HC Deb 19 April 1849 vol 104 cc462-7

On the Question that the Navigation Bill, as amended, be considered,


, pursuant to notice, moved that the following clause be added to the Bill:— And be it Enacted, That the master or owner of every ship belonging to any subject of Her Majesty, and of the burden of 80 tons and upwards (except pleasure yachts) shall have on board at the time of her proceeding from any port of the United Kingdom, and at all times when absent from the United Kingdom, or navigating the seas, one apprentice or more, in the following proportion to the number of tons of his ship's admeasurement, according to the certificate of registry; that is to say, for every ship of 80 tons and under 300 tons, one apprentice at the least; for every ship of 300 tons and under 600 tons, two apprentices at the least; add for every ship of 600 tons and upwards, three apprentices at the least; all of whom, at the period of their being bound respectively, shall be subjects of Her Majesty, and above twelve and under seventeen years of age, and be duly bound for the term of four years at least; and if any such master or owner shall neglect to have on board his ship the number of apprentices as hereby required, together with their respective registered indentures, assignments, and register tickets, he shall for every such offence forfeit and pay the sum of 10l. in respect of each apprentice, indenture, assignment, or register ticket so wanting or deficient. He observed that there was a great deal of evidence on this subject already before the House, and there was scarcely any portion of that evidence which did not bear out the views on which the clause that he had proposed was founded—evidence which, he contended, most clearly proved that the supply of seamen for the Navy depended on the number of men that were to be obtained from the mercantile marine, and that the quality and efficiency of that marine depended very much on the machinery and supervision of the apprentice law. Upon this point, he conceived that the evidence of Lieutenant Brown was most important. He showed that of the petty officers in the Royal Navy, a very large proportion had served out their apprenticeship in the merchant service. This was corroborated by a paper put in by Sir J. Stirling—a list of the petty officers of the Howe, sixty in number, of whom fifteen, or one-fourth, had been merchant apprentices. On the other hand, a Committee of Inquiry, appointed last year by the Admiralty, had ascertained that thirty-seven per cent of the boys entering the Royal Navy for the first time deserted. These, surely, were cogent reasons for maintaining the apprentice laws. Sir Byam Martin, one of the very first officers in the Navy, whether for courage, skill in his profession, or scientific attainments, had expressed the strongest opinion in favour of the system of apprenticeship. Captain Berkeley Nicholas—indeed every naval officer examined by the Committee—had given evidence favourable to it. And, now, what were the objections of the shipowners and merchants? Nine years after the establishment of peace, a meeting of shipowners was held at the London Tavern; and at that meeting resolutions were passed that vessels should be obliged to maintain apprentices, and suggesting the very scale which is now the law. The reasons given were, that, in consequence of the former laws having fallen into abeyance, the character of the seamen was degenerating. [The hon. and gallant Member proceeded to read extracts from the evidence of Messrs. Hankey, Simey Sandbach, Anderson, Younghusband, and other merchants and shipowners, who either spoke of the apprentice law as but a light burden, or else expressed a strong opinion in favour of it.] He (Captain Hariris) had withheld no part of the evidence on this part of the subject, and was, therefore, entitled to come to the conclusion, that the maintenance of the apprentice law was of paramount importance to the Royal Navy, and that amongst merchants and shipowners some considered it advantageous to the mercantile marine, and the rest treated the supposed grievance as a light one. He would conclude by appealing to those hon. Members who, with himself, were anxious for the diminution of corporal punishment, to maintain a law so influential for good in the training of seamen.

Clause brought up and read a first time.


hoped that the hon. and gallant Officer would not deem him guilty of any disrespect if he confined his observations within a very narrow compass. He was disposed to admit the importance of the question in one sense, but he did not think that the grievance arising from the present system of apprentices to the merchant service was very severe. He was, however, not prepared to say that it was a burden, however small, from which the service had not an undoubted right to be relieved. The hon. and gallant Member seemed all through his statement to think that such a proposition was necessary in order to induce lads to enter the merchant service. That argument, however, was answered by the fact, which was notorious, that at this moment, there were between 10,000 and 11,000 apprentices more than what were necessary. It was then obviously unnecessary to have any such regulation made to effect this object. He felt that he was not called upon to enter into a discussion upon this matter at the present moment. In regard to the longvoyage trade, it was decidedly the interest of shipowners to employ more apprentices than the law obliged them in most cases. In short voyages the apprentices which the shipowners were obliged to take, often ran away, taking the earliest opportunity of deserting them. It was different in regard to long voyages. There the apprentices were willing to serve, and ultimately became excellent seamen. The system thus worked naturally as a school for training seamen, and there was therefore no necessity for any compulsory enactment on the subject. Although he thought that some of the shipowners had overstated the effect which this system produced, yet he was not prepared to contend that in some instances it might not act as a burden. After what he had stated he hoped the House would not agree to the clause.


hoped that his hon. and gallant Friend would not press his Motion to a division, as he would be afforded a much better opportunity of effecting his object on Monday next.


would not persist, after what had fallen from his right hon. Friend near him, in giving the House the trouble of dividing.

Motion made, and Question, "That the said Clause be now read a second time," put and negatived.


moved the Amendment of which he had given notice.


seconded the proposition.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 43, after the word "deficient," to insert the words— And that any seamen quitting any vessel whatever in order to enter Her Majesty's Naval Service, and being received into such Service, shall be exempt from any penalty or forfeiture to which they would otherwise be liable as deserters.


said, that the question raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Orkney, was one of a class of questions which he had carefully abstained from touching upon in the Bill. He was most unwilling to add to the difficulties which any Minister proposing an alteration in the shipping laws must be prepared to encounter. He admitted, at the same time, that the manning of the Navy was a question of the greatest importance. He did not mean to deny that the manning of the Navy might not be better conducted, nor that, upon a particular occasion, it did not deserve the most attentive consideration of the House. He thought, however, it would be inexpedient to discuss such a question at present. That question was one that ought to be discussed independently. By entering upon the merits of it at present, they would only impede the progress of the present Bill. He felt he was not bound to argue such a question then, as it was not the fitting occasion to do so. He was sure that any plan for altering the manning of the Navy, if it was to be adopted, should only be adopted after full and mature deliberation of all the circumstances of the case. He did not think that they could, at the present time, give such a subject that fair consideration which it ought to have; and, without expressing any opinion on the subject brought forward by his hon. Friend, he hoped that the House would not agree to the Motion. He desired to reserve his opinions upon such a question until a more favourable opportunity presented itself for the discussion of it.


said, that although he was in favour of such a regulation as that involved in the hon. Gentleman's Amendment, he thought there was much in what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade to induce his hon. Friend to postpone the discussion of such an important question until some future occasion, when the whole subject of the manning of the Navy might be brought more favourably under the attention of the House.


was satisfied that, as soon as the shipping interest got rid of that protection which they supposed the navigation laws gave them, they would be the first to appeal to the House to get their grievances redressed; therefore, he trusted his hon. Friend would not press his Motion on that occasion.

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted." Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


then moved the following clause in lieu of Clause 14:— Provided always, and be it enacted, That it shall be lawful for Her Majesty in Council, upon an address, or joint-address, as the case may be, from the Legislative Council, or Council and Assembly, or proper legislative authority, of any British possession, praying Her Majesty to authorise the conveyance of goods and passengers from one part of such possession to another part of such possession in other than British ships, to declare, by Order in Council, that such conveyance shall be authorised accordingly, in such terms and under such conditions as to Her Majesty shall seem good; and be it enacted, that upon a like address from the proper legislative authority of any two or more colonies, which Her Majesty in Council shall declare to be neighbouring colonies for the purposes of this Act, praying Her Majesty to place the trade between such colonies upon the footing of a coasting trade, it shall be lawful for Her Majesty, by Order in Council, to declare that it shall be deemed and taken to be a coasting trade accordingly, for all intents and purposes: provided always, that the privileges conferred by this Act upon foreign ships shall not be diminished by any such Order in Council, unless by regulations which shall be equally applicable to British ships.


objected to the first part of the clause, on the ground that it empowered the colonial legislatures to proceed by Address, rather than by Bill. Such a course might be attended with some inconvenience; but if the right hon. Gentleman would consent to an alteration of the clause to meet this objection, he (Mr. Labouchere) was willing to agree to its substitution for Clause 14. The right hon. Gentleman said that he could not consent to the second portion of the clause for placing the trade between neighbouring colonies on the footing of a coasting trade.


expressed his readiness to accede to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman, and

The first part of the Clause was then agreed to, the second portion being withdrawn.

Amendments made; Bill to be read 3o on Monday next.