HC Deb 21 May 1912 vol 38 cc1853-70

Postponed proceeding resumed on Question proposed on consideration of Question, "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.]

Which Question was "That Sub-head A (Salary of the President of the Board of Trade) be reduced by £100."

Question again proposed. Debate resumed.


Prior to the adjournment I was dealing with the question of the increase in the number of accidents consequent on the method of propulsion on the railways, and I indicated that there was a tendency to increase the system of propelling the waggons, and in support of that I was quoting what Major Pringle in his Report upon accidents which happened says. He says:— The exception to the general rule 179 which lays down that no engine must push a train upon any running line, but must draw it, were comparatively few in number until quite recently on this company's system and upon other railways The practice of propelling vehicles has been recently considerably extended. Propulsion is not regarded by the inspecting officers of the Board of Trade as desirable or even a safe method of work. Every practical railway man agrees with the conclusion of Major Pringle, and every practical railway guard views with apprehension the tendency for increasing these dangers, and, as the inspector further points out, these regulations have been laid down, and have to be made in the case of motor traffic upon railways and in the interests of the staff in the safety of the lives of the servants. It is desirable that similar conditions should obtain if the method of working by propulsion on running lines is to be accepted. Therefore I contend that that is the strongest evidence that the Board of Trade should get a return from the railway companies, where it is clearly shown that there are sidings and cross-over roads whereby this work could be done without running these dangers, and I submit it is the duty of the Board of Trade to inquire into the subject.

10.0 P.M.

There is a great tendency to-day in order to economise to run trains that are positively dangerous. The method by which trains are run in sections, with over 100 wagons attached and two engines are positively dangerous. If, on any occasion an axle or anything like that was to go wrong with any one wagon God only knows what would happen. Every railway guard to-day who is compelled to work these trains, and who has to stand in a brake-van with one of our modern engines continually pushing that brake-van, knows that if anything went wrong with the front of the train nothing could save him from being immediately killed. I submit when these dangers are so apparent it is not for us to wait until a Board of Trade Inquiry has been held, and when the inspector condemns the system as I have just read out the Board of Trade-has no business waiting for some person to be killed before making inquiry. It is the business of the inspectors to inquire now into those dangers, and report upon them. I cannot find that any of the inspecting officers ever appointed for this particular work have made inquiry, but immediately that an accident happens, and someone is killed inquiry is held. Therefore we submit that with these facts before the House and the Board of Trade knowing perfectly well the terrible dangers that railwaymen run and the mortality I have described, it is for the Board of Trade, if they have not the power under the Railway Regulations Act to come to this House for the power, and I believe that suggestions could be made by inspection and other means that would considerably reduce the terrible mortality on our railways at the present time.


It may be for the convenience of the Committee that I should reply at this stage upon the railway questions raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. Hudson) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas). My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle has raised the question of the refusal of the Irish railway companies to come into the settlement of last year, and, not satisfied with blaming the Irish companies, he blamed the Board of Trade, which he said has behaved in a weak and halting fashion. He puts this blame upon the Board of Trade because it has not done what it is not able to do, that is, to coerce the Irish railways to come into the agreement or to act under the agreement which they never accepted and never agreed to foe bound by. The hon. Member argued that the Irish railways were not exempted by the Report of the Commission last year. Yes, but the Irish railway companies did not do what the English and Scotch companies did, that is to undertake to abide by that Report. The English and Scotch companies did. The Irish companies did not, and, therefore, it is somewhat idle to say that the Irish companies are as legitimately within this scheme, to use my hon. Friend's words, as the English and Scotch companies are.


That is an important statement. At what stage does my hon. Friend say the English and Scotch companies agreed to abide by this decision and the Irish companies did not. I would like him to clearly understand that the statement I made and the statement of my hon. Friend was not dealing with the Commission's Report, but with something prior to the Commission's Report. We were told that if any single railway company refused to accept the Report legislative enactment would be sought to compel them to accept it.


The hon. Member repeats an observation that he made before. Will he give us the date on which this assurance was given?


Yes; it was given on 17th August, and it was repeated on the 19th.


Not in the House?


Not in the House, but by the President of the Board of Trade, and it was clearly indicated by the Prime Minister.


I can only say as to that allegation that at a later date than that, in November last, we were discuss- ing in this House the question of inviting the railway companies to meet the Government. On what ground were we putting that invitation? Because the hon. Member and his friends would not accept the findings of the Commission, and if they stood out against the findings of the Commission how can they make out that on any promise the Government were bound to coerce the companies to come in? In the speech of the Prime Minister on 22nd November we were discussing an invitation of the railway companies to come to this House. The Commission had reported, and the hon. Member's own friends had then refused—I am not in the least criticising their action, I am merely stating the fact—to accept it, and the Prime Minister, then speaking upon the subject, expressly declared this was a free invitation to the companies, and that he could not coerce either the railway directors or the representatives of the men. In any case this is irrelevant to the question of the Irish companies, for they have never agreed, either in August or later, to come under the settlement of last year. It was hoped they would come in, and it was suggested that they might have come in, but for the strike that broke out. As to that I express no opinion. I know that the Irish companies never agreed to accept that settlement; they never came in under it, and they never bound themselves to accept a report of the Commission, and therefore there can be no pretence that the Government was under any liability in regard to any alleged promise of any kind to bring legislative pressure to bear on the Irish railway companies. The Board of Trade is neither their champion nor their censor in this matter, and we have taken a perfectly impartial attitude. I regret that my hon. Friend should have used the expression that the action of the Board of Trade is different towards the men from what it is towards the companies. The hon. Member for Derby said the Board always takes the side of the masters, but he himself, later on in another portion of his speech, quoted from a report of one of the inspectors of the Board of Trade, which he said was the strongest indictment ever brought against a railway company. That does not look as if the Board of Trade always took the side of the masters.


But that very indictment has never been acted upon by the Board of Trade.


I shall come to that later. It was certainly not a case of taking the part of the masters. In connection with this dispute with the Irish companies, it has been alleged that in connection with the North-Eastern dispute the Board of Trade said to the men, "We will compel you to come in under this scheme," and he makes that a ground for claiming that the Board of Trade should similarly say to the Irish companies "We will compel you to come in within the settlement of last year." My hon. Friend must be aware that the Board of Trade never used such an expression as that. It could not have used such language, and if it had, nobody knows better than my hon. Friend that the Board could not have acted upon it. The Board of Trade could not compel the men to come into any scheme whatever, and similarly it has no power to compel the Irish Government to come into the scheme of 1911, so that whatever conclusion my hon. Friends draw as to a grievance with regard to the Irish companies they have no grievance against the Board of Trade. We have frequently used our influence to induce the Irish companies to come into the scheme, we have put whatever pressure was possible in the way of representations, and we have striven to get them within the scheme. As they have refused to come in there is no power we possess to coerce them. No kind of promise of which we have any knowledge whatever will justify hon. Members in claiming that the Board of Trade should now proceed to legislate because the Irish companies refuse to come in. The Board of Trade has done all it can, and I think my hon. Friends, in heaping the censure they have done on the Board of Trade, have taken a course which is unfair and unjust, and which cannot be borne out by any evidence or by any promise of any kind. The hon. Member for Newcasle said he hoped we should take this important matter more seriously in the future, but at no stage has he suggested that the action of the Board of Trade was marked by levity. The Board of Trade has treated this subject all along with all the importance which attaches to it, and they have fully recognised the desirability of getting the Irish companies to come within this scheme. We have failed in all this, but that does not justify my hon. Friend in imputing that we have shown a lack of seriousness in regard to the situation. The hon. Member for Derby proceeded with another matter in regard to which I may say we are in the strongest sympathy with him. He truly said that the mortality upon our railways was terrible, and that conceivably a good deal of it might be avoided. He has spoken in particular of the precariousness of the lives of platelayers, and he quoted the report of Colonel Yorke upon the accident to platelayers on a Scottish railway, and added— No notice whatever has been taken of that strong expression of opinion by Colonel Yorke. I think in this case my hon. Friend is somewhat sweeping in his criticism. I am not saying that decisive action has yet been taken, but it would be a hard thing to suggest after such a marked and impressive remonstrance as that that the company is not impressed by its importance. My hon. Friend has made out a good case in the matter of the use of propulsion, and he has rightly claimed that safeguards should be set up in that connection. There was a very shocking accident on the Midland Railway some time ago in which some platelayers were killed when an engine was going along with a van in front of it. In that particular case the accident would not have happened but for the forgetfulness of a signalman and a flagman. Owing to the fact that a high wind was blowing the men were prevented hearing the engine and the van, but notwithstanding that fact, I think that there should be a check upon this matter of propulsion in every possible way. I can assure my hon. Friend that the Board promptly made representations to the company in question. I regret that they declined to take the precautions which the Board suggested, that is to say, that when a van is being propelled in front of an engine, the guard to the van should be able to put on a brake and sound a whistle. These were safeguards which the Board thought necessary, but which the company declined to adopt. In view of that attitude the Board has decided to represent collectively to the railway companies the necessity for the adoption of safeguards in this matter, and I am hoping that the general action taken and the urging of a certain course upon all the railway companies collectively, will be followed by a proper response. If that should not be the case the Board will no doubt enact regulations. In the meantime I trust my hon. Friend will accept the assurance that the Board is taking practical action in the direction he desires, and we hope that at least a limit will be put to that mortality which we agree with him in deploring.


I rise to call attention of the Committee to the exceedingly serious statement which has just fallen from the representative of the Board of Trade. We are told now that whereas the English, Scotch, and Welsh railway companies are united in accepting the findings of the Royal Commission, the Irish railway companies definitely refuse to be bound by those findings, although the Board of Trade has done its utmost to induce the Irish railway companies to modify their decision. I understand now that nothing can be done to bring the directors of the Irish railways to deal with their men upon a footing that is usual in this connection.


The Irish companies do profess to go upon the settlement of 1907, which they say they prefer.


But they will not go upon the findings and the machinery which is accepted by the British companies at the present time. We heard a good deal about the undue readiness of Irish railwaymen to go on strike; but here you have the fact that the men bind themselves to use the means of conciliation, and the directors will not meet them. I think we all know that in Ireland the railway companies are in a peculiarly strong position as regards their men, because there is no alternative industrial employment. The plain English of it is these Irish railway companies are inclined to profit unduly by the advantage—the natural and indefensible advantage—which they have as against the men who have no choice but to work for railways or go upon the land. I do hope the Board of Trade will continue in season and out of season to press upon the Irish railways the advisability and the necessity, in the interests, not only of the railways, but also of the State, of taking every means to avoid strikes. We know perfectly well that in Ireland the railways have different ways of dealing with their men. I have a good many railwaymen in my constituency, but there was no strike on the Midland line because, I imagine, the company deals with its men in a more reasonable manner than the Great Southern and Western Railway Company, with all its efficiency. The Great Southern and Western tends to exploit the natural advantage it has against the men. I have simply risen to thank the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. Hudson) and the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas) for calling the attention of the Committee to this state of things in Ireland.


I should like to call the attention of the President of the Board of Trade to the inadequate provision which is made on board steamers for medical officers in connection with any accident or any other case requiring treatment in a medical way. If, for instance, any person gets his leg broken or meets with some accident on a steamer, which, of course, sometimes occurs, particularly during storms, it is impossible to take that person on a stretcher into the medical officer's room. It will surprise the House to know that in many cases no person can be taken from any part of the steamer to the medical officer's room for treatment; and, supposing an operation is necessary, it frequently has to be performed either on the open deck or in the saloon. I think the room of the medical officer should be so constructed that they can take a person on a stretcher to it or to a surgery, so that the operation can be performed in a proper manner. The consulting room is in a part of the ship where they have to have a borrowed light, and they frequently cannot see the patient in a proper manner. Neither is any provision made in this room for a patient to be laid on his back, so that his chest can be examined. If any person has to be examined in that way the medical officer has to take him into his own cabin and use his own private berth. That is a very unsatisfactory state of things, and I certainly trust that, as the Board of Trade is now making inquiries and will possibly make fresh regulations, they will see this very necessary provision is made. There should be a proper consulting-room, wide and big enough, with every convenience, to which a person can be carried on a stretcher.

I think steps should be taken to secure better provision for third-class passengers. I have travelled on a fair number of steamers, and I have found that on many of them the accommodation for third-class passengers is simply disgraceful. These passengers are usually very poor emigrants, who have no clothes except those they stand up in; they can make no change during the whole voyage, and the result is that the cabins in which they sleep get into a very insanitary condition, the atmosphere is very vitiated, and at night time especially most unhealthy conditions obtain. I was very much surprised to find that as a result of a good deal of emigration from Spain the Spanish authorities insisted on regulations being made with regard to the accommodation for third-class passengers greatly in advance of those enforced in this country. I hardly think it is creditable to a country like Great Britain, which holds such a preeminent position with regard to shipping, that it should allow Spain to enforce better conditions than itself, and I trust that the Board of Trade will see that in future more cubic space is allowed for this class of passenger.

There is another body of men for whom better provision should be made. On board many steamers the stewards have to sleep in the quarters in which third-class passengers are accommodated. That is not a fair thing to them. It may be said that those on board steamers get plenty of fresh air, but, as a matter of fact, stewards are often closely confined to the saloons in which they serve. Another objectionable feature is with regard to the provision made for them to take their meals. Oftimes they have to take them standing at a bar. There surely ought to be the same provision in this respect as for the third-class passengers, who have their own dining-room. The present system is most unsatisfactory. We are very dependent on these men for our comfort, and we ought to see that the conditions under which they work and live are of a satisfactory character.


We all listened with interest to the statement of the President of the Board of Trade. We on this side of the House also listened with satisfaction to the very conclusive proof he gave that up to the year 1906 there had not been such changes in the size of steamers generally as to justify or necessitate any alteration in the rules regarding life-saving apparatus, and it was only since that year that the changes had rendered such alterations necessary. I cannot help expressing satisfaction with his own admission that down to 1906 circumstances had not arisen to necessitate changes—


The hon. Gentleman has rather mixed up the years. The years in which the great changes took place were 1904–5. At that time, as I explained, the official officers of the Board of Trade went into the matter, and thought that circumstances had not arisen to justify the change. It was not until 1911, with the advent of the "Olympic," that the changes were made. It was last year, not 1906.


I thought it was the year 1906.


It was not—1904–5.


It is substantially the point I was making, because a change in general ship construction which begins in one year cannot probably affect the general rules as regards ships in general for a year or two afterwards. We have listened this evening to conflicting views as to what various Members of the Committee regard as the most important questions from the point of view of the safety of life at sea. There is one class who regard boats as of all-importance, no doubt partly affected by the disaster which has recently happened. There is another class who regard the question of watertight compartments as of all-importance, and who rather disregard the question of boats. I think that the true view is this: that the main conditions of safety at sea are, first, the seaworthiness of the ship, which includes both the questions of watertight compartments, and stability, and secondly, the question of prudent navigation. While we are prepared to recognise that these are the primary conditions of safety at sea, I venture to submit that is no reason why we should neglect all possible precautions in the way of boat accommodation and other similar life-saving apparatus. There is this further observation to be made, that the question of watertight compartments, and the question of stability are both of them questions which require great expert knowledge in order to express any opinion at all. I have myself been engaged in many cases involving both questions, and I know the conflicting views that the greatest experts hold on these questions. Therefore, I for one tonight, will offer no suggestions on that subject, except that it has become obvious, through this recent disaster, that the question of watertight compartments is one that deserves the consideration which the President of the Board of Trade has arranged should be given to it by a Committee of the best experts in the country. On the aspect of the question that we laymen can deal with to some extent, the adequacy of the Board of Trade Rules in regard to life-saving apparatus, there are certain considerations which seem to me to be worthy of observation. In the first place the science of shipbuilding has been progressing, as the President of the Board of Trade said, with astonishing rapidity during the last eighteen or twenty years. The rules in regard to life-saving apparatus have remained unaltered during the whole of that period. There have been, so far as I know, no alterations since 1809, and practically no alterations since 1894 in any of the rules in relation to boats or life-saving apparatus.

Another observation is that it is difficult to see what is the guiding principle in regard to boat accommodation on which the framers of the rules have acted. In regard to cargo boats, which carry no passengers at all, it is provided that there shall be enough boats on each side of the ship to carry the whole of the crew, that is to say, that there must be twice the boat, accommodation necessary for the crew. The accommodation is calculated on the basis of 10 cubic feet of boat space to each person on board. If you applied that rule to a great steamer like the "Titanic" you would get a result which is from the practical point of view an impossibility altogether. Taking 3,000 passengers, roughly speaking, that would mean 60,000 cubic feet of space, or 200 boats. Obviously there would not be room even on the "Titanic," on the boat deck, which must be the upper deck, for 200 boats. The whole principle of boat accommodation is that the boats should be either actually in the davits ready for launching or that the inboard boats, of which a certain number are allowed, should be immediately behind the davits, not attached to the tackles, but ready so that they can be put into the davits and attached and lowered at once. But with that number of boats on the boat deck obviously it would be impossible to deal with the boats, a fact which would probably, in the crisis of a disaster, lead to far fewer boats being effectively and safely launched than if you had a smaller number. Take another consideration. Two hundred boats weighing one and a half or two tons each on the boat deck would represent a very large additional weight at a very great height above the centre of gravity of the ship. That would represent a very great decrease in the metacentric height and consequently in the stability of the vessel.

If you apply the cargo boat rule to a cross-Channel steamer carrying, say, 500 passengers as a minimum—there are sometimes as many as 1,000—you would get many times as many boats as the vessel could possibly hold, though you covered every inch of the deck with boats. It cannot work. Therefore it seems obvious that there must be some limitation in the number of boats which you are to give to steamers which carry a very large number of passengers. What limitation is desirable is, of course, a matter for the experts to consider having regard to the question of the deck room available and stability of the ship, but it is obviously in the changing conditions of maritime commerce in regard to passenger traffic a matter which ought to be reconsidered from time to time, and automatically, without waiting for a disaster to form the impulse for that consideration. We ought to devise some system for doing it. Let me give an illustration. Lloyds Register, which is the British register upon which the great majority of British ships are registered, have a Committee which revises their rules from time to time. I think they are revised practically every year. I suggest to the House and to the President of the Board of Trade that what we want is some automatic arrangement under which the Board of Trade and the Advisory Committee will necessarily reconsider these various rules practically every year.

I have one or two other suggestions to offer with great tentativeness as a layman in these matters to the President of the Board of Trade. My own experience in these matters, such as it is, has led me to form the conclusion very strongly that the most important thing of all in regard to boat accommodation in the case of disaster is good boat drill. That is one thing which all of us who have been voyages have formed a pretty strong conviction is generally unsatisfactory. We all have seen the merely formal attempt at boat drill which means nothing. I suggest that what the Government ought to do is to make adequate boat drill obligatory; and I suggest further to the President of the Board of Trade that there is only one practical way of making it obligatory, and that is by having a system comparable to that which we have in regard to Factories and Workshops on land. There we have numerous statutory regulations with regard to safety. Do we leave it only to the owners of factories to enforce the regulations? No, we send inspectors from time to time at times they are not expected, and they for themselves form their own opinion. I suggest that there is no possible means of ensuring good boat drill throughout the mercantile marine except by adopting a system of travelling inspectors, employed by the Board of Trade, who from time to time could go voyages and see that boat drill is adequately performed.

Another suggestion I have to make on behalf of the Mercantile Marine Association, which looks after the interests of officers, is that the Board of Trade might have more nautical inspectors for the purpose of inspecting boats in order to obviate the difficulty which arises at present through many of the inspectors being only engineers without sufficient nautical experience. I suggest also that the boats should be provisioned at the commencement of a voyage with an adequate supply of biscuits. This would not impose any serious expense on the shipowners, but there should be that small requirement. Another question is that of wireless telegraphy. Here we get into a totally different class of consideration. The questions of boat accommodation, stability, and watertight compartments, are matters which concern the safety of the ship, and it is right and necessary that the expense should be imposed in respect of these matters on the shipowners. But when you come to wireless telegraphy you are concerned not with the safety of the ship on which the wireless installation is set up only, but very largely with the safety of other ships. We want wireless telegraphy in order that ships may come to the rescue of ships in difficult. I submit that, in so far as that would impose an extra expense upon individual shipowners, if this House thinks it right to make the installation of wireless apparatus obligatory, to some extent that ought to be a charge upon the public purse, on the same basis as, to some extent lighthouses ought to be. We all know that lighthouses are a charge upon the shipping community in general, but if you are going to impose upon individual shipowners an obligation of incurring expense on wireless telegraphy for the sake of other people and not of themselves, then it is essentially a matter that the public purse ought to deal with. In regard to cargo boats, it may be a matter of considerable expense, and the President of the Board of Trade will find very considerable opposition on the part of cargo owners unless something is done to temper the wind to the shorn lamb. In making regulations it is most important that we should get foreign nations to fall into line with us, as the President of the Board of Trade indicated he hoped would be the case. I am one of two honorary secretaries of an international body, the International Maritime Committee, which has dealt with such matters, and was instrumental in passing the convention with regard to collisions and salvage at sea, which was passed into law by this House last Session, and I heard to-day that that international body had resolved to take up the question of life-saving apparatus at once. So I think that the President will find that he will have co-operation from that unofficial body in any endeavours he may wish to carry through with a view to making the arrangements international, and I trust they will be so.


After listening to the speeches of the hon. Members for Newcastle (Mr. Hudson) and Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas), I could not help feeling some sympathy with the Board of Trade, and realising the enormous number of affairs of difficulty and serious subjects with which they have got to deal. It confirms me, however, in my feeling that the time has come when our great shipping industry ought to have one Government Department which would devote its attention entirely to it. The present Board of Trade, no matter how clever its political heads may be, or how competent and assiduous its permanent officials, has not marched forward with the times, and does not give us regulations for shipping to meet the requirements of the day. Take, for instance, what the President of the Board of Trade said regarding the life-saving apparatus of these steamers. He told us that over a year ago the Board of Trade decided that it was necessary to change the regulations. They applied to the Advisory Committee on 11th April. They received its report on 4th July, 1911, and for over ten months, while experiments with boats were being made, that report was not dealt with. It was sent back to the Advisory Committee on the 15th of last month. Why could not the Board of Trade call the Advisory Committee together and say to them, "What is your advice? Let us do something." A matter like that is one that makes one think how often the Board of Trade, with the best intentions in the world, fails to realise its action and its lack of action. I may give one instance as to the action of the Board of Trade in connection with shipping. Our British steamers to-day loading in the winter for British ports are not allowed to take anything on deck unless it is with a closed place. They are not allowed to take a deck load. But if they go to a foreign port they can carry a deck load. They are not allowed to come into Plymouth to discharge their deck cargo there, but they can go up to Rotterdam, Dordrecht, or Hamburg, discharge their deck cargo in these ports, and come back to an English port and discharge their under deck cargo.

If it is safe for that British steamer to go up into the North Sea with her deck cargo, it is equally safe for her to come to an English port, and it has no business to prevent her from doing so. Again, the Board of Trade know that we have numbers of British vessels at sea to-day of which the masters and the engineers do not hold British certificates. They may say, "Of course that is true, but they do not come to British ports"; but I would suggest that any steamer or ship carrying the British flag sailing in any part of the ocean ought to have on board British officers—[An HON. MEMBER: "And British seamen"]—and British seamen as far as possible. These are points which I think the Department of the Government which looks after our ships ought to attend to. They ought to introduce such legislation as will give them full power, give them more elasticity in their regulations, and enable them to march forward with the times and look after our shipping industry.


I look upon the question of the "Titanic" and our merchant service as one of the most important questions with which we can deal. This country, we are told, owns more than half the merchant shipping of the world, and if that is not worth a little more attention I do not know what is. I do not want this to be considered a party question in which only one side is concerned. I listened to the pretty strong speech of the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir G. Parker), and I agreed practically with all he said, for I do not want to make this a party question. Nor do we necessarily want to make a personal attack upon the President of the Board of Trade, but as his Department is concerned, we cannot help criticising it. This is not a party question, but one which is raised in the interests of the whole country. What I wish to call attention to is the question of the certificates which the Board of Trade gave the "Titanic." I put a question about a fortnight ago to the Prime Minister as to who were protecting and looking after the interests of the British public at this inquiry, seeing that the Board of Trade itself is charged with having given a certificate as to the complete equipment of this vessel the "Titanic," for 3,400 passengers and crew. Fortunately the number on board was 2,204; still, there were only boats for 700; yet they got a certificate from the Board of Trade, which most of us who travel have seen stuck up in the vessel, that she is properly equipped for the full number of passengers. I do not blame the White Star Line so much as I do the Board of Trade in this matter. I noticed, according to the papers, that in America they actually claimed that having the Board of Trade certificate as to their equipment they had done all that was necessary. I am not surprised, but that brings it back to this, that the Board of Trade is responsible for the equipment of that vessel. I am afraid somebody is responsible, directly or indirectly, for the loss of some 1,600 lives. The Prime Minister said that the law Officers were going to look after the interests of the public concerned in the matter. So far as I can see the Attorney-General is representing the Board of Trade. At that time the Attorney-General said that the question of the certificate, and the action or want of action of the Board of Trade was included in the twenty-six points, I think, that were mentioned by the Attorney-General. So far as I can see it is only indirectly included. I have not been able to find out when that question is coming on. I am sorry the Attorney-General is not here, so that he could have given us some information on the matter. It is a curious thing about that question that I put that by some extraordinary means it was not allowed to get into the newspapers, either question or answer. It did appear on the "Globe," a very respectable newspaper, and in the "Scotsman," another very respectable newspaper; but so far as I know, those are the only papers. I complained to the "Times" and some other newspapers for not putting the question in. The information given me was that they were very sorry, and the only way they could account for it was that the reply to the question had not been sent upstairs in the usual way.


A copy of every single answer is automatically sent to the Press. There is no discrimination, and there was no desire to suppress my hon. Friend's question.


I did not put the question to which I refer to the right hon. Gentleman, and therefore I do not want to bring him into it. He has always sent me a typed copy of answers. This was a question to the Prime Minister. Where he is I do not know, but, at any rate, I do know this, that I was told by those newspapers that the answer was not sent up in the usual way, and it was not sent to me in the usual way.


I do not know if the hon. Member is aware that, so far as I know, the answers of the Prime Minister are never sent to Members.


I am very much obliged to my young friend. I never heard before, except on this particular occasion, that the Prime Minister was less courteous than other Members of the Government. I think I have always received copies of his replies before. I am sure that that was a very important question of mine, and I am sorry we have not heard more about it. It appears to me that at the inquiry a great deal of time is being frittered away on subjects which have no great concern to those poor fellows who are dead and gone. What I want to know, and to find out somehow, is how that vessel was allowed to go out. We are told that there has been no alteration in the regulations for a number of years, and that the regulations only applied to vessels of 10,000 tons and upwards, but practically to those of 10,000 tons, and that the boats required were for that size and no other. Every year we have been having bigger ships, such as the "Lusitania," the "Mauretania," the "Olympic," and others of great size, and yet we are told there has been no regulation made at all to meet those cases. I am told that the Board of Trade under present Acts of Parliament can make any regulations it likes, the only condition being that they must lie on the Table of the House for a certain number of days. Therefore, there is no reason at all why the Board should not have made all the necessary alterations to meet the case of the big vessels. I am not attacking shipowners at all. I think they are a credit to the country and they have done good work all over the world. I am talking about the certificate of the Board of Trade. With regard to wireless telegraphy, it has been found that the offices on board ship close about half-past eleven or twelve o'clock at night. The Board of Trade should have known this years ago. We have had no explanation why the Board have not troubled to see that a proper staff was provided so that these offices could be kept open day and night. It is extraordinary that they should be closed about twelve o'clock. As most of the accidents occur during the night, it would not matter so much if the offices were closed during the day, provided they were open at night for the protection of those who require assistance. We have not yet been told whether any regulations are to be made and forced upon the shipowners requiring wireless telegraphy offices in ships to be open day and night. Wireless telegraphy has been of great use to shipping, and, no doubt, can be made of still greater use in the future. We are entitled to a much longer time to consider these matters. Personally I wish we paid more attention than we do to these trade and business interests. We do not want to make shipping matters political or party questions at all. What we do want to see is that we have an efficient Board of Trade and efficient officials. We are quite willing to pay the Board of Trade. We very recently largely increased their salaries, but from a long experience I have found that it rather does harm than good to increase salaries, because the moment you do so those concerned want more holidays to spend the money; consequently the service is not so good as it might be. I heard the President of the Board of Trade say to-day that some Committee was responsible, and he added, "as well as himself." He added, further, that Parliament was responsible.

And, it being Eleven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow (Wednesday).

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