HC Deb 08 August 1853 vol 129 cc1482-5

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

Clause 1.


said, he wished to call attention to the condition of the inferior officers in the Customs, and the impossibility of their obtaining promotion, and would beg to move the following Amendment:— That no persons who have not undergone a long training in the lower classes, such as weigher, locker, or superintendent locker, shall be eligible for the office of landing waiter or gauger; that all vacancies in these departments be filled by well-qualified and experienced officers only. Early in the Session the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury promised that the object which he (Mr. Pellatt) was anxious to see accomplished would be attained by the regulations to be adopted by the Treasury, but there was nothing in the Bill which even alluded to it. He therefore trusted the Committee would affirm the principle he was contending for, and adopt the Amendment he had proposed.


said, in seconding the Amendment of the hon. Member for Southwark, he begged to express the great satisfaction which he felt at the provisions of the Bill, which consolidated the Customs law, and abrogated a great many Acts of Parliament that served only to impede and embarrass mercantile men. A doubt had been expressed that the judicial hearing of disputes between merchants and the Boar of Customs would not be with open doors; but he had no such fears. He believed that the Courts would be opened to the public and to the reporters for the public press.


said, he completely concurred in the views of the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Pellatt), who however, seemed not to be aware that the regulations which he was anxious to have adopted were the subjects of a Treasury Minute, and not of an Act of Parliament. There was no attempt by this Bill to make any special regulations or arrangements. General powers only were given to the Commissioners to employ such persons a they should think fit. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that the promise he made at the early part of the Session was being complied with to the letter.


said, he must complain that the examinations of the higher and lower classes of officers were too much alike. It was true that one class were required to read and write, while the others were required to read and write well; but practically this distinction was without a difference. He should suggest also the inadvisability of making the general appointment of landing waiter at twenty-one years of age. The system now adopted at the public docks was a better one. These young men were received at the age of seventeen, and if they went through their duties for three or four years with the approval of their employers, they were at the age of twenty-one made clerks. If on the other hand they showed no aptitude, they were left to some inferior appointment.


said, although the Bill he held in his hand contained 355 clauses, little need be said by him beyond thanking I the Government, and especially the hon. Secretary to the Treasury, for the large measure of relief the Bill afforded to the commercial community of this country. He was happy to think that, ever since the accession of the present Chairman of the Board of Customs, means had been used for gradually improving the regulations of that Board, and he looked upon this Bill as one of the greatest boons ever conferred on a trading and commercial community. Not less than from 1,000 to 1,500 Acts of Parliament were either repealed or consolidated by this Bill. The object of the present Bill was to simplify the law, and that object had been happily accomplished. His constituents had gone through the whole of the clauses, and he rejoiced to say that it met with their hearty approval. With regard to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Southwark, he believed there was a disposition on the part of the Government to do justice to the officers. He wished, however, to offer one suggestion to the Government. He thought the Chairman, or one of the Commissioners of the Board of Customs, ought to have a seat in the House of Commons. If anything connected with foreign affairs occurred, the Secretary of State of that department was present to give explanations; if anything relating to the Home Department happened, even down to the case of a cabman, there was an opportunity of questioning the Home Secretary; and so in regard to our Colonies; but let the most important questions arise connected with the commerce of the country, and that great interest was found to be unrepresented in that House.


, in reply to the hon. Member for Bridport (Mr. Mitchell), said that the hon. Member was under a misapprehension as to the examination of the different grades of Custom-house officers. If the lower grade could read and write their name, it was all that was required; but the upper class were examined in arithmetic as far as decimals, and were also required to be able to write correctly from dictation.


said, he was satisfied with the explanations which had been made by the hon. Secretary to the Treasury, and would therefore withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment withdrawn.

Clause agreed to; as were the remaining clauses.

House resumed.

Bill reported as amended.