HL Deb 27 July 1866 vol 184 cc1600-2

said, he desired some Returns to be laid before Parliament to show what expense was incurred by the Board of Trade in connection with the official inquiry made into the causes of railway accidents. The officer despatched by the Board of Trade to the scene of the accident expended much time in making his inquiry; and although he reported what injury had been done to persons and property, the information he gave very often ended there, and, as far as the public was concerned, the cost of the inquiry was too often little else than money thrown away. The number of accidents which occurred upon the railways was very considerable. In 1859 the number of persons killed was 245, the injured 464; making together 709 persons. In 1860 the number of killed was 255, and of injured 580; together 835. In 1861 there were 284 killed, and 883 injured; together 1,167. In 1862 there were 216 killed, and 600 injured; making 816. In 1863, which was the lightest year, there were 184 killed, and 470 injured; together 654. In 1864 there were 222 killed, and 793 injured; together 1,015. The Return for 1865 was not yet published. At the battle of the Nile 218 men were killed and 677 wounded; together 895; so that our railway companies killed and wounded in 1864 more persons than fell in that great fight. Moreover, the official documents stated that the returns of accidents to "servants of the companies or contractors " were not complete, as many of the railway companies, not being required by law to do so, did not report to the Board of Trade every accident that might have occurred to this class of persons. He hoped the new Government would turn their attention to the subject, and, if necessary, introduce an Act of Parliament next Session in order to enforce such regulations upon the railway companies as would guard against accidents. Colonel Yolland's Report showed that accidents often resulted from causes that might be easily removed. Still, however, they were not removed, and the Directors ought really in such cases to be indicted for manslaughter. Thus, Colonel Yolland reported in December, 1864, against the practice of running tank-engines tender foremost, because, he said, in cases of collision the lives of the engine-driver and stoker were much more endangered when so running than they would be if the engines were run with the chimney in front. However, in May, 1865, five months afterwards, Colonel Yolland had to notice the same thing in the West of England. "It is quite impossible," he said, "for men to keep a proper look-out in very bad weather, when travelling at high speed, unless shelter of some kind is provided for them." And in December, 1865, he had to notice the same practice again in the West of England. The prevention of accidents was not a matter to be decided wholly on those economical principles which kept the company from adopting, for instance, inventions for keeping a connection between the engine-driver and the guard. Year after year accidents occurred, and no steps were taken to prevent the recurrence of those which arose from preventible causes. As to the Report of the Railway Commissioners, there was no occasion to wait for that, unless the Commissioners were prepared to point out a remedy. The noble Marquess concluded by moving—

That there be laid before this House, Return of the Expenses incurred by the Board of Trade (exclusive of the Salaries of Officers of the Department) in investigating and reporting upon Railway Accidents during the Five years ending 1st July 1866: Also,

Return of any Regulations, Rules, or Byelaws which may have been enforced by the Board of Trade upon any Railway Companies in consequence of such Investigations and Reports.—(The Marquess of Clanricarde.)


said, he was instructed by the Board of Trade that it would be extremely difficult to give with any degree of accuracy the Returns asked for by the first part of his noble and learned Friend's Motion; and as to the second part, there were no rules or regulations such as those referred to. Even if such power as was implied by the Motion existed, it would, in his opinion, be unwise to remove the responsibility from the companies, and transfer it to the Government. Everybody knew that Government responsibility meant very little responsibility at all; and if there was a divided responsibility, the railway company, when an accident occurred, would be sure to say that if they had been allowed to take their own course the accident would never have happened. As to the Report of the Railway Commission, the evidence and returns collected by the Commission were very voluminous, and to present it in a perfect form would require very great care and deliberation in its preparation; nevertheless, he hoped it would be in the hands of the public before next Session.

Motion (by Leave of the House) withdrawn.