HC Deb 07 March 1853 vol 124 cc1227-67

The House having gone into Committee,


said: Sir, in rising to move for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the law relating to Pilotage, I must, with the permission of the Committee, state what are the views of the Government with regard to the mercantile marine. In doing so it will be necessary for me to trespass to some extent on your time, for the subject is one on which the complaints and demands of the shipping interest have been divided into numerous details; but I shall endeavour to occupy as short a time as possible, and will not trespass on your patience by any needless observations or superfluous remarks. With regard to the present state and prosperity of the shipping interest, it cannot be necessary to occupy much of your time. It is well known to the Committee that if you test the present condition of the shipping interest by any of the tests which this House can apply to it—if you look to the aggregate amount of British tonnage entered inwards and cleared outwards, or the amount of tonnage that is owned in the ports of the British Empire, or the number of men that is employed in the mercantile marine, or the activity that prevails in all the great ports where the building of ships is carried on—if you measure the question by any one of those tests, they present to you but one uniform result—a result of unexampled prosperity. Sir, it is no part of my province—and certainly I shall not trespass into that ground—to account for this prosperity. Perhaps the time has come when I might enter into those topics without any fear of reawakening ancient controversies; but, irrespective of those controversies altogether, there are peculiar reasons which present themselves, and enter largely into the case; but whatever they may be, I shall not run any risk of awakening controversies on an occasion on which I am merely asking for permission to introduce a Bill, and may anticipate that request will receive the concurrence of the Committee. The Committee are well acquainted that from the time of the peace to the time of Mr. Huskisson, so far from there being an increase in the number of ships owned by the subjects of this country, there was a positive diminution, and also a diminution in the number of men employed. In 1815 the tonnage amounted to 2,681,000 tons; in 1825 it had fallen to 2,553,000, and the men had fallen in the same proportion. From the time of Mr. Huskisson down to the present, there is scarcely an instance that does not continuously show the opposite result; and if we compare the year that has just expired with the year 1849 we shall find that, while the total amount of British tonnage inwards and outwards amounted in 1849 to 8,152,000 tons, it amounted in 1852 to no less than 8,727,000 tons. And if you take the number of ships built in 1849, you will find them amount to 121,000 tons, while in 1852 they had risen to 167,000 tons. But is it only in material prosperity that the shipping interest has been elevated? The community is indebted to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Taunton (Mr. Labouchere) for a measure of great importance, and which has tended greatly to elevate the character of the mercantile marine. I do not mean to say that the details of the measure may not be susceptible of improvement; that might naturally be expected when he had to deal for the first time with a question that involved such complicated arrangements; but I think if you look to the broad result, the House and the country have reason to be grateful to my right hon. Friend for the policy which he has mainly inaugurated. Let me ask you to look to the result of that important question—the examination of British masters and mates. It was painful to see during the discussion on the Navigation Laws, the reflections that were made on that hardworking body of our fellow-countrymen; but it appears that the total number of masters and mates that have obtained certificates of competence in two years, amounts to 5,069; and let mo call your particular attention to this, that whereas my right hon. Friend had provided in respect to those that had already served, that they should not be obliged to pass an examination to obtain a certificate of competency, their certificate of service entitling them to the same privileges as those who had passed an examination, yet so great is the value set in the mercantile marine on the circumstance of having passed the examination, that out of this total number of 5,069 who obtained certificates of competency, no less than 1,879 had already obtained certificates of service, and need not have been subjected to examination. Another feature was, that persons in the Queen's service voluntarily came in and subjected themselves to an examination for steam engines: this was a significant proof that the value of an examination was not exclusively confined to masters and mates in the merchant service, and showed the moral progress that is being made by our mercantile marine. My right hon. Friend, as it appears to me, most judiciously put an end to that baneful system which went by the name of the Merchant Seamen's Fund, from which in return for a compulsory tax they had a precarious provision for declining years, and also an insolvent fund; and I am happy to say that by the new arrangement that which was a complicated process works most agreeably under the officers appointed to manage it. There is now in progress a system for providing for the comforts of sailors in their declining years, and for administering to their material as well as to their moral necessities. There has grown up a system called a system for the establishment of sailors' homes, having comfortable accommodation, a registration, savings banks, and all other appliances calculated to secure the comfort of the seaman, and to elevate his character. With the permission of the Committee, I will read a short extract from the Report of the Liverpool Sailors' Home, with which I happen myself to be more particularly acquainted, having known it from the time it was founded, in the year 1846, by His Royal Highness Prince Albert, up to the present time. I think the Committee will listen with interest to a passage from the Report that describes its material progress:— All seamen visiting this port have now not only the great advantages, hitherto presented to them under the temporary arrangements of the institution for the last seven years, of recording a good character, of depositing their money in safety, and of having it transmitted to any quarter they may desire; but they have now the opportunity afforded them of enjoying in this spacious and splendid establishment a degree of substantial comfort and security to which they have hitherto been strangers. Schools were about to be established, and the savings bank was used to an increasing extent, the payments for the past year amounting to 3,302l. Now, Sir, I mention these things because in introducing this subject to the Committee it is right you should know what is the present state, both material and moral, of the different branches of the service to which my measure refers. I have endeavoured to com- press this within the shortest space that would allow me to give an accurate view of the subject to which I wish to call attention. And now permit me to tell you what are the subjects which the Government have had under their consideration with regard to the mercantile marine. First, they have had under their consideration the question of lights; secondly, the question of passing tolls; thirdly, the restrictions that exist with respect to the manning of the mercantile marine; fourthly, the question of volunteering into the Navy; fifthly, salvage; sixthly, desertion; seventhly, the fees to consuls; and, eighthly, the question of pilotage. On every one of those subjects it will be my duty to trouble the Committee, but I shall do it as shortly as possible; and first of all I will enter upon that important subject of the light-duties. The complaint made by the mercantile marine is this: they say that under the system as it now exists in this country, dues are compulsorily levied on the mercantile marine, and disposed of by the independent action of a self-elected body, without being subject to the control of Parliament. That is a grievance of which the mercantile marine complains. To the principle involved in that complaint the Government, strictly and without reserve, subscribe, and I hope I shall satisfy you before I conclude that the object which the mercantile marine has in view will be efficiently and completely attained by the mode about to be proposed by Her Majesty's Government. Now let us bear in mind what is the history of this question. By the original law the erection of beacons, lighthouses, and signs of the sea, was part of the Royal Prerogative; but so long ago as the 8th of Elizabeth, the Trinity House at Deptford was entitled to exercise that power. The mode in which they proceeded was this: when the mercantile marine desired to erect lights they memorialised the Board of the Trinity House; they required them to advance their capital in erecting the light, and they agreed to contribute a certain toll as a remuneration for that outlay; and the usual provision was, that the surplus revenue should be employed for the purpose for which in part the Trinity House was incorporated, namely, for the relief of distressed persons engaged in the mercantile marine service. The practice has continued from that day to the present time. With regard to the lights in Scotland and Ireland, they are placed by statutory provision under two bodies, known as the Commissioners of Northern Lights, and the Ballast Board of Dublin. The Committee moved for by my hon. Friend (Mr. Hume), which sat in 1834, reported that the control over the lights of Scotland, and the harbour lights of England and Ireland, should be given to the Trinity House. Now the question is, how have the powers possessed by them been exercised?—have the lights of this country been efficient, and have the powers been exercised for the purposes for which they were given? In the year 1845 another Committee was presided over by my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), whose services on this subject have been eminent and untiring; and that Committee had the satisfaction of reporting according to the evidence laid before them, that generally the public lights on the coasts of England, under the management of the Trinity House—on the coasts of Scotland, under the management of the Northern Commissioners in Edinburgh—and the lights on the coasts of Ireland, under the management of the Ballast Board in Dublin, were all maintained in an efficient state. I beg to read to the Committee the following passage from their Report:— Your Committee has the satisfaction of reporting that, according to the evidence before them, the public general lights on the coasts of England, under the management of the Trinity House in London; those on the coasts of Scotland, under the management of the Northern Commissioners in Edinburgh; and the lights on the coast of Ireland, under the management of the Ballast Board in Dublin, are all maintained in an efficient state. Among the witnesses, Captain Moore, who has been for twenty-three years in the trade between the United States of America and England, states that he considers the English lights, on the whole, better than those of the United States. Captain Washington, R. N., of the surveying department on the coast says that 'generally speaking the lights, light-vessels, buoys, and beacons are efficient; the lights brilliant, and the lighthouses clean, and in high order.' Captain Denham, R.N., also a marine surveyor, and long employed on the coasts, bears the same testimony to the efficiency of the lights of the United Kingdom. On the 19th of February, 1844, the secretary to the Trinity House in London, in a letter to the secretary of the Ballast Board of Dublin, expresses the great satisfaction with which the Trinity House had received the Report of their visiting Committee, and of the efficient state of the lighting apparatus throughout Ireland.' And, on the 21st of February, 1844, the secretary to the Trinity House, in a letter to the secretary of the Commissioners of Northern Lights states—'I have it in command to request you will express to the Commissioners the satisfaction of the elder brethren at being enabled to communicate that the lamps and entire apparatus were found to be in perfect and efficient order throughout the lighthouses in that part of the United Kingdom. Now, Sir, those were the opinions which the Committee thought it only due to those bodies to place emphatically on record. But, Sir, it is some time since 1845, and the Committee will naturally ask, are you in possession of any evidence with regard to the present state of the lights of the United Kingdom, and can you show from unimpeachable testimony the state they have been in down to a later period? Now, Sir, who are our great rivals in maritime supremacy, and to whose example or authority do we appeal when we desire to see whether our institutions are in a sound and efficient state? Sir, in all matters of material prosperity and maritime supremacy, if we seek for a rival amongst other nations, the palm will undoubtedly be assigned to our competitors in the United States; and certainly, in the Committee of 1845, the comparison that ran through the minds of its Members was, as my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose will re- member, a comparison chiefly between Great Britain and the United States. In the year 1851, a Board of Inquiry was ordered by the American Government to inquire into the condition of the lighthouse establishments of the United States, and in the year 1852 their Report was laid before the Senate. The Committee will naturally be very anxious to hear what they say about the lights in Great Britain; and I beg to call attention to a remarkable passage in their Report, which finds fault with the system as it exists in the United States, and quotes for emulation by the United States the example of Great Britain. The following is the passage to which I beg to call the attention of the Committee:— That the lights of the United States do not compare favourably, either in efficiency or in economy, with those of Great Britain and France. In the Trinity House corporation of London, the important subjects of experimenting upon different descriptions of combustibles for lighthouses, testing the mathematical perfection of apparatus, investigating the important subject of ventilation, &c, are confided to the world-renowned Michael Faraday; upon the subject of construction and its accessories, Mr. James Walker, a distinguished civil engineer, is employed. In Scotland the lights and other aids to navigation are under the immediate direction and superintendence of the able and distinguished engineer, Mr. Alan Stephenson. In Ireland also the lights are in charge of a competent engineer, Mr. George Halpin. … To expect that our lights should compare in point of excellence and economy with systems so constituted as those named, would be to expect order out of anarchy and confusion, and perfection out of such various and imperfect elements. With respect to our success under that system, whatever may he its faults, which we have hitherto pursued, this is the testimony of your great rivals—rivals in everything that tends to maritime successes; and they consider that to expect their lights to compare with your lights would he to expect order out of confusion, and perfection out of imperfect elements. A prejudice has prevailed with regard to the application of the funds of the Trinity House; and no person who hears me can fail to have heard remarks made with respect to the enormous receipts paid into their coffers, and doubts expressed as to the mode in which they have been employed. It is very natural that where there is no system of perfect control in reference to the accounts, there should be misapprehension and misconstruction, and I am not making any complaint that those impressions should prevail; hut let me ask of the Committee to consider the real circumstances of the case. In the year 1836 you imposed upon the corporation of the Trinity House the necessity of purchasing a great number of private lighthouses, and incurring an expenditure which amounts on the whole to no less than 1,125,000l. During the interval that has elapsed since 1836, they have not been occupied, with regard to their surplus revenues, either in funding them for their own benefit, or in distributing them in some improper channel; but what are the facts? That money has been applied for the purpose of liquidating the debt which you imposed upon them; and the debt in 1836 of 1,125,000l. has been reduced to 97,500l. It should also be recollected that the differential dues, abolished by the reciprocity treaty, have been compensated for to private individuals out of the tolls paid by the mercantile marine; that, at least, is no fault of the corporation; it may have been wrong or it may have been right, but justice requires that this should be stated, because it is the truth. Concurrently with this reduction of debt, there has been the following reduction of light dues. In 1849 there was a reduction that by estimate amounted to 80,000l., and in 1852 there was a reduction of 38,000l.; and without entering into details at the present moment, I have the pleasure of informing the Committee that I do not think the budget of reductions has been exhausted. Then comes the question to which, with the permission of the Committee, I will apply myself, namely, what is the proper mode of providing that the mercantile marine shall have those advantages of control over receipts and expenditure, and the accountability and responsibility to Parliament, which the mercantile interest, justly in our opinion, think they are entitled to? My hon. Friend the Member for Montrose considered the constitution of the Trinity House in two Committees, and here is the recommendation that was given by the Committee that sat in 1834:— Your Committee recommend one board resident in London. The constitution of the (Trinity House) board is that of self-election, and your Committee have been anxious to ascertain whether any and what constituency could be obtained to give the board a more liberal character; but they have been unable to find out any proper constituency, and do not at present see how they can recommend any great alteration. Upon the whole, your Committee are of opinion that the Corporation of the Trinity House, of Deptford Strond, having been chartered 'for the good government and increase of navigation,' and the office of buoyage and beaconage having been granted to that body upon the surrender thereof by the Lord High Admiral, and the greater part of the lighthouses in England having been erected, and being now maintained by that Corporation, and this Committee being satisfied, after inquiring into the lights now under their charge, that the said Corporation are well calculated, after some modification in the regulations under which they admit their members, to have the management and control of the whole department of lights, recommend that all general public lights in the United Kingdom be placed under the management of the said Corporation. Again, in 1845, there was a Committee over which my hon. Friend again presided, and a recommendation was made that there should be only "One board resident in London, and that that central board should be the Trinity Board, and that, in future, one-third of the members of the Trinity Board should be nominated by the Crown." The Government have carefully considered the proposition for having a central body in London, consisting of the Trinity House, with one-third of its Members appointed by the Crown. It is their opinion that the mercantile marine is entitled to an efficient control over receipts and expenditure, by having them submitted to some person whose situation, in connexion with the Executive, would make him directly responsible to Parliament. We think, however, there are objections to the proposal to consolidate the lights of Scotland and Ireland under the management of the Trinity House, because it would be an unhandsome return to the Commissioners who act gratuitously in Scotland, and because it would raise in Ireland an impression with regard to centralisation which we have no desire to give any suspicion of in regard to our arrangements. Then with regard to the composition of the Trinity House, the power of nominating one-third of the elder brethren by the Crown would confer patronage on the Crown, but leave its nominees in a minority of one to two within the walls, and it might have a great tendency to create what is always most undesirable in any governing body—a needless hostility between those who owe their seats to one mode of election, and those who owe it to another. It is, therefore, desirable that these three light-managing bodies should not be changed in their constitution, but should be placed under the control of an authority responsible to Parliament for all their receipts and expenditure; and therefore this House, acting directly on the Executive Government, will virtually exercise that control which my hon. Friend (Mr. Hume) stated ought to be exercised on behalf of the mercantile marine; and I venture to say that this is a more constitutional and efficient control than could be attained by any partial change in those bodies. Those being the views of the Government, they were communicated to the Trinity House; and they returned an answer which I shall lay on the table of the House—an answer agreed to unanimously by the Trinity House, and signed by the Master of the Trinity House, His Royal Highness the Prince Consort. What the Government desired was— 1,"To establish a control by Government authorities directly responsible to Parliament over the expenditure and application of these revenues; 2, to institute a periodical audit of the accounts connected with the receipt and expenditure of the said revenues; and, 3, to suspend the granting of new pensions or charities which have been hitherto dispensed by the corporation from these revenues in virtue of, and in compliance with, the several charters and patents which they hold from the Crown, and of Acts passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Trinity House authorities were pleased to state their entire acquiescence in the first two propositions; but prayed that the Government would not press the third, urging the legal and moral claims of destitute, aged, or disabled seamen to some relief from the revenues arising from lighthouses, beaconage, buoyage, and ballast-age. The letter then proceeds to say— The Court of Elder Brethren feel that they stand in the position of trustees in behalf, and guardians of the rights of these poor men, their widows, and orphans, to the extent at least of their claims on the revenues received by the corporation under their several charters, Acts of Parliament, and patents, and that it is their duty not to abandon their cause, but to use every proper and legitimate means to bring it under the notice and favourable consideration of Her Majesty's Government. If, after the facts and arguments which it may be necessary for the corporation to bring under the consideration of Her Majesty's Government, they should adhere to their opinion in respect of these charities, it will be the duty of the Trinity House to submit to such high authority; and in the mean time, until this important question is finally decided, the Court will abstain from making any addition to the present list of pensioners. The Government sent another communication to the Trinity House, in which it signified its acquiescence in the first two suggestions of the Corporation; but declared, with respect to the third, that whatever might have been the origin of the charitable administration, the time had now arrived when, from the increase of commerce, and the change in practice and feeling in such matters, it must be abolished, and the mercantile marine relieved from the payment of any money for light-dues but what should be expended on lights. The reply of the Government was in the following terms:— Board of Trade, Feb. 16. Sir—The letter which your Royal Highness, as Master of the Trinity House, has done me the honour to address to me, I have laid before Her Majesty's Government. It is very satisfactory to the Government, and, in their opinion, highly honourable to the ancient corporation of the Trinity House, that the Elder Brethren have shown so perfect a willingness to adopt the views which their sense of public duty has led Her Majesty's Government to suggest. The principles which regulate the receipt, control, and expenditure of moneys compulsorily levied upon the public for the general purposes of the community will henceforth be applied to the sums payable to the Trinity House for lights, buoys, beacons, ballast-age—in short, to all sums without exception levied upon and paid by the mercantile marine. The gross receipts will be carried to a separate account at the Bank of England, from which no payment can be made except by the authority of a department of Her Majesty's Government responsible to the Houses of Parliament. The accounts will be regularly forwarded to the Board of Trade, and thence, after examination, will be transmitted to the Commissioners of Audit. A full statement of the accounts of the past year will be regularly laid before Parliament. The provision of the statute 6 &7 Will chap. 79, for reducing the dues upon the requisition of the Sovereign in Council, will at all times be carried into effect so soon as, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, the state of the funds will admit, without any regard to any consideration whatever except to the efficiency of the several services for which those dues are levied. It appears to Her Majesty's Government that the mercantile marine is justly entitled to these advantages, and that the scheme proposed by the Trinity House will secure them. The Government will not fail to give a full and impartial consideration to the grounds which the Trinity House proposes to lay before them for continuing the pensions and charities; but, while it would be manifestly unjust in the highest degree to deprive any individual of an advantage legally conferred upon him under the system which has hitherto prevailed, they are glad to observe that the Trinity House have consented to acquiesce in their views, if they shall adhere to their opinion, and that in the meanwhile the Trinity House undertake to abstain from making any addition to the list.—I have, &c. EDWARD CARDWELL It is very natural that the Trinity Corporation, acting as trustees, should press for the retention of the privilege they enjoy; but, in vindication of the course taken by Government, I must refer to the vote of the Select Committee on Foreign Trade as long ago as 1822, which recommended the abolition of these charitable disbursements. At that time the Trinity House took the opinion of the Attorney and Solicitor General on the subject, and those functionaries declared that they had a right to make the disbursements. No doubt that right belonged to them as long as their charter remained unaltered. No one charged the corporation with a dereliction of duty in acting as they did, as long as Parliament allowed the trust to continue. In 1824 a Committee again renewed the question, and, having before them the opinion of the Attorney and Solicitor General, stated it had been obtained under a mistaken impression, the Committee objecting "not to the distribution, but the principle," and they wished for the reduction— That the Trinity Corporation might be better enabled to conform to the principle upon which alone the right of collecting for the lights appeared to them to be founded—that of providing for the expenses of the lights, and the security and accommodation of the commerce of the country derived from their maintenance. The Committee were now in possession of the views of the Government upon this point, but before passing from this part of the subject, I cannot avoid paying a tribute of admiration to the spirit in which the Government has been met. I have referred to the Master of the Trinity House. Let me now acknowledge the obligations of the Government to the Deputy Master and Elder Brethren for the sincere spirit with which they have endeavoured to re- concile the discharge of their important duties with their sense of the public requirements and the national benefit. And lot me ask you to enter upon the assumption of this control in a similar spirit of confidence and sincerity. Now, I have said nothing on the subject of harbour lights in all this, because those lights are very numerous, and are mixed up in most cases with other funds. If we do not intend by the Bill to deal with the harbour lights, it is not because we wish that anything should remain improper or inconsistent with regard to them, but it is because it does not belong to the regulation of the Imperial lights of the Kingdom. There is a connexion, however, between the harbour lights and the next subject, to which I wish to call the attention of the Committee. That subject is one of much more difficulty than has been commonly supposed. It is known as the question of passing tolls; but it was much more accurately described by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli), when, in making his financial statement, he laid it down as a rule that the taxes on shipping should be confined to those payments in return for which the shipping received a benefit—a canon to which I cordially subscribe. But I want to draw the attention of the Committee to some of the details of the question connected with this subject of passing tolls. I think it would be unfair in the highest degree to suppose that the right hon. Gentleman opposite would think of charging those tolls on the Consolidated Fund, if he was in possession of all the information appertaining to the subject. The present Government are in possession of information which was not before the late Government. The late Government appointed Captain Veitch to inquire into the subject of passing tolls, and since the change of Government that officer has made his Report. Captain Veitch's Report contained the following passage:— There is already a duty of 2s. per ton on coal levied by the town of Ramsgate under its Police Act of 1838, which ought to be repealed, as the harbour trust having, at the public cost, built a fine harbour and wet dock and landing quays, it seems monstrous that the town of Ramsgate should impose a toll on unloading coals on the quays of the trust to maintain the police, lighting, and paving of the town, the cost of which ought clearly to have been raised by a rate on the householders; "and he submits" that, prior to granting Parliamentary aid to the other three ports above-named, a preliminary inquiry be made into their respective circumstances.' Surely no one, with this information before him, would recommend that the local rates of Ramsgate should be borne by the general taxpayers of this Kingdom. I think we ought to know the whole truth before we assent to such a proposition. Now, I had a visit from two Gentlemen—the noble Lord the Member for Scarborough (the Earl of Mulgrave), and the hon. Member for Whitby (Mr. Stephenson), and they said there is a private Bill before Parliament for abolishing what is called the passing toll of Whitby. That Bill, they said, was promoted by the people of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Sunderland, upon the ground that such a toll is inconsistent with public policy, and unjust. The noble Lord and the hon. Member say it may be inconsistent with public policy, but considering we have a Parliamentary title of 150 years' standing, that is a matter for Parliament; and they say it may be unjust, but considering the people of Newcastle levy a tonnage rate of six times the amount on the export of coals from their own river for the support of their borough fund, we do not exactly see the justice of their demand. Now, observe the position in which you stand. These tolls are not tolls exclusively upon the ship, but tolls, in many cases, on goods carried in the ship. Is that a tax on the shipowner or on the coal consumer, or is it a mixed tax shared by both? If it be a tax on the shipowner, then the coal is taxed at the port it leaves, at the port by which it passes, and at the port to which it comes. But can you draw a distinct line of demarcation between the cases of such ports as these, and the cases contained in the two voluminous returns which my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, first, in 1845, and again in 1846, laid on the table of this House? This being the state of the case, it is necessary to have more complete inquiry into the circumstances. On the one side, we have the principle that no tax shall be levied for which no corresponding benefit is conferred; on the other side, as regarded Whitby, we have an Act of Parliament of 150 years' standing. I say, therefore, it is necessary to have a more complete inquiry before we can decide on this question, and before we can place this charge on the Consolidated Fund. And when we talk about "injured interests," let me say one word about that "injured interest," the Consolidated Fund. The Consolidated Fund is an aggregate of the hard-earned taxes of the people of this country; and by a return of last year it appears that the Consolidated Fund has already paid an aggregate of 802,000l. for various local dues, and the annual charge upon that fund is now 39,000l. Under these circumstances the Government intend to institute such an inquiry as that to which I have referred. But there is another reason why inquiry should become, if not necessary, at least desirable. There is a grievance to which the mercantile marine is subject, and from which they desire to be relieved, and that is the reluctance on the part of some important foreign Powers to reciprocate the great concessions which we made to them when we lowered our tariff, and particularly when we repealed our Navigation Laws. It might have been hoped, considering the magnitude of the concessions we made, and the small burden in proportion which our local taxation imposed on the mercantile marine, that it would have led to the removal of all complaints on this head; but it is my duty to state that this is one of the great difficulties experienced in the negotiations which we are carrying on, and that it will be necessary, before these difficulties are removed, to have careful and cautious inquiry. I have now stated the views which the Government entertain with regard to the questions of lights and harbours, whether they be harbour lights or other dues. For the first there will be a complete Parliamentary control, and for the second a complete investigation and inquiry. I will now proceed to touch upon the Admiralty question. First comes the question whether it is expedient that we should continue to maintain that restriction which requires a British crew to consist of three parts British subjects, and only one part foreign. The advocates of a continuance of that restriction say, "Look at the returns and you will find that there can be no great advantage in employing foreigners, because the privilege which now exists is by no means appreciated, and the average of foreign seamen employed in British ships does not practically come up to the one-fourth which the law allowed." It is manifest that that is no answer to the case, because the object is to have the choice of employing foreign or British seamen in such proportions as may be thought necessary. The right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke of these restrictions as indefensible on principle, and that the time could not be long within which they must be abolished; and I was present at a debate at which one of the right hon. Gentleman's Colleagues in the late Ministry, the hon. Member for Colchester (Lord J. Manners) said he thought they ought to put an end to these restrictions, which he described as a sensible obstruction to the interests of the mercantile marine. I doubt very much whether the time ever was when this regulation presented so sensible an obstruction as at the present time. I have here a letter from the Peninsular and Oriental Company to the Secretary of the Admiralty, in which they say that it is not now a question of freight at all, but it has become a question whether you can have ships and sailors; for at the present moment ships and sailors, whether British or foreign, were not to be got to the extent to which they were required. I have just received from our Consul at Christiana a letter dated 6th December, in which he says— It has been asserted that Norwegian vessels are navigated much cheaper than British, the master and men being less paid and still worse fed. These assertions are as incorrect and founded upon as frail authority as that vessels can be built for 5l. a ton, because the official estimate values the commercial marine of the country at that rate. The fact is the reverse—the Norwegian master is generally better paid and the crew better fed than the British. Now, whether this is true or not, it is the opinion, at all events, of a competent witness, and is certainly calculated to assuage the alarm of those who were afraid lest the interests of the British sailor would suffer by the change. Now, after the observations I have made, the Committee will be prepared to be told that the Government do not propose to retain such a restriction. I well remember the noble Lord the Member for the City of London saying that protection was the bane of agriculture. I hope the time will come when everybody will believe that to British seamanship, as well as to British ship-owning and British shipbuilding, you may with safety apply the maxim of free intercourse, and that neither on behalf of the one nor of the other is there any reason for British seamen to fear equal competition. The next question relates to the system of volunteering into the Navy. I think it would be a great discouragement, to British subjects to go on board of ship if they heard in whatever part of the world they might be—if they should chance to happen to have ever so tyrannical a master—if their diet was ever so insufficient—or their condition ever so undesirable—that there was no hope of relief for them until the completion of the voyage; and I think some right of appeal to a British authority may be safely given to a person usually so poor and defenceless as the British seaman. I will here relate an anecdote which ought to be known for the honour of the Queen's service. The difficulties that are felt in Australia at the present moment must be familiar to the minds of every Gentleman in this House connected with the business of shipowning. Those difficulties were felt three years ago in California; and what was done by a British officer? On the 4th of October, 1849, Captain Shepherd, of the Inconstant, arrived at San Francisco, and immediately wrote to the British Vice-consul, expressing his readiness to afford assistance to British interests, &c. At the same time, he sent an officer on board all the British ships in port, to ascertain their condition and wants, and to desire the masters to apply direct to him for such assistance as they might require. In his letter to Admiral Hornby he stated that— By the 7th of October I had ascertained that out of twenty British vessels lying at this port, but four barks, abandoned by their crews, required the aid of bands to navigate them to Valparaiso, while the remainder were either not yet discharged, chartered, or stationary; those ships being manned with Lascars, or crews hired at high wages for short voyages. Having determined upon taking those four vessels on hand, I caused them to be brought down, fitted for sea, manned with forty-one officers and men from the Inconstant, and they were clear off the port, on their way to Valparaiso, by the 16th. I only mention this circumstance in order that you may see that there are two sides to this as to every other question. Was it unjust, was it inconsistent with an enlarged view of the interest of the shipowner himself, that Captain Shepherd should be permitted to obtain from vessels who could spare them the forty-one men with whom he had parted, for the relief of vessels in urgent distress? While, however, the Government do not intend entirely to abolish the power in question, they do intend to bring in enactments on the subject to provide that if positive and pecuniary loss arise to the shipowner in consequence of such volunteering, it is proposed that he shall be entitled to receive compensation out of the funds of the Admiralty. Thus both the seamen and the shipowner will have justice done them. Then I next approach the question of salvage. There are per- sons who think that the right of salvage in regard to the Queen's service ought to be entirely abolished. I hold it to be no disparagement to that service that the entire removal from them of everything in the nature of reward in cases of help afforded in cases of extreme hardship, would be regarded by them as a great injustice. Lord Tenterden, the great legal authority, says the law of Great Britain is more liberal than that of Europe generally upon this subject. The Admiralty regulations laid it down that before any officer could raise a claim for salvage, he must have rendered really important service, or service accompanied with hazard, otherwise that claim was not to be attended to. But there is a grievance connected with this subject, and that is the peremptory lien which the law gives upon a ship in such cases, and which enables them to detain it at a vast cost in a distant port. On this point I am authorised to state, on the part of my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, that arrangements are in preparation by which, in cases of this nature, the lien may be released, and the case transmitted to the Judge of the Admiralty Court in London, instead of detaining the ship in a foreign port. I may be told as I have been by a deputation, that the jurisdiction of the Admiralty Court was objected to, and that the Board of Trade would be preferred for the adjudication of such questions. I confess that I feel much obliged to those parties for the compliment they paid to the department with which I am connected. But when I consider that Lord Stowell once presided over that Court, and that it is now presided over by Dr. Lushington, I think we should have been very presumptuous to have taken the advice of that deputation. I must also add that after the announcement which has been made by the Law Officers of the Crown as to the intended reform of the Ecclesiastical Courts, there can be little doubt that, if the Admiralty Court requires amendment, it will be very sure to be attended to. I come next to the case of desertion; and there again, I say, clauses are in preparation which are intended to remedy those difficulties under which the shipowners labour in Australia by reason of the desertion of their men in quest of gold in that Colony. That question then will in a short time be dealt with by the Government. I next come to the question of consular fees. There must be some erroneous impressions on the subject of consular fees. They are all regulated by Act of Parliament, in conformity with the Report of a Committee on the subject. I find that the consuls' payments from the Consolidated Fund amount to 105,000l., and the fees to 27,000. I have been told that in one department a' consul had received the enormous sum of 5,000l. in fees; but on inquiry at the Foreign Office, I find that one-tenth of that sum would have been nearer the truth. It is true, however, that recent amendments of the Mercantile Marine Act have thrown additional duties on consuls in foreign ports. This subject, however, is one which rests entirely with the Foreign Office. I have had an interview with the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the subject; the noble Lord entered very readily into the spirit in which the complaints had been made, and I hope, therefore, that the shipping interest will be satisfied that there is no indisposition on the part of the Government to do what is just with respect to the subject of consuls' fees. There is another little matter, which I believe is not made much of by the shipping interest, and that is the right of sending home from Queen's ships invalids in merchant vessels under the terms of the Act of Parliament, instead of by contracting for them. It is intended by the Government to make an arrangement in favour of the mercantile marine, and to place the sailor in this respect on the same footing as the soldier now stands.

I now come to the question of Pilotage. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) announced to the House the intention of her Majesty's late Government to appoint a Committee to inquire into this subject, justly thinking that an inquiry was needed before any effectual legislation could be adopted for the purpose of meeting the numerous grievances alleged on this subject. I am not sure that I know with perfect accuracy how many separate pilot jurisdictions there are in the three Kingdoms. I have had a list transmitted to me of between fifty and sixty of them. I venture to submit to this House, however, that its past experience with respect to Committees of Inquiry has not been so entirely satisfactory upon the subject of pilotage as that we ought to confine ourselves exclusively to that mode of investigation. So long ago as 1835 the late Sir Robert Peel appointed a Commission to investigate the subject. That Commission was composed of many eminent men, and there were among them those to whom certainly it could not be imputed that they were rash, or ready to recommend precipitate steps on the subject. I find among the names of the Commissioners, those of Lord Lonsdale, the late Marquess of Bute, Sir John Hardy, Mr. Robinson, Mr. Chapman. If inquiry is necessary in the case of some of the ports, it cannot be denied that with respect to some others we have ample evidence to warrant us in proceeding at once. What are the grievances, for instance, of the port of London? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) justly treated in a vein of ridicule the idea that a person who was competent to navigate a ship up the river was incompetent to navigate the same ship down the river, or that a person who was competent to navigate a ship down, could not be trusted with her up the river. I am told, however, that there is some difference between navigating a ship up and down the river. Be this as it may, I think that he who would trust his ship to the care of a man who could navigate his ship down the river, and was not able to navigate it up, would certainly be a rash man. There is no doubt, however, that this system leads to higher charges, and to the employment of two persons to do the work of one; it leads also to a want of uniformity of system in the control over the pilots. Her Majesty's Government fully subscribe to the opinion that control over the pilotage is necessarily a local matter, and that it should be left, as far as possible, to local control. That is no reason, however, why the Government should not confer upon the Trinity House pilot or the Cinque Port pilot, who has navigated a ship either down the river or from Dungeness Point, the power of taking a ship back, instead of travelling home by land. In the Bill which I have to submit to the Committee, the vested rights of the pilots are carefully preserved, and neither in their superannuation funds nor in any other of their rights will the slightest invasion of the rights of justice be made. The principle laid down in the Bill is that of local jurisdiction. I will ask those who represent the interests of the Cinque Ports to what commerce it is that they lay claim to the rights of pilotage? Is it not the great commerce of the City of London and ought not, therefore, the London juris- diction to prevail? We propose, then, in this Bill, while preserving all the rights of the existing bodies of pilots, to amalgamate the two bodies, and place them entirely under the same control as that of the London pilots. Let us take the next great port—the Mersey. Lord Lonsdale, one of the Commissioners appointed by Sir Robert Peel, in his Report to which I have alluded, states that— The consequence of the system has been to enhance the value of the pilots' vessels from 1,200l. to 1,400l., their original cost, to between 4,000l. and 5,000l. and even more. The Commissioners then proceed to notice the burdens levied on the shipping interest:— The third head applies principally to Liverpool, where coasters above 100 tons burden, or vessels which have not been employed in that trade for six months, are subject to pilotage, although it appears that they were formerly exempt; and it also applies to the ports of Ireland. In most other ports coasters are free, and as their masters are generally good pilots for the places which they frequent, we consider that such vessels should be placed on the same footing throughout the United Kingdom, and be everywhere exonerated from the obligation to employ a pilot. And after speaking of the hardship on steam companies of being compelled to pay pilotage every time, they state that in the instance of one Steam Boat Company the charges for pilotage for one year were not less than 2,890l. for the two ports of London and Liverpool. The Report on this port concludes by stating— As this, however, is a question involving not merely the risk of property to an immense amount, but, still more, the valuable lives of hundreds who daily embark in this class of vessels, we conceive that some regulation is absolutely necessary, as well for the ports in which steam vessels, trading as coasters, are now exempt, as in those in which they are at present compelled to take a pilot; and this becomes the more necessary as steam navigation is so rapidly increasing both in extent and importance. In 1849 the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Labouchere) brought in, and carried through the House, a Bill by which the pilot authorities were empowered to confer upon masters and mates the power to pilot their vessels, after examination and the grant of a certificate of competence. No persuasion, however, could induce the pilot authorities of Liverpool to exercise this power, and to examine masters with respect to their competence. It is true that they made an offer to exempt them from some of the contributions in respect to pilotage which other people paid; but when that offer came to be submitted to the Law Officers of the Crown, it was found that such exemption was against the provisions of the local Acts of Liverpool. The authorities, however, have not attempted to bring in any Bill to amend their Acts, to enable them to carry out their offer. We propose in this Bill to take away from the authorities the disqualification which their Act places upon them, and thus open a door by which justice can fairly be done; but we intend to take care that the authorities shall avail themselves of this opportunity of so doing, and I shall ask the House to confer upon the Board of Trade powers in certain cases to enforce examinations when such a course is not adopted by the authorities. We will take care, if local bodies are deaf to all remonstrance, and will not listen to complaints made to them, that there shall be another power which shall compel them to do justice. The Government desire nothing so little as centralisation in this matter. They desire to leave the powers to be exercised by the local authorities; and, as they think there must be a remedy for an acknowledged grievance, they will ask for an overriding power to override these and all other similar local Acts, in order that the local bodies may be enabled to make concessions to the mercantile marine. I come now to the third port—the Severn. The corporation of Bristol, in 1809, obtained an Act conferring upon them the power of licensing pilots for all vessels navigating the Severn. Since that period, however, great alterations have taken place. Newport, Cardigan, Swansea, and Gloucester have become great ports, some of them not even inferior to that of Bristol, and those ports feel greatly the tax imposed upon them by being compelled to employ Bristol pilots. The jurisdiction of the corporation extends to all ports and places in the Bristol Channel as low as Lundy Island. The just request of the ports to which I have alluded is, that they may be independent of the Bristol establishment, as they represent that they have a commerce fully equal to that of Bristol. Great care must be taken by the authorities against the inconveniences which may arise from different sets of pilots belonging to these several ports, and the difficulties which may arise from not knowing to what port a ship may belong upon its arriving, or in bad weather the inconvenience which would result from checking the zeal of the pilots, who would not be sure of finding that the first on board would be employed. There are diffi- culties connected with this port which do not occur in the cases of the Mersey and the Thames, and which require, consequently, a considerable amount of investigation. I cordially subscribe to the opinion of the right hon. Member (Mr. Disraeli) that an inquiry of a most extensive description is required on the subject of pilotage. I have, it must be remembered, only dealt with a few of the greater and more salient points; there are many other grievances alleged, of which, in each particular case, I do not consider myself a competent judge. There are complaints, in many cases, that the rates of pilotage are extremely high, and the remuneration excessive. The question, however, which remains to be dealt with is, how can that inquiry be best instituted? With respect to Committees of this House, he would certainly be an ambitious Member who would enter upon the investigation of these innumerable local jurisdictions with any idea that between the present time and the prorogation of Parliament he would be able to bring the inquiry to a conclusion. Having before me also the Report of the Commission conducted by such able men as those to whom I have referred, I am not inclined again to resort to a Commission for the purpose of inquiry. By the aid of the officers placed in the mercantile marine department, under the Bill of the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Labouchere), we intend to construct a schedule which I propose to insert in the Bill, calling upon every pilotage board in the kingdom for complete Returns; and there are also provisions in the Bill to ensure the making of those Returns, which will not, I think, be found inefficacious for the purpose. We propose to have sent to the Board of Trade, to be placed before the House of Commons, all the by-laws, regulations, and qualifications of pilots, their numbers, remuneration, and other particulars, by which means, I trust, we shall create, not a temporary but permanent inquiry, capable of supervision, but self-acting and stringent in its character. We do not propose, however, to stop there. We will not be deterred by any impediment in any local Act. There will be in the Bill one overriding power of reform and inquiry over all existing Acts; and we shall throw upon every pilotage board in the kingdom the necessity of coming to Parliament with the information required, and with public responsibility upon them, and we may, I think, assume that by this time next year we shall have a full and complete account before us of the state of those bodies. Let us now apply the provisions of this Bill to the case of' the Severn port. In this case there are physical as well as legal difficulties to contend with. I have reason to believe that different plans of reform are urged by different individuals; but all agree in the opinion that some improvement is absolutely necessary and urgently called for with respect to this port. I have asked the Committee to give to the Queen in Council, that is to say, the Board of Trade, powers, not of a compulsory, but of a mediatorial character, and capable of exercising a strong moral compulsion. I thought it would be too strong a measure to apply in the first instance for compulsory powers, but if you clothe us with the proposed mediatorial power, I will show you bow it will be exercised in the case of the Severn ports. There is, fortunately, now in the Board of Trade a gentleman not only of the highest eminence in his profession, but a man who, of all others, is best acquainted with the navigation of the Severn, Captain Beechey. If I possessed the mediatorial power referred to, I would request that gentleman to go down to the Severn and investigate on the spot all the affairs of these public bodies. I have no reason to suppose that any person will refuse to comply with his suggestions; but I will ask you to assume such a case. Under the first provision of the Bill they will he required to transmit to the Board of Trade such information as may enable us to judge of their present condition; and under the second they will, upon refusing to afford this information, be treated as recalcitrant bodies. Naked and defenceless they will stand before you, exposed to the consequences with which you may think fit to visit them. I think no one can impugn the moderation of these proposals. We have insured, I think, an inquiry far more efficacious, and of a recurrent form, than any which could be obtained by means of a Committee. This being my view of the policy of the case, I propose that you should give me your permission to introduce a Bill to amend the law with respect to the pilotage of the country. I perceive that a noble Lord (Lord Colchester) connected with the office which I have now the honour to hold, under the late Government, put a question in another place to the Government with respect to the consolidation of the laws of the mercantile marine. I think it must be obvious to the Committee that if you were to at- tempt now to consolidate all the existing laws in a few months, when you shall have enacted these changes, you would be called upon to repeal that consolidated law. I therefore invite your calm and indulgent attention to the nature of the proposals with respect to the light-dues, manning, volunteering, salvage, pilotage, and other important subjects connected with our mercantile marine, which I have now submitted to the Committee. I ought to state that a reduction of 25 per cent in the rates of pilotage of vessels in the port of London will be very speedily effected, while the pilotage of vessels tugged by steamboats will be raised from one-third to one-fourth, if the propositions of this Bill are carried out. I have now concluded the task which the indulgence of the Committee has permitted mo to discharge. The propositions which I have submitted are unambitious in their character; but I believe that many of the changes proposed will result in much practical good, and at least I can tell you that you are making no surrender by adopting them, to political pressure, nor making any abnormal concessions to the exigencies of a suffering interest. On the contrary, you are invited to legislate at a time of unprecedented prosperity, and Her Majesty's Government only ask you to give effect to what are their sincere convictions. You are asked to take another step in the course begun by Huskisson, and continued by Peel; and in the name of British enterprise we defy competition, from whatever quarter it may come, believing, sincerely believing, that in proportion as you retain your place in the vanguard of commercial freedom, in that same proportion will you maintain the pre-eminence which you have earned both in mercantile prosperity and maritime power. I therefore beg to place in the Chairman's hands the Resolution of which I have given notice, and that he be instructed to ask leave to bring in a Bill on this subject.


said, that although he had not come to the same conclusion as his right hon. Friend, yet be thought the Committee was greatly indebted to his right hon. Friend for the clear and comprehensive manner in which he had dealt with this subject. He (Mr. Hume) augured well from it for those reforms of which he individually had so long been the advocate. He would admit that no public body ever passed through a stricter ordeal than the Trinity Board before the Committee of 1834, and he would admit that they had performed their duties with credit to themselves; hut he differed from them as to the principle upon which the lighthouse system had been conducted. The mercantile navy of the United States was not subject to any charge whatever for lighting; and he thought that not one farthing should be raised on the shipping for such a purpose. As the weight and pressure of indirect taxation was admitted to be a grievous burden upon the consumer, so every tax laid upon the shipowner was, indirectly, a burden upon the consumer, which he was compelled to pay in the shape of increased prices. He wished a better system to be adopted. Shipping, being the means by which goods were carried, ought in his view to be exempted from the charges to which it was subjected; and if taxation were required to pay for lights, let it he levied, not upon the shipping, but upon the goods brought by the shipping as they were landed on the wharf. This was a reform which he hoped ere long to see carried. But still his own view was, and he had no hesitation in giving expression to it, that light-dues ought to be entirely abolished, and the burden placed upon the shoulders of the community at large. Unless this principle were acted upon, he could not see why the Royal Navy of England should not be taxed for this purpose, in proportion to its tonnage, as well as the mercantile marine. He was satisfied that the spirit of the age in which we lived required an entire change in the system under which these matters were now managed; and, among other subjects, it would be admitted that we must have greater responsibility. It was said that the Trinity Board was an honorary board, but he wanted no honorary boards. The name of Prince Albert had been mentioned in connexion with it, and with very great credit; but what had he to do with the Lighthouse Board? Nothing at all. He (Mr. Hume) never knew an honorary board of any use. There should be a responsible board. The Trinity Board was established in the time of Queen Elizabeth, and he would admit it had been of great advantage, and, on the whole, performed its functions well; but why, when they were revoking the charters of the towns in England for the best purposes, should they continue that board? The Government, however, ought to have had charge of lights and lighthouses from the first, as they would have been better enabled to act with promptitude in establish- ing lights where they were wanted, and thereby many thousands of lives and many millions worth of property might have been saved. He had no objection to the application of lighthouse dues to lighthouse purposes; hut whilst saying this, he wished the sailor, who at present was interested in these dues, to be placed in a better situation than he was under the existing system, when his strength was diminished and his energies exhausted. He was satisfied that if we dealt liberally and justly by our own seamen, we should not have so many leaving our service. From what he had just said, the Committee would understand that, though he had no objection to the right hon. Gentleman's plan as a whole, he considered that in some respects it did not go far enough. For example, he wished the honorary board of the Trinity House to be abolished. Let them have nothing to do with princes and lords. They were of no use, because they were not wanted; and they were considered merely as—[An Hon. MEMBER: Lumber]—Ay, as lumber. They were only as lumber, for they were of no real use. The honorary board, therefore, ought to be done away with. As to that part of the right hon. Gentleman's plan which related to volunteering the Navy, he thought there was great good sense in the proposal. So was there in the resolution to abandon the restriction as to the proportion of seamen to be employed in British ships. This restriction, he believed, had been the cause of many strikes; its removal, therefore, would have a tendency to prevent combinations, and to enable the seaman to better his own condition. As to salvage, he totally condemned the present system. Salvage money to the Royal Navy should he abolished. The navies of France and the United States had instructions to give assistance, not only to the ships of their own mercantile marine, but to that of every other country, without charge. It was not honourable to a country like Great Britain to place its Navy upon a different footing; and he entreated Her Majesty's Government to reconsider their proposal in this respect. Let not the British Navy be placed in a degraded position compared with those of France and the United States. Let the same rule apply to the navies of all the three Powers, and he was sure that where services had been rendered to their ships, the merchants and shipowners of Great Britain would ever be found ready to reward the individuals by whom these services were given. He also trusted that the Admiralty Courts—which were bad enough here, but worse abroad—would be effectually reformed by the measures of the Government; for the expenses and delays on foreign stations had proved the ruin of many shipowners; and he was very glad to hear that it was intended to put an end to the great detentions abroad to which ships were at present liable. As to pilotage, he approved generally of the mode in which it was proposed to deal with the subject; but there was one point upon which he should feel it his duty to call upon the Government for some specific information. He alluded to the office of Warden of the Cinque Ports, He wished to know the nature of the arrangement under which this office had been granted to the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Dalhousie) now administering the Government of India. The Committee upon Sinecures, when considering the nature of this office, said that as it was held by the Duke of Wellington, in consideration of his public services nothing should be done to disturb his possession during the lifetime of that distinguished man; but they agreed that upon the noble Duke's decease it should undergo inquiry and revision. He did not believe that House was in possession of an accurate account of the amount of the profits, fees, and allowances of the Warden of the Cinque Ports; but it was well known that he had the patronage of the pilots, and that there were political and financial abuses in the office, which ought to be put a stop to. Would the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) inform the Committee what the duties of the office of warden were, and what the Marquess of Dalhousie was to receive for fulfilling them? If there were no duties, the office ought certainly to cease. At all events, the Committee had need of information upon the subject. On the whole, he believed that the right hon. Gentleman's proposals would be of great benefit, and he must say he had heard them with great pleasure; but he trusted that the important point of leaving the mercantile marine entirely untaxed would not be lost sight of by the Government or by that House.


said, the Committee must have heard with great pleasure the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, because, though embracing a great variety of subjects, it was admirably clear and intelligible. He would notice a few of its points, hut would take them in the reverse order of their introduction. He fully agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, that there was much misapprehension as to the emoluments of the consuls at foreign ports, arising from the mode in which they were paid. Many persons connected with the shipping interest fancied that these officers were greatly interested in the fees they received. This was a mistake, for the fact was, that the fees went to make up their salaries. Upon the subject of manning the Navy, the right hon. Gentleman had not stated whether or not it was his intention to apply the provisions of his Bill equally to masters as well as to crews. Her inferred that it was the intention. At present, he believed there was no distinction as to mates, but there was as to masters; and he desired to know the views of the Government upon the subject. He presumed, also, that when foreign seamen were serving on board British ships, they would come under the same rules as native seamen. He did not know whether it was intended to continue the present system of registration or not; but this was an important question, upon which he should be glad to hear the views of the Government. He was glad to hear the statement of the right hon. Gentleman as to the numbers of masters and mates who had passed the voluntary examination. That statement was no inconsiderable answer to the charges which bad been so inconsiderately heaped upon the heads of the masters and mates in the merchant service of late years. If ever there was a set of men more calumniated than another, those men were the masters and mates of the merchant service, He never could concur in the sweeping nature of those allegations; though he admitted that among a body of 20,000 masters and mates, there might be some drunken and incompetent men; but the same remark would hold true, doubtless, with any large body of men. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) appeared to have a great horror of the terrible tribunal of the Admiralty Court—a horror second only to that which be entertained of the Ecclesiastical Courts. He admitted there were grievances arising from the present system. There had been many painful instances where a large amount of salvage had been claimed, whore the parties having gone into the Admiralty Court, a much less sum was awarded than was claimed, and where, upon appeal to the Privy Council, a less sum still had been awarded, while the costs were greater than the whole amount claimed. These eases were a grievance, and felt to be such. The subject, therefore, was deserving of consideration. As to salvage services of the Royal Navy, it was a question whether, as the navies of other countries rendered such aid free, this tax should be continued upon our own mercantile marine. He would now come to the question of lights. Upon that subject he believed that the Trinity House had upon the whole administered their trust as faithfully as possible, and that they had applied, as they were bound to apply, a considerable part of their funds to charitable purposes. But he did not anticipate that the scheme proposed by the right hon. Gentleman would effect any great saving of expenditure, especially if, as he understood, the three existing managements were to be continued—the Trinity House, the Ballast Board in Dublin, and the Commissioners of the Northern Lights in Edinburgh. Upon these subjects, however, he would reserve any opinion till he had the Bill before him. He wished to know, however, if it was proposed that the officer, who was to be responsible to that House, should exercise a control antecedent to the expenditure of the money? [Mr. CARDWELL: Yes.] With regard to the question of the private lights, he understood that the shipping interest was to be left burdened with that charge until the debt incurred by their purchase was discharged—


They are overpaid already.


said, he understood that there was a sum somewhat less than 100,000l. still owing. Whether that debt was to be liquidated in six months or in sixteen months, he understood that the liquidation was to come from the shipping interest, and not from the Consolidated Fund. So it was to be with regard to the charities. As long as there were any recipients of the present charities, he understood they were to he paid by the dues on the shipping interest, and not out of any public fund. Now, in these respects the measure differed from that which was proposed by the late Government. His opinion, and that of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) was, that the private lights had too long been a charge upon the shipping interest; the debt upon them, in their opinion, had already been repaid, both principal and interest; -and if it were not, they were of opinion that it was not unreasonable the country at large should now defray the expense. So with regard to the charities. No one could wish that the present recipients of these charities should suddenly be deprived of them; but the late Government felt that to continue to lay that burden upon the shipping interest was objectionable on principle, and, therefore, they determined to lay the burden upon the country at large. With regard to the question of passing tolls, it seemed to be imagined that the late Government had also intended to charge the expenditure hitherto defrayed by them for all time out of the Consolidated Fund. Nothing could be further from their intention. The late Government knew that in several places debts had been contracted on the faith of these passing tolls, and therefore his right hon. Friend the late Chancellor of the Exchequer was for continuing the passing tolls for two years longer. The Government of which he had been a Member had sent an officer to make inquiries into the subject at Ramsgate, considering that passing tolls were very objectionable in principle. In several places where these tolls were levied, there was a debt which had been contracted upon their security, though that was not the case at Ramsgate; and his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in making his financial statement, which was for two years, had naturally said, that probably a charge upon the Consolidated Fund might accrue from that circumstance. They had refused to sanction legislation on the subject of the Ramsgate dues, because they thought the principle of these passing tolls altogether objectionable; but it had not been their intention to provide for those tolls permanently out of the Consolidated Fund, but to inquire if the objects might not he obtained by local rates and charges. With respect to the general principle of the measure proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, as far as he understood it, it was that stringent powers were to be given to the Government Board, which would override all the local Acts of Parliament—


The local boards will have power to make by-laws.


Yes; but these bylaws will be subject to the control of the central board, so that, virtually, the central board will override every other. With regard to one subject on which the right hon. Gentleman dwelt—the refusal to give certificates of pilotage to the masters of Liverpool steamers, thus compelling them to take pilots—he wished to remind the House that the Liverpool pilots were obliged to go out to sea in all weathers. This was a dangerous and an expensive service; and the Liverpool pilots naturally complained that if the steamers could dispense with their services in rough weather, they would not object to their having certificates for piloting their own vessels in fine weather. He would not, however, go further till he had seen the Bill, and he would content himself for the present with saying that the subject was one of the greatest interest to the mercantile marine of this country, and that he was sure both sides of the House would give it their dispassionate consideration.


said, he was rejoiced to be able to say that he had heard with the greatest satisfaction all the principal parts of the statement made by his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade; and, indeed, with very little modification that feeling of satisfaction applied to all the measures which had been announced to the Committee. He had heard, however, with especial satisfaction, from the right hon. Gentleman, the statement with which he had prefaced his speech, namely, of the great prosperity, both material and moral, of the British mercantile marine at the present moment. That was a subject of the deepest interest to every individual and to every Member of that House; but as it had fallen to him in recent times to propose great and important measures affecting the mercantile marine of this country, some of which had met with very great and, he had no doubt, conscientious opposition, it was to him especially a matter of the greatest satisfaction to see a President of the Board of Trade rise in the House of Commons, and state without contradiction that, come from what cause that prosperity might, it existed at this moment in the highest degree—that never was the British mercantile marine more completely and entirely prosperous. He would not enter now into the causes of that prosperity, which he believed depended upon the general prosperity of the trade of the country; and he must say he never could understand such a state of things, as that the trade of the country should be in a state of prosperity, and that the shipping interest, which was merely the channel through which that trade passed, should be in a state of decay. He knew some persons suggested that the present state of prosperity was in spite of, and not in consequence of, the repeal of the Navigation Laws. He would not now enter into that question; he would only ask such persons to consider what would now be the condition of the mercan- tile marine of this country if the restrictions which formerly existed had not been repealed before the present increase in our commerce had arisen—before those new channels for the employment of vessels in California and Australia had been discovered—and before there was that unexampled demand for ships wherever they could be found; and he would beg them to consider at what disadvantage our merchants and manufacturers would have been placed, and how unable they would have been to cope with the Americans, who were not subject to these restrictions. He would now pass on to what was more properly the subject of consideration—the measures propounded to the House by his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. By far the greater part of those measures met with his unqualified approbation; and if there was any point of detail upon which he differed in opinion from his right hon. Friend, it would be better to reserve discussion upon those points until the Bill went into Committee. With regard to the question of lights, he believed that, upon the whole, the right hon. Gentleman had followed a very judicious course; and he believed the scheme proposed would obtain that substantial control over the lights of this country which was necessary for the public, quite as effectually as a more ostentatious and radical reform would have done. He (Mr. Labouchere) must be permitted to add his testimony to that which had been borne that evening in regard to the general conduct and character of the Trinity House. It had been his lot to communicate officially for many years with the Trinity House, formerly when the late lamented Sir John Polly filled the office of deputy governor, and since that office had been held by Captain Shepherd, and he had always observed on the part of the Board a sincere desire to meet the Government in all practical improvements of the system. At the same time he was ready to admit that there were parts of the Trinity House system which were indefensible. The administrators of funds so large ought to be more directly responsible to the Government and to Parliament than they were; and therefore he rejoiced to find that the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman had been met in so fair a spirit by the Trinity House on this occasion, not in the narrow spirit of a corporation, but with a due regard to those public objects for which the corporation was instituted. Undoubtedly that which used to form the great burden upon the shipping interest had been the charge for' lights, and the compensation for that great sum of money necessary to buy up the private lights vested in individuals. About 1,250,000l. were paid in this way, and the repayment of this fell upon the shipping interest. A more monstrous abuse than these private lights had never existed in this or in other country. He had seen it stated that they had been given to private individuals on no other stipulation than that they should be kept in repair; and in a publication to which we were very much indebted for an insight into the history of the time—he meant the Grenville Correspondence—there was this curious note with regard to an interview which George Grenville, then Prime Minister, had with George III.:—"Finding His Majesty in a particularly gracious humour, I thought it a good occasion to ask for a lighthouse for my youngest son." It was impossible to characterise such a transaction as this by any other than the simple, short, and inelegant word—a job. Unfortunately the sum involved in the purchase of these lights was very considerable, and no Chancellor of the Exchequer had ever had the courage to propose that it should he paid by the nation; but that sum was now reduced to a very insignificant amount—to not more than 97,000l,—which still remained for to be paid once for all. It was the intention of the late Government, he believed, to have paid that sum out of the Consolidated Fund, and he would venture to ask his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, whether it would not be worth while to accord this boon, and to pay the 97,000l. out of the public fund, as had been proposed, instead of letting it fall upon the shipping interest? One of the most important questions touched upon by the right hon. Gentleman had been that of pilotage, and the abolition of the separate jurisdiction of the Cinque Ports, of which the proposed consolidation would constitute an important practical reform. He sincerely trusted that this portion of the right hon. Gentleman's Bill would obtain the consent of both Houses of Parliament, for a more important boon could not be given to the mercantile marine than the consolidation, under one system of pilotage, of the Cinque Port and the other pilot systems. At present, by what was called the "manning clause," the crew of a British vessel must be three-fourths British, and might be one-fourth foreign. His right hon. Friend proposed to abrogate this provision, and to enact that the whole of the crew might be foreign, both masters and men. Now he held opinions on that subject which perhaps were not popular on his side of the House, but he must say he was not favourable to this change. He believed that as a practical grievance it affected the shipping interest less than was generally supposed. He believed that the cases would be very few indeed where a bonâ fide British ship would leave a British harbour with more than one-fourth of her crew consisting of foreigners. When the repeal of the Navigation Laws was under consideration, he had frequent interviews with the shipowners, and he repeatedly offered to modify the existing law so as to allow them to carry a larger proportion of foreign seamen; but he was always told that that was not their object—they must be allowed to employ all foreigners, and nothing else would be of any value to them. At the same time he did not look upon this question as a grievance to British seamen; and he said this the more emphatically, for he knew that attempts had been made to represent to the British seaman that he was hardly treated under this measure. He had no fear of the British seaman being able to compete with the foreigner. The Baltic seamen were the only men that were worth anything, and they were too much in demand in their own country to cause any dread that their numbers would affect the wages of seamen here. But he viewed the question from another point of view. The late Government abolished the restriction as to British-built ships; and now by the proposed alteration a Swedish-built ship, manned by a Swedish captain and Swedish sailors, or a French-built ship, manned by French sailors, was to be regarded as a British vessel if she had a British owner. Now, he wanted to know what there would be of the character of a British ship about such a vessel, except her flag and her ownership? Now he was afraid that the ownership would be in many cases a merely colourable matter; and the effect of the change would be that they would be called upon to recognise and to protect as British a ship that was foreign built, that had a foreign captain and crew, that sailed from a foreign port, and whose only title to be considered British was that she had some man of straw for a British owner. Upon every other ground he rejoiced to see the market thrown open. The shipping interest was at present in a state of almost unexampled prosperity, yet that House could not be more properly employed than in considering the conditions of the prosperity of that great interest on which the safety and credit of this country so greatly depended.


said, he must defend the Cinque Ports pilots from the charges that had been made against them. The Cinque Ports pilots were compelled to serve in rotation, whereas the Trinity House pilots had the option of whatever ship they chose, and they usually selected the largest as the most profitable. The Cinque Ports pilots were bound to serve in Her Majesty's Navy, while the Trinity House pilots were exempt. The Cinque Ports pilots were bound to make an annual survey of the opposite coast of Holland—an obligation which did not rest on the pilots of the Trinity House. It had been said that the Cinque Ports pilots were appointed by patronage, but the contrary was in fact the case. They had to undergo a severe examination before the officers of the Lord Warden. So far from patron, age having any influence on the case, ou-of 149 persons passed, and 45 rejectedt there were among the latter several who were related to the examining officers. Again, the Cinque Ports pilots were bound to serve an apprenticeship of seven years, whereas the Trinity House pilots had only to serve three years.


said, he must beg to express the great gratification with which he had hoard the propositions of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade; for he believed that, if carried out, they would tend to relieve the shipping interest from some of the heaviest burdens which they were at present subject to. As all protection had been taken from them, they should, as far as possible, be relieved from the burdens under which they laboured, and amongst them one of the heaviest was pilotage. Although it might be true that the Cinque Ports pilots had some disadvantages, it should be remembered that they had also advantages which other pilots did not enjoy. There were, for instance, only the same number of pilots now that there were thirty-six years ago, although the shipping of the country had, during that time, increased from 50 to 100 per cent. They enjoyed the privilege of examining themselves; that was, although a pilot could not examine his own son, he could examine a friend's son, who might in his turn examine his—a pretty comfortable way of doing the business. Then their fees were exceedingly high. He had a bill for piloting a ship of Mr. Greene's of 22 feet draught of water. The pilotage from the Downs to Gravesend was 25l. 2s.d., and there was a further charge of 5l. 5s. for boarding, making a total of upwards of 30l. Such a charge was a heavy burden upon the shipping interest.


said, he thought the statement of the right hon. Gentleman would be heard with great satisfaction by the shipping interest. He wished, however, to draw his attention to two questions. The first of these was the desertion from British ships by their seamen in foreign ports. At present there were 80,000 tons of shipping lying in the ports of Australia, and unable to get away because the seamen had deserted, and because the only punishment which the local magistrates could inflict upon them, that of imprisonment, was totally ineffective. He hoped that the law would be made more effective, by giving the magistrates power to send deserters on board, and that two or three men-of-war would be sent out to aid the magistrates, as a water-police, He hoped also that the present system of giving salvage to Her Majesty's ships would either be abolished, or at any rate materially modified. He thought that, under ordinary circumstances, the officers of the British Navy should give their aid to British ships in distress without looking for remuneration; and that, although in cases of great danger and difficulty, it might be right something should be paid, yet this might safely be left to the generosity of the underwriters, who had always shown themselves disposed to reward amply any extraordinary services of this description. The enormous rewards now claimed by British men-of-war for services rendered to merchantmen, under very ordinary circumstances, reflected great discredit on the British Navy, and were felt by the mercantile body as a great grievance, He wished, in conclusion, to say but one word with respect to the pilots of Liverpool. There was not in the country a more respectable body, nor one which more efficiently performed the difficult or dangerous duties devolving upon them. He was sure that, as a body, they would not be disposed to interpose any obstacle to the relaxations which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to introduce in favour of the steam navy of the country.


said, that as the representative of one of the greatest shipping ports of the country, Newcastle-on-Tyne, he begged to express his satisfaction at the attention which the right hon. President of the Board of Trade had devoted to the various grievances brought before him. He did not think that he had, however, in all respects dealt as fairly and liberally with the shipping interest as might have been expected, considering the severity of the unrestricted competition to which they were now exposed. The restriction hitherto imposed upon owners with respect to the composition of their crews, was one no longer tenable; and though its abolition might meet with some opposition from those whose interests were directly affected by it, he believed that they would ultimately be benefited by it. He did, however, think that some of the burdens which at present pressed upon the shipping interests might have been removed. The passing tolls were an impost the continued imposition of which was utterly untenable on any sound principle. Nor did it appear from the right hon. Gentleman's statement that his plan would materially decrease the charge of light-dues to the shipping interest. He must protest against this, for he thought it very unfair that a charge which in other countries was borne by the general taxes of the country, should in this be imposed (together with other things not properly connected with it) upon one particular class. No doubt great caution should be exercised in placing charges upon the Consolidated Fund; but still as that fund was contributed to by the shipowners with the rest of the community, he thought it was only fair that when they were exposed to free competition with other countries, they should not be required to bear alone burdens which were there borne by the community at large.


said, he wished to remind the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, and the Committee, that in dealing with the question of the Cinque Ports pilots, that they had existed as a body for centuries. He was, indeed, aware that that was a claim to consideration which was not very favourably listened to at present. All, however, that he asked was, that before their interests were interfered with, their duties, and the manner in which they had performed them, should be carefully inquired into. When a similar measure to that proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade was in contemplation in 1837, the Duke of Wellington protested against the amalgamation of all the pilots of the country under the Trinity House, as he said it would virtually make that body legislators on all matters of pilotage. If it should be determined that these men should no longer be employed, reference ought to be had to the expensive education they had undergone, and compensation, as in all cases where places were taken away, should be allowed to them. The noble Lord the Member for Lichfield (Lord A. Paget) had complained of the inefficient manner in which the Cinque Ports pilots were examined; but the, Duke of Wellington had, in a letter written to the Master of the Trinity House, in 1837, borne testimony to its perfect efficiency. He wished to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to these points, as he was sure that he did not intend to do any injustice to men who had proved themselves a practical and able body.


said, he had been most anxious, for a series of years, to see the good work of reformation on this question effected. It must he obvious that the whole fabric was coming to an end. It was, therefore, quite time that something was done to accelerate that event, and to lay the foundation of a better system. But, at the same time, he must say, that, with respect to pilots, they were a most valuable body; and it was of the utmost consequence that this body of persons should be kept up in a state of full efficiency. He was sorry the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) had not determined to deal with the question of passing tolls without delay. Such was the injurious operation of this toll, that shipmasters, rather than pay this toll to Dovor, had given orders that the port of Dovor should be avoided, even though the nearest port in a time of emergency. He had attempted to get this and similar grievances redressed, but had hitherto been met with the answer that the time had not come for making any effective change. With regard to relieving the shipping interest, the best way would be to take off the duty on timber, and thus to give the British shipowner a fair chance against the foreign shipowner. He should be glad to see the question of salvage fairly and finally settled. He considered the Royal Navy was for the use of the country, and that services ought to he rendered to the mercantile marine without the Admiralty sending in a hill afterwards. No doubt when loss occurred through saving vessels or rendering assistance, such cases ought to be properly compensated, but not, as now, by a claim for salvage. He believed the present measure would be of great benefit, and he trusted it would meet with support, for it would get rid of the monster grievance, the Cinque Ports.


said, as representative of one of the most important of our seaports, Glasgow, he felt hound to approve of the measure as far as it went; hut he regretted that so little had been done to check that growing evil, desertion. He was sorry to hear his right hon. Friend talk of the consular fees in a tone which intimated that he did not consider them any serious evil. He could assure him that the shipping interest looked upon those charges as a serious grievance, and the more so as these burdens were the heavier when a ship was in difficulties. He had known cases when, in the south-west coast of America, as much as 200 dollars for the consul's fees at a single port were paid. His right hon. Friend, he thought, had hardly indicated the principle on which his Pilotage Bill was to proceed; if, however, it was to proceed on the principle recommended by the Committee in 1835, it would give satisfaction to the shipping interests, and the country at largo.


said, he considered that the light-dues and the charges for salvage made by ships of the Royal Navy were most unjust to the shipping interest; and he would suggest that the former should be defrayed out of the Consolidated Fund, and that the latter, when any charge could be justly made out, should be paid by the Admiralty.


said, he considered that the effect of the removal of the restrictions which now existed as to the manning of the merchant navy, would be to raise the rate of wages in foreign ports, and thus to improve the position of the British shipowner by removing one of the difficulties with which he had to contend, namely, the low rate at which the foreign shipowner could man his vessel. He thought, however, that means should be taken to render our merchant service more popular, by freeing it from those severities of discipline which, being carried on without responsibility, in some cases partook of the character of tyranny. He would suggest that a record should be kept of all cases in which punishment was inflicted on board merchant ships, and that similar regulations should be established to those which prevailed in the ships of war on the subject.


said, he must complain that, by the arrangement that was pro- posed to be made by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, respecting the passing toll, an injustice would be done to the port of Sunderland; and he must say that he had expected, from the fairness and knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman, and the ability of the Government, that they would deal more satisfactorily with the question. The former Government had exhibited the desire of doing them justice; but though the right hon. Gentleman had proposed to deal fairly with the lighthouses for the present, he promised no relief to the shipping interests at all. His constituents were taxed for passing from the south, whilst Middlesborough and Hartlepool were exempt. The right hon. President of the Board of Trade had said that Ramsgate harbour could pay its own way. He (Mr. Hudson) knew it could; but what he contended was, that Sunderland ought not to be charged with the errors of other places. The shipping interest would view with dissatisfaction the statement of the right hon. Gentleman in this respect. The people of Sunderland, exposed as they were to unrestricted competition with the foreigner, required immediate relief, not a postponement of their case. He had never known any person more conversant with the subject of the mercantile marine than the right hon. Gentleman; and they should, therefore, press upon him night after night until he did them justice. There was a tax of 7s 6d. a load charged on timber; and he hoped when the Budget was brought forward, they would be relieved from that tax, which had been unjustly left on them by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London when he was at the head of the Government. With respect to the passing tolls he did not think they formed a case for inquiry.


Sir, on a former occasion I have expressed, as an individual Member of Parliament, my opinions on this subject, and I do not know that they differ very much from what the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has expressed; but to-night the province is cast upon me of bringing forward certain measures, and I have nothing whatever to do with fiscal or financial subjects. I have no authority to touch the timber duties, or in any other way to touch those questions that affect the balance sheet of the year. Those subjects were very properly referred to by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli), when he brought the case of the shipping interest before the House, because he was making a financial statement. I don't know whether the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hudson) was present in the early part of the evening, when I referred to the passing tolls; but I must have expressed myself very indistinctly, or he must have misunderstood me, if he thought that I was putting myself forward as an advocate for passing tolls. The Government wish for an inquiry because the subject is one affecting the public interests, and we consequently desire to have the facts placed accurately before us. The hon. Gentleman says that inquiry is not necessary; but read the Report of the Committee, and it will show you that inquiry is necessary. I do not wish to go into any fiscal statement, but the occasion will arrive before long when a detailed statement on that subject will be made; and those who think there will be no reduction of duty on lights, will, I trust, be satisfied when the details of that statement are laid before them. I can assure the Committee that if the House shall invest the Board of Trade with the powers which this Bill proposes to confer on them, they will be exercised with the utmost frankness. In reference to an observation that has been made, I beg to say that nothing was further from my intention than to express an opinion on a minute question raised between parties in Liverpool. My hon. Friend the Member for Montrose thinks Princes and Peers have nothing to do with light-boards. In America, they think otherwise, for the Report to Congress says— In England the Duke of Wellington presides, while the prince, the peer, the admiral, the commoner, and the retired sea captain sit together and devise means for alleviating the hardships and lessening the dangers of the mariner in approaching their dangerous coast. In my opening speech I did the utmost I could to spare the time of the Committee by not entering into unnecessary details; but when all the details are laid before hon. Gentlemen, I think it will be found that many of the objections made to night have been anticipated.

Resolved—"That the Chairman be directed to move the House, that leave be given to bring in a Bill further to amend the Law relating to Pilotage."

Resolution reported.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Wilson Patten, Mr. Cardwell, and Sir James Graham.

House resumed.