§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Report and recommendations of the investigation into the circumstances attending the foundering of the steamship 'Titanic' be now considered." —[The Chancellor of the Exchequer.]
§ Mr. LESLIE SCOTT
I think it may be for the convenience of the House as a whole that I should rise at once in order to make a general statement of the views, of the shipping community upon the Report of the Court of Inquiry into the "Titanic" disaster, and also upon the draft rules which have been recently issued by the President of the Board of Trade. I have to-day the honour of speaking in a representative capacity on behalf of the whole shipping community of this country. I was asked by the Shipowners' Parliamentary Committee, which represents nine-tenths of the total tonnage of the United Kingdom, whether I could present their case to this House, and I have also been asked in a similar way by the Mercantile Marine Association, representing all the masters and officers of our merchant service, by most of the underwriters, and also by the Institution of Naval Architects. I mention these facts as it is essential for the House to appreciate that the views I am going to express are the views entertained not only by an individual Member, but by those great representative bodies, and are unanimously entertained by them. In addition, these views are the views of the Advisory Committee of the Board of Trade. That Advisory Committee is a 33 body of an extremely authoritative and representative character. The constitution is settled partly by the Act of 1906, under which the President of the Board of Trade is given authority to constitute such an Advisory Committee, and also under a later Act of a few years ago under which for certain purposes, such as boats and life-saving, appliances, additional members have to be added. Its constitution was described by Sir Norman Hill, the Chairman, in a letter published in the "Times" quite recently, but I think it is essential that this House, in considering the Question that is to-day before it, should be in possession of all the facts as to the constitution of the Committee. The letter, which in view of the great importance of this question, I propose to read to the House, was in the following terms:—The committee itself is formed of twenty members, of whom five are nominated by the shipowners' associations, seven by associations representing the masters, officers, engineers, and crews, two by associations representing underwriters, two by associations representing shipbuilders and naval architects, and four are added by the Board of Trade. Of the added members three are shipowners, of whom two have had many years' experience in command of vessels in the merchant service, and one is the representative of the pilots.The nominated members go out of office every second year, and the existing committee was appointed less than a year ago. For the purposes of its recent inquiry into the Life-Saving Regulations there were added to the committee, to comply with the requirements of the 17th schedule of the Merchant Shipping Act, two additional representatives of the underwriters.The committee as so formed co-opted one shipowner, one master mariner, two shipbuilders, and the principal expert advisers of Lloyd's Register and of the British Corporation. The committee who signed the report therefore consisted of twenty-eight members, of whom nine represented shipowners, nine represented the masters, officers, engineers, pilots, and crews, six represented underwriters, and four represented shipbuilders and naval architects.I think the House will agree that the Committee is an extremely representative one. The views of the shipping community, as represented by the various bodies to which I have referred and by the Advisory Committee, are unanimous in condemning the rules which the President of the Board of Trade proposes to put into statutory force. Everyone outside the Board of Trade who is qualified to express an opinion joins in that condemnation. The object of everyone of us is, of course, the same. We are at one with the President of the Board of Trade in desiring to ensure the greatest safety for life at sea, and shipowners have not shrunk, and will not shrink, from all necessary expenditure for the purpose of attaining that end. There 34 are some who entertain an unworthy suspicion that shipowners make money at the risk of human life. Wrecks and loss of life are alike bad business. It is the foundation of a shipowner's prosperity in business to win a reputation for safe ships and for not losing human lives. It is upon that that his low rates of insurance depend and that he gets his cargoes and gets his passengers. We may at once push aside that unworthy suspicion, and this House will not entertain it. How earnest and how successful the efforts of shipowners have been during the last twenty years in their endeavours to effect greater safety for those who travel in their ships is proved by the records of those last twenty years. A few figures I must give, because they are so striking. Twenty years ago the average annual loss of life in the British mercantile marine was 2,000. Today it is 700. The number of casualties involving loss of life twenty years ago, year by year, was on the average 321. Today it is 145, or less than half. And those figures can only be appreciated if at the same time we bear in mind that the number of voyages performed per annum by British ships has enormously increased, and that to-day the average is well over a quarter of a million.
On the strength of those facts as to national progress and business interest, I ask this House to believe me when I say that the shipowners when considering the draft rules which the President of the Board of Trade has framed since the "Titanic" disaster put them to the one supreme test—are they or are they not conducive to the safety of life at sea? That is the test by which they judge them, and by which they say they stand condemned. It is because they fail in that test that I am standing up now on behalf of the shipping community to protest against those rules. The House will probably remember that when the Debate on the "Titanic" disaster took place earlier in the year it was stated that the existing life-saving rules were introduced practically in their present shape in the year 1894, and that there was no change practically on them from then to the present time. Under those rules the basis of life-saving accommodation, which includes boats and rafts, was the gross register tonnage of the ship, a certain scale providing that a ship of a certain tonnage should carry a certain number of boats and increasing the number of boats as the gross tonnage increased. That applied both to the scale provision and to the additional 35 provision required in passenger steamships and emigrant ships. By those rules there was no provision that ships had to carry at least accommodation in the ship's boats and rafts sufficient for all persons on board; and it will be within the recollection of the House that in regard to vessels largely over 10,000 tons and carrying a very large number of passengers the accommodation was very much less than sufficient for the total number of persons on board the vessels. Lord Mersey, the Commissioner appointed to inquire into the "Titanic" disaster, in his Report, passed a very grave censure upon the Board of Trade for their failure to bring their life-saving rules up to date. His grounds were that: first, so long ago as 1887, a Select Committee presided over by my Noble and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford) advised that there should be in one shape or another accommodation for all on board; secondly, that there was no excuse for delay since 1891 in providing for vessels of over 10,000 tons.
But while bearing in mind Lord Mersey's censure on the Board of Trade it is important to remember that we must make allowance for the then prevalent belief, prevalent until the disaster to the "Titanic," in the unsinkability of modern ships of the latest design constructed with watertight compartments. That belief was tragically shattered by the disaster to the "Titanic," and Ave are all agreed— and I speak for the shipping community in this—that that disaster has created to some extent a new situation requiring the reconsideration of our views as to safety at sea. I say the reconsideration, but not any hasty or precipitate action. Secondly, we must remember that through the comparative freedom—and I wish to emphasise this point as strongly as I can—given by our Government Departments to the ship-owning community the industry has made immense progress in the safety of the shipping itself. It is because our shipowners and shipbuilders have been left unhampered in regard to the designing of the ships that inventive genius has been able to progress as it has progressed and go so far towards increasing the safety of life at sea by increasing the safety of the ship itself. It is much safer, if I may dogmatise, in reality to regulate too little than to regulate too much when we are concerned wih Government Departments. 36 Free, untrammelled developments, free from Government interference, is essential to real progress. I may recall an instance which will be within the recollection of most of us. The history in this country of the growth of electrical enterprise in regard to the whole electrical industry is one of retardation for years and years behind our rivals abroad, in the United States and Germany and Switzerland, by reason of undue statutory interference with the industry. We must avoid that in the case of the great shipping industry which has been hitherto so free from such interference.
That, shortly, is the position up to date. And what are the draft rules which the President of the Board of Trade proposes I Shortly, those rules provide a hard and fast scale of one particular kind of boat, and insist that there shall be enough of that particular boat, carried in a particular way, for all on board. It is true— and I want at once to anticipate the possible reply of the President of the Board of Trade—that the rules at the end contain a provision authorising exemptions from them. Those rules lay down a hard and fast scale which I am going to describe. The opposition of the shipping community is to the hard and fast scale. If it is suggested by the President of the Board of Trade that the exemptions can be applied, my answer is this, that a Government Department tends to standardise. A Government Department does not make the most of exemptions, and, anyhow, it is ridiculously illogical to put forward a broad general scale and say, "Oh, we do not think much of that scale; we really stand by the exemptions from the scale." With that one comment, I put aside the point as to the possibility of the Board of Trade granting exemptions. This House must deal with the broad proposals contained in the rules as a whole, rather than with exemptions from them. What is said under the rules is this, that there must be on every passenger and emigrant ship lifeboat accommodation for all on board. I ask the attention of the House to that, and I will explain the whole significance of that provision. Secondly, these boats have to be carried in a certain way. They must be carried in the davits, or lie alongside, or under the davits so as to be readily available. That is contained in Rules A, C and D, applying to Class I. Rouehly speaking, there is only one class of life-saving appliance, namely, the lifeboat; secondly, there is the condition that 37 the lifeboats may be either open or decked lifeboats. But the rules provide that there must not be more deck lifeboats than open lifeboats. The House will remember that. What have been the practical recommendations made, by those who know, since the "Titanic" disaster. In July, Lord Mersey's report was published, and on pages 60, 61 and 72, he recommended lifeboat and raft accommodation — not merely lifeboat — for all persons on board. This was an alteration of the existing rules which have been in force since 1894, and in which, mainly, the shipping community agreed, or most of them agreed; secondly, that the basis of the scale should be persons carried on the ship, and not the gross tonnage of the ship. The Advisory Committee's Report was published a few days later than Lord Mersey's Report. The Reports were totally independent, and the investigations were made independently of each other. On page 19 of the Advisory Committee's Report is a passage which I think it is desirable to quote:—Although we are of opinion that the standard for the boats to be carried under davits should continue to lie carried on the gross tonnage, we are also of opinion that the standard for additional boat and life raft accommodation should be based on the numbers on board, and not upon a percentage calculated upon the tonnage scale, so that accommodation may be provided for the total number carried.In addition to Lord Mersey's recommendation that there should be boat and raft accommodation for all on board, the Advisory Committee do what Lord Mersey did not do, namely, deal with the manner in which that accommodation should be carried, and to some extent, with its character. On pages 10 and 11 of their Report they make a number of recommendations into which I will not go in great detail; but I can summarise them as follows: Their first recommendation says that the general standard on gross tonnage which had been the standard hitherto should be maintained as the general standard. They regarded it as better than the length of the ship being the measure of the number of persons carried and—this is important—of the number of boats which can with safety to the ship be carried, and immediately available for launching. That is very important. But both considerations are affected very largely by the beam of the ship, and the gross tonnage, roughly speaking, represents both the length and the beam. Their second reason for taking that view was that the existing rules which had been in force from 1894 down to 38 1912, provide actual life accommodation, boat or raft—in fact both—for 90 per cent. of all the steamers and ships of the British mercantile marine engaged in foreign-going passenger and emigrant service. We think, of course, of the terrible disaster to the "Titanic," but we must remember that the then existing rules maintained a standard which gave boat accommodation for everybody on board 90 per cent, of our vessels. A further recommendation was this:—So far as practicable, and with due regard to the safety of the vessel for the voyage, the additional accommodation be provided in the boats under davits or readily available for the davits.This is subject to the proviso that it must notinterfere with the prompt handling of the boats to be carried under that scale—That is, under the first recommendation. I note, too, conditions here of their advice as to supplementary accommodation. One is "due regard to the safety of the vessel for the voyage," and the other, "not to interfere with the prompt handling of the boats"—that is to say, the maximum number, to be readily available for the davits consistent with the safety of the ship and freedom of launching, could, in the opinion of the Committee, be carried —carry as many as you can carry, consistent always with those two principles, namely, the safety of the ship and efficient handling when the boats have to be launched.
Their third recommendation was this. In those cases, and they are not very many but there are some, where the boats supplied under the general standard and under the supplementary provision do not, taken together, provide accommodation for all, additional accommodation, in extraordinary and exceptional disasters like the "Titanic" for the remaining people who cannot find accommodation in the existing boats, should be provided by additional boats or life rafts of approved description placed so as to be available for launching, but also so placed as to avoid undue encumbrance of the ship's decks so as not to interfere with the safety of the ship on the voyage. That is a principle of the very greatest importance, that the decks of the ship should not be unduly encumbered. It applies in two ways. In the ordinary course of the voyage and in the ordinary supervision of the decks the necessity of sending hands or officers quickly to one part of the ship to another constantly arises, and it must be possible to do that without having to perform a 39 steeplechase in rough weather over decks covered up with all kinds of rafts or boats and everything else. In regard to such third accommodation the Advisory Committee expressed the opinion that it was most undesirable to lay down hard and fast rules, and that it was essential to leave to the shipowners and their architects freedom to devise new kinds of apparatus, and to invent better methods of stowing in any positions readily available for use. Of course, in the case of such apparatus, it is essential to remember that it cannot in fact be wanted in an emergency unless the ship is going down; and secondly, unless the ship takes a good long time to go down. Otherwise you cannot get at it; all you can do is to have it there, have it in position, so that when the ship does go down, if it has not been launched overboard, it will float free from the ship, so that the persons struggling in the water may be able to get at it. That is all that can be done, but it is essential in dealing with that to leave a free hand to invention and not to encumber the ship's decks.
The fundamental principle underlying these recommendations was this: that nothing must be done in any way to impair the stability or the seaworthy qualities of the ship herself. Her safety must not be imperilled by any number of boats being put on board, the cardinal principle being that it is more conducive to the safety at life at sea to prevent disaster to the ship than to provide any means of exit from the disaster after it has taken place. On reading the draft rules of the Board of Trade, one is inclined to think that some third independent inquiry has taken place over and above the "Titanic" investigation and the Advisory Committee's investigation. There is this observation to be made on these rules. They were published on 5th September, six weeks after both the Advisory Committee's Report and the "Titanic" Report. They are clearly not based on the Advisory Committee's Report. They contravene the fundamental principle of safety upon which the Advisory Committee's Report is entirely based —namely, the safety of the ship. They disregard it for reasons which I will explain in a moment. I have read the rules through, and I think anybody in the House who does so will probably agree with me that even on points of detail there is no trace of the author of those rules having been influenced by, or possibly even hav- 40 ing read, the Advisory Committee's Report. The Advisory Committee was the official Committee, with the constitution and representation and of the character I have described, to whom the Board of Trade ought to look for advice. I should be very much interested to hear from the President of the Board of Trade in what respects he has gathered any hints for the purposes of these rules from anything that is said in the Advisory Committee's Report. In those rules, as I have described them, there is a cast-iron scale of lifeboats in or alongside davits for all. Those rules contain no discretion except in the exemptions at the end. In the rules themselves there is no discretion to substitute any other apparatus such as rafts, deck boats, or other types than the one mentioned in the rules which, so far as I can see, contain no discretion to permit of boats or apparatus being stowed any way other than in or alongside davits.
If I am right in reading the rules as laying down the requirement that it shall be nothing but boats, that is, boats in the ordinary popular sense, boats of the shape of a boat, then I understand the provision that they must be stowed either in or alongside the davits for the simple reason that those boats, weighing something like two tons and some of them rather more, cannot be moved about generally over the deck of the ship, but must be close to the davits by which they are to be launched. Therefore I can see that if the provision of nothing but lifeboats is right, then it is right that those lifeboats should be kept alongside the davits; but, mark the result. The rules are regardless of several extremely important principles. No regard whatever is paid to the question as to whether the addition of such a large number of very heavy lifeboats on the top deck of a vessel will so impair the stability of the vessel as to make her unsafe in a heavy seaway when ordinarily loaded. My hon. Friend the Member for East Essex is an expert on these subjects, and I know that if he speaks he will be able to tell the House that the addition of such a weight as is involved in this large number of lifeboats on the top deck of a vessel will, in a great number of cases, take from the ship her stability and make her actually unseaworthy and unsafe. That point has, I know, been drawn to the attention of the President of the Board of Trade. He can tell the House if he desires, the particular case in question. It was the case of a passenger vessel either 41 building or just built for one of our great steamship lines, in which, if his scale of boats were applied, the boat could not go to sea as built. Those rules will apply to a great number of moderate-sized vessels certified to carry a largo number of passengers. As mentioned in one of the appendices to the Advisory Committee's Report, there are many ships afloat to-day which, if they had to carry these boats, could not go to sea at all. They could not be run except at a dead loss, because extra heavy iron ballast would have to be stowed in the bottom, and their cargo-carrying capacity would be so diminished that as a financial proposition it would be an impossibility to make them pay. Take another point. There is no hint that the draughtsman proposes that the surveyor in enforcing the rules in practice should say, "Oh, but this number of boats will dangerously obstruct and impede all the decks; they cannot be carried; we must have some other arrangement." That applies both in the course of the voyage and in the event of a casualty. Thirdly, among those qualified to judge, it is common ground that in casualties at sea where a ship goes down it is very important to have several kinds of lifesaving apparatus besides boats. For instance, there is what is technically a decked lifeboat—the Engelhardt boat—but which is not in the shape prescribed, and is not a decked lifeboat within the meaning of the draft rules.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Buxton)
That is one of the boats specifically included in the decked lifeboats.
§ Mr. LESLIE SCOTT
It is not perfectly obvious or I should not have made the statement. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman why it is not perfectly obvious. The rules provide that the decked lifeboats must be of the whale-boat form. The Engelhardt lifeboat is not of the whale-boat form. That is why I inferred from the rules since the whale-boat form is obligatory, that the Engelhardt boats wore not included. If Engelhardt boats are to be allowed, there is no reason whatever for insisting that they shall be carried next the davits, as they can be moved over the decks on trolleys quite easily. The Engelhardt boat is a large flat structure, a kind 42 of platform or pontoon, supported by a number of buoyancy chambers filled with cork, so that it is the most buoyant kind of boat known. It has canvas bulwarks and a seat in the middle, and as the boat is thrown overboard the side and the seat automatically get fixed in the boat. If these boats are used there is no reason why the decks should be hampered by the requirements that the boats must be in immediate proximity to the davits. These provisions were not recommended by Lord Mersey. I cannot think where the Board of Trade got them. They are opposed to the essential principle of safety, namely, that you must consider the safety of the ship first.
There is a still stronger point. The President of the Board of Trade, in his prefatory note, points out that the rules will be laid on the Table of the House shortly, and that after they have laid there forty days they will have statutory effect. He then proceeds to say that the Boats and Davits Committee of the Board of Trade is now and has for a long time been sitting for the purpose of considering what the regulations should be in regard to the kind of boat, its stowage, and the number of the boats on the decks of the ship. The right hon. Gentleman publishes these rules, and then adds a rider that in view of the fact that the Boats and Davits Committee is sitting the rules must be regarded as merely provisional. The President is taking up a strange attitude. He presents to the House a scheme of rules involving an immense, sweeping change of policy, fraught with danger to those who voyage in our ships. Then he seeks to disarm criticism by saying, in a whispered aside, "Do not be alarmed; my Boats and Davits Committee of experts is hearing evidence from everybody who knows about boats and davits; it may when it reports totally condemn my rules, and in that case I shall withdraw them. So you may regard the rules as provisional." If the Committee is still sitting, why publish the rules? Are the shipowners to incur great expenditure in adapting their boat accommodation to the new requirements—in many cases actually to alter their ships, in some cases to put their ships on the scrap-heap to be broken up, or to put them indefinitely in dry dock until a more sensible set of rules is issued? Or does the President intend to ignore his Boats and Davits Committee if it reports adversely to his rules, just as he ignored the Advisory Committee when it reported in a sense different to his proposals? Why 43 this great haste to publish these rules? In the "Titanic" disaster more than one-third of the boat accommodation was not used. During the last twenty years, as Sir William White points out in a very interesting letter in to-day's "Times," our record has been such as to show that the degree of safety we have obtained at sea, in spite of the disaster to the "Titanic," is very great. The truth of the matter is that the Board of Trade were censured for undue delay in revising their rules, and they are now guilty of undue haste in precipitately issuing new ones without adequate consideration.
Take as an illustration, in order to compare the new rules with the views of the shipping community, a foreign-going passenger steamer of 14,000 tons, 560 feet in length, carrying 2,500 passengers and crew. Under both scales—the President's scale and the old gross tonnage scale—that steamer will require sixteen sets of davits, eight on each side in the midship portion of the vessel. Under the draft regulations, assuming that fifty persons go to each boat, there will have to be fifty boats. The draft regulations require half of these boats to be open and half decked. Sixteen is the number of the two sets of davits. Where are the other nine, to make up the twenty-five, to go? There is no suggestion in the rules. It does not matter if the other nine boats which cannot be moved about the deck interfere with the working of the ship, or with the marshalling of the passengers in the event of a casualty. If places could not be found for the additional nine open lifeboats, you would have thought the rules would have directed you to increase the number of decked lifeboats, particularly as we are now told the decked lifeboats may include the Engelhardt boat, which can be moved about. But no such thing. There must be one open lifeboat for each decked lifeboat—the rules say so. Take the Advisory Committee's view. They start with the general standard of sixteen open lifeboats; then as many more lifeboats, open or decked, as can, with due regard to the safety of the ship, the convenience of working, both in the ordinary course of voyage and in case of disaster, be made readily available by the davits. Further, if that is not enough, for all on board, either boats or rafts carried in positions suitable for access in the event of emergency. Which of those two scales is the safer? The provision of the Advisory Committee leaves the decks free; it takes into account the safety 44 of the ship. You must not interfere with the stability of the ship; that is the main thing. You must not overweight the top deck. Obviously, the Advisory Committee's system is far and away the better calculated to achieve the common end in view, namely, the safety of life at sea.
The draft rules, I suggest, are really based on the peculiar facts of one exceptional disaster. There is much misconception as to lifeboats and their use, due largely to a misunderstanding of the lessons to be learnt from the "Titanic" disaster. That disaster was practically unique. It took place in absolutely calm weather. The vessel had practically no list. Therefore it was possible to launch the boats from the davits in an entirely unusual way. In the last twenty years there have been 24,000 voyages, and I believe that in those voyages no single life has been lost through insufficient boat accommodation. The truth of the matter is that lifeboats, though they give a chance of saving life do not give a very good chance, and often not the best chance. In a sea-way, when the vessel is rolling and the ship is a big ship, and the deck is high out of the water—60 or 70 feet as it often is—it is an impossibility to launch boats, particularly to launch them full of passengers as contemplated in the new draft rules. The new draft rules provide that the davits have to be strong enough to launch the boats with their full equipment and full complement of passengers.
I believe the Advisory Committee went down to Southampton in the summer, and there asked one of the Board of Trade officials to let them see a boat lowered from the davits in dock with a full complement of persons—to get, in fact, a shore gang on board. The surveyor said: "No, I am not going to take that risk." Imagine the weight of fifty persons in a boat suspended from the davits? The Board of Trade surveyor would not take the risk with a shore gang in the boat. Imagine then the risk there is attached to the launching of boats in a sea-way with the ship rolling amid big waves! The chance is a very remote one, and a strong body of expert opinion on the subject thinks that in the few casualties which take place where the sea is rough much the best chance of getting into the boats is to have accommodation of a quite different kind, namely, rafts which can be pushed off, the ship acting as a platform for the purpose of enabling the people to stand on it, and move from that platform into the lifeboat. 45 That I know is the view of the Chairman of the Cunard Company, and it is the view entertained by a large number of persons qualified to judge. Deck lifeboats can float with the others. The Engelhardt boat can be put over the side. The ordinary open lifeboat must be lowered from the davits, so far as present inventions go.
The truth of the matter is this: I suggest to the House that in ship-building there has been enormous progress during the last thirty years. Wonderful inventions have been made which have led to far greater safety in the ships themselves. This has been due to a large extent to freedom from interference by Government Departments. I believe that the true principle is to leave the shipbuilding industry, shipowners, and ship designers similar freedom in regard to the boats in order that as many different kinds of boats as possible may be invented with as many different ways of effectively launching these boats under the varying conditions of actual seafaring as can be discovered. The draft rules may be possible on large ships, though for reasons I have just given their utility will, I believe, be very small. On small ships, licensed to carry any considerable number of passengers, the rules require a large number of boats, and for the reason I gave before, I believe they will so impair the stability of those vessels —and I speak with some personal experience on these questions, and the Attorney-General will appreciate, I know, the points to which I am referring—will so diminish the stability of the smaller vessels as practically speaking to make the working of these smaller vessels in the existing trade an impossibility. The great increase in safety at sea shown by the records is due, I believe, entirely to the increase in the safety of ships themselves, and has nothing whatever to do with boats and life-saving accommodation. Since 1890, although the boat accommodation has been increased, the number of lives saved by the boats has decreased. Secondly, there is no evidence, up to the case of the "Titanic," of any life having, since 1890, been lost by an insufficient number of boats. Thirdly, out of 9,000,000 passengers carried during the last twenty years—this number of passengers may possibly include the crews—only 118 lives have been lost up to the time of the "Titanic." These lives were lost in three casualties, with the exception of single individuals who were washed overboard. That is the record of the last twenty years. It is, therefore, madness to endanger the security of the ship for the 46 sake of doing what is suggested, even if you succeeded in increasing the chances of safety and getting away from the ship when she went down. I challenge the President to tell this House on whose advice, outside the Board of Trade itself, these rules have been framed. Has he consulted Lloyd's Registry? Has he consulted the British Corporation? Has he ordered that any recommendations of the Advisory Committee shall be embedded in these rules? Lloyd's Registry and the British Corporation are the two classification houses in this country. With the exception possibly of one well-known yard, they pass all the ships in this country. To these two bodies all designs for ships are submitted for classification purposes, and these two great registries have upon them, practically speaking, all the great experts in ship-designing in this country. Has the President asked them what the effect of these rules will be? If he has not done so, then these rules stand self-condemned. If he has, as I expect he has, I should like to hear what those two great bodies have said. I venture to submit that this House is entitled, in view of the magnitude of the issues involved, to know what outside expert opinion, what great bodies of experts, have been consulted by the President. Those two bodies are so much in touch with the Board of Trade that they partake of a semi-official character. I am not talking in a representative capacity on their behalf to-day. Therefore, for that reason, I should like to hear what views they have expressed to the President. I shrewdly suspect that they have told the President that they have exactly the views as to the draft rules as the rest of the shipping community, and I should like to hear the right hon. Gentleman deny it.
One criticism I shall anticipate. It may be suggested that, although for reasons I have given, these numbers of lifeboats cannot be carried on existing ships, yet ships might so be built as to carry them. I answer the question: "Can ships be so built?" "With, yes—at a price in lives and money"! Only so. If we are to set out to build our ships around a platform for the purpose of carrying the President's boats, our ships will not have that seaworthy character and that degree of stability which they have at the present day. Secondly, there will be a great temptation in view of the very large extra burden put upon the top deck of the ship for shipowners to run with a lower margin of stability than they want to do. The 47 alternative for those shipowners who will not on any consideration diminish their margin of stability by one hair's breadth is to carry fewer passengers in order to be obliged to carry fewer boats—and necessarily to earn less money! The Advisory Committee point out that if the draft rules had been in force for the last twenty years we should never to-day have had those various classes of emigrant ships which have been built during the last twenty years and which have carried emigrants in such vast numbers with such extraordinary safety. It would not have been possible. The Advisory Committee points that out, I think on page 9. If these rules had been in force many useful types of passenger and cargo steamers in use today would have ceased to exist. Besides there is the temptation—and this is an important point—to run to a too small margin of stability.
There is another point. What about our position in regard to international competition? This is a point of the very greatest gravity. We were told at an earlier part of the Session by the President that the Government were in touch with, I think, the German Government, on the question of making international regulations on the subject. If you penalise British shipping by rules of this class before you make your international arrangements I do not see that you facilitate agreement with foreign nations. They naturally would resent it, as I believe is the case actually to-day, and would feel that "the pitch had been queered" for international agreement by the publication in advance of these rules with this precipitous haste. Supposing you do have these rules and we do not succeed in getting international agreements, what is the position? By these rules we diminish the speed of our ships in order possibly to make safer the means of leaving the ships, whilst other nations do nothing of the kind. It is a very serious handicap upon British shipping, for people naturally would prefer the safer ships to the safer boats. The truth of the matter is that if these rules imposing greater obligations, direct or indirect, upon British shipping are to be enforced, you must make them international. Lord Mersey in his Report emphasised that. The Advisory Committee in their Report emphasised that. The President of the Board of Trade admitted it, and the whole shipping community feel now, as they felt in regard to the question of the load-line, which led 48 to the passing of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1906, that the rules must be made international if they are to be effective, and at the same time not to penalise our various shipping interests. I may tell the House that the international unofficial body which succeeded in passing the Conventions in respect of salvage and collisions at sea which have become the law of this country by an Act of last Session intend at their next conference in the summer to deal with the question as to how life-saving regulations of this kind can be made international. I do most strongly urge the President on behalf of the shipping community of this country not to insist upon passing these rules into law before the question has been dealt with internationally. So much, in very long speech I fear, for foreign-going passenger emigrant ships.
One word or two only upon the question of the home trade in passenger ships, because other speakers will deal with that question at greater length. If these rules are insisted upon, several branches of that trade will be actually killed. The excursion trade, for instance, will be killed. During the last twenty years tens of millions of excursionists have been carried, and the total loss of life is six persons, three of whom were members of the crew killed in isolated cases by accidents from machinery. If the President of the Board of Trade does not care about running risk as an excursionist, let him choose some safer method of taking pleasure, but there are a great many people who prefer to take these risks, such as they are, rather than have that trade made impossible. Take the cross-Channel traffic. I have in my hand a telegram received just now, on behalf of the railway companies of the United Kingdom, saying that if these rules are enforced and put into operation, the cross-Channel traffic will be actually killed, and these railway companies therefore deprecate the passing of these rules. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] In this way, that the numbers carried on these small vesels would require, according to the rules of the President of the Board of Trade, such a large number of lifeboats and other apparatus, that the decks would be covered up by them, and there would be no room for the passengers, and in case of disaster there would be certain panic. These steamers cannot possibly carry the weight. I challenge the President of the Board of Trade on this point. Has he had any calculation worked out and laid before himself to show the alterations 49 required in many of these cross-Channel vessels if his rules were carried out as they are drawn? It could not be done. And that is the reason why these rules would make that traffic impossible. That is all I wish to say about the home-trade passenger vessels.
Cargo vesels are not so seriously affected by these rules. Under the existing rules they have to carry on each sufficient boats for the whole crew, but of course the number of persons on board are very much smaller, because there are no passengers and no attendants in the crew for the purpose of looking after passengers, and therefore as regards the number of boats these rules do not affect cargo vessels except in one particular instance, which is so extraordinary in its kind, and indicates that these rules have been drawn on the basis of the "Titanic" disaster and nothing else, that I think it is worth mentioning. The rules require that the davits should be strengthened not only for lowering the boats with one or two people in them but for lowering the boats with the full complement of persons in them, with all the weight involved in the full complement of persons, whatever it may be— I think the number, roughly speaking, is about seventeen persons to the ton, so that the House can readily guess the weight involved. I believe, and I am speaking from information which comes from Lloyd's Register, that the great majority of vessels, at any rate a very large number of vessels in the British mercantile marine, would have to have new davits if these rules were carried out. And for what purpose? Does the President of the Board of Trade imagine that a crew of seamen would prefer to take the risk of being lowered in the boats to the water's edge rather than lowering the boats first and then swarming down the ropes? It is perfectly obvious that on cargo vessels there is no reason whatever for having the davits strengthened so as to enable them to lower the boats with the full complement of persons on board each. They never would be used for such a purpose.
On the summing up for the shipowners of this portion of the case I want to say this: On all these points we are fighting for a principle which we believe to be absolutely essential to safety. If that principle be accepted, we on our part are prepared to agree to any conditions Parliament may impose with regard to the inspection of boats and lifeboats. We are prepared to show that the preparations and the precautions we are taking are 50 adequate and satisfactory, and we ask not only from the President of the Board of Trade but from the Government something in return. It is no use for us to-provide boats unless we have properly trained seamen to man the boats, and I ask the close attention and I believe I shall get the close and sympathetic attention of the President of the Board of Trade on this point of the supply of seamen for the mercantile marine, and the best method of obtaining and training seamen who can carry out boat operations satisfactorily, and in respect of whom it is right that the President of the Board of Trade should ask Parliament, as he suggested, for additional powers for the purposes of making boat drill obligatory. We are all agreed that the question of the training of seamen is a very difficult one, and I want to lay before the House five separate propositions in regard to this question of manning, all of which I believe to be very important.
The first proposition is this. I hope the President will be able to appreciate it, and I ask his sympathetic attention to it. The fall in the number of sailors as distinguished from other ratings, and of course, as a necessary consequence the disappearance of the sailing ship has an indirect bearing upon the question of manning on the steamers; but it is an important thing-to bear in mind that during the last thirty years from 1880 to 1910 the changes in the character of our mercantile marine have been as follows: There were in 1880, 15,000 sailing ships; and in 1910, 5,000—I am using round figures. These 15,000 ships, in 1880, were manned by 152,000 sailors. The 5,000 ships in 1910 were manned by 35,000 sailors. There were 3,700 steamers in 1880 with a gross tonnage of 2,500,000 manned by 18,000 sailors. In 1910 there were 9,400 steamers with the gross tonnage of 10,500,000 manned by a quarter of a million of sailors including lascars. It will be observed that the falling off in sailing ships has reduced the number of the crews from 152,000 to 25,000, and that in the same period the crews of steamers have risen from 18,000 to 250,000. That change has been accompanied by a great saving of life. The loss of life in sailing ships is six times as great as in steamers. And there is this to be observed, that the nature of the sailor as distinguished from other ratings—persons who can steer, keep look-out and carry out the various other duties— does not vary substantially with the size of the steamer. Roughly, you have the 51 same number of men with nautical experience, whether the steamer is large or small. Secondly, the merchant service is to-day well and efficiently manned. During the last thirty years, and this is very important, the record of the loss of life per annum—that is the percentage of lives lost taken on the total number of crews carried; that is the basis of calculation—has been reduced per annum as follows: The lives lost per crews carried in sailing ships has been reduced slightly from 1.12 to 88, and in steamers from 6.1 to 1.4. So it is quite obvious that the change from sailing ships to steamers has led to a very great increase in the saving of life, especially when the enormous increase in the number of boats is taken Into account.
From 1893 to 1903 there was an increase in the number of foreign sailors in our ships from 29,000 to 40,000, but from 1903 to 1911 that balance has been largely diminished, and there are to-day 30,000 more British sailors than in 1909, and 10,000 foreigners have been replaced by 10,000 British sailors. That is all very much to the good. Now, then, the important proposition that must be accepted as absolutely unimpeachable is that exceptional disasters where the ship has to be abandoned can only be met by every member of the crew taking part in life-saving, and for that reason the crew must be trained. To be a good boat hand it is not necessary for a man to be an "A.B." Most of the best boat hands round the country, such as fishermen and lifeboat-men, are not A.B.' s at all. It is perfectly possible to train an ordinary seaman upon a steamer. The disappearance of the sailing ship and the increase in the size of the steamers have lessened the opportunities of training the men, that our young lads who wanted to go to the mercantile marine used to have in the days that are passed. That is the point upon which I want to have the President's attention. The shipowners are willing to take their part in ensuring that the crews are adequately trained for the purposes of efficient boat service if the Board of Trade will help the shipowners to keep good discipline on our vessels and to provide us with a supply of lads with elementary training. These two things are most important from the point of view of the question of the safety of life at sea. We must have good crews, and not only that, but we must get the assistance of 52 the Government in regard to discipline and training. In the old days the lads used to get their training in the small sailing vessels, and then they went on to the larger sailing vessels, with their great risk of loss of life. But they got their training. That means of training, that branch of the sailing service has practically gone, and I submit that the Government must step in and give Government assistance to make training ships and training schools worthy of this country. Lord Mersey, in his Report, emphasises that very strongly. There is a paragraph in the recommendations suggesting it. Last July, before the House adjourned, I obtained from the Chancellor of the Exchequer a promise that if the Board of Education could devise suitable regulations he would see that a Grant was made through the Treasury to the training schools for the sea service. I know there are many in this country. There is one on the banks of the Mersey where the boys are turned out ready for sea service, and they are so efficient that there is a regular race by the shipowners of Liverpool to get those boys when they come out of that institution. A small Government grant of £20 per head will ensure a supply of lads coming to the sea service with a very considerable degree of training for modern work. The President of the Board of Trade knows it, and if he has any doubt about it I ask him to go down to that school, and he will see there a means of supply of boys with an elementary training which will more than take the place of the old sailing ships as a school of experience. One word about discipline. I submit that it must be recognised, and this is a very important point, that under existing legal provisions there are enactments in the Merchant Shipping Act providing for offences against discipline penal offences, but the means of enforcing discipline under the provisions of the Statute are by no means sufficient. I do not wish to weary the House by going into them in detail. But anybody conversant with shipping matters will be ready to tell the President that for practical purposes you cannot enforce obedience to lawful commands on board ship as much as ought to be possible.
Take boat drill. Take the case where many of the hands refuse to attend boat drill. They are proceeded against and brought before the shipping superintendent, and probably Mr. Havelock Wilson will say, "Is it really worth while I to keep the crew? Is it not better to let 53 them off this time?" I think this House ought to recognise that a breach of discipline in the marine service is a danger to the State, and not a mere breach of contract between the shipowner and the seaman. It is for the Board of Trade in carrying out its executive duties in connection with marine shipping to see that discipline is preserved by taking the necessary means of enforcing discipline. If that is done we shall get our supply of sailors and we shall get help in regard to discipline, and then we will undertake to supply crews and keep crews that will man the boats and work them with efficiency in case of need. But important as is the manning question, the primary consideration is that our ships should be seaworthy. Shipping interests welcome the appointment of the Bulkhead Committee and other Committees which are sitting to advise the Board of Trade. There is a matter which was recommended by the Advisory Committee a year ago, and this is an important point to which I wish to draw the attention of the House. I want to say a word of the gravest warning that I in my representative capacity can utter. I pass from the draft rules of the President to the Report of Lord Mersey on the "Titanic" in regard to one point only, and that is the fifth recommendation on page 72 of that Report. Under the title of water-tight sub-division there appears this regulation:—That the Board of Trade should he empowered by the legislature to require the production of designs and specifications of all ships in their early stages of construction, and direct such amendment of the same as may be thought necessary and practical for the safety of life at sea in ships. This shall apply to all passenger-carrying ships.It is impossible in this House to discuss what such an alteration of the law might involve, but may I remind the House that almost every ship is built to the requirements of Lloyd's Register or the British Corporation, or similar classification bodies. On those bodies all the greatest expert knowledge of the country is represented, and compliance with their rules is for practical purposes a condition of insurance. We all know the tendency of a Government Department. It cannot command the greatest scientific and inventive genius because it cannot pay the price, and the tendency, therefore, is to standardise and follow a hard and fast scale, or some rule-of-thumb standard which becomes monotonous and which prevents and retards new inventions. It may be possible, and it may be necessary, to strengthen the powers of the Board of 54 Trade in regard to unseaworthy ships, but the point I wish to ask the assent of the House to is that it would be a national calamity if the development of our greatest industry were to be subjected to the cramping pressure of bureaucratic regulations. That is the danger which underlies any recommendations in our merchant service. It is suggested that the Board of Trade should be given statutory powers to insist upon such alteration in the design of vessels as they think fit. The danger lying there cannot be exaggerated. To sum up the whole case, if the great and steady progress of the last twenty years is to go on—and at sea it must be remembered real safety does not lie in the way of boats or light rafts in order to escape disaster, but it is to be found more in the well-built and well-manned vessels navigated with prudence and skill in order to enable them to complete their voyage. That is the fundamental principle for which the shipping industry is fighting. I mean, not only the shipowners, but the underwriters, the seamen, the naval architects, and the shipbuilders. We are warned by those interests that any departure from that principle will gravely imperil safety at sea. Under these circumstances are we prepared to take upon ourselves the responsibility of rejecting or even weakening that principle and ignoring that warning.
§ Sir FORTESCUE FLANNERY
My hon. and learned Friend has apologised more than once for the length of his speech, yet I venture to think that the House will recognise that he has made out a case of overwhelming strength against the proposed action of the Board of Trade, and a case which, coming as it does from one of the representatives of Liverpool, a great ship-owning centre, is one which the Government cannot, and I hope will not, attempt to ignore. It is quite interesting to remember the history of this question in connection with the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade have been accused of having allowed this question to sleep for a great many years, of having made a few regulations, and of having given practically no attention to the march of progress in connection with the greater size of vessels and the larger number of lives exposed to danger in the case of each ship. The right hon. Gentleman who is going to deal with this question will say, I think, that the Board of Trade based their regulations, such as they were, upon the principle that they should make the ships safer rather than provide very extensive means of 55 escape in connection with boats. That is to say they went on the basis of prevention being better than cure, and they permitted vessels which had special means of safety in regard to bulkheads greater latitude in regard to the number of boats they should carry than in the case of vessels which had not those provisions.
Then the Board of Trade provided what they called an Advisory Committee, and this is quite a new departure, and it is one which I think the present Government are more responsible for than any preceding Administration. The individual in the department who is responsible shuffles off the mortal coil of his responsibility upon a so-called Advisory Committee, who have no authority but who are there to take the blame if any miscarriage should arise. An Advisory Committee in regard to all these matters of boats and other regulations in connection with shipping was provided by the Board of Trade. Then came the "Titanic" disaster which shocked the whole civilised world, which heaped accusations of want of preparation on the head of the Board of Trade, and caused the public to cry out for some amendment of the existing regulations. And so the Board of Trade appointed three separate authorities to inquire into this matter. First of all there was Lord Mersey with his assessors representing science in all its branches. Then there was the Bulkhead Committee, a representative committee of the highest standing to advise the Board of Trade as to what ought to be done in the way of provision of watertight compartments to prevent the sinking of the ship. Then they appointed a Boats and Davits Committee, also consisting of men of the highest standing and scientific training, to advise them on the question of boats, along with the advice they would receive on the question of watertight bulkheads.
Would it be believed that in the face of all those three authorities originated by themselves, without waiting to carry out the advice or even to receive the advice of those three bodies, or any of them in full, the Board of Trade promoted and threatened to put into a statutory enactment, as they are entitled to do, a series of rules which have no foundation whatever on any recommendation made by Lord Mersey in his Report, or by the Advisory Committee which they originally appointed, or by the Bulkheads Committee which has not yet reported, or by the Boats 56 Committee which also has not yet reported. That is the position, and those are the circumstances and the conditions under which the Board of Trade have put forward these rules to take effect in January next, asking, as I assume the Prime Minister's Motion is intended to ask, for the sanction of the House?
§ Mr. BUXTON
The Motion has nothing to do, in terms, with the rules. It is merely a Motion enabling the House to discuss the whole question, and is in no way connected with the rules. I have already in a White Paper pointed out that these draft rules are not yet before the House. The chief object of the Motion was to elicit and welcome criticism.
§ Sir FORTESCUE FLANNERY
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the information which he has just given me, and I am sure the House will gladly receive his statement that the Motion, "that these rules be now considered," is not in any way intended to be a Motion that they should be now approved.
§ Sir FORTESCUE FLANNERY
I have read the Motion. It is "That the matter be now considered," and I am glad indeed to hear it is not the intention of the Board of Trade that the rules should now be approved. It is quite true, as the right hon. Gentleman points out in a White Paper, that these rules are provisional and may be subject to amendment, but what my hon. and learned Friend and myself complain of is that any rules should have been put forward before the authorities which have been set up for investigation have given their reports and before those reports have been fully considered by the Board of Trade. It is a fact that shipowners since the "Titanic" disaster voluntarily increased the number of boats which their vessels carry. It is equally a fact that they have found the greatest difficulty in getting their sailors to exert themselves in the way of boat drill to make those boats useful, and the appeal made by my hon. Friend in regard to assistance in the training of men will, I hope—in fact I feel sure—have a sympathetic reception from the Board of Trade.
57 These authorities set up by the Board of Trade to advise them have included ships officers, men of nautical experience, and they have themselves realised from experience how difficult it is to get the modern British sailor to become amenable to discipline in anything which gives him additional trouble without its being apparent it is quite necessary for the navigation of the ship. If these rules are established and the additional number of lifeboats prescribed by them are carried, there are many vessels, at present safe enough under full cargoes and loaded as they were intended to be loaded, which with this additional top hamper will not be safe, and the only alternative will be to reduce the number of boats to be carried by reducing the number of passengers. Otherwise, the vessels cannot be allowed to continue to run.
The crux of this matter is to be found in some answers which the right hon. Gentleman gave to questions which I ventured to put to him in the early part of the Session very shortly after the "Titanic" disaster. I urged the Board of Trade to at once take steps to open negotiations with foreign Powers, particularly with those that were competing in commercial matters with us, and to endeavour, without delay, to arrange a system internationally, common to all mercantile marines, that would be agreeable to the various governments, and that could wisely be enforced upon the various shipowners of all those nationalities. I could not get a satisfactory assurance from the right hon. Gentleman. He stated that "as soon as possible,"—I think those were his words—or"as soon as might be," he would endeavour to open up such negotiations. I pointed out that unless those negotiations were opened immediately the very state of things which has arisen would arise. Under pressure of public opinion and without preparation by way of international agreement, the Board of Trade would rush rules which would be disastrous, in competition if applied to the mercantile navy of one country and not to the mercantile navies of all countries. That is exactly the position which has arisen. Perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman will state in the course of his reply what steps have been taken to bring about an agreement. For instance, what negotiations had taken place with the United States before they set up, or at all events published a set of rules based, I suppose, upon the public inquiry held by Senator Smith, 58 and who, whatever may be said against them, have at least set an example to the Board of Trade in hurrying forward legislation before proper consideration has been given to the subject. If for any international or diplomatic reason, it was not possible to have such negotiations as the right hon. Gentleman promised he would endeavour to effect, then I will ask how far has the Board of Trade or the Government endeavoured to co-operate with that International Voluntary Association which consists of representative men from shipowners, from underwriters, and from ship constructors, that ship association which has already been able to codify rules and which would very rapidly and very successfully, I believe, frame international rules in regard to the saving of life at sea both as regards bulkheads and boats to be carried.
What is required is an international agreement in regard to watertight subdivisions, boats, wireless telegraphy, lanes for navigation, and other matters perhaps of lesser importance. Then the Board of Trade might proceed with perfect safety. If these rules, even with the possible detailed modifications which the right hon. Gentleman foreshadows in the White Paper, are put into effect in January next as is proposed, what will be the result? Foreign countries will upon this question adopt what the Prime Minister has so often recommended in regard to other matters, the "Wait and See" policy. They will say. "Let us first see what is the effect of the British rules; afterwards, we will determine what will be best for ourselves in regard to competition combined with safety in our fleet." The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as any man knows the extent to which competition of an unfair character against British shipowners has taken place in the past with regard to the load line. Whilst British ships were unable to leave British or foreign ports with a cargo beyond a strictly defined and limited amount, foreign ships were at one time able to load as much more cargo as they pleased in our own ports or to come into our own ports and load to an extent which would not be allowed in the case of British ships. The effect of that was to give foreign shipowners such preferential treatment as amounted to an enormous commercial advantage in competition with our own shipowners. In the case of passenger vessels, regulations and provisions have applied to British ships which have not applied to 59 foreign ships, and you have had German and French vessels in competition with British vessels able to carry more with less expensive provisions for life-saving. British shipowners have suffered accordingly. Those inequalities of competition in the past have been small by comparison with what they will be in the future if these rules are adopted. Therefore, what I very urgently put forward, with great respect but with great conviction, is that the Government should be invited to indefinitely postpone the application of these rules until an international agreement has been arrived at.
It may be supposed that what I urge is in the interests of the profits of shipowners. That is a matter not altogether negligible. We hear a great deal nowadays about trade competition and about British traders compared with foreign traders. I am not going to touch upon that question except to say that it at least deserves respectful consideration. If you hamper the British shipowner in his competition with foreign shipowners you reduce his power of giving employment to British seamen, and you reduce the opportunities of the British mercantile marine to be a training ground for British seamen available for the Navy in time of war. It is therefore not merely upon the question of trade or the question of employment or the question of the profits of the shipowners, but it is also upon the perhaps more urgent and more important question of having a training ground for fighting seamen that I urge the Board of Trade to pause before they place the British shipowner at so enormous a disadvantage as compared with his foreign competitor. I do not wish to say anything which might seem out of the ordinary course of an academic discussion such as this ought to be. It seems to me that the Board of Trade have yielded to a supposed demand from outside which I, for one, do not think justified. They are seeking to legislate in panic; they are putting forward Departmental proposals, which they have a perfect right to do under the existing law, but their proposals go far beyond what was contemplated by the Legislature when these powers were given to them. I am sure this House will welcome, and shipowners, too, will welcome, the assurance which the right hon. Gentleman gave a few moments ago, that this Debate was not intended to 60 lead up to the confirmation of these rules, but is rather for the purpose of ventilating this matter, and if the effect of this ventilation should be to cause these rules to be postponed in their action—I will not say withdrawn—but held up until an international agreement is arrived at, I am sure the Debate will not have been in vain, but will have done good, not only to the mercantile marine, but to the interests of the country at large.
§ Mr. HOLT
I think there is no doubt that these rules have been put forward by the Board of Trade under the influence of a panic shock which the Department, in common with the whole civilised world and a large number of shipowners, suffered as a result of the terrible "Titanic" misfortune. But I think it cannot be too-strongly emphasised that that disaster was an abnormal incident. The enormous size of the ship and the terrible extent of the loss of life no doubt riveted public attention. But let it first be remembered that this was an accident brought about by collision with ice, and that is a danger to which only a very small portion of our mercantile marine is ever exposed. It is a very unusual thing, limited practically to one trade route, and we have figures in the returns showing the number of lives lost at sea, and other statistics, which prove beyond all shadow of doubt that safety at sea is a steadily increasing quantity, and that there can be no suggestion whatever that anything that has happened within the last ten or twenty years has rendered it necessary to make more strict regulations for securing safety at sea. Quite the contrary is the case. It is absolutely certain that the regulations enforced have enormously increased safety at sea, and we find that in the year ending 1911 the loss of life amongst seafarers fell to the small proportion of 14. I cannot believe it is wise to enter upon legislation of this kind under the influence of one abnormal circumstance, which is entirely out of accord with the general trend of events. That there has been much greater safety of life in the last thirty years than there used to be is abundantly proved, and it can be proved to the hilt that that greater safety is not due to the use of lifeboats or craft, but to the fact that the vessels now being built are much safer than the ships of thirty or fifty years ago as sea-going machines. It is also due to the fact that navigation is carried out with a great deal more care than used to be the case, and 61 the establishment of main routes in the North Atlantic by the voluntary action of the shipowners has done much to produce greater safety at sea. Some of the worst disasters in the North Atlantic were brought about by vessels taking certain tracks, but that danger has been eliminated quite voluntarily, and I think I am right in saying that almost every regular liner now has a regular course, which has been laid down after great consideration, and navigation dangers are thereby avoided. That is what has been done to secure safety at sea, and it has been done voluntarily by the shipowners acting on the advice of their technical advisers, constructional and nautical. None of these steps have been adopted as a result of interference on the part of this House, and, therefore, I do not see why it is necessary under these circumstances that the Board of Trade should come forward with further fresh proposals.
I object also to the fact that the Board of Trade have gone in for that absurd fetish, "Boats for all"—one of the most ridiculous proposals ever put forward. It is a newspaper policy—it is a policy originating with writers in the newspapers, but it has never been advocated by any person who has had practical experience in connection with ships, neither has it been advocated by habitual passengers. On these great passenger liners the majority of the passengers are people constantly travelling. They know perfectly well whether they are in a good ship or a bad ship; they are people who can demand and obtain dinner à la carte instead of table d'hôte, and they are equally capable of insisting on having boats for all if they think it is in the least necessary in their own interests. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will let me point out that even he does not carry this policy of "boats for all" to its full length, for he has stated that it may be abandoned in the case of certain classes—in the case of classes 7, 8, and 9, which deal with passenger vessels which do not go far from shore and are usually in smooth waters. I should have thought that it was in the case of vessels usually in smooth waters that "boats for all" were most needed, because, if you really get into rough water, boats are not likely to be of the slightest use. The only possible chance of saving life by boats is when the vessel is in smooth water. That, I submit, is a sine quâ non. Speaking from my own experience, I may say that my firm has carried a large number of passengers— Asiatics, whose lives are as dear to them 62 as are their lives to Europeans; we have carried hundreds of thousands of such people, and there has never been any suggestion that boats should be provided for all. That never could be done for the class of persons carried; they are miserably poor, and could not possibly afford to pay for the accommodation which would be involved in boats for all. Yet, during the forty-five years we have carried on this traffic, not one single person has lost his life, so that the life-saving appliances which have had to be provided have actually proved to be so much waste.
But let us look at the particular case of the "Titanic." I will take my facts from those to be found in Lord Mersey's Report. The last boat was launched on the starboard side at 1.40 a.m. and on the port side at 2.5. The ship foundered at 2.20. Does any sensible person believe that, during that last quarter of an hour, if there had been boats on the deck sufficient to accommodate the whole of the passengers, they could have been launched? Lord Mersey has nowhere stated that, had there been more boats on the "Titanic," more people would have been saved, and I do not believe there is any responsible person who has gone through the Report and studied the facts who would say, with any positive conviction, that, had there been more boats, more persons would have been saved. Personally I do not believe any more would have been saved. If you study the facts as they are set out you will see it is not reasonable to suppose that more people would have been saved by the existence of more boats. What might have saved the lives of these unfortunate people? It is quite possible, if the bulkheads had been differently constructed so that the ship could have been kept afloat five hours longer, everybody would have been saved, as in that time assistance could have been secured. I think the disaster to the "Titanic" shows that we must look to improved ship construction rather than to increased boat accommodation for means of safety. If you turn to the Report of Lord Mersey you will see at the very beginning what was the cause of the disaster. I should like to read it to the House:—The loss of the ship was due to collision with an-iceberg, and the excessive speed at which the ship was being navigated.In the whole of the proposed rules and regulations I do not gather there is the slightest indication that they mean to take any steps whatever to prevent the navigation of ships at excessive speed. Yet that 63 was undoubtedly the cause of the disaster. Later on in the Report we find this passage referring to Captain Smith, an officer with whom I had the pleasure of sailing on many occasions, and for whose character and special abilities I had the very greatest respect. If he could be brought to' life again I should still have the utmost confidence in him; but, referring to Captain Smith, Lord Mersey said:—He made a mistake, a very grievous mistake, but one in which, in face of the practice and of past experience, negligence cannot be said to have had any part, and in the absence of negligence it is impossible in my opinion to fix Captain Smith with blame. It is, however, to be hoped that the last has been heard of the practice, and that for the future it will be abandoned for what we now know to be more prudent and wiser measures. What was a mistake in the case of the 'Titanic' would, without doubt, be negligence in any similar case in the future.That is the real lesson of the Report. It is that a vessel must not be navigated at extreme speed when the circumstances are dangerous, and if the Board of Trade made recommendations ensuring that navigation at dangerous speed under certain conditions such as those that led to this disaster should not be persisted in they would do a great deal more to secure safety than by promulgating these regulations with regard to life-saving. The true policy is to concentrate all one's efforts on saving the ship. Save the ship and the safety of the people, and cargo follows. But if you allow one's mind to be distracted from the effort to save the ship in order to consider how you are to save the people after the loss of the ship, you are likely to lose many more lives. The safety of the ship should be the first and only consideration.
There are one or two subsidiary matters in the draft rules as to which I should like to say a word or two. First of all I want to say a word on the question of wireless telegraphy. Passenger ships are now being compelled to institute wireless telegraphy by the pressure of the passengers. There is no reason for putting pressure upon them to do something which they are already doing voluntarily. I understand there was some suggestion that cargo boats were to be made to carry wireless telegraphy apparatus, not that it was going to be of use to them, but that it was to be of use to somebody else. If wireless is going to cost them something, they should be paid for carrying it, either out of the public funds or by the class of ships for whose benefit wireless telegraphy is to be installed. If you are going to compel ships, admittedly for no purpose of their 64 own, to carry wireless telegraphy, you must pay them for it. In the same line of argument it would be reasonable to require everybody to have a telephone in his house, because it might be of assistance to somebody else, it might be in a matter of life or death. I know from my own experience a case in which life was prolonged for several months because a doctor happened to have a telephone in his house. The same argument applies if ship "A" is compelled to carry wireless apparatus for the benefit of ship "B." Furthermore, if this wireless telegraphy is to be made compulsory, my right hon. Friend must take some serious steps to deal with the monopolists who possess the whole of the wireless telegraphy rights. It is a monstrous thing to go to any body of men and say, "You must equip yourselves with a certain article," while another body of men are allowed, under the laws of the country, to refuse to sell it except at exorbitant prices. If you are going to make wireless telegraphy compulsory, you must deal with the companies owning the patent rights so as to allow us to buy the article at ordinary commercial prices. I understand there is some horrible suggestion that the harbours are to be further denuded of their dues by allowing dues for wireless telegraphy to be deducted from tonnage. Whatever may be decided as regards shipowners as to whether they are to have wireless telegraphy or not, that is no reason for reducing the charges on ships on going into harbour.
On the question of boat drill, it must be obvious to everyone that you cannot have a crew drilled up to the standard that people will desire if you are going to allow the engagement of seamen to be the extremely casual thing it is at present. How are you going to compel proper boat drill for a body of men who, when they get to Australia, will probably half of them desert at once? The whole matter will be regarded as a joke by the authorities who are importing free labour without paying for its passage. You cannot have efficient boat drill for a crew unless you have some real security that the crew will stand by the ship. If we are to have these new regulations, or any further regulations, I hope that the Board of Trade will not for one moment lose sight of the fact that the regulations must be made international. It is perfectly impossible to carry on the business of trading at sea at all if you are going to have different regulations in every 65 single country in the globe. It is quite possible that two different nations might have absolutely conflicting regulations. There is nothing in the world to prevent regulations being issued under which it will be impossible for any ship to journey from country "A" to country "B," because it cannot at one and the same time comply with the regulations of both countries. The probability is that you will find so many regulations of a different character in different countries that it will be impossible to carry at one and the same time the equipment necessary to comply with all. In addition to that, the expense becomes very great, and is entirely wasted.
Finally, let me remind the House that shipowning can only be carried on for profit. All these additional charges that are going to be placed on the ship will, sooner or later, and in some form or other, come out of the pockets of the general public. I would point out that the more difficult and complicated you make your regulations, the more you turn the business so regulated into a monopoly, because fewer people find it easy to comply with them. That is always the case where a trade is extremely hampered by rules or regulations; there is a tendency to turn it into a monopoly, which you do not find where the rules are simple and easy. If the rules are made very difficult, fewer persons will comply with them, and they will require a larger sum of money to reimburse themselves for the trouble to which they have been put. Before we legislate in a panic, let us consider whether these rules are really going to do anything whatever beyond adding to the expense of the carriage of goods and persons by sea. Let us be sure in our own minds, and satisfy ourselves from a careful study of the subject, that there is going to be, as a result of the proposed regulations, a substantial saving of life at sea. I do not believe any such saving will follow, but that all you are going to do is to increase that cost of living against which the phonic are protesting so loudly. There is nothing which more certainly increases the cost of living than to compel wasteful expenditure.
I say that reasonable care is being taken to protect the lives of everyone who goes to sea. If you are determined in your own mind that in no circumstances are you going to be drowned, your prudent course is to stay at home. There must be some risk, whatever walk in life you go. If you try to eliminate all risk you will end 66 by making life so expensive that no one can afford to live any longer. Let me illustrate that point. Everybody in the House, or most hon. Members, will be familiar with the precautions taken to protect the life of His Majesty the King when he travels by train in this country. It may be presumed that all these precautions are necessary, such as the stopping of the traffic on the line for half-an-hour in advance of the Royal train, and sending on a pilot engine. It is proper that these precautions should be taken for the safety of His Majesty, but suppose that the same precautions were taken for every citizen in the country, which, ex hypothesi, would be for the safety of the citizen, all traffic and all civilisation would come to an end. I hope that is not an unfair illustration. You must not demand so much safety in carrying on traffic that it is impossible for people to carry it on at all. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not press these regulations. I hope that ho will withdraw them, or that at any rate we shall have no new regulations until he has exhausted the last possibility of obtaining an international agreement.
Mr. FRED HALL (Dulwich)
I have listened with great interest to what fell from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mr. Leslie Scott), but with reference to the remarks of the last speaker I am not so entirely in accord with him. He stated very plainly that so far as he is concerned he does not think there will be any material advantage gained by placing sufficient boat accommodation on the steamers for the lives of all on board. In his Report Lord Mersey, who the hon. Member will agree is a pretty high authority, very plainly says—the accommodation should be sufficient for all persons on board.As far as the majority of shipowners are concerned they perfectly agree to that. I hold in my hand a letter from a very important body—the Committee of Lloyd's— in which they state that the Committee endorse the views expressed in the resolution of the shipowners. The shipowners themselves agree that sufficient accommodation should be placed on board, but they are entirely opposed to carrying out the regulations as proposed by the Board of Trade in the papers that have been issued. They say: "We have been frankly told that your proposition is that lifeboat accommodation—not rafts or life-saving apparatus of that description—should be 67 provided for everybody on board, and that the lifeboat accommodation in every case is to be placed amidships." May I suggest to the President of the Board of Trade that if, in the circumstances, he considers there should be so much more lifeboat accommodation provided, he should not limit it to those lifeboats being carried amidships? The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that in the aft-part of many modern ships there is a large space which can be utilised. I do not suggest that the davits should be placed in the bows, but they could be placed in the aft-part. Expert opinion goes to show that there they will afford much greater safety than if they are placed amidships. Although it has been suggested that these regulations would come into force on 1st January next, I am glad the President has stated that they are not really intended to come into force on that date, and that he pins himself down to the words used in the first paragraph, in which he says—the regulations are to be regarded to some extent as provisional.I hope in these circumstances that the words "to some extent" are to be presumed as meaning that these are suggestions and not regulations. If that is what is intended I cannot help thinking that out of the discussion of the regulations which have been issued some good will come to the general passengers travelling on the boats.
What do the shipowners recommend? They say that, so far as they are concerned, they think the chief point in connection with the safety of those carried at sea is the construction of the ship. I entirely agree with the last speaker that that is the fundamental principle of saving life at sea. An important Committee, the Bulkhead Committee, is now sitting, and we should not go into any question of laying down regulations until we have the Report of the three Committees that are sitting at the present time. I can quite understand my right hon. Friend thinking of this terrible loss of life. There is not one Member of the House, sit where he may, who would not do anything to counteract in any way any chance of such calamities occurring in the future; but we cannot legislate for that sort of thing until we have the whole of the Reports. The most important Report that we shall have dealing with this subject is on the question of the division or subdivision of the ships themselves. That 68 Report we have not got and shall not have for some considerable time. I hope therefore that the President under no circumstances whatever will press the question until he has got these Reports. Then I find on page 4 of this White Paper that—lifeboats must be of a prescribed build. In the term 'lifeboat' is included the 'decked lifeboat,' but not a collapsible boat.In Lord Mersey's Report, as he issued it, he states that there should be provision, by lifeboat and raft accommodation, for all on board. Under these circumstances I suggest that the Report as issued by the Board of Trade is diametrically opposed to the finding of Lord Mersey himself. I should like the President of the Board of Trade to inform the House on what grounds he has set aside the finding of Lord Mersey, and has contented himself with saying, "We are not agreed on the question of collapsible boats and rafts and that sort of thing, but we pin our faith to the lifeboats themselves." Has the right hon. Gentleman considered what will be the result if lifeboats have to be provided for everyone who is carried on a large ocean liner? In the ordinary course boats which carry perhaps 3,000 souls, crew and passengers, might be calculated to carry on an average fifty lifeboats. In the case of the "Titanic" they were exceptionally large boats which carried, I think, in the ordinary course up to sixty-three; so you have to find lifeboat accommodation for sixty different boats. Surely that must hamper the ship as well as the ship constructor. Surely if these are to be in davits, hung under each other, instead of assisting in the safety of life at sea, we should be rather handicapping it, because you could not have the proper space in which to hang up the boats. Of course, if the President suggests that instead of carrying 3,000 passengers you are going to carry half that number, I can quite understand what he means. It simply means that the shipowners are to be handicapped by foreign competition. May I suggest to the President of the Board of Trade that if, instead of pinning himself down to lifeboats at all, he would agree to life-saving apparatus in the form of collapsible boats or rafts in addition to lifeboats, I think the large majority of shipowners would be prepared to accept that. Certainly, if on the other hand, he intends to adhere to the suggestions in this Report, I tell him at once that he will meet with the greatest opposition from the shipowners themselves.
69 I find again in the Report, on page 5, it states that buoyant apparatus shall be recognised in the case of coasting steamers. If it is to be recognised in the case of coasting steamers that it is possible that passengers may be saved in that manner, surely they could be saved also under the same circumstances on these large ocean-going steamers. Take an exceptional case. Take the case, for instance, that many of the boats have been launched, and the decks are gradually getting down to the level of the water itself. There is no question whatever that collapsible boats under these cirucmstances would be much more easily launched than boats from the davits. May I ask the President if he will, in going into the matter, consider the question of agreeing not only that these boats shall all be placed on these ships, but that the space on the after-deck might be utilised for this purpose? With regard to the stability of ships, I was speaking only last week with a, very great authority, and he said that if the regulations as suggested by the Board of Trade become law, it will simply mean that many ships which have been constructed during the last few years will become unseaworthy, because it would not be consistent with the stability of the ship to place these extra boats in the position suggested by the President of the Board of Trade. I am fully convinced that it is not the desire of the Board of Trade to hamper the shipowners in any way whatever, but only to find the best means of saving life at sea in the event of such a calamity as we witnessed a few months ago occurring again. We hear of enormous numbers of lives being lost, but in many cases this is very greatly exaggerated. The stability of ships and the improvements in their architecture during the past twenty or twenty-five years have been the greatest means of reducing the loss of life. The percentage has been exceedingly small, and I hope the Board of Trade will not say to the shipbuilders and owners, "You have to bring before us your various plans, and, after we have gone through them, if we agree, we will pass them. But if, on the other hand, there are various points on which our advisers do not agree, then you will have to alter the construction of your ship." Surely in these days of the keen competition which is necessary in order that we may maintain the supremacy of our mercantile marine, that will handicap us. It has been, and it always will be, one of the most important points of the shipowners themselves and of shipbuilders, 70 because they work in harmony, to minimise the risk to travellers. I was particularly delighted to hear the statement that these regulations and rules were only suggested, and I hope, under the circumstances, that the suggestions that have been put forward by the Shipowners' Committee will receive the most sympathetic consideration in order that the improvements which the right hon. Gentleman, I am sure, is desirous of obtaining will be obtained with the least possible handicap to the shipowning fraternity themselves. In their report the Shipowners' Society recommend that no new life-saving appliance rules should be issued till after the proposed international conference has been held. By the time it has been held, in the ordinary course of events, you will have received the Reports of the various Committees which are now sitting. I am particularly referring to the Bulkhead Commission. The evidence which will be obtained from that Committee will be of greater importance even than the question of providing accommodation for all on board. I am entirely in favour of accommodation being found for every one who is carried, but I am entirely averse from the suggestion that accommodation should be provided by means of lifeboats and lifeboats only.
§ Mr. BARNES
I have heard the greater portion of the four speeches which have been made, and I think I ought to say from my point of view I regard them all as shipowners' speeches. Each and every one of them, more or less, in slightly various language, has said, in the first place, "Let us alone. We know what to do ourselves." And one hon. Member on this side has said, "The shipowners have carried out a great many alterations with regard to their ships, and provision for safety, and so on, on their own initiative and of their own free will, without any pressure from the Government or anyone else." And he said, "Let us alone and we will do the same in the future as we have done in the past." As I sat here and listened to some of these speeches, my mind travelled back to the proposals made to impose restrictions upon the factory owners in the early part of last century, when exactly the same sort of speeches were made by the factory owners as have been made this afternoon by the shipowners. They also said, "Let us alone; we know how to manage our own business, we have a right to do as we like with our own, and we do not want any of the Bill." Even if my mind had not 71 gone back to that, there have been instances in this House—sensational incidents on the floor of this House—in regard to shipowners and the practice of shipowners which I think might have deterred one or two of the speakers this afternoon from making the speeches they have made. "Let us alone," said the shipowners, "we know how to manage our business," and in the second place they say, "If you are going to do anything, do not do this." That also has been the plea of monopolists and people who have been exploiting labour, I suppose as long as this country has existed. For my part I welcome the White Paper, and if it has gone a little beyond the recommendations of Lord Mersey, that further recommends it to my mind, because it seems to me that the recommendations of Lord Mersey are more or less whitewashing recommendations.
In regard to the particular objection which has been raised to the proposal to provide boats, all the speeches have said, it is not a question of boats. The hon. Member (Mr. Holt) referred to this idea of carrying sufficient boats for all passengers as a shibboleth. And what he wanted was to save the ship. That is putting it in a slightly different way from the way it was put by the hon. Gentleman who spoke first, who said that the stability of the ship was in his mind the fundamental principle, and he added that the addition of boats as top hamper would prevent the men getting about the ship and handling it as it ought to be handled. He said further that even if you had these top boats, you would have to put iron or other ballast in the bottom to make it possible to handle the ship. How does all this work out with the actual facts as brought out by this moderate Report of Lord Mersey? We are told by the hon. Member for Hexham that even if there had been sufficient boats on the "Titanic" for all on board, nobody else would have been saved, and he shelters himself behind Lord Mersey's Report in making that statement. As a matter of fact, what does Lord Mersey say? Let me remind the House that the hon. Member for Hexham attached considerable importance to the statement in the Report as to the time the boats were launched, and, as I understood, he suggested that even if there had been more boats, there would not have been time to launch them. As a matter of fact the last boat was launched 72 thirty-five minutes before the "Titanic" went down according to the Report of Lord Mersey. In regard to the statement as to time he thinks it necessary to say, and indeed as to all the times subsequent to-the collison mentioned by the witnesses, that they are not reliable. Therefore, the hon. Member does not get much out of that. I turn to the next page of Lord Mersey's Report. He says that the discipline among the passengers and crew during the lowering was good, but that the-organisation should have been better, and that if it had been, it is possible more lives-would have been saved.
§ Mr. BARNES
I am glad that the hon. Member for Gravesend agrees with that deduction. There ought to have been more men to man the boats. Here is the-only point I w7ish to make, because I do not profess to be au fait with all these documents—I am not an expert like the hon. Gentlemen who have already spoken. What occurs to my mind is this. It is all very well to have sufficient boats, and I think the recommendation in regard to that is on the right lines, but after all you may have good ships without sufficient men. The "Titanic" was thought to embody the last that could be done in the way of unsinkability. She had all the advantages which the designers and builders thought necessary, and there were no-boats in the way of top heavy hamper, but she sank. I say there ought to be sufficient boats for passengers and crew. I am not going to distinguish between boats and rafts, but in addition to having sufficient boats or rafts, or both, you must have sufficient men to properly handle these boats or rafts. It seems to me that if there is anything brought out more than another by the Report it is that, in addition to insufficient boats, there were insufficient men, and I hope the Board of Trade will take that point into their further consideration, and see that there are sufficient men in future to handle the-boats if such an emergency as happened in the case of the "Titanic" should occur, which, of course, we all hope will never occur again.
In regard to international agreement, there again there is what may be called the old wheeze, "If you are going to do anything at all, don't do this; but if you are going to do this, get everybody else to-agree to do it before you do it." I hope the Board of Trade will turn a deaf ear to 73 that. We are the greatest shipping country in the world. If my memory serves me right we carry more than half of the produce of the world. We ought to set other people an example in this matter. I hope the Board of Trade will not be too lackadaisical, but will put some of the new rules into operation without delay. I welcome this alteration in the procedure. The Board of Trade have been blamed for putting the White Paper before us. I think they ought to be commended for doing so. They have now Committees sitting at the Board of Trade, and it was quite open for the President to have waited until they reported. Instead of doing that, he has brought these draft rules before us at the earliest possible moment, so that Members could have an opportunity of criticising them. I hope he will put some of the rules into speedy operation, and will take such steps as will establish his Department in public estimation.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
I wish to say a few words in regard to one aspect of this question, namely, the home and coasting trade. Before doing so I should like to refer to two points in the speech of the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes). It seems to me he has drawn a false analogy between the Debates in this House on the factory laws and such a Debate as this we are engaged in now. Surely the factory owners made their profits by manufacturing goods, and there fore it might well be said that they exploited labour, as he put it, and that the factories might require the supervision of the State. But we are in this case dealing with people who make their profits by carrying passengers, and if they lose lives that is bad business. You have protection in this case for life which you have not in the other case, and therefore I venture to suggest that the analogy is totally false. The hon. Member said that in providing more boats we should not forget to provide more men qualified to handle the boats. I imagine we are all agreed on that point. But how did he qualify it? Does he mean that he would drill all those employed on a ship, including the stewards, or does he mean that he wants more deck hands I He will remember that there have been disputes in regard to that point. If he wants more deck hands—
§ Mr. BARNES
What was in my mind was this: I thought the firemen might be drilled for this duty, but that is a matter of detail.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
I agree it is a matter of detail. I would point out, if he wants more deck hands, that in the case of the "Titanic" that would have meant an increase of a hundred, allowing three to the boat. I merely remark that there are matters of discipline which require attention, and that it is easier to keep discipline among people who are busy than people who are normally idle. That is a point to which reference ought to be made. My object in rising is to press upon the President of the Board of Trade the desirability of reconsidering the rules in so far as they affect the home and coasting trade. Those who are responsible for that trade, I am informed, regard the "Titanic" disaster as having no bearing on their trade. They do not see from the records of their trade that there is any case for fresh rules, and certainly no case for special hurry in making rules. Their trade, they submit, involves considerations totally different from those which affect the high seas trade. In the first place, their vessels are of light draught, and it is obvious in this case that it is undesirable to increase the top hamper more than you can avoid, especially when you remember that they carry a shifting cargo. They believe that you will not increase safety at sea, but greatly increase the danger by requiring them to place upon ships of shallow draught much greater burden in the way of top hamper. There is another aspect of the case. It is true that the President of the Board of Trade in the proposed rules makes a series of exceptions running down the scale 80, 60, and 40 per cent., as to ships employed in smooth seas, and in daylight. He does not require them to provide for the whole of the passengers, but only for 80, 60, or 40 per cent. I am informed that these exceptions have very little practical bearing on the problem before us. Take the case of the great well-found steamers that go out of Glasgow, Liverpool, or the Channel ports, run along the West Coast of Scotland, to Ireland, or across to the Continent. I am referring to steamers that carry as many as 2,500. Such a steamer will have a total crew of 120, and the deck hands will be twenty. These people would be less amenable to discipline than the passengers of the great oceangoing steamers. Here you are dealing with people who go on board for two, three or four hours in the daytime, and sometimes at night. You have got on such a ship only half a dozen officers. Little wonder, as an officer said to me, that his concern 75 would be to save the ship. His first thought would be to beach her, so that there would be a chance of saving life in that way, because the saving of life by means of life-saving appliances would be very small indeed.
But the trade rests its case not merely on those probabilities, and those considerations which they hold distinguish their branch of the business from that of the ocean-going vessels. They rest it on the extraordinary immunity from loss of life which has characterised their trade in the past. It is not possible to obtain accurate statistics. On the Clyde alone something like a million passengers are carried on these coasting voyages in the year. There is one single company out of Liverpool that I know of which in twenty-one years has carried 7,000,000 people and has not lost one life. In those circumstances I certainly claim that there is no case whatever for hurried legislation, and that the disaster to the "Titanic" has no bearing whatever on this kind of shipping. There are questions of discipline and questions of construction to be considered which are not involved in the case of ocean-going vessels, and, on the other hand, there is such a record of safety and security that there is absolutely no call for hurried and drastic legislation—legislation which, I am informed, will have the effect of certainly increasing the cost to the public of these services, and, in certain cases, rendering them impossible. The feeling of those employed in this trade is that there is a case certainly for delay until the Reports of these expert Committees which the President has appointed, the Committees on davits and boats and on bulkheads, have been presented. Their case obviously does not involve the international considerations—and I do not urge those— which are involved in the other case. They are completely under the control of the Board of Trade. But, on the other hand, they have their own special problems, which they hold are not sufficiently considered by these regulations, and they have an extraordinary history of immunity from disaster in the past. I hope that those particular rules which refer to the borne trade will not at any rate be pressed with undue hurry and without waiting for the Reports of the Committees to which I have referred.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
I think I should have been the last person in the House to 76 complain of the President of the Board of Trade for bringing down provisional rules, because, although the House may not remember it, the President of the Board of Trade will remember that I asked him last spring whether it was his intention to provide any provisional rules pending the report of Lord Mersey's Commission and the Report of other Committees which the Department appointed. The President of the Board of Trade has mixed so much with his fellow Scotch Members of the Cabinet, who are very canny, that he never takes an important step but he flies his kite first; he draws fire. When he brings in a Copyright Bill he brings it in for the purpose of drawing fire, as he told us, so-as to see what are its weaknesses and where we had been in fault and to bring in another one the following year, and have it right. And when he brings in a Pilotage Bill it is only for the purpose of drawings fire. He wants to find out his own weaknesses or the weaknesses of his Department, and by the assistance of Members on both sides of the House he is able to find out what the weaknesses of his own proposals are. I rather welcome these draft rules, because they have been the means of drawing out a very stinging and a very important and a very searching criticism. That, I presume, is what the President of the Board of Trade wants. When the disaster occurred there were a number of us who said that we had reason to complain that in the past the Board of Trade, the Advisory Committee, and the shipping interests had not been sufficiently alive to the necessity of the case. I do not think we have any reason to change our minds. This afternoon, when I listened to the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt), upon my word I felt appalled, and for this reason r The Member for Hexham—and he said the same last spring—said in effect, "What is the good of all your rules? What is the good of all your appliances? For the last twenty years there has been so small a loss of life." He described the appliances as rubbish. Had he forgotten the "Oceana" in the English Channel, where, through lack of organisation, human lives were lost? But the lives that were saved were saved by the rules of the Board of Trade, which required that boats be carried, and the hon. Member talked about the "Titanic," and said that lives would not have been saved had there been a rough sea. Is that any reason why boats should not be supplied for those who were saved? The hon. Member would have us think that 77 there is really no necessity for our troubling ourselves at all about the saving of human life, if you only leave it to private enterprise, and that those who are in the shipbuilding trade can only succeed financially if they do keep their passengers safe and their ships safe.
That is very true in a sense, and I have no doubt there are a good many great shipping companies that have done as much as Parliament and the Board of Trade for the preservation of human life. But all companies are not the same, and if we were going to leave the regulations of safety in all departments to private individuals, why not have done it with regard to the building trade? Why have regulations regarding theatres? Why secure the public as far as possible by exits from and entrances to theatres, and why have regulations also concerning fire and fire escapes? The hon. Member for Hexham does no good to his cause when he comes down to this House to a body of reasonable, intelligent, commonsense men, and says, "Leave this all to us." I do not find that the Advisory Shipping Committee, which I think is an extremely good one, although they shared the responsibility of the Board of Trade and the shipping companies as well, and of all of us previous to this disaster, take the same view as the hon. Member for Hexham. I think the Report of the Advisory Committee is an extremely good one. Sir Norman Hill is a man who understands the shipping business as few men in this country do, but the Report of that Committee runs parallel with the Report of Lord Mersey in regard to the safety of human life and the provision of lifeboats and rafts, and, further, the thing that has been so much derided this afternoon, concerning the supervision of shipbuilding and the drilling and training of boatmen and the manning and launching of boats. On all those points the Advisory Committee have done good service to the country and have provided good, sound, aid reliable information. So, I believe, have the Beard of Trade. The Committee said there should be constant supervision of shipbuilding. I commend the hon. Member for Hexham to his shipbuilding friends on that Committee, who said that there should be constant supervision of shipbuilding. If they are wrong, upon whom does the duty lie? The Board of Trade, advised by their experts, say that there should be supervision. The Advisory Committee on which the shipping interests of this country are strongly 78 represented also advise the supervision of shipbuilding. My friends on this side of the House, some of them—but not all like the hon. Member for Hexham in his full-blooded rhetorical outbursts—take the view that there should be no supervision but that it should be all left to the shipping companies. I am one of those humble individuals who regard their lives as of some little importance to themselves and who also have some regard for the lives of others, and I am not content that the welfare of the travelling community shall be left to any individuals or to any congregation of individuals unsupervised by the House of Commons and by the Board of Trade.
The President of the Board of Trade, if he can find any comfort in anything which I have said this afternoon, is entirely welcome to it, because I have said very hard things of him and his Department which I am not prepared to withdraw. But the past is past. We have all awakened to the gravity of the situation. If one reads the letters written by the Board of Trade to the Advisory Committee previous to the disaster, we recognise the fact that Sir Alfred Chalmer's views, as placed before Lord Mersey were the views that were held by everybody connected with the Board of Trade and with the Advisory Committee. Lord Mersey refers with great care to Sir Alfred Chalmers, and says, in effect, that he can understand the point of view. The point of view is this: "We think that it was not the right or the duty of the State to impose regulations so long as the record of the shipping company was a clean one"—in other words that there were few accidents. Really, we who come to look at the thing now from the standpoint of after results must feel a sense of humiliation that our experts should have relied upon immunity from accidents. After all, you only have war once in a while, and you spend immense millions on insurance against war. You insure your house; you insure your life on the same basis, and the fact that there have been few accidents was no reason at all why the Board of Trade should not have screwed up its regulations according as the tonnage of great ships increased. And it is an extraordinary thing that the table drawn up by the experts of the Board of Trade and also by the Advisory Committee previous to the disaster to an increase of 400 per cent, of tonnage in the ship, only gave an increase of 64½ per cent. in the lifeboat and raft accommodation.
79 That seems a most extraordinary disproportion, and as events have shown it was disproportionate with the result that the Board of Trade, the Advisory Committee, and Lord Mersey, are all recommending sufficient lifeboat and raft accommodation for all on board. Why, the "Titanic," it was said, had enough lifeboats for all who were on board. That is true, but if she had been filled to her full complement of 3,400 odd, she would not have had nearly half enough for all on board. Therefore there is very little comfort to be drawn from using that as an illustration.
Sir G. PARKER
I took it from the Report this morning. I think I am right in saying that the Advisory Committee recommended the constant supervision of shipbuilding. I think that is correct. If I am wrong I shall be only too glad to be corrected, but I sincerely hope I am right and that the Board of Trade will have that power of supervision. I am not eager for constant interference with private enterprise, but the national safety is a thing which requires and has always required the assistance provided by Parliament in regulations, and it requires that now just as much as it ever did. The Shipowners' Society, in a paper published and distributed among Members of this House, say:—The proposed increase of Board of Trade supervision would really seriously hamper the development of the mercantile marine.I think that would be an extremely serious thing if it should be so, and if they can prove it. It would place the House in very great difficulty. We have Committees and expert advisers and others, who, after recent investigation, say that these regulations are necessary. The Shipowners' Society say they are not necessary and that they will hamper trade. We who are lay Members of this House, and who are not experts, are placed in a very difficult position. The balance of evidence is with the Board of Trade and with that so-called interference. I sincerely hope that the interference will not be, as it is very often from Departments of the State, vexatious, petty, and ridiculous. 80 I sincerely hope that the Board of Trade, in a new spirit made vivid by recent experiences, and feeling its responsibility, will do this large thing in a large and not in a petty way. The Shipowners' Society says it would be better to leave the further defence of these, the shipping, interests to the owners than to have an increased departmental supervision in regard to the design and equipment of vessels, thereby limiting the responsibility of shipowners. Is it not possible to combine the responsibility of shipowners and their desire to build strong ships to resist the weather and accidents with the regulations which Parliament will provide? I agree with the Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes) that we are all naturally disposed to criticise the Government Department, and that in a time of crisis we at once spring to a position of attention and criticism. But if Sir Norman Hill and his fellow members representing the shipping interests of the mercantile marine on that Advisory Committee hold the view that they have taken, then I believe that on that ground alone reciprocal and mutual action on the part of the shipping interest and on the part of Parliament is not impossible. When the Merchant Shipping Bill was before this House in 1908 we had struggles over questions, not so grave as this, but sufficiently grave, and some of the difficulties were raised by the representatives of the shipping interest. It is quite natural that they should like to be left alone, but that is not the attitude of the country. I dispute the statement of the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt) that this is a newspaper business. I think that the vast mass of the people of this country are in sympathy with the intention of the Board of Trade to screw up the regulations, which Lord Mersey clearly says ought to have been screwed up years before.
From 1894 to 1910 nothing was done. All was left to the shipping interests. Is it to be said that the screwing-up of the regulations is not in itself evidence that they needed screwing up, and who shall say that they have been screwed up enough? On the contrary, we believe, in the light of recent experience, that they have not been screwed up sufficiently in the past. The President of the Board of Trade now comes to this House—I hope not in response to panic or not in response to the agitation of the Press or the agitation of this House, but as the result of careful scrutiny by expert advisers and by the 81 Committees that are advising him—I hope that he has come to this House, alive to his responsibility and ready to satisfy public opinion and to satisfy the demand for safety and security, whether it suits, for the moment, the shipowners or not. I say this to the President of the Board of Trade, I think his rules will undergo considerable modifications. I agree with my hon. Friend who opened this Debate that it is not wise to compel that the life-saving apparatus shall be lifeboats alone. If he makes it lifeboats and rafts, together with lifebelts and other necessary life-saving appliances, I think he will probably find the basis of his rules and regulations in regard to that provision for safety of life. But if he sticks to his lifeboats, and does not allow elasticity and variation in the methods by which life shall be rendered safe and secure when the ship is in danger, then he will certainly have severe criticism and very strong opposition from those who, having criticised him for past neglect, are ready now and willing to support him in any wise regulation, in any careful ordinance, that will serve to make life more secure at sea, while strongly built ships also offer guarantee for the safety of passengers when Providence and the elements permit.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
As Chairman of the Committee of the House on Life Saving, which sat in 1887, I ask permission to say a few words. Now the basis of inquiry, with the general nervousness in this country in regard to the saving of life in the mercantile marine, was brought about by the deplorable accident which happened to the "Titanic," an occurrence which very greatly shocked the whole of the civilised world. I think we ought to be very careful in this House in seeing that in our efforts to secure the safety of life we are not actuated by what I may call sentimental theories. We must aim at practical utility. The accident to the "Titanic," as any seaman knows, was of such a character that no ship in the world in the circumstances could have remained afloat. The real fact about the accident was that the ship was going too fast in dangerous waters. A rib of ice cut the whole of her belly out, and cut open four of the bulkheads, and they were the four bulkheads on which depended the whole safety of the vessel. Therefore that ship was doomed to go to the bottom. The first necessity is to build your ships so that they may float as long as possible if an accident occurs. Of course we will have 82 accidents as long as men go to sea. In the Report of the Committee of which I was Chairman in 1887, we had most exhaustive evidence on all sorts of questions, including reference to life saving, etc., and the last clause of our report is as follows:—Though the question of construction was clearly not included in the reference to the Committee, still they think it only right to state, after having heard the evidence, that the proper placing of bulkheads so as to enable a ship to keep afloat for some length of time after an accident has occurred, is most important for saving life at sea—and here is the most important part, and that upon which the value of saving appliances largely depends—So that life-saving appliances may be usedIf only you have time, even though a ship may be severely damaged, you may save a large proportion of those on board, or may be able to save the lives of all. Whether it is wise that you should have boats for everybody on board is a question which should be most thoughtfully considered, because if you have boats for everybody on board, with the davits necessary, you add enormously to the weight on the ship, and you may affect her stability. I should like the House to recognise that everything which is done on a ship is by way of compromise. If you have too many boats with their davits you affect her stability. The first thing is to get as sound and well-built a ship as you can. I deplore as a seaman the suggestion of Lord Mersey, brought before the House without contradiction, that the Board of Trade should in any way interfere with the design of a ship. If you do that, you stop that great enterprise which has made our mercantile marine second to none. While I say do not interfere with the design of a ship, I do not think the shipowners would object to the Government supervising in any way which would tend to improve our mercantile marine, which is so superior to every other mercantile marine in the world. The hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) suggested that men should be trained to handle the boats. Of course, it is of no use having boats unless you have men to handle them. That is only common sense. But it is perfectly easy to train some of the crew to pull the boats. It is not a very difficult thing to use an oar, and if any training is given, it should be a little at a time and often. A man does not need to go pulling an oar for three months, and if he is given a quarter of an hour a week, or occasionally, it will enable him to handle the oar and take his place in the boats. What should 83 be insisted on, however, is that a man should be available who understands how to handle a boat—a coxswain should be charged with that duty, and there should be one ready in every instance, where required, on board our passenger ships.
There is another point to which I would like to draw the attention of the President of the Board of Trade. He states in paragraph 4, page 4, that where the collapsible boats are stowed now he is going to stow the lifeboats in future. That will be quite impossible. You could not have a number of lifeboats in the position where you have got the collapsible boats. The only object of having them collapsible is to save room. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look into that matter and will let the House know. We come back to the question of watertight compartments. I do not see why the President of the Board of Trade brought forward this White Paper until the whole question was completed. It is rather putting the cart before the horse. All seamen will tell you that the question of the ship's stability and safety is first, and that depends on the watertight doors. Many times in this House in years gone by I have declaimed against watertight bulkheads with doors. You break bulk to save the ship, and then you cut doors in the bulkheads. You make the whole ship one compartment, and the very danger you want to avoid is rather encouraged, because you never can close watertight doors on hinges once you get the water in. You can close the vertical doors, but there is another class of door, that is the horizontal door, which is much the worst, because it is only secured on butterfly nuts. Those doors ought to be very carefully surveyed by the Board of Trade, because the real danger is in the horizontal doors. You do not have them so much in merchant ships as in the man-of-war, but you do have them in some merchant ships. There ought to be no doors in bulkheads at all. They are put into the ship with a definite object, namely, to keep the compartment watertight if it is wounded. Therefore I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will bring forward the report of his Committee on watertight doors and on the boats before we settle anything on this White Paper. Of course this White Paper is only for debate. There is no finality in it. May I ask that?
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
There is one excellent clause in this White Paper, and that is the obligation to go to the relief of vessels in distress. I am very glad to see that regulation. There was some question as to whether these rules would be only for the British ships, or whether they should be applied to other nations as well. I would like to ask the President of the Board of Trade will these regulations apply to foreign ships which carry British passengers, as that is a very important point? Anything that would in any way affect the mercantile marine of this country should be most carefully considered by this House. If regulations do affect the mercantile marine of this country to the advantage of other countries, we should be very careful how we sanction such suggestions as that from the Board of Trade. Our mercantile marine is our very life, and although I quite sympathise with every object that can be suggested, and any regulation that can save life, yet it is very important, and we should be very careful in what we do lest we should affect the whole of our mercantile marine to our disadvantage and to other people's advantage. I think we should be very careful about that. As to the boats, do not let us be carried away by the boats. Do not let the question of boats fog our eyesight with regard to this question, because we may overdo it with boats. First of all, remember that the case of the "Titanic" was a very exceptional case. There is only one day in twelve that you can use the boats in the Atlantic. Do not affect the stability of the ship by having too many boats. If a ship gets a list, it would not be able to lower many of the boats. Do not hamper the ship and affect her stability and safety in the effort to have boats over an occasion which might not occur once in fifty years. Therefore be very careful as to this question of the boats. The idea of the boats was brought about by the "Titanic," which happened to be an occasion, perhaps singular, in which, if the boats had been better handled, or certainly more men who understood them, more lives would have been saved. Do not let us take that as a criterion as to what we should fix as the number of boats in the ships that carry passengers.
There is also the question of other boats and rafts. A raft is an excellent idea, but it is not so easy as people think. If you have a raft, you must have it secure and strong enough to take a great flow of sea. To do that it would have to be pretty heavy, pretty strong, and most securely 85 fastened, which would perhaps militate against it being easily cleared if the ship went down. All those things should not, if I may venture to suggest, be done in any way by theory. They should be practically tried in every way. The boats on the davits, the boats with the people in them, and the rafts, have got to be practically tried before you commit yourself. I am very glad that the President of the Board of Trade has brought this White Paper forward, because the question of the saving of life at sea is a most important question. It is a question that has many intricacies. We must not do anything to hamper the mercantile marine, particularly with regard to design, or to hamper them to the advantage of other nations. I hope the President of the Board of Trade will assure us that this is merely a Debate and that there is nothing going to be done at present until all these questions are considered.
§ Mr. BUXTON
I have nothing to complain of in the tone of the Debate which has taken place. To the criticisms directed by representative shipowners against the particular rules dealing with boats and as to other important matters I propose to give my most respectful attention. The Noble Lord referred just now to one or two particular questions, about which I may say a word or two before I deal with the question of boats. One advantage that has been gained by the publicity of the whole matter is that public attention has not been confined to the one question of the boats, but we have had the opportunity of overhauling and considering all the various questions in connection with life-saving at sea. One or two speakers referred to the question of drilling and organising at sea. I think everybody will agree with the Report of the Advisory Committee and the Report of Lord Mersey in reference to that matter that there is no good having your boats and men unless you have the organisation to see that they are properly put into the water, and that the manning is effective for the purpose. They both recommend that very considerable steps should be taken in regard to the question of organisation and drill. The Board of Trade at the present moment have gone into the matter carefully. They have no statutory powers with regard to organisation and drill suggested by the Court, but I hope the shipowners, as a whole, and the seamen will recognise the importance of the 86 matter. The question involves, as some Members have pointed out, very delicate questions, such as that of discipline and other matters; and I think it may be necessary to have the authority of some inquiry behind the Board of Trade for dealing with a question so important as that.
The other question in connection with manning was raised by the hon. and learned Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mr. Leslie Scott). He raised the point as to the training of boys and the general question of British crews as against foreigners in our merchant service. As regards the latter point, I am glad to say that the Act of 1906 has been very effective in two respects—effective in attracting a larger number of Britishers to the mercantile marine, and largely also in discouraging foreigners from joining. The figures are remarkable for the last three or four years. We find that the proportion of British seamen has very largely increased and that of foreign seamen has largely diminished in the mercantile marine. The hon. and learned Member suggests—and I know he takes a personal interest in the matter—the special training of boys. That is a question which up to now has been somewhat difficult of solution, because the Admiralty at onetime had a scheme of their own which, unfortunately, was not successful. At the present moment they have no particular reason for assisting the training of boys now that they have introduced their Naval Reserve. The result is that it is really more difficult to justify expenditure in that, direction without the ground you formerly had of national safety. We are looking into the matter and endeavouring to deal with it from a different point of view. The Board of Education and the Board of Trade and the Treasury are engaged in seeing what they can do in regard to this matter.
The hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. R. D. Holt) raised the question of wireless telegraphy. I think the House agrees generally that the time has come when wireless telegraphy should be made compulsory on a certain class of passenger ship, and possibly on a certain class of cargo ships. I have had a Bill prepared for some time, but I have postponed its introduction in view of the international negotiations which are taking place. I should not propose to postpone it too long if those discussions are unduly prolonged. Therefore I will not trouble the House with details with regard to it. But there 87 is one point to which my hon. Friend referred and to which I would like at once to give an answer. He said that it would not be just to enforce compulsory wireless telegraphy on the shipowners in this country when at present the wireless provided for shipping purposes is almost in the nature of a monopoly and almost in the hands of one company, and that under those circumstances, if shipowners were to be compelled by law to instal wireless telegraphy, he suggested that some means ought to be found to protect them from excessive charges for such installation. I am glad to say that when I introduce the Bill I hope I may be able to be in a position to make an announcement to reassure the shipowners on this point.
With regard to the general propositions which have been discussed this afternoon, namely, the statutory rules dealing with boat accommodation and life saving appliances, the Noble Lord opposite (Lord C. Beresford) referred to the floatability of the ship, bulkheads, and watertight compartments, and so on, as being the matters of really primary importance in this question. I am sure every Member of the House agrees to the proposition which he laid down. Last May I appointed the Bulkheads Committee, which, I may say parenthetically, I was about to appoint before the loss of the "Titanic." The Noble Lord said that that Committee met with general approval, and that its decision would command general confidence. I cannot anticipate what that Committee may say with regard to bulkheads and watertight compartments; but when they report, it will be a question of how far it will be necessary for the Board of Trade to take further powers to deal with the question; and how far the natural development of the ship itself, with which we desire to interfere as little as possible, and the duty of the Board of Trade to the public can be combined. Personally I do not think there will be much difficulty in regard to that matter. The Noble Lord asked why we introduced these rules before that Committee had reported. These rules deal with no question that is before the Bulkheads Committee. That Committee has to deal solely with the question of watertight compartments, and so on, and is really not affected by these statutory rules.
I have been congratulated upon the precedent which I have set in this matter by laying before Parliament, in the form of 88 a White Paper, the draft rules which it is proposed, subject to criticism and possible alteration, to lay before Parliament in the statutory way. The hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir Gilbert Parker) said that I wanted to find a little light and leading before laying my propositions before the House. Surely in a matter of this sort that is a sensible course to take. He said that I wanted to find out the weak spots. So I do; but I want to find out also the strong points, and I have learnt a great deal from the speeches to which we have listened this afternoon, although I may not agree with all that has been said. I made it perfectly clear in the Paper that the rules were draft rules, published for the express purpose of eliciting the views and criticisms of the various parties concerned, and that the House is not committed to the rules by the discussion of to-day. It is possible that before the rules are actually put forward they may be amended.
I said just now that the most important element in this matter was the floatability of the ship; but I think it is true that you cannot depend absolutely on that floatability. Circumstances may arise when those on board may have to depend on boats. One Member said that without due consideration or sufficient reason we were rushing into new rules and regulations. The hon. Member for Liverpool quoted figures showing how very safe it was to travel by sea. We all rejoice that that should be so. The hon. Member pointed out that in the last twenty years only 118 passengers and crew had lost their lives in crossing the Atlantic. That is a very fine record. But unfortunately we cannot now use that argument at all, because in one year the number has gone up from 118 for twenty years, to 1,500 in one, and we must take warning by such a calamity. We must see where our weak spots are, and as far as possible, without panic and without sentiment, do what we can to meet the difficulty. I do not pin my faith too much to boats, but there are certain contingencies in which the provision of life-saving appliances for all will be of incalculable service. It is clear that in future, in regard to ships in the foreign ocean-going trade, the shipowners must provide sufficient and efficient life-saving apparatus for all on board. I need hardly have dwelt on that point, had it not been for the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt). The Court recommended it; the Advisory Committee, 89 largely representative of the shipping interests, also recommended it; and all the resolutions of the various shipping industries in the country have accepted the principle that there must be efficient life-saving apparatus for all on board. Therefore, although my hon. Friend holds his view very strongly, he is almost alone in this House in so doing.
In this matter generally I think there is a good deal of exaggeration as to the additional amount of boats that will have to be provided in the mercantile marine. At the present moment rather over 80 per cent. of the foreign-going passenger ships in the mercantile marine have sufficient boats, not only on board, but under davits, for all persons on their ships. Therefore, four out of every five are already provided with boats for all, and it cannot be such a very serious matter to ask the other 16 per cent. or 20 per cent. to come up to the same standard. I think we are entitled to say that if they wish people to travel by their lines they ought, like their competitors, to provide sufficient life-saving accommodation for them.
In these rules I have laid it down that there shall be boats for all on ocean-going ships. They are to be lifeboats of an improved type, which will not buckle when they are lowered; they are to be fully equipped, and kept equipped; they are to be placed on the ships where they can be expeditiously and effectively launched; and as far as possible actually attached to davits, the number of davits depending on the length of the ship. The hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Fred Hall) asked whether the davits should be amid ship or whether other places could be conveniently found. In this matter I have taken the view of the Advisory Committee. There are certain parts of the ship in which you cannot advantageously have your davits, and there are certain parts from which you cannot safely launch your boats. About two-thirds of the ship is taken as being where davits can reasonably be placed. But in this matter we shall have the advantage of the Report of the Davits Committee, which I hope will be issued before very long.
The rules have been criticised by the shipowners this afternoon. I have no objection whatever to the criticisms which have been made. I welcome them; I want to see exactly what is the difference between the rules as proposed and the view taken by the shipowners. The essential principles of the proposed rules are that 90 there should be provided life saving accommodation sufficient in amount, efficient in quality, suitable in character, and readily available when required. If we are agreed in regard to these main principles—and I take it from his speech that the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Leslie Scott) agrees with them—the question between us is one of detail, namely, of how best to carry out those principles. If there are practical difficulties, either generally or in regard to any individual ship, I can assure the hon. Member that we desire to meet those difficulties as far as we can. I do not think there is any difference of opinion between us as regards the main desire we have at heart. I shall therefore welcome any representations on matters of detail, and I do not propose formally to lay the rules before the House for acceptance until I have had an opportunity of receiving and carefully considering representations which any of those interested may desire to place before me.
I have been taken to task for not having accepted in full the Report of the Advisory Committee. I am very much indebted indeed, as President of the Board of Trade, not only for the trouble, energy, and time which that Committee have expended on their work for many years past, but also for the very valuable Report which they have presented to me. But I do not think that they themselves would say that their Report should necessarily be regarded as inspired, or that I should necessarily take absolutely what they recommended. As a matter of fact, I accepted a very large proportion of their recommendations; but in certain particulars I found it necessary either to go beyond them or to proceed somewhat differently. After I received their Report I had the advantage of the recommendations of Lord Mersey's Report. Naturally; also I and my advisers have gone into all the questions involved; and it cannot be held to be any reflection on the Advisory Committee if, in a matter of this sort, after carefully considering all the recommendations which they made, I have come to a different conclusion in regard to certain matters.
I have listened with great interest and care to the speech of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Leslie Scott), but I have not been able to see what is the material and vital difference which he alleges between the Report of the Advisory Committee and the rules which I am presenting to the House. I myself and my Department as 91 strongly as anyone in this House, and as strongly as the Advisory Committee, adhere to the general principle that the stability and the seaworthy qualities of the vessel itself must be regarded as of primary importance, and that any departure from it would be altogether in the wrong direction. I say that so far as I understand the question, I do not think that the rules that I am laying before the House in any way makes it more difficult to construct a vessel with a maximum of stability and seaworthy qualities, while at the same time providing for full and effective life-saving apparatus. The allegation of the hon. Member for Liverpool is that the rules lay a hard and fast cast-iron system upon the mercantile marine. This I entirely deny.
I should like to examine the question somewhat more fully, after listening to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Liverpool, to see exactly what are the grievances which he alleges, and what are the objections he has to the rules, and to see in what way they may be met, if sound.
We are all agreed, I think, that effective means of escape from the sinking ship must be provided for all on board. We are all agreed also that the life-saving apparatus should be suitable in character, efficient in quality, and promptly available in emergency. If it is to be efficient in quality and suitable in character, then comes the question, What other alternatives can you have to the proposals to the rules? The proposals of the rules are that you should have lifeboats. The proposals of the hon. Member for Liverpool are that you shall allow other alternatives. What alternatives are there really at the present moment to efficient lifeboats? There is the alternative of the decked lifeboat—what is known as the Engelhardt type. I mention the Engelhardt type because it is well known, though there may be other boats of the same character and quality. They are allowed under the rules. That type, I think, is the most effective form of a raft that you can have, combining the advantages of the raft with the advantages of the lifeboat. That is allowed as an alternative lifeboat. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Liverpool, more than once referred to this type, and objected to the 50 per cent. limit placed upon the number of these decked lifeboats which might be allowed in proportion to the other lifeboats. I have considered that matter. In principle I have 92 no objection whatever to a larger proportion under certain conditions of these decked lifeboats to the ordinary lifeboats. I believe that will very largely meet the difficulty which the hon. Member put before the House.
The only alternative lifeboat to the decked lifeboat is either the open raft or the collapsible boat. The Noble Lord opposite referred to the open raft, if I remember rightly, in a former speech, and he very strongly condemned it for ocean-going ships for reasons which he gave, and has just repeated. These were that the raft is a dangerous animal unless it is tied tip and unless it is tied very tight. That being so it is not much of an alternative. It is open, too, to obvious objection that it is subject to complete exposure, that little equipment can be carried with it, that it is quite unmanageable in a sea-way, and that it has no means of progression. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Dulwich, I think, said that Lord Mersey had recommended in his Report "rafts" instead of lifeboats. I do not think that it so, because I think Lord Mersey was referring, in using the word "raft" to a decked lifeboat of the Engelhardt type, which, throughout his Report he describes as a raft. At all events at the present time, I do not believe that there is any open raft, which, in any sense of the term, can be held to be as suitable as a life-saving appliance as either the Engelhardt or the lifeboat. I have referred the question to the Davits Committee and no doubt in the course of time we shall receive from them a definite report in regard to this particular question.
If we put aside the open raft as against the decked lifeboat the only other alternative is what is called the collapsible boat. A collapsible boat is light, but it has, I think, from the point of view of ocean-going, immense drawbacks. It is fragile on deck and fragile afloat. It deteriorates with even the greatest care, and at the very moment when it may be required it may be found to be quite unseaworthy. Collapsible boats also have the immense disadvantage that at a moment of panic—it may be in the dark or in a storm—they have to be put together, and the boat may have to be put together by somebody who has possibly never handled one before. They have also the disadvantage that they cannot be lowered with their complement on board. I do not believe any hon. Member of this House, if he had the option between a decked lifeboat and an ordinary lifeboat 93 and a collapsible boat, would for one moment think that the collapsible boat was in any sense of the term in the same category from a life-saving point of view. If that be so—and I am trying to reduce the matter as between the hon. Gentleman the Member for Liverpool and myself to the smallest dimensions—then the type of open raft and the collapsible boat must be ruled out. We thus come back to the lifeboat and the decked lifeboat as the only really effective life-saving apparatus.
We are agreed also that the boat ought to be promptly available in an emergency. If this be so, the best thing, then, is that they should be under davits, and, of course, they would all be that in the case of most of the ships. The hon. Gentleman for Liverpool rather took me to task in this matter for not having carried out the proposals of the Advisory Committee by basing, in the future as in the past, the number of davits on the tonnage of the boat. The scale of the Committee is a complicated one. It is by tonnage up to a certain point, then there is a distinction between boats under davits and not under davits, and finally the principle is adopted of allowing length for additional davits.
I have substituted for the old tonnage basis, which has no real relation to the davit space, the length of the vessel as an index of the available davit space. My scale is simple and progressive, and not a complicated scale like that of the Advisory Committee. But in this matter there is really no vital difference, because the number of boats under davits is not very much greater under one scheme than another.
Apparently the hon. Member for Liverpool has his greatest difficulty in regard to the question of stowage. I am in some difficulty, seeing that he is not now present, because I should have liked to have had his view with regard to the observations I am making. I have ruled out the question of open rafts and the question of davits as not showing very great difference between us. But, he said, the question was one of what I think he called top-hamper. He said if there were to be a great many more lifeboats, and if shipowners were not to be allowed to stow them where they liked, difficulty would arise in regard to the stability of the vessel. I do not think that the hon. Member has read the rules very carefully. If he had read the rules carefully he would have seen that instead of there being a hard and fast line drawn with 94 regard to this matter there is, under Rule "D," very considerable latitude and elasticity given in every case as between the shipowner and the Board of Trade. I can assure him that, so far as we are concerned, we realise quite as much as he does the difficulty which may occur in regard to certain ships in respect to the stowage. Each individual case of difficulty of stowing the lifeboats as required will undoubtedly be taken on its merits, with the fullest possible intention of doing no damage to the ship or to the mercantile marine.
What we have laid down is that the boats should be placed on the ship so that they are most readily and promptly available. I think everybody will agree that if you are to have efficient boats you want to be able to get hold of them and launch them at the earliest possible moment. We have, as I have said, a Committee sitting which will assist very materially, I hope, in facilitating the launching of these boats. I hope it will supersede the old form of davit, which to a layman's mind seems to be about as awkward a bit of machinery of which you can very well conceive. I hope especially that they will be able to devise some means of more safely launching the boats from the enormous heights to which the big liners now go.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Liverpool said that I had the case before me of the "Aquitania," and that these showed a great difference between my proposals and those of the Advisory Committee. The ship in question is being built by the Cunard Line, and I have had from the chairman of the company the plans, with a view of showing the difference between the recommendations of the Advisory Committee and the recommendations contained in these draft rules. I have very carefully gone into them, and I need hardly say I shall be glad to go into the question in similar cases. Without wearying the House with detail which hon. Members might find it difficult to follow, seeing it is a technical matter, it comes to this: that the Company are not proposing to have any collapsible boats, and rafts for only eighty. They are proposing to have—hon. Members must remember there will be something like 4,500 persons on board—entirely lifeboats, motor boats, and deck lifeboats. The real difference I think between the two, between the rules and the recommendations of the Advisory Committee, is that if I can let the firm have some twelve or fourteen more 95 decked boats in lieu of a similar number of lifeboats, there will be no difficulty of stowage on that ship and no real difference between the effect of the rules and the suggestions of the Advisory Committee. I am perfectly prepared, as I have said, in reference to this question of lifeboats, so far as I can, to meet the difficulty. I do not think I shall have much difficulty, in consultation with Mr. Booth, in arriving at a satisfactory conclusion in regard to this particular ship. If hon. Members who have spoken had been able to give me the particulars of ships whose stability they say will be upset, I should then have been in the position to estimate how far what they said was a fact, and possibly to meet the matter, as I hope to meet the difficulty in the case of the particular ship to which I refer.
§ Mr. BUXTON
What I said was that I should like to have the particulars of the ships mentioned—shallow or otherwise—to see the actual difference between the rules and the draft rules which I have suggested and the recommendations of the Advisory Committee. I think it will be found that there is really a very unnecessary fear in the minds of some shipowners in regard to this matter. I think I shall be able to show, as I have shown, that in these cases there is no great difference between us, and the difference is one which can be bridged. I should like to point out to the House this—and I am sorry it is rather a technical question, but it very largely affects the position which I am taking up—namely, that either those who have been criticising the rules have not sufficiently studied them, or they are not really aware what the Advisory Committee recommended, because in these matters I do not think there is so much difference between us as some hon. Members seem to think.
Let me examine it by the light of figures. The contention of the hon. Member for Liverpool is this: that the large number of these lifeboats would be putting considerable additional weight upon the deck of the ship, with the result that the ship would largely lose its stability. I have made a calculation of the actual weight per ten persons, of open lifeboats, decked lifeboats, Berthon boats, and open rafts to be as follows: Open lifeboats work 96 out at 5.8 cwts., decked lifeboats at 6.4, Berthon boats at 3.6, open rafts at 6.5 per cent. cwts.—
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
That is not quite the point as to the calculation of boats; it was a calculation of the davits—of the weights of the davits, and that would be enormously increased.
§ Mr. BUXTON
Perhaps the Noble Lord will allow me to go on. I shall deal with his point. What is suggested to me this afternoon is that the rules are estimating for too many boats under davits, and that they are asking that there should be lifeboats for all, and that there ought to be the alternatives of collapsible boats and open rafts to the lifeboats. I am not in favour of the alternative. But assuming these things are adopted as life-saving apparatus, I am pointing out that there is no great difference as between the rules and what is recommended by the Advisory Committee in regard to the additional weight which would be involved upon any particular ship. The hon. Member for Liverpool assumed, and every shipowner in the House and everyone who spoke for the shipowners, with the exception of my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham, assumed and argued that we ought to adopt absolutely and entirely the proposals of the Advisory Committee. I am, therefore, entitled to compare the proposals of the Advisory Committee with those of the draft rules when I am attacked and told that the draft rules are dangerous, while those of the Advisory Committee are safe. This is rather a parenthesis in reply to the Noble Lord.
I think I have just shown that the life raft weighs rather more than the open boat or the decked lifeboat and the collapsible boat weighs rather less per ten persons.
I now take the "Olympic," which is perhaps the best type of ship for the purposes of comparison. These things are rather difficult to explain, and I am trying to make them clear. This vessel requires twenty-four sets of davits, according to the draft rules, and twenty-two sets according to the Advisory Committee. The whole number of certified persons is 3,600, and for these there are, as I say, twenty-four sets of davits, according to the draft rules, and twenty-two according to the Advisory Committee. Therefore both recommend twenty-two lifeboats under davits providing accommodation for 1,320 persons. The balance is 2,280 persons. By the draft 97 rules these 2,280 persons must be provided with lifeboats. The weight of the lifeboat for the saving of 2,280 persons will be seventy-one tons, and the two extra sets of davits would be four tons, making a total weight of seventy-five tons, that is so far as the Board of Trade rules are concerned. Then as regards the Advisory Committee's proposal I assume that none of the other boats except those under davits, will be ordinary lifeboats—a large assumption. I also assume that about half the additional provision will be of the decked lifeboat type—in the case of the "Aquitania" all were to be decked lifeboats. I am, however, only assuming half; and that the other half is made up of collapsibles and rafts. The total weight of the decked boats and the rafts and the collapsibles together is sixty-three tons. So that the total difference in weight on an enormous ship like the "Olympic" between the recommendations of the Advisory Committee and the draft rules is only twelve tons. I would also point out what that means as regards life saving. Twelve tons is not a very serious or material thing in a ship of that size. Yet by this additional twelve tons 1,140 persons will, if a calamity comes, be able to depend for their lives upon lifeboats instead of upon rafts or collapsible boats. Therefore, I really think there is something to be said for my rules as against those of the Advisory Committee.
§ Sir F. FLANNERY
That applies to large ships like the "Olympic," but what of the smaller, shallower draft vessels?
§ Mr. BUXTON
There is plenty of elasticity in the rules. I understand the hon. Member for Liverpool attacks our system because of alleged want of elasticity. Every case will be considered upon its merits as regards stowage. But upon the particular ship on which I have argued the matter I am inclined to think it will be found that the additional weight is so very small that with a little give and take—and I am prepared to give if I am allowed to take—there will be no difficulty in effecting a fair arrangement in regard to every ship.
I have gone at some length into that matter in order to show that the difficulty anticipated from these rules is nothing like so great as some people seem to think. I do not suppose anyone who advocated the other proposals would propose or 98 suggest that the rafts or collapsible boats should be anywhere but on deck. If on deck their weight will be very nearly as great as that of the lifeboat. If they are not on deck, but are put away into the holds of the vessel, they will be perfectly useless when the danger arrives. I have explained the position with regard to the davits. If either before the Report of the Boats and Davits Committee, or afterwards, any system for the launching of these boats which is as good as the existing system is submitted, it will be taken into consideration by the Board of Trade. Further, if any life-saving apparatus can be shown to be equally suitable with the existing lifeboats or decked boats they will be considered by the Board of Trade in connection with the life-saving apparatus that should be put upon any particular ship. We have been told that these proposals would reduce the inventive power of those who apply their minds to these matters We believe, on the contrary, that both as regards the question of davits and life-saving appliances, the proposal I am making will have a great effect and will be an incentive to improvement in this respect.
There was one other point raised to which I would refer, namely, that of cargo boats. It was suggested, in regard to cargo boats, that to strengthen the existing davits was not necessary, so that the boats should be able to carry the full complement before being lowered into the water. If it is shown to me that that is really a hardship I will consider the matter, and see how far it could be modified; but the rule is not intended to apply to existing davits in cargo ships; it is not retrospective.
Now one word with regard to the question of home trade vessels which was raised by the hon. Member for Glasgow. I have had only one representation from the home trade on this matter. They have asked to see me and to discuss it, and I shall only be too glad to do so with them. The argument used by the hon. Member was that the loss of the "Titanic" had no bearing on the home trade, and that therefore one ought not to go out of one's way to deal with them owing to that matter. I do not think that is a good argument. I think the fact that this disaster occurred has enabled us to look round all the various life-saving appliances in use in every part of the mercantile marine. I admit the home trade raises totally different 99 problems, and it has been dealt with in a totally different way. A fair and consistent general answer to the home trade objection is this—that at the present moment, and since the loss of the "Titanic," as soon as it was obvious that this matter should be dealt with a considerable number of shipowners themselves—that is cross-channel and excursion owners—voluntarily, and largely increased their life-saving appliances. One particular firm which before that had only in life-saving apparatus, apart from lifebelts, provision to the extent of 5.9 per cent. of the number of persons on board, has now increased this amount to 50 per cent. in one ship, and 55 per cent. in another, and all I am asking for is 60 per cent. in these particular ships, so that I do not think it can be said that my proposals are a hardship upon these people. If one looks at the list of these excursion and cross-channel steamers, one sees in some cases 67, 80, and 90 per cent. of life-saving appliances, whereas other ships carrying on the same trade have only 4, 5, 6, or 7 per cent. I think the complete answer to these complaints is, that if other shipowners can do it and are doing it voluntarily, it is no hardship that the rest should be required to bring their ships up to the standard that others are doing themselves. The hardship is really not great, because the cross-channel steamers only have in the bulk of cases to change their existing seats into buoyant seats. There is no great weight and no particular question of stability involved. I do not believe when they come to discuss the matter that they can show that I am treating them harshly. If they can I shall be glad to meet them as far as I possibly can.
Some hon. Members have asked that the enforcement of these rules should be postponed until the Reports have been received from the two Committees which are still sitting on Davits and Bulkheads respectively, and until some International agreement has been reached with the principal maritime countries. I have already pointed out that the Report of the Bulkheads Committee can hardly affect the present rules. They may be affected, however, in regard to the question of substitutes for davits and for lifeboats. Hon. Members will see that we have provided for that contingency by the rules, which give ample powers to the Board of Trade to modify the requirements 100 as to davits if some improved means of getting boats into the water should be devised. As far as the second point is concerned, I should also be prepared to provide for it by recognising the possibility of permitting other forms of life-saving apparatus if they are equivalent or superior to those which we are recognising under the rules.
The suggestion that I should agree to the rules standing over until after the International Conference is one which it is not easy for me to adopt. The difficulties of International arrangements are always great, and the hon. Member for Liverpool knows that as well as anybody in the House. It may be that the preliminary discussions which are taking place will be somewhat prolonged, because we have to deal with several nations, and they themselves are looking into the matter, and it is not possible for me to say how long they may take. It is quite impossible for me to defer to an indefinite period these rules which I am suggesting to the House. The hon. Member for Hexham said with great truth it would be very disadvantageous to enforce these rules on British shipping and not enforce them on their foreign rivals. With that I agree; but I would point out that it is not our intention to apply these rules only to British ships. It is our intention to apply these revised rules equally to foreign ships as well as to British ships.
§ Mr. BUXTON
Yes, that is our intention, except in cases where it is formally recognised that the rules of a particular country are equally effective. The Noble Lord opposite knows that at present there are in force arrangements by Orders in Council in regard to life-saving rules in the case of a number of foreign countries. Take Germany, for instance. She has certain rules and we have certain rules. If we believe that her rules are substantially equivalent to ours, or if she thinks ours are substantially equivalent to hers, then she accepts our rules as the basis for our ships going to her ports just as we on the other hand accepts her rules for her ships coming to our ports. At the present time we have Orders in Council applying to a number of other countries, and we have an agreement of this kind with the United States of America. The present revision raises the question how far these Orders in Council will need amendment so that the enactment 101 of the new rules will compel us automatically to enter into a discussion with other countries with regard to life-saving appliances. If, in the course of these discussions, and of any more general International negotiations, it is found desirable to agree to some modification of the rules now before the House, they can be effected by amending rules, and they will apply equally to British and to foreign ships. I hope that reply will be satisfactory to my hon. friend the Member for Hexham.
§ Mr. BUXTON
My answer to that is that we have at the present moment, by dint of negotiations, Orders in Council and agreements with foreign countries regulations which apply equally to foreign and to British ships. We shall have to negotiate individually with those counties; and the International discussion will also assist us in getting a uniformity of rules in regard to the whole question of our mercantile marine.
I have put before the House, as well as I could, the reasons for these rules, and why I believe they are not so oppressive as some shipowners appear to think. I am anxious to have the co-operation of the shipowners in this matter. If possible we want these rules to receive general assent, and I am quite prepared, especially in regard to practical details and plans, to receive representations and discuss the matter with the shipowners.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to ask a question. In the earlier part of his speech he said, in view of the Report of the Advisory Committee, and in view of Lord Mersey's Report and the investigations of his own Department, it was advisable to have some statutory provision regarding the organisation of discipline, and I believe he said he was going to appoint a Committee. I wish to know whether it is the right hon. Gentleman's intention to appoint a Committee to inquire into this question; and I want to know, does the right hon. Gentleman anticipate from the Report of that Committee that he will come to this House and ask for statutory powers to ensure that organisation of discipline 102 recommended by the Advisory Committee and Lord Mersey?
§ Mr. BUXTON
That has nothing to do with the rules we are discussing, although it may be germane to the general question of safety at sea. Really it has nothing to do with the actual rules now before the House, although I admit it is a most important point in connection with the question of safety at sea. I rather threw out the suggestion that there should be a Committee appointed or something of that sort, because the question bristles with difficulties, and I referred to some of them. It is possible after further consideration, and if the House specially desires it, that a matter of that kind might be considered by a Committee of the House, or Departmental Committee. But I think it is too much for the hon. Member for Gravesend to ask me before that Committee has been appointed, how far I am prepared to carry out its recommendations, because that is a question which I am unable to answer.
In view of what has been said by a considerable number of hon. Members and by my hon. Friends the Member for Hexham and the Member for Blackfriars, in regard to the functions and position of the Board of Trade in connection with the mercantile marine, I should like to say a few words. The Board of Trade has already great and responsible duties to carry out. The result of all this consideration and inquiry will undoubtedly be that heavier and more responsible duties will be placed on the Board of Trade, and that Department will do its best to administer them. The Court, the Advisory Committee and this House have concluded that further duties should be thrown upon the Board. The guiding principle of the Board of Trade has been, and ought to be, while protecting the public, to avoid as far as possible diminishing the sense of responsibility on the part of owners and masters in the mercantile marine. The country does not desire a State-controlled shipping industry in the full sense of the word, or the State should enforce upon the parties directly concerned the observance of a minute code of rules on all manner of subjects leaving little or no elasticity or initiative to the owners, and at the same time transferring responsibilities from the parties concerned to the State. To do that would certainly be to discourage enterprise and possibly to court disaster. On the other hand, the State does desire to obtain reasonable security that the ship which has 103 to carry the human freight' should be well-designed, well-built, and well-equipped; and that precautions should be taken by the Government Department to secure that object for the public. It is a difficult and a delicate matter to adjust the duties, and to avoid, on the one hand, the Scylla of over-interference or reducing the responsibility of the shipowner or interfering with and retarding progress, and, at the same time, to avoid the Charybdis of failing to secure safety at sea.
Parliament has intentionally given the Board of Trade somewhat limited powers, but I think it is obvious that what has occurred of late will necessitate a very considerable addition to the duties and obligations of the Board of Trade. The House in considering the question as a whole must bear in mind that it is of real importance, whilst securing safety at sea, not to materially weaken the responsibilities of the owners and masters, or interfere with the development of the ship and its accessories. There is a middle course between the two extremes and that course we desire to follow at the Board of Trade.
I thank the House for allowing me to trespass on its time, but I had to speak at some length in order to meet the criticisms of the hon. Member for Liverpool and others. I have done so because, both inside the House and outside, there has been, I think, a considerable amount of misunderstanding with regard to the effect and operation of these rules. I cannot help thinking, however, that when they are fairly considered in the light of what has been said this afternoon, that the shipowners and others representing the great mercantile marine in this country, will desire, what I am sure they do desire as far as possible to carry life-saving appliances on their ships; and will do their best to meet these rules in a friendly spirit, and I on my side will do my best to meet any reasonable objection they are able to bring against them.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave out the words "now considered," in order to add at the end of the Question the words, "referred to a Select Committee who shall be empowered to inquire into the administration of the Marine Department of the Board of Trade, in so far as it is affected by that report, and to report; and, further, to report what alterations are desirable in the organisation of the Department."
104 8.0 P.M.
We have had an exceedingly interesting Debate, but it has not been very germane to the Motion before the House. The discussion to which we have listened has been almost exclusively concerned with a document which, if it has now come into existence, had certainly not been published at the time this Motion was put on the Paper. This interesting change has had this effect, that the House has been prevented from all consideration of the subject, or at any rate one of the main subjects, which Lord Mersey's tribunal was called upon to investigate. That tribunal was set up in the first place to investigate the causes of the foundering of the "Titanic," and the cause of the loss of life which arose thereby. But in addition to that, and in order to satisfy public opinion as expressed both in the House and outside, a further inquiry was instituted which was outside the ordinary scope of the Wreck Commission, and that was an inquiry into the administrations and regulations of the Board of Trade. By one of the questions which was put before Lord Mersey's tribunal the Board was invited to report on the rules and regulations in force between 1894 and 1906, and the administration of those rules and of such rules and regulations so far as the consideration thereof related to this question. In this afternoon's Debate practically nothing has been said of the actual findings of Lord Mersey's Court in consequence of the question which I have just read. I think therefore it is well that we should turn our attention to the actual subject-matter of the Motion on the Paper, and I propose by the Amendment which stands in my name to ask the House to take steps which will enable us to reap the full value of the inquiry which Lord Mersey has held. My right hon. Friend, in the concluding portion of his speech, said that very substantial powers had been conferred upon the Board of Trade, and that the Marine Department of the Board of Trade would do its best to discharge these new and additional duties. He apparently forgets that the Board of Trade is light-heartedly undertaking these additional functions with a vote of censure upon it in the shape of the findings of Lord Mersey's tribunal. In view of that it seems to me the first duty of this House is to investigate whether the organisation of the Marine Department is adequate to carry out its duties, and that is the main object of the Amendment I am now putting forward.
105 In the first place, I think it is clearly established by the findings of the inquiry—and I am going to base the proposition solely on the findings of the inquiry, apart altogether from the evidence—that in respect of the rules in relation to life-saving appliances the Board of Trade has been guilty of neglect. Lord Mersey examined very carefully the history of the Board of Trade's dealings with life-saving appliances, and in the light of that history and in the light of the explanation of the Board's inaction he found the inaction of the Board of Trade was inexcusable. He found that the reasons put forward did not in any way justify the delay. Indeed, it was shown that in relation to this question the Board of Trade has never acted except under the stimulus of outside intervention. The former Life-Saving Rules of 1890 were brought forward as the result of a Report of the Committee of 1887, which was presided over by the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford). The rules of 1890 were practically in force at the date of the "Titanic" disaster. Apart from a slight alteration made in 1894, which extended their scale from vessels of 9,000 tons and upwards to vessels of 10,000 tons and upwards, there was no alteration whatever during the twenty-one years which had elapsed. Then, again, in relation to the possibility of further changes, the Board of Trade, when it did take action, was only induced to take action by the intervention of an hon. Member of this House. There is no evidence that the Board of Trade ever contemplated the revision of the former scale until the question of the boat accommodation on the "Olympic" and "Titanic" was raised in this House by the former Member for South Hackney (Mr. Bottomley), and it was only after questions put, I think in the month of November, 1910, and subsequently in the month of February, 1911, that the Board of Trade sought the opinion of the Advisory Committee.
Furthermore, it is interesting to see exactly what the Advisory Committee of the Board of Trade did when the question was put before them. The question was put before them in the spring of 1911, and only two meetings were held by them in order to decide what amendments should be made in the scale. They met two mornings in the month of May, 1911, from about half-past ten to one o'clock, and after those two meetings they brought forward an additional scale, which was submitted to 106 the officials of the Board of Trade for their approval. That new scale was decided upon apparently without any evidence being taken. The members of the Advisory Committee met together round a table, talked over the matter, and, after an exchange of views simply, they decided they had done enough in relation to this question. They made no effort to investigate what were the conditions in regard to life-saving upon all the vessels exceeding 10,000 tons which were in existence and which were then being built. No attempt was made to find out to what extent these vessels failed in supplying life-saving accommodation for the passengers and emigrants they were likely to carry. Simply after these two meetings a new-scale was brought up. It is interesting to note that new scale made a very slight improvement upon the requirements actually in force; indeed, the "Titanic" and "Olympic" carried boats and other life-saving apparatus in excess of the scale then put forward by the Advisory Committee. I think that history I have put before the House shows there has been neglect on the part of the Board of Trade and that the methods whereby the Board of Trade deal with this question of life-saving appliances are not satisfactory from the point of view of the general public. Not only is it the case that the Board of Trade failed to take any action after 1890 in regard to life-saving rules, but there was no action taken also in regard to the matter of bulkhead subdivisions. The Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth and a number of others on both sides of the House have constantly told us the really important question is to secure the floatation of the ship, or, in other words, to make the ship its own lifeboat. In so far as you succeed in making the ship float, you thereby dispense with the necessity of boats.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. It does not dispense with the necessity of having boats. It gives the boats time to be launched. The longer you can float the more people you can save.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I am sorry my paraphrase of the Noble Lord's words is not quite accurate, but my point was that to the extent you increase the floatability of 107 the vessel you diminish the necessity for boats. The Noble Lord and a number of others have laid a great deal of stress upon this question of bulkhead sub-divisions, and have laid a great deal of stress upon it in relation to the provision of life-saving appliances. It is interesting in these circumstances to examine what has been done by the Board of Trade in relation to this very point. As the result, I think, of an expression contained in the Report of the Noble Lord's Committee, a Bulkhead Committee, presided over by the late Sir Edward Harland, was set up in 1890, and it reported in 1891. That body not only reported generally on the question of bulkhead sub-divisions, but it also reported on the question as to how far in the case of vessels which had efficient sub-divisions to the satisfaction of the Board of Trade there should be a dispensation of life-saving appliances. In the Report of that Committee, provision was made simply for a sub-division into four compartments, and the requirement laid down was that the ship should be able to float with any two of its compartments, whether adjoining or otherwise, flooded. In addition to that there were certain recommendations made in respect to the amount of sub-division necessary for the purposes of receiving a dispensation from the Board of Trade. In respect of the first point, the requirements laid down by the Harland Committee have, owing to changes in construction and to the great increase in size, to a large extent become obsolete in their application to large vessels; and in respect of the second, the provision has so far as foreign-going emigrant ships are concerned, become practically inoperative. There have been over 100 applications for dispensations, and sixty-nine of them have been granted, but the only large passenger ship which received dispensation on the ground of its effective sub-division, was the "Campania." It came out that only one application had been made during five years, and that was made on behalf of the "Manretania," and was subsequently withdrawn because it was going to cost them more to make the sub-divisions required by the Board of Trade, than they were going to save in the amount of life-saving apparatus to be dispensed with. That has been the cause of the real failure of this provision, and possibly it is the reason why the provision is now to be dispensed with if the recommendations of Lord Mersey are accepted.
108 It is recommended in Lord Mersey's Report that in future there should be some efficient supervision of the construction of the ships, and a great deal of exception has been taken to such a suggestion. It seems to me it is a very wise suggestion. If the Board of Trade is to be responsible for the safety of ships, and if the question of the flotation of the ship is as vital a matter, certainly as vital as the provision of boats, then surely it is necessary that the Board of Trade should have some requirement which must be satisfied in relation to this question of the flotation of ships. I can only understand the recommendation being made on the ground of something that actually transpired in connection with the "Titanic" inquiry. It did transpire there that under existing conditions the Board of Trade can only intervene when the ship builder applies for free board. It must be remembered that when the application for a free board is made the ships are practically completed, and it involves considerable hardship on the builders that, at that period, he should be called upon to make serious structural alterations in the ship. Hence it was that a request was made to the Board of Trade that, when that stage was reached, it should be remembered that the position of the bulkheads was one of considerable importance. It was a serious matter that these questions should be raised when the decks had been built, especially in view of the fact that, probably, a different decision would have been come to had the matter been raised at the time the plans were brought forward.
I think the recommendation of Lord Mersey is completely justified both in respect of the rules in relation to life-saving apparatus and in respect of requirements laid down for sub-division. The Board of Trade has been proved to be negligent in failing to keep itself abreast of the changing conditions of the mercantile marine. In these circumstances surely it is the duty of this House to inquire first as to whether the principles on which the Board of Trade have acted in the past have been sound; and, secondly, whether the organisation of the Department responsible is a satisfactory organisation for the purpose of discharging the duties which are imposed upon it. It seems to me there is a great want of definition in regard to the duties which the Marine Department of the Board of Trade should discharge. It is true that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade endeavoured to define those duties, but I am afraid the House 109 was not greatly enlightened by his definition. Several hon. Members representing the shipowning industry have given us their views this evening, among them my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt), who enjoys a splendid isolation, but there are those who take a more or less modified view in the same direction, and the President of the Chamber of Shipping has with great eloquence declaimed against the suggestion that Parliament should substitute the responsibility of the Department for the responsibilty of the individual shipowner. Since the passing of the Merchant Shipping Act we have been lessening the responsibility of the individual shipowner. It may not have been absolutely abrogated, but year by year it has been continuously diminished. What is the position which the shipowner is going to take up when it is a question of making regulations? When there is a question of new statutory powers it is said they do not interfere at all with the individual responsibility of the shipowner, and everything is left to the enterprise and natural motive which he possesses for keeping his ships safe, and for not losing the cargo or the lives of the passengers on board the ship. But when it is a question of casualty, when a casualty occurs, the responsibility of the individual shipowner immediately arises and it is asked, Has he satisfied the requirements of the Board of Trade? I cannot refrain from making this reflection on the increase in statutory safeguard against the individual shipowner's responsibility, because the tendency is, when a casualty occurs, to get rid of the individual responsibility and to shelter the shipowner behind the responsibility of the Board of Trade. It seems to me that not only in the minds of shipowners, but in the mind of the Marine Department of the Board of Trade there has been no clear idea of the extent to which the individual responsibility of the shipowner is limited, and the extent to which that responsibility is substituted by the responsibility of the Board of Trade. In these circumstances, and in view of the findings of the inquiry into the loss of the "Titanic," it seems to me to be important that there should be an inquiry, if possible, to determine the principle of responsibility of the Board of Trade in this respect.
But there is this further matter which arises, and that is in relation to the organisation of the Board of Trade—whether that organisation, either central or local, is adequate to discharge those 110 duties which in the past have been imposed upon it, or those additional duties which, as a result of these recommendations, are to be imposed upon it. I do not desire to make any attack upon past members of the Board of Trade. There is no personal question in this, but if one compares, for example, the staff of the Railway Department of the Board of Trade with the staff of the Marine Department, it must be assumed that there is a much more efficient staff in the one Department than in the other. If one is to measure technical capacity and skill in pecuniary terms, then the capacity of the officials of the technical staff of the Railway Department must be much more efficient than that of the staff of the Marine Department. Then there is the further question in relation to organisation. You have three different interests in the Marine Department, with three different technical advisers. They sometimes take different views on particular problems which come before the Department, and, in these circumstances, it is of the highest importance that there should be co-ordination of the three different skilled technical advisers. I think the evidence taken before Lord Mersey's Inquiry showed that there was a lack of co-ordination, and that the head of the Marine Department seemed to be unable to give independent advice upon any specific question; he was only able to refer the question to one of his subordinates who was responsible for the particular Department to which the inquiry related. In these circumstances it does not seem to be the case that you have at the present time at the Marine Department that co-ordination of the three technical advisers such as I have described.
In addition to the points which I have mentioned there is a further question which has arisen, that is, as to whether the method of making these rules by means of Advisory Committees is the best method, and whether it can be defended, either in the light of the Report of Lord Mersey's inquiry, or in the light of what has happened since that inquiry took place. I have already described the procedure of the Advisory Committee when an application was made to them for their advice in relation to the revision of the rules. In the past the Marine Department of the Board of Trade seems to have been afraid to act without the advice or without the support of the Advisory Committee, indeed, in the evidence of a former member of the staff he took the line that it would 111 be dangerous to take any action independently of the Advisory Committee. Since the disaster to the "Titanic," application has been made to the Advisory Committee for their advice in relation to life-saving appliances. A Report has been presented by the Advisory Committee, and now, for the first time, the Marine Department of the Board of Trade has refused to accept the recommendations of the Advisory Committee. I am not going into the differences between the Report of the Advisory Committee and the draft rules which my right hon. Friend has been defending. If one were to take his view, it would appear from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that the differences between the Report of the Advisory Committee and the draft rule are extremely few, that they are really a minor and secondary importance, and that it is consequently a matter of the greatest surprise that the shipowners of the country should have been stirred up to such a pitch of indignation that they should have brought the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mr. Leslie Scott) to address the House in a speech of about an hour and forty minutes, and should have sent representations to all Members of this House, together with the pamphlet to which I have referred. Had these differences been of small moment I do not think we should have seen such activity on the part of the shipping community.
It is clear that there is a difference of principle on two important points. First of all there is a difference of principle in regard to the placing of the boats and the davits. In the draft rule that is insisted upon to a much greater extent than is thought necessary by the Advisory Committee. In the second place, the Advisory Committee still continues to adhere to the old principle, condemned by Lord Mersey, of placing the provision of lifeboats on the gross tonnage of the vessel, whereas the draft rule gives up that principle, and places the provision of lifeboats upon the length of the vessel. In both these things there is a considerable conflict of opinion. In view of this conflict of opinion, what is the situation? It is left to this House to decide all these highly technical matters between the Advisory Committee and the technical officers of the Board of Trade. If the usual procedure is followed, these draft rules will be laid on the Table of this House, and if, after lying on the Table forty days, an Address be not presented 112 disapproving of them, then these rules will receive the force of Statute—in other words, the only form in which there can be a real investigation into the merits of the dispute is by a Debate in this House, which may take place after eleven o'clock at night, when the question as to whether the House shall approve of the rules shall be decided "Aye" or "No." Obviously that is an unsatisfactory way of settling a matter which is of such importance in relation to life-saving appliances. In these circumstances it seems to me that it is desirable that a Committee of this House should consider whether a better method cannot be adopted for devising rules to be made statutory by the Board of Trade. Other Departments have different systems. In some of them the responsible officials of the Department publish the rules in draft form in the first instance, and if any of the parties interested object to the rules as published in draft form there may be an inquiry by a skilled and competent person, who may take evidence from all parties interested before the rule is put in final form. In view of the situation which has just occurred, in view of the conflict through which we are passing, the internecine war between the technical advisers of the Board of Trade and the Advisory Committee, it appears that that method would be a more satisfactory method of dealing with it, and one the result of which would inspire far greater public confidence.
I have endeavoured to show that the findings of Lord Mersey's Court have established a charge of inefficiency against the Board of Trade. I have endeavoured to show also that what has happened since the sitting of Lord Mersey's Court has still further tended to diminish confidence in that organisation and in its methods of administration. I am not going to enter into a discussion of the value of the new draft rules. So far as I am able to judge, though I cannot speak as an expert, I think that they are admirable, and that, in the main, they carry out the spirit of the recommendations of Lord Mersey. They may be admirable at present, and they may be admirable for the purpose of meeting existing conditions, but are we to be satisfied even with these admirable rules if the condition of things remains as it has been in the past in the Board of Trade? We know that before 1890 the Board of Trade practically did nothing in regard to life-saving appliances for a matter of fifty 113 years. The life-saving appliances were on the basis of a tonnage of 1,400 tons register up to 1890, and it was not until there was an outside agitation that the Board of Trade moved in the matter. It was then reported that the requirements should be increased 100 per cent. Then from 1894 until 1911 no definite step was taken. I submit to the House that even if the now rules are satisfactory, even if they give sufficient security to all those who make use of our ships, have we any security that the Board of Trade will not go to sleep once more, and that in the future it will be as inactive and as somnolent as it has been in the past. It is for these reasons that I am proposing the Amendment, which asks for an inquiry by this House. This House is the proper tribunal for such an inquiry. The questions which had to be investigated in regard to the loss of the "Titanic," such as the approximate causes of loss, and the default of the Board of Trade, were matters for judicial inquiry, and Lord Mersey's Court was the proper tribunal for the investigation of those questions. The proposal I am now making is for a different form of inquiry, and relates to a different kind of question. We are dealing here with administration, with administrative methods, with administrative policy and with administrative organisation. One of the most responsible duties which devolves upon this House is to supervise and control the administration of every public department. This House is responsible to the country for the discharge of that duty, and, as a situation such as I have described has been disclosed by Lord Mersey's Report, and as we see this further discredit thrown on the organisation of the Board of Trade by the conflict which is now taking place, it is the duty of this House to institute an inquiry by a Committee of this House—the only body which can usefully and successfully carry out such an inquiry—and if the House of Commons institutes this inquiry it will be discharging its duty not only to the general public but to all those who go down to the sea in ships.
§ Mr. PETO
I rise to second the Amendment, and I do so with greater confidence than I should have done before I heard this Debate. When I put the Amendment on the Paper it seemed to me perfectly clear from what I had heard and been informed of the past administration of the Marine Department of the Board of Trade 114 —what the hon. Member (Mr. Pringle) called the "somnolent inactivity"—that it was necessary that we should bring forward a Motion for a Select Committee to inquire into the whole administration and organisation of the Marine Department of the Board of Trade. My principal reason then for doing so was what I knew of its inaccessibility and its inactivity, and the fact that it has never moved of its own volition and that the rules and regulations it has made have been constantly, absolutely antiquated and out of date. Committees have been set up from time to time on marine and other subjects which have made the most direct representations and recommendations as to officers' hours, as to the manning of ships and so forth, one and all of which have been ignored in every way except that it is true that the other day the Secretary to the Board of Trade reminded me that recommendation 32 of the Manning Committee of 1896 forms the subject of a small Bill dealing with home cargo vessels and certificated officers. I think that is a very good example to give the House. Sixteen years have elapsed and one recommendation is now made the subject of legislation. I suppose it occurred even to the Marine Department of the Board of Trade that it was somewhat out of date to have no regulation whatever that a British ship engaged in the home cargo trade should have any certificated officer upon it at all, but at the same time we must recognise that the regulations with regard to certificated officers on foreign-going ships are, if not as absurd, almost as absurd as that. The "Titanic" itself, according to existing regulations, need only have had a master and one certificated officer. There is nothing to bring up any of these rules or regulations to accord with the progress of the shipping industry. But since I came to the House this afternoon and listened to the Debates I see that there are two opposing attitudes. All the speeches in the earlier part of the Debate were from representatives of the shipowners. Their attitude has been well defined by Mr. Royden, the president of the Chamber of Shipping, in two short phrases, with which I should like to trouble the House. First of all he said:—The life-saving regulations were Parliament's contribution to the solution of the problem how best to protect life at pea, and so fur as The official records of the last twenty years go it hap been of little if any effect. The building of improved types of vessels has been the shipowners' contribution, and it is, beyond question, mainly if not entirely their action in this direction that has so greatly increased safety at sea.115 Then this is what the shipowning view deduces from these two facts:—For these two reasons I submit with the greatest confidence that it would be a disaster for Parliament to attempt the reorganisation of the Marine Department of the Board of Trade with the object of substituting the principle of departmental responsibility for the general design, building and equipment of our vessels for the principle of the individual responsibility of the shipowner, under which our mercantile marine has grown as that of no other nation has grown, and under which safety of life and property at sea has increased in such a marked degree.That is a method of argument which it is very easy to set up. It assumes something or other which was certainly never the intention either of the hon. Member (Mr. Pringle) or myself in putting this Amendment on the Paper, and that Amendment is the main cause, as I see from the first page of this address, of this address having been issued and sent round to all Members of the House. We never proposed that the reorganisation of the Marine Department of the Board of Trade should be undertaken with the object of substituting the principle of departmental responsibility for the construction of ships. What I have to show the House if I can is that the Marine Department of the Board of Trade in the past has not carried out what are its proper functions within the sphere of responsibility which it has had in the past. The President of the Board of Trade told the House that they are going to undertake these further responsibilities, which certainly border, and must border, upon questions even of the design and construction of ships. The Bulkhead Committee will report, and regulations must be made either wholly or partially in accordance with the Report, and the Board of Trade will then be responsible for seeing that these regulations are carried out. But it is to the point for me to show now to a certain extent how the Marine Department of the Board of Trade have carried out the duties which they have in the past. There are a number of different points on which, although they do not bear directly upon the "Titanic" disaster, we can now bring a little light to bear in view of the attention which has been called to these matters of marine shipping by that terrible disaster.
It has been made quite clear from the Report on the Manning of Ships of 1896 that that Committee held that it was contrary to the interests of safety of life at sea that ships should go to sea with officers who, owing to unduly long hours, were not in a fit condition to carry out their duties; also that it was unsafe for 116 ships to go to sea unless there was a sufficient number of officers. There was a recommendation—No. 31—of that Committee that all vessels over a certain size could go to sea only with a master and three officers. Now undoubtedly there is a very close connection between safety of life at sea and sufficient officering of vessels, and those officers having reasonable hours of rest, yet nothing has been done in these sixteen years in that direction, and we still have 80 per cent. of the merchant cargo vessels, known as tramps, where the almost invariable rule is a master and two certificated officers. That means what is called the two-watch system; it means that each officer, each day, puts in on the average fifteen hours' work. He never has more than three and a half or at the outset three and three-quarter hours off duty. These vessels are very frequently, I might almost say usually, engaged in the coasting trade, and they are discharging or taking on cargo all day long, or going from port to port. I have seen it myself on the West Coast of India, and I have wondered how flesh and blood could possibly stand the strain of taking off and on cargo for twelve hours, and then going on the bridge for four hours, making a stretch of sixteen hours duty. The Board of Trade has never done anything to carry out that recommendation. The recommendation is contained in the Report of a Committee which sat sixteen years ago. That is only one of the things about which nothing whatever has been done. There is also the question of the accommodation of seamen on ships. Some prominence has been given to that recently by the reports of the Newport medical officer, and of the medical officer of the Port of London. It is true that in 1906 the number of cubic feet to be allotted to each seaman was increased, and that it is now seventy-two, which happens to work out at just the necessary space to bury a man, if buried ashore.
What I wish to point out is that the officers who pass the accommodation in a ship and see that it complies with the regulations of the Board of Trade have, as the President of the Board of Trade told me a month or two ago, no medical knowledge and no knowledge of hygiene, and are not supposed to have such knowledge. The medical officers of the Board are so few and their time is so entirely taken up with emigrant ships, that the accommodation for the crew of cargo ships never comes 117 under their consideration at all. The result is the state of things reported by the Newport Committee and the medical officer of the Port of London. Nothing is said about ventilation. A surveyor of the Board of Trade is bound only to take his three feet rule and see if the crew space contains so many cubic feet, but the questions whether or not there is an inlet or outlet for air, and whether the sanitary arrangements are right or not, are no concern of his whatever. The Sanitary Committee at Newport adopted a resolution to the effect that they were of opinion it was full time something was done with the view of raising the standard of hygiene at sea. I notice that the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mr. Leslie Scott), said he made an offer to the President of the Board of Trade. He said to him: "You do something or other to provide us with boys, and we will find them employment. You do something to bring to us the class for British seamen, and we will make use of them." It seems to mo that in view of such reports as I have read, they should offer them something more than employment. They should do something to make life at sea reasonably sanitary, and attractive in other ways, so that when these boys are obtained for the carrying out of this scheme, they will be kept as British seamen in British ships. At the present time there is no inducement to anybody to go to sea, even in a British ship, if he can possibly find a living ashore. As to accommodation, we have only got to realise that in a common lodging house ashore 400 cubic feet is the rule, and yet when a man goes to sea 72 cubic feet is supposed to be sufficient. In the face of that we cannot wonder that the medical officer of the Port of London should say that until the conditions are changed tuberculosis will continue to be a cause of mortality among this class of men. As to hospitals, the Marine Department of the Board of Trade expressed the pious hope that shipowners will be kind enough to carry out the recommendations made to them. I am informed that there are actually ten cases where hospital accommodation for seamen is now provided. I hope if these further duties are to be taken on, they will be taken on in a different spirit from that.
There is the question of the manning of British ships, and in that respect I say that our Board of Trade are far behind Australia and New Zealand. There they do not tolerate the manning or officering 118 of their ships by aliens. We have 30,000 aliens in addition to 44,000 Asiatics. I have heard the figures quoted as to the proportions, but the hon. Member who quoted the figures seemed to me to be comparing the number of foreign seamen with the number of British subjects engaged in every way on board ships. That is a very unfair comparison. If you take the figures as to the British seamen and compare them with the figures as to foreign seamen, they tell a very different tale. I find that in 1891 there were in what is officially termed the "Sailors" department 23,000 British officers, 6,500 petty officers, 39,700 British sailors, 3,843 apprentices, and 1,796 British boys, making a total of nearly 75,000, as compared with 30,000 aliens and nearly 44,000 Asiatics. What had happened in 1906, fifteen years later? The number of sailors had decreased to 28,106. The total was 61,042, or a diminution of 14,093 British seamen. I do not think that is a satisfactory record at all. On the top of that there is what I think a good many Members do not know—we have 500 aliens who have either masters' certificates or officers' certificates and are commanding or officering British ships, and that at the present time the Admiralty are anxious to make use of British merchant ships to get information in time of war as to what warships they see. A book showing in outline the different types of foreign war vessels has been issued through Lloyd's to British merchant men. They have also been informed that in time of war they will receive special information as to the ports which are protected by mines, and all this information will be asked for and given to officers of British ships, probably of the very nationality of the country with which we are engaged in war. When we think of this one realises again from another point of view that the Marine Department has been somewhat somnolent in these matters.
After all, there is no Board of Trade. The Board of Trade is the President of the Board of Trade. But we can deal with what is really the effective administration so far as regards marine matters, and that is the assistant secretary of the Marine Department. I can only say that those for whom I speak, the Imperial Merchant Guild, which represents over 50 per cent. of British officers and masters of British ships, do not find, and have told me they do not find, a sympathetic reception for grievances, if you term them grievances, or questions which required attention in 119 connection with the merchant service. I do not think this is very much to be wondered at if you consider the enormous number of things which the Marine Department of the Board of Trade is supposed to administer. I have here a list taken from the "Shipping World Year Book" of these subjects. They include naval courts, boiler explosions, discipline, the relief of distressed seamen, examination of masters, medicine, engineering, international code of signalling, international questions concerning shipping, life-saving apparatus, load line, medical scales, merchant shipping, mercantile marine officers, local marine board, inquiries into misconduct, Naval Reserve, rewards for saving life, training ships, unseaworthy ships, inquiries into wrecks and casualties, wrecks register, list of shipowners, and register of ships. The hon. Member who has just addressed the House said that in the Inquiry before Lord Mersey it was found that the permanent Secretary of the Marine Department had frequently to refer to underlings for information on specific subjects. If he were supposed to be familiar with all these subjects I have enumerated, I am not surpised that he had from time to time to refer to someone who happened to be in charge of the particular subject which was being discussed.
But I go beyond that altogether, and I say that taking into consideration the enormous and increasing number of ships and the increase in the size of the ships, and the complicated questions of every kind connected with them, it is very unsatisfactory that there should be no direct representation in this House of that immense industry. It is only through the President of the Board of Trade, perhaps once in ten years, that some shipping questions are at last ventilated, owing to such a disaster as that which has caused the present Debate, but it is unsatisfactory that there should be no direct representation of this great merchant service in this House. It is also very unsatisfactory to consider what is the staff of surveyors who have charge of such inspection as is given to the whole of over 10,000 steam vessels which now constitute the merchant service, comprising over 11,000,000 net tons of shipping. It is astonishing to find that there are only sixteen nautical surveyors, that is only sixteen men whose past career qualifies them to survey, inspect, and report upon not only life-saving apparatus, but the navigation apparatus of every ship. I could give 120 the House, if there were time, the distribution of those men, but it is sufficient to say that it is perfectly obvious that if not absolutely the principal ports, at any rate, a great many of the secondary ports of the United Kingdom have no nautical surveyor at all. Then the engineering surveyors number eighty-five, and the shipping surveyors thirty-four. I think it is a possible question that the surveying staff of the Board of Trade might be very much increased. I do not wish to make any attack either on the present officials or on the President of the Board of Trade, but I wish to try to make out a case for an inquiry into the organisation and administration of the Department. The House cannot get at it. Outside people who are engaged in shipping cannot get at it. When the Department wants advice it gets it from the Advisory Committee which was set up by the Act, 1906, and which has all its meetings in secret, so that the public cannot get at it. All these things are absolutely under lock and key, almost as if there were something they were ashamed of.
I think it is absolutely essential, considering the enormous responsibilities which it already possesses and the enormous interests which it controls, that we should have a complete inquiry by Select Committee of this House into the organisation of the Marine Department and the administration of affairs. When we have such an inquiry I feel satisfied that the Committee will find that there has been no action except spasmodic action from time to time, when public opinion has been able to call attention to some particular grievance or antiquated procedure of the Board of Trade; that it has never gone on, as it were, in any direction unless it has been pricked up from behind; and that in very many cases Committees which must have cost a great deal to set up and conduct their inquiries have had their recommendations ignored year after year, until, as in the case I have shown, for sixteen years perfectly clear and definite recommendations which were put before the Board of Trade have never been carried out. An inquiry would also show that there are grievances in the merchant service which might and ought to be remedied. I will only mention one which I forgot in the early part of my remarks. That is the question not only of the long hours of officers, but also of Sunday work.
It is understood in our British merchant service that the pay received by the officers 121 is for a seven days' week. That is the case of the shipowner, and I was asked by the President of the Board of Trade if I could get any information as to whether the conditions in other countries were more favourable in this respect. I have got here a short epitome of what is the case in other countries. In France there is a law restricting Sunday labour on merchant ships. In Germany, on Sundays and holidays, as long as a ship remains in harbour or roadstead, service (including night work) may only be demanded as far as it is absolutely necessary and incapable of postponement, or necessary on account of the passenger traffic. The ship's crew may not be allowed in any case to load or unload cargo within the Imperial territory, not even with their own consent. When a German ship is lying in a foreign country the holidays of the home harbour must be kept, and a heavy fine is imposed for any infraction of the law. In Russia Sunday labour is not compulsory either at sea or in port, except in cases of absolute necessity. In Spain, although Sunday rest is observed, no law exists applying to seamen in regard to Sunday labour. If there is work to be done in port on Sundays or holidays, a permit is applied for from the ecclesiastical authority at the port, and it is usually granted. In Italy there is no information available, but proposals have been considered, fixing an eight hours' day for the engine department and twelve hours for? deck hands as normal working hours. In harbour the working hours are to be eight. Sundays—and holidays recognised by the State or when abroad by foreign States or local custom—to be non-working days except for the indispensable duties of the ship, such as watches and maintenance. In Norway no work may be imposed upon the crew on Sundays and other holidays exceeding what is needful for the safety and working of the ship. It is not counted as a necessity that the ship, through the charter party is bound to load, or discharge, on Sundays or holidays. In Sweden the master of a ship "shall not on Sundays or any other days kept holy in the kingdom impose on the crew any work which can be postponed." In Denmark it is prescribed that in case the master finds it necessary, in cases of urgency, to let the crew work on loading or discharging on Sundays or Danish holidays, any member participating in such work shall, in case nothing else is agreed upon, receive an extra pay of 122 half-a-day's wages for each two working hours or fraction thereof. It is very rarely that officers, on arrival home, are allowed reasonable leave without loss of pay. If they do take such leave, it is usually granted reluctantly, and they must take it at the sacrifice of their pockets.
There we have a fairly complete list of the different countries where men are employed on ships of their nationality and who are infinitely better off than those employed in British ships. This is an excellent example of administration to the Marine Department of the Board of Trade. It is only an outside organisation, wholly unconnected with the Board of Trade, and representative of the masters and officers of snips, who find out these things and convey the information through the proper channel to the authorities. I know the President of the Board of Trade has not the information himself. It seems to me, if the Marine Department is a live Department, that is precisely the sort of information it should obtain, and it should have taken steps long ago to see that reasonable conditions were also established in respect of the officers. That is not only a grievance, but I desire to point out that it is a matter on which the safety and working of a ship depends. Therefore, in bringing these matters which may appear to be outside the subject of the "Titanic" Debate, before the attention of the House, I claim that I am bringing to the notice of hon. Members matters which are directly connected with the safety of life at sea. You have got to make the life of seamen and officers reasonably comfortable and reasonably safe, and convenient accommodation, with proper sanitary conditions and so forth should be afforded, in order to attract men inside the service and keep them there when you have got them.
In addition, it is necessary that an alteration should be made in the working hours before we can ensure that we have safe navigational conditions. For all these reasons I would like to see an investigation by a Select Committee of this House into the whole question of the administration and organisation of the Marine Department of the Board of Trade. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman himself objects to it for a moment. He realises, I am quite sure, as I gathered from the nature of his speech, that these changes will lay additional responsibility upon his Department. If the Committee find that more direct touch between this House and the Department 123 is necessary, I do not think it would be to the disadvantage of any future President of the Board of Trade; quite the other way. I am quite certain that it would be of enormous advantage to the marine service, and would give greater assurance to the public as to the safety of the British marine service. For these reasons I beg to second the Amendment before the House.
§ Mr. WILKIE
I have listened with the greatest interest to the discussion this afternoon. It was not on Lord Mersey's Report, but on the new regulations which are proposed by the Board of Trade. The discussion reminded me very much of a similar Debate which we had in 1906, the last occasion when shipping questions were prominently before this House. I agree with almost every word the last speaker said on this matter, and I desire to say that more particularly, seeing that he spoke from the other side of the House. The last time the question was before us, we found that no matter where the shipowners sat in this House they were all of one opinion. That attitude has again been exemplified to-day, and once more we see that certain people think of property before life. The Amendment proposes that there should be an investigation into the working of the Department. We have heard a list of the questions with which the Marine Department of the Board of Trade have to deal, and I think the House "will agree that we want a change in the administration of all our Departments. We want to have them more in touch with this House, and the Board of Trade should have a real live Marine Department. As I understood the Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt), he is not in favour of the recommendations of Lord Mersey's Court, or of what the Board of Trade now proposes for adoption. In my view there ought to be life-saving appliances on every vessel for all on board. If that is not to be done, and if there is to be a limited life-saving capacity, I should like to know who is to be the Jonah's. Surely everyone on board, in circumstances of peril, has an equal right with others to safety, and therefore I support the view that there should be life-saving appliances for all on board. I understand that the Act provides that there must be lifebelts or life-jackets for everyone on board every seagoing vessel.
I think that is so at present, and, if that be correct, is it not a delusion and a snare 124 not to follow that provision up by having sufficient lifeboat and raft accommodation for all on board in the event of disaster? Otherwise, as was proved in the case of the "Titanic," where hundreds more could have been saved, the provision of life-belts and jackets is not enough. Those who used the life jackets on the "Titanic" were killed by the shock of the ice-cold water. I hope that inventors will seek other means beside life-belts or jackets of providing some appliance which will enable people when in the water to withstand its effect and to preserve their lives. I support this Amendment for further inquiry, and there should be a thorough investigation in order to ascertain what powers really should be given to the Marine Department. I am sure that would be of great service both to the President and to those in his Department. The life-saving appliance rules were started in 1887 and again in 1890. We have had no alteration, except in one year, 1804, in which the figure was raised from 9,000 tons upwards to 10,000 tons and upwards. Our shipowner friends-are now afraid that the Board of Trade may go ahead of them. Why did they themselves not move in the question 1 In 1894 the tonnage was from 10,000 to 12,000; now the "Olympic" and "Titanic" were no less than 46,000. Surely in all those years there ought to have been some inquiry and amendment, and not to leave it to a shock like the "Titanic" before they were galvanised into action. The same thing applies to the question of manning and to the engine room staff. There was then provision only for a driving power of 600 and a number of engineers proportionate. Now, instead of 600 power, there is 6,000, but there is no regulation requiring or compelling them to carry more men than they did when the power was 600. Surely that is some proof that something is required to shock the Department out of its inactivity attitude. Under Section 427 of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 they had power to make rules as to life-saving, but they did nothing. Just to show the position taken up when a question was asked at the "Titanic" Inquiry of Sir Alfred Chalmers whether the "Titanic" disaster led him to believe that any single one of the Board's regulations should be modified, he distinctly answered "No." The next question was:—Are there no lessons to be learned from this disaster? —No, because it is an extraordinary one125 The Marine Department of the Board of Trade, we were told, guarded against ordinary occurrences and not extraordinary occurrences. Striking an iceberg is not an extraordinary occurrence. It has often occurred in the history of the mercantile marine, and therefore it ought to have been within the purview of the officials of the Marine Department, who ought to have provided for such an occasion. That shows the attitude that has been adopted, and that apparently has satisfied the shipowners. I have complained year after year of the way in which the members of my own craft have been dealt with, namely, the ship constructors. In 1906 we urged that every vessel should be required to carry one or more duly qualified ship's carpenters—that is, ship constructors. The law requires that those navigating the vessel must be certificated. The engineers in charge of the propelling power are also certificated. In 1906 the Amendment of the law decreed that the cook who provided the motive power of the living organisation should also be certificated. In like manner the ship's carpenters should be certificated, as every life on board a ship is dependent on the stability of the ship or floating structure. While it has been the custom from time immemorial to carry one or more ship's carpenters on board, there is no law compelling that to be done. We often hear of collisions, but we are not told if collision mats are provided, or other similar appliances. If there were duly qualified ship constructors on board, who knew every division and every bulkhead, they would be the means very often of saving the ship and saving life. The Admiraly provide for about thirty skilled mechanics on board vessels of His Majesty's Navy. We ask that there should be the same provision in proportion to the size of the ship and the lives on board in the mercantile marine in the interests of the safety of life at sea. I can give cases where men have been signed on as ship's carpenters who are unskilled men. In the case of any unforseen occurrence or disaster those men would be virtually useless. Even at the present time some of the South-Western vessels for the sake of a few shillings per week carry men with uniforms and who sign on as ship's carpenters who are not so, and who know little or nothing of ship construction.
We have also complained, and this is another reason why we support this 126 Amendment, as to the surveying of the hulls of the vessels. In the particular case of the "Titanic" the fact came out in evidence that had those plans been submitted to the experts of the. Board of Trade at an earlier period those bulkheads might have gone higher and been the means of assisting to keep her longer afloat. The longer a damaged vessel is kept afloat the greater the opportunity for the safety of life aboard. A previous speaker referred to the small number of nautical surveyors. Up to 1906 the real surveyor was the shipwright surveyor, but for some reason the Board of Trade changed the shipwright surveyor to the ship surveyor. We have only thirty-four of those, against eighty-five engineer surveyors and sixteen nautical surveyors. We strongly contend that no one can be thoroughly expert in the three departments. The man who serves his time at engine building and construction cannot understand the building and construction of the hull of the vessel. The same is true of the ship surveyor with regard to the engines. Therefore we think that if an inquiry is granted we shall be able to show that for the construction of the hull of the ship the Board of Trade should employ as surveyor a ship constructor; for the machinery and propelling power an engineer, and for the administration and navigation of the vessel an experienced shipmaster.
Recently the policy has been to form Advisory Committees. There have been three, including the Bulkhead Committee and the Boats and Davits Committee. What I complain of is that the Board of Trade have not appointed on any one of those Cmmittees a single representative from the actual workers. Such representatives would have been of service, not only to the Board of Trade, but to the country at large. On all these Committees the shipping interests are fully represented, but there has not been a representative of the workers or of the public who are really the employers of the whole. I am speaking from the workman's point of view, which ought to be considered as well as the other. Before Lord Mersey's Court sat, the President of the Board of Trade was asked whether the scope of the "Titanic" inquiry would be wide enough to allow the Court to receive evidence bearing on the advisability of changing the present regulations of the Board of Trade as to the safety of human life on 127 vessels, and the reply was: "Undoubtedly." But Lord Mersey did not concur in that, and we were restricted from giving the evidence which from the statement of the President of the Board of Trade we had expected to be able to give. I am one of those who do not wish to take away one atom of responsibility from the shipowners, but I contend, as a representative of the public, that the public ought to be assured that a shipowner when he charges the price of a ticket to New York or anywhere else has taken the proper measures to carry that contract out in safety. When a great accident occurred and the Press was full of the "Titanic" disaster, it came as a shock to the public that the number of lifeboats carried was according to the tonnage and not according to the number of souls on board. Everyone remembers the picture of the wreck of a famous steamer where every soul was saved. I wish that that could have been said of the "Titanic," and I believe that with proper organisation on board and with more lifeboats, every soul could have been saved. It was because that nearly everybody on board thought the ship was unsinkable that there was no panic and no rushing for the boats, and good discipline was maintained. We ought to do all we can to ensure the continuance of that confidence. Mr. Royden, one of the fairest shipowners in the country, and President of the Council of the Chamber of Shipping of Liverpool, in a pamphlet sent out to every Member, says:There have been men, and I am afraid there will always be men owning or controlling ships ready to make money as swindlers, preying on the general public.We do not keep the police for honest men, but for rogues; and when a shipowner makes a statement of that kind the Board of Trade ought to look after these men, even though they are few. Why should they be allowed to sacrifice other men's lives? In the report of the Commission on Loss of Life at Sea, there are letters published from men going on their last voyage, who did not see why their wives should be made widows in order that other men might become rich. Every precaution is necessary, and I hope the Board of Trade will wake up to its responsibilities. Whether this Amendment is carried or not, they ought to have their hands strengthened and power given them, not to take away the right of the shipowners, but to see that at least a minimum of 128 safey is provided. I hope that as a result of this discussion some method will be adopted whereby the House can be kept in close touch with the Marine Department of the Board of Trade, and that there may be restored that confidence which is rapidly dwindling at the present time.
§ Mr. JOYCE
The main Debate has centred round the issue of the draft regulations of the President of the Board of Trade. I, in common with some other Members of the House, congratulate the President of the Board of Trade on the issue of those draft regulations. I think he ought to have no cause of complaint at the turn this Debate has taken. The whole thing hinges upon the safety of life at sea. In dealing with the main question of the building of the ships of the future I agree entirely with the Noble Lord the Member for Devonport, who brings such a large practical knowledge to this question, that the greatest measure of safety that it is possible to provide in the construction should be encouraged by the Board of Trade. The shipbuilders and the shipowners themselves, I think, should fall into line with every reasonable suggestion put forward by the Board of Trade to see that the ship should have the maximum of safety. But, when all is said and done, no matter how the ship is constructed, accidents will occur at sea which will sink any ship. I think practically every man thought the "Titanic" was unsinkable, and I believe had she struck the iceberg head-on she would have been unsinkable. One, two, or three of her fore watertight compartments might have filled, but the rest of the compartments would have kept the ship afloat. Driving, however, at an excessive rate of speed made it, as the Noble Lord said, that the whole of the ship must have been ripped up. No ship, no matter how she was built, could have floated under such circumstances. I believe that is the main point in the question of safety of life at sea.
When all has been done you must come back to the question of boats, and the most important question here is the question of manning. No matter how the ship is built she will have to carry lifeboats, and as many of the best type as she can carry. Every practical man I have met and spoken with on this question of late has stated his opinion that the greater the number of ordinary open first-class lifeboats that can be carried the better. In addition to this 129 the residue of the boats should be made up of the very best type of collapsible or unsinkable boats. I think during this Debate a certain confusion has arisen amongst some Members in regard to the question of rafts. One class of collapsible lifeboat is very often called a raft. That is the Engelhardt lifeboat. In the ordinary way, when its sides are down, it is a raft; thrown into the sea it forms a raft. I heard an hon. Member make a very serious mistake here, for he said that when the boat was launched the collapsible sides automatically come up. They do no such thing. They must be lifted up by men at each end of the boat. That can be done in a second or so. I have seen it done. The boat then becomes a very serviceable lifeboat. Personally, however, from the trials I have seen of the Engelhardt lifeboat, I have great faith in her capabilities.
Many hon. Members will not agree, but I am sure that in a certain class of ship there will be great danger of interfering with the stability of the ship if too many boats with too many davits are placed on the upper or boat deck. In ships of the "Olympic" type I do not believe that can occur, but in ships of the smaller type and of light draught, ships which are in a foreign passenger trade, I do know that in a great many cases these ships are top-heavy enough already, and a good many people believe that a very fine ship was lost within the last couple of years by being too top-heavy. Ships of that description would not bear any additional weight on the upper or boat deck. It is well, therefore, dealing with these cases, that things should not be done in a hurry, and the various classes of ships should be dealt with on their individual merits. I do believe, at the same time, that lifeboat accommodation of the type of the open lifeboat, of the Engelhardt, and of the collapsible type, should be provided for very soul on board. I think, too, that confusion has arisen in regard to cargo ships. We all know that before these draft regulations were issued that regulations had been in force for many years as stringent almost in their character as these draft regulations now under debate. So long as I remember in respect to the cargo ship, the regulations have been that there must be lifeboat accommodation, not on board the ship, but on each side of the ship for every soul on board. Are not the lives, then, of the passengers who travel over the sea as valuable as the lives of the sailors, officers, firemen, and engineers of the cargo boat? If cargo boats are com- 130 pelled to carry life-saving appliances for everyone on board, why should not the huge ocean steamer be made to carry sufficient lifeboat accommodation to save, if necessary, every soul on board?
I congratulate the President of the Board of Trade on having had the courage of his convictions in this case and of putting forward requirements that many shipowners are complying with without any Board of Trade regulations. Other countries are complying with these requirements, and thus are bringing the public back again to a peaceful state of mind after its great disturbance over the terrible loss of the "Titanic." One word more with regard to the question of international agreement. I agree that, you should not wait for it, the mercantile marine of this country means half of the marine traffic of the world, between 11,500,000 tons and 15,000,000 tons, I think it is. As the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes) said, you should lead the way when you control half the tonnage of the world and set a good example. Let the President of the Board of Trade ask for a proper interval. It is not a matter that should be rushed, and I was glad to hear the President in answer to the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth, say it would not be rushed because very important committees have to report yet. When these matters are worked out and these regulations are enforced, when the Board of Trade has just put them in practice, then in the meantime an international agreement will be sought so that the maritime countries will come into agreement and have the rules brought up and coordinated so that all would agree. I think if that is done good work will have been done. I do not desire to keep the House, but I did desire to say a few words to clear up points which to me seem important. I heard the hon. Member for North-East Lanarkshire speak of the battle, the pitch-battle, I think he called it, between the Advisory Committee and the Board of Trade. There is no such battle going on. The Advisory Committee carried out their duties, and I think have carried them out well. They devote a great deal of time and attention to the matters put before them, they submit reports to the Board of Trade, but it does not follow that the Board of Trade should accept their reports to the letter. The Advisory Committee themselves have disagreed on portion of their reports and sub-committees or members have sent in additional reports, especially on the manning question—and 131 I desire to say a word or two upon that matter before I sit down—but there is no fight between the Board of Trade and the Advisory Committee. The relation between the Board of Trade and the Advisory Committee have been of the most harmonious character for the last six years since it came into existence.
With regard to the manning of the boats, I am one of the Members who sent in a special report upon this subject. I think when you are insisting upon having life-saving appliances, you should see that the men who handle them are able and willing to handle them, and therefore the Board of Trade should insist that upon every open lifeboat launched from the davits, perhaps loaded with passengers in the dark night, that each such boat should at least have two capable men, two of whom should be able seamen in the fullest sense of the word, men who would have passed through all the various grades leading up to able seamen, who would know how to handle the boats and in whom the people in the boats would have confidence. With regard to other matters, such as boat drill for persons on board ship, such as deck hands, stokers and stewards in the various departments, I do not see any difficulty in having it carried out at all. I heard some Members saying there was great difficulty. There would be none if it was carried out in the men's working time, but if it is tried on when the men have a right to take their natural rest, men will grumble against it and would have a right to do so. No man on board ship is allowed idle time, some men would work all the time. In other ships every ounce that is in a man will be taken out of him, but there is no idle time, and there is nothing to prevent any master of a crew, once he is clear of the land, or in port, having boat drill as much as he wants. If he does, then the men will know where to go at the proper time when the occasion arises, and if he has good men in charge the passengers will have confidence in them, and will not be rushing like a flock of sheep without a shepherd in a panic, crushing here and there. I think this Debate has done service, and I do not think the President of the Board of Trade has any reason at all to grumble at the way the Debate has gone.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
Since the "Titanic" Inquiry the Board of Trade have been accused of having neglected their duties, and they have not only been proved 132 guilty by the report of the inquiry, but also by public opinion, not only of the whole British Empire, but of the United States as well, and in spite of that there is no one responsible to this House for their neglect,. and I venture to submit to the House that is an extremely good reason why there should be a separate department set up to deal with the mercantile marine. Everyone knows we have a mercantile marine flying the British flag, carrying half the trade of the world, employing something like 260,000 men, twice the strength of the-Navy, and nearly equal to the whole of our military defensive forces. Surely such a strength should be represented by a British Minister who should be responsible to this House and to this country if anything goes wrong. What is the constitution of the Board of Trade? First, the Archbishop of Canterbury is a member. No one can get at him because, of course, he has no responsibility whatever. Another member is the Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, which does not exist at the present time, and the only other person is the President of the Board of Trade, who retires behind his Advisory-Committee, with whom, according to the hon. Member who has just sat down, and himself, there is the most harmonious relationship. And the result is that no one is responsible for the delay and the neglect of the Mercantile Department of the Board of Trade in not providing proper regulations for the provision of boats on passenger ships.
But there are many other reasons why a separate Department should be instituted as soon as possible, and one is the question of the alien seamen, which has already been alluded to by the hon. Member for Wiltshire, and the question of deck-loads, which is a very important matter and very dangerous in all our ships. Hon. Members who represent shipowning interests have spoken as if this increase of boat accommodation on board ship was a very dangerous thing as likely to cause the ships to lose their stability, yet they are quite willing to see ships go to sea loaded up fourteen feet above the upper deck with deck-loads; that is a point which this Department ought certainly to deal with and to watch all the time. There is the case of uncertificated officers; of the discipline and manning of the Mercantile Marine; of the load line never yet properly and satisfactorily dealt with. The question of the deep-load line is one which is still a matter of dispute, and 133 there is the other very urgent matter, the question of the minimum load line. Ships are now allowed to go to sea too heavily laden, and a great many are lost from that cause, and that is a matter which certainly ought to be dealt with by the Marine Department. Then there is a question of the accommodation of the crews on board tramp ships, although this complaint does not apply to the better class of passenger ships. Upon a certain class of steamers the men are not treated as human beings. I have had letters from our Consuls abroad who have told me about the conditions applying on ships flying the British flag, and while they prevail you cannot expect to get self-respecting men to go to sea when they are treated worse than the men on shore. That is a matter which deserves the very close attention of the Board of Trade. As regards the rules which the right hon. Gentleman has laid before the House, I admit they are a great advance, but there are some points which have not been brought forward in them. With regard to carrying the boats only amidships, the President of the Board of Trade said in making that rule he had relied upon the advice of the Advisory Committee. I hope on this question he will also take the advice of many more people who have had experience in nautical matters.
I believe there is a strong opinion amongst seamen, at any rate in the larger ships, it would be much better to allow a certain number of davits on the quarter of the ship instead of piling them all amidships. Take a vessel like the "Olympic." In this case there is plenty of room for davits on either side of the quarter. The only reason given for not allowing ships to carry lifeboats on their quarter is that in certain circumstances it is considered dangerous, because they might interfere with the propellers. When a ship is being abandoned the propellers are not working, and therefore there is no danger arising from these boats. The safest part of the ship is that particular part, which is generally fairly well protected. Then there is the question of the wire falls. I do not know whether that matter will be dealt with by the Boats and Davits Committee. There should be some regulation that where boats are lowered from a great height on ships like the "Olympic," where it is eighty feet from the davit to the water-line, a single wire fall could be substituted for the seven-fold rope now in use. The present 134 proposal means that 600 feet of rope is out when the boat is being lowered, and as in future you will have to lower other boats from those davits under the new regulations, you will have to roll up the whole of that 600 feet of rope before you can lower your next load. It would be extremely difficult to do that in stormy weather, and this would not be so efficient as a wire fall rolled on a drum.
With regard to the surveying of these beats, they are not surveyed often enough. In the Report of the "Oceana" inquiry it was proved that the men who inspected the boats before she left Tilbury were not men with practical experience, and we all know the result, because some of those boats were afterwards found to be unseaworthy. Then there is the question of steel boats. In my opinion the next disaster at sea will be a case of fire, and not of a wreck. We have had warnings quite recently. There is the case of the "Carmania," which caught fire in the Liverpool docks, and it took four hours before it could be put out. Then there was the case of the fire on the "Lucania," and if either of those fires had occurred at sea it would have been a very serious matter. The "Sardinia" caught fire in 1909 off the coast of Malta, and although she was only two miles from a man-o'-war, which sent boats to her assistance, 118 lives were lost either by burning or drowning on that occasion, and probably the loss of life in that case would have been more serious if the ship had been further from land. There was another case in 1908 of a German ship, which was burned off the coast of South America. In that case fifty men got away in a steel boat, the woodwork of which had been gutted by the fire. Those fifty men were saved owing to the fact that they had metal boats. I hope the Board of Trade in re-drafting their regulations will pay special attention to the danger of fire and put in some regulation as to the proportion of metal boats which may be used.
The hon. Member for Hexham talked about boats as if they were not a very necessary part of the equipment of merchant steamers, and yet if he looks at the Report of the Advisory Committee, which has gone very thoroughly into the matter, he will find that ten years ago out of 12,000 men who were saved from ships over 6,000 were saved by the ships' own boats, and in the last ten years half of the men saved from ships have been saved by 135 their own boats. Only in the second decade no less than 3,000 men were saved by their own boats. I think that will refute any argument that boats are not an extremely necessary part of the equipment of any ship. I think everybody in the House agrees that the question of the strength and construction and floatability of the ship comes first, and although the provision of boats is a secondary matter, boats for all has practically been decided upon, not only by this House, but by the public opinion of the whole of the English-speaking world. I hope that the International Conference which has been alluded to will be entered into by us very soon. In answer to a question which I put to the Prime Minister early in June, the right hon. Gentleman said that the German Government had opened up negotiations for an International Conference, and that we had sent a sympathetic reply. I hope that matter is progressing, and I trust the International Conference, which has been urged by the United States, Germany, and by public opinion in this country, may be called, and get to work as soon as possible, as I am certain that if Germany, the United States, and this country were to have such a conference they could enforce their regulations upon all the ships of the world if they insisted on the rules drawn at that conference being adhered to by all the ships entering their ports.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. J. M. Robertson)
The Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Lanarkshire (Mr. Pringle), which is now before the House, has given a piquant turn to the Debate as a whole. In its earlier portion the Debate ran to an argument that the old policy of the Board was substantially right, and the criticism in that part of the Debate was to the effect that the Board was now erring very seriously in beginning a line of active intervention where before it had been passive. That view has been well thrashed out. The House was informed that the Board was in almost violent opposition to the counsel it had received from the Advisory Committee. On that head, my hon. Friend the Member for Limerick City, who was a member of the Advisory Committee gave some useful light. He was able to say that the relations between that Committee and the Board are and have been of the most harmonious character, 136 and that so far from the Advisory Committee being all arrayed on one side against the line of regulations put forward by the Board, there has certainly been an amount of division of opinion even among the members of the Advisory Committee itself. If I understood my hon. Friend aright, he not only agreed with the action of the Board but urged the Board to carry the policy of its regulations even further than those regulations, as drafted, actually go. After all that, we have my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Lanarkshire turning the current of the Debate and somewhat violently impeaching the Board, not at all for its new policy—its new policy so far satisfies him that his sole complaint is he is not sure the Board will be sufficiently active in carrying it out—but for its action in the past. That action which hon. Members representing the shipping industry thought had been right and proper, my hon. Friend thinks was discreditably wrong, and in the plainest language he accuses the Board of Trade Marine Department with having in the past been negligent of its duties. In that accusation he was supported by the hon. Member for Central Finsbury (Major Archer-Shee) who has used even stronger language.
My hon. Friend the Member for North-West Lanarkshire spoke of that policy of the past which he has impeached as having been lethargic and somnolent, words applied to one of the most vigilant officers that or any other Department has ever had. The hon. Member was perfectly entitled to impeach the policy that was pursued in regard to the leaving of the old regulations of life saving unaltered for so many years. He was quite entitled in the light of the finding of the Court to condemn that policy, as the Court did itself actually condemn it, but he had no authority in the finding of the Court for using such terms as "lethargic" and "somnolent." What the Court found was that in the light of a new event the policy was mistaken. That was a judgment which might have been passed on the most industrious and the most assiduous administrator that ever lived. It is a somewhat easy matter in the light of such an event as the disaster to the "Titanic" for my hon. Friend to stand up as if he had shown foresight, when the knowledge really came in the form of a discovery after the accident. Whatever may be said of the policy that he pursued, the officer in question is the last man who would be characterised 137 by anyone who knew his administration as guilty of somnolence, and the wording of the Court's decision is no ground whatever for the charge of negligence in which the hon. Member for North-West Lanarkshire and the hon. Member for Central Finsbury have concurred.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
The hon. Member exhibited himself as speaking in support of the Amendment before the House, which is not an attack on the President of the Board of Trade, but is an Amendment to the effect that there ought to be a Select Committee of this House appointed to inquire into the working of the Marine Department. My hon. Friend gave no suggestion that he meant the President of the Board of Trade, and, moreover, the whole line of his argument was not against the policy of the Department under my right hon. Friend, but against the Marine Department as it had been conducted for many years. It is under the administration of my right hon. Friend that there has been taken this new departure. This new departure of inquiry was being taken before the "Titanic" disaster occurred. It would be a strange thing if the one President of the Board of Trade in those years under whose administration a new departure has been taken should be impeached, as some Members seem to suggest he is impeached, by this particular Amendment. I am sure my hon. Friend would have been perfectly capable of making his Amendment explain that purpose, if such were the purpose for which it was framed. As regards the general charge of negligence, what is the wording of the Court's finding 1 I quote from page 61:—With reference to the second branch of the complaint, against the Board of Trade—namely, that their officials had failed to exercise due care in the supervision of the vessel's plans and in the inspection of the work done upon her—the charges broke down. Suggestions were made that the Board's requirements fell short of those of Lloyd's Registry; but no evidence was forthcoming to support the suggestions. The investigation of the charges took much time, but it only served to show that the officials had discharged their duties carefully and well.In the light of that finding of the Court, we are told that a charge of negligence lies against the Marine Department of the Board of Trade. If my right hon. Friend were thinking merely of his own convenience, he might very well accept such an Amendment as this. It would save him probably a good deal of anxiety and 138 trouble. But he is convinced, as I think every thoughtful and careful Member of the House who goes into the matter must be convinced, that the line of inquiry proposed is entirely inapplicable to the circumstances. If it be really a charge against the administration of the Department, and that seems to be implied, a question of that sort is not properly gone into by a Select Committee of this House. If it is a question of lax administration of a Department, a Departmental Committee would be the proper inquiry. [An HON. MEMBER: "NO, no."] The hon. Member is welcome to his opinion. I simply put what seems to me the rationale of the case. This House may obviously discuss a question of policy. The question of policy is not one for which the Marine Department is responsible. The question of policy is one to be decided by the heads of the Department, and the Amendment, which suggests mal-administration, really calls in question policy. The case brought forward by my hon. Friend was a case simply founded on the fact that in past years the Marine Department had pursued a relatively passive or non-intervention policy with regard to the number of boats carried by passenger ships. That is a matter of policy and not of administration at all. If the House or any Members who have spoken suggest or seek to prove that a given Department has been lax in carrying out what it professes to be its policy, then there is ground for an inquiry, though not an inquiry of this kind. But there is no ground for suggesting that the Department has been in the slightest degree lax. The Court expressed an opinion that had the rules of the Board of Trade been reconsidered in the light of expert opinion, there was no reason to think its requirements would have been changed. But the terrible disaster of the "Titanic" necessarily upset expert opinion. Yet to-day we have heard a considerable number of very powerful appeals which practically invite us to ignore the "Titanic" disaster and go back to the old policy. I am able to agree with the hon. Member for Central Finsbury on that head: the decision of this matter has been taken out of our hands, and public opinion practically demands— whatever may be the inconvenience—that there should be boats for all. And that will be insisted upon until we get some un-sinkable ship. The unsinkable ship may come, but until people are convinced that it is unsinkable this House must act in accordance with public opinion, and you will 139 have to make provision for the exceptional risk simply because the risk is so appalling that it has been decided that it must be provided for. The speeches to the Amendment have been quite irrelevant. The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto) followed his remarks up with the arguments that the lot of the sea-faring man still left much to be desired, that the cubic space provided for him was inadequate, and that the provision of officers was insufficient. But supposing all that is true, surely it is no argument in support of the Amendment for the appointment of a Select Committee. Would it in the case of any other appeal for reform affecting another Government Department be good ground for demanding an inquiry into the work of that particular Department? Suppose it was a question of housing. Many hon. Members think that the housing accommodation of the nation is far from adequate. Would that be a reason for demanding an inquiry?
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
The Marine Department of the Board of Trade is not responsible for carrying out laws which have not yet been enacted. I think if the hon. Member will follow my argument he will see the point. The housing question is a matter which will naturally come under the Local Government Board. Any one bringing forward a legitimate demand for a better housing policy would not call for a Select Committee to inquire into the working of the Local Government Board. If he did, he would not get much support from the House, and I do not think my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Lanarkshire will get a majority in favour of this Amendment. The hon. Member for Devizes avowed that he was the spokesman of the Imperial Merchant Service Guild, and said that that guild has suffered through not getting a sympathetic hearing from the Board of Trade. There he introduced considerations which might have been relevant, but they were considerations which would not bear a moment's investigation on the point of fact. The Imperial Merchant Service Guild is one of two mercantile marine institutions or bodies composed of the same kind of personnel, and largely dealing with 140 the same kind of problem. Between these two bodies there appears to be, unfortunately, some element of jealousy—I am not blaming either of them, but there it seems to be. Wherever the Board of Trade, in the course of the constitution, say, of a Committee of Investigation or Board, is unable to put on a representative of both these organisations, the organisation that does not get its man on appears to make a grievance of the action of the Board in the matter, whereas the Board is trying to do its best by both, and has never shown anything but courtesy to both. The hon. Member for Devizes has in that a grievance of a hollow character. The hon. Member used such phrases asThe House cannot get at the Marine Department.The public cannot get at the Marine Department.I say there is no foundation for those charges against the Marine Department of the Board of Trade. There is no Department, of the many Departments under the Board of Trade, which is more accessible. It is perfectly loyal to the principle of accessibility and universal courtesy, which is the rule of the Department as a whole. The hon. Member for Devizes thinks, as he alleges, that there are still defective conditions in the life of seamen—I am not disputing it—and puts it forward as a reason for this inquiry and for supporting the Amendment. He has been repeatedly in communication with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade on these very matters quite recently, and the hon. Member will not suggest that he found the President inaccessible. In this connection, if it be suggested that the Amendment is an attack upon the President, the hon. Member for Devizes would have to admit, from his own experience, that so far from having found any lack of sympathetic hearing, he had received a very sympathetic hearing, and had been promised a fuller and further inquiry. The statement that no action has ever been taken by the Board except spasmodically is an unjust charge, in no way borne out by any facts which have been laid before the House to-day. I am not disputing that much may yet be done in the way of lessening Sunday labour and providing more space for the seamen. On none of these points has the Marine Department prejudged the case. As regards the recommendation of the Committee of 1896 about the number of officers on cargo ships, that Committee really recommended a variety of courses which were found to be more or less inconsistent with each other, and what the 141 Board of Trade really did was to carry out all the recommendations in regard to which there was no contradiction on the part of any members of the Committee. Even in that matter the Marine Department in those years showed none of the laxity or lethargy that the hon. Member charged upon it. We all look forward to further improvements in the marine service as in all other of the industrial conditions of life. There has been no prejudging of the case. If the hon. Member had taken advantage of the general Motion before the House to air these matters and to call for further action, his course would have been wholly commendable. It is commendable of any hon. Member who asks for any improvement in the conditions of industrial life where he can show that there is any occasion for it. My hon. Friends have given no justification for connecting that criticism with the policy of calling for a Select Committee of this House.
In regard to what was said by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Major Archer-Shee) as to such a matter as wire falls, it Will be obvious that any special recommendation with regard to the use of wire falls is a matter for the Davits Committee to report upon. I think I may say that the draft regulations put no kind of obstacle in the way of any conclusions which may be come to by the Davits Committee as regards wire falls, or, it may be, the substitution of any other method which may be found superior to davits altogether. On the general question of methods of legislation, I think the House will agree—for suggestions of legislation have come from many Members—that legislation depends on a number of things which are quite outside the power of any Department as a Department. The amount of business before the House, the amount of pressure which may be brought from a number of interests, or the amount of resistance which may be offered to any set of representations from another set of interests, renders it unjust to make the very demand for such fresh legislation ground for casting a slur and an impeachment on the Department, as has been done in connection with this particular Amendment. I am sure the House will have gathered from the speech of my right hon. Friend that, in view of and after the change of policy which has been forced on the Department by the terrible disaster of the loss of the "Titanic," he has given the assurance that from time to time—no 142 limit can well be set down and no period fixed—there will be reconsideration of the rules of the Department in regard to life-saving and other matters in so far as my right hon. Friend is responsible for the carrying on of the Department, and I think the same policy is very certain to be continued in the future, whoever may be at the head of that Department.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
I suppose the hon. Baronet looks forward to changes in the future like the rest of us. I was giving a kind of promise that any party that held power would see to it that after such a disaster as that of the "Titanic," which affected expert opinion—and expert opinion has been accepted whichever party has been in power, the policy of revision from time to time of the rules of the Department would be persisted in. If hon. Members think that a matter for jubilation they are welcome to the satisfaction that they get from it. I only say that while the Department in no way traverses the finding of the Court, but accepts the finding, it also claims that no kind of slur has been cast upon it by the finding of the Court. No case of negligence was made out for a moment, and the Court expressly negatived and repelled the charge of negligence. While my right hon. Friend would certainly, if he thought any good would come from the carrying of such an Amendment and the holding of such an inquiry by a Select Committee, let no feeling on his own account or on account of the Department stand in the way of his acceding to the Amendment, it is because he is convinced that it would be unfair to the Department and opposed to the public interest to set up an inquiry at such a moment that we ask the House not to carry the Amendment, which would have the effect of hampering, hamstringing, and humiliating the Department precisely at the moment when it needs all its energies for the new duties which are to-be cast upon it.
§ Mr. GEORGE TERRELL
I feel that after the speech to which we have just listened we ought really to support this Amendment. If any Department has neglected its duty, surely that Department is the Board of Trade. When you look at Lord Mersey's Report, you see that the Advisory Committee recommended some changes in regard to boats on 4th July, 143 1911, and nearly nine months passed before the Board of Trade really did anything at all. It was only after the "Titanic" disaster that the Board of Trade suddenly woke up and began to busy themselves and to show with what rapidity they can move when they are really stirred up. The draft memorandum was prepared in a tremendous hurry in the course of only a few days after the Report of the Advisory Committee of 24th July was issued, and after Lord Mersey's Report of 30th July. One knows that all Departments of the Government have during the past two or three years been very slack indeed. You find the heads of Departments, instead of attending to the proper business of their Departments, all out on new measures of vote catching. They think more of vote-catching than they do of the probably uninteresting work of administering their Departments. Of course, a deplorable example is set by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—the worst example in the world. He seldom gives a thought to the details of his particular Department. You hear of the Chancellor of the Exchequer all over the Continent. There is a sort of inevitable trio—the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Attorney-General, and the Secretary to the Treasury. They visit Monte Carlo, Wales, and other places. Of course, when the great heads of the Government are slack and neglect their work, it is only natural that the less important Members of the Government should be slack and neglect their duties. There cannot be any doubt that there has been very grave neglect in connection with this boat question by the President of the Board of Trade. A point with which I would have liked to deal by another Amendment, if there were time, is the ownership of these ships. They fly the Union Jack. They belong to British Corporations. But the shares in them belong to foreign corporations. This is a matter to which the President of the Board of Trade should pay some attention. The Merchant Shipping Act of 1851 provided that every British ship must be owned either by a British subject or a British corporation. That provision was continued in the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894. There is a provision in that Act that if an alien acquires a share or holding in a British ship that ship shall be liable to forfeiture. Under the new system of trusts and combinations, which apparently are gaining ground in the shipping world, the 144 whole of our magnificent fleet, the White Star Line, the Atlantic Transport, the Leyland, and, I believe, several other lines or ships, are really not British vessels at all, because their share capital is held by foreign corporations. We are allowed to hold the mortgages, but if there is a profit out of the working of these ships that profit goes to foreign corporations. This is a matter to which the Board of Trade should have called attention.
§ Mr. G. TERRELL
It was formed about eight or ten years ago. It would not do for the Radical Government, which to a very large extent relies on Radical shipowners for support, to spoil the arrangements of their own friends. There were rumours in the Press lately about the Royal Mail and the P. and O. boats being acquired by some concern, which may or may not be an English concern. At any rate, the Board of Trade ought to be in a position to keep the country advised as to what is going on. Remarks have been made about lifeboats being provided for all the passengers on board every ship. I have spent years at sea in the mercantile marine, and I speak with a certain amount of practical knowledge on the subject. I have no hesitation in saying that the Board of Trade will take upon themselves a very grave responsibility if they insist on all existing vessels being loaded up with boats to carry all the passengers which they are licensed to carry. Of course they may seek relief by reducing the passenger licence; but that would be a matter of very great hardship, and would certainly be a very grave danger to many of those ships that are referred to in the Schedule to the Advisory Committee's Report, if they are to carry collapsible boats, or lifeboats for all passengers that they are licensed to carry.
We have had within the last few years the danger of a vessel disappearing like the "Waratah," in regard to which the better opinion was that she was top-heavy, and probably capsized. There has been also a considerable loss of British steamers of different kinds, missing and never heard of again. Of course, if a vessel capsizes, the probability is that she will never be heard of again, all having gone down with her, and no trace of her being possible. I think, from that point of view, that it would be a very serious matter indeed, if the Board of 145 Trade insist on this recommendation. Then there is the big question of the supervision of the construction of ships. Lord Mersey recommended that there should be some supervision of the plans in the earlier stages of the construction of a ship. For some reason that recommendation is disregarded by the Board of Trade in their draft regulations. We all know that a great number of ships of the mercantile marine are built subject to Lloyd's survey. I understand that when vessels are built subject to Lloyd's survey, plans are submitted, and the vessel is inspected at different stages of its construction, just in the same way as the plans of buildings are submitted to the local authorities whose officers inspect them during construction. I can readily understand that shipowners shudder at the thought of the Board of Trade, as at present constituted, having any supervision over the design or construction of their ships. But it is only fair to look for improvement in the Board of Trade as one looks for improvement in any Department of the State. I think that some supervision should be exercised over vessels under construction. It is suggested that the "Titanic" ran alongside the ice and ripped her side open. I had an opportunity of looking at the "Titanic" drawings.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
On a point of Order. I wish to ask, Sir, whether the observations of the hon. Member are in order on the Amendment dealing with the organisation of the Board of Trade?
§ Mr. G. TERRELL
Inspection of the drawings at the Board of Trade showed that the "Titanic" had bilge keels about two feet in length and extending from her side. Those bilge keels were fitted just below the inner bottom. A point which it was impossible to see from those drawings, and which shows the necessity of inspection of the drawings during the construction of the ship, was the direction which those bilge keels took in her forward section. If those bilge keels were extended above the inner bottom then you would probably have the reason for a good deal of the damage which happened to the ship, because, coming in contact with ice, the bilge keels would be sheared and the shearing would provide a huge rent in her side which ultimately would cause the vessel to founder. Though that may appear to be a matter of conjecture, those 146 are things which should be considered in the design and construction of a ship. All those questions should have been submitted to some Government authority which would have the power to review, criticise, and question anything in the design of a ship which would in any way tend to her insecurity in the event of a collision either with any vessel or with ice. I feel very strongly on this question of an investigation into the Marine Department of the Board of Trade. I think we ought to see how it is constituted and how the business is carried on, because there is something very unsatisfactory. You have an Advisory Committee reporting, and then you have a secret committee—nobody knows what it is—advising the President of the Board of Trade, and finally, as a result of the secret committee, you get the White Paper which has been-circulated. I think it is a matter which requires full consideration and full examination, and I therefore support the Amendment.
§ Mr. JOWETT
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade rather seemed to resent the Amendment which has been moved and which is now under consideration, because he understood or thought it was not proper for this House to appoint a Committee to inquire into the administration of the Marine Department. He tried to show, as I understood him, that a question of policy would be raised, and therefore it would be improper on that account. Surely the department which has placed the Board of Trade and Parliament in a position of this sort should be inquired into, not by a Departmental Committee such as the Parliamentary Secretary suggested, and which is merely one-set of officials inquiring into the action of another set of officials, but by Parliament, which is outside the official class altogether, and therefore would be quite competent to give a just decision on this question. It is a Department such as the Marine Department which has placed the Board of Trade in a position that a charge to-this effect can be made against it. A Board of Trade requirement is that every shipmaster shall make an entry of every boat drill, but there is no requirement that he shall have any boat drill at all. In 1907 the then President of the Board of Trade attended a shipping conference, and stated that the employment of efficient seamen was to be one of the considerations as to the seaworthiness or unsea- 147 worthiness of a ship; but the Board has never defined what an efficient seaman is. It has been said that boat accommodation could not be arranged for except at the expense of the safety of the ship, on account of its being likely to make the ship top-heavy. But it does not appear to have occurred to any defender of the Board of Trade that the top deck of the "Titanic'' was set apart for the expensive and luxurious pleasure of a rich class, with suites of rooms at £700 or £800. [Several. HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] So I am informed. At any rate, these facilities are arranged for, and by clearing the decks of these facilities more room could be secured for boats. There is another point to which I attach great importance. The loss of life was 1,500, and? very significantly, it was far heavier amongst the third than amongst the first or second - class passengers. Why were fifty -three out of seventy-six children of the third-class passengers lost, if it was possible to save all the children of the first and second-class passengers? Similarly in the case of women. Lord Mersey was not, in my opinion, the man who ought to have conducted the inquiry. His connection as a shipping lawyer with the shipping interests, in my judgment, unfitted him for the post. But in his Report Lord Mersey says that the third-class passengers were not unfairly treated. I suppose that is simply because it cannot be shown that there? were third-class passengers waiting and that the boats were there available; that those who had command of the boats purposely picked out the first or the second-class passengers and left the third. But nobody has ever suggested such a thing. What we do say, and what I say, is that the construction of these ships is of such a character that the third-class passengers cannot win their way to the boats. That is practically admitted by Lord Mersey in his Report. He says that is one of the reasons for the large proportion of casualties amongst the third-class passengers—one of the difficulties was that these third-class passengers have their quarters at the extreme end of the ship. In the modern Atlantic liner the arrangements are such that the third-class passengers are kept as far as possible from the first and second class. There are four or five decks between them, and the third-class passengers have to climb four or five staircases in order to get to 148 the boats. In many instances, at least in some, there was no communication whatever, for doors were locked. No wonder there was this tremendous loss of life amongst the third-class passengers.
I want to make just another point. I am sorry to have to make it, but there is the question of loading that ought to be inquired into. In 1906 the President of the Board of Trade, by a stroke of the pen, added a million tons to the carrying capacity of the ships then built in this country. Over and over again Members of this House have asked questions of Ministers concerning that change in the free board made under the Merchant Shipping Act. The last question I remember was put by the hon. Member for Devizes. His question led the President of the Board of Trade to state that there had been actually less loss of life since the change was made than before. When that statement is examined carefully it will be seen that the instances referred to by the President of the Board were confined to those washed overboard. If he had carried his investigation further and answered the question put, he would have had to confess that there had been a distinct increase in the loss of life taking all classes of life lost together. I do not wish to talk the Motion out. I wish to go to a Division.
§ Debate resumed.
§ 11.0 P.M.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. Speaker withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Debate resumed.
§ And, it being Eleven o'clock, the Debate stood Adjourned.