§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
, in rising to move the second reading of this Bill, said, that the question of railway brakes had been several times before the House, and the details were given in the Returns of the Board of Trade, which were in their Lordships' hands. He would, therefore, only give a brief summary of those Returns, and point out the chief provisions of the Bill. He wished, however, first to say that he would gladly leave the question to be dealt with by Her Majesty's Government, if any assurance could be given that it would receive the attention that it urgently required. It was now 25 years since the Board of Trade issued a Circular calling the attention of Railway Companies to the inadequate amount of brake power in use; and again in 1877 another Circular was issued, in which it was stated—That from a careful examination of the circumstances attending all the accidents which had been investigated by the officers of the Board of Trade for the last few years, the Board are led to conclude that three-fourths of the accidents might probably have been avoided, or their results materially mitigated if the passenger trains concerned had been provided with continuous brakes;and there was a statement to the same effect in the Report of Colonel Yolland 1346 upon the accident at Grimsby in May last. He said—In all probability the collision would not have occurred if the continuous brake on the Midland train had been available for arresting its progress.He did not believe there was anyone connected with, and understanding the working of, railways who would dispute these and other similar statements. But what did they find had been done in the 25 years during which the question had been under consideration? From the official Returns it appeared that out of the total stock of engines and carriages fitted at the present time with brakes about one-third only complied with the requirements of the Board of Trade, about another third complied only partially, and the remaining third ignored them altogether. From these facts he thought the conclusion might fairly be drawn, that much as it might be desired to avoid the interposition of Parliament, it could hardly be argued that it was better to leave the matter to the Railway Companies to deal with themselves. He thought it evident, from what had occurred in the past, that there was no prospect of their arriving at any satisfactory result. Uniformity of brakes was a most important and essential element when we considered the frequent instances of running powers which were given. Take, for example, the Midland, the Great Northern, and the North-Western, all fitted with different brakes, and at the same time running over the Caledonian, the North-Eastern, the North British, the Highland, and other lines—how was any brake at all to be worked? There were scarcely two railways which had brakes that would work together. This, then, as regarded uniformity, was the result of leaving it to Railway Companies themselves. It was to remedy these crying evils that he had ventured to submit the Bill. It did not propose to enforce the use of any one particular brake, but only that the brake should comply with certain conditions which, after careful consideration, the Board of Trade thought essential for safety. They were as follows:—It must be efficient in stopping the train, instantaneous in action, and capable of being applied without difficulty by engine-drivers and guards; in case of accident it must be instantaneously self-acting; it must be capable of being easily put on and taken off the engine and 1347 every vehicle of the train. Its materials must he of a durable character, so as to he easily maintained and kept in order.These were the provisions of the 1st clause of the Bill, and embodied the principle of it. The object of Clause 2 was to produce uniformity as far as possible. Clause 8 gave a power of exemption where it might be desirable. These were the principal clauses of the Bill. The object had been kept in view of leaving as much discretion as possible to Railway Companies; but when it was remembered that almost the whole traffic of the country had been placed by Parliament in the hands of Boards of Directors, who were responsible to shareholders, there did not seem to be any just cause of complaint if Parliament interposed when it was a question of the public safety. The noble Earl concluded by moving that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a"—(The Earl De La Warr.)
§ VISCOUNT BURY
said, that he had submitted the Bill to a practical and experienced railway man, who told him there was not a brake in existence which complied with the conditions laid down. Some complied with one or two, but not one complied with all. The Railway Companies were gradually improving brakes by the experience they acquired; they had made improvements during the last two or three years; but if the Bill were passed and enforced they would be prevented making further improvements; the Board of Trade would have to select one brake out of a considerable number, and for the future the liability would be taken off the shoulders of the Railway Companies and would be thrown upon a practically irresponsible body, who could not be omnipresent. The probability was that if the Government spent millions in supplying a brake they would have to retrace their steps next year. He hoped the Government would give no countenance to this Bill, which did not seem to be very well constructed.
§ LORD SUDELEY
said, that, as there was no prospect whatever at this period of the Session of passing the Bill through 1348 Parliament, he ventured to express a hope that the noble Lord would not proceed further with it this year. As he stated the other day, the Board of Trade undertook to introduce a measure dealing with this subject next year; and although they could not pledge themselves to the details of the present Bill, they endorsed its general principle so far as it carried out the views expressed in their Circular to the Railway Companies.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
said, that after the statement of the noble Lord, and on the understanding that the Government would introduce a measure on the same principle next year, he would ask leave to withdraw the Bill.
THE DUKE OF RICHMOND AND GORDON
said, he did not understand the answer of the noble Lord opposite at all in the same manner as his noble Friend behind him. What he understood was that the Board of Trade disapproved of many of the details in the measure, and undertook to consider the whole subject and see what could be done during another Session of Parliament. His noble Friend, however, seemed to think that the Government undertook to introduce another Bill on the same principle. He (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) thought that that principle was a very wrong one, and that the Board of Trade should not undertake a responsibility which properly rested with the Railway Companies. He could not understand his noble Friend's remarks as to uniformity of brakes, because, while his noble Friend said it was impossible for trains with certain brakes to run on the lines of Companies which did not use them, yet the plan had been practised for many years, and therefore could not be impossible.
§ LORD SUDELEY
said, the Board of Trade agreed with the principle of the Bill so far as it carried out the requirements of the Board; but, in the remarks he had made, he did not mean to imply that the Government Bill would be framed on the lines of the Bill of the noble Earl.
§ Motion and Bill (by leave of the House) withdrawn.