British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 26

Testimony of Sir Norman Hill, cont.

Mr. Edwards:
"He also tells me" - that is our secretary - "that there is no ship that has yet succeeded in satisfying the board that it comes under that Rule." Then it goes on: "Mr. Havelock Wilson: I think I will give one to the Board of Trade there. The Chairman: We cannot suggest a stronger rule than that, can we?" That presumably is Rule 12. "If the Board of Trade's requirements are unreasonable, then it is our builder friends who will have to satisfy the board that they ought to amend their requirements, and not this Committee. Mr. Spencer: No; I think that is very definite. Mr. Royden: I do not know if anybody has tried to convince the Board of Trade. The Chairman: I am told the 'Mauretania' did approach the board with a view of satisfying it, but for some reason even she failed."

The Commissioner:
What happened apparently was, according to the Attorney-General, that the Board of Trade made some suggestions when the plans of the "Mauretania" were put before it, and the result of those suggestions was that the application was not persevered with.

The Attorney-General:
They asked for certain calculations.

24811. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) If you turn to the next page you will see that Mr. Matthews, the secretary, refers you to a letter on the subject.
- I had forgotten that. It is just the last three lines of that page. "A copy of the Committee's Report is enclosed, and the recommendations which it contained were adopted at once by the Board of Trade as their requirements for the exemptions under Rule 12. These recommendations are still insisted on, but I may mention that during the past five years only one application (s.s. 'Mauretania'.) has been made in the case of a foreign-going steamer for the reduction of life-saving appliances allowed by the Rule, and as the recommendations of the Committee were not fully complied with in that case the application was subsequently abandoned."

The Commissioner:
That seems to me to agree with what the Attorney-General has said. That is accurate.

24812. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) I notice that you, Sir Norman, in your remarks there, speak of these Board of Trade requirements, Rule 12, as being unreasonable?
- No, I do not say that - I say "if it is unreasonable." We were told by the builders; we were told by Mr. Carlisle; we were told by Mr. Royden, whose ship, the "Mauretania," had not passed, that they did not think the particular requirements, the particular contrivances to attain the end, were the best possible, and that they were not reasonable.

24813. Then you yourself, your Committee as I understand it, have not been required to advise the Marine Department of the Board of Trade as to the reasonableness of those requirements in regard to efficient watertight compartments?
- No, we suggested that they should appoint a Committee of equal standing to Sir Edward Harland's Committee. We are not capable of dealing with that question.

24814. There is just one point, in fairness to Mr. Carlisle, that I want to call your attention to, and that is this: Is it not a fact that you opposed his recommendations as to an increase in the number of boats, on the ground that it involved the employment of a larger number of crew?
- That I did?

24815. Yes, that you did?
- I, personally?

24816. Yes, you personally?
- It is incorrect.

Mr. Edwards:
I will refer you to the minute in a moment.

The Commissioner:
There must be a great many of them.

Mr. Edwards:
This, My Lord, is the shorthand Note, and I have only had an opportunity of glancing at it since the witness went into the box.

24817. (The Commissioner.) But somebody at the side of you had apparently found the passage. Is there a difficulty in finding it again? Do you know it, Sir Norman?
- I have no recollection of it, My Lord.

24818. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) Will you turn to page 21?
- Yes.

24819. You will find it at the top of the page. "Mr. Carlisle: Yes, I think if you look at the model you will see there would be room in the 'Olympic' and the 'Britannic' for three or four more sets of davits on each side? Mr. Ogilvie: And it must be remembered that we are talking of boats to be constructed with these Regulations in view. Mr. Rowe: I should like to see that measured on the plan. The well openings and the hatchway openings in the ship would be increased in length, and that would take off some of the space, and I have great doubts unless you go for a very small boat whether you would get the davits in. The Chairman: Then, again, we should be up against the crew question, and whether you want the bigger boats or more of the smaller boats. We are satisfied that it is not reasonably practicable - we will not say possible - to increase the number of davits, and then with regard to increasing facilities for additional boats to be launched from the same davits we should be up against the point, how do we think the number of boats should be increased in the case of ships not specially subdivided." In that question has the crew question any other meaning, in relation to these boats, except an increase in the number of the crew?
- My remark refers to a question that you are always having in these manning discussions in regard to the boats - the size of the boat. If you have a big boat then you want fewer men to manage it as a Rule - I mean the number of hands does not increase in proportion to the increase in the boat, and my remark was only in relation to that. It has nothing to do with the point you are putting.

The Commissioner:
It does not seem in the least to bear out your suggestion, Mr. Edwards, that he objected to Mr. Carlisle's suggestion on the ground that it would involve the employment of a larger number of men.

24820. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) With respect, My Lord, I was going to ask him what other point it referred to. I have just asked him what other meaning the crew question had. (To the witness.) If Mr. Carlisle's suggestion had been carried out, would it not in fact have involved the employment of a larger number of deckhands?
- Which of Mr. Carlisle's suggestions?

24821. That particular proposal of putting on three or four more sets of davits on the "Titanic"?
- I have not the number of the crew that the "Titanic" carried, but certainly I should say it would increase it.

The Commissioner:
If you have more boats of the same size it involves the employment of more men to manage them, that is obvious, but I do not think that is what Sir Norman Hill means.

24822. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) That is what I want to get from this Witness?
- May I go further and deal with what my Lord has said?

24823. Certainly, if you will come back and answer my questions afterwards?
- And if you have still more boats, but of a smaller size, you will still further increase the crew. That is what my remark goes to. It is the comparison between the small boat and the big boat.

24824. Have you any views, having sat on this Committee as Chairman, as to the number of crew that lifeboats of a 65 capacity should carry?
- That we are debating now.

24825. You have no views?
- I have views, but I would sooner not express them.

24826. Had you any views when that report was drawn up?
- Yes, and I have got them still.

24827. They are the same views, are they?
- They are the same views.

Mr. Edwards:
Have you any views - perhaps that is also in the future - as to motor-boats?

24828. (The Commissioner.) What do you say about motor-boats? Are you going to excuse yourself from saying anything by telling me that it is a matter of consideration for the Committee?
- Well, My Lord, we recommended and the board have adopted, a Rule which makes the carrying of a motor-boat optional, showing what our mind was.

24829. Do not you think it would be much better that it should be compulsory?
- There is a very great division of opinion as to the use of the boats - as to the difficulty of launching the boats and such things, but the Committee as a whole are in favour of the motor-boat, and have recommended that it might be carried. We wanted to get a little more experience before we said it must be carried.

Examined by Mr. HARBINSON.

24830. I heard you refer, Sir Norman, to Mr. Lloyd George's address. That was delivered when your Committee was formed in 1907?
- When we were first appointed.

24831. Did I gather accurately from you that at that time he indicated generally the scope of your functions?
- That is so.

24832. Did he in his address to you raise any question on that occasion of the consideration of life-saving appliances?
- I have got a copy of his speech. I have not it in my recollection.

The Commissioner:
Oh, please, do not read it! We must, you know, keep this Enquiry within some sort of limits. Is Mr. Lloyd George an expert on these matters?

24833. (Mr. Harbinson.) No. I only wanted to find out why it was, if the question was raised in 1907, it was not until 1911 that a Report was presented?
- This question about the 10,000 ton boats was referred to us at the end of May, 1911.

Mr. Harbinson:
But nothing was done from the information of that Committee in 1907.

24834. (The Attorney-General.) April, 1911.

The Witness:
With regard to the 10,000 ton boats, nothing. It was not referred to us until 1911.

24835. (Mr. Harbinson.) I thought the whole question of merchant shipping was dealt with in 1906?
- Not the whole question.

Mr. Harbinson:
An Act was passed which pretty well covered the ground. You have told us the names of the sub-committee. I do not want to go through the names again - and the names of the General Advisory Committee. My recollection is that all the members of the advisory committee are either shipowners, underwriters, shipbuilders, or members of trade unions represented by my friends.

The Commissioner:
What are you complaining of - that there was no representation of the Irish third class passengers?

Mr. Harbinson:
No, My Lord - that there is no independent representative outsider on the Committee.

The Commissioner:
What do you mean by an "outsider"?

Mr. Harbinson:
I mean people, to put it briefly, representative of the general public - who are not connected either with the trade unions or the shipowners.

The Commissioner:
Is the suggestion that the "man in the street" should be called in? Is that it?

Mr. Harbinson:
I do not go so far as to suggest that the man in the street should be called in, but I do, My Lord, go so far as to suggest this, that the shipping companies live by carrying the general public, and it would strengthen the Committee and make it more representative if some outsiders of prominence were included on the advisory committee.

The Commissioner:
How are you to select them?

Mr. Harbinson:
That would be a matter, of course, for the Board of Trade, or for some other competent body.

The Commissioner:
Oh, Mr. Harbinson, do not take up our time with such suggestions.

24836. (Mr. Harbinson.) What I am suggesting, My Lord, is that it would strengthen the Committee and increase public confidence. (To the witness.) Is that your view?
- No.

24837. (The Commissioner.) Would you like to get a man in the street from Water Street, Liverpool?

The Witness:
No. The advantages of our Committee, if it has any advantages, are that we are all - speaking with submission with regard to myself - experts. We come there with our expert knowledge. It is not a Committee to sit and examine -

The Commissioner:
That is enough. Do not let me hear any more of that. Is there anyone else?

Mr. Harbinson:
I have not finished yet, My Lord, with great respect. I think, My Lord, I have been very frugal in the matter of asking questions.

The Commissioner:
I tell you that I do not think this is a matter upon which you can usefully ask any questions at all. It has been entirely exhausted and very well dealt with by Mr. Scanlan and Mr. Edwards, and I think you can very well leave it alone.

Mr. Harbinson:
There is one question they have not asked, My Lord, and that is as regards the placing or the location of boats on the various decks. I respectfully submit that that is a matter of some importance.

The Commissioner:
Very well.

24838. (Mr. Harbinson - To the witness.) Have you or your Committee considered that question?
- We are considering it now.

24839. You do consider that is a matter worthy of consideration?
- Certainly.

24840. And also the question of access, especially for third class passengers, to the deck, on whatever deck you decide the boats should be?
- All classes.

24841. Your Committee is also considering that?
- Yes, for all classes - the crew and everybody.

Examined by Mr. COTTER.

24842. Are you making any recommendations in regard to the class of lifebuoys to be carried in the future?
- We are inquiring into that also.

24843. And also into the means of launching the boats?
- Yes.

24844. Whether you will have electric winches or cranes or the old blocks?
- We are going into that carefully. We have already got it under consideration and have discussed it in great detail.

24845. You do not care to pass an opinion on it now?
- I would sooner not, if you do not mind.

The Attorney-General:
There is one question you asked, My Lord, that I should like to deal with as far as I can, and that is as to the applications that have been made under Rule 12. Your Lordship will remember it has been dealt with in evidence. It comes to this that 103 applications have been made since 1890, and 69 have been granted - roughly speaking, the applications have been five a year, and three to four a year have been granted. That is the position. I have got here the applications and the grounds, but it is rather difficult to classify them. They are down in four grades.

The Commissioner:
Will you tell me the biggest ship that has applied?

24846. (The Attorney-General.) I see the "Campania."

The Witness:
That is the one that I wanted to recall.

24847. (The Commissioner.) That is one of the smaller Cunarders?
- That is one of the older Cunard boats.

24848. (The Attorney-General.) She is not so very small?
- She is a fine big boat, but she is not one of the biggest now.

24849. (The Attorney-General.) 20,000 odd, I think she is?
- 12,000, I think.

The Commissioner:
Somebody said about 17,000. I do not know which is right. Which is the smallest?

The Attorney-General:
I do not think I can tell you from this.

The Commissioner:
The tonnage is not given?

The Attorney-General:
No, the tonnage is not there, but the length is.

The Commissioner:
That will do, if you can tell me the longest and the shortest.

The Attorney-General:
There are a number that come under the longest grade, which is not less than 425 feet in length, or cross-Channel steamers irrespective of their length. That is why it is so difficult to find out without analysing it. They both come in the same grade.

The Commissioner:
Do you mean to tell me that the cross-Channel steamers comply with this Rule?

The Attorney-General:
Some do, apparently. The "Brighton Queen" is an excursion steamer. Evidently there are some excursion steamers - quite a number. If your Lordship would like it can be classified by those who can turn up the particulars of each ship, but it is obvious that a number of them are cross-Channel steamers, and therefore do not really come within the class of ship we are dealing with as passenger or emigrant ships. How many there are I cannot say.

The Commissioner:
Perhaps you can supplement that list which you have with some particulars of the boats and vessels in it so that we may see what the character of the vessel is?

The Attorney-General:
That is what I am proposing to do.

(The witness withdrew.)