longitudinal bulkheads, which the Admiralty desire for war purposes, may also be adopted by the Board of Trade for the purposes of securing the safety of merchant vessels. If that be so, then the risk of going to sea will be enormously minimised, especially in these large vessels.

6.0 P.M.

Before I sit down I invite the right hon. Gentleman to recall an answer he was good enough to give to myself about a month ago. I then pressed upon the right hon. Gentleman the importance of international relations in this matter. I pressed upon him what he knows and what he has realised, that in the case of the load line difficulty which we had some years ago in this country we found foreign ships coming into British ports and loading deeper and carrying more cargo than vessels under the British flag and the Board of Trade were driven to make a regulation, which they had power to make, placing vessels under foreign flags under the same system of possible detention if they were overladen as in the case of British ships— a system of detention which had been confined previously to British ships, greatly to their disadvantage in competition. The right hon. Gentleman was familiar with that difficulty. I think it will be of interest to the House, I am sure it will be of interest to shipowners, and I believe it will be of interest to the country if in his reply the right hon. Gentleman could state what is the position of that international question having regard to the investigations which are now being made. This Debate must be of assistance to the right hon. Gentleman in showing him the tone and temper of the House in regard to this matter. The inquiry which is being held by Lord Mersey will, of course, involve recommendations which the Board of Trade must treat with the utmost respect. The Bulkhead Committee, when it has finished its labours, will make recommendations which the right hon. Gentleman and his Department will be more or less bound to follow. All these investigations must result in recommendations for some changes in the regulations. They must result in recommendations for the provision of greater safety, recommendations which will cost money, which will hamper working and which will increase the current expenditure of British ships. If these recommendations come after the right hon. Gentleman has paved the way, through the Foreign Office, by negotiations with other countries, it will be possible to carry them out immediately, but if the right hon. Gentleman waits until after these investigations have been completed, possibly some weeks, it may be months hence, and then begins through the Foreign Office to endeavour to arrange with our competitors, precious time will have been lost and the regulations for safety, so essential and so demanded by the country, will have been delayed and the blame will lie on the head of the right hon. Gentleman and his Department. So I invite him in his reply not to lose sight of that fact, and to give the House some indication of what the Government has done in bringing forward negotiations in this matter with our foreign competitors.


I ask the indulgence of the House. Not only do I speak with a great sense of responsibility as President of the Board of Trade, but hon. Members can understand that at present the various suggestions and inquiries which are going on are all matter of very anxious moment to me and to my Department. I have also to speak for the Marine Department, which has been the subject of severe comment from hon. Members. I have therefore to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, and I am fearful lest, through deficiencies of my own, I may not be able to give the House the desired impression which I wish to leave on their mind. I am not, of course, complaining. On the contrary, I welcome this Debate, and I think it is a very good thing that we should have an opportunity of discussing the various matters which we have been considering this afternoon. I agree with the hon. Gentleman (Sir F. Flannery) that a Debate of this sort is naturally and necessarily of assistance to myself and my Department in considering the various problems with which they are faced. I am quite sure the House will desire in this matter to be just to the Department. Two or three Members, and especially the Noble Lord (Lord Charles Beresford), said this was not a party question, and ought to be treated from a national point of view. I should like to endorse that statement, because, after all, the gist of the allegation is that this has covered a long period of time during which the Parliamentary chiefs have been of different political complexions. It so happens—I am not taking credit for it—that the question of the revision of these rules and regulations was first taken in hand during the time I have had the honour of being President of the Board of Trade. The hon. Gentleman (Sir F. Flannery) and the Noble Lord (Lord Charles Beresford) dealt with a question of very great moment in this matter—the international aspect of it—and they said if you are to deal with these matters effectively you want to have an international agreement so that there shall be no undue competition on the one hand, and you want to bring the standard up to the highest possible level. The hon. Member (Sir F. Flannery) wanted to know how we stood in this matter because he was afraid of delay. I am glad to inform the House that we are at present in consultation and in negotiation with the German Government in reference to an International Conference on the question of appliances for safety at sea, but we made it quite clear in our communication with the German Government that, so far as we are concerned, however advantageous such an International Conference would be, it cannot delay such rules and regulations as, after consideration, we think ought to be imposed. They will no doubt be subject to revision at the International Conference, but the conference shall not stand in the way of issuing our regulations.


What about the French and Italian Governments?


The International Conference would, of course, include them.


When would that be?


I cannot say. We are in negotiation. My point is that it cannot lead to any delay in issuing regulations for the safety of our own ships.


Have communications been addressed already to the French and Italian Governments, or have communications passed only with Germany?


So far with the German Government only.


Did Germany initiate the communications?


The German Government communicated with our Government, but we were at that moment about to communicate with them. I do not think there has been any rivalry or jealousy in regard to the matter. The two main accusations made against the Board of Trade have been in the first place that the regulations and rules do not provide for a sufficiency of boats, and in the second place—a more serious one—that there has been gross and apathetic neglect on the part of the Marine Department in extending this scale to our larger class of vessels of higher tonnage than the original regulations were intended to apply to. I am again in a somewhat difficult position here, because these matters have been referred specifically for the Court of Inquiry to consider. Certainly I have no intention of sheltering myself behind the excuse of its being sub judice, because, after what has been said of the Marine Department, I desire to inform the House how the matter actually stands. The statutory position of the Board is that they have to issue these rules and regulations. I will deal first with the question of how far the existing rules are adequate, or have been thought up to now to be adequate. I am concerned with the position of the Board of Trade in regard to this matter. I want to show the House how these regulations arose and how they stand now. Some years ago there was a Departmental Committee to consider the question. At that time it was the very rapid extension of steam over sail which made a revision of the rules necessary. That was in 1886. In 1887 a Committee of the House was appointed, and they recommended specifically the creation of a Statutory Committee composed in a certain way. That was set up by the Act of 1888, and it met on several occasions—a very strong and a very representative Committee. It made certain recommendations in regard to rules and regulations for all classes of vessels, and they were unanimous in their Report. The standard which they set up has been the basis for the existing rules and regulations, and has formed a standard on which they have been based ever since.

They never in their rules and regulations proposed that, as regards certain classes of passenger ships, there should be sufficient boat accommodation for everyone. They were impressed, like others at that time, and up till the other day, with the advantages of the bulkhead system, and they were also impressed with the disadvantages, which have been referred to by more than one speaker, of a ship having too many boats and one boat hampering another. That was very much in their minds in fixing their regulations. I am not concerned to argue whether they were right or wrong in their contention. After the disaster which occurred lately it is obvious that these rules and regulations must be radically altered. I assert broadly, and this is really my answer to a good many of the speeches which have been made, that if those who made these rules and followed them erred—I am speaking of the question of boat accommodation—they erred in good company. They met with, and were confirmed by, the best opinion at that time and since, and all the regulations, as far as I am aware, have practically gone unchallenged up to the other day. I believe this question of whether there was sufficient boat accommodation for some of these passenger ships has never once been raised on any Board of Trade Estimate up to the present moment. I admit fully that the present position necessitates reconsideration of the matter, and I think that is the answer to the general charge of neglect in regard to this matter.


There have been questions on the Paper relating to the subject for some time past. I put one nearly nine months ago.


I do not think the hon. Member's question was directed to show that there was insufficiency of boat accommodation; it has never been challenged up to the present moment.


Can the right hon. Gentleman explain these regulations, of which I have a copy? It seems to me perfectly evident that the intention is to frame these regulations to which he refers so that there should be sufficient boat accommodation, because I notice the last paragraph says, "Provided no ship of this class shall be required to carry more boats or rafts than will furnish accommodation for all persons on board."


The hon. Member really has not appreciated the position. He referred in his speech to the first paragraph, where a ship carrying a certain number of boats under davits did not furnish sufficient accommodation, there were to be additional collapsible or other boats. That is subject to the provision of paragraph 7:—

"Such additional boats or rafts shall be in the aggregate for vessels of 5,000 tons and upwards, three-fourths more than those under davits."

That is not in any way at all a provision for complete boat accommodation for all on board. These are the rules and regulations of the Statutory Committee. They were intended by the Committee in that way, and have always been interpreted in that sense. With regard to this matter, what I wish to point out to the Committee is that if there were mistakes, the responsibility does not lie in the matter of boat accommodation entirely on the Board of Trade, but the responsibility must fall, to a certain extent, both on the original Committee and on Parliament itself. At all events, these are rules which require revision and should be most carefully revised. The other and more grave point, from the point of view of the accusation made against the Board of Trade, is the charge of culpable neglect, and the statement that during these years since the rules were first devised and put into operation, and in spite of the increase in the size of vessels, the Board of Trade has not extended the scale at the upper end. I have examined very carefully into this question, and I have been enabled to do so impartially and dispassionately. After very careful inquiry, I am quite convinced that during that period the officers responsible acted with due diligence and intelligence in the light of the experience available, and according to the generally accepted standard of safety of those best competent to give au opinion. I will tell the House why I have come to that conclusion I am quite sure the House in this matter will desire to do justice and will consider the matter without any prejudice.

The suggestion, as I understand it, is that the life-saving rules were not substantially revised since they were originally drawn up in 1894, that although they have been reviewed in some respects they were not reviewed in the way of extending the scale at the upper end, and that the Department was unaware of the great developments which had taken place in shipbuilding. The facts are the very opposite. In those very years, though the rules were not fundamentally altered, they were always being watched and always being carefully reviewed. The professional advisers of the Board in this matter were watching the operation of the life-saving rules by the light of the records of casualties, by the light of the verdicts of Courts of Inquiry, and by the light of the changes and improvements which had taken place in the construction of passenger ships, in the construction of boats, and other relevant matters. I have already explained to the House how these rules came into operation through a statutory Committee. That Committee had met earlier, but in 1894 they held another meeting and raised the scale to 10,000 tons and upwards. More than one hon. Member seemed to assume that 10,000 tons was at the top of the scale. That is not so. The scale was 10,000 tons and upwards, and the Committee at that time extended the number of boats required from fourteen to sixteen, which, of course, would also cover the 75 per cent, with the other boats and life-saving appliances. The Committee thus anticipated that their rules would apply not merely to ships of 10,000 tons, but to ships of that tonnage and upwards, because they have the official accommodation required. Surely it was their intention and desire that the scale should apply to larger ships than those of 10,000 tons. But in addition to that—and I wish the House to give this very serious attention—before 1894, when this Statutory Committee laid down its rules, there was in existence the "Campania," of no less than 13,000 tons, certified for 1,850 passengers and crew. I think it is quite clear that the Committee had then the "Campania" in mind, and intended that their rules should apply to a ship of 13,000 tons carrying nearly 2,000 passengers and crew. Though I do not for a moment believe that the Committee anticipated ships of the enormous dimensions of the "Lusitania" or the "Olympic" they, being practical men, anticipated that, with a ship of 13,000 tons already launched, ships considerably larger in size would in the near future also come under the scale. They reckoned, like everyone else, at that time, that the increase in the size and strength of ships would largely mitigate the necessity for additional boats.

In the ten years after 1894 there was no great development in shipbuilding, with the exception of the "Oceanic," which was launched in 1899. It was 17,000 tons, certified for 2,121 passengers, an increase, as compared with the "Campania" of only 264 persons. That clearly was covered by the rules and intentions of the Committee. I have pointed out that at the time the Committee laid down these regulations the Board of Trade adopted and Parliament accepted them. In 1903, the "Cedric," of 21,000 tons, was launched, and her certificate for crew and passengers was only the same as for the "Oceanic." I wish to point out that up to 1903, of forty-seven vessels over 10,000 tons, only six were over 14,000 tons, and of those six only two had a larger number of passengers than the "Campania" had in 1893, when the Committee sat. That means as regards the number of passengers and crew that, though there had been growth in the size of vessels, there had been practically no increase in the carrying of passengers. The great increase in the size of the ships was due to the fact that the new era was beginning of more luxurious ships carrying a larger number of first-class passengers with a larger amount of cubic space for each, and carrying fewer third-class passengers. In 1904–5 a new situation was created. In 1904 the "Baltic," another White Star liner, was launched. It is a vessel of 23,800 tons with certified accommodation for 2,411 passengers and crew. In 1905 the "Carmenia" and the "Corona," each of 20,000 tons, and certified for about 3,000 passengers and crew were also launched. This raised, of course, the whole question of the sufficiency of the scale. I wish to say that these ships were carefully examined by the professional advisers of the Board of Trade, and as the result they deliberately, after careful inquiry, abstained from advising any alteration of the scale. I understand the conclusion they came to was based on the general grounds that the records of casualties of this class of ships showed extraordinary few risks, and that the findings of courts of inquiry were not any argument in favour of the provision of more boat accommodation.

In addition to that they were very much impressed—and I think it impressed the original Committee and those who from time to time considered the matter—that in connection with these larger and newer ships the risk of sinking had very much diminished. I am not concerned to show in a matter of opinion whether the conclusions come to by those professional advisers was right or not, but what I am concerned to show is that from time to time, and especially at the crucial period of 1904–5, the matter was carefully gone into and examined, and that the conclusions come to were in harmony with the expert opinion which prevailed at that time.


Is it the same expert opinion as we have now?


No, but I am wishing to show that the gentleman who was then at the head of that branch of the Department and those advising him were not guilty of what has been alleged against them, namely, negligence in these matters. I think I have shown to the House that since 1904–5 no fresh question had arisen since the original regulations and suggestions of the Statutory Committee were made. In those years great attention was given to the matter, and the conclusion come to by the professional advisers was that there was no need of revised regulations. This is also material from the point of view of expert opinion and the question how far the Statutory Advisers were right. In 1906, as the House knows, my predecessor, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was dealing with the whole question of maritime matters and shipping in general. I think the House knows very well that my right hon. Friend has never spared himself when he has to consider a question in seeing all sorts and conditions of men, and hearing all interests involved in the matter. There were a very large number of conferences of various sorts, representing all sections of opinion, in reference to maritime matters, and I am assured that during the whole course of the discussions, the particular question as to whether there was sufficient boat accommodation or not was never mentioned.


That is not the case. I raised it myself upstairs in Committee.


I am assured that in all these conferences the question was not brought before my right hon. Friend.


It was in the Committee upstairs.


I was thinking of the conferences in which representatives of the maritime interests were concerned, and I am merely using the argument to show that at that time the best opinion of those most interested in the matter was in accord with the rules and regulations.


Was the opinion of the Advisory Committee asked for in regard to boat accommodation in 1905–6?


The Advisory Committee was not then in existence. In 1907, two years after the year in which, rightly or wrongly, the professional advisers had given their opinion that there was no case made for changing the rules and regulations, we had the "Lusitania" and the "Mauretania," each of 31,000 tons. Though they were 50 per cent, larger in tonnage than their two predecessors of two years before, they were actually certified for fewer passengers. That is to say, under the same system to which I have referred to just now there was a provision of larger floating capacity for each passenger, and the professional advisers, rightly or wrongly, came to the conclusion that they were not justified in making any change in consequence of the increased tonnage of these ships. Then came 1911, when we got the "Olympic," up to 40,000 tons, and there was a considerable increase in passengers as compared with the "Lusitania" and the "Mauretania," though it was not anything like in proportion to the increase in size. Acting on the advice of my professional officers at that time, whose attention had been drawn to this, we thought the time had come to have a revision of these rules and regulations, and we did therefore very carefully consider the whole question. We reopened it, and referred it to the Advisory Committee. That Committee made several recommendations, and the Board of Trade, through its officers, before coming to a final conclusion in regard to these recommendations, were anxious to make further experiments as to the boats, their shape, and capacity, and so on. One hon. Member has said that there was a great delay in carrying out the recommendations of the officers of the Board of Trade and of the Advisory Committee in 1911. I really do not think that that is so. If we had anticipated the loss of the "Titanic" naturally we should have moved more quickly, but that was a thing we could not do. There was no avoidable delay. It was carefully considered before the Advisory Committee, and it was very essential before coming to a final conclusion that we should have greater experience and greater opportunity of knowing what would be the best class and best type of boat to carry on board, because that is very important from the point of view of safety, and it is also very material from the point of view of carrying a larger number of boats to have them of a shape which is more easily accommodated than the existing shape. I can assure the House that there was no delay in reference to the matter, and that the experiments were carried out with the greatest possible speed. One hon. Gentleman insinuated that the communication with the Board of Trade on the Report of the Advisory Committee was due to the loss of the "Titanic," and that we should not have moved in the matter if it had not been for that unhappy event. There is not a word of truth in that suggestion.


What I really asked the right hon. Gentleman was whether it referred to a date after or before the disaster had occurred.


I hope the hon. Member will take my word for it when I tell him that, though the actual official letter went the day after the loss of the "Titanic," the question had been considered for some little time before, and it was only because we were finishing up certain enquiries that the delay occurred. But I can assure him that the question of the "Titanic" had not come on, because it was all settled before that disaster arose. Of course, as soon as that disaster arose, that particular communication was naturally swept away, and we had further communications with the Committee in order to have inquiries into these other various questions. But the point as to which I wish to claim the indulgence of the House is in reference to the statement that there has been negligence by the Board of Trade in reference to these rules and regulations. I have convinced myself that this is not so. We have to show by giving the actual facts from year to year that, rightly or wrongly, whether a mistake was made in the conclusions at all events there was no negligence in regard to these matters.

Perhaps the House will allow me to revert from that to other questions which have been raised in the course of the Debate and to matters which really, I think, in a sense are of more moment, namely, what is best to be done at present and what we should do for the future. Naturally, all the regulations in connection with shipping must be reconsidered carefully by the light of what has happened, and they will require prompt and careful attention, and both as regards the Advisory Committee and myself and the Court, the course of the inquiry is receiving careful attention. As regards the Advisory Committee, as the question has been raised, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Limerick (Mr. Joyce) that that Committee has done very good service indeed to the Board of Trade and the country at large. He showed, I think, how well qualified it was to deal with these questions. In addition to that, being people who co-opt certain Members, while recently considering these new life-saving appliances, they have co-opted a certain number of gentlemen who will be of material benefit at their consultations. Then we shall have the further International Conference to which I have referred. Therefore, I hope we shall be in a position before long to suggest to the House various proposals in regard to the rules and regulations.

But there are, if I may divide the question, certain heads under which I shall put them in order. First is the question of navigation; second, the question of routes, and the third, the question of speed where there is likely to be ice. All these things are obviously questions which will have to be considered very carefully by Lord Mersey's Court. Therefore, I am not prepared to say anything in regard to them. I think they are very essential in regard to what we all desire, the actual safety of the ship crossing the Atlantic. The Noble Lord (Lord Charles Beresford) went in some detail into the question of bulkheads and watertight compartments, and suggested that it was the question which lay at the root of the safety of these big ships. I do no know whether he is aware that a short time ago that was one of the things which occurred to me the most important in reference to which the Board of Trade could take action, and therefore I came to the conclusion that it would be an advantageous thing to appoint a strong Committee to go into the whole question of bulkheads and make recommendations to the Board of Trade in reference to these matters. I am very glad that my hon. Friend, knowing the names of those who are connected with this matter was able to say that it is a strong Committee. With a Committee of that sort it always takes some little time to get your personnel. It requires interview and correspondence. But I am glad to know that they are going to meet at once, and I am quite sure that the result will be satisfactory to the Noble Lord and to those who are interested in this question. I, of course, as a layman, have no views, and it would not be right for me to express them if I had, in regard to the best method of carrying out a bulkhead system. But speaking as a layman and as one without authority, I am bound to say that I agree with the views of the Noble Lord and of my hon. Friend behind me in regard to bulkheads. I have been taking the opportunity of seeing various classes of ships, and it does seem to me that if you want to have a safe bulkhead you must have one with no more than one manhole, if you cannot avoid the manhole altogether. But in this I speak purely as a layman exercising ordinary common sense in looking at these things.

The second matter which I think important after the bulkheads is wireless telegraphy. Complaint has been made that we have not a wireless telegraphy on certain classes of ships. I take full responsibility for the delay which there has been in having a compulsory Act on this point. This question of wireless is one in which I have taken very great interest. When I was at the Post Office I think I made a very advantageous purchase for the nation of all the wireless stations throughout the country. But we had two years ago a Departmental Committee of the Post Office, the Admiralty, and the Board of Trade, on which we considered the question of enforcing compulsion on ships in regard to wireless, and we came to the conclusion that the matter was premature. I am quite sure that it would have been a mistake in the early days of wireless to have had compulsion. Hon. Members must remember that the matter is of very recent growth, and the system then was still developing, and I think that shipowners would have cause to complain if we had insisted on their adopting a system of wireless without being able to show that they would be able to obtain an efficient and proper system. A point which weighed very much with me at that time and does still though it is now modified, is that an efficient wireless operator is a man who must have had a considerable amount of experience and education before he becomes an efficient operator. If we had suddenly and prematurely enforced compulsory wireless telegraphy on all our ships what would have happened? We should have had on our ships, or very many of them, inefficient operators. In regard to wireless telegraphy those who are scientifically acquainted with the subject have all impressed upon me that the worst thing that could possibly occur would be to have inefficient operators, because they would interfere with everybody else's messages while not able to send messages themselves. I hope I have shown the Committee that premature action in regard to this matter might have done much more harm than good. I find from the figures that out of 850 ocean-going vessels no less than 314 of them have already wireless equipment on board, and there is a large increase in the number of wireless operators.


How many have continuous service?


I cannot say that offhand. I think it is quite clear that the feeling is now that the time is ripe for extending the system of wireless telegraphy, and I am considering at the present moment the best method by which that object can be attained.


At present, as I understand, the wireless operators are licensed by the Post Office. Will they be transferred from the Post Office to the Board of Trade?


The Post Office licence these operators, and the licence is one of a stringent character, requiring certain qualifications, and imposing conditions as to character and so on, in order that the work may be carried out efficiently. I cannot say what will be the final arrangement between the two Departments, but I for one should be very glad, m fact, that the Post Office itself should continue to license the operators. I hope, however, that the Noble Lord will not press me further on that point; it is a matter for further consideration. The question of life-saving appliances is the next point. The hon. Member opposite dealt with the question of the provision of boats and rafts on board ship. Without going into the actual merits of the question, I am bound to say my view is that there ought to be on all ocean-going ships enough boats and rafts for everyone on board. The Noble Lord referred to a certain form of raft, and I am very sure that some of the shipbuilders and shipowners whom I have had the honour of consulting believe that, under certain conditions, rafts of a certain form are more efficacious than boats. That, however, is a matter which will have to be gone into very carefully in order to see whether those rafts ought to be admitted under the new regulations. I may point out that since the "Titanic" disaster the Board of Trade have had an opportunity, by invitation, of considering, in consultation with those representing all classes of passenger ships, what the owners themselves propose to do. We have had the representatives of the great liners, the representatives of the shipping industry itself, the representatives of the cross-Channel services, and the representatives of the excursion steamers in consultation, and they all of them in every case came very willingly, and very willingly gave such information as we desired to obtain. Some time ago I told the House that the owners of practically all the ships over 10,000 tons have assured me that in future, as soon as circumstances permit—that is as soon as they can get the boats—they will in every case carry sufficient boat or raft accommodation for every one on board. Since then I have received further communications affecting the whole of the shipping industry of the country, and I have received assurances which I think should be a source of satisfaction to the public and to the House, that out of all ocean-going ships above 1,500 tons up to 40,000 tons, out of 661 vessels of that type, no less than 95 per cent, of the owners of those ships have already assured me that they intend to have on their vessels boat and raft accommodation for all on board. I think I have, already indicated that the whole of the ocean-going ships are covered by that undertaking.


Have they explained how they propose to launch their boats?


I was going to deal with that question. It is of no good, of course, having a larger number of boats if they are not going to be readily available in case of necessity; and therefore I have had communication with the shipowners in regard to what I consider a very important point indeed raised by the Noble Lord, namely, the question of what I may call organisation, discipline, and manning. It is quite essential, in addition to drilling and other matters, that the boats should be surveyed from time to time. It is quite obvious, if these additional boats are provided, that unless the organisation is sufficiently satisfactory and kept up to the standard which the Noble Lord desires, a good deal of the advantage of the additional number of boats would be lost in the lack of organisation. I am glad to say that I have had a number of very encouraging letters and suggestions from various shipowners in regard to this matter, and I know that they are giving it their utmost attention. There is the further point on which I have had communications, namely, the third-class passengers. It is quite clear from what occurred on the "Titanic" that they are in a more difficult position to get at, and that they are not easily persuaded to go into the boats; but that is a matter, after the recent calamity, which I hope and trust is not likely to be repeated. I have been dealing with what I call the liners and ocean-going ships, but I am bound to say, on looking into the matter, that I am quite as much impressed with the question of the cross-Channel steamers and with the question of excursion boats. As regards the Channel steamers, I have had an opportunity of discussing the matter with those concerned, and I am glad to say that they are all giving it the greatest possible consideration, with a view to seeing how far they can improve the boat accommodation.


Does that include class D—that is the class which carries no boats at all?


I think there is only one vessel that carries no boats at all, and that plies only in Portsmouth Harbour. If the hon. Gentleman can give me any other case I shall be glad to inquire into it.


There is a boat which plies near the Isle of Wight and in Cowes Harbour which has no boat accommodation.


I will certainly look into the case, but I thought that the only instance was that of the boat which plies in Portsmouth Harbour and which is specially licensed. I shall be very glad to look into any facts with which the hon. Gentleman can furnish me. In regard to the cross-Channel steamers, I have been assured by the representatives of that class of vessels that they are giving the matter the greatest possible consideration. There are two cases in regard to which certain figures may prove of interest. One is the South-Eastern Company, and the figures show that their steamers last year made 2,697 trips across the Channel, and out of that number there were only 607 trips in which the vessels had not sufficient boat or floating seat accommodation, for all on board. They proposed themselves to endeavour to provide additional boat accommodation practically to cover all occasions, and be sufficient for all on board. All the cases where there were more persons than boat accommodation were in the day time, and not at night. In the other case, the London, Brighton, and South Coast Company, in only 12 per cent, of their passages did the number of passengers exceed the boat and floating seat accommodation provided. I hope the House will see that in these matters we have not been idle, and that, after all, the communications we have had with the various interests concerned, we have already done something towards dealing with this subject. The class of excursion steamers is a very difficult one to deal with. Unfortunately, there are economic and other considerations which make it very hard to know what is the best method to adopt in order to increase the life-saving appliances on board those vessels. It is a question in regard to which we are in communication with the various persons concerned, and it is quite possible I may have to ask for a further inquiry into the matter.


When I was in command of those waters at Blackpool and the Isle of Man I ordered back two steamers on my own account for being overcrowded.


I have been in communication with the owners, and, as I have been endeavouring to point out to the Committee, we have been really doing our best in regard to this question of the regulations. We have been in personal communication with all those who are interested in these matters in order to see, as far as possible, what they will do voluntarily in anticipation of our regulations, to bring the standard up to as high a level as possible. I have endeavoured to deal substantially with the various questions concerned, and I can assure hon. Members, when we frame the rules and regulations, if I find in any way they fall short of what we desire, I shall not hesitate for a moment to ask the House for greater powers in order that all these matters may be adequately dealt with.

7.0 P.M.


I think everybody in the Committee this afternoon must have been interested in the air of detachment with which the President of the Board of Trade was able to take this very critical and difficult question. I have here every question that has been asked in this House during the last two months on this subject, and the President of the Board of Trade has emerged, or did emerge at the last moment, from that sea of confusion in which he had been since the "Titanic" disaster. At last he told us that in spite of Advisory Committees, in spite of Statutory Committees, in spite of conferences, he will now, by personal pressure and friendly pressure on the companies, see that higher qualifications and higher regulations are required of the shipping companies, so that there shall be lifeboats and rafts for every person on board.


I had already announced my action as regards the larger ships, and what I have now announced is as in regard to the smaller ships over 1,500 tons.


I do not think the right hon. Gentleman's reply is quite satisfactory. I asked the right hon. Gentleman on 23rd April:— Is there any intention on the part of the Government to make any provisional revision of the Regulations of the Board of Trade, pending the result of the Court of Inquiry?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd April, 1912, col. 93].] The President of the Board of Trade replied that there was absolutely no such intention. He received applause from many portions of the House. On the following day, the 24th April, which will show that the right hon. Gentleman was really drifting from day to day and making up his mind from hour to hour, not by past experience, not by advice given over long periods by his Department, but, as pressure came about in this House, he was prepared to make his reply. What was his reply? The ex-Member for South Hackney (Mr. Bottomley) inquired whether— he proposed to make any fresh regulations as to the number of lifeboats to be carried by passenger vessels.'—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th April, 1912, col. 1088.] The right hon. Gentleman's reply was:— I do not think it will be necessary to await the final Report of thin Committee on a]l these questions, or the verdict of the Court of Inquiry before issuing any revised Regulations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th April, 1912, col. 1089] I leave it to this Committee if the right hon. Gentleman knew his own mind. On one day he replies to me that the Government had no intention whatever of revising, regulations before the finding of the Court, and the next day, to a supporter from his own side, he replies that he intends to make a revision of the regulations before the decision of the Court of Inquiry. I have here all the extracts from the Official Report. I say that that is indicative of the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessors over a long period of years. In 1894, the last regulations were made. The next time where there occurred a period when the regulations should be revised, whether they had been revised meanwhile or not, was when the Bill of 1906 was brought in. When that Bill was brought in, it is perfectly clear that the sheet was clean, and that whatever the mistakes of the past had been the Government had arrived at that point where they must deal with the situation as it existed in 1906. The right hon. Gentleman may talk about his Statutory Committees, but when you came to the Bill of 1906, Statutory Committees and everything else must necessarily disappear in the light of the new Bill to control our merchant shipping. What happened? In 1906 the present Chancellor of the Exchequer brought in the Merchant Shipping Bill. During the discussion of that Bill myself and others raised the question of lifeboat accommodation, boat-drill, about the men in the boats, and as to the training of men to row the boats. When we did that, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, "It will not be necessary. We are now dealing with the broad question of the load line and of accommodation for seamen on board the ships. We are doubling the accommodation on the ships, and we must leave this question of regulations to a responsible body which we are going to form, called the Advisory Committee," ridding himself of obligation there and then. I do not want to attack the Advisory Committee, and I certainly shall not attack the permanent officials of the Board of Trade. The right hon. Gentleman is taking up the position, and in effect said that he must not be attacked, and in effect that at any rate the Board of Trade must be attacked and the Advisory Committee must be attacked. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no."] Does the right hon. Gentleman deny that? I am in the hearing of the Committee. I have the right hon. Gentleman's words taken down at the time, and he said that responsibility must not fall on the Board of Trade alone—[HON. MEMBERS: "He said on Parliament."]—but on the original Statutory Committee that had been appointed.


I was dealing with the point that a Statutory Committee had been formed for which Parliament was responsible. In regard to the question of responsibility, what I said was that that Committee and Parliament are in a sense responsible. I was not throwing the responsibility on them; I took the full responsibility and the hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. I was showing now it was that the Board of Trade carried out those regulations and under what statutory conditions.


I accept the right hon. Gentleman's explanation, but my point is this, that he and his predecessor were responsible for relying alone upon the Advisory Committee for those regulations. He says that the regulations were laid on the Table of the House. We know perfectly well what happens when regulations are laid on the Table of the House. Unless there is some person who is very expert and knows thoroughly the whole case, it is very difficult to make proper revisions of those regulations. We naturally supposed that the President of the Board of Trade, fully supplied with information by his expert advisers, would have satisfied himself that those regulations were what they should be. For the right hon. Gentleman to say that he accepts, or his predecessor accepted, the judgment of the Advisory Committee or the Statutory Committee as complete, and so complete that he must not interfere with it, raises to my mind a later illustration of that kind of thing. A Committee on Irish finance reported to the Cabinet upon the financial relations between this country and Ireland. The Committee of the Cabinet refused to accept the recommendations of that Committee. Now, as it seems to me, if we are going to allow Ministers to ride off upon the decisions of their Advisory Committees, we are entering upon a career of responsibility from which the country must necessarily suffer. The right hon. Gentleman says now that there must be boats and rafts for everyone on board. We have had great confusion this afternoon in that respect. The hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt), who, I have no doubt, attended the conference which advised the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he was President of the Board of Trade, says that lifeboats are no security, and that if the passengers will only believe in the, safety of the ship and rely on that as their safety, that all will be well. That is exactly what the passengers on the "Titanic" did: they believed in the safety of the ship and trusted to the shipowners and to the regulations, and with what result—with the result which we all know. I believe that the Advisory Committee, and I say this without any disrespect, if the majority of shipowners hold the view of the hon. Gentleman opposite, must necessarily have reported as they did to the President of the Board of Trade. My Noble Friend (Lord C. Beresford) holds the same view about that question. He says that he does not think that lifeboats are going to be any efficient guarantee, and that you must have your safety from bulkheads and the unsinkability of the ship. I would like to ask him what about fire. There the question of bulkheads disappears. Suppose there is a fire, what is to take the passengers off?


Under what conditions?


Under conditions that have happened before. There have been fires on ships in spite of the modern steel and iron construction. Only a year ago there was a desperate conflagration of that kind. My point is this: that from first to last there has been confusion in regard to these regulations, whether they apply to lifeboats or whether they apply to boat drill, or whether they apply to the manning of the boats. The right hon. Gentleman tells us after all these years that there must be organisation, that there must be boat drill, and that there must be men capable of manning and rowing these boats in times of emergency. Why, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessors pooh-poohed this idea when it was first brought forward in this House after the "Titanic" disaster, and when Members of this House like myself, brought it forward in Committee upstairs on the Merchant Shipping Act. I frankly say after listening this evening to the Debate and looking back over what has happened during the last few months, I feel in a position of despair, and I believe when the public in to-morrow's newspapers read this Debate, and the right ton. Gentleman's statement, that they will not know what to think. The right hon. Gentleman has now decided that there must be full provision for every passenger aboard, in lifeboats and rafts. He has decided that there shall be organisation, and that there are to be regulations dealing with boat drill and with the manning of the boats. That very decision, what does it teach us? It teaches us one of two things, either that the Board of Trade and the expert advisers did not know their business, or that the right hon. Gentleman, who is in a position of authority, did not seek when pressed in the past, or when the regulations were before him, to probe the matter to its depth. It is not the "Titanic" alone. There was the "Oceana" disaster. That was another problem. It was not the problem of the lifeboats; it was the problem of lowering the boats from the davits, the problem of seamanship, the problem of the rolling of the boats. What happened? There was loss of life. To what was that loss of life due? It was due absolutely to lack of drill, to the lack of that organisation which the right hon. Gentleman is now going to bring into force without waiting for the decision of the Court of Inquiry.

My attention was directed to this question thirty years ago, when two accidents occurred in the Indian Ocean on ships on which I was. There were accidents in which lives were lost, in one case four and in the other six, due to the fact that the boat drill was inadequate. Identically the same accident occurred to the boats that occurred upon the "Oceana." The boats dropped owing to the inefficient seamen, stewards or lascars, who held the ropes, with the result that people were precipitated into the water and lives were lost. We have been fastening our minds very much upon one thing, namely, the provision of lifeboats for these great vessels, with only one accident in mind, namely, the accident to the "Titanic." An hon. Friend of mine drew attention to another accident of a very serious kind, that which occurred to the "Berlin." Nothing was done by the Board of Trade after that accident or after that Court of Inquiry. The fact is, as I believe, the Board of Trade were depending upon the advice of those who, on the whole, were most interested in having the fewest lifeboats and the minimum of regulations compelling them to do things which they thought were not necessary. I think the Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt) is quite sincere in what he says, but we can understand how his mind might move in that direction. We can understand that the fewer regulations there are the better he is satisfied. He takes his chance. He says that his ships are not insured, and that that is a good guarantee that his own company believes that there is safety for passengers in their ships, as otherwise they would insure. There is no safety at sea. Nature does her work in spite of all the mechanical and other skill of man. My Noble Friend (Lord C. Beresford), who has had very great experience, and who this afternoon made a speech full of point and understanding, rests himself, like many other experts upon that which interests him most, upon the things which are most important to his mind. He believes there will always be enough lifeboats. He goes for bulkheads and the unsinkability of the ship. The President of the Board of Trade now goes for that. He goes for all. He is going to have sufficient lifeboats for all, organisation, manning, seamanship, bulkheads, and everything else. I am not at all sure that six months from now, when this inquiry has ended, when public anxiety has declined through other things of interest coming up, and the excitement has been allayed, unless we in this House insist upon regulations being drafted now in the light of this recent experience—and not of this alone, but the experience of the last twenty years—that we shall be in any better position than we were a month or so ago when the "Titanic" went down.

I would make this appeal to the Committee. We are only a few of the Members of this House; but I am absolutely certain that the right hon. Gentleman's speech this afternoon has not satisfied us on anything except one thing, and that is that political pressure from his own side—and many of us know how strongly Members on that side have felt regarding this disaster—and pressure from this side has induced the right hon. Gentleman, m spite of his advisers and Advisory and Statutory Committees, at last to take action, because the reputation of the Government and of himself depends upon it. But, in the light of the extracts which I have read this afternoon, I do not attribute the right hon. Gentleman's Motion to a clear understanding of what the position was regarding these regulations and the safety of ships. When I asked him what powers the Board of Trade had regarding regulations, and whether any regulations were framed to deal with the manning of boats, boat drill, the lowering and the rowing of lifeboats, he could make no answer. The next day an hon. Member on his own side asked the same question, and meanwhile the right hon. Gentleman had informed himself in the Board of Trade that the Government had power to make regulations, but that there were no regulations regarding these very essential things. I consider, and I believe my Noble Friend (Lord C. Beresford) considers, that the manning of the boats and boat drill are of as much importance as the existence of the lifeboats themselves. Without such preparations you cannot have the advantage even of the safety provided—which my hon. Friend thinks is inadequate in time of rough water, but still the safety provided so far as it can be done by Parliament and by regulations under Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman will have the support of this House if his mind is really awakened, and if he really means business concerning these matters. (Several HON. MEMBETS: "Oh."] I say that for this reason. When I remember the extraordinary influence brought to bear upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he was President of the Board of Trade at the time the Merchant Shipping Bill was being discussed in Committee, and the influence which the Advisory Committee has had over the right hon. Gentleman and the present President of the Board of Trade, I am not willing, without some better evidence than the mere statement we have had to-day, to accept the belief that all is now going to be well with our merchant shipping and with safety at sea.

The shifting of responsibility upon Advisory Committees or otherwise when a Report is made only tends to make a Minister uncertain of himself. I think the First Lord of the Admiralty, if a Report were presented to him by the Committee of Defence, would not speak, as the right hon. Gentleman spoke this afternoon, simply as a layman. He would speak as the civilian representative in this House of that civilian element in the State that has to be convinced of the policy which the Admiralty is going to pursue. In the same way, the right hon. Gentleman cannot speak as a layman. He must in his position as a Minister speak as an expert. There is nothing occult in the knowledge which the Board of Trade may possess. The expert tells what is or what may be; he shows the facts, and those facts are to be understood of the ordinary intelligent mind. I know the right hon. Gentleman has far more than the ordinary intelligence. His responsibility does not cease with the Report of a Committee. It begins with the Report of the Advisory Committee or of his own officials in the Board of Trade. When a change of Ministers takes place at the Board of Trade or in any other Department, what happens? A change of policy occurs. It is the Minister who says to the experts, "We have a change of policy," and the experts must adapt their facts and information to that change of policy. It is no discredit to them; they are obliged to do it. It is their duty to obey their masters, who are the final arbiters of policy. I am not and never will be inclined to allow the right hon. Gentleman to speak merely as a layman.


The only time I referred to being a layman was in reference to a technical point regarding bulkheads, raised by the Noble Lord opposite (Lord C. Beresford), and my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Holt). I said that from what I had seen myself, speaking as a layman, I agreed with the Noble Lord. Otherwise, I spoke as the Board of Trade, and I spoke for my experts and my advisers. I think the hon. Gentleman has hardly done me justice.


It is quite possible that I have not done the right hon. Gentleman justice, but I am not afraid at all of the opinion of the Committee upon what I have said. I do not believe there is a Member who will not agree that the right hon. Gentleman has only now at this last minute, emerged into a position where he speaks with firmness and determination. I congratulate him upon it. I apologise if his own words led me to think he was speaking throughout his speech as a layman. I will regard him now as the expert, and since he is the expert all his future actions will be considered from that standpoint.


This is the only opportunity afforded us of bringing to the notice of the Department a matter of vital importance to our own industry, and one which must necessarily influence other industrial communities throughout the country. We thought, following the agreement of 19th August, 1911, that at least the Board of Trade, one of the parties to that agreement, would have stood their ground. It was never for a single moment doubted until early in the present year. The particular point to which I wish to call attention is one affecting Ireland. I have in my hand a copy of the "Irish Times" for 15th February last in which appears the alarming statement of the chairman of two of the premier Irish railway companies that they are not parties to the decision arrived at by the Royal Commission of 1911. That is the first intimation we received of an authoritative kind. Sir William Goulding, chairman of the Great Southern and Western Railway, said:— The Irish railway companies were not parties to the scheme arrived at by the English railway companies in the Report of the Royal Commission, but we are parties to the Conciliation Scheme of 1907, which was entered into for seven years, and we are going to continue this to its termination. That is very interesting, and especially— as I shall point out—when that particular railway company had become a party to the scheme of 6th November, 1907, and had adopted it. That scheme was, or ought to have been, in working order for lour years. This was the worst case against any railway company to be found in the whole of the United Kingdom. Even in 1911 no decision had been arrived at by the Conciliation Board. Presumably it had been in operation in the sense that it had been called together. Then we are told by the Chairman that they will continue the scheme in this way—a scheme which had run four years with nothing done and with three years longer to run.

The next case is of the Great Northern Railway of Ireland, that is, the second premier railway company in Ireland. The chairman of that company, as reported in his speech to the shareholders, said:— In England one or two railway companies entered into a conference in which a representative of the Government took part, and came to an agreement, afterwards ratified by most of the British companies, the result of which a Royal Commission was appointed. This Commission made certain recommendations as to a modification in the working of the 1907 scheme. The Irish companies were not invited to the Conference. They were no parties to the agreement. They are in no way bound to the findings of the Commission. The company's position is that they are not concerned in any scheme which the English companies may have since adopted, but are still under the Conciliation Scheme of 1907, to which they have become parties. An interesting point about this, so far as the company to which I am referring is concerned, is that they presumably adopted the scheme early in 1908. But great complaint was lodged before the Royal Commission by the representative of the men in Ireland. Presumably the Conciliation Board, sectional and central, had been in existence at an early period of 1908; yet it was only in 1911 that they reached the point to which I have referred. Four years had gone before they really got to a settlement of any important matter. Let me illustrate the speed at which things move. It will show the Committee, I think, that there is no serious intention of allowing the 1907 scheme really to have fair play. On 4th June, 1910, the company's secretary agreed to a meeting of the Board on the 27th of that month. He subsequently wrote that "as no representatives' application had been received from the head porters, the lamp-men, and other grades, the Board could not deal with any application," presumably because their several names and grades were not set out at the head of petitions they sent in.

This matter of course was naturally one which caused a great deal of irritation. On 20th June a meeting was arranged which was subsequently cancelled for the convenience of the company's officer. I want the Committee to mark this especially. It was rearranged for 30th July, presumably because the company's convenience had been considered in the adjournment, but it was again adjourned till August. This is the evidence produced before the Royal Commission, and upon which grounds of complaint were brought against the Irish Companies. I want further to point out that in addition to the representative of the men, who appeared before the Royal Commission, the representatives of the premier companies in Ireland also gave evidence. I have a transcript of the evidence of Mr. Dent, of the Great Southern and Western Company of Ireland, which confirms everything I have said in regard to the delay in this matter. The manager of the Midland Great Western does not contradict a single statement with regard to the delay. Yet, forsooth, we are told from the mouth of the chairman of the Great Northern that they are no parties to this Commission, and ignore the whole of its findings.

The particular point I want to bring more forcibly before the Board of Trade is this: so soon as we became aware of the attitude taken up by these Irish companies we naturally became seriously alarmed. On 28th March I put a second question to the President of the Board of Trade on the matter, and his answer was that the Irish railway companies were not represented at the conference which resulted in the settlement of 19th August, or In the agreement of 11th December, and they did not undertake to accept the recommendations of the Royal Commission. "I should," he said, "have been glad if the Irish companies had seen their way to adopt the new scheme of conciliation, but in all the circumstances I cannot regard them as being under a binding obligation to do so." If that is the position taken up by the Board of Trade it becomes necessary to ask them what about their original position as being one of the three parties to the agreement of 19th August? Refer to the warrant to the Commissioners who were chosen to inquire into the matter. What are the terms of reference? For the life of me I cannot see where the 1907 scheme exists at all. After the Commission has reported, and after the findings have been adopted by the Board of Trade. The terms of reference to the Commission—these are the words embodied in the Report, are— To investigate the working of the Railway Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme, and to report what changes, if any, are desirable with a view to the prompt and satisfactory settlement of differences. That is signed by the principal railway companies and by the representatives of three trade unions of railway employés at the Board of Trade on 6th November, 1907. There is not a single word in this Report, and in the findings of the Commission that exempts Ireland from the result of the work of the Commission. Moreover, if Ireland is not included, then the whole Report comes to nothing. Wales can say the same thing; so can Scotland; so can any portion of England. Because there is no line drawn; no single sort of exemption is made from one end of the Report to the other. I want the Board of Trade really to reconsider their position, because it becomes a serious matter so far as we are concerned. If an important matter like this is not to be seriously followed up, and a State Department in an industrial community is not to hold the balance fairly and equitably between all the parties concerned; if it is not to use its influence evenly, then, of course, the whole system of conciliation is going to be undermined. For some years I have used my best influence in favour of conciliation at times when I have been subject to most adverse criticism. I consider a scheme, equitably and fairly balanced between the parties, the best piece of modern machinery for regulating the relations of employers and employés. If the attitude taken up recently by the Board of Trade is a correct one, I cannot any longer advocate the same course. It only remains for an employer to say that he objects to anything of the sort for the Board of Trade to say in a weak halting fashion: "Oh, we think you are right." I want to point to another important matter. Quite recently we were told on the part of a small company in London that they were not under the scheme of 1907, and consequently it is a matter of doubt as to whether the findings of the Commission of 1011 were on that account applicable to them. If I were to argue the point I should say it was applicable, but let me take another case. In 1908, after the adoption of the scheme of November, 1907, we had one large and influential railway company, where it is generally pretty warm, and the men were ready to hand in their notices. They did not adopt the scheme of 1907. They received a communication from the Board of Trade that they had no right to strike or to hand in their notices unless they had tried the Conciliation Scheme which the Board of Trade had offered in November previous. That was the reply the men got to their attitude, and, if that was a right attitude for the Board of Trade to take up then, why does not the Board of Trade take up the same attitude now with regard to the Irish companies? The Commission of 1911 had power to go into the whole matter and to recommend, without reservation, what alterations should be made with regard to the application of the conciliation machinery in the future. When that Report came out we stated unhesitatingly that we did not like the scheme. I myself did not hesitate to say that the scheme was weak and halting, but I said under the circumstances I am ready to recommend the men to work it, and to make the best of it, and I did so. But now, apparently, we are not to have a general application of that scheme in an honest and straightforward way by all parties concerned. Apparently the men are not to get much encouragement to work it, and we must cease advocating the application of such machinery as this unless it has a general application and unless we are assured there will be impartial treatment by the Board of Trade of the companies and the men.

We ask for no preferential treatment whatever, but we say that the scheme of 1907 was entirely changed by the Royal Commission. It was determined that the Commission's Report should apply, and no one has a right to claim that they are outside it. It may be asked what about the interview and its results; what about the conference between the men and the employés in Great Britain last autumn. I readily admit that the Board of Trade was given away in that matter by the Conference itself. The very title of its Report reads "Railway Companies in Great Britain." Consequently that, of course, puts Ireland out. But apart from that the railways of Ireland are as legitimately within the scheme of 1911 as the railways of London or any important railway of this country. Otherwise your scheme goes. There cannot be two sides to the question, and unless the Board of Trade are prepared to stand in loyally as they did at the time then I have to Bay that we cannot further be parties to it at all.

What is the complaint set out here by one of my successors as secretary to the organisation in Ireland? The West Clare case was quoted. It is quite true that is a light railway, but why should not the Conciliation Scheme have been adapted to that? It would have saved the whole situation, and prevented a disastrous strike. I say that unhesitatingly. I know the whole circumstances of the case, although I was not in charge of it at the time. It was also asked for by the men on the Dundalk, Newry, and Greenore Railway yet owing to the opposition from the other side it was not applied. Two of the other great companies in Ireland—I say it with all respect, and with due deference to the gentlemen who form the managerial board, are the greatest sinners against the smooth working of the 1907 scheme. The Great Southern, one of the largest railways in Ireland, was the worst of all. Then we are told, after the Report of the Royal Commission, and when we expected it to come into operation, that the chairmen of these companies met their shareholders in February of this year, and said, "We are not parties to it. We are going to stick by something that we adopted four years ago," but if they had been honest they would also have said, "something which we did not allow to work." I do not think I can impress too strongly upon the Board of Trade the need for urging on the railway companies the necessity of working honestly, fairly, and equitably their side of these Boards, and of recognising that when a system of this character is in existence it can only be worked by mutual consent and by the coming together of both parties, sitting round a table and forming a scheme mutually agreed upon between the two sides. The workers want this scheme to be operative. The men from Dublin, Cork, and Queenstown want it to be operative. The men on the Great Northern line from Dublin to Belfast want it to be operative, and I do hope the Board of Trade will take a more serious view of this important matter than they have done in the past. I do not know of anything that is more likely to do greater damage at the present time than a weak, halting kind of method which merely acquiesces in objections raised from time to time by these respective companies. If the Board of Trade can come down with such an emphatic expression to the men when they are likely to take matters into their own hands, and tell them that these Boards were instituted for the purpose of safeguarding against industrial strikes, why not at the same time use the same influence with the railway companies in regard to a system which has been in existence and has been created for the exact purpose of preventing industrial difficulty as between the two parties?


During a recent Debate on industrial unrest, the Chancellor of the Exchequer rather deprecated the tendency existing to-day on the part, as he put it, of the industrial workers to view with some misgiving the intervention of the Board of Trade, and he very clearly emphasised the fact that owing to the suspicions with which the workers view the intervention of the Board of Trade it might be very difficult for the Board to intervene successfully between employers and employed, I ventured to interrupt him by saying that the workers were suspicious of the Board of Trade because invariably their experience proved that the Board of Trade took the side of the employer as against the employé. I admit that that is an unfortunate statement to have to make, but it is more unfortunate that the facts prove it to be so. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Brentford shakes his head.


I only hope it is not true.

8.0 P.M.


I shall endeavour to demonstrate that it is true. My hon. Friend who has just spoken has proved by the statements he has made that it is true. As he pointed out in regard to one Irish railway company that was not a party to the Conciliation Scheme of 1907 when the men of that company decided to withhold their labour in order to enforce their demands, the Board of Trade stepped in, and said, "We will compel you to adopt the scheme of conciliation which the Irish railways companies point blank refused to accept. But when it came to the findings of the recent Royal Commission the Board of Trade answered by saying, "We regret we are unable to compel the companies to accept them." I submit to this Committee that if they could enforce the decision when it affects the employés they ought to be in the same strong position to enforce the decision when it affects the employers. But I go further, and I say that either the Prime Minister has broken a pledge or he has failed to recognise his duty to the railway companies. When he met us, and I was one of those present, he solemnly declared that if we accepted the Royal Commission, not only would the findings of the Commission be put into operation, voluntarily if necessary, but if any of the companies refused legislative enactment would follow to compel them to accept them. That statement was made to us before we settled that dispute in August. It is clear that a number of the railway companies gave evidence before the Commission, and, as my hon. Friend has clearly shown, the Royal Commission Report was based, not upon the evidence of England alone, but upon the evidence of Ireland as well. The only quibble and the only point they are now trying to get out of in regard to this obligation is that when the conference took place it amended the scheme. The railway companies in Ireland sent a letter to the chairman of the Royal Commission intimating that they, the Irish companies, would not be bound by any decision at that conference. They did not say they would not be bound by the findings of the Royal Commission, but they simply said they would not be bound by any amendments that were made in the scheme. Therefore, what my hon. Friend has pointed out is that whilst we think they ought to be compelled to accept the amended scheme, certainly there ought to be no excuse for compelling them to accept the findings of the Royal Commission which the Premier promised, if necessary, should be enforced by legislative enactment. I submit that with such evidence as this how can you expect the workers to take kindly to conciliation. Let the Committee remember that we are pleading for conciliation. This is not a case when the employers are saying that the workers are obstinate and will not listen to reason, and will not listen to any conciliation method. This is a case where we, as the representatives of the men, are coining to this House, before a dispute takes place, and we are pleading that conciliation and arbitration shall be the method adopted for settling industrial disputes.

I submit that it is an unanswerable case that we put forward when we say that if the Board of Trade at this moment feel they have not the power to compel the Irish railway companies to adopt this scheme, then the promise of the Prime Minister ought to be carried out, and they ought to come to this House and get the power which I believe would be given to them, and that would tend to the smooth working of the railways in Ireland. My primary object in taking part in this discussion was to draw the attention of the Committee to the terrible mortality existing on our railways to-day. This afternoon every speaker was moved in asking for Board of Trade intervention because at a given moment the nation was stirred by the awful disaster to the "Titanic." No hon. Member of this House would have pressed the Board of Trade in regard to the provision of life-saving appliances but for the fact that 1,400 people lost their lives at one moment. Does the House remember and realise that taking the last thirteen years there has been no less than 6,286 railway men killed and 214,417 railway men injured in thirteen years. To put it in another way, every week there are nine railway men killed and 500 injured. I submit that whilst it is necessary to consider the terrible accident and all the lessons that may be learned from the disaster I have described, certainly it does come home to us, and ought to appeal to us when we say that a large number of the railway men killed are lives that might have been saved. It is because of the gravity of the situation that I want to try if possible to prove the awful indictment which I make that, in our opinion, at least railway men are unnecessarily killed and injured. I wish to draw particular attention to the condition of platelayers. Of all classes of men they are the most poorly paid of all grades in the service. A most astounding fact, and a most terrible position, is that nearly 50 per cent, of the platelayers injured annually are fatally injured. In the year 1906 there were 101 platelayers killed and 126 injured. In 1907 there were 89 killed and 175 injured. In 1910 there were 90 killed and 116 injured. The House will clearly see from those figures that nearly 50 per cent, of the accidents are fatal. In regard to the accident that happened in Scotland last year a Government inspector was sent to investigate the matter, and this is what he said:— I pointed out to the officers of the Company the absurdity of making rules for the observance of which the foreman ganger or leading man was responsible, and then making no provision for the presence of a leading man to take charge of the squad during the necessary absence of the foreman ganger. I was told on the North British it is not the custom to appoint persons as leading men in the gangs, the reason given being that men were unwilling to accept the responsibility of such a position. It is difficult to regard this explanation as satisfactory, for in every walk in life it is always possible to find men willing to serve in positions of responsibility when it is made worth their while to do so. To leave a squad of eight men working in the four-foot way of a busy line without anyone in authority over them is open to severe criticism. It is pathetic to think of these men carrying out the duties which had been laid upon them, waiting for the word of command to cease work or to seek safety which never comes, because there is no one to give it, or listening to the shout of warning which, owing to the negligence of the look-out man, comes too late. It must be admitted that a considerable number of the accidents appear to be due to the men's own want of caution, but this only proves that the men are so helpless that it is all the more necessary to protect them, and not turn them on to a railway like a flock of sheep without a shepherd to guide them. That is not the indictment of a Trade Union official, and it is not the indictment of an interested person, but it is the indictment of Colonel Yorke, the Chief Inspecting Officer of the Board of Trade. I submit to this Committee that there is not in the annals of any Board of Trade report a stronger indictment against a railway company than is there made. But we have to say when that report is made and when the Government Inspector points out as he did in this case that these poor platelayers' lives might have been saved, no notice whatever is taken of his complaint. No uniform system of providing a look-out man is in operation to-day. As a matter of fact, Mr. Mayne, another inspector of the Board of Trade, said in his report of an accident that happened at Pendleton on 10th January this year:— This dangerous place where this accident happened was also pointed out by me in 1906. Or in other words, somebody was killed in 1906, and the Government Inspector says this is a dangerous spot and some inquiry ought to be made into this matter. In 1911 he is called upon to again investigate another fatal accident, and his comment is— If notice had been taken of what I said in, 1906 this man would have been alive to-day. I submit that this is culpable negligence. I say that this matter is too serious to treat indifferently. When nine men are killed every week and 500 injured, whatever we may say of the duties or responsibilities of railway companies, it is the duty of this House to say that human life is too precious to be treated indifferently, and that widows should not be made when railway companies could stop it if they were so minded.

Let me pass for a moment to another side of this question. I think I showed to the House the other evening the tremendous development that has taken place in our railway system to-day. The speeding-up system, the increased loads and the tendency to economy all go to aggravate the situation and to prove that the increase in accidents is due very largely to the manner in which the men are being harassed. The result is that there is a system of propulsion on our railways to-day which was practically unknown in my experience of the railway service, which was seldom put in operation when I myself was an engine-driver. Notwithstanding these increased loads, the same system of propelling wagons is on the increase to-day, with the result that the accident mortality is increasing. On that point one has only to turn to the Board of Trade to find that they themselves condemn this practice. Major Pringle, in a report that he made, strongly deprecated this situation. In conclusion, I wish to represent to the Board of Trade that it is not sufficient for them to piously say we are making inquiries; it is not sufficient to put off the day, but they ought to realise that they are responsible to this House, and if they have not power to deal with this all important matter, then at least they should come to this House and get the necessary authority.

And, it being a Quarter-past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under Standing Order No. 8, further proceeding was postponed without Question put.