British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry
Testimony of Sir Norman Hill
Examined by Mr. BUTLER ASPINALL.
24564. Are you the Chairman of the Merchant Shipping Advisory Committee?
24565. I think, since 1894, you have acted as secretary of the Liverpool Steamship Owners' Association?
- That is so.
24566. Since 1896 you have been a member of the Shipowners' Parliamentary Committee?
24567. I think the first Merchant Shipping Advisory Committee was appointed in 1907?
- That is so.
24568. It was appointed for a term of two years, and did it in 1908 expire and cease to be?
24569. Was it then reappointed in 1909?
24570. And again in 1911?
24571. I think all the members of the Committee are appointed by the President of the Board of Trade?
- That is so.
24572. But before each Committee is formed, does the Board of Trade invite the associations representing the shipping interests to submit names?
24573. And are any of the members selected and appointed by the Board of Trade?
- There are four members appointed by the Board of Trade without being nominated by any association.
24574. How many members are there in all?
- There are 20 now.
24575. And are they representative of the various shipping interests?
- Yes. Five of the names are submitted by the shipowners' Parliamentary committee, I am one of those. There is one name submitted by Lloyd's, one by the Liverpool Underwriters' Association, two by the Institute of Naval Architects, one by the mercantile marine service association and the British Shipmaster's Association (they are acting together and appoint one), one by the Imperial Merchant Service Guild, one by the Institute of Marine Engineers, one by the marine Engineer's Association, and three by the seamen's Union.
24576. Is it the fact that the President of the Board of Trade has always appointed the representatives of the various interests whose names have been submitted to him?
- Yes. If I may explain, the associations asked that the Committee should only be appointed for two years, so that at the expiration of two years the associations can re -select the names they submit, so that if the Committee does not represent the shipping interests as a whole, it is the fault of the shipping interests in the names they have submitted.
24577. We have had reference made to the advisory committee of 1911 already, but since 1906, which was the appointment of the first Committee -?
- 1907 it is.
24578. Yes, were you a member of that?
- Yes, of the first Committee.
24579. And the second?
24580. And the third?
24581. The Chairman of all?
- Yes, I have been Chairman of all.
24582. Has your Committee been amassing and collecting together information with regard to life-saving appliances and matters connected with making navigation safe at sea?
- Yes. The Committee only deals with the matters upon which the board asks for its opinion. It has since 1907, consulted us on a number of points. At the present moment it has asked us to advise generally upon the Life -Saving Rules and also generally as to whether we can make any suggestions to increase the precautions that are taken to protect life at sea. It has only asked us since the loss of the "Titanic" to advise generally.
24583. Before that had you collected a great deal of evidence and information?
- Oh yes, we have advised on many points connected with boats and manning, and such things.
24584. Reference has already been made to the Committee of 1911. I think you have got, as a matter of fact, a Shorthand Note of all that was said by the members of the Committee which met in 1911, at their various meetings?
- Yes, there are shorthand Notes taken of all meetings.
24585. Was Mr. Carlisle a member of that Committee?
- He was appointed a member of a Sub-Committee.
24586. Did the Committee appoint a Sub-Committee?
- It was on the 4th April, 1911, that the board asked the Committee to advise as to whether it was desirable to extend the existing boat scale so that it might deal with vessels of upwards of 10,000 tons, and, if we thought it advisable, as to the manner in which the scale should be extended. The Committee appointed a Sub-Committee to enquire and report upon that.
24587. (The Commissioner.) Was that a Sub-Committee consisting of members of the Committee itself?
- There were seven members of the Committee itself. A further explanation is necessary. When the merchant Shipping Advisory committee is asked to advise on a matter affecting the Life -Saving Rules, then the board adds to the Merchant Shipping Advisory Committee in order to comply with the 17th Section of the act, a second member of Lloyd's, and one member nominated by the Institute of London Underwriters. The Committee to advise on the Life -Saving Regulations, as you know, My Lord, is a Statutory committee, and on the advisory committee we have only one representative of Lloyd's, whilst on the Life -Saving Appliances Committee we are bound to have two. Also on the Life -Saving Appliances Committee the London Institute of Underwriters are entitled to be represented. We only have a Liverpool underwriter, so we have to have a second, London, underwriter. The sub-Committee that we appointed consisted of Mr. Cross, who is one of the representatives of the Liverpool Underwriters; Sir Theodore Doxford, one of the representatives of the Naval Architects; Mr. Rome, who was one of the representatives of Lloyd's; Mr. Spencer, one of the representatives of the marine Engineers; Mr. Havelock Wilson, one of the representatives of the seamen's Union; Captain Hampson, one of the representatives of the Imperial Merchant Service Guild; Mr. Ogilvie, one of the representatives of Lloyd's; and myself, one of the representatives of the shipowners. Then that Sub-Committee co-opted, as we had authority to do -
24588. Before you come to what it did I want to understand its constitution. What authority has the Committee to appoint this Sub-Committee?
- It is our common practice, My Lord, if we want further information - more detailed information.
24589. But what authority have you. It is a statutory committee?
- That is so, My Lord.
24590. Then where do you get your statutory authority to appoint it?
- My Lord, we appoint our sub-Committees to enquire and report. They can take no action themselves. The action is taken by the Committee as a whole.
24591. Is the Committee, as a whole, a statutory body?
- Yes. It is provided for in the act of 1906 in very general terms. It says that the Board of Trade may appoint an Advisory committee if it thinks fit. It is left absolutely to the board whom it appoints.
24592. What section do you say that is?
- I have not it in my mind, My Lord, at the minute; it is towards the end of the act.
Mr. Butler Aspinall:
It is section 79 of the act of 1906, My Lord, "The Board of Trade may, if they think fit, appoint committees for the purpose of advising them when considering the making or alteration of any Rules, regulations or scales for the purpose of the merchant Shipping Acts, consisting of such persons as they may appoint representing the interests principally affected, or having special knowledge of the subject matter.
That seems to contemplate a Committee appointed by the Board of Trade.
Mr. Butler Aspinall:
And this Sub-Committee was not appointed by the Board of Trade; it was appointed at their request, but not by them.
24593. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Yes. (To the witness.) The sub-Committee really sits for the purpose of acquiring information for you - evidence and information?
- That is so.
24594. They put it before the Committee, and then the Committee acts upon it?
- That is so.
24595. That is the machinery?
- Yes. Perhaps I put it a little too high in saying that the Life -Saving Appliances Committee is a Statutory committee. That, again, is merely an Advisory committee; it has absolutely no power to make Rules. The Board of Trade, before it makes Rules, has to consult with certain people.
24596. (The Commissioner.) I suppose the only body capable of making Rules is the Board of Trade itself?
- That is so, My Lord, and if I may make it quite clear, when the advisory committee was first appointed, Mr. Lloyd-George was then President, and he addressed us, and he made it perfectly clear that we were only there to advise the board on such questions as the board sought our advice upon; that we in no way relieved or could relieve the board from its responsibility; and he went further and made it perfectly clear that we had nothing whatever to do with administration. We are merely consultative, and we have never been anything else.
24597. I am afraid the suggestion will be that the Board of Trade is always getting advice and never doing anything?
- That is not the case with the advisory committee.
I do not say it would be a complaint well founded; I am far from saying that.
24598. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) One matter which was submitted to you was as to the manner in which the boat scale should be continued - whether it should or should not be continued upwards?
- That is so. I did not quite finish with reference to our sub-Committee. The sub-Committee, whose names I have given you, co-opted Mr. Carlisle and Mr. Thomas Royden. We asked them to come in and help.
24599. (The Commissioner.) First of all the board appoints the Committee?
- Yes, My Lord.
24600. The Committee then appoints a Sub-Committee?
- Yes, My Lord.
24601. Which includes people who are not members of the Committee?
- They have been added to the advisory committee by the Board of Trade so I suppose, My Lord, we must take it that they were members.
24602. And then that Sub-Committee co-opts?
- That is so.
24603. When does the series of operations stop? Does it stop at the co-option?
- Well, My Lord, that rests with us. We are there to advise the board to the best of our ability; and we find it is the most convenient way of getting all the skilled help we can get in giving that advice.
24604. I have no doubt you are right; at all events you co-opted Mr. Carlisle?
- Yes, and Mr. Thomas Royden.
Mr. Carlisle does not give himself a very good character, you know.
24605. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) To finish with the composition of the sub-Committee, were you appointed Chairman of the sub-Committee?
- I was.
24606. You have told us that one thing that had to be considered was as to whether or not the boat scale should be continued upwards. You also had, I think, specially to consider whether what we call Rule 12, that is, the additional boats, assuming the cubical contents required by the scale will not carry everybody on board - you had to consider whether rule 12 should or should not be revised so as to exempt altogether from the requirements of additional boats and/or rafts, those vessels which are divided into watertight compartments to the satisfaction of the board?
- That is so.
24607. Those were the two matters you applied your minds to?
- And there was one further matter, a question with regard to the particular construction of the best type of lifeboat.
24608. Very well. Now I think you held two meetings on the 19th and the 26th of May, 1911. Was Mr. Carlisle in attendance at both those meetings?
- At both.
24609. As you told us, you have a Shorthand Note of the Proceedings. I do not want to trouble my Lord with it, but you can verify these statements by reference to the shorthand Notes, and I have no doubt you have looked up the shorthand Notes to enable you to give this evidence?
- I have been carefully through them.
24610. Mr. Carlisle told us this, that your sub-Committee had arrived at certain conclusions with regard to boats before his appointment. Is that right or wrong?
- If Mr. Carlisle means that we had arrived at certain conclusions on the particular points we were then considering, he is absolutely wrong. We had previously had to advise the board with regard to types of decked lifeboats such as the Engelhardt boat. We there had had a Sub-Committee, and we had made tests of the boats at sea; on other occasions we had had to advise the board as to the stowage of boats, and there we had had a very careful Enquiry, and we had obtained a great deal of information. If Mr. Carlisle is referring to the fact that at this Sub-Committee we stated the conclusions we had arrived at on these other points, then he is right; but if he states that we had arrived at any conclusions in regard to the scale, he is absolutely wrong.
24611. Mr. Carlisle also told us that his view was that it would not be fair to force an extended scale on existing vessels?
- Mr. Carlisle has said what?
24612. That his view, as stated to the Committee, was that it would not be fair to force an extended scale on existing ships, but that you ought to legislate or make Rules for would be future large vessels?
- Mr. Carlisle made that statement during the discussion three or four times. It was raised first by another member of the Committee right at the beginning of our sittings, and I said that it appeared to me that whatever we thought was necessary for the safety of life would have to be enforced on all vessels, whether they were built then or whether they were going to be built. The Committee generally accepted that view, and I think the only member who raised the question again after my statement was Mr. Carlisle, and he, on two or three occasions, raised the point that it would be neither reasonable nor fair to extend any new Rule to existing vessels.
24613. I believe Mr. Carlisle submitted plans for a special davit to carry four boats, did he not?
- Yes, he put in two plans; I have them here.
24614. I think we have seen them; they have been before the Court?
- He explained those plans in detail to the Committee; we went over them - I am speaking now from the shorthand Note, because I could not pledge my own recollection. We went over the plans with Mr. Carlisle twice, and the Committee, as a whole, were not satisfied with them; in fact, they preferred the arrangement which they have embodied in their report, of stowing boats, such as decked lifeboats, under the ordinary type of open lifeboat. They thought that was infinitely preferable to Mr. Carlisle's plan of having nothing but open decked lifeboats to be launched by rotation from one set of davits. And I think, My Lord, I may add that at the end of the discussion, when we were getting to close quarters with our report, I asked Mr. Carlisle did he recommend his four-boat davit - did he press it; and his answer to me was, "No, I think you are right in sticking to the 16"; that means the eight a side which we embodied in our report.
24615. In the event, did your sub-Committee come to the view which is embodied in the report dated July, 1911?
- That is so. I would like to explain the basis on which we arrived at the scale we embodied.
24616. I was coming to that. I wanted to ask you that. You arrived at this conclusion, and we find the report presented to the Committee, and eventually reaching the Board of Trade?
24617. Was any pressure brought to bear on Mr. Carlisle with regard to that report?
- Absolutely no pressure. We showed the greatest deference to Mr. Carlisle throughout the whole of the discussion, having regard to the fact that he had had more experience than any man on the Committee with regard to building this big type of ship.
24618. Now to pass to another matter which I was coming to. You wish to put before my Lord your reasons which induced you to arrive at the table, the scale which is to be found in that report?
- Before I go to that, the scale we recommended in the Report was based on the written scale which Mr. Carlisle produced himself at the meeting. The written scale Mr. Carlisle produced showed that he recommended the carrying of 16 boats under davits, and no more. But on this large type of vessel he recommended carrying in addition boats readily available for launching. That is the scale which the Committee recommended. As to the difference, if you test it, in the case of the "Titanic," Mr. Carlisle's scale would have shown 16 boats under davits, eight boats readily available for launching; minimum cubic contents of the whole, 8,250 feet. The scale the Committee recommended was for 16 boats under davits, eight additional boats, cubic contents 8,300 feet. With regard to the "Titanic," the scale that the Committee recommended was practically identical with Mr. Carlisle's scale, the small difference in the cubic contents being a matter of arithmetic according to the size of the boat that we were adding.
What page is Mr. Carlisle's evidence on?
Sir Robert Finlay:
Page 557, My Lord, in the second column, on this point Questions 21489-90, by my friend, Mr. Laing.
24619. (The Commissioner.) I see he says: "I was asked to join that Committee two days before it finished." Is that accurate?
No, My Lord; he was only asked to join that Sub-Committee. He was there from the beginning of the first meeting, and he was there throughout the whole of the meetings held by that Sub-Committee. There were only two of them.
24620. How long did the sub-Committee sit?
- It sat on two days. I think we finished before luncheon on each day. We generally start at half-past ten, and we sit, if we can, to get our work finished, and between the two meetings I had drafted the rough heads showing the conclusions we had arrived at at the first, and this was the basis for further discussion at the second.
24621. Then when he says: "I was asked to join that Committee two days before it finished," he was accurate?
- Yes, My Lord, he was.
24622. It was not quite right for you to say he was not accurate; he was accurate, but he might have added "Two days was all the time that the Committee lasted"?
- With submission, I should have thought that made the difference between accuracy and inaccuracy.
24623. Possibly; I am not going to discuss that. "They had come to certain conclusions on certain points." Well, that is true?
- Not on the point submitted to us then.
24624. No, but on certain points?
- Yes, certainly.
24625. "They had come to certain conclusions on certain points, and the Chairman drew my attention to the fact that if I pushed my idea for all ships the bill would have to go back" - I do not know what Bill he is talking about - "any Bill connected with shipping would have to go back on all those ships, and it would not be fair"; and he put the contention that it would be unfair to make the Rule apply to old vessels upon you, whereas you say it was his contention and not yours?
- It was his contention, and I held exactly the opposite.
24626. Yes, so I understand you to say - "and they had no doubt that big ships would fit more boats than were required by the Board of Trade." And then Mr. Laing puts this question: "Do you mean you signed this document without agreeing with it?" and then apparently he hesitated, because I said to him: "Answer that question; it is very simple"; and then he said: "I did not consider it satisfactory and I told them so, but I signed it." Now, did he tell you that it was unsatisfactory?
- He did not, My Lord.
24627. You are sure of that?
- I am quite positive.
24628. You have looked at the Note?
- I have read the Note carefully through.
24629. Then I say to him:  "It is a very strange thing to do, to sign something you are not satisfied with pretending, by signing it, that you are satisfied with it?"; and he answers: "Well, I quite confess that it looks very extraordinary, but from what occurred at the meeting, if any of you had been present you would have seen the exact reasons for agreeing not to force it, and to bring the whole thing up again that had been worked at for I do not know how long - weeks or months. (Q.) Do you want to go back on what you signed?
- (A.) I certainly do not think it is enough, but I was not going to be a dog in the manger" - I do not know what that means, quite - "when a lot of gentlemen had come to the conclusion that this was satisfactory for the mercantile shipping." Now, I understand you to say, Sir Norman, that the scale adopted was suggested by Mr. Carlisle himself?
- Produced at the first meeting, My Lord, in writing by Mr. Carlisle himself. And, My Lord, May I say, for the honour of my committee, I believe we have done useful work. These kind of reflections are very difficult to sit down under. We have no opportunity of answering them; it is a condition of our service that our communications between the Committee and the board are confidential. Might I ask if you can spare the time to read through those shorthand Notes? Well, My Lord, May I ask some counsel who has read through them -
24630. (The Commissioner.) I am personally quite satisfied with your statement as to their effect?
- The account that Mr. Carlisle gave you of what happened on that Committee is pure invention. May I just refer you to one other question? You did not touch on it yourself. It is on the same page, 526. There is a question put to Mr. Carlisle: "21488. Are you aware that if the conditions required by the Board of Trade had been carried out your recommendations would involve the carrying of fewer boats than was in fact carried." Now, My Lord, at the Committee we intended and we did increase by 50 percent the boats that would have had to be carried on a vessel such as the "Titanic," and we increased their cubic capacity by almost 50 percent. And we all knew it, and we all intended to do it, Mr. Carlisle and all the rest of us.
24631. Then why did not you do it?
- My Lord, we recommended it, and our recommendation was sent to the Board of Trade on the 4th July, 1911.
24632. You say it is included in that recommendation?
24633. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Since the disaster to the "Titanic," have your Committee been further asked to advise the board generally upon the existing life-saving appliances?
- We have, and following our practice we have added other advisers who, we think, could help us.
24634. I think you have co-opted to assist you the following gentlemen, Dr. S. J. P. Theirle, of Lloyd's Register?
24635. Mr. J. Foster King, of the British Corporation?
What is the British Corporation?
24636. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) I do not know.
That is in Glasgow, it is similar to Lloyd's Register, in Glasgow.
24637. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Mr. W. J. Luke, of John Brown and Company, who are they?
- They are big shipbuilders, the builders of the "Lusitania."
24638. And Mr. Trevisa Clarke, of Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson?
- They are the builders of the "Mauritania"; John Brown and Company are the builders of the "Lusitania."
24639. Mr. Royden - is he the same?
- Yes. The Deputy chairman of the Cunard Company.
24640. And Captain J. B. Watt, the late Commodore of the Cunard Line?
24641. I think you have, since the "Titanic" disaster, given the boat scale very careful consideration, and have you, notwithstanding this disaster, resolved to adhere to the recommendations which are contained in the report of July 4th, 1911?
- We have. I want to make that perfectly clear.
- It is with regard to the boats to be carried under the davits. With regard to the additional boats to be carried, we have not yet made our report.
24643. You are still considering that?
- Yes, but with regard to the boats under the davits on the advice of these gentlemen we have asked to assist us, and it is a very representative Committee, we have adhered to the evidence we gave on the 4th July, 1911.
24644. Would there be any difficulty in your Committee working together with the bulkheads Committee?
- You had better leave the bulkheads Committee to itself.
24645. You think so?
- Oh, I am quite sure of that.
24646. (The Commissioner.) I think I understand why Mr. Aspinall asks that question. It has been thought that the two matters may be more or less closely connected, that is to say, the provision of lifeboats and the construction of bulkheads; and for this reason, as I understand: If you could only get bulkheads of such a character as to make the ship unsinkable you would not want lifeboats at all for the purpose of saving people on the ship, and the nearer you get to that state of things, it is thought the fewer lifeboats would be required; so that the two things go, so to speak, side by side. Now, do not you think it might be advisable that the two bodies should act together in some way, if not by sitting together, by communicating with each other?
- Well, My Lord, we are sure to come in contact with one another. May I remind your Lordship it was in our report of 4th July, 1911, that we asked the board to review the Regulations with regard to these so-called unsinkable ships? The view we took was that the Regulations had been in force for 20 years; that for some reason which we did not know, they could not be commercially applied, the boats could not be built commercially to comply with the Requirements. Now, we did not want the standard of buoyancy to be lowered, but we did think that the particular mechanical contrivances by which that buoyancy could be best maintained should be reviewed after the 20 years, and it was because of our recommendation in July that the board has appointed this Bulkheads Committee. Now, My Lord, we can advise with regard to boats, and we can say that certain modifications of the scale should be made when certain buoyancy has been maintained, but I do not think we are, and I do not think my committee would claim to be an authority to advise on that question of buoyancy.
24647. That I can quite understand.
- We would like the skilled assistance of the -