§ House in Committee.
§ MR. CARDWELL
rose to ask for leave to bring in two Bills—the first to give effect to that passage in the Speech from the Throne in which Her Majesty recommended them to remove the last remaining fetter from the free navigation of these realms; and the second to consolidate and amend the various laws which, since the repeal of the Navigation Act, had been passed for the benefit of British shipping. With regard to the second Bill it would not be necessary for him to trouble the Committee at any length. The consolidation to which it referred was intended to have been carried into effect by his right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. Labouchere), and it had also engaged the attention of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley). The measure which he should lay on the table would contain many changes, and be 224 of no ordinary magnitude, but it related to subjects that had already undergone considerable discussion in that House, and affected matters that had already, in some degree, been disposed of by the House, or which had at least been much ventilated among those who were most interested in the questions at issue. He should endeavour to follow the advice given him the other evening by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Liddell) in reference to his conduct of the Bill, and should endeavour in the progress of the measure to obtain the opinions of those persons most competent to give advice upon the subject. On the second reaching he should be able to ascertain those opinions, and the nature of any amendments which it might be desirable to introduce, and should then be enabled to decide whether the better course would be to refer the Bill to a Committee upstairs, or, following the usual course, to proceed with it in a Committee of the whole House. A measure like the present, he was convinced, could not be successful unless it was debated on both sides in an enlightened spirit. The magnitude of the measure and the multiplicity of its details, rendered it necessary that it should be considered with the utmost care and deliberation, by one or other of the courses he had pointed out; and he was sure that he might rely on all those interested to aid in the work of consolidation referred to, and to make it as perfect as possible. He should not, therefore, trouble the House at any length on that point, but would content himself with saying that the first part of the Bill would refer to the registry of ships and to the measurement of ships, and would contain a novelty which he hoped would be accepted—he meant the substitution of a new and more scientific mode of measurement than that at present used—a mode well known by the name of the person who had recommended it—Captain Moorsom—and which, while it served to maintain the same general average of tonnage, ascertained the contents of each ship with greater accuracy and fairness than the present mode, besides taking away all inducements for adhering to the antiquated models of construction, by giving an internal measurement, which, while it favoured the strength of the model, added to the safety of navigation. That mode of measurement had been referred to the consideration of the Assistant Surveyor of the Navy, the Naval Assistants of the Board of Trade, the Trinity House, 225 and, he believed, the Shipowners' Associations of London and Liverpool, and other bodies;—for it was only by a concurrence of nautical authorities such as these that a change of the kind could be carried through the House, since there were very few Members who could venture to say that they were able to discern the advantages that would follow from the adoption of this peculiar mode of measuring ships, or would like to hazard an opinion on a measure so purely technical. The next subject upon which he proposed to consolidate the laws related to the question of discipline—the law by which provision was made for the subordination of the crews to the masters, and for the comfort of crews themselves on board ship. That was a matter which had attracted particular attention during the last three years, and he had derived great advantage from the labours of his predecessor in office. In fact, when he entered office he found a Bill already prepared, and he had only to go over a work already accomplished. He had gone over it nevertheless, and had made some changes, which would of course be the subject of fair and dispassionate discussion. The next subject was one which he was sure could not be mentioned in the House of Commons without exciting the greatest sympathy and regret. He was sure that there was no one who heard him who did not lament those terrible catastrophes at sea of which, even within the last few days, they had unfortunately beard of so great a number. It would be their duty to consolidate, and, he hoped, to amend, the powers entrusted to the Board of Trade, for the purpose of limiting, as far as possible, occurrences of that kind. A particular change which he should propose in that part of the law would be this. It was known to the Committee that with regard to vessels engaged in the foreign trade, no master or mate could at present leave this country in a ship under the British flag, without having a certificate of their competency to be entrusted with navigable property, and with the lives of those entrusted to his charge. But no such provision existed with regard to the home trade. It was only reasonable, therefore, that with regard to the home trade—at least with regard to that part of the home trade which related to the conveyance of passengers—the same regulations should exist which were now in operation in the case of vessels engaged in the 226 foreign trade. If they had made provision for the survey of the hulls of vessels, and an examination of the engines which were placed on board, it was only right that they should have the same security for the good conduct of masters and mates of vessels on the shores of this kingdom, which was deemed necessary in the oversea trade. The difficulty of making the inquiries which it was their duty to make in the case of accidents at sea, was exceedingly great, not only from the nature of the inquiry—from the number of accidents—but also from the time of the officers of the Board of Trade being so fully employed as to prevent their absence for such inquiries. He was happy to say that he had received communications from the Elder Brethren of the Trinity House expressing their willingness to assist the Board in inquiries of this kind. He should introduce one provision on the subject in the Consolidation Bill, and he hoped it would meet with the support of the House. The Committee were no doubt aware of the great and benevolent efforts which had been made by private individuals in establishing means of saving life in cases of shipwreck. There were upwards of 100—he believed there were 120—lifeboats belonging to societies of this kind, and in some places, so great had been the regularity and promptitude of those entrusted with them, that they had been the means of saving a great number of lives. There were arrangements at Liverpool, Yarmouth, Shields, and other places, which worked admirably; and to the Duke of Northumberland the country was much indebted for his praiseworthy exertions on this point. He had communicated on this subject with a gentleman whose zeal and ability in connexion with this matter were well known (Captain Washington), for the purpose of ascertaining whether it was not possible, at a moderate expense, to provide more abundant means of saving life at sea. He had considered, with Captain Washington, with the head of the coast guard, with the Deputy Master of the Trinity House, and the naval officers of the Board of Trade, whether, at a small expense, order, system, and regularity might not be enforced, where hitherto there had been neglect, irregularity, and confusion—thereby making the means of saving life more efficient. He therefore proposed to take from the funds at the disposal of the Board of Trade, a small sum to be appropriated for effecting this object; and 227 he believed that for this purpose a smaller sum would be sufficient than they should economise and save by the mere arrangements which were to be introduced with respect to the cost of collecting light-dues. To speak then in general terms, he proposed to consolidate the law with regard to registry and measurement—with regard to the discipline and the comfort and the safety of the mercantile marine—and also with respect to a subject which had been disposed of last year, he meant the question of lights and pilotage. He should give the utmost attention, in the endeavour to effect these objects, to any suggestions that might be made to him by any one in the House, or to those without its walls. The end he had in view was not so much to make great changes in the existing laws as to place them in a consolidated shape—in a shape which might render them more adequate to subserve the end for which they had been framed—the interests of that important part of the community who were more immediately concerned in that department of legislation. In the form of draught adopted for the printed Bill, he should endeavour to direct attention as much as possible to those parts which were new, and after time should have been given for considering its provisions, and a discussion taken on the second reading, there would be ample opportunity to put it into such a shape as might be most convenient for its further consideration by the House. The present measure was not intended to produce any great change in the law so far as the light-dues were concerned; and he thought it desirable that having stated that fact, he should give to the House some information with reference to the mode in which the various Acts passed upon that subject had operated since the close of the last Session of Parliament. Hon. Members were aware that an Act had been passed during the last Session by which the whole of the light-dues were ordered to be collected into one aggregate form, and to he placed under the administration of the Board of Trade. That Act came into operation upon the 1st of October. Now, after examining the state of the receipts and estimates for the coming year, in connexion with the fund in question, he was of opinion that in the exercise of the power vested in officers of the department over which he had the honour to preside, it was right to make a reduction in the light-dues. Accordingly, upon 228 the 1st of January last, by an Order in Council, a remission to the amount of one-fourth had been effected in the whole light-dues of the kingdom. The receipts from the light-dues had formerly been 400,000l., and it had been reduced, in compliance with the order to which he had just referred, by a sum of 100,000l. That was the first step which had been taken under the operation of the measure of last Session, but he hoped it would not be the last. At the time that measure had been carried, the light-fund stood in the following financial position. There was a balance to its credit at their banker's of 70,000l., and the surplus for the coming year—all expenses having been deducted—had been estimated at 53,000l. A stop had been put to all future creation of pensioners, and when the lifeholders fell off a further surplus of 23,000l. would arise in consequence. He found that there were other expenses now incurred in connexion with the service, which it was desirable, as far as possible, to retrench, and which, in cordial co-operation with the different bodies, he was using his best endeavours from time to time to reduce. He hoped to be able at an early period to announce that these reductions had been carried into effect. Now, with regard to pilotage, he would only say in general terms that the contemplated union between the pilots of the Trinity House and the Cinque Ports pilots had been effected, and that regulations which had been made by the Trinity House in reference to the subject had come into operation. The reduction which had taken place in consequence of the union in question had been less in amount than had been first intended, because of the higher rate of wages in other callings, and the higher price of provisions; but in the case of steam-vessels, the reduction amounted to one fourth of the sum formerly expended. The House would perhaps remember that there had been also great difficulties with regard to the satisfactory arrangement of the pilotage system in the Bristol Channel, which arose not only from its legal position, but in consequence of the physical impediments which the nature of the Channel itself, which were greater than existed in any other part of the kingdom, placed in the way of any such arrangement. He ventured last Session to state to the House that he thought it highly probable that if Parliament invested that department of Government with which he was connected with a 229 mediatorial power, it would be able, without coercive measures, to effect an arrangement. He was happy, therefore, to be able to state that the two Members for Bristol, accompanied by a deputation from the body in whom the power of making the necessary regulations with respect to pilotage in Bristol is vested, had done him the honour of expressing their intention of acquiescing in any suggestions the Government might make after an inquiry conducted by the naval officers of the Board. He was therefore induced to believe that the difficulties to which he had referred had either been entirely overcome, or would very soon be effectually disposed of. With respect to the question of ballast, he was also happy to be able to assure those who took an interest in its settlement that their complaints were in a fair way of being redressed. He should next call the attention of the House to the subject of registry tickets. Hon. Members were aware of the importance of adopting adequate yet not oppressive or irksome means of effecting a registry of seamen, in order to establish a record of the identity and character of each of the persons who collectively make up the seafaring population of this country. The registry ticket, the means selected for the purpose, was very unpopular with the men, from the penalties imposed for infraction or neglect of the law; and upon the best inquiry that be could make from competent authorities, he thought it was quite as likely to increase the risk of desertion, by rendering deserters unwilling to return, as to check it. Acting, therefore, on the power with which the Board of Trade were vested by law, they had abolished the register ticket, and, of course, with it all the penalties to which it gave rise, having under the Mercantile Marine Act established those modes of registration which they believed would be quite effectual in regard both to the identity of the men, and their character. In the last Session of Parliament the Legislature had conferred a power which the British shipowner, ever since the repeal of the Navigation Laws, had considered himself entitled to possess, of manning the vessels of our merchant navy without distinction of nations among the individuals composing the crew. He felt sure that some hon. and gallant Friends of his in the House, who anticipated a great deal of evil from that reform, would be happy to learn that, up to the present time, no alarming symptoms of its injurious effects 230 had been manifested. His hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Liddell) had called his attention to the melancholy accident which had lately occurred near Dublin, and had invited him to state his opinion as to the causes which led to that unhappy event. Now, in his (Mr. Cardwell's) opinion, he should be doing wrong if he were in any way to anticipate the result of the inquiry which was now pending without in reference to the matter. He should not say one word, therefore, of a single circumstance in connexion with it, except so far as it appeared in the testimony which had been given before the coroner, and the verdict which had been pronounced by the jury. He was aware that certain parties had given testimony to the effect that it was to the fact that the crew of the Tayleur had been chiefly composed of foreigners, that her loss, and that of those who were on board her, was to be attributed. He had, however, also read the testimony given in the case by the master of the vessel, which was of an entirely opposite character, and, taking into consideration the verdict which had been pronounced by the jury, he could find no good reason for the statement that the loss of the Tayleur was owing to the fact that she numbered foreign sailors among her crew. We knew that 190,000 seamen sailed in the merchant shipping of this kingdom during the year just expired, being the largest number, he believed, that had ever manned our trading fleet. In the three months that elapsed since the Act passed, between the 1st October and the 1st January, there were between 2,500 and 2,600 foreigners only in that number. Hon. Members knew that the former Acts allowed one-fourth part of the whole crew to be foreigners; if, therefore, the whole number of foreigners for these three months had been but 2,500, be thought that fact might administer some consolation to those who had been so very apprehensive of the consequences of this reform. Two other subjects had occupied the attention of the Government, and he thought it would be interesting to the House to learn the progress that had been made on those heads. The House probably remembered that in the autumn of last year a communication had been received in this country from the American Government, inviting us to join with them in observations to be carried on for the purpose of constituting a new science in aid of the mariner, by noting down the nature and the 231 periods of occurrence of winds and currents. The subject was one which had naturally a considerable interest for the Members of the House of Commons, inasmuch as its cultivation implied an improvement in the system of navigation, and also an improvement in the intellectual qualification of the masters of British vessels, while it would be likely to give rise to an interchange of mutual good offices with that great nation, which was at once our rival in the arts by which the sea was made to serve the purposes of man, and our partner in all the associations derived from kindred in the ties of blood, and from a host of elevating recollections and noble feelings. In answer, therefore, to the invitation addressed to us, Capt. Beechey, the able Member of the Marine Department of the Board of Trade, attended a conference held at Brussels, and having heard that gentleman's statement with regard to the advantages likely to result from its being carried out, Government intend to submit a moderate estimate to the House this year, to enable them to furnish a certain number of the most worthy and intelligent masters of British ships with such instruments as may enable them to make nautical observations that will be of benefit for the purpose of ascertaining the force and direction of the prevailing winds and currents, and making such other observations as may enter into the plan laid down by the American Government. There was another subject in which great interest was felt and expressed by many Members of the House—that of nautical education; and he recollected that the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) had asked him whether the Government intended, under the Bill they had introduced, to maintain the schools instituted under his (Mr. Henley's) auspices for the education of seamen. His answer was, that Her Majesty's Government did intend to maintain those schools; and he was sure the right hon. Gentleman would be glad to hear that there was another means now in operation which, it was hoped, would act still more beneficially in the same direction. His right hon. Friend took great pains when he was in office with a new department that was rising under the Board of Trade, that of industrial education. He (Mr. Cardwell) had been able to place its heads in communication with the mercantile marine department, and they proposed to take pupil-teachers from the excellent naval school of the Admiralty at Greenwich, and to place 232 them, on the same principle as was adopted by the department of industrial education, in the capacity of masters in the navigation schools, over those children whose destiny it might be to pass their lives at sea, as well as over those youths who had already gone to sea, whenever the vessels to which they were attached happened to be in port. He ought to apologise for having detained the House so long; but it was necessary to communicate the various steps we have taken to carry out the provisions of the law passed by Parliament for the important objects to which he had adverted. One other subject remained, on which he had the honour of addressing some observations to the House last year. It would not have been forgotten that the subject of passing tolls occupied the consideration of that House on more than one occasion during the past Session of Parliament. He (Mr. Cardwell) had then ventured to say to the House that it appeared to him that this was a wider question than it had ever been understood to be; and that occasion was now presented to inquire into the amount and nature of all dues levied on ships and on goods carried in ships, which were not applied to the benefit of the imperial revenue. Now, this was a branch of our imposts the annual income of which was measured by hundreds of thousands, and, he was sorry to say, the burden of debt by millions. A Commission was appointed accordingly, which has instituted extensive inquiries as regards this part of the kingdom, and which has also collected a great deal of information regarding Scotland and Ireland; and he had reason to believe that in a short time he should be enabled to lay on the table their Report concerning those burdens in this part of the Kingdom. Having given this narrative, as brief as he could make it, of what had passed on these heads since they last met in that House, he would now invite their attention to another department of the subject, which he thought would be felt to be one of great interest. Her Majesty, in the Speech from the Throne, had invited them to strike off from the free navigation of these realms the last remaining fetter of old restrictions and prohibitions. He only did justice to his right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. Labouchere) when he said he knew it was by considerations derived from revenue only that he was induced to omit the just and proper concession he (Mr. Cardwell) was now about to propose to the House, when, in the year 233 1849, he introduced the Bill for the repeal of the navigation laws. He (Mr. Cardwell) was of opinion that the apprehensions which existed in the minds of some with reference to such a step, would be seen to be as devoid of foundation as the apprehensions which at one time stood in the way of manufacturing improvement, and might with perfect safety be disregarded. The Treasury Board had examined, and he himself had also inquired into, the grounds upon which the apprehensions as to the proposal he was about to submit to the House, were based; neither had he neglected to ascertain what were the opinions which the most experienced officers of the Customs and Excise, who were most likely to be apprehensive of danger to the revenue, entertained upon the point. Now, he found, upon investigation, that there was a preponderating balance of testimony, as there was undoubtedly a preponderance of argument, in favour of the manifest and reasonable conclusion that if fraud was to be practised upon the watchful revenue police of this country, that fraud could be more easily practised by persons who spoke the English language, whose vessels bore the English flag, and who had so many connexions among the lower orders in England who would assist in concealing those goods upon which it was sought to evade paying duty, than it could possibly be by foreigners, who would, of course, come to this country without any of those natural advantages for the prosecution of an unlawful traffic to which he had just been adverting. The objections urged against the proposed step, upon the ground that it would tend to encourage smuggling, were, therefore, not tenable, and he should not trouble the House by making any further observation in order to demonstrate their unsoundness. Now, the question which instantly suggested itself—these opinions being unsound—was, whether there existed any strong necessity for the change as affecting our coasting trade, which he was about to ask the House to sanction? Could any man, he would ask, take so small an amount of interest in the concerns of those around him, as not to be aware of the great want of shipping which at present prevailed in every part of the kingdom? In the coal trade wages had risen from the sum of 4l. 10s.—which was the average rate a year ago—to 6l. and 7l., while the charge for freight was more than doubled within the same period. Such had, within the last few months, been the demand for sailors, notwithstanding 234 the permission accorded for the introduction of foreigners into the crews of our vessels, that every British subject accustomed to make his livelihood by the sea, had, he had been informed by the Registrar of Seamen, found ready employment. Even pensioners, who were entitled to pensions, had given up their tickets in order to avail themselves of the advantages which the rise in wages held out, while those who had gone abroad to seek for service in America had returned to enjoy the better market and higher pay which now was afforded them in their native country. His (Mr. Cardwell's) attention had been called that day to a statement which had appeared in the Shipping Gazette, strikingly illustrative of the effects of the law, which stated that shipping had risen upon an average 50 per cent in price during the last twelve mouths. Let it be even a much less percentage, and was it not a conclusive proof that there was no reason to forbid the introduction of foreign shipping or foreign seamen? It was, therefore, by no means matter of surprise that the people, who felt all the burden which this state of things inflicted upon them, should be earnest in endeavouring to do away with those burdens. He held in his hand extracts from an application which had been sent to him on the part of agriculturists in the north of Scotland. They expressed themselves very strongly with respect to the injury which they had suffered from the circumstance of not being enabled to obtain a mode of carriage for the produce of their farms. Owners of quarries complained that they could not get their stone to market, and persons engaged in other occupations complained in the same strain. He had received a communication from Newcastle, in which it was stated that the proprietors of large alkali manufactories in that city bad felt very severely the pressure which was caused by the scarcity of shipping. Vessels from Norway, it appeared, take timber to Dublin, thence proceed with ballast to Newcastle, thence back to Norway with coal. Now, the law, as it at present existed, did not permit that those vessels should take from Dublin to Newcastle the raw material of which the manufacturers in those establishments stood in great need, while it was impossible to procure British vessels to do so except at an extravagantly high price. That want of shipping was not, however, the only inconvenience which resulted from the pre- 235 sent state of things. What became of the ballast which was brought to Newcastle from Dublin? It was thrown into the Tyne, and a great expense was incurred by the trustees of the Tyne navigation in sending it to the German Ocean. So that whilst it was impossible to procure a sufficient number of English vessels to bring the necessary supply of material, they had foreign vessels entering the Tyne in ballast, a commodity with which the banks were already laden to such an excess that the river commissioners had been latterly advertising for the construction of barges to convey the ballast to be deposited in the German Ocean. Such was the nature of the representations which had been made to him with reference to the inconvenience under which the inhabitants of Newcastle now suffered. It was with a view of obviating those inconveniences, and the consequent expenditure, as well as upon more general grounds, that he asked for leave to introduce the proposed measure. It was not very easy, perhaps, to say what would be the precise extent of benefit afforded by the operation of this measure; but he had obtained a return from the Customs, by which it appeared that foreign vessels to the amount of 415,000 tons—and the return did not give the whole—went in the year 1852 from one port of the kingdom to the other in ballast. He asked the House to liberate that commerce, and to afford to the people of England the advantages which must result from facility of transfer. He did not anticipate that any objection would be made to his Motion; but if the House would bear with him a few moments longer he would endeavour to show that no reasonable argument could be urged against its adoption. Tonnage had increased since 1849 to a great extent, and the wages which had been paid to sailors during the last year were greater in amount than had ever been paid before. During the last Session of Parliament it had been stated by some persons, who loved to deal in gloomy prognostications, that the youth of England would not enter into the naval service in requisite numbers. He had then taken occasion to observe that the number of apprentices had, at first, fallen off, but he had stated also that a great increase in their number had begun to take place, and that from the year 1850, when the number had reached a minimum, it rapidly became greater, as was demonstrated by the fact that while in 1852 only 5,800 entered 236 the service, that number had been augmented by 1,000 more in the year 1853. Could we fail to seek for examples in foreign countries by which to judge of the results of which the changes which had been made in our navigation laws had been productive? In the year 1849 we had made the last great change in those laws. In a neighbouring country of great power now closely united to us by ties of amity—in the empire of France—no corresponding change in 1849 had been effected. What had been the result? A transit trade in French produce had sprung up between America and England, which in the year 1852 had been valued at 2,500,000l. sterling; which he believed, when the returns of 1853 were completed, would be found to have exceeded 3,000,000l. sterling. Thus those who were afraid of opening their trade to the world had, in consequence of having acted upon that fear, actually placed a trade the amount which he had just mentioned to the credit of this country. We lived in times when scientific discovery was daily increasing and extending the facilities for human intercourse. Our persons were conveyed with the velocity of the wind, and our thoughts transmitted, even beyond sea, with the rapidity of lightning. Was it not a time to abolish those artificial restrictions, created by law, which operated to impede the intercourse of man with man? In former years it might be said, your policy was tried under advantageous circumstances. In this year it had been exposed to the test of a severer trial—a scanty harvest and the fear of war. Yet we had seen our foreign trade nearly double the amount at which it stood eleven years ago, when first this policy began. The taxes had been reduced or remitted of late to an extent which was enormous, yet the sources of our revenue had become more productive than ever. We had just completed forty years of uninterrupted peace, and we might well reflect with satisfaction that we had not been unmindful during that period to cultivate the arts for whose cultivation peace presents the best opportunity. And if at the present moment a cloud unfortunately impended over our horizon, we might find matter for consolation in the consciousness that by a wise and enlightened course of conduct we had laid the foundation of great resources, and had fostered those feelings of amity and goodwill with which it was our desire to be regarded by all the nations of the world.
§ MR. HORSFALL
said, he did not rise for the purpose of taking exception to a single observation that had fallen from the right hon. Member for Oxford, but rather to express a hope that ample time would be afforded before the second reading of the Bill for a full consideration of its details. He should also venture to say, that he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would take care that provision should be made in the Bill to render any evasion of its enactments a matter difficult, if not impossible. He made that observation, because he had reason to believe that an evasion of the existing navigation laws had taken place within the last week in Liverpool. He alluded to the fact that a Russian vessel of between 400 and 500 tons burden had been transferred from the owners to a publican in that town for a nine months' acceptance upon a penny stamp. He had been led to understand that the vessel in question was fitted out for a voyage to Brazil, to be commanded in that voyage by a Russian captain, manned by Russian officers and seamen, and that it was intended she should sail under the British flag. That such circumstances as that to which be had just called the attention of the Committee should be permitted, was not, he believed, contemplated in the changes which had taken place in the navigation laws, and he trusted that in the measure which Her Majesty's Ministers were about to introduce in connexion with those laws, provision would be made to guard against the recurrence of such proceedings. The right hon. Gentleman had, among other things, made some observations with regard to the melancholy accident which occurred in the case of the ship Tayleur. Now, in this vessel, instead of the large proportion of Lascars and Chinese that had been alleged, there were in reality only fourteen foreign seamen—a number which she might have carried under the old navigation laws. He was also happy to be enabled to state that the vessel was fitted out in the most perfect manner, that he saw her himself, and that in his opinion a more magnificent ship, or one better equipped, had never left the port of Liverpool. His correspondent had also informed him that her master had an extra first-class certificate, while the first mate had a master's, and the second mate an extra first mate's certificate. He did not wish to detain the Committee further, and should merely observe that he highly approved of the proposition of the right hon. 238 Gentleman opposite for suspending the system of registry tickets. That system might at the period of its introduction have had the effect of elevating the character of our seamen, but it had undoubtedly been instrumental in driving large numbers of efficient sailors into foreign service. He wished, however, to take that opportunity of calling the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the subject of apprentices. He was aware that the clause making it incumbent on shipowners to take apprentices had been repealed at the desire of the shipowners themselves. He believed, however, that it had not been a wise step, and that it ought to be re-enacted. He was sure those whom he had the honour to represent, would gladly co-operate with the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, in the endeavour to make this Bill as efficient as possible.
said, he certainly never expected to hear so gratifying a speech from the Treasury bench as he had heard that night, remembering, as he did, the peculiar doctrines which had so often issued from that quarter. He need scarcely, however, say how sincerely he concurred in the expediency of removing the restrictions now under consideration; but, at the same time, he felt bound to say that he did not consider that his right hon. Friend the President of the Beard of Trade had done all that was required; he had not yet got to the bottom of the subject. The tonnage law had long operated to the prejudice of British shipbuilding, and he fully approved of Captain Moorsom's plan of measurements, charging the solid contents of the vessel instead of the outer capacity. But he would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the best course would be to get rid of the tonnage duty altogether, and charge for cargo, not for tonnage. Some time ago he had addressed a long letter to Lord Auckland, then at the bead of the Board of Admiralty, suggesting that in all cases of shipwreck involving loss of life there should be an inquest held on the spot immediately. Lord Auckland entered into the project, and after some consideration issued an order that in all such cases information should be collected as speedily as possible by the public officers; but the noble Lord withheld from them that which he (Mr. Hume) had particularly desired—the power of taking evidence on oath. This regulation did not continue in force after Lord Auckland left power; but, from the returns which were made during its 239 existence, it appeared that in nine months no less than forty-five vessels were lost between the ports of London and Newcastle from inattention, drunkenness of the masters, ill-constructed compasses, deficiency in the charts, and such causes. It was exceedingly desirable that such a regulation should be re-established, for it was shocking to think that, while one unfortunate individual could not fall dead in the streets without an inquiry, some 1,200 or 1,500 souls might perish in a shipwreck caused by inattention or carelessness, without any investigation whatever. He would therefore press on the right hon. Gentleman to renew this rule, and to make it imperative to have an inquiry in every case of shipwreck attended by loss of life. The mode would be extremely simple, and would not involve any great expense, for we had public officers stationed at every ten miles on the coast, perfectly competent to hold such inquiries on the spot, and to ascertain all the circumstances from the survivors, and from other sources. A mass of information would then be collected, ready to he produced, to enable the Board of Trade to submit to Parliament legislative measures, if such should be thought necessary. The present state of things was certainly a reproach to this country, when it was considered that there was a body of 6,400 men stationed all along our coast, on every point, with able officers, capable of holding such inquiries, with the assistance, it might be, of two, three, or five jurymen, and thus collecting returns and information of the highest importance. Certainly some rule of this sort was necessary, considering the immense amount of loss of life there had been lately by shipwrecks. On that very day he had seen the intelligence of the wreck of another emigrant ship, with the loss of 120 souls, on the Canadian coast. There certainly must be something wrong in these emigrant ships which needed looking into, for there had been a greater waste of life among this class of ships than any other. There was no class of persons, he believed, for whose safety we were called on more imperatively to provide than the emigrants, and he pressed, therefore, on the Government the necessity of seeing that emigrant ships were sent to sea in a better condition than they had hitherto been. These two points, therefore—the abolition of the tonnage charges, and the necessity of an inquiry into all losses and accidents at sea—he pressed strongly on the attention of Government. With regard 240 to the question of lifeboats, he had always been of opinion that they ought to be supplied by the Government. If the dockyard establishments, instead of wasting their time in pulling ships to pieces, employed it in building lifeboats, so that Government might be able to furnish every station on the coast with one of the best description, their services would be more useful to the country. In rich and wealthy places, such as Liverpool and Yarmouth, where there was a large amount of shipping, there was no difficulty in providing lifeboats; but in poor isolated places along the coasts, where shipwrecks most often took place, there were no means of procuring lifeboats, though, probably, if once procured, there would be no difficulty in maintaining them. The Duke of Northumberland, when at the head of the Admiralty, much to his credit, had offered a premium of 100l. for the best lifeboat which could be produced, and, he believed, had had about 100 specimens sent in—that from Yarmouth, he believed, gained the prize. The next step which he (Mr. Hume) thought his Grace was about to take was, while he was at the head of the Admiralty, to submit to Parliament the propriety of supplying every station on the coast with a lifeboat; but, unfortunately, the noble Duke did not take advantage of his being in office to make the proposition. He was glad to hear the intentions of the Government with regard to the lightage, but he would prefer to see the light-dues taken off altogether. They were told there was a surplus of 70,000l.; but, in fact, the Treasury owed the light-dues at least from 380,000l. to 400,000l., which the Government had charged upon the mercantile interest instead of taking upon themselves. He thought it was not right that the whole navy of England—and yachts, too, he believed—should have the benefit of these lights without paying for them, and that the mercantile navy should be compelled to bear the whole cost. Two Committees had sat upon the subject, one in 1835 and one in 1845, and if any hon. Member would take the trouble to read their Reports, taking into consideration the character and position of the men who formed them, he could not fail to come to the same conclusion as they had done—that these dues ought to be abolished altogether, It was a charge which the Government ought to take upon itself, for he held that the merchant of Manchester and Birmingham had as much right to pay for lightage as the shipowner. If well managed, the whole expense of the United Kingdom would 241 not exceed 60,000l. or 80,000l. He thought a ship ought to go perfectly free from port to port, and all necessary charges be levied upon the cargo on loading or landing. It was on the goods that the charge ultimately fell, and by adopting this mode of levying it they would avoid all the disadvantages of indirect taxation. In conclusion, he had only to say that he perfectly approved the alteration made in the matter of pilotage.
said, that in reference to the recent loss of the Taylear, it had been stated in the papers, though it appeared wrongfully, that the vessel was insufficiently manned, and it was evident that the public mind was impressed with the notion that such was the case. Seeing, then, such a statement made in the public press; looking, too, at the evidence given by many of the survivors—witnesses whose character for veracity seemed to be unimpugned—he could not but infer that great blame rested somewhere. In connexion with that allegation, he could not but remember the language which had been held by the hon. and gallant Member for Bath (Capt. Scobell), and other members of the naval profession, with respect to the consequences which might be apprehended from one of the Acts passed in the last Session. Under all the circumstances of the case, and after the other maritime disasters which we had recently had to deplore, he thought that he was justified in expressing a doubt whether the policy which that House had of late years pursued in respect of our navigation laws had been quite as successful as the hon. Member for Montrose would lead them to imagine; and when the hon. Member for Montrose took upon himself to utter a strain of triumph as to the indisputable success of all the measures which had been taken with regard to freeing the navigation of the country, he could not help thinking that these cases of shipwreck, which the hon. Member for Montrose himself acknowledged to be more frequent of late than had hitherto been known, might have arisen in some degree from the operation of that legislation, and he conceived he was perfectly justified in making the reply he had made to that hon. Member. If he had had more time he should have probably taken care to obtain more accurate information on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) had laid great stress on the fact that the coroners jury in their verdict had not attributed the loss of the vessel to the in- 242 adequacy or incompetency of her crew. But it appeared to him (Mr. Liddell) that the verdict of the jury could not be taken as conclusive upon that point, because the jury might be unwilling to give any decided opinion upon the subject in consequence of the conflicting nature of the evidence. His hon. Friend and Colleague, however, had stated that the number of foreigners employed in the ship had not been greater than the number who might have been employed if the change in question had not been made in the navigation laws; and if that were so, it afforded an abundant answer to his (Mr. Liddell's) argument, and he had only to express his regret at having caused any pain to the respectable men who were the owners of the vessel. There were other circumstances, however, connected with that loss which required further explanation; and he hoped that they would become the subject of careful investigation. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had proposed that evening to introduce two Bills, one of which would repeal what might be termed the last rag of protection to the British shipowner, by throwing open our coasting trade to foreign vessels. Now, he wished the right hon. Gentleman would take an early opportunity of informing them what it was that constituted a British ship in the eyes of the law. For lucid as the right hon. Gentleman's speeches generally were, be had not cleared up that uncertainty. As he (Mr. Liddell) understood the matter, a ship built of foreign timber, commanded by a foreign captain, and manned by foreign seamen, would be entitled to all the privileges of a British ship if it were the property of a British subject. Well, we were at present, perhaps, approaching a period when the exigencies of war would demand all our skill and energy; and he earnestly hoped that the change then proposed to the Committee might not involve consequences of the most perilous character. He earnestly hoped that the spirit of the British seaman might not be injuriously affected by the unrestricted competition to which he would be exposed with sailors of countries in which public services were less liberally rewarded. He trusted, too, that in any step which might be taken in that important matter, the First Lord of the Admiralty, who was charged with the superintendence of our chief national defence, would be consulted, as well as the President of the Board of 243 Trade, who was charged with the supervision of our commercial marine, and that due precaution would be taken to provide both in the merchant as well as in Her Majesty's service a proper nursery for seamen in the shape of apprentices. If they did not proceed with due caution, the time might come when we should look in vain for that prowess which had heretofore made England the mistress of the seas; and perhaps in our eager search after gain we might lose, in the decay of the discipline and efficiency of our men, the main element of our national strength.
§ SIR GEORGE PECHELL
said, he thought it very desirable that they should have some further information with respect to the causes of the loss of the Tayleur. The circumstances which had occasioned that loss were still enveloped in considerable mystery. From the inquiry that had recently taken place it appeared that the vessel, which was described as a remarkably fine and noble ship of 1979 tons, sailed from the port of Liverpool with a crew with which the captain declared himself perfectly satisfied. And yet this gentleman, notwithstanding he possessed a double-class certificate, stated at the coroner's inquest that, finding the ship placed in a bad position through the increased violence of the gale, he attempted to wear her round in going down the Channel, and was unable to accomplish his object under an hour, and not till the vessel had traversed a distance of five miles. Any Member of the House present at the naval review recently held off Spithead would be enabled to form an idea of this feat of the captain of the Tayleur by picturing to himself the distance between the main land and the Isle of Wight, and then imagining that space insufficient to enable a captain to turn a ship round. He could not but be clear, after such a statement, that some extraordinary circumstances must have occurred; and setting aside the variation of the compass, which was hardly worth noticing, the difference between the construction of wooden and iron ships might be a subject deserving inquiry. There was abundant proof of the entire failure of the Tayleur, in the captain having been unable, by the operation of tacking and wearing, to turn her round without occupying so long a time and so large a space as he himself in his evidence had described. Under all the circumstances he (Sir G. Pechell) sincerely hoped an inquiry might be instituted, and that some 244 scientific gentleman would be enabled to describe the properties of such large and enormous vessels as the Tayleur—vessels which, so far as our present experience went, seemed to lead to nothing but confusion, and to inflict a great loss upon the commercial interests of the country. He congratulated his right hon. Friend (Mr. Cardwell) upon the introduction of the measures he proposed for the consideration of the Committee, and he could conceive no danger to the mercantile interests of the country in the removal now of restrictions upon trade and navigation that ought to have been removed long ago. He had voted in the minority at the time of the alteration of the navigation laws with regard to the manning of vessels, and he was gratified to find that his views had since met with the approbation of that House. He believed he had shown the hon. Member for Liverpool that the loss of the Tayleur was not owing to the foreign seamen on board; and if the hon. Member could do anything to elucidate the mystery in which the loss of that vessel was at present enshrouded, he would be doing a great service to the country.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, that although he had altogether disapproved of the measure by which the navigation laws had first been repealed, he had at the time stated that he did not understand on what ground the coasting trade could be excluded from the operation of the change. As he had formerly expressed that opinion, he had nothing to object to the proposal upon that subject then under the consideration of the Committee. There was no doubt, too, that the case in favour of such a proposal had since been very much strengthened by the enormous demand that had sprung up for shipping to carry emigrants to the newly-discovered gold regions. He believed that as long as the yield of gold continued undiminished, that demand would remain unchanged; and there was reason to believe that, while the demand existed, neither ships nor seamen could be got in sufficient numbers for the ordinary purposes of trade. He should take that opportunity of expressing his surprise that there had not of late been a greater addition to the number of apprentices. He should have thought that, as the price of labour had increased, shipowners, like other tradesmen, would have endeavoured to obtain the assistance of apprentices, not only on the ground of economy, but because they could always command their services. It appeared that there 245 had of late been some increase in the number of apprentices; but it also appeared that their number did not reach anything like the number under the old compulsory system. He had further to state, that he much feared a sufficient number could not be got under the voluntary system. With respect to the lifeboats he should observe, that he could not collect from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, whether he meant that the Government should supply those boats, or that they should merely regulate the use of boats supplied by private benevolence. He hoped that, if the latter course were the one to be pursued, the Government would take care not to discourage by their regulations those private efforts on which they meant to continue to rely. He was glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to encourage nautical schools, which would afford an opportunity to the younger classes and boys of getting on in their profession, primary education being absolutely essential in that point. There was another subject to which he could not help adverting—namely, the system of levying passing tolls at the various ports, the proceeds of which were not strictly applied for the benefit of the shipping exclusively. He hoped the Government would not omit or overlook the claims made by the various corporations in that regard. It really was a question that should be looked to, because it was an absurdity to have these corporations levying tolls for purposes to which the proceeds were not always applied. He would also express the satisfaction he felt at the promised abolition of the seaman's register ticket, as, in his opinion, a greater curse or nuisance never was devised than the register ticket. The system had turned out quite useless, and the sailors regarded it as a naked and unmitigated evil. With regard to the proposal to consolidate the laws affecting the mercantile marine, there could be no doubt that the completion of such a measure would confer a great benefit upon the shipping interest, and he should be happy to afford every assistance in his power in making such consolidation as complete and as perfect as possible. He was glad to hear, also, that a reduction of the light-dues was contemplated; but it was due to the Trinity House to state that the corporation always acknowledged that the revenue was increasing, and that the buoyancy which existed in them, notwithstanding previous reductions, 246 had led to the expression of their opinion that other reductions would be made from time to time.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he had observed with great satisfaction the reception which the Committee had given to the proposal of his right hon. Friend. The total absence of party spirit and the general desire which had been evinced to co-operate with the Government in endeavouring to accomplish the great national object of amending, consolidating, and improving the laws which relate to the mercantile marine, would, he was confident, prove highly satisfactory to the country. Both the Bills went in the same direction of previous legislation on the subject, and he hoped he should not run the risk of exciting any feeling hostile to the unanimity which seemed to prevail in the Committee if he ventured to express the pleasure which he experienced at observing the marked and altered views which the other side of the House now entertained with regard to the removal of restrictions upon commerce. The most important of these two measures was undoubtedly that one which proposed to admit foreign ships to the coasting trade of this country. His right hon. Friend had stated truly that when he (Mr. Labouchere) had the honour of presiding at the Board of Trade, and of proposing to repeal the navigation laws, he intended to have thrown open the coasting as well as the foreign trade, but some apprehensions felt by the Customs department induced him to abandon the former part of his measure. He could not then, nor could he now, imagine how the foreigner was to outrival us in the coasting trade; be could understand some apprehension of this sort being entertained with regard to the foreign trade, but certainly not with reference to the coasting trade, and he was glad to find that upon further consideration the Customs department had been induced to abandon their objection, so as to allow the work to be completed which he had the good fortune to commence. Our coasting trade must always of necessity remain almost exclusively in the hands of British ships and British sailors. As for the other Bill which his right hon. Friend proposed, for consolidating all the laws relating to the mercantile marine, he knew that it would accomplish an object which those connected with the shipping interest had long had in view, and which, when attained, he believed would be of no small value and importance to the country. He would observe, how- 247 ever, that his right hon. Friend, in consolidating the law, also intended to make many alterations in the law, and the only fear that he felt was, whether it was possible to achieve the two objects in the same Bill. Nothing was more difficult than to consolidate a great number of Acts of Parliament, and at the same time to amend those Acts; and in order that nothing might stand in the way of passing this salutary measure, he would take leave to suggest to his right hon. Friend the expediency of disposing of the Amendments in the law by one Bill first, and leave the consolidation of the law to be dealt with in another Bill at the end of the Session, when it could be disposed of simply as a Consolidation Bill without any discussion or objection being raised to it. There were one or two points which had incidentally arisen in the course of the debate, upon which he was desirous of saying a few words. He was glad to learn that it was proposed to encourage nautical schools; but at the same time even that step must be taken with some degree of caution, or it might interfere with the voluntary system which had sprung up since the passing of the measure providing for the examination of captains and mates engaged in the foreign service of the mercantile marine. Since that measure was passed, private schools for imparting nautical knowledge of a superior class had been established all over the country; and since it was the good effects which resulted from the voluntary examinations which took place at similar institutions on the east coast, which first suggested the idea of public examinations, he should be sorry to see anything done that would interfere with these private efforts to promote nautical education. He was also informed that in the City of London schools had sprung up where young men entering the merchant service received an excellent education; and he hoped that, in anything done by his right hon. Friend to promote our mercantile marine, he would take great care not to do anything to counteract those private efforts now going forward; but that, on the contrary, he would be rather disposed to aid and assist them. There was another point which had been slightly touched upon, and about which he confessed he should be glad to hear some explanation from his right hon. Friend. It would be remembered that last Session he ventured to express some doubt with regard to the measure which the Government then introduced for altering the mode of man- 248 ning the mercantile marine, and which did away with those restrictions that had theretofore been placed upon the character of a British ship. By that alteration in the law, a vessel which belonged to a British subject might have all the character and enjoy all the privileges of a British ship, although she was manned by a foreign crew, and commanded by a foreign captain; and while the alteration was being made, he ventured to express his doubts at the wisdom of the change, not arising from the fear of the hon. and gallant Member for Bath (Captain Scobell) that it would interfere with the wages of the British seaman, but from an apprehension that, in case of a maritime war, we might find foreign vessels claiming the protection of the British flag, and thus involve us in disputes with foreign States, which it might be exceedingly difficult to get out of. His doubts, however, upon that score were partially if not wholly removed upon learning that Dr. Lushington, who it must be admitted was a great authority on the question, had stated it to be his opinion that heat least entertained no such apprehension, and therefore he was induced to withdraw his opposition, and at once to acquiesce in the Bill. But he was the more induced to advert to the subject again from a paragraph which he had seen in the newspapers, and which had already been referred to by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall), to the effect, as he understood, that under the apprehension of a war with Russia, a certain Russian ship, at Liverpool, had been suddenly transferred to an English purchaser, who had been so accommodating as not only to take to the ship, but to take to the captain and crew of this ship, and both men and ship were now to all intents and purposes an English crew and ship. No doubt the attention of the Government had already been directed to this subject, and it would no doubt be satisfactory to the Committee if they could hear that nothing had taken place which could at all shake the views which the Government expressed last Session, namely, that we should not find any difficulty in the change even in the event of a war. He need not trespass any longer upon the time and attention of the Committee further than to repeat that he had heard with great satisfaction the statement of his right hon. Friend, and to say he thought all the measures prepared by him appeared to go in the right direction. He had no doubt that the details of those measures would 249 be fairly considered by the shipping interest, while he believed that that House could not employ itself more usefully or more honourably, or in a manner more calculated to gain the confidence of the public, than by doing all it could, by fair and honourable means, to promote and encourage the great maritime interest of the country.
§ ADMIRAL WALCOTT
It is clearly evident to me that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has given the resources of a powerful mind to the consideration of the several objects embodied in the Bill which he has just laid on the table of the House. I respond to the observation, that some of his naval friends have raised strong objections to the policy of repealing the clauses 12 & 13 Vict. in the Merchant Shipping Bill. I sincerely hope that he may realise every anticipation which he entertains in his second proposition for the repeal of the laws affecting the coasting trade. But it is with considerable regret I collect from his speech that no nation is willing to adopt that policy which he proposes for this country as a measure of reciprocity. I repeat the misgiving which I before expressed in respect to the repeal of the 12 & 13 Vict., which clauses obliged the crews of merchant ships to comprise as three-fourths of their complement British seamen. This proposition I consider as the insertion of a second wedge tending to break up the mercantile maritime ascendancy of the country, and to bring the national flag into disrepute. I then admitted that a handful of foreigners might be advantageously employed in our merchant ships, the master being British; but to place British cargo, British capital, and British honour in the keeping of foreigners alone, I considered unwise, impolitic, and unsafe. They should be confided to British hearts and British heads. Was it reasonable, or could it be reasonable, to suppose that a motley crew of men, gathered out of all nations, civilised and uncivilised, without one bond of union in common either of language, country, or national faith, from the master to the cabin boy—a mere heterogenous mass—could be formed into a subordinate or disciplined crew, with no other emblem to control it than a few yards of coloured bunting? I would strongly impress on the Government the paramount necessity of taking effectual precautions to prevent vessels going to sea without a sufficient number of seamen on 250 board; by seamen, I mean those capable of performing the many duties of seamen, and who, in the hour of danger and difficulty, have nerve to meet its obligations—at present many do not know the stem from the stern. I yield to no one in sympathy for the melancholy loss of life which has lately been sustained in the recent case of the Tayleur; but when I reflect on that disastrous occurrence, another feeling rises more prominently than commiseration—thankfulness that it was a peculiar and isolated instance, that of the many women and children who were on board that ship, with scarcely an exception, the entire number perished. From time immemorial it has been the proud boast of the profession to which I have the honour to belong, that all regard of self has been absorbed in the ennobling effort to give succour to woman in distress and danger. Upon only one other point will I now comment, and that is to express the satisfaction with which I have heard from the right hon. Gentleman that there has a large increase of apprentices in the merchant navy during the last year. The abolition of the apprentice system I considered to be the most pernicious course which could have been taken for the shipping interest. To make a seaman is not the work of a day. Boys are received on board as apprentices, and at once inured to the duties which they would be hereafter called upon to perform; early habits of self-confidence are instilled, and eventually, having gone through the successive grades, they become efficient seamen. Hundreds of men who entered that service as apprentices are now in command of merchant ships trading to all parts of the world with honour to themselves and credit to their country. I conclude by expressing my hope that the right hon. Gentleman will, if not in full, at least in part, re-enact a system which I am persuaded is the most beneficial for the shipowner, and conducive to the stability of the mercantile navy; as it is it appears to me the owners trust more to insurance than to the confidence which they ought to repose in the master and crew.
§ CAPTAIN SCOBELL
said, he was one of those who had already predicted that the natural consequence of throwing open the foreign would be to open the coasting trade, and he was not at all sorry that his prediction was about to be realised so soon. After the opening of the foreign trade the register ticket became of no use whatever; before, the seamen thought it was some 251 security for them against the employment of foreigners, but directly the Legislature sanctioned the unlimited employment of foreigners in the mercantile marine, the register ticket became worse than useless, and he was rejoiced to find that now it was to be thrown completely overboard. There was a law for ascertaining the efficiency of the master and the mate, but there was none for discovering that of the crew, and he concurred with the gallant Admiral who had just sat down that the time had arrived when this inconsistency ought to be remedied. A good deal had been said about the loss of the Tayleur; but he had no doubt that, when the truth became known, it would turn out that the crew was a bad one, and he hoped something would be immediately done to prevent the lives of emigrants being in future sacrificed by hundreds to such a disgraceful cause as the want of a sufficient number of men, or the inefficiency of the crew. He approved of the proposed alteration of the law, so far as it related to apprentices. Before the old system was abolished, there were never less than from 10,000 to 11,000 apprentices entered in the merchant service every year. Indeed, the year before the alteration, there were no less thaa 34,000 apprentices in the service, while last year there was not half that number in it; nor were the new entries at all equal to former years; they were, in fact, only 6,000. Now it was impossible to man the merchant service unless they re-enacted the apprenticeship law. As well might the farmer expect to reap without sowing; and instead, therefore, of discouraging the apprenticeship system, the Legislature should do all in its power to encourage it. It was impossible to man the Navy without a succession of apprentices. He also thought that a sufficient number of lifebuoys around the coast ought to be provided by the Government. He fully agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Taunton (Mr. Labouchere) in the danger of putting the British flag under the command of men who did not belong to it. A merchant vessel, manned by foreigners, but sailing under the British flag, might be insulted or have a dispute with an American or Spanish ship, and then the Government must resent the insult. He could not agree with the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), that Her Majesty's ships ought to pay lighthouse dues. You might as well ask the police to pay the police rate. The whole service of Her Majesty's ships had for its 252 object the protection of the trade and commerce of the country. A ship often had a line of coast to protect, in the performance of which duty she might have to pass a lighthouse every day. To make Her Majesty's ships pay lighthouse dues would not be possible, and, if it were possible, it would not be wise. He was afraid the First Lord of the Admiralty found that seamen were coming very slowly in, and landsmen would not do, for seamen would not come if there were too many landsmen, since the work was then never equally distributed. It was rare that a man ever became a sailor who did not go to sea until he had reached the age of manhood, and this was another reason for encouraging the apprenticeship system.
§ MR. PHILIPPS
was understood to suggest that vessels engaged in foreign or colonial trade should be compelled to leave Milford Haven instead of Liverpool, as by so doing they would avoid many of the risks to which they were exposed in getting clear of the coast of Ireland.
§ MR. INGHAM
said, that a lifeboat service and an examination of masters engaged in the coasting trade, had both existed in the port of Shields for many years; but these precautions on the part of the shipowners did not prevent wrecks, large numbers of which continued to take place upon the eastern coast. What was wanted was a harbour of refuge upon that coast, for there was nothing between the Humber and the Tyne where vessels in certain states of the wind could go with safety. He entreated the attention of the Government to this subject, and also to the necessity of making some provision for holding coroners' inquests in the case of shipwrecks. It was his firm opinion that it would be most desirable that in these cases there should be a coroner who should have the power of holding a prompt examination before the discovery of a single body. It was of the utmost importance, and he would suggest to his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, that there should be some alteration in the constitution of coroners' courts to meet cases of this description. At present it was well known that the only condition on which they could assemble was the finding of the body on which the inquiry was to be held, and that very circumstance rendered them inapplicable in many cases in which their services would be more than usually valuable. This was a suggestion which had occurred to his mind, and, doubtless, to many Gentlemen 253 who sat on the Committee last year, the object of which was to inquire into the causes of accidents in mines. Frequently, in cases of explosions in mines, the state of the mine was such that no person could descend, and the bodies were not found for a long time afterwards, when the opportunity for obtaining information had escaped. The institution of coroners' courts was a very valuable one, but they were introduced in a very different state of society to the present. It was a most extraordinary circumstance that, although this was one of the most important of our courts, it was the only one which had a judge who was quite irresponsible, or who had not received an education of a highly legal character. In many cases, too, the juries chosen to make the investigation were interested to mislead, and to shelter the guilty authors of the calamity. Any measure which could be introduced by the Government for the consideration of the whole question of coroners' inquests he considered would be a highly valuable one, and would probably lead to a means of detecting and remedying the causes of those accidents which they all deplored.
§ MR. LAING
said, he begged to thank the right hon. President of the Board of Trade for the introduction of this measure, and he would take the opportunity of saying a few words in illustration of its necessity. The practical bearing of this question had been brought before him during the past year, and he had been strongly impressed with the vast amount of commercial inconvenience and injury from the extravagant rate to which freights had risen in the coasting trade. This had mainly contributed to the serious losses to which individuals had been subjected who had entered into contracts, owing to the physical impossibility of getting vessels to carry on their trade. It was not a question now whether they should have their business carried on by British ships and by British seamen exclusively, but whether they could get ships at all. He thought that was the true answer to the objections made by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Liddell), who said that if they destroyed the monopoly of the coasting trade, they would destroy the great nursery for British seamen. He (Mr. Laing) believed the very opposite. If these high freights were kept up, he believed that the coasting trade would be destroyed and transferred to the railways. That result had been already 254 predicted by a gentleman of great experience, Mr. Lindsay, in a pamphlet recently published by him. He had told them that the coasting trade was a doomed trade. Under the ordinary circumstances of the freights which had prevailed during the last ten years, the competition of the railways would not certainly affect that great nursery of British seamen; but if the present high rates were maintained for six or seven years, then he believed that Mr. Lindsay's prediction would be accomplished. The railways being by Act of Parliament confined to a maximum rate, while the ships arbitrarily advanced their freights, the result would be a vast injury to, if not a complete transfer of the coasting trade to the railways. Let them try the effect of admitting foreigners, and they would find that very few would enter into competition with them. It had been found during the last year that when freights were very high, and there was an impossibility of getting vessels, the great safety-valve was the being enabled to obtain foreign ships. An instance of the inconvenience of the present system had come to his own knowledge. It so happened, that in the northern districts of Scotland the crop of potatoes had been excellent and abundant. There was a failure in the south of England, and the consequence was, the price of potatoes was very high; but it was impossible to get shipping to convey potatoes to the London market. At that very time there were Norwegian and Prussian vessels, which had brought cordage, timber, and other articles to the Scotch ports; but they could not take a freight of potatoes on account of the operation of these laws. Now he thought nothing could be more obvious than the expediency of cultivating amity and friendship with these northern nations. Sailors were, no doubt, citizens of the world; but he was sure that no apprehension need be entertained that the country could not command their services. If they were not able to get a sufficient body of men to man their fleets, be, for one, should feel it his duty to ask the right hon. Baronet to increase the rate of wages, or to give a bounty, and he was sure they would then get quite as many seamen as they required.
§ MR. APSLEY PELLATT
said, he wished to remind the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade that one of the great causes why the price 255 of coals was so high in the port of London, was the local laws which they had in the Tyne and other places. These regulations were injurious to free trade, and in the case of the Tyne they had a law which was called the turn of the tide, or something of that sort, the result of which was that no ship could be loaded out of her turn before another, and the detention of vessels from this cause averaged three weeks in the voyage. That, of course, raised the price of freight. Many persons contemplated the propriety of building screw steamers, in order to make the voyage more expeditiously; but that could not be done unless the party was the owner of the coal mine as well as the owner of the ship, because the law prevented his going any earlier than any other ship.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, he thought it better to lay the Bills on the table of the House, and have them printed before any formal discussion should take place. There was only one point which he should notice now, and it was this:—It had been said that a colourable transfer had been made of Russian vessels to a British name, and he was asked whether he had any information on the subject. He only wished to say that it would occasion considerable embarrassment to those who ventured to do so.
That the Chairman be directed to move for leave to bring in a Bill or Bills to open the Coasting Trade of the United Kingdom to the Ships of all Friendly Nations, and to consolidate and amend various Laws relating to Merchant Shipping and to Pilotage.
§ Resolution reported.
§ Bill or Bills ordered to be brought in by Mr. Bouverie, Mr. Cardwell, Sir James Graham, and Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ House resumed.