§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £232,550, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1915, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade and Subordinate Departments." [Note.—£150,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. SANDYS
I beg to move, "That Item A be reduced by the sum of £100."
1257 There are one or two matters in connection with the British mercantile marine to which I wish to draw attention. As the right hon. Gentleman has informed us, another International Conference of various maritime nations is shortly to be assembled. As I understand at present, the deliberations of this Conference are to be restricted to the question of deck-loads. As a Conference of this kind can only be got together with very great difficulty I would urge upon the right hon. Gentleman that the scope of this Conference should be somewhat enlarged, and I would suggest one or two matters which might well be dealt with by the Conference in, the course of their deliberations. I know that other Members have other questions in connection with the merchant service to which they wish to allude, but I wish especially to draw attention to two matters, one connected with the officers of the service and the other connected with the men. The first question which might be deal with at this International Conference is a question which has frequently been raised before in these discussions, and on which I do not want to detain the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee very long, the question of the hours of labour of the mercantile marine. The right hon. Gentleman must know from what has frequently occurred in this House that the position of many officers of the mercantile marine with regard to their hours of labour is extremely unsatisfactory. In the great majority of merchant vessels there are only two officers carried in addition to the master, and this necessitates the two-watch system—that is to say, four hours on and four hours off. This brings the officers' hours of work up to about fifteen hours a day—in all about 100 hours a week. As the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor admitted, this is an unsatisfactory state of affairs. The officer on many occasions gets no proper rest, and, in a large number of instances, owing to various other duties which he has to perform, when he goes on the bridge he is so physically fatigued that he is not able to give that concentrated attention to the navigation of the vessel which is absolutely essential to security. I am not going further into this matter, because the right hon. Gentleman is well acquainted with these points. Then there is also the question of Sunday labour, which is a very serious grievance to a great many officers of the British marine service. Mr. Buxton admitted last year that 1258 the situation with regard to this matter was very unsatisfactory, and in the course of his reply at the conclusion of the Debate he made these remarks:—The hon. Member for Devizes raised the question of the long hours which, unfortunately, many officers have to work. …. When the Merchant Shipping Bill is introduced, and undoubtedly nest Session such a Bill will have to be introduced for several purposes, I certainly propose to include some provision as to the number of mates and engineers required in foreign-going ships. I cannot say more on the subject at present because it is a matter for legislation. It very much affects the question of hours.The remarks of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor attracted a great deal of attention amongst the officers of the mercantile marine, and they were satisfied at that time that something was going to be done. But now, when the Merchant Shipping Bill has been introduced, I need hardly say that they regard this as a promise which has not been, fulfilled in any way at all. The Merchant Shipping Bill is an exceedingly truncated and very inadequate measure, and does not fulfil in any way the promise made last year; and because it does not deal with this question and with a great many other questions at all, therefore legislation, for some reason or other, has failed in this respect. I would urge on the right hon. Gentleman that this is a matter which might well be referred to this International Conference so that the views of the representatives of other nations on this question might be obtained. So far as Sunday labour is concerned, we are getting left behind in our regulations. Other nations are going ahead of us. For instance, in France they have regulations in operation restricting Sunday labour on French merchant vessels. In Germany, on Sundays and holidays, so long as a vessel remains in harbour, only work which is absolutely essential can be carried out, and the ship's crew cannot be employed in any case for loading or unloading cargo within the Imperial territory, not even with their own consent. In Norway, no work except what is absolutely essential may be imposed on the crew on Sundays and holidays. In Sweden, much the same rule applies. In Denmark, where, in cases of urgency, it is necessary to employ the crew in loading or discharging cargoes on Sundays or holidays, any member of it participating in that work receives extra pay. Therefore, in view of the fact that other nations are not content with our standards, but go rather beyond them, so far as Sundays and holidays are concerned, it certainly would be satisfac- 1259 tory if this whole question could be referred to the International Conference, so that some general agreement might be arrived at.
There is another matter which might be dealt with in the same way, and that is the question of the accommodation of officers and men on board merchant vessels. Anybody who has had any experience of mercantile ships, and has examined the conditions under which the men live, knows that in a large number of cases the accommodation of the men—the sleeping accommodation, the messing accommodation and the sanitary accommodation—on those vessels is extremely unsatisfactory. I would venture to suggest that this is a matter upon which, at the Conference, the views of the representatives of other nations might well be obtained, because in this respect, also, other nations are going rather ahead of us. For instance, the Norwegian Government has recently issued regulations showing that they do not regard our minimum crew space as in any way adequate. Under the Merchant Shipping Acts the crew space per head required is 120 cubic feet of space and 15 square feet of floor area. The regulation, as I understand, recently issued by the Norwegian Government, is 140 cubic feet and 18 square feet. Australia also has gone ahead of us in this matter, and has adopted the same standard as the Norwegian Government, and these, as I understand it, are the minimum requirements for sleeping accommodation only. The space that is provided for washing or messing, and so forth, is regarded as extra, whereas in the British regulations the whole of the available space is counted into the minimum requirements.
As our minimum berthing requirements under the Merchant Shipping Act are 72 cubic feet and 12 square feet of floor space, in order to make a proper comparison between the position of the British seamen and the Norwegian seamen we should compare 72 cubic feet and 12 square feet with 140 cubic feet and 18 square feet, which shows, I think, that other nations are in advance of us in the care which they are taking as to the accommodation of the crews on board their merchant vessels. Then, again, the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor last year referred to the improvement of the sanitary arrangements of merchant vessels as being urgently required. In 1260 regard to all these matters, the legal minimum laid down by Statute becomes, in effect, the practical maximum. What an unsatisfactory state of affairs exists in many merchant vessels, and what the results of the conditions are is very clearly shown by the comprehensive and interesting report issued by the medical officer of the Port of London. He dealt with the question of crew space, and he also gave us a table recording the deaths of seamen from various diseases. I do not want to deal with the table, but I will just take from the medical officer's report a summary of the situation. He says:—Excluding diseases of the heart it will be seen that the number of deaths attributed to tuberculosis is larger than that of any other disease, pneumonia coming next with 113, while the total deaths from diseases of the respiratory system were 265, or 24 per cent. of the total deaths from disease. This proportion of deaths in a class of men who are leading an open-air life is striking, and the prevalence of such diseases among them is no doubt largely encouraged by the want of ventilation in the quarters in which many of them are compelled to sleep and live when actually not on deck.Those are very weighty words coming from a medical officer who has such experience as the medical officer of the Port of London. The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor last year stated in the course of the Debate that in his opinion matters were not satisfactory in many vessels with regard to the accommodation provided for the crew. I do urge that something should be done. It is quite obvious that other seafaring nationalities are taking the lead of us in these questions, and I think that this is a matter which might well be discussed at this International Conference. Indeed, in the medical officer's report to which I have referred, that gentleman specially suggests that the whole question of the accommodation for crews on board merchant ships should be regarded from an international point of view, and should be dealt with at the forthcoming International Conference. I think, probably, when he issued that report he had in view the first International Conference which had already taken place. In view of the fact that we are going to have another International Conference, I think it would be a great pity to restrict it to those matters to which it is intended at present to confine its deliberation, and I do think that these two questions, namely, the hours which the officers have to work, and the accommodation for the crew of merchant vessels are subjects which might 1261 well be discussed at this forthcoming Conference. There are many other questions to which I need not refer, as my hon. Friends desire to deal with them, but I venture to bring forward these two matters which are of very great importance, and which constitute a very real grievance for the sympathetic consideration of the right hon. Gentleman. I venture to urge them, on behalf of a body of men whose work we all know is particularly arduous, hazardous and responsible. They follow a calling which traditionally and historically, I think more than any other, is associated with the development of our national character, and with the political and commercial progress of our race. These men, from the very circumstances and conditions of their calling, cannot be a highly organised body, they cannot command that political influence to which, from the national importance of their industry, they are really entitled, and for this very reason, because their political influence is small in comparison with the important part which they play in our national life, I certainly regard it as the especial duty of Parliament to protect in every possible way the interests and the welfare of the seafaring community, upon whom we so largely depend for the development of our Empire, and for the commercial progress of our country. I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give his consideration to these two matters which I have ventured to bring forward on behalf of the officers and men of the British merchant service.
§ Mr. BARNES
I desire to support the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken in his plea on behalf of the sailors for better manning and for better sanitary conveniences. As he has said, the sailor is a man who suffers a disadvantage as compared with other men among us, because he is away from home a good deal, and is not in a position to employ that pressure which the men in the industrial ranks living at home can employ. Therefore, for that reason I think, it is all the more incumbent upon us to do what we can without pressure and as a matter of duty to make the lives of those who go to sea in ships as pleasant and as safe as possible. With the hon. Gentleman opposite I agree, and I really do not think that we have done all that we ought to have done in that direction, and on the contrary, we have sometimes done the reverse, as in the case of the alteration of the load 1262 line in the year 1906, which has been the cause, I should say, of a good many lives being lost in the mercantile marine. In regard to the health of the sailor, it is a curious and very significant fact that the sailorman, although living in the open air a good deal, and although following an occupation that ought to be a good deal more healthy than that of men at home, yet by comparison with the men at home when you come to consider the figures of health and longevity of the sailor, you find that the sailor suffers more from ill-health and lives a shorter life than the average man living on shore. That indicates that there must be something seriously wrong with the sanitary conveniences and the amount of air space in the ships, and as we all know there is something seriously wrong, and the sailor does not get the cubic space to live in which he ought to have, nor the sanitary conveniences which he ought to have. He is harried and bullied nearly out of his life by all sorts of people over him, and that applies more especially I think to the stokers than to the ordinary A.B. or ordinary seaman. I join with the hon. Member opposite in the expression of a desire and a willingness on my part to co-operate with him or with anybody else in bringing pressure to bear on my right hon. Friend to do the needful.
In regard to manning, I would also back him up in his request that the Bill which we have been promised so often should be produced as speedily as possible, I mean the Bill in regard to the officering of ships. We had a little Bill last night, a very small thing, which is all right so far as it goes, and which has for its object to put examiners on a national instead of a local basis, and which provides some means by which those men can be more efficient, because there will be better chance of promotion, and therefore a better type of men probably will be attracted to the merchant service in the capacity of examiner. But we have been promised a Bill in regard to the officers, engineers, and others, and in fact such a Bill was introduced last year, and then dropped. I hope and trust that we shall have that Bill this year, and that it will be as it was when first introduced into the House of Lords. The House of Lords last year mauled and mutilated the Bill and made it altogether a different Bill from that sent to them. It provided that every ship of a 100 horse-power should have certificated officers on board, engineers, as well as men on deck. There is a 1263 large number of very large steamers in this country—I had the list a little while ago—of a little less than 100 horse-power and slow steamers, and therefore steamers of very large capacity that are going round our coast and to the near foreign ports without that qualified officer on board which every ship ought to have. I hope and trust that that will be rectified by the introduction of a Bill in the near future. I desire to say a word or two about a much more modest thing, but one which is just as pressing as the other—I refer to the scales of wages in the Board of Trade offices. I raised the question on the Civil Service Estimate some two or three months ago, but the occasion was rather unfortunate, because we had an exciting debate on Rosyth, and I only got in at the last moment. I would like to refer to the wages and the methods of adjusting wages in the lower ranks of the Board of Trade service. First of all, I would like to refer to the Board of Trade delay in dealing with matters of wages brought before them and having reference to other Departments.
As I gather the Board of Trade is to some extent responsible now for the wages in all the Government Departments, because there is a body at the Board of Trade known as the Labour Statistics Department, and I believe that a, great deal of the dissatisfaction in the Government Departments arises from the fact of delay and procrastination in dealing with the application made by the men in the Government service, and which delay and procrastination is caused by this body, which is one of the Departments of the Board of Trade. To write to them or send anything to them is like dropping letters or dropping something into a deep well—you never hear any more about them unless you press them very hard a month or two later, and you may then hear that the matter is under consideration. Let me give an instance which had a bearing upon the strike at Woolwich which has just terminated to-day. It so happened that I brought a question about wages before the War Department, I should say nearly eighteen months ago, on the ground that the obligation rested upon them of paying good wages and wages according to the scale of good employers, being the usual phrase in the clause in Government contracts. We were asked to supply evidence, and we did so. That evidence was submitted to the 1264 Department of the Board of Trade which I have mentioned, and after some months we had it back with an adverse reply from that body. It was submitted again to the War Department, and they referred it to us and said that the evidence was not sufficient, and we were called upon to get more. We got more, and that evidence was submitted. I am not now going to commit myself to the exact date, but I should say that it is just about three months ago—it may be a little more or less—since that evidence was submitted by us to the Parliamentary Secretary to the War Office, and sent by him to the Labour Statistics Department of the Board of Trade, since which I have heard nothing about it except evasive replies from the Secretary of the War Office, and probably he is just as helpless in the matter as I am. He tells me that he passed the statement on to the Department of the Board of Trade, who are still considering it for anything that I know; and I can assure my right hon. Friend that the fact of the delay in regard to the wages of these men in Woolwich Arsenal has had a good deal to do in putting them into that frame of mind which eventuated in them leaving their work last week, and in other incidents. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will put some dynamite under this Department, or, in some other way stoke it up to give prompt replies to anything that is sent to it, whether the replies are satisfactory or otherwise. I want to refer to the question of wages in the Labour Exchanges. I think there is a case here for readjustment. There was no scale until a few months ago. The Labour Exchanges were set up some little time ago, and the men were simply paid at rates of wages adjusted, I think, locally—at all events, exhibiting great variations. At the beginning of this year a scale was introduced and, speaking generally, that scale means—
§ The CHAIRMAN
There is for that purpose a separate Vote, which is down for later on to-day; therefore that subject ought to be dealt with when we reach that Vote, and not on the present Vote.
§ Mr. BARNES
Then I will raise the matter later on. I think I have said sufficient on the question of the delay of this Department—which I believe has a great deal to do with the dissatisfaction in Government Departments generally—to justify the Minister in charge in applying 1265 a little pressure to the officials to deal with matters a little more promptly than they have done.
§ Mr. GERSHOM STEWART
I wish to raise the question of the number of alien officers and men in our mercantile marine. From reports which have been sent to me I find that, exclusive of our fishing fleet, there are 87 officers and 310 alien officers commanding British vessels. It would be a very delicate position for us in certain eventualities to have our ships under the command of foreign officers. That the Government recognise that is proved by the fact that when they ask for ships for Government transports one of their conditions is that they shall be under the control of British officers. In view of the fact that when three miles out of port the captain of a ship exercises magisterial functions, and has practically supreme authority over his crew, we ought to consider whether it is a very suitable thing that bodies of Englishmen should be in that position, when perhaps our country may be in trouble with a foreign Power. In view of the network of communications scattered widespread over the ocean, and seeing that merchant ships are more or less the eyes of our Fleet in the event of any trouble, we ought seriously to bear in mind the desirability of having men of our own people in command of our ships. We recognise that in the amendment of the Pilotage Bill, and I recommend the Board of Trade to consider it in regard to the ordinary merchant tramp steamer. We have also to consider the question of crews other than British. I recognise fully that in certain climates, and in view of the competition that we have to face from the Japanese and other nations, who run their ships very cheaply, it is necessary for us to avail ourselves of the services of lascars and others who may claim to be British subjects. But it is a disquieting fact, given to the House not long ago by the President of the Board of Trade, that between the years 1911–13 there has been an increase in the number of Chinese seamen carried by our merchant ships from 5,366 to 9,286, an increase of something over 70 per cent. Our officers have had trouble with these Chinese crews. I presume that the Chinese all claim to be born under the British Flag at Hong Kong and other places, but I hope the Board of Trade will exercise close supervision in regard to the claim of Chinamen to be British subjects.
1266 Another matter in regard to this alien invasion of our mercantile marine is that very often ships carrying the British Flag and enjoying all that that means, are absolutely out of the control of our authority; they are commanded and manned in every way by foreigners, and we have no supervision over them at all. As far as I know, nothing was ever done to prove our authority over the ship "Calvados," which went ashore two years ago in the Mediterranean, when many people lost their lives, and where, upon investigation, it was found that the Board of Trade Regulations had been put on one side and disregarded, that the captain was a Turk, and that there was not a single Englishman on board. The Board of Trade ought to keep its eye very closely on that point, because when countries are on the point of hostilities it would very often pay a country to buy a few old British steamers and run them under the British Flag. I hope the Board of Trade will also watch closely the granting of provisional certificates which Consuls in outlying ports now give, sometimes, perhaps, after inquiries which are not as close as they ought to be. There was a case brought before the House last year in which four steamers were trading in the Levant when hostilities were on between Turkey and the Balkan States, and those ships were flying the British Flag without proper authority to do so—the "Tasso," the "Bodo," and two others. It would be an awkward thing for a British naval officer to see a ship of that sort fastened upon by one of the belligerents and perhaps sunk, and then, having interfered, find that the ship was in no sense a British ship at all. The presence of this alien element in our mercantile marine will, I believe, induce the Board of Trade to do what they can to make the life of the British seaman as attractive as possible, so that Englishmen may be induced to go afloat more than they seem to be doing at the present moment, and to feel that their representatives in Parliament do not forget them in their absence, but do their best to make life at sea as safe and comfortable as possible, knowing that that is a wise thing to do from the point of view of our maritime supremacy and of the safety of this country at all times.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
I wish to refer to one or two other points in connection with the mercantile marine. The first is the inspection of the life-saving and navigation equipment of ships. Since the 1267 "Titanic" disaster the Board of Trade have issued amended Regulations greatly increasing the amount of life-saving equipment to be carried by merchant ships. There has also been the normal increase in the number of ships. At the time of the "Titanic" inquiry it was pointed out that there were in this country only twenty-seven nautical surveyors of the Board of Trade. These men have the duty of inspecting the life-saving and navigation equipment of the whole of our merchant shipping, which amounts to some think like 13,000,000 tons. Although the surveyors' duties have been enormously increased since the "Titanic" disaster the Board of Trade, in spite of the assurance to the House that they would increase the number of nautical surveyors, have only increased them by five. I understand that there are now only thirty-two surveyors of the first and second classes. There have been several cases where it has been proved before the Courts of Inquiry into disasters that the ships had not been properly inspected by nautical surveyors before going to sea. In the case of the loss of the "Oceana," which was run into by the "Pisagua," some of the boats were found to be leaky, and the Court found that the inspection had not been carried out properly before the "Oceana" left London. This is an extract from their Report:—At Tilbury, before the voyage commenced, the boats were inspected by two Board of Trade surveyors, one of one whom was an engineéer surveyor and the other a ship and engineer surveyor; neither of them, by profession, was acquainted with the practical handling of boats. The Court does not consider the inspection was adequate.In the case of the "Delhi," which was lost off the coast of Morocco, the Court found that the vessel was not supplied with proper and sufficient charts and sailing directions, and that although the charts had been corrected up to 1911, the chart actually supplied and used on the occasion of the disaster was dated 1905. That, in view of the alteration of the lights upon that coast, was a very important matter indeed, and it could not have happened if the Board of Trade surveyors had properly investigated the equipment of the ship before she left harbour. At Newcastle and Shields—in fact, on the whole of the Tyne—where over 7,500,000 tons of shipping cleared last year, there are only two of these nautical surveyors. At Glasgow, where there are over 2,000,000 tons of shipping entered, and nearly 1268 3,000,000 cleared, there is only one nautical surveyor. At Belfast, where over 490,000 tons entered, there is no nautical surveyor at all, and the same applies to Dublin. These figures, I think, show that it is quite impossible for the surveyors at present properly to inspect the ships before they leave harbour, and of course no attempt is made at inspection in many of the harbours round the United Kingdom. The other day I asked the President of the Board of Trade a question in reference to the inspection of ships carrying deck-loads, and I was informed that no inspection of that kind was carried out by the Board of Trade That is a matter which ought to be attended to. Ships carrying deck-loads ought to be inspected by a nautical surveyor before leaving any port in the United Kingdom. In order for that to be done, and in order to have a proper and thorough inspection of the navigational equipment it is absolutely necessary for the first steps to be taken, namely, to increase the number of nautical surveyors who are situated in the different parts of the Kingdom.
One other question which I wish to bring forward is that of our representation at the next Maritime Conference. At the last Maritime Conference the representation of this country was supported by two members who have had nautical experience, Sir Herbert Acton-Blake, Deputy-Master of Trinity House, and Captain Young, Nautical Adviser of the Board of Trade. They were assisted by two other men who have had great experience at sea, Captain Charles, of the "Lusitania," and Mr. Havelock Wilson. But several of these gentlemen, although they have had experience at sea, had not been at sea for some years. The Conference dealt mainly with the question of passenger steamers. The next Conference will deal mainly with the question of cargo steamers. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that if not representatives, at least advisers to representatives, should be appointed from the captains of cargo vessels aboard tramp steamers who have had recent experience at sea, and especially experience in connection with the carrying of deck-loads. The other day I asked a question of the President of the Board of Trade as to whether he would not include in the agenda for this International Marine Conference the question of deck-loads other than timber deck-loads. I received a reply that he could not do it, as he thought it 1269 was sufficient to bring before the conference the question only of timber deck-loads. The question of timber deck-loads is an exceedingly important one, and we on this side of the House are all very glad—those of us who are interested in the question of the mercantile marine—that this question is really going to be thrashed out at the next Conference. But I cannot see why the whole question of deck-loads should not be considered. There are many cases of ships which are sent to sea at the present time with deck-loads of threshing machines, launches, barrels of oil, and all sorts of miscellaneous heavy goods, which are in themselves very dangerous deck-loads, and which are often more dangerous than timber to the life and limb of those on board the ship itself, even if they are not so dangerous to the actual seaworthiness of the ship.
That question is not going to be put before the Conference, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman when he replies to give us some more adequate reason for it than he was able to give in the short reply to the question the other day. The question of these threshing machines and this sort of deck-load is one of extreme importance. I have a photograph—which I believe the right hon. Gentleman is for the moment looking at—showing seven large threshing machines absolutely taking up the whole of the upper part of the fore-deck of a ship. This sort of deck-load cannot be described by anyone except as being absolutely dangerous, and causing the ship to be unseaworthy. There is another matter in connection with the question of deck-loads to which I would like to call attention—that is the question of the responsibility of owners who send ships to sea in an unseaworthy condition. Last year there was a very bad case, the case of the "Mount Oswald." The matter was not raised in the House until late in the Session, as the matter was not settled by the Courts until, I think, some time in July. The "Mount Oswald" was sent to sea and was lost with all hands in February, 1912. The ship was carrying a very heavy deck-load indeed. She was also in an unseaworthy condition, owing to taking water into her forehold. The captain of the ship had written to his wife a most pathetic letter—as it turned out afterwards—telling her that he did not expect to arrive home again, and that he had asked the owner of the ship to allow him to dry-dock the ship at New York and 1270 the owner had refused to do so. The captain asked his wife to keep the letter. This is an extract from it:—I want you to keep this letter as evidence in case anything happens to the ship. I wanted the ship to be-dry-docked at New York, but the owners would not allow it.That ship left Baltimore with this very deck-load and was not heard of again. The Court found that owing to the fact that the ship was totally lost that is was impossible to say whether it was due to the deck-load or not, and they could not, therefore, definitely attribute the disaster to a wrongful act on the part of the owners. But they considered there was an error of judgment in not having had the ship dry-docked at New York. The Court could not bring home the fault, seeing that practically everybody who knew about the-ship had gone to the bottom.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
Messrs. Lunn and McCoy, of Newcastle. There was another case the other day, which I asked a question about this afternoon. That was the case of the "County of Devon." From the reply of the right hon. Gentleman I understand that he is still considering and taking counsel's opinion as to whether or not it is possible to bring an action against, the owners of this ship. The "County of Devon" left an American port last February. She was abandoned in the Atlantic in a sinking condition. By the mercy of Providence one of the German liners, the "Deutschland," happened to come near the ship and took off all the crew, and no lives were lost, though the ship was abandoned. But the crew lost all their belongings, and received not one penny compensation—at least, so it was stated in the newspaper accounts. The owners of the ship were fully insured. They apparently lost nothing. The only person who was prosecuted in this matter, or who was made a party to it by the Board of Trade, was the captain of the ship. The Court dealt with him. He was the man who had been practically compelled to take this ship to sea in an unseaworthy condition. He broke his ribs, dislocated his shoulder, lost all his kit, and was punished by the Court. The owners lost nothing, the crew lost everything, very nearly losing their lives.
This was a particularly bad case, because the owners of this ship had been told—it came out in evidence—by the previous captain, Mr. Moore, that the ship with 1271 a similar deck-load to this had been top-heavy, and that the ship was in an unseaworthy condition. The owners dispensed with the services of the captain who gave them that information. After they had received that information they gave explicit instructions to the new captain that the ship had carried this deck-load amounting to 223 standards of logs, and that was what he was expected to carry. The vessel started out from an American port in the middle of February. Anybody who has ever been at sea on the Atlantic in February knows what the Atlantic gales about that time are, and what sort of seas are likely to be encountered. Yet this ship was sent to sea with this enormous deck-load. The stipendiary magistrate stated in the course of his remarks that this deck-load, on a rough computation, would probably weigh about 1,000 tons. The whole of the dead-weight capacity of this ship was only 4,800 tons. That will give a pretty good idea of the tremendous deck-cargo which this ship was carrying. If it is impossible under our present law to proceed against owners such as this, then the law requires very considerably strengthening. Our present law, as laid down in Section 457 of the Merchant Shipping Act, says:—
If any person sends, or attempts to send, or is a party to sending or attempting to send, a British ship to sea in such an unseaworthy state that the life of any person is likely to be thereby endangered, he shall in respect of such offence be guilty of misdemeanour.…
I suggest that it is not a misdemeanour knowingly to send ships to sea in an unseaworthy condition. I suggest that the law should be strengthened, and that instead of the offence being a misdemeanour it should be made a criminal offence, the whole essence of which is whether the offence is committed knowingly or not. What would be thought of a railway company which knowing that a railway bridge was unsafe deliberately ordered their trains to be run over that bridge? Public opinion would insist that the directors, whoever they were, should be prosecuted for a criminal offence. Men who are bad enough to send ships to sea at the risk of the lives of their men, where it is clearly proved that they had previous knowledge, should be punished by being sent to gaol for a long term of imprisonment at the very least. Therefore I urge 1272 upon the right hon. Gentleman to give us some assurance that he will look into the matter, and bring to bear upon it the strong common sense for which he has established a reputation, that he will see that something is done to prevent men's lives being jeopadised by persons who can only be described as murderous. In that description I do not, of course wish to include the average shipowner, because the vast majority of shipowners are men of sensibility and humanity who would not dream of such actions as I have been describing. But there are men against whom the law should be strengthened, and I therefore urge the right hon. Gentleman to strengthen it as soon as possible.
§ Mr. J. M. HOGGE
One disadvantage of discussing the Estimates of the Board of Trade is that necessarily we have to leave some topic which has been started. I do not want to continue in the line of the criticisms of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, except to say this: that I have long been convinced that the Board of Trade has got control of too many separate Departments. It does seem to me that as our country depends so much upon the shipping industry it might be quite worth our while to separate that definitely from the Board of Trade, and to create a Department which would devote its time and attention to shipping alone. That, of course, is a question of policy which does not arise in this Debate. There are three points which I want to raise. The first point is in connection with an appeal or petition which was presented to the Board of Trade dealing with the wages of the lighthouse-keepers. The President of the Board of Trade has given very special consideration to that petition, and, as a matter of fact, I think has agreed to a total increase being awarded to these men of some £3,340, for which naturally they are grateful. But I want to emphasise the distribution of this money, and to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to say whether or not in the distribution of this money the men who are at the lower end of the scale should receive some more recognition than they have received at present. Obviously I know the facts about the Scottish lighthouses better than those about the lighthouses of the rest of the United Kingdom. More lighthouses are necessary in the Northern part of the country than in any other. There are something between eighty-two and ninety lighthouses around the coast of Scotland. There are 250 men I engaged in that particular work. It 1273 requires, therefore, between eighty and ninety principal lighthouse-keepers to be appointed in these lighthouses. There are 133 assistants, and in the distribution of these increases all the increases apparently have gone either to the principal lighthouse-keepers or to those assistants who have over fifteen years' service.
I have here two statements as to recent increases in the wages of these men. The previous one was in 1909, and if I read to the House the wages that are paid to these men I think they will agree that the men whose case I am bringing before the House are entitled to some consideration. An assistant light-keeper on appointment gets 3s. per day. When he has been there for five years he gets 3s. 3d. per pay, and after ten years he gets 3s. 6d. per day, and after fifteen years he gets 4s. per day. Now, in the new scale which has been issued, the only difference made is that after fifteen years' service the lighthouse-keeper gets an addition of 3d. per day, whereas the principal lighthouse-keepers, who are not too well paid generally, receive every six years 5d. per day increase in their wages. I should like the Committee to understand exactly what these wages amount to. They mean that an assistant light-keeper, when he begins, is paid 21s. per week, after five years 22s. 9d., after ten years 24s. 6d., and after another five years' service 26s. 3d. I do not need to remind the House what the life of a lighthouse-keeper is. Any hon. Member who ever read Rudyard Kipling's description of the lighthouse-keeper in the Eastern Straits has some idea of the monotony of that kind of service and the effect it has upon these men. These lighthouse-keepers also ask for other advantages. They ask, for example, that they should have certain medical expenses. I find that the reply of the Department is that it has not been found possible to accede to the request for medical expenses in case of childbirth and attendant illnesses, but in future an allowance is to be given in case of lighthouse-keepers' wives to the amount of the maternity benefit under the National Insurance Act. That means that had it not been for the Insurance Act that would not have been conceded to those lighthouse-keepers. I do urge upon my right hon. Friend to see whether he could not go a little further than what has been laid down. After all, they have only given £3,340, and that only applies to men with fifteen years' service or over, or men who 1274 are principal lighthouse-keepers. The other men are getting 21s really a week. Hon. Members will recollect there have been a series of questions on the Order Paper asking for the number of men in the employment of Government Departments who have less than 22s. a week.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I do not know how that may be, or whether they would be affected in the ordinary way, seeing the amount of time they are in shore stations. But it is not material to my argument, which is for an increase in the wages of the men. The second point I wish to bring to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman is the treatment of the fisher girls in Scotland by the railway company and some of the steamboat companies. Hon. Members do not need to be reminded of the state of the fishing industry in Scotland. There are ordinarily 700 boats which follow the herring fishing all the season. That means a floating population of roughly 5,000 people—about seven men to each boat. These boats are followed from fishing ground to fishing grounds by girls collected from the villages and the various counties and highlands in Scotland, who do the gutting of the herrings when landed. These girls are treated in a very shabby fashion by the railway companies and the steamship companies in Scotland. For instance, I received information only a few weeks ago of a party of girls who were going to Lerwick in the North-East of Scotland. They were picked up by one to Messrs. McBrayne's steamers, which are the only steamers in that kind of trade, and have a monopoly of that kind of traffic, and although these girls had their luggage on the pierhead, the steamer refused to take any of their luggage and only took the girls. There is no sleeping accommodation on these steamers for the girls, and they have got to sleep on the deck exposed to all kinds of weather. There is no catering arrangements, and when they arrived, as they did in this instance at Lerwick, they have to live in huts which are erected for this particular industry and which are shut up when the industry 1275 in that particular place is not in operation. These girls carry not only a change of clothing but their bedding, and the bedding is used in these huts while they are employed in gutting the fish. The result of that action of Messrs. McBrayne was that not only had these girls to sleep on the deck of the ship but they were deprived for a whole week of their bedding, and they lost a week's work because they had not their implements with them to carry on the work.
I ask my right hon. Friend if he cannot make some kind of representation to the steamship company and the railway companies to avoid this kind of thing. The railway companies take these girls long distances in trains without corridors, and hon. Members can imagine the state of fatigue in which these girls arrive at their work. There is another point I would press upon the right hon. Gentleman, which is this: He has considerable power in dealing with the by-laws in the various towns where these girls work. They work exposed to all kinds of weather, ankle deep in the brine which comes from the fish they are gutting, and without sufficient drainage to remove the refuse. I should be very glad if he would look into these matters, and see if these conditions can be improved. There is only one other point, and it is a domestic point. I do not know whether hon. Members in examining the figures of these Estimates ever compare the wages paid to the various servants of the Board of Trade. We are discussing the right hon. Gentleman's own salary, which is £5,000 a year. None of us begrudge him that at all, but if hon. Members look further down they will find that the charwomen are getting only 14s. per week. I raised the question of the charwomen on the Board of Agriculture Estimates, and as a result of raising that question the wages of these poor women were increased by the Board of Agriculture—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Amendment we are now discussing is to reduce the salary of the President of the Board of Trade by £100. We must deal with that, and later on with the other servants of the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. HOGGE
That being so, I will not mention the charwomen any further now, as we shall reach the charwomen after we have disposed of the President, and I will reserve the few remarks I have to make in regard to them until we come to that 1276 point. The other points I have raised are the only two I want to raise now.
§ 5.0 P.M.
Mr. HAMILTON BENN
I wish to support the remarks that have fallen from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Finsbury on the subject of deck-loads. I think it is a matter for congratulation that the Board of Trade have arranged to bring the question of deck-loads up at the next International Conference on Shipping. It is undoubtedly a matter that requires to be dealt with at the International Conference. All the experience of many years has gone to prove that it is quite impossible for one country to do anything really effective itself in the matter of deck-loads by legislation. The effect of the restriction placed upon deck-loads coming into this country has only been to raise the cost of timber in this country, and the legislation we have in force in England is no protection whatever for the persons whom it was intended to benefit. Every ship crossing the North Sea or the Atlantic in the winter months with timber takes in its cargo for England and then loads a deck-load of timber for foreign ports, which it first delivers at the foreign ports and then proceeds to England. This is no doubt complying with the strict letter of the law, but it defeats the whole purpose of the law. I am very far from believing that a timber deck-load is in itself a dangerous thing. It is not the deck-load, but the excess of deck load, which has to be provided against. Ship captains and experts on this subject will tell you that in the case of many vessels—in fact, the majority of modern steamers—the deck-load is, if anything, a benefit. The modern tramp steamer is square-built and is a very stiff vessel. She is what seafaring men describe as "sea-kindly," but it is quite another matter when you come to pile on an excessive deck-load on a vessel crossing the Atlantic in winter months. The recent and disgraceful instance quoted by my hon. Friend, namely, that of the "County of Devon," is an instance of the kind. That vessel appears to have been loaded without sense or reason. She appears to have got a deck-load some 200 tons more than she obviously should carry, and she foundered in the first gale. I think the Board of Trade have to take a certain amount of blame for not having made the managing owner a party to the inquiry. We have not yet heard whether they can see their way to take action 1277 against the owner. The point I want to enforce is, if there is an International Convention upon the subject, we should be able to get at the foreign charterer, who, in this instance, may be found to be the real culprit. If I have read the report of the inquiry aright, it was chartered to a company in the Southern States of America, who paid a certain amount of money per ton for the net register of the vessel, and therefore it was their interest and desire to cram on to her every stick of timber she could possible carry. If there was an international agreement upon this question I think that charterer could be made responsible, for neither the managing owner nor the charterer have suffered in any respect through the loss of the vessel, and the whole loss has fallen upon the unfortunate master and crew. It seems to me most unfortunate that only timber deck-loads are to be dealt with by the International Convention. It is extraordinary that this should be so, because shipmasters are strong in their opinion that there are other deck-loads much more dangerous than timber. I believe the Board of Trade have ample information in their possession in regard to this matter.
I will quote one or two instances. There was the case of the loss of the Great Eastern Railway Company's steamer "Yarmouth" in 1909. That vessel frequently carried very heavy deck-loads across the Channel, and on her ill-fated voyage she had three large furniture vans on board, each weighing about three tons. The Court found that the ship was not properly loaded and had too much top weight. Then there was the loss of the vessel "Axim," belonging to Messrs. Elder, Dempster, and Company, and though the vessel was lost with all hands, and it was not possible to find out what actually did happen, it was found on inquiry that she had a heavy steam launch on deck weighing some 16 tons which was probably the cause of the disaster. Then there was the case of the ss. "Guillemot," referred to by the hon. Member for Finsbury, and in that instance there were some 55 tons of oil and lard in barrels on deck, and the trouble arose through the breaking adrift of those barrels of oil and lard, which made it impossible for the seamen to keep a footing on deck. Then there was the ss. "Come," belonging to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, in which case the casualty was caused by the heavy seas sweeping over the deck, and moving the deck cargo in such a manner as to make it impossible to 1278 work the steering gear. I would like to press upon the President of the Board of Trade another important question. I would like him to consider whether it is not possible for him to include all deck-loads in the inquiry when this question comes before the Conference.
The hon. Member for Wirral (Mr. Gershom Stewart) referred to ships sailing under the British Flag with alien captains and crews. I believe that this is a matter which does not apply only to the British Flag, and there are some other countries which permit vessels to be registered under their flag without insisting upon having native officers and crews. If some other countries permit that to be done, I do not see that that is any reason why we should permit it. I believe, for instance, that the Belgians rather encourage this practice than otherwise, but Belgium has no navigation laws, and she is not an important country from a maritime point of view. What I think we have to look at is that no ships should carry the British Flag which are not officered by British seamen. We have to protect the honour of our Flag, and very serious international complications may arise under certain circumstances, if vessels have not got British officers on board. It seems to me an extraordinary thing that there should be eighty-seven alien masters on British ships at the present time. This is not a new matter. Far away back we heard a great deal of this kind of thing going on. I believe the Greeks in days gone by used to be very much given to putting their ships under the British Flag. I remember reading of the time of Byron when he went down to Greece to assist the patriots of that country. In that instance some British men-of-war interfered with him and took away his British Flag. I do not know whether they are so active to-day that they would interfere with a ship which is obviously not British flying the British Flag. Then there is the important case of the company which has eighteen steamers carrying the British Flag, and to a large extent they are officered and commanded by foreigners, including Italians, Austrians, Turks, and Greeks.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
The matter which the hon. Member complains of is one which is not within the competence of the Board of Trade to cure by administration. I rather gather that the matter requires legislation. If that is so, then it is not a matter which the hon. Member can discuss now.
§ Mr. PETO
On a point of Order. May I draw attention to the fact that a question was asked, on the 29th of April last, by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, in which he asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, "Is it not a fact that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade can deal with this matter without legislation," and the Parliamentary Secretary replied, "Possibly that is so." As a matter of fact it is dealt with under one particular Section of the Merchant Shipping Act, and it is purely a question as to how far that Section of the Act bears on this point.
§ Mr. G. STEWART
Is it not a fact that the Board of Trade have to issue a Certificate to the ship that flies the British Flag.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. J. M. Robertson)
A certain matter might possibly be dealt with in that way.
Mr. H. BENN
In looking after the interests of British commerce and British trade, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider how he can protect British trade from this objectionable practice. It surely is a very objectionable thing that foreigners should be able to transfer their vessels in the circumstances which have been mentioned under the British Flag, and thus interfere with the natural commerce which would otherwise be carried on by British ships.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
That seems to me to be a matter which can only be remedied by legislation. I think the hon. Member will admit that I have allowed him some latitude on the point, and I must ask him to pass from it.
Mr. H. BENN
I only wish to ask the President of the Board of Trade to introduce legislation on this subject if it is required. I wish to mention a question which deals with the International Convention in regard to safety at sea. I apprehend that that question will come up 1280 when the Bill dealing with that subject comes before the House. But there is a point in connection with it which the Board of Trade have to deal with promptly, and that is to make provision for the examination of lifeboatmen, which is made compulsory under Clause 54 of the Convention. The question I want to put is whether any steps are now being taken to provide for the examination of lifeboatmen, in order to obtain the certificate which the Board of Trade issues. It affects British shipping in this way: Passenger steamers will have to have a certain number of lifeboatmen on board when the Act comes into force—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
That question is not within the administrative competence of the Board of Trade at the present moment, and therefore it is not a matter which the hon. Member can deal with on the Vote before the Committee.
§ Mr. NEWTON
I wish to deal with the question of deck-loads. I do not know whether the President of the Board of Trade has had any personal experience of deck-loads. I may inform him of an experience I had once on board ship when one evening the whole of the deck-load was swept away. Anyone who has seen an actual occurrence of that kind must be anxious that every possible precaution should be taken to make life less hazardous to those employed on ships which carry timber deck-loads. If it is dangerous to carry loads of timber in that way, I think it is much more dangerous to carry other cargoes which may not be so snugly stored and securely fastened as timber coming from the Bosnian ports and from the American ports. Therefore, I join with my hon. Friends who have already urged that the right hon. Gentleman should bring the question of deck-loads generally before the International Conference. The right hon. Gentleman may answer that he could not venture to hope that he would succeed in any representations that he might make to the Conference, but you have to prepare the ground in all these matters, and, if you talk about a thing this year, you may be able to secure the fulfilment of your object at a later period. I do, therefore, most earnestly say that the opportunity should be taken to make as large a case as possible before the Conference.
The only other matter of which I have any personal experience is the question of crew space. I am strongly in agreement 1281 with those who hold that there is great need for improvement in the cubic space and the floor space available in the forecastle for our seamen in the mercantile marine. Anybody who has had any practical experience must be aware that the quarters are cramped, and that the conditions of the men's lives make it all the more necessary why the amount of space that might be sufficient for others should in their case be a great deal further increased than it is at present. It cannot be satisfactory to any of us to find that other countries are going ahead in this matter faster than we are. The right hon. Gentleman will have behind him, as a matter of national pride, every Member of the Committee in any efforts he makes to improve the conditions under which these men are bound to work. The right hon. Gentleman may really feel that this afternoon the whole House has sympathised with each speaker in turn. Take, for example, the question of lascars. Although one must recognise that in certain waters the conditions make it very difficult to avoid employing men whose country of origin makes them particularly suited to be employed in such waters, yet the very great increase in the number of lascars must fill us with some apprehension, and we, therefore, unite in every quarter of the House in urging upon the right hon. Gentleman, while bearing in mind the legitimate interests of shipowners, not to lose sight of the fact that we are none of us glad to see this large increase in the number of lascars and Chinamen employed on our merchant ships.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am afraid that I do not know very much about the circumstances of merchant shipping or what the right hon. Gentleman has done, or has not done, with regard to deck-loads and matters of that description, but I trust that he will see that every possible precaution is taken to ensure that when these vessels go to sea they are so loaded and so managed that the risk of the loss of life at sea is considerably minimised. My hon. Friend talked about the employment of British crews. I do not know, but I am rather inclined to think that might need legislation. I do not know that the right hon. Gentleman, great as is his power, has the power to go to a shipowner and say he must employ a certain class of men and no other. I should rather have thought that would have required legislation, and, being an individualist, that class of legis- 1282 lation would not appeal to me. Unless I am very much mistaken, a good number of these men who are employed, though they may not happen to have been born in Great Britain, are British subjects, and we must be very careful, not only in the remarks we make in this House, but in any request that is made to the right hon. Gentleman not to distinguish too closely between British subjects in different parts of the Empire. We are a great Empire, composed of a variety of races, and equal treatment should be given to every subject within it whatever colour his skin may happen to be. I am, therefore, a little bit inclined to think that it will not be too wise to talk too much about the preference given either to lascars or to other people. They are all subjects of the King, and are equally entitled to the protection which is given to them by the President of the Board of Trade. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman one or two questions on other matters. If he will turn to Item Y, he will see "London traffic branch,£2,595—"
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I would remind the hon. Baronet that the question before the Committee is the reduction of Item A.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I presume Item A includes the right hon. Gentleman's salary, and a reduction has been moved because of the alleged incompetence, or the alleged want of action of the right hon. Gentleman. I shall be inclined to vote for a reduction unless I get some satisfactory answer on some of the other items. I was going to show the reason—
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I was not aware that the discussion was always confined to a particular item, but no doubt there are several questions on Item A which I should like to ask. I am glad to see that there is a decrease of £1,808. There were originally 436 on the staff, and they have now increased to 445. The cost of their salaries and wages have decreased. I think that is an excellent thing in the management of the office for which the right hon. Gentleman ought to be congratulated. May I ask whether, if it is in order to discuss the duties of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the marine service, it is not in order also to discuss the duties of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the traffic 1283 branch? The salaries of the traffic branch must, I think, come under this item, or, at any rate, the right hon. Gentleman is responsible for the branch, and it must therefore be in order to discuss something for which he is responsible.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I do not know the circumstances under which that ruling was given, but, as far as my observation goes, the wages of charwomen come under Item A. With regard to the hon. Baronet's point, if he will look at Item Y he will find that the wages and salaries of the traffic branch are set out there. It was the hon. Baronet who drew my attention to Item Y.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I presume I should be in order in asking the right hon. Gentleman what he proposes to do with regard to the inspection of the traffic of London, that being part of his duty?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I will not touch the details. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman to inform the Committee what steps he has taken to deal with the question of the London traffic. It comes in the right hon. Gentleman's Department, and it is a very important question. The right hon. Gentleman is peculiarly suited to undertake the superintendence of this traffic, because he goes about a good deal on foot, and this gives him an opportunity of observing the traffic and of understanding the conditions of it such as those hon. Members who go about in luxurious motor cars driven by somebody else cannot have. The right hon. Gentleman is something of the same character as myself. I walk about London a great deal, and I also drive myself, and, if you drive or walk about, the dangers and difficulties of the traffic come before your mind. One of the chief difficulties of London traffic is the refusal of slow-moving vehicles to keep to the side of the road. Another difficulty, of course, is the enormous increase in refuges. They are a great advantage in many ways, but they do, to a very con- 1284 siderable extent, tend to create the block which exists in many places. I wondered whether the right hon. Gentleman could suggest to the various people concerned that they should not dot them down here and there, generally in narrow places where they are not required, but that they should put them in wide places where people are in the habit of crossing. Another difficulty is the great speed at which many motor carriages, and especially taxi-cabs, are driven. When you go round the corner you are very likely to find a motor cab on top of you, it having come round the corner without sounding its horn. If it has sounded its horn you probably go the wrong way, frightened by the noise. Only the other night I was very nearly run over by a taxi-cab, and, if it had not been for the Noble Lord the-Chief Whip of our party (Lord E. Talbot), who pulled me out of danger, I should not have the honour of addressing the right hon. Gentleman at the present moment. Therefore, something of that sort ought t" be done. I do not know whether it is in the power of the right hon. Gentleman to lay down Regulations as to the speed limit?
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Burns)
No. That is within the jurisdiction of the Local Government Board at the instance of the county council.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The right hon. Gentleman, I know, is not 10th to take on extra work and I think the question of the speed limit should be entrusted to the Traffic Department, which is under the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Major DALRYMPLE WHITE
I should like to support what has been said on the subject of deck-loads, but as that has been thoroughly dealt with I will not go further into it. The right hon. Gentleman has scope for improving the hygienic conditions on board ship. There is no doubt that on many of our merchant ships the conditions are far from being sanitary, and the health of the crews and officers must suffer in consequence. There is a persistent demand in the merchant service that there should, if possible, be hospitals provided on board ship. There is a large number of ships where they can very well be provided where no accommodation of the sort exists, and as life at sea is liable to many accidents, quite apart from sickness, there should be some 1285 place where a man could be attended to. Another point is the question of Sunday labour on board ship.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
That must require legislation. The hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot go into that.
§ Major DALRYMPLE WHITE
Another point I want to put is with regard to discipline on board ship. There is not the slightest doubt that there is a great deal of insubordination, desertion, and failure to join. If it was only a matter affecting shipowners it would not be so serious, but it affects the whole question of life at sea, because I am informed that in every many cases the men, especially the firemen, refuse absolutely to go through boat drill. Under the Merchant Shipping Convention Bill the penalties have been strengthened against masters of ships. I believe they are liable to a penalty of £50 if their men are not properly trained in boat drill and other matters, and yet at the same time apparently the men have a perfect right, if they wish, to refuse to go through these boat drills. It is true that the shipowners have some power in prosecuting, but as a general rule they do not care to prosecute for the simple reason that if they do they are likely to have great difficulty in future in getting a crew, and if the men are brought before a magistrate, very often the punishment is so slight that instead of being a deterrent it is really almost an encouragement to go and do the same another time. I certainly think a crew should be under some distinct legal obligation to perfect themselves in these life-saving methods. It is not only their own lives, but the lives of all on board that they have to think of.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
That is again a matter for legislation. The hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot deal with these points, however interesting they may be. They are under the proposed Convention and require legislation. We are dealing here with administration in matters within the competence of the Board to administer.
§ Mr. PETO
On the point of Order. All these vessels when they go to sea have to be inspected by nautical or other surveyors, who are under the control of the right hon. Gentleman, and what is suggested is that if they are responsible for inspecting the life-saving apparatus they might very easily be invested with some authority from the Board of Trade to see that their life-saving apparatus is properly 1286 tested by practical use before the voyage commences.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
That is outside the competence of the Board of Trade, because legislation is proposed in connection with it. It is not a matter which can be dealt with in this Committee.
§ Mr. PETO
I wish first of all on broad grounds to reinforce the appeal which has been made to the President of the Board of Trade not to let slip this opportunity of bringing a very considerable number of matters concerning the merchant service before the International Convention proposed to be held. I think we have a very good precedent and a very good parallel for that. When the "Titanic" was lost, it was felt that something must be done to deal with life-saving apparatus and the protection of large passenger vesesls, and the International Convention was summoned which has recently reported, and on whose report there is a Bill now before this House. The scope of that inquiry was intentionally made to cover every sort of thing which would be likely to cause danger to life at sea. The President of the Board of Trade, under pressure from all parts of this House, made the reference to the Convention as wide as possible. Derelicts were included, icebergs, wireless telegraphy, lifeboats and lifebelts and the methods of launching them, bulkheads and the construction of ships themselves, were all matters which were considered, and therefore now that we are to have another Convention, and I am very glad to hear it, I ask that all reasonable questions which have been not only before the House, but have been the subject in many cases of Committee and special Commissions, legislation to carry out which has been again and again said to be impossible, should be referred, so far as the right hon. Gentleman's power goes, to this International Convention, so that his whole excuse for doing nothing, which has been thrown at us again and again, should no longer be available. I take it broadly that that is the reason that we are specially bringing this to his attention on this Vote. It is not that we ask him to introduce legislation with regard to any one of these subjects. We know the answer that we should be given if we were able to raise such a point. We should be told at once that this is a question which has been considered again and again by the Department and has been settled, and it is impossible to deal with it except internationally.
1287 I have several more points to raise, some of which have been already dwelt upon. The first I want to refer to is the question of ships' hospitals, quite apart from the accommodation for seamen and officers generally. In the question of the provision of ships' hospitals, the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor did take certain action himself, and an official recommendation was sent out to shipowners in January, 1912. It was not worded in a mandatory form, but stated that it was very desirable in the opinion of the Board of Trade that hospitals should be provided on all the larger vessels. The result is that about 112 ships have been provided with ships' hospitals out of a total of 9,214. That is a little over 1 per cent. in two and a quarter years. There is not the slightest question that they could send a recommendation calling attention to the fact that very little has been done hitherto, and fairly warning shipowners that either legislation would have to be undertaken, and the matter made compulsory, or that they should in the interests of the men, whose safety ought really to be one of their primary considerations, voluntarily under a more strongly worded recommendation from the Board of Trade establish ships' hospitals in every case. What is the other alternative? We have this Convention, and it is not very creditable to this country to find that in this very matter of ships' hospitals we are behind two other countries, one a foreign Power and the other Australia, where they have shipping rules already in force which require the provision of ships' hospitals by law. In the case of the Commonwealth of Australia, the rule is that where any vessel carries more than 100 persons on board it shall be provided with hospital accommodation of such a character and so placed and arranged as to afford proper means of isolation for cases of communicable disease which may arise during the voyage.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member has made it quite clear to me that the only way in which the Board of Trade can deal with the grievance which he is now raising is by getting further powers by legislation. I must ask him not to pursue that.
§ Mr. PETO
I am sorry I have been so extraordinarily the opposite of clear in what I have said, because my whole point is that I do not ask for any legislation at 1288 all, but I ask the President of the Board of Trade to do two things which he is competent to do. One is to bring pressure to bear on the shipowners themselves, as his predecessor has already done, and the other is that this should be a matter which should be referred to the International Convention.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
In that case any hon. Member could discuss any subject he desired by simply suggesting that the President of the Board of Trade should communicate with shipowners. All that an hon. Member has to do who wishes to discuss a whole range of things for which he desires legislation is to suggest that the President of the Board of Trade should circularise shipowners and other bodies in connection with them. That would be an obvious evasion of the Rules of the House.
§ Mr. NEWTON
Is it not possible to regard this, not as an attempt to evade but as a legitimate desire to ask the President of the Board of Trade to use his administrative power in a certain direction? I very respectfully suggest that it is possible to ask him to take certain steps without being open to the reproach of having attempted to evade your ruling.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I do not desire to reproach anyone, because any hon. Member is entitled to get his point in without being unfair to the Chair, if he exercises his ingenuity in that respect. I have no grievance whatever on that point. It is for me to look out and see that that is not carried too far. I again say, with much regret, I do not desire to be pedantic on the point, but I cannot allow the discussion to proceed on those lines.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
Is it not the fact that the Board of Trade are empowered to make Regulations dealing with these matters? That does not require fresh legislation.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I take it clearly from the President of the Board of Trade that that is not so. If he has power to make those Regulations that is obviously a question which can be discussed.
§ Mr. PETO
The next point I wish to call attention to is the fact that, with regard to accommodation generally, the inspection by the surveyors employed by the right hon. Gentleman's Department is wholly inadequate. The medical and sanitary surveyors are only supplied at four ports—London, Liverpool, Glasgow, and Queenstown. These ports are obviously selected because they are the great ports through which emigrants mainly go, and as there are very few of the inspectors it is very natural that their whole attention should be devoted to these four parts and the inspection of the accommodation provided for emigrants and others, while the inspection of the quarters provided for the crew is generally practically omitted altogether. We have had two reports quite recently from medical officers of health. In the report of the medical officer for the Port of London, he says that he considers that the question partakes of an international character and is worthy of consideration by an official International Convention. Only yesterday the report of the medical officer for the Port of Liverpool came out and it confirmed all the views put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Sandys) with regard to the rate of mortality of the different diseases. What is more, he ascribes practically all the insanitary conditions that prevail on board ship to faulty construction. Undoubtedly the President of the Board of Trade has power to do a great deal in regulating the kind of construction which would make suitable quarters a possibility. We have in our rules proceeded always on the basis that as long as there is a certain cubic area to satisfy the surveyor he has nothing more to say. That is not the correct basis upon which to deal with the question. What is called the volumetric basis—that is to say, the volume of air passing through the quarters, is a much better method. The question of ventilation on ship-board has been dealt with in Australia on the basis that for every man there should be 1290 3,000 cubic feet of air passing through in a certain period. If that were done and we had properly ventilated quarters, the great mortality from consumption, pneumonia and other diseases of that kind would become a thing of the past. It has already been pointed out that we are behind at least two other countries in this matter. That is a very good reason why we should not proced on the plan hitherto adopted of doing nothing, but that we should seize the present opportunity of discussing this subject with other countries and arranging to proceed on one uniform method.
Another question which has been raised in this House for the last two or three years—it has been a thorny question in Board of Trade administration—is the question of sight tests for officers of all grades. Since the right hon. Gentleman assumed his present office we have had an example of his method of practically dealing with this question. I frankly admit that the practical sight test he was good enough to allow me to inspect, which was held at Shoebury two or three months ago, did more to clear up this question than any amount of speeches from both sides of the House and a great deal of writing by experts of various opinions, because we found that, as usual, the expert opinion was divided on the matter. The merchant service generally has taken the view that before a man lost his certificate it was only reasonable that he should have a practical test under seafaring conditions. That sounded so reasonable and sensible that I frankly admit I was very much taken with it myself, and thought it was a fair proposal. I went to see the test, which was not actually carried out under seafaring conditions, but under practical conditions, when red and green lights were exposed at a distance of a mile, and I saw that, whereas the tests went on for a couple of hours, even in those two hours the conditions were entirely different during the middle period from those that prevailed at the beginning or at the end of the test. Light vapours came over the low-lying land, the moon rose up to a different position, the clouds cleared away, and what was comparatively easy at 9.30 in the evening was almost an impossible task for anybody, no matter how good their sight might be, only an hour later. That, I consider, knocked the bottom out of the practical test, so far as I was concerned. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, he having abandoned what 1291 is called the single-eye test, and having made the test for form vision much more reasonable than was proposed, to seriously consider whether it is a fair thing to ask men, whose vision is required for the navigation of ships under seafaring conditions, to let the whole question of whether or not they are to have a certificate depend upon whether they can read certain letters at a distance of 16 feet.
I submit to the Committee that this matter cannot be dealt with en purely scientific lines. It is well known that after a man has been at sea all his life he develops what is called sea vision. He might not be able to pass the oculist's test, with which we are all familiar, but at the same lime he might put us, who consider that we have good vision, to shame by picking out objects at sea under seafaring conditions at distances at which we should see nothing at all. There is room in that respect for an improvement in the vision tests so as to make them more reasonably agree—I am not speaking of colour tests, but of form-vision tests—with what people really have to see. They have not got to read letters on a card; they have to detect all kinds of objects and appearances at sea, under all conditions, both by night and day. With regard to colour-vision, if reasonable time were given, if the candidates were in no way hurried, and if the right hon. Gentleman could see his way to use his powers to make the actual form of lantern, or rather what is exhibited in the lantern used for the test conform in one particular to seafaring conditions, namely, if he would have the images which are shown representing the port and starboard lights at the distance of a mile, if he would have these miniature images resemble what would be a ship's light on a ship with a 50-foot beam instead of 25, he would make the test a reasonable one. At present the candidate has to distinguish these red and green lights, or the miniature representations of them, on what is supposed to be a vessel with a 25-foot beam and a mile away. I submit that vessels with a 25-foot beam to-day are practically barges, and that 50 feet would be a great deal under the ordinary average of the beam of vessels which it would be important for them to detect at the distance of a mile. There is another point on these Regulations which is much more important even than that. I have here the Regulations issued by the Board of Trade for prevent- 1292 ing collisions at sea. Article 2 commences:—A steam vessel when under way shall carry:—(a) On or in front of the foremast, or if a vessel without a foremast, then in the fore part of the vessel, at a height above the hull of not less than 20 feet, and if the breadth of the vessel exceeds 20 feet, then at a height above the hull not less than such breadth, so, however, that the light need not be carried at a greater height above the hull than 40 feet, a bright white light, so constructed as to show an unbroken light over an are of the horizon of 20 points of the compass, so fixed as to throw the light ten points on each side of the vessel, viz., from right ahead to two points abaft the beam on either side, and of such a character as to be visible at a distance of at least five miles.Paragraphs (b), (c), (d), deal with sidelights. Paragraph (e) says:—A steam vessel when under way may carry an additional white light similar in construction to the light mentioned in sub-division (a). These two lights shall be so placed in line with the keel that one shall be at least lo feet higher than the other, and in such a position with reference to each other that the lower light shall be forward of the upper one.That means that a vessel may carry two mast headlights, one 15 feet above the other, and that if she does carry two mast headights one should be 15 feet higher than the other, and the lower one shall be the forward one of the two. I recently had a conversation on the bridge of a passenger vessel with one of the best captains we have among the many able seamen engaged in the merchant service. His emphatic opinion was that the sidelights did not matter for all practical purposes, provided that the vessel he was meeting carried two mast headlights. He showed me that, provided there were two mast headlights, he knew from five to seven miles off everything that the other vessel was doing and every change in her course, and that it was not necessary to consider what sidelights were shown, or even trouble to look for them. That being so, and as the object of sight-test is the safety of life at sea and the prevention of collisions, I suggest that you should provide simply for the carrying of two mast headlights. I am informed that this captain's opinion is confirmed by practically all the masters in the marine service, and that the two mast headlights are infinitely more important than the sidelights. If it were made compulsory under paragraph (e) of this article that every vessel should carry two mast headlights, or, where there is no mast, under the conditions specified in paragraph (a)—if it were made compulsory instead of optional, it would do more than the sight-tests and the colour-vision tests to make nagivation easy, simple and safe, and, indeed, than anything else the right hon. Gentleman could do. I want to deal with another point, which is purely 1293 of an administrative character, namely, the costs of Board of Trade inquiries. On the 16th April I asked a question relating to a ship called the "Scotsdyke." The question is a very important one from the point of view of merchant captains and officers who are unfortunate enough to have to appear before these Board of Trade inquiries. The question was:To ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he can state the nature of a case where at a Board of Trade inquiry into a shipping casualty the Board of Trade would feel warranted in not opposing applications for costs or for a fixed sum towards costs by captains or officers made parties to such cases but exonerated from blame; whether the case of the master of the 'Scotsdyke' has been brought to his notice where, though the questions put by the Board of Trade to the Court might have involved the suspension of his certificate and though the Court exonerated him from blame, the solicitor to the Board of Trade, at Glasgow, opposed the application made for the costs of the master, and this was upheld by the Court; and whether the Board of Trade have issued instructions to their legal representatives in the different seaports that they shall oppose similar applications for costs in all case?The right hon. Gentleman replied in these words:—As the hon. Member was informed on 23rd March, I am afraid that it is not possible to give an undertaking that could be universally applicable in these cases. The case of the 'Scotsdyke,' however, appears to have been one in which the Board of Trade might properly have refrained from opposing an application for payment of a sum for costs. I regret that, by an oversight, the solicitor who represented the Board in this case was not instructed in this sense, and in the circumstances, while I cannot say what attitude the Court would have taken up if the matter had been left, without comment, to its discretion, the Board are prepared to consider an application from the master for payment of a sum towards his legal costs."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th April, 1914, col. 318, Vol. LXI.]6.0 P.M.
I will not make any point at all of the fact that I got an admission that there had been an oversight. On the contrary, I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the candour with which he made that admission and on the firmness with which this matter has been dealt with. I understand that application has since been made by the master, and a sum of ten guineas has been paid towards his costs. It is quite clear, as this is one of an almost innumerable number of cases I have raised by question in the House on this burning question of costs of Board of Trade inquiries, and as this is the first time we have got an admission of the principle, it would be only fair, in certain cases, that the costs, or at any rate part of the legal costs of an officer defending his certificate, should be defrayed by the Board of Trade. I therefore ask for two things. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to frankly admit that these inquiries are not criminal proceedings 1294 at all; that they are not prosecutions, but that they are inquiries held in the interest of the public, and to promote safety of life at sea. When they are held obviously the captain and officers concerned must be made parties to the case. It is in the interest of the public that they should be made parties, not only when a primâ facie case is made against them, but when their evidence is necessary to elucidate the whole matter. That being so, we want a more generous principle brought into the matter altogether. These are public inquiries held for the public benefit. They are not prosecutions at all, and I suggest where an officer is exonerated from all blame for either the loss of a ship or for stranding, collision, or burning, it should be the rule, and not the exception, that the Board of Trade solicitors should be instructed not only not to oppose payment of costs, but to propose to the Courts, on behalf of the Board of Trade, that they should pay costs in such a case.
I also ask for another thing, which I think arises out of the first. I ask that in these cases the Board of Trade should be more careful than they have been in the past in needlessly making captains and officers parties to an inquiry when there is really no question of blame at all. I am quite aware that some maintenance money is paid, and something done to minimise the loss and inconvenience, but it really does not meet the case, as the right hon. Gentleman will see in a moment. No doubt he has already considered it. But my point is this: If a captain or officer loses a voyage, to be merely paid lodging allowance while on shore waiting for the inquiry to be held does not nearly meet the case at all, and I suggest really there should be more generous treatment in all cases, at any rate where the officer's attendance is merely required Of the protection of the public, and where the result of the inquiry is that he is exonerated from all blame. There have been cases referred home from Colonial Courts of Inquiry, to which I have especially drawn the attention of the President of the Board of Trade. I see that the hon. and learned Member for York (Mr. Butcher) is in his place, and as this is a legal matter I think it can be much better left in his able hands to deal with. I will, therefore, only say in regard to it that I hope, both in the cases of ordinary inquiries held under the Board of Trade here and in cases of appeal from the Dominions where the Board of Trade are made parties to the inquiry, the 1295 officers and men concerned should be dealt with in the same spirit of liberality and justice.
A good deal has been said about the hours of work of seamen and officers. I would like to point out that the Board of Trade have in the past taken action—not legislative action—in this matter. They did some few years ago make representations to the shipowners with regard especially to Sunday labour, and they received a reply from the Shipping Federation, which is, of course, a representative body of shipowners, to the effect that it is well understood that a maritime wage covers seven days' work a week. So far as I can make out nothing has been done since, and although there have been rumours of legislation to deal with the matter those rumours have never materialised, beyond the First or Second Reading of a Bill, either in this or in the other House. I do not want to go into details of this question involving, as it does, the provision of an adequate number of officers and men, and obviously bringing in the point whether our ships are to be handicapped by having to pay a greater amount in salaries than would be required in foreign ships. But this is precisely one of those questions where international agreement is desirable, and it could, at any rate, be threshed out in an International Convention if the right hon. Gentleman chose to take that course. I should only like to remind the Committee that this is a very burning question, and one which we have very seldom an opportunity of raising. We know that on occasions the question of the number of hours worked by Government employâs, and by others on shore, have been raised in this House, and that that action has directely resulted in improving the condition and state of affairs. Here we have a great national service where officers and men have, in some cases for a whole year, workd continuously an average of seventeen hours in every twenty-four, not for a week or a month, but for a whole year. I can also show that in the Mediterranean trade officers have worked—
§ Mr. PETO
There are two methods of dealing with this question, and one is by an International Convention. But I will not go into details. I do, however, wish to protest that on this, the only opportunity we are likely to have in the whole 1296 year, of raising this question on the floor of the House of Commons, it should be held to be impossible to do so, although we have been waiting for it for twenty years with a view to doing something effective. We have now that opportunity, if only the right hon. Gentleman will take the proper course. I regret that we are not allowed now to discuss the question, but of course I am in the hands of the Chair, and I suppose I must leave it to some other occasion when we may be more fortunate in finding ourselves less restricted in the matter of Debate.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I suggest to my hon. Friend that his proper course would be to bring in a Bill under the Ten-minute Rule?
§ Mr. PETO
The hon. Baronet, with his experience of the House, surely cannot suggest it is possible to deal with a twenty-years' old grievance affecting 200,000 or 300,000 people in a private Bill under the Ten-minute Rule? Surely the suggestion is meant to be humorous? I will now pass from the sea to the land. I want to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to a very important matter, namely, the statistics for agricultural wages. I asked him the other day whether his Department had any information with regard to agricultural wages. The Committee know that this is a burning question, and I wanted information more recent than that which is dated 1907. The right hon. Gentleman, in his reply, said:—Since the issue of the report referred to by the hon. Member, information with regard to agricultural wages has been given in each of the Annual Reports dealing with changes in rates of wages in the Annual Abstracts of the Labour Statistics of the United Kingdom. As this information only refers to cash rates, it is desirable the figures given in the 1907 report, covering all extra payments and allowances, should be brought up to date, and I am proposing to take steps for this purpose during the coming autumn."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th July, 1914, col. 812.]I want to know, considering that this is a question on which it is essential that we should have up-to-date statistics, why no steps were taken at least a year ago. Fifteen months ago I raised this question in the House, on the 26th March, 1913, when I asked the right hon. GentlemanWhether the right hon. Gentleman has, or can obtain, any information as to the average nominal money wage of agricultural labourers in England 1297 Scotland, and Ireland in 1911, 1901, and 1891; whether he can state the average real wages in each case of agricultural labourers in England, Scotland, and Ireland; and, if not, whether he has taken, or will take, steps to ensure such information being available to his Department as regards agriculture, as well as all the other principal industries of the United Kingdom?I had not intended to trouble the Committee with the reply, as I only read the question in order to show that I raised it fifteen months ago. However, as it is better perhaps not to leave the matter in an incomplete form, I will read the answer of the Parliamentary Secretary. It is as follows:—As a part of the recent general inquiry into wages and hours of labour in all industries, a Report (Cd. 5400) on agricultural labour was published in 1910 in continuation of Cd. 2370 of 1905 and Cd. 340 of 1900. This Report gives detailed information as to the total earnings, including harvest money and all allowances in kind of the principal classes of adult workers in each county of England and Wales. Scotland, and Ireland. The general course of agricultural wages since 1880 is shown by index numbers in a Table on page 70 of the fiteenth Abstract of Labour Statistics (Cd. 6228), and the subject is also dealt with in the Annual Reports on Changes in "Wages issued by the Board of Trade.I further asked:—Am I to understand that there is no information which the hon. Member can give relating to the year 1911 or to the other principal industries besides agriculture?To this the hon. Gentleman answered:—I take it that there is nothing later. If the hon. Member will give me specifically what he wants I will try to supply the information."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th March, 1913, col. 1642, Vol. L.]I do not complain of any lack of courtesy on the part of the hon. Gentleman. On the contrary, he sent me a copy of the Abstract of Labour Statistics, and I found on reference to it that it gave no information later than 1907 as to the inclusive wage of agricultural labourers in any part of the country. It did give in the form of index numbers the wages up to 1913, the index number in 1900 was taken as 100, and it showed that in 1913 ordinary agricultural labourers were in receipt of wages represented by the figures 103.7. The upshot of the whole of that is that, although the question of agricultural wages is a burning one, and although the Government propose to make it one of the main features of their coming legislation which is to include the principle of a minimum wage, yet the House and the country are deprived of the information which is absolutely essential to form any just conclusion even on the main principle of the proposal as to whether compulsion is necessary or not. How are we to decide that if we do not know what has been the effect of the voluntary negotiations which have no doubt taken place all over the country, and of the natural action of give- 1298 and-take which operates in connection with every trade? Seven years have elapsed since 1907. There have been great changes in the wages of agricultural labourers—greater in some localities than in others—and I think if we had the figures up to date, if my request which was made more than a year ago had been complied with, and if the forms had been issued to farmers, we might have had statistics with respect to the years since 1907 so as to be able to compare county with county, and we might be saved a great deal of foolish talk arising from the circumstance that we have no up-to date facts to go upon. If we had these statistics, we should know how much of a case there is for taking stronger measures to raise agricultural wages. I am bound to infer that, since the Board of Trade have done practically nothing to get the information since 1907, although there has been a secret inquiry into the conditions of labour, and although they have taken no steps to give us any official inquiry on which we can rely—I am bound to infer that the Government do not want us to know how great has been the effect of voluntary negotiations, and how poor a case there is for any compulsion in the matter.
We are entitled to know the facts. I think it is very significant that on the verge of a General Election which cannot be delayed for more than a few months, it may be weeks, when this question of agricultural wages is discussed in every parish in the country, we have not got later statistics. The right hon. Gentleman's attention was called to it fifteen months ago. He told us the other day that, although he proposed to issue the schedules shortly, you cannot expect farmers to fill them up until after the farm operations of the autumn are over. He said we could not expect them to fill up elaborate forms earlier. But the information to be obtained should be in our possession earlier in view of the fact that a General Election is approaching. It may be autumn next year before we get any reliable information. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider the countless thousands of inaccurate statements that will be made all over the country owing to the absence of figures which he could have obtained. I ask him to consider the waste of money and the waste of breath in talking of subjects which we are utterly unable to deal with properly, simply because this Department would not take the trouble to 1299 get the information more than twelve months ago, and to turn round and say, "Surely, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer thinks it necessary to have a secret inquiry into the matter, it must be one of sufficient importance for the Board of Trade to take up and to get official statistics!" We have not got official statistics but we have got another kind of statistics which, in my opinion, looking to the nature of the inquiry which was held, are not worth the paper they are written on.
In regard to the merchant service, I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will deal with the questions which arise in the same spirit as his predecessor, and that, perhaps, he may even be able to do more. I wish to say of his predecessor (Viscount Buxton), speaking with a knowledge of the merchant service, that we are grateful to him for the kindly consideration which for the first time for many years the Board of Trade gave to their grievances and difficulties when questions were brought to his notice, I know the patient way in which he read volumes of statistics of all kinds in relation to matters to which I have not been permitted to allude. I am sorry all that knowledge is lost to us at the present time. I cannot expect the right hon. Gentleman to master the whole subject in a few months, but I do know that he will bring a practical mind to bear upon it. I hope he will bring to these matters the same spirit of consideration which ruled at the Board of Trade for the last year or two. We have had no result, so far, in the form of any practical alleviation with respect to the lot of the officers and men of the merchant service at sea. I hope that by hook or crook the right hon. Gentleman will find the means to give kindly consideration to the question, even during the short time before the next General Election, and that some practical result which we have been long waiting for will be produced.
§ Sir A. WILLIAMSON
This is one of the days when one is filled with admiration for the President of the Board of Trade, who, it seems to me, must be an encyclopædia in order to be able to answer the questions put to him by the last speaker. I wish to ask information as to what he has done, or if he has done anything at all, with respect to the representations made to the Board of Trade on behalf of the fisher girls, many of whom dwell in my Constituency, and from whom complaints 1300 have been received as to the accommodation provided on the steamers conveying them to their work from their homes. Those representations seem to suggest that the conditions on board the steamers, especially en those going to Orkney and Shetland, are almost inhuman. The girls are alleged to have had no accommodation in the shape of beds, and that they had to lie on the hard boards of the deck, subject in bad weather to the spray driving over them. The conditions are altogether uncomfortable and unsatisfactory. Representations on the subject were made to the Board of Trade, and I hope the Department has since looked into the matter and ascertained whether there is good ground for the allegations which have been made. I wish to know whether the Board can do anything to alleviate the conditions of which the girls complain. After all, they are a respectable, reputable, and well-behaved class of the community, and they do deserve our consideration, because they have practically no means of making their grievance known, except by the exceptional measures they took this year when some of them came to London and interviewed Members of this House. It is not often that representations are put forward in this reasonable way, and I do hope that the President of the Board of Trade has done what is possible in the circumstances. This is not a question between employers and employed. I believe I am correct in saying that the sympathy of the employers will be with these girls if the conditions are such as are alleged. The employers would gladly see the conditions improved. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to assure us that the conditions, if they were as alleged, will not occur again.
§ Mr. BURNS
It is a great tribute to the general character of the work of the Board of Trade that the administration has been subjected to the little amount of criticism which has come from all quarters of the House. I am sorry indeed that there is only a small number of Members in the House at present. I am grateful to those who have spoken for the kindly spirit they have shown, and I am not at all surprised that the speakers have dealt with practically the same subjects during the three hours the discussion has been going on. I rise to reply to the various points which have been submitted. The first I will deal with is that mentioned by the last speaker. My hon. Friend very properly directed the attention of the 1301 House to the conditions of the fisher girls and fisher women—a very fine body of our fellow countrywomen, who carry on their very hard and labourious occupations under very severe conditions. They deserve the thanks of the community, and I think that if there are any industrial conditions from which they suffer, and which can be improved, or if we can do anything which will tend to the mitigation of their hardships, it is the duty of the House of Commons, and of every Minister, to do what they can to ameliorate their lot. I have had brought before me by the hon. Member who represents one of the Divisions of Edinburgh, and by my hon. Friend (Sir A. Williamson) not only on this occasion, but on other occasions, the conditions in relation to these girls, and the way which they are treated on the steamers which ply from the islands to the mainland, and also on the railways and in the waiting-rooms. I have received deputations on the subject, and it is sufficient for me to say that I have made representations to those responsible for the treatment which these girls receive while being conveyed both by sea and land. I sincerely trust that the result will be to remove some of the hardships and to mitigate the lot of this worthy class of people.
The next point I have to deal with is that raised by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Peto). If he will allow me to say so, two-thirds of his request on the matter of wages has been disposed of by the fact that only a day or two ago I promised to bring the 1907 returns up to date. In October next we are issuing forms of inquiry and schedules to the responsible people who can give us information in the agricultural districts. The hon. Member's complaint was that October will be too late, because of the next General Election being so near.
§ Mr. BURNS
The hon. Member says, "Hear, hear," but I would point out that there has hardly been a year since I have been in office when there have not been similar predictions. The election is not coming in October. It will be sufficiently late for use to be made of the real facts and figures in regard to the rural controversy which too often is dealt with by persons of great imagination who only use the figures as illustrations, and who avoid understanding the real facts which mere figures do not always disclose
§ Mr. BURNS
Not very long. We have some experience of this, and we intend to accelerate the inquiry and we trust to have it ready not later than January. The reason for delay is this: The farmers very sensibly state to the Board of Trade, through the usual channels, that they do not want to be worried with either forms of inquiry or schedules, or other demands for information, either during the hay, fruit, or the wheat harvest, and they ask specifically that the inquiry should not be begun before October. If the hon. Member will allow me, I prefer the solid, practical suggestion of a British farmer to the suggestions of politicians who are under the impression that they know more about farming than farmers themselves.
§ The CHAIRMAN
When I rise the hon. Member must sit down. The hon. Member has occupied forty-seven minutes, and must now allow the right hon. Gentleman to proceed with his reply.
§ Mr. BURNS
I have a right to speak, as I intend to speak, on this subject. The hon. Member, representing a number of views from outside, took up precisely the same attitude as to the sight tests imposed on officers of ships by the Board of Trade, and he now admits that the test is correct. The facts are roughly these: We cannot talk about providing for safety at sea, for the lives of passengers and crews, and be at the same time indifferent to the vision test that should be applied to the captains and officers in charge of vessels. The hon. Member and a few others were under the impression that the sight test adopted by the Board of Trade was unfair to the officers and needlessly stringent. I did what I hope Ministers will do increasingly—that is, when confronted with a practical difficulty and there is a doubt about it in the minds of practical men, subject the question at issue between the two sections to a practical test. I am grateful to the hon. Member for admitting so frankly as he 1303 did to-day, and as it has been admitted by outside critics, that the Board of Trade sight test under the material conditions came out of the demonstration with flying colours. The Board of Trade were justified in the present form of test, and to that test we intend to adhere. It is not that we want to be severe on the seaman. On the contrary, the seaman properly evokes the human sympathy of everybody by virtue of the peculiar nature of his calling. We do not want to be unjust to the officers, because it is not the business of any Department to have such an absurdly high standard of examination for anything as to prevent men coming into a particular service such as the mercantile marine. But we have a duty towards the public, and towards the officers and men themselves, and we have a right to say that where a man cannot comply with a reasonable, fair and just sight test such as now operates, his place is not on the deck of the sailing or steam vessel. His place is in an occupation where his defective vision, if put to the test, would not be the danger to the general communities and himself which it would be upon the bridge or upon the deck of either a sailing or a steam vessel. I am satisfied after a practical demonstration, at which our critics had the opportunity of seeing how the Board of Trade test was conducted, that we have done the right thing, not only in the interests of the community, but in the interests of the officers, the owners, and the men themselves. It is very satisfactory to know that that view is endorsed now by men who were critics and opponents of the Board of Trade test.
The hon. Member also said that the Board ought to be more generous in their lodging allowance to officers and men who are called in for inquiry. The short answer to that is that we are looking into this with a view to making some improvement in that direction. The hon. Member did not suggest in so many words, but he implied, that the Board of Trade should, irrespective of particular cases, grant a general allowance of costs to all the people to whom they make no allowance at present. My answer to that is that someone must protect the taxpayer, and we have no right to create any temptation to have needless costs mounting up, which would happen if we were to withdraw the discretion that the Board of Trade now very properly exercise through their solicitors of 1304 saying where costs shall be and where they shall not be allowed. And to that system we must adhere. Other questions have been raised which I will deal with, not as raised by individual Members, but in reference to the subjects themselves. The first was as to the sanitary condition of ship accommodation, hospitals on ships, crew space, and similar things. I have had the advantage, thanks to the House of Commons, of being for eight years Minister of Health at the Local Government Board, and by virtue of that experience I was able to take a general view of the conditions of health, not only of the communities in the municipalities, but also in relation to the various aspects of industrial life, and on going to the Board of Trade I was struck by one very remarkable fact. On looking at the figures of our industrial population I found that from 1891 to 1911 the death-rate, from disease, of men in the Royal Navy between certain ages had diminished from 4.7 per thousand to 2.2 per thousand, which is a very considerable and creditable decline. The total death-rate in the Army had diminished in a more remarkable way. It had gone down from 8.9 per thousand to 3.4 per thousand in the same period. Among the civil population of similar ages there had been a decline in the rate for all causes from 7.9 per thousand to 4.7 per thousand. So, speaking generally, the death-rate for the men and boys in the Royal Navy, the Army, and the male civil population, of similar ages, had shown a tremendous and gratifying decline. Then it struck me that we ought to see how poor "Jack" fared in the same period, and I found, to my disagreeable surprise, that the death-rate from disease in the mercantile marine during the same period was practically stationary, and that there had been a decline only of from 4.9 to 4.7 per thousand. Knowing the circumstances, for I have been to sea and I know a great deal of the seaport population, the question arises: Are we drawing from a poorer class of population for the mercantile marine as compared to that from which we were drawing many years ago, or are we drawing from classes inferior to those from which we are drawing for the Army, the Royal Navy, and the industrial civil population of the same ages?
§ Mr. BURNS
I can get the hon. Member the ages. But I thought if that be so, then 1305 there is something about the mercantile marine that prevents men of similar ages, of a certain class and type of physique, going into it, as compared with the Army, the Royal Navy, and civil life. If that be so, then short of legislation and pending legislation, it is really up to shipowners and those responsible for conducting the mercantile marine to see that, by every means within their power, it shall be possible no longer to say that the mortality from disease in the mercantile marine does not show the same decline as is shown in the other three grades of the population. I ventured to direct the attention of a great meeting of shipowners in the Hotel Metropole to this point two years ago and a year ago, and here from my place in the House as President of the Board of Trade I appeal to both owners of ships and holders of shares in ships, and the leaders of all the sections, to do everything in their power, by voluntary, or personal, or business action, to bring the health and the hygienic and sanitary conditions of our sailors on board ship, so far as their accommodation, their food and their treatment are concerned, abreast of all other sections of the population, so that, speaking generally, we should rather have the mercantile marine conditions superior to those of the other three grades, because it is on the sea that Britain has its supremacy; it is on the sea that we depend, and if there is one branch of our social, industrial, and commercial life in which wages ought to be good, food excellent, and sanitary conditions of the highest possible standard, it is for and among those men who go down to the sea in ships. Hon. Members may say, "That is very good so far as sentiment is concerned, but what did you do?" I appointed at once a Committee, not of the House of Lords or of the House of Commons, but a small Committee of specialists with medical officers, statistical experts, and others, to find out why it is that during the period which I have mentioned, in three classes of the population the death-rate from disease has declined remarkably, while it has been practically stationary in the mercantile marine. That Committee has been instructed to get to work to examine the whole subject, and I hope soon to have from them a practical and suggestive Report. But in the meantime we have no right to wait for that Committee's Report, if in the interval we can find out anything which can be done.
I am glad to say that on the subject of hospital accommodation for the crews much 1306 has been done, and more than the hon. Member for a division of Wiltshire has suggested. For instance, in regard to crew hospital accommodation on cargo steamers, in January, 1912, the Board of Trade issued a notice to shipowners that in cargo vessels suitable hospital accommodation should be provided for sick and disabled seamen. What has been done? Of 150 large vessels built in 1902, there were only ten with crew hospitals, or 7 per cent.; of 160 built in 1912, twenty-eight, or 17 per cent., had crew hospitals provided; of 213 built in 1913, sixty-eight, or 32 per cent., were provided with crew hospitals. We intend by every means within our power to accelerate the provision of hospitals, not only on emigrant ships and large steamers, but on a large number of tramp steamers, where the men, perhaps, require hospital accommodation even more than on the great liners. That is only one of many things that is being done. With regard to crew space, the Merchant Shipping Acts laid down certain conditions, and I do not agree with the hon. Member who said that practically nothing has been done in this matter. I have only to state the facts to disprove that suggestion. In 1906, 120 cubic feet were substituted for 72 cubic feet, which was prevailing the year before. This increase from 72 cubic feet and 12 square feet to 120 cubic feet and 15 square feet per man we consider was a considerable advance. But, if I may be allowed to say so, the stereotyping of certain provisions in Acts of Parliament do not make for comfort or decency in any way. My own view, and I have always held it and I still adhere to it, is that good administration is much better than bad legislation, and so far as administration is concerned we intend to use administration up to the topmost limit, and if that should fail to bring about the requisite standard of sanitation, comfort and decency, then we will apply for new legislation, but we will not do that until the existing Acts are proved to be defective.
May I say a word or two—and I think I have a right to say them—on this point: Some owners of ships have told me that they have provided good cabins, bathrooms, good mess-rooms, and good accommodation in the forecastle, and good rooms near the stokehold, but that they have not been so well appreciated as they ought to be. But that is no reason for not continuing these improvements. On the contrary, in my judgment it is a reason 1307 for accelerating the provision of all these comforts, because in the past many of the men have been so badly treated, have been subjected to such a low standard of comfort and decency, and have become so inured to hard and brutal conditions of life, that it has induced loss of self-respect, owing to the low conditions in which they have been compelled to live, work, and have their being. Before you can make men self-respecting you must find them decent environment and good physical surroudings; and my suggestion to the shipowners who are making this experiment, and who are rather disappointed in a few instances because they have not been reciprocated by the men, is to press on with their good work. My advice to the men and to their leaders is that they might do a great deal of good if they co-operated with the shipowners who have made this provision on board their vessels, and by means of lectures and meetings held at a number of the ports the leaders might bring home to the sailors the advisability of living up to a good standard and to get the old standard away from them as quickly as they can. If there were large meetings held with this object, say, in London, Cardiff, Glasgow, or Liverpool during my holidays, I would not be indisposed to take the chair, as I did when I was President of the Local Government Board in regard to tuberculosis and infant mortality. That is a suggestion or hint I make to shipowners and sailors, and I should be ready to take the chair at any of those meetings, having one of each body on either hand, and I hope I should be able to keep them both in order.
§ Mr. BARNES
On the question of the increase of space for sailors, I should like to know if you have power to revise the air space on old ships previous to 1906, and, if so, whether you have used that power?
§ Mr. BURNS
Unfortunately, it is impossible, in the case of old ships, to have this rule enforced. Everybody knows, and my hon. Friend knows, that the wastage of mercantile ships is so rapid that, if you decide upon a reform in connection with the mercatile marine, within some ten years your reform is able to be carried out by reason of vessels being off the register, transferred, or destroyed, or broken up, or substituted by newer ships, in which later and better conditions can be instituted. It is impossible for us to make Regulations retrospectively applicable to 1308 old vessels. But where it can be done it is being done. I think myself that the House has a right to know, in connection with the inspectors and ship surveyors—I am not complaining of it—that, in my judgment, the inspection of saloons is not really necessary to the extent that some people think. The mere fact that people are able to pay extravagant prices—say anything from £10 up to £800—for quarters on board a liner, implies and presupposes that the best possible accommodation that. can be procured will be provided for that price. It seems to me that we ought to give, and increasingly give, closer and more continuous inspection of the stokehold, the forecastle, the mess room, the stewards' quarters, and the emigrants' accommodation, and I am glad to say that there has been over the last few years a considerable improvement in that direction.
The other point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackfriars had reference to the question of the War Office and the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade very properly supplies other Departments with statistical information; it is their duty, and it is their function; but I must not allow my hon. Friend to put upon the Board of Trade responsibility if the information is not used. The hon. Member knows very well that Blue Books and statistics of the Board of Trade are models and exemplars for every country in the world in regard to the reliability of the information which they accumulate as quickly as possible, and, if there was delay I do not want to shirk my responsibility; but it is our business to provide the facts and information, and it is for the other Departments to use them when we have provided them at their resquest. Another point which has been raised is in reference to the survey staff. The hon. Member for one of the Finsbury Divisions said what was needed was a large increase in the survey staff. I am not so sure that a mere increase of officials and functionaries is the best or most efficient means of getting economic information. It sometimes happens that the more you multiply your officials the more wasteful and more inefficient is the service obtained. I believe in treating and paying men well and sufficiently, and if they do not do their work we ought to get rid of them.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Will the right hon. Gentleman draw the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to what he has said.
§ Mr. BURNS
I draw the attention of every Member of the House of Commons, including the hon. Baronet, to it. The great difficulty that confronts every Minister, however much he may desire to be economical in any branch of his Department is that when any Member gets up to speak in the House to do his duty—and I think he sometimes panders to this unnecessarily, especially in the matter of offices—the suggestion made to every Minister is to keep multiplying the number of officials. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] That is so. After all the reduction of my salary by £100 has been moved on purpose to add, say, £15,000 to £20,000 in respect of additional officials and surveyors. I am going to do my best to earn my salary by preventing if possible £15,000 or £20,000 from being spent on this work. What is the fact as to numbers? The total survey staff has been increased from about 144 in 1912 to 198 in 1914, or an increase of about 25 per cent.
§ Mr. BURNS
After all, the Minister should be responsible for selecting where the increases shall take place, and the twenty this year are fairly divided between the three grades—six, seven, and seven. We thought that was the best way and we so decided, and however anxious some people may be to provide officials, still I cannot satisfy all the applicants, and, what is more, I do not intend to try. The other point raised was in reference to deck-loads, and the hon. Member for Finsbury said it was regrettable that there was no inspection of deck-loads, quoting me as a partial authority for that statement. My answer to that is that he is wrong. On the contrary, a special look-out has been kept, and is being kept, by the Board of Trade officers and Customs officers on deck-loads, and it is within the power both of the Board of Trade surveyors and the Customs men to take the necessary steps to prevent those bad cases of overloading which sometimes occur, and which, when they are known, the Board of Trade does everything in its power to prevent.
He also raised another point, namely, as to the "County of Devon." He will pardon me if I do not give him a lengthy reply to his remarks on that question. He knows it is a very difficult case. I have sent the papers to counsel for guidance as to whether a prosecution can be instituted, 1310 and it seems to me it would be unfair toad the parties affected if I were to deal with the "County of Devon" at greater length than to mention that fact. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. J. Hogge) raised the question of the lighthouse-keepers.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is going to deal with the question of deck-loads?
§ Mr. BURNS
Yes, I am going to deal with that a little later. As to the question of lighthouse-keepers, I can only answer him that in the last few weeks Trinity House, which is mainly responsible for the administration and payment of lighthouse-keepers, has given a rise of wages amounting to £3,340. My hon. Friend says that that is unfair in its distribution, because the men with fifteen years' service get the bulk of it. My answer to that is that it is a regular job, and every one of the men who has less than fifteen years' service will come to that rise in proper order. But, if my hon. Friend thinks that the allocation of the wages was disproportionately unfair on the men with lower wages, I am quite prepared to make some representations to the right quarter so that, in the event of any further rise of wages being considered, the men who have come worst off in the distribution of the increase that has been given shall get some benefit from any future rise that may occur. My hon. Friend then raised the question of the charwomen at the Board of Trade. I think of all people in the world who ought to be properly treated it is that decent body of struggling women who clean out and tidy up the Government and private offices in this great City of ours. In fact, I know no body of people who evoke my sympathy more than those women, because anybody who knows them, especially in Government offices, knows that almost invariably they are. widows, sometimes with large families, and where they are not widows they are wives who are struggling bravely to help to maintain a family under very difficult conditions, with possibly the husband sick or often out of work. I will communicate to the Treasury the short and simple annals of the poor charwomen as put by my hon. Friend, and so far as I am concerned, if the Treasury will give them a considerable rise, no one will be happier than myself.
The other point that was raised was as to the question of deck-loads. The hon. Member for Finsbury (Major Archer-Shee) 1311 and two or three others are angry with the Board of Trade, for reasons I cannot altogether appreciate, because the Board of Trade is calling an International Conference which will deal with timber deck-loads. The convening of that Conference was started some months ago. The preparation of the agenda has been a matter of laborious application. The Conference, we trust, may be held soon, and I hope that all the maritime nations that attended the Conference on the safety of life at sea will see their way to attend this International Conference at which timber deck-loads will be considered. All the hon. Members who have spoken know very well that of all deck-loads the most dangerous and that which most urgently calls for attention is the question of timber deck-loads. The hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Hamilton Benn), who has a technical and continuous knowledge of this subject, pointed out that deck-loads are not inherently bad in themselves, which will be of interest to those hon. Members who do not know quite as well the question of timber deck-loads. We are hopeful that we will be able to secure an international agreement pretty soon for a uniform maximum standard for timber deck-loads which will induce safety under all conditions of weather. But I am certain of this, if we mix up with that Conference any other question of which the Continental countries have not received previous notice, and as to which they would say they had not been sufficiently warned, and therefore were not prepared to discuss such a question, then I am sure that instead of securing the object which we have in view, namely, a short Conference and the international acceptance of a uniform standard of safety for timber deck-loads, if we overload the agenda by extraneous subjects such as those which have been suggested, the object of providing against excessive deck-loads, which ought to be desired by all of us, will be defeated, and probably delayed for years. I said the other day in answer to a question that one at a time was very good fishing in this matter. And it is very good indeed that the Board of Trade should have been able to assemble a successful International Conference on safety of life at sea, and before the end of the year have a Bill before Parliament to carry out the decisions of that Conference.
We trust before long to call together a Conference which will deal with 1312 timber deck-loads. If it is within the power of the Conference to suggest another conference later on to deal with some of the other subjects suggested by hon. Members and others; I am not indisposed to consider the summoning of another conference. But this Conference has been organised and prepared and warned of what subjects will be for discussion, and therefore it seems to me I should not be keeping faith with the other countries if I were to accept the suggestion of hon. Members. The last point was that mentioned by the hon. Baronet. If he will allow me to say so, he was on the verge of being out of order during the whole of the time he was making his speech, but being a charitable man I did not direct the attention of the Chairman to it, and he was, under the circumstances I thought, indulgently lenient to the hon. Baronet, who thought that I was responsible for the regulation and control of London traffic. At the Board of Trade my only connection with London traffic is to be responsible for what is known as the Traffic Branch of the Board of Trade. The object of that traffic branch is purely statistical and historical. It simply collects the facts for hon. Members to read with regard to London traffic. It has not any ministerial responsibility or executive or adminitrative control over London traffic, which the hon. Baronet probably thought it had. The control of London traffic from the police point of view rests entirely with the Home Office. Speed limits rest with the county councils, supervised by the Local Government Board. The question of refuges is divided between the county councils and the borough councils and the police, while the Traffic Branch of the Board of Trade has comparatively little to do with the traffic as suggested by the hon. Baronet. The Board of Trade has no control over speed limits. The only thing that the Board of Trade has to do other than statistical is the passing of the safety or otherwise of tramway lines for tramways. But my own view is that the condition of London traffic cannot remain in its present condition much longer. A regiment of 600 people are killed every year in the streets of London, and 20,000 people are injured every year, more or less.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Gentleman has just informed us that this does not come within his Department.
§ Mr. BURNS
The points raised, even including the Traffic Branch of the Board of Trade, came before a Special Committee of the House of Commons, which considered this subject in all its aspects. They made, in my judgment, some very sensible recommendations, which they urged that the Government should adopt. I will convey to the Prime Minister and to the various Departments to whom the Committee's Report has been remitted the suggestion of the hon. Baronet, and I couple with his suggestions the general view of the House of Commons, which is that whether the Board of Trade is responsible, partly or otherwise, the condition of London traffic ought to be improved and ought to be better controlled, and people ought not to be killed and injured as they now are. I will convey those representations to the Prime Minister, so that he can ask my own Department where it is affected, and the other Departments to bring their minds to bear on the subject.
§ Major DALRYMPLE WHITE
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman how far the Board of Trade can enforce orders upon firemen who refuse to do boat drill?
§ Mr. STEWART
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can give any reason for the increase of 4,000 Chinese seamen, and if it is the fact that alien masters are increasing in numbers?
Mr. WILLIAM REDMOND
I desire to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it will be possible in the new International Conference, which he says is about to take place, to have brought before it the question of amending the agreement with regard to having wireless apparatus only on ships carrying fifty people or more, because there is a strong feeling that in the interests of everybody at sea there is no reason in fixing the figure of fifty persons, because a wireless signal might be the means of saving life if a ship had only quarter or half that number of persons on board.
§ Mr. ASTOR
I am sure we have all listened with great interest to the right hon. Gentleman's survey of his new Department, and particularly as to what he had to say about sanitation on ships. I agree with the line he took about legislation and good and efficient ad- 1314 ministration. Legislation, of course, is necessary, but you also want good administration, and in that good and efficient administration I was pleased to hear him include what I may call health lectures. As we are now learning to make children healthy by teaching them the elementary principles of hygiene, so it is necessary also to teach adults whether on ships or on land. But the point I wish to raise is as to the payment of light dues. They are collected to find funds for lighthouses and lightships. They are collected now by tonnage and not by the amount of business done. It brings about a real hardship that light dues should be collected from shipowners on this basis. The same light dues are charged whether the ship comes and unloads the whole cargo or whether it unloads only a few passengers, or whether it discharges passengers, cargo, and specie, or whether it calls at a particular port, discharges passengers, and goes away to another country to discharge its cargo there. I wish to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to this circumstance, and to ask if he can see his way to remedy the grievance, as it is in his power to do, so as to make the dues payable in accordance with the amount of business done. The hardship arises especially in connection with big ocean liners and passenger ships. Owing to their size they have to pay very heavy light dues, while in some cases the amount of business done is infinitesimal. You may have a liner coming to a port, perhaps not even coming into the harbour but discharging a few passengers by means of a tender, and yet paying as much as any other ship which discharges the whole of its cargo. Some of these liners call at English ports and discharge passengers, and then go to Cherbourg or Germany and there discharge the rest of their passengers or cargo. These liners call merely to oblige the passengers—to make it easier for them to come here, instead of having to travel back from Boulogne or Calais by a small ship.
There was a case brought to my notice recently of a ship which had to pay light dues at the rate of £13 per head of the passengers landed. That is probably more than the passengers had to pay for their accommodation crossing the Atlantic. It seems to me unfair on shipowners and all concerned that they should have to make this heavy payment in such circumstances. I have in my mind the case of another ship 1315 which had to pay £120 in light dues merely for calling for a few hours at a port and then going on to Germany to discharge the rest of the cargo. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will remedy this grievance, because it certainly discourages trade. He knows as well as I do that a large number of countries do not make any charge whatever upon owners of ships using their harbours and ports for the maintenance of lighthouses and lightships. Germany, France, Denmark, and other countries themselves pay all the expenses connected with their lighthouses and lightships, while this country makes ships using our harbours and ports pay these light dues.
§ Mr. ASTOR
That may be, but there is no reason why they should not be charged according to the business done. There is a precedent for making this alteration. Formerly ships which called at ports like Plymouth, Falmouth, or Queenstown for orders—for instance, ships which put in to find out where the cargo should be discharged—used to have to pay full light dues. Very often the cargo had been disposed of while the ship was crossing the Atlantic, and was not even discharged in this country. The authorities realised that that was unfair, and they remitted the light dues in such cases. The right hon. Gentleman has, by Act of Parliament, the right, either generally or in respect of particular classes of cases, to alter the scale or the rules and exemptions there from. I suggest that he should make a considerable reduction in light dues where only passengers are landed, a smaller reduction where passengers and mails are landed, and perhaps not quite such a large reduction where passengers, mails, and specie are landed; and that he should bear in mind the fact that these ships require special consideration when they do not discharge the whole of their cargo either at one port or even in England. By so doing he will remedy a real injustice, and will not seriously deplete the fund necessary to maintain the lighthouses and lightships.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I propose to refer to one or two points which have been somewhat lightly touched on by the President of the Board of Trade. The first is the question of costs of captains and other officers at Board of Trade inquiries. I 1316 admit that the practice has somewhat improved in the last two years. Formerly you might have had this great hardship upon an officer of the mercantile marine; he might have been summoned to appear at a Board of Trade inquiry into a shipping casualty, and, although entirely exonerated from all blame of any sort or kind, put to serious expense in clearing himself, and he would have had to bear the whole of his costs. I understand that the Board of Trade have recently accepted the principle that in such cases the officers, who have been exonerated from all blame should be reimbursed the whole or some part of their costs. That has been done in one case, I know, and I think it would be a reasonable rule, which I would press the Board of Trade to adopt, that when a man has been brought before such an inquiry and entirely exonerated the Board of Trade should pay a reasonable sum towards the costs which he has had necessarily to incur. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to go a little further than he has done, and not leave the matter in the vague region of discretion as he seems inclined to do.
There is also the question of officers' costs in successful appeals to this country from Colonial Courts. The practice is that if an officer in the mercantile marine, who has had his certificate cancelled or suspended by a Colonial Court, appeals to this country and is successful, no part of his costs is repaid him. That is a great hardship. I will give a concrete instance* There were two cases occurred only last year. Two steamships stranded in the St. Lawrence River. Inquiries were held in the Canadian Courts pursuant to the powers given by the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894. In both cases the certificates of the masters—which, mark you, were Board of Trade certificates, granted in this country—were suspended. In the usual course reports of the cases and prints of the evidence were sent over to the Board of Trade in this country. It was a very serious matter for these captains, as regards both their present and their future employment, and it was absolutely incumbent upon them, conceiving as they did that their certificates had been wrongfully suspended, to appeal to this country. The appeals were presented, and they were entirely successful. Counsel representing the Board of Trade did not even attempt to justify the action of the Canadian Courts, and these men had their certificates restored. But when they asked for 1317 the repayment of some of their costs their application was opposed by the Board of Trade counsel, and when they subsequently applied ex gratia to the Board of Trade first, and afterwards to the Canadian Minister of Marine, they were told that they could not get any part of their costs. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that that is very hard. These men had their certificates wrongfully suspended; they lost their employment for some time; they were put to heavy costs in getting that wrongful dismissal put right.
It may be said that the Government in this country are not responsible. This case could never have occurred but for the legislation of this House. It was under Section 478 of the Merchant Shipuing Act that the hearing of the Canadian Courts was possible. That Section provides that in certain circumstances, where an accident occurs in Colonial waters, the Canadian legislature are authorised to instruct their own Courts to hold an inquiry of this sort. By the same Section, the Colonial Courts in such a case are empowered to cancel or to suspend a British Board of Trade certificate. Therefore the power of the Colonial Court to suspend the certificates was entirely derived from British legislation. What happened? Owing to that power given by the British legislature the Colonial Courts wrongfully suspended these certificates, and the captains had to bring their appeals here to get their certificates restored. I submit that in such a case it is only reasonable that the British Government should reimburse the costs, to which these men ought never to have been put. It must be remembered that mercantile marine officers are not rich men; they cannot afford to pay heavy costs. It is a very heavy penalty upon them when they have been wrongfully deprived of their certificates that they should have to bring appeals in this country to get matters put right. The Board of Trade might, at any rate, exercise a discretion in the repayment of such costs. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider the two cases to which I have referred. Why could not a similar practice be established in these appeals from Colonial Courts, to that which the right hon. Gentleman has introduced partially, in the case of Board of Trade inquiries? At present, I understand, in successful appeals these men are never given their costs. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot lay down a universal rule 1318 that successful appellants shall get their costs, will he give favourable consideration to such cases as those to which I have referred, so that, as far as the Board of Trade can, they will relieve the hardship under which these men labour? It may be said that these cases are not of frequent occurrence. I grant that. I believe that is so. But is that not all the more reason why such cases as do occur should be favourably considered, and the sufferers relieved? Even though it be that they are infrequent, the hardship still falls upon those concerned.
There is only one other point to which I should like to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, and that is the question of deck-loads other than timber. We understand that the question of timber deck-loads is to be submitted to the Imperial Maritime Conference that is to sit shortly. That, of course, is not the only question to be submitted, but as regards deck-loads I understand that the question is to be confined to timber deck-loads. I think the right hon. Gentleman said that it would not be fair now to foreign countries to ask them to consider deck-loads of other kinds. Surely, no foreign country that sends its experts to the Imperial Maritime Conference to consider the question of safety at sea can object to the whole question of deck-loads being raised! Is there really such an essential difference between timber deck-loads and all other deck-loads? If these experts come prepared to deal with deck-loads of timber, will they not be quite prepared to consider as well deck-loads of other articles. I do not, I need hardly say, speak on this matter as an expert, but I do know something about mechanics, machinery, and the laws of hydrostatics, and it is perfectly obvious, that deck-loads consisting of heavy articles such as machinery, locomotives, and so on, which cannot be secured as well as timber in the first place, and which, in the second place, are far heavier as a top load than of timber, ought to be considered if timber is considered. Surely there must at least be a great danger to-life at sea in these loads as in timber deck-loads? Might I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman to intimate to the foreign countries that the question will be raised by our experts, and to suggest that the foreign experts should consider this urgent matter? He cannot go further than that, but I think he can go that far.
§ Mr. ROWNTREE
There is one question which I wish to bring before my right 1319 hon. Friend to which I would ask him to give his most careful consideration. It is well known that the railway servants of this country have taken action which may mean a serious conflict in the autumn of this year. That action refers to the question of their wages and their hours of labour. It is of the utmost importance in the interests of the public of this country that they should have the facts before them upon which to form a proper judgment. The other day I asked the right hon. Gentleman a question as to the latest Returns in regard to the wages of railway-men. He told me that the latest detailed Return was for 1907. I am sure it is of the utmost importance that the Board of Trade should secure the figures with regard to this matter, so that we in this House and the public outside can form a proper judgment on it. I appeal to my right hon. Friend to take action in this matter. He referred me to the Report of last year of the Changes in Rates of Wages. That Report just tells us the number of railway employés and the average wage. It is practically useless in helping us to form a judgment on the question which is before the country. We want to know the number of men on our railways who are receiving, let us say, a wage below that which Members of this House would consider a reasonable living wage. The House has not that information. It is a question which needs the careful consideration of my right hon. Friend. No one is more insistent than he that on questions like this we should not be swayed by sentiment, but should be guided by reason and by an appeal to facts. I submit that neither the House nor the country have the facts. The railway companies must have them. If they have not got them, they ought to have them, because without them they themselves cannot give a proper decision in regard to this matter. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to see that at an early date the House and the country is put in possession of facts which, I submit, are absolutely necessary for the House and the country to give a right decision upon in regard to questions which are to come before them.
Mr. MONTAGUE BARLOW
There are one or two points which I should like to lay before the Committee. Some topics, I must honestly say, have already been dealt with by the President in his speech, which we listened to, if he will allow me to say so, with 1320 pleasure. I hope he will not think I am putting flattery too high when I say that to many of us it seemed to be an excellent Tory speech, especially when the right hon. Gentleman enunciated the principle that good administration was to be preferred to bad legislation. To that, I am sure, there was a ready echo in all our hearts on this side. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that the hygienic conditions of ships was a matter which lay very near his heart, and that he was willing to take the chair at lectures which might be given at one or two of the leading ports in the country, which he named. He did not name one leading port, which I happen to be connected with—that is Manchester and Salford. I trust he will be good enough to extend his offer to that distinguished port—because it is a port, though an inland port—and I believe that something might be done in the matter of making adequate arrangements.
I want to raise two points. One has been touched upon in the course of this discussion; the other has not. The one is in connection with the railway men, their rates of pay and accidents, and in particular their hours of labour. I want also to say only one or two words—because the matter has been dealt with at some considerable length—with regard to merchant seamen and their interests and conditions generally. With regard to the question of the railway men, who come under the jurisdiction of the Board of Trade, there is no doubt that the safety conditions is a matter about which the House, generally speaking, is convinced is not satisfactory. We all remember the Amendment to the Address. While that Amendment was under full discussion there was a sudden and mysterious adjustment arrived at, the Amendment was withdrawn, and a Departmental Committee appointed. That Committee is sitting. It did not sit with very great promptness. The Amendment to the Address was on February 14th. Two days' evidence of the Committee has now been published. The first day's evidence was on 6th June, so that there does not seem to have been any unnecessary hurry in the matter. Still they are sitting, and I hope will in due course report. Some of us know the definition of Convocation as a noun of multitude which signifies "many," but does not signify "much"; and a Departmental Committee seems to be rather of the same character—that is to say, it stands for a 1321 good deal of evidence, but it is a different question as to whether or not that evidence will ever be translated into fact, I hope that in any case the proceedings of that Committee will be pressed on because the matter is urgent.
The question of the safety of railway servants is often treated as if it were only a matter affecting them and their daily lives. What many forget is that the safety of the railway servants is only one side of the question of the safety of the public, and that if the conditions of railway servants are from the point of view of accidents and injury improved you are improving the security of the travelling public. Another thing we are apt to forget is that the amount of work done by the railway is very rapidly and very largely increasing. I do not want to weary the House with statistics. It is common ground that within the last twelve or thirteen years the number of passengers carried by the railway has enormously increased—by something like 3,000,000. The amount of tonnage carried, minerals, etc., has increased by 130,000,000, whilst the amount of ordinary merchandise has increased by 20,000,000. There has been a very rapid increase in the amount of work to be done. We all know the tendency of modern conditions of "speeding up," and the general increase in the pace with which everything is done. It is a perfectly right and a perfectly proper tendency, provided always that it is not done at the cost or the sacrifice of individuals. It is unfortunately clear that this increase of work, and increased speed of working, has coincided with a decrease of the number of men employed on the railway. We have often heard this stated in the House of Commons, but it was not until I came to look at the figures, that I realised how large that decrease had been.
Between 1907 and 1910—the only years for which figures are available—and here I would like to join in the appeal made by the last speaker to the Board of Trade to give us fuller, more complete, and more up-to-date figures—there was an actual decrease of employés on the railway of 22,000 persons, out of 600,000. Take the signalmen and the shunters branches on which falls a large portion of the burdens of the question of safe travelling for the public. Although it is true that the members of these two branches have not decreased, still it is true that they have not increased in spite of the general increases in traffic, and the amount 1322 of goods carried by the railway. Taking the standard of railway men's pay and hours as compared with similar conditions in other industries, drawing on the same classes of the community, railwaymen's conditions as to hours and pay are low. I do not think there can be any question about that. In the engineering, the printing, or the boot and shoe trade, the average wage runs from about 30s. to 46s. and their hours are about 48 to 52, whereas in the case of railway servants the average wage in 1907 was 25s. 9d. It is true that in 1912 it had risen to 27s. 4d., but still it is below the average in the trades I have mentioned, and the average hours are very much longer, being 59 or 60. We have had mentioned in the course of the Debate on the Address what the figures were with regard to fatal and non-fatal accidents. It is true that the figures with regard to fatal accidents have shown satisfactory diminution. In 1900 there were 631 killed, in 1909, 372, and in 1912 403 were killed, but with regard to nonfatal accidents the figures have risen to a most alarming extent. In 1900 these were 15,698, in 1907, 21,514, in 1908, 24,181, in 1910, 25,137, in 1911, 27,848, and in 1912, 28,200. That is a very alarming increase, and it is a persistent increase. You do not find the figures varying as you do in the case of the killed, but you find a steady increase year by year. I turn with great interest to the evidence given by the expert, Lieutenant-Colonel von Donop, to see what is the explanation. He said the increase was partly due to greater accuracy of detail as the result of the new Board of Trade form, and was partly due to the increase f tonnage, and the increase of passengers carried by the railways already mentioned. But he had to admit that that did not account for all the increase, and he had no explanation to offer apart from those two with regard to the matter. When one examines this question of wages and of hours with regard to the railways, what one finds is this. That the accident rate is high where the wages and the hours are long. For instance, take the carmen. They have not got a particularly risky occupation.
§ The CHAIRMAN
How can the hon. Member make this relevant to the Board of Trade. I do not think they control this matter. At any rate there is no existing power that I am aware of.
Mr. M. BARLOW
What I am endeavouring to do is this. I want to make out 1323 a case for urgency, a case for pressing this Report as rapidly as possible. I am using figures already given in evidence before the Committee, and I am asking the right hon. Gentleman to press the matter on so as to get a speedy report. I will cut the matter as short as I possibly can, but I am entitled to make out a case for extreme urgency. I do not want to labour the point unnecessarily, but I may be allowed just to say in conclusion, that the accident rate is extremely high, even amongst the carmen, where it is one in twenty-five. Amongst the shunters it is one in ten, and amongst the porters it is one in eight, and in both these cases, the shunters and the porters, the hours are long and the wages are low.
There are two other matters that seem to me to call for very urgent attention relating to this question of safety for railway servants, namely, the use of better mechanical appliances to prevent accidents, and the first of these is the question of automatic couplings. I know the question of automatic couplings is a thorny one. One of the first things I looked for in Colonel von Donop's evidence is to see whether he could give any information to show what the Board of Trade Appliances Committee was doing with regard to automatic couplings. There was, I am quite aware, a Report by this Committee in 1907, showing that a universal form of automatic coupling was impracticable, and Colonel von Donop, when asked if he had been able to make any progress since then, said that no progress had been made. The suggestion I would venture to make to the President of the Board of Trade is this: Whether the time has not now come to take the matter up again, or whether definite progress could not be made by offering a sum, and I do not hesitate to say a large sum, by way of premium or reward, to an inventor who could present to the Government an invention which would be of a satisfactory character for an automatic coupling. After all, large sums are offered by the Government for premiums to inventors of engines of destruction, and I do not consider it unreasonable that a considerable sum should be offered as premiums to inventors for engines of safety. The other matter I wish to touch on is the question of handbrakes on both sides. I understood from the evidence of Colonel von Donop and Mr. Main that a letter was issued to the railway companies in 1911 1324 requiring the use not of separate brakes on both sides, but of levers on both sides, and I should like to know what progress that movement has made. All experts dealing with accidents on railways have said for some time that if you can have brakes available on both sides, it would materially diminish the risks of accidents to shunters.
We all know shunting is a very dangerous occupation, and Colonel von Donop prepared a special table showing how high the percentage of these accidents were. If these brakes were on both sides, then by being able to apply the brake on either side the present dangerous practice of going under the waggon to apply the brake would disappear. It is quite clear that the Board of Trade ought to have machinery at their command to secure that such brakes are universally adopted by railways. So much for the question of railways. Now as to the seamen. I was going to say a word or two about the question of space for crews and safety of ships, but after what the President of the Board of Trade has said, some of the remarks I was going to address to him have become unnecessary. He has made out a not unfair case for the Board of Trade that they have been using their power, and have pressed upon the owners the necessity of increasing both the cubic space and the floor area for crews on board their vessels. It was very much smaller some years ago than it is now under the Merchant Shipping Act—120 cubic feet air space, and 15 square feet floor area. But there has recently been published a report of the sanitary authority and it is very significant. The point brought out very clearly in that report is that while we, the mistress of the seas, the greatest maritime country in the world are content with 120 cubic feet and 15 square feet of floor area, the Commonwealth of Australia require 140 cubic feet space, and 18 feet floor space, and Norway requires the same.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must remind the hon. Member this was all given to the Committee earlier in the Debate. I think he was not present at the time.
Mr. M. BARLOW
I must apologise, I did not know the figures were given, because the President of the Board of Trade did not refer to them in his reply. The other question I wanted to deal with is that of hospital ships, but it has probably been fully dealt with, and I do not want to 1325 say anything more in regard to it, except that here again we find a nation which is considered to be rather enterprising in the interest of navigation lagging behind Norway and the Commonwealth of Australia. I join in urging on the Board of Trade that the restriction with regard to fifty should, at any rate for British ships, be removed when it is a question of requiring Marconi apparatus. I remember some years ago coming back from the Cape in a sailing vessel. There was nothing like fifty on board, but had an accident of any serious kind happened we who valued our lives rather highly, should have valued the presence of a Marconi apparatus every greatly. I should have thought that in a country like ours, and a rich mercantile marine like ours, we should be able to arrange for a Marconi apparatus not necessarily of the highest power, but of good power to be installed on all ships—other than those engaged in the coasting trade.
While on this question of safety, may I make a suggestion with regard not only to the safety of the crews, but also of the passengers? The right hon. Gentleman referred to those who go down to the sea in ships. It is almost impossible for many of us to avoid that perilous undertaking. Most of us have travelled in the small, cribbed, cabined and confined spaces allotted to us by the steamship companies even if we cannot have the magnificent state-rooms of the millionaires. One sees about one's head the machinery provided for saving life if a dire accident arises. Crossing recently from America, I had the curiosity to try and fit on the life-saving appliances in my cabin. It took me the "best part of half an hour to adjust it properly. It seemed to me that if the necessity should arise many lives would be lost which might otherwise be saved through the passengers being unaccustomed to fit on lifebelts and life-saving apparatus. I ask the President of the Board of Trade if it would not be possible to require on the first day when out on sea going vessels that passengers as well as crew should have a boat and belt drill?
Mr. M. BARLOW
I ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he has not now the power to make such Regulations 1326 for steamers leaving our shores? I believe such Regulations would carry a great sense of security to passengers on board ship, if, as a matter of course, on the first day out they were all required to put on life-saving appliances and allotted to various boats, so as to realise what should be done if an accident occurred. With these few words I commend the points which I have suggested to the President of the Board of Trade for his friendly consideration, and I am encouraged to do so all the more by the courteous and kindly way in which he has dealt with the speeches made by other hon. Members on similar points.
§ 8.0 P.M.
Mr. WILLIAM REDMOND
I should like once again to ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider a point which I have raised before. There is no doubt that among seafaring people, as well as passengers, there is a good deal of unrest in regard to fixing the figure of fifty as being necessary to ensure that a ship shall be fitted with wireless apparatus. It is not so much a question of the safety of the people on the ship, but it is a question of the safety of the people within the radius that may be covered by wireless telegraphy. I think it is absurd to say that because there are forty-nine, forty-eight, thirty, or twenty-five people on a ship that therefore there should be no wireless arrangements. A great disaster may happen which might be avoided if ships with a small number of people on board were fitted with wireless apparatus. The right hon. Gentleman will probably tell me that the number was fixed by international agreement. That is so, and therefore for the time being that number must stand. I understand there is to be another International Conference shortly to deal with some other subjects, and I submit with great respect to the right hon. Gentleman that it might be possible, as far as other nations are concerned, to come to some agreement on this subject.
Already this Session I have asked a question about this matter. I have become very much interested in the subject, and on every possible occasion I shall raise it until this absurd rule, fixing fifty on board ship as a condition, is done away with, and at least until wireless apparatus is fixed to every ship that goes in the track of great liners. There is nothing that has done more to save life at sea and give security to ocean-going people than wireless telegraphy. It is the first means we have of securing safety at 1327 sea. I only repeat this point because I feel very strongly upon it, and I know that I am voicing the feelings of quite a large number of people who will be heard on this subject in the immediate future. With reference to the speech made by the hon. Member for South Salford, I am afraid he was straying slightly out of order. I consider that it is a pity, not only on the point he raised, but on everything connected with merchant shipping, that the crews, the officers, the men, their conditions, and everything else connected with them, we cannot follow the example which has been set us by the Continent of Australia. It is entirely a different thing to be a sailor on a British ship and an Australian ship. In the case of Australian ships the Government see that the men who form the crew are properly treated, and the result is greater efficiency and content. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, before he introduces the legislation which is necessary, to look up what is done in these matters in Australia, and I am sure it will interest him very much.
§ Mr. MORTON
I desire to draw attention to the Return for which I have been asking with regard to railway sleeping carriages. I understand that the Board of Trade are interested in this matter, but, as far as I am informed, they object to my Return. The Return asked for is as follows:—Return showing the practice as to the provision of sleeping carriages on railways in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, Italy, Belgium, the United States of America, India, Canada, and Australasia, and whether sleeping carriages are provided for all classes, and on what conditions and at what rates.I have been told that the Board of Trade consider that it would be some trouble to get this information. Even if it were, I think it worth getting. I do not think it would be much trouble, because our British Consuls would be able to give the information required at once. Railway companies, in answer to speeches which I have made in connection with this matter, say that my suggestion cannot be carried out, and I want to show them by this Return that other countries are carrying it out. I want this information officially, so that some attention may be given to the matter. I think if we had information of that sort it would be very useful. I am sorry that apparently the Board of Trade is against it. The President of the Board of Trade promised me that he would look into the matter, and his way of doing this is apparently to 1328 prevent me getting the Return I want. I am sorry the Board of Trade do not take more interest in this matter. I am told that even if the Board of Trade got this information they could not act upon it in the same way. My opinion is that if the Board of Trade like to do it they have plenty of power to get third-class sleeping carriages.
It is the law of this country that railway companies must not show a preference when supplying sleeping carriages. If that is a correct view of the law, then they ought to supply sleeping carriages to all classes in the same way as they supply them to first-class passengers. I am certain that if the Board of Trade took an interest in this matter, and insisted upon all classes being treated alike with regard to railway accommodation, we should soon get the matter settled. I do not want to worry the right hon. Gentleman unnecessarily, but this is a matter of very great interest to the people in the North, more especially in Scotland, where they are very anxious that something should be done to provide that accommodation. I shall put down again the Motion for my Return next week, so as to give the right hon. Gentleman another opportunity, and I hope he will allow me to get officially the information I am asking for. I am very pleased to inform the right hon. Gentleman that the statistical part of the traffic branch in connection with the new regulations made in the City of London, show that both in regard to non-fatal and fatal accidents there has been a great reduction in the number. I took care to see that the Corporation of the City sent those returns to the Home Office, and I hope some use will be made of them.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
The President of the Board of Trade, in one of those flashes of epigrammatical wisdom with which the right hon. Gentleman occasionally illumines the gloom of our Debates, said that he came into the world with a struggle, that he was struggling now, and saw every prospect of continuing to struggle. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman has struggled very cleverly indeed against the criticisms which have been directed to his Department, but I do not think his answers have been very satisfactory. As regards the nautical surveyors, the right hon. Gentleman made great play of the fact that I suggested that he should largely increase the staff of officials. I pointed out that there were only thirty nautical surveyors 1329 to deal with the inspection of the whole of the merchant shipping of the United Kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman did not allude in his reply to the fact to which I drew attention, namely, that at a time when there was over 7,000,000 tons of shipping annually, in three important ports, namely, Newcastle, and North and South Shields, only one inspector is allotted to them to look after not only life saving and navigation, but immigration as well. As regards the question of deck-loads the right hon. Gentleman apparently ignored the fact that his successor said that the Board of Trade was considering the question of other than timber deck-loads. I should like to say once more that I cannot see that he has given any reason why the question of heavy deck-loads, other than timber, should not be considered by the International Conference. I believe that question is being considered by the United States. I understand from the Merchant Service Guild that this matter may very possibly be brought forward by the United States, if it is not brought forward by us. With reference to the inspection of deck-loads, the right hon. Gentleman said that the Customs officers may inspect them as they leave the harbours of the United Kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman might just as well say that the policemen also saw the ships as they left the harbour, for they are just as well qualified to inspect deck-loads as Customs officers. There is no practical inspection of deck-loads, and I hope this subject will receive more attention from the right hon. Gentleman.
With reference to the question of mortality amongst merchant seamen, the Navy, Army and the Civil Service were compared, I should like to know what ages the right hon. Gentleman took and between what ages the statistics were derived from, because it is obvious that the Army cannot be compared with these other services. The men of the Army are very young men between eighteen and twenty-five years of age, and they cannot be compared with merchant seamen who serve up to the age of sixty years. The Navy has a long service as compared with the Army, which has a short service. And therefore I do not think the statistics which have been furnished us are very pertinent. As regards the question of sanitation the right hon. Gentleman said that the Committee had been appointed by him to look into the matter. As far as six out of the eight 1330 members of that Committee are concerned they are officials of the Board of Trade, one of them is an official of the Local Government Board, and the other is from the-General Registry Office. Amongst those officials from the Board of Trade there is only one who is a nautical advisor to the Board, and they do not comprise ins their number any ex-ship doctors or ex-masters of merchant ships, and therefore I would suggest that the opinion of these people is not of much value in coming to a decision on an important matter like this.
It being a Quarter-past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.