Page 189 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 32 - 36
P. 189
The Attorney-General: My Lord, when we adjourned on Monday I was dealing with the steps which have been taken by the Board of Trade, and more particularly with the question which your Lordship put to me about what had been done by the Board of Trade. In this Enquiry no evidence has been given, certainly not in detail, of what had happened since the 15th April, when the news came. I think I ought to tell your Lordship, particularly as we are very anxious that you should understand this, that the only reason why no Rules have been published, at least laid before the House of Commons, is that in consequence of the disaster and this Enquiry it was thought that this was a matter which they ought not to publish Rules upon until they had your Lordship’s report, not only out of respect to the Court but also in the desire that any Rules that they might make should embody any recommendations which have been made by this Court, and that they should put any suggestions which they could adopt into the Rules. It was thought right, and I do venture respectfully to submit that that was the proper view for the Board of Trade to have taken, that they should take no steps until after the Report had been made. But in order to secure the safety of the public as far as possible, what was done was, the owners of the various lines were seen or communicated with, and as a result the owners of all passenger vessels of over 1,500 tons, not 15,000 tons, as unfortunately appears in the Shorthand Note twice - I make that correction because it is very necessary - but all over 1,500 tons, have agreed at an early date, in fact, almost immediately after the disaster happened, to put boats on their vessels sufficient to accommodate all those on board. I refer to that for this reason; it indicates to you that the Board of Trade did secure the best boat accommodation immediately the disaster happened. Whether ships will in future have to provide accommodation for all those they carry is a question which is still, I think, open to some discussion, and upon which I do not venture to say anything, except that we shall follow out any recommendation that comes either from your Lordship or from the Committee which is dealing with the question of life-saving appliances. That is how the matter stands. I was anxious your Lordship should understand it exactly, so that it might not be thought that the Board of Trade had done nothing since the 15th April, whatever may be said in criticism of them before. I ought perhaps, also to tell your Lordship that an International Conference is proposed to deal with life-saving appliances at sea, including, of course, boat accommodation. So that we may get some Regulations which will apply to vessels of all countries. As your Lordship will appreciate, it is of the utmost importance, particularly where there is competition; and keen competition, that there shall be an agreement between the countries if possible. The Commissioner: It is of the utmost importance that there should be an agreement between the different countries. The Attorney-General: Yes, and that is what the Board of Trade is now striving to obtain. I have been carefully through all the evidence, including the evidence that has been given in answer to a number of suggestions which were made during the course of the Enquiry, and of which I make no complaint - on the contrary, I am very glad that we had the opportunity of meeting any such suggestions - suggestions that were made that the Board of Trade had in some way failed to take proper precautions either with regard to bulkheads or the loadline point, which your Lordship will remember, and with regard to some other matters with which they are charged. What I want to say with regard to it is this. I am not going to deal with them in detail, because I think it must be apparent - I am sure it is to your Lordship - that, as the result of all the investigation, no such charge can be made and no such charge is made, as I understand it, against the Board of Trade in respect of any of those matters. What has been said and what has been argued before you is that they ought to have taken precautions to provide a larger boat accommodation before this disaster happened; and that is the point, of course, to which I directed my observations last Monday. The only reason why I am making these remarks is that I do not want to take up your time unnecessarily in going through evidence dealing with various
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