§ MR. LINDSAY
said, be rose pursuant to notice to direct the attention of the House to the present condition of the shipping interest, and to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the operation of certain burthens and restrictions especially affecting merchant shipping. The subject was one of deep interest to a large section of the community. There was no less than seventy millions of money invested in British shipping and the trades connected with it; but that interest was at the present moment in a state of very great depression. Ships were lying idle in every, port and at Liverpool alone at the end of last year there were no less than 96,000 tons of shipping disengaged. Petitions had been presented in the House in considerable numbers directing attention to this state of things, and asking for relief from certain burthens and restrictions which were imposed upon them. They had been received from London, Liverpool, South Shields, Sunderland, Glasgow, Newcastle, 1069 the seamen of the Tyne, and North Shields. One of these petitions, presented by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) from the Shipowners' Society of London, appeared to state the view of the case which was held by the shipowners of the country generally. In that petition it was stated that, fur two centuries, British navigation was conducted with "unparalleled success," and that British shipping increased beyond all precedent under the laws which protected the British shipowner from the competition of foreigners. The petitioners stated that they abstained from any expression of opinion as to the change of policy which limit taken place, but they submitted to the House that every principle of justice demanded that, in the race of competition to which the British shipowner was exposed he should not be subjected by law to any expensive burthens, liabilities, or restrictions, from which his competitors were free. The case divided itself into two heads; the first of which was the policy which this House had deemed it wise to pursue. In the paragraph of the petition to which he had alluded the petitioners appeared to doubt the wisdom of that policy; and if the statement was correct, if it was the case that British shipping had enjoyed unparalleled prosperity under the protective system, then the policy of the House must be an erroneous policy and worthy of reconsideration; but a reference to returns which had been made to the House would prove whether such was the fact or not. He had not been able to obtain a correct return of the shipping till the year 1803, but in that sear the return of British shipping amounted to 2,160,000 tons; in 1804, to 2,220,000 tons; in 1805, to 2,228,000 tons; in 1806, to 2,226,000 tons; in 1807, 2,228,000; and in 1808, to 2,324,000 tons. The records for some few years subsequent to this period had been destroyed by fire. But throughout the whole of the time to which those that remained referred, and which was the closest system of protection, British shipping was nearly stationary. Let him call their attention now to the number of British ships built and registered during the same period. In 1803 there were built and registered of British shipping 135,000; in 1804, 960,000; in 1805, 89,000; in 1806, 69,000; in 1807, 68,000; awl in 1808, 57,000 tens. Instead of tins, therefore, being a period of unparalleled prosperity to the British shipowner he was almost inclined to de- 1070 scribe it as a period of unparalleled ruin; for there was a decrease in the untidier of ships built from year to year. He would now call the attention of the House to the period when Mr. Huskisson introduced his system of reciprocity, which he considered to be the first step made towards free trade in shipping. Up to that period British shipping had only increased 39,000 tons, that is an increase from 220,000 tons in 1808 to 259,000 tons in 1824; and the number of ships built in the One year, as compared with the other, was only an increase of 9,000 tons. In 1825 Mr. Huskisson introduced his reciprocity system, and the prosperity of the shipping began to advance with rapid strides. In 1826 we owned 2,635,000 tons, or an increase of 224,000 tons of British shipping over 1808. In 1843 we owned 3,660,000 against 2,635,000 in 1826. He would then show that there had been a steady and marked increase going on from that period to the present time. In 1850 we owned 4,232,000 tons; in 1854, we owned 5,043,000 tons; and in 1857, we owned 5,519,000, showing that from 1808 till 1834, a period of twenty-five years, under protection and partial protection, British shipping had increased 433,000 tons; while from 1850 to 1857 the increase was no less than 1,287,000 tons during a similar period of Free Trade. But he proposed to examine this question still closer, for he did hope this would be the last time it would be brought under discussion. He would take seven years before the late Navigation Law was repealed, and seven years following that repeal. From 1842 to 1849, a period of comparative protection or reciprocity, there were built 1,800,000 tons of British shipping. From 1849 to 1857 there was built no less than 2,776,000 tons, being an increase of nearly a million over the corresponding period of reciprocity. So much for free trade as far as shipping was concerned. With the permission of the House, he would now examine how far British shipping had gained by free trade, as applied to the general commerce of the country. He would take the period from 1843, when Sir Robert Peel first began his free trade policy by his alterations in the tariff, to 1846, when his entire change in our commercial policy was consummated. He took the statistics for fourteen years previous to 1843, and the fourteen years after it. In the year 1829 we owned 2,518,191 tons of British shipping, and in 1843 we owned 1071 3,581,387 tons, but in 1857 we owned 5,519,154 tons, showing that while British shipping had increased in the one period one million tons, it had increased in the second period nearly two million tons. This showed clearly enough that shipping was the child of commerce, and that if commerce decayed, shipping would decay, and that the interest of the shipowner was as much involved as that of any other person in supporting the free trade policy of the country. But then it was said that the progess of shipping prosperity had not kept pace with the other branches of the commercial and manufacturing interests in the country. But how stood the fact. He confessed that when he first began to examine this question, and looking, to the astounding progress made by our manufacturers, and the increase in our exports of late years, he was inclined to entertain the same opinion. But, on looking more closely to this question, he found that taking the last half century, and dividing it into two equal periods—he found that, while in 1807 we owned 2,228,000 tons of shipping, in 1832 we owned 2,600,000 tons, and in 1857 we owned 5,519,000 tons. In 1807 the value of our exports, including manufactures, amounted to £37,000,000 sterling; in 1832 they amounted to only £36,500,000, and in 1857 they had reached the astounding sum of £122,000,000 sterling. The increase during the latter period was therefore as nearly as possible equal, being in both an increase of about 3½ times. To look at these two periods in another light—between 1807 and 1832 British shipping had increased something like 15 per cent; but between 1832 and 1857, for a considerable portion of which period free trade existed, it had increased 110 per cent. He had shown to the House that previous to free trade our exports almost stood still. Our superior skill and energy, and our maritime character had however put us more clearly a head in shipping, but it was free trade alone which gave both the great impetus. He turned now to consider how the case stood as it affected the British seamen. His gallant Friend the Member for Southwark (Sir Charles Napier) had lately presented a memorial from the seamen of the Tyne, complaining of the great increase in the number of foreign sailors manning British ships, in consequence of the repeal of the Navigation Laws. How did that matter stand? In 1851 we em- 1072 ployed, in the British merchant service 136,144 British seamen, while in 1857 we employed 162,000. In 1851 we employed 5793 foreign sailors; in 1857, 14,375. In the case of the British seamen there was an increase of nearly 26,000—in the case of the foreigners, of 8,500. He might add that the greatest increase in the number of foreigners took place in 1853 and 1854, when seamen were wanted to man our navy, when the number of foreigners went up to 7,321. Since the peace the increase had been very slight indeed. Looking to the case of apprentices, he found that in 1815 there were 8,000 apprentices registered in the British service, while in 1826 they had increased to 11,219. In that year the law came into operation which made it compulsory for shipowners to carry a certain number of apprentices, according to the registered tonnage of the ship; and from that time there was a marked increase, and the number rose to 34,857 in 1848. In 1849, when the Navigation Law was repealed, this compulsory law was repealed also, so that the number of apprentices gradually fell. In 1849 there were 31,600 apprentices registered; in 1850 they fell to 24,394; in 1852 they fell to 11,105. It was possible that some hon. Gentlemen looking at this return might get alarmed, and fear that the breed of our seamen was dying out; but he must explain to the House that this return of registered apprentices furnished no clue to the number of boys actually employed. Since the alteration in the law many shipowners adopted the custom of employing boys by the voyage or the year, fancying that this was a more economical system. Others, again, had come round to the system of registering, and thus it happened that the number of registered apprentices had risen again to 25,096 in 1857, and he estimated that the number of boys at sea, but not registered, amounted to 20,000 more, so that there were now a far greater number of boys training for the sea than there had been at any former period. There was another question of great importance which he wished to look at in a calm and impartial manner—he meant the increase of British shipping as compared with foreign shipping. On this head also he desired to hide nothing, and therefore he would again take seven years previous to the repeal of the Navigation Laws, and seven years subsequent. In 1843 there were registered as entering inwards 3,545,000 tons of British 1073 shipping; of foreign, 1,300,000 tons. In 1850, 4,700,000 tons British; 2,400,000 tons foreign. In 1857, 6,800,000 tons British; 4,600,000 tons foreign. The proportional increase was, therefore, greatly in favour of foreign ships, and many of our shipowners had in consequence taken alarm. But they ought not to condemn the free trade policy because it increased the trade of the foreigner in greater proportion than our own; they must look to their own increase, and see how much better in that respect they were now than they were before. In looking at the great increase of foreign ships, they ought not to forget the astoundingly rapid increase of our trade with other countries, which, under the old law, would have brought foreign ships into our ports with their produce. But the entries inwards of our own ships had increased as much as the entries inwards of all the ships of the world though our ports are open to all. This is the more remarkable when these facts were considered. First: the great increase of our imports in the articles of cotton and bread stuffs. Secondly: that ships of the country where these articles are produced must naturally have the preference in respect of freights of this nature. Let them look at the state of a few of our leading items of imports. In the year 1857, 8,655,000 cwt. Of cotton were imported into this country, and out of that quantity 5,846,000 cwt. came from the United States, while only 1,279,000 of these 5,846,000 cwt. were brought in British bottoms. Under these circumstances it was clear that, in spite of any law this country might pass, a large portion of the cotton imported from America would come in the ships of the United States. Let them next take the article of bread stuffs. He would take wheat first—indeed he need not mention barley, oats, rye, and peas, for they bear the same proportion. In the year 1857 we had imported 3,438,000 quarters of wheat, and out of that quantity 650,000 quarters had come from the United States, while only 58,000 of those 650,000 quarters were brought in British ships. In the same year 1857 we imported 2,178,000 cwt. of flour, of which 1,465,000 cwt. came from the United States. Of this last quantity only about 208,000 cwt. was brought over in British bottoms. Then let them look at the article of tobacco. In the year 1857 we imported 42,000,000 lbs. of tobacco, and not less than 25,000,000 lbs. out of that amount came from the United 1074 States, while out of those 25,000,000 lbs. only 700,000 lbs. were sent in British bottoms. In that case, too no law which Parliament might pass could prevent the conveyance of a large portion of the articles imported in the ships of the country where it was produced. With these facts before him, he confessed he felt surprised that British shipping had increased at the rate it had done of late years. We had happily arrived at a period when nations felt that their own prosperity was promoted by the prosperity of their neighbours; and what would be the effect of our now returning to a restrictive policy for our shipping? Why, he believed, that it would be suicidal to our own shipowners. The number of tons entering our ports from all parts of the world was 5,234,000 British, out of which only 2,150,000 tons were employed in the trade with our own colonies and possessions; while the number of tons entered outwards was 5,874,000 and 2,119,000 respectively, showing that our trade was far greater with foreign countries than with our own possessions. If we adopted the principle of reciprocity, "enforced," and shut out the ships of all nations which did not reciprocate, we should, by preventing all competition whatever, in the long run find that there would be 3,000,000 tons of shipping of this country unemployed, for those countries would retaliate. The countries which did not now reciprocate were France, Spain, and Holland in a partial degree. America had yielded all we wanted of her, except the coasting trade. In France the entries inwards for the year 1857 were 4,162,000 tons of shipping, but of that 2,550,000 tons were of foreign shipping. Thus, in spite of prohibitory laws, 57 per cent of the trade of France was foreign shipping, and only 43 per cent of her own. In Spain, where the protective system was enforced with the utmost rigour, 55 per cent of the shipping was the property of foreigners, and only 45 per cent belonged to the natives of that country. In Belgium time proportion was twenty-two of native to seventy-eight foreign. On the other hand, in British ports, which were open to all the world, there was 61 per cent of British shipping, and only 39 per cent of foreign shipping. These figures clearly showed the soundness of our policy, and that the opposite policy was an injury, and not a benefit, to the shipping or the nation that adopted it. With regard to reciprocity, the only true 1075 meaning of the word was free trade with all the world. If however, other countries would not adopt free trade, and give us the same advantages that we gave to them, we had no power to force them to it, except indeed we used that Order in Council provided for in the Act repealing the Navigation Laws, which would be to enforce reciprocity. We might reason and remonstrate with other nations, but we could not compel them to adopt free trade. Reciprocity, however, if enforced, would be protection in its most pernicious form, because it would involve not only a war of classes, as far as our own country was concerned, and a war between ourselves and the foreigner; but it would be more hurtful to our own shipowners than to their rivals. But great as had been the increase in British shipping since the establishment of free trade, he believed it would have been still greater if the claims of the British shipowners had been attended to by this House at the period when they had been deprived of all the imaginary benefit arising out of the protective system. When the supposed protection was abolished, all the creatures of that protection ought also to have been swept away. But many of the impediments to the full development of our shipping were still retained, and our shipowners were thus prevented from reaping the full rewards of their skill and enterprise. He would take that opportunity of expressing a wish that some Member of the Government would inform the House whether any correspondence had taken place between Her Majesty's Ministers and the representatives of foreign Powers since the year 1850, for the purpose of inducing those Powers to extend to our shipping all the advantages which we gave to theirs; and, if so, whether there would be any objection to lay that correspondence before Parliament. In regard to burdens very many still remain on the shipping interest under our legislation; but as most of those grievances had already undergone considerable discussion, he would only refer to them very briefly upon that occasion. The first of those burdens was the light dues which were imposed both on our Own shipping and on foreign ships frequenting our shores. In this respect we treated foreign shipping in a way foreign nations did nut treat us. The United States of America levied no such tax; neither France, nor Prussia, nor Hanover levied such a tax; 1076 and if we asked these Powers to extend to us in its fullest force the reciprocity system, they would be fairly entitled to say that before we made that demand we ought to have abolished all those charges to which their ships were subjected in our ports, and which they did not themselves impose upon Our shipping. It was also considered a grievance that a much larger amount had been annually levied as light dues than was actually required for the maintenance of the lighthouses. In 1843 the private lighthouses were purchased at a cost of £1,200,000, and he thought the shipowners of this and of foreign countries were justified in complaining that they were taxed to pay off debts which ought to be defrayed from the Consolidated Fund. Another grievance was, that of passing tolls, which were imposed alike upon British and foreign ships for the maintenance of harbours from which they derived no benefit whatever. Then there were besides these passing tolls, by which both British and foreign vessels had to bear a very considerable burden, the local dues which constituted a still more striking grievance. Under the latter system shipowners were compelled to contribute a large annual amount, which was to be expended in the lighting and the paving of towns; and that was manifestly a charge to which it was most unfair that they should be subjected. Why, it might be asked, should foreign ships pay a tax for the paving and lighting of Newcastle, or for keeping in order the harbours of Ramsgate and Dovor, from which they could receive no benefit? Another burden which pressed exclusively on the British shipowner, in the race of competition they had now to run, was the stamp on marine policies. In the year 1857 the amount raised by the tax on policies of insurance amounted to £380,000, one half of which arose from the insurance against risks on shipping. A further charge to which all vessels arriving at our shores from foreign ports were subjected was that of pilotage; and those whom he represented complained that if a collier, which was not compelled to take a pilot, proceeded on a voyage to the Baltic or any foreign port, and returned to London, she would be obliged to take a pilot even if she sailed in ballast for Newcastle, although the master might be as well acquainted with the coast as any pilot he could take. It was said, indeed, that if the pilots were not certain of being engaged, their number 1077 would decrease, and the result would be prejudicial to the real interests of shipping. Such an argument, however, he considered quite illusory. In the Tyne there was no obligation to take pilots, and yet there were more pilots connected with the Tyne than at any other place. There were other matters of which the shipowner with considerable justice complained, such as various stringent clauses in the Passengers Act and in the Mercantile Marine Act; but as the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Crawford) desired to add to the Motion an inquiry into certain clauses of those Acts, he would only say, that he should offer no objection to that Amendment. There were also the timber duties, to which, however, he would only advert, as another hon. Member had given notice of his desire to call the attention of the House to that matter. He might, however, just state that the timber duties were inconsistent with the policy which the majority of the House had affirmed. We admitted the manufactured ship from the Baltic duty free, whilst we taxed the raw material of which it was made. There were some other small burdens of which shipowners complained, but as he hoped that the Government would grant his Committee, be should prefer that the shipowners themselves should state their grievances before the Committee. If the House should be pleased to grant the Committee for which he had asked, and if, on the Report of that Committee, the House removed those burdens which still pressed on British shipping in competition with that of foreign countries, and if foreign countries opened their ports to us, which they would soon find it their interest to do, he had no fear that British shipping would be enabled to compete with any other nation, and with even greater success than it had hitherto done.
§ MR. LIDDELL
seconded the Motion. He saw with satisfaction that the Motion came from the other side of the House, from those who had been the consistent advocates of our present commercial policy. He did not say that by way of a taunt, but he had a right to refer to it. It was a proof of the reality of the grievances of the shipowners and of the sincerity of the appeal made for some consideration of their case. They had heard a great deal to-night about Free Trade, He wished to clear the ground of that question; he did not stand there to ask the Executive Government to carry into effect the powers 1078 undoubtedly reserved to Her Majesty by the 16th & 17th Vct. of closing their ports against non-reciprocating nations. He had stated elsewhere, and he would repeat it there, that no Government ought to be called on to take that step; if so called on, no Government would dare take it without the assent of the House, and the House, after twelve years' experience of free trade, would not think itself justified in giving it. But he contended that free trade was a misnomer With regard to the shipping community. Free trade required the concurrence of the two parties engaged in it; but the shipping interest had free trade only so far as itself was concerned. Their trade was restricted at home and abroad; he would not ask the House to retrace its policy, but to keep the pledge solemnly given, that free trade should be carried out to its legitimate issue. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lindsay) had shown how their trade was restricted at home; he would show how it was restricted abroad. Take the case of America; by an ingenious though strange construction of the word "coast," in their Navigation Act, our rivals on the other side of the Atlantic made it extend along a shore of 10,000 miles, in two oceans. English slips were thus excluded from the Californian trade, and consequently competed on unequal terms with American ships in China and the ports of the East Indies. An American ship obtained a remunerative freight to San Francisco, and then ran over to China in ballast, where, from the circumstances of the voyage, she could afford to take a freight home on lower terms than English vessels which she met there could do, the American ship not unfrequently obtaining a cargo of return emigrants from California to China, which of course adds largely to the profits of her voyage. The matter became still more important now that we had established the rising colony of New Columbia, for American ships could run from San Francisco to Fraser river, stopping at four ports on the way, whilst ours were obliged to run direct. France, our intimate ally, levied discriminating duties on goods conveyed in British bottoms, which amounted to double those levied on similar goods conveyed in French bottoms. It acted in some cases as an absolute prohibition on the employment of British ships, and in all cases it gave French ships an advantage. As an example, a British vessel was chartered at Calcutta 1079 in December of last year to convey sugar at 5s. per ton, while French vessels were obtaining £3 a ton. With regard to the West Indies, France prohibited the conveyance of the produce of her West Indian colonies in any but French bottoms. But not only was France thus niggardly; the dock companies levied port charges, in some cases, of fourteen times the amount on British vessels, and in many cases gave an actual preference to American over British ships, which showed a jealousy hardly worthy of our faithful ally. Spain levied double duties on British ships, and differential duties on British goods, and prohibited British vessels on any terms conveying the produce of a Spanish colony to a Spanish port. Portugal robbed us wholesale by medium of her wine duties, and these were the countries for which England had made unheard-of sacrifices to maintain their independence. Holland was more liberal, but she levied double duties on goods exported or imported into her East India colonies in British ships. Belgium professed complete reciprocity, but she counteracted it by skilfully framing a clause in the treaty in which everything worth carrying was debarred to us. He did not complain of these countries for so acting, and be did not expect to induce them very readily to forego their policy. There was another consideration of some importance—namely, that foreigners could sail their ships cheaper. They paid their crews less wages, they fed them cheaper, and they built their ships cheaper, and he believed that an English merchant last year had found it to his advantage to charter Swedish and Norwegian vessels, although his own ships were actually injured by lying unemployed. In fact Swedish and Norwegian captains might be found in London every day purchasing second hand stores out of our return ships. Our own second-hand ships were greatly deteriorated in value; and the Swedes and Norwegians were purchasing them up at reduced prices, thereby adding another item of cheapness to their carrying trade. One consequence had been that the whole Baltic trade had almost entirely passed from the hands of the British shipowner to the complete ruin of many families in the north. To show how the foreigner had thriven under this system, he would quote some extracts from the trade returns for eight years preceding and eight years succeeding the repeal of the Navigation Laws. 1080 In the eight years 1842–49, our imports had increased £40,631,000, and our exports £76,245,000, showing a total increase of both of £116,876,000. The tonnage of British ships had increased in the same period 2,999,643 tons, and that of foreign shipping 1,877,281 tons. In the eight years after the repeal of the Navigation Laws our exports and our imports together had increased £126,438,694, and the tonnage of British ships employed 4,024,469, while foreign tonnage had increased 5,149,935 tons. While British tonnage stood in 1842, eight years before the repeal of the Navigation Laws, at 6,669,995 tons, and in 1857, eight years after the repeal, at 13,694,000 tons, having little more than doubled in the sixteen years, foreign tonnage stood in 1842 at 2,457,000 tons, and in 1857 at 9,484,000 tons, having very nearly quadrupled. He wished the House to consider whether there was to be any limit to this increase on the part of the foreigner, for if this state of things continued the British shipowner would be surpassed by his rivals, and we should lose the supremacy of trade. He did not want to take a gloomy view of things, but he thought they ought to do everything they could to place the shipowner in the most favourable position possible. If they wanted a man to win a race they must not tie up one of his legs. There were several grievances of which the shipping interest had to complain. He had always thought it an extraordinary anomaly that vessels returning in ballast should be exempt from the light dues. The effect of this exemption was that the vessels which took coals to France, our best customer for coals, returned in ballast to save the light dues instead of bringing back one-half or one-quarter cargoes of French produce, and the same argument applied to French vessels coming here to load. Compulsory pilotage was a great grievance. He knew a case where the owners of a steamer in a running-down case had shifted their responsibility to the shoulders of the pilot, who was, of course, unable to pay. Surely, the owner was the best judge as to whether or not his ship required a pilot, and he did not see why a ship returning coastwise from abroad to her own port, or anchoring in Yarmouth Roads, should be compelled by law to take on board such an officer. Another grievance was the passing tolls, for the abolition of which he hoped that the Government would introduce a Bill. The duty on marine insurances also was 1081 very heavy, and was a proper ground of complaint on the part of the shipowner. He was aware that he might be charged with inconsistency in asking for the consideration of local burdens on shipping, because he was one of those who opposed the comprehensive measure upon that subject which was introduced by the right hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe). The reason why lie opposed that Bill was that it dealt unfairly with certain proprietary rights of corporations. He still thought that the question of these local dues ought to be settled by local compromises rather than by the legislation of that House; but he was of opinion that the time had arrived when those Compromises and settlements ought to be made. Another burden upon the shipping interest arose from the legislation of the last ten years with regard to emigrants, the effect of which had been to throw all that trade into the hands of foreigners, and thus to defeat its own objects. The more experience he obtained of this subject the more he saw the mischief of our legislation. Parliamentary interference in the affairs of trade, except when absolutely necessary, was productive of immense mischief and great injustice; and he was decidedly of opinion that at the present moment the shipping interest was overburdened with legislation. He hoped the House would grant the Committee, because, when the Navigation Laws were repealed, a pledge was given that Parliament would remove all unnecessary burdens on shipping. He did not wish to see the policy then adopted at all interfered with, but he trusted that the House would take into its full and impartial consideration the burdens of which the British shipowner justly complained.
Motion made, and Question proposed—That a Select Committee be appointed, to inquire into the operation of all burthens and restrictions especially affecting Merchant Shipping.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, it might be for the convenience of the House if he were at once to explain the motives which had induced him to give notice of an addition to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Tynemouth. Last Session he (Mr. Crawford) gave notice that it was his intention to draw the attention of the House to the state of the shipping interest, more especially with respect to the operation of the Acts of Parliament mentioned in his Motion. His reason for giving 1082 that notice was that since the passing of the Merchant Shipping Acts ninny representations had been made to the Government with reference to the operation of those measures. He had himself been a party to those representations, and he thought it would he well to make the shipowners of this country aware that there was a prospect of their complaints receiving notice in the course of the present Session. When the House met early last month he was asked what he meant to do, and he replied that in his opinion the Motion of which his hon. Friend had given notice would hardly meet the necessities of the case. Considering the great personal experience of his hon. Friend, he was willing to leave the subject of the burdens upon shipping in his hands, but still he thought that an inquiry into those burdens alone would hardly accomplish all the objects which the shipowners had in view. His hon. Friend wished to investigate the imposts, fiscal charges, and the direct and indirect taxation to which the British shipowner was subject, not taking into account that which his addition to the Motion would bring under inquiry, the effect of the legislation of this country upon the interests of shipowners, in the shape of restrictions, impediments, and obstructions, He could himself bear testimony to the fact that a large amount of distress existed among the shipping interest. The question then arose as to what causes it was to be attributed. There was undoubtedly, competition with foreigners, but the Legislature had said that this competition ought to exist, and, while in some respects it was useful to the shipping interest itself, in other respects it was attended with great benefit to the great body of consumers. What the shipowners was suffering under was want of trade; arising from the fact that the trade had been overdone on their own part, the shipping interest was suffering from one of those reverses to which all trades were in turn exposed. Sometimes there was great prosperity in the manufacturing districts; but then production was overdone, and there ensued a period of reaction and distress. Shipbuilding had been carried on with an activity which was calculated at the time to be no more than sufficient for the trade of the world. The gold discoveries caused a sudden revival of trade. The Crimean war then broke out, and brought into existence a great number of ships. There was abun- 1083 dant employment for ships, and a large extension of property in shipping, took place. Next followed a great demand for the means of conveying troops to India. All these circumstances gave employment to ships and produced a large amount of profit. With regard to the trade with which he was most familiar (that of the East), some idea of the depression which existed might be gathered of the fact that there were by the last advices not less than of—
This large accumulation of unemployed shipping in the East had been caused mainly by the demand for the transport of men and munitions of war to the East, and in part for the conveyance of railway material to India, and by the fact that Australian ships unable to find remunerative freights went to India and China to find their return cargoes. It was not to be traced to any want of goods to be brought from India to this country, as the amount was very large, and, so far from diminishing, was on the increase. Enormous quantities of cotton were brought to this country from Bombay, while from Calcutta and China there was no decrease in the goods constituting homeward-bound freights; but the fact was that a much larger quantity of shipping had accumulated in the East than was necessary for the trade of those countries. As a proof of this, he might state that in 1858 the shipping which went eastward of the Cape was equal to 924,000 tons, while the homeward shipping was only 621,000 tons. The shipping which went eastward in 1857 was 1,017,000 tons, while that which came home was but 670,000 tons, showing that the quantity of shipping engaged in the outward trade was much more than sufficient for the requirements of the home trade. He proposed to refer to the Committee all the Acts which regulated the management and employment of shipping in this country. His notice of Motion comprised all the Acts that affected them. He would be very sorry if it should be supposed that he undervalued the great obligations which the country was under to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell) for his Merchant Shipping Act. When that right hon. Gentleman brought in his Act, he stated, if he recollected rightly, that his object was not codification, 1084 but consolidation—to bring all the Statutes relating to the subject into one Act. If the matter was referred to a Select Committee, as he desired, it would have all the information upon the subject, as well as the Acts, laid before them, and the shipowners would be able to attend, and to state their opinions as to the way in which the Acts had worked. He understood that the Government did not intend to offer any opposition to his proposition, and therefore it would be unnecessary for him to go into any details relating to the subject, but there were one or two points which he should like to mention. The first Act which he wanted to see referred was the Act for compensating the families of persons killed by accidents, commonly called Lord Campbell's Act. That Act was intended originally to apply only to accidents by railway; but it had been held to be applicable to accidents at sea also, and the penalties which it imposed were so extravagant and oppressive that many shipowners of this country were now unwilling to employ their vessels in the conveyance of passengers. The provisions of that Act were in some degree dependent on some of those in the Merchant Shipping Act, and would appear not to have been noticed in the haste with which the Merchant Shipping Act had been passed through the House. As a proof of the impossibility of due attention having been paid to its provisions, he might mention that the whole of the 548 clauses in the Bill had passed through the Committee in one day. In estimating the value of the ship also, he thought there were grounds for complaint; for it was enacted that the value of the ship was to be taken at not less than £15 per registered ton, whether the real value was £10 or £12, and in addition to this, he was to be liable to as much more as the ship was worth at the time of the accident. The effect of this heavy liability was that the passenger-carrying trade was passing out of the hands of the shipowners of this country altogether. There was a case some time since in which a passenger from Dublin had walked over the gangway of the steam-boat by mistake, where the accident really arose from his own fault, but the owners were glad to settle the claim in court, during the progress of the trial, for the sum of £800; there was another distressing case which Lind appeared in the papers of to-day. The shipowner had no power of insuring against that risk. 1085 It was not allowable to insure in a marine policy for such a loss, and at Lloyd's such an insurance was held not to be legitimate. Of course the object was to give the public as much protection as possible, and it was extremely proper that they should be protected; but, if so, why should not the shipowners be allowed to protect themselves by insurance? The case might arise where a ship came home commanded by a different captain from the one who took her out, a man who was not appointed in any way by the owners, and yet it was held that they were to be held liable for any losses occurring while he was in command. When the Committee met, the shipowners would be able to lay their views upon this subject before them; but he believed that their wish was that each passenger on going on board should sign a declaration as to the value he put upon himself in case of accident, and that no more should be recovered against the shipowner. No doubt, the majority would be likely to rate themselves highly, but still there might be others modest enough to under-estimate themselves, and what the shipowners, desired was that they should be allowed to insure for the sum at which the passengers estimated themselves. The Board of Trade, he was glad to say, were not responsible for the Passenger Act; but that act again was very oppressive on the shipowner. It so-beset them with impositions and restrictions as materially to interfere with their interests. He had made an analysis of this Act, and found that there were no fewer than forty-nine imperative obligations to be attended to in the conveyance of passengers, accompanied by a penalty in each case, ranging from 40s. to £500, and in one instance absolute forfeiture of the ship. There was one clause enacting that passengers should be waited upon on their voyage out. Now, although this might, be necessary at first, what could be the use of enforcing it for the whole voyage, when the passengers too were probably parties who were totally unaccustomed to such attention? Then there was the China Passengers Act, the object of which was to place the trade in a better condition with regard to the exportation of Coolies. He did not find fault with the object, but the restrictions and obligations imposed were so great, as to have the effect of throwing the trade into the hands of the Americans and other foreigners. With regard to the passengers, he wished to point out that everything was left subject to the approval of the surveyors of the 1086 port, Now, the opinions of the surveyors at the different ports might differ; the surveyor at Liverpool, for example, holding an opinion on some things at variance with the surveyor at Southampton. He had to complain generally that one effect of the legislation of that House had been to throw the passenger traffic very much into the hands of foreigners. He thought he had stated enough to induce the House to consent to the addition of the words he proposed.
Unemployed ships at Calcutta, 160,000 tons. Do. Bombay, 115,200 tons Do. China, 175,000 tons
§ MR. COLLIER
said, that, as a representative of a commercial port, he wished to second the Amendment. He entirely approved of the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry, and believed the result would be satisfactory. It had been clearly shown that there were grievances connected with the shipping interest. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell) had shown what those grievances were, though they might disagree with him as to the remedy he proposed. He would have adopted a more summary mode than the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northumberland seemed disposed to agree to. He thought the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London a decided improvement, and would support it, as he concurred with him in the opinion that over-legislation was one of the grievances which the shipping interest had to complain of.
At the end of the Question to add the words 'and of the following Statutes: 9 & 10 Vict. c.93, An Act for compensating the Families of Persons killed by Accidents; the Merchant Shipping Act, 1854; the Merchant Shipping Act Amendment Act, 1855; the Passengers' Act, 1855; and. the Chinese Passengers' Act, 1855.'
§ MR. HORSFALL
said, it was generally admitted that gnat distress existed among the shipping interest, and it was natural that the House should be requested to institute an inquiry into the cause of that distress, and, if possible, provide a remedy. The Resolution of the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Lindsay) was very good so far as it went; but that of the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Crawford) was better. It occurred to him, however, whether by striking out the word "certain," and substituting "all," the original Resolution might not be made to meet the views of the hon. Member for Loudon. If this Committee was to be effective, its powers must not be limited, otherwise its decision would be inconclusive 1087 and unsatisfactory. He regretted that an attempt had been made to fix on the shipping interest the imputation of a desire to re-enact the Navigation Laws. He regretted that some unintentional currency had been given to this idea by some comments by a noble Lord in "another place" as well as by an hon. Member in that House upon a letter written by the Foreign Secretary; but all that letter stated was, that the apprehensions entertained by many persons of the probable effects of the abolition of the Navigation Laws had been realized, and that the efforts made by the Government to obtain for the shipping interest that reciprocity which they were entitled to expect had hitherto been unavailing. But, after all, what was the fact? An hon. Gentleman who had made those comments also held the doctrine that reciprocity existed and was general. There was, he said, it was true, France—an exception. But France had been shown to be a nation of some importance in her commercial transactions. Yet we had no reciprocity there. He said, moreover, "True also, there is Spain; but the trade with Spain is very unimportant." At the very moment the hon. Gentleman made this assertion there were no less than seven vessels, Spanish vessels, at Liverpool entered outwards for Cuba, and one for Manilla, and not one English vessel had ventured to compete with them. If the hon. Gentleman had the statistics of the tonnage engaged in the trade with Spain in his hand, he would not repeat his assertion that the trade with that country was small. There was no reciprocity there. Nor was there that reciprocity with America to which we were entitled. As much as 200,000 tons of shipping were engaged in the trade between New York and California, and in that trade British shipping could not participate. Was that reciprocity? It was stated by the President of the Board of Trade, when he introduced the Bill of 1849, that to maintain that a voyage from Malta to London was to be held part of a Colonial trade, while a voyage from California to New York was to be held part of a coasting trade, was a proposition so preposterous and unjust that it was not to be supposed that the United States would persist in a policy so contrary to the dictates of common sense and of justice. The United States had, however, persisted in that policy. Then, with regard to Holland, Belgium, and the other countries mentioned by the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. 1088 Liddell) he believed that the British shipowners, notwithstanding the efforts made by the late, and doubtless also by the present Government to obtain perfect reciprocity, had a right to complain of the want of success. He agreed with the hon. Member for the City of London that the maximum of £15 a ton in Lord Campbell's Act ought to have been a minimum; and this Act, notwithstanding the benevolent object with which it was framed, was oppressive and unjust to the Merchant Shipping. There was another portion of that Bill, the Merchant Shipping Act of 1854, which was also highly injurious to the shipping interest; and that was in the constitution of the tribunal of investigation in case of wreck. The merchant captains complained that by that Act their professional character and means of livelihood were placed at the mercy of a tribunal who were incompetent, from their ignorance of nautical matters, to judge them, and they therefore claimed to be tried by a tribunal composed of officers of their own class, and not by persons sent by the Board of Trade for that purpose. He was convinced that the hon. Member for Tynemouth overstated the number of apprentices when he set them down at 40,000. He had the return to which the hon. Gentleman referred, and he found that in 1836, when the law obliged the shipowners to maintain apprentices in proportion to the tonnage of the ships, the number of apprentices was 11,298, and the number greatly increased until 1849, the year of the Repeal of the Navigation Laws, when the number amounted to 31,636; and in 1852, after the Repeal, the number was only 11,105. This, he was happy to say, was the lowest point to which the number descended, and in last year it was 23,831. He was not without hopes that it would go on increasing until it bore a proper proportion to the number of seamen. While on this part of the subject he would allude to the valuable Report of the Commission on Manning the Navy. A Report more beneficial to the Merchant Service was never submitted to that House. He thought the recommendation with respect to the encouragement of the hulk system for training boys extremely useful. So far from the Commissioners having under-estimated the expense of the system, he believed that from some trifling mistake they had rather over-estimated it. In the Report, the Ackbar, at Liverpool, was referred to, and the expense per annum for each boy was put down at from £24 to £25. In 1089 that establishment there were 140 boys, and the expense was only £18 per annum for each boy, and it was hoped that when the number reached 200 the expense would be reduced to £15 per annum. Another portion of the Report pointed out the difficulties under which the Merchant Service was placed in the emergency of war. The first, the power of laying an embargo so as to prevent any ship from proceeding to sea; that was a great grievance. The next referred to was the power of the Government to offer a bounty, that he (Mr. Horsfall) thought was a perfectly legitimate course; if the Government offered £5, the Merchant Service could offer £10. The third was as to the power of impressment. The impressment system was still the law of the land. The Government had the power to put in force the old press-gang system if they should think it necessary to resort to it. That was a power to which the people of this country would never again submit, and the merchant service was indebted to the Commission for calling the attention of the House to so important a subject. Another ground of complaint was the power residing in the commander of any of Her Majesty's ships at sea to take seamen from any merchant vessel. Although that power was exercised with great discretion, it was still one to winch the merchant service ought not to be subject. He disclaimed all desire to see the Navigation Laws re-enacted; and he was quite sure those whom he represented never dreamt of such a thing. The Liverpool Shipowners' Association, in their petition to that House, stated distinctly that they did not ask for a retrogressive policy as respected the Navigation Laws. They asked that the progress of British shipping under the existing laws might not be impeded—that it might not remain at a disadvantage in competing with the shipping of foreign nations—and they asked for practical remedies for obvious or ascertained grievances. That was the prayer of the Liverpool shipowners, who might be taken as fairly representing the views and feelings of the shipowners throughout the country. He would only say, which he did with great sincerity, that so far as his own individual opinion went, nothing was further from his thoughts than a desire to see the Legislature return to the Navigation Laws, or to put in operation what were called the "retaliatory clauses" of the existing law. But he nevertheless thought it was the duty of the House to institute a 1090 rigid inquiry into the grievances of the shipowners, through a Committee, with the view to the speedy removal of all unnecessary restrictions, and if that should be the result, he was convinced the shipping of this country would be able to compete with that of any other nation in the world.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he would detain the House but for a short period. It had fallen to his lot on a former occasion to propose measures of great importance affecting the shipping interest, and he wished to address a few observations to the House on the question under consideration. It was now ten years since the navigation laws were repealed, and he was very far from desiring to recall to the attention of the House the controversies which then occurred; but there were many hon. Members present who would remember how dire were the predictions then put forth of the inevitable ruin which must result from that repeal, and he must congratulate the country that even at this period of acknowledged distress, which he hoped was only temporary, when the great shipowners came forward to lay their complaints before the House, not a single Member had stated that it could be traced to the repeal of the Navigation Laws. Merchant shipping had increased during the last ten years very considerably. Shipbuilding, which was inevitably to have been transferred to other countries had not only flourished in an unprecedented degree during that period, but the predictions uttered had been completely falsified. There had been very few ships bought of foreign construction—while, on the other hand, British shipbuilders had sold not a few of British construction to foreign shipowners. British sailors, it was said, would desert these shores, but it was found that there were never so many employed in the British marine as at the present moment. Upon the whole, he felt that they might rejoice that the Navigation Laws passed away ten years ago. Indeed he would ask what would have been the inevitable consequence if they had deferred that repeal? Other countries would certainly have retaliated against us,—Russia especially, which was prepared to issue an ukase to resent our restrictive system if the repeal had not been carried. He admitted that since the change in the law foreign ships had come in larger numbers to British ports than they ever did before. That was a result contemplated by those who brought about the repeal of the Navigation 1091 Laws, and they did not think that it would operate to the injury of British shipping. It was an undeniable fact that during the last ten years the commerce of this country had been developed to an unprecedented extent, and consequently it had been liable to great fluctuation. But what would have been the result if the ports had been open to British ships only? Why, the rates of freight would have been enormous, and a ruinous state of things the general result. But, by admitting the shipping of the whole world to share in our commerce, the effects of the change in the trade which had since taken place were spread over a wider surface than they would otherwise have been, and our shipping trade had been much more steady than it used to be. He admitted that at this moment the shipping trade of this country suffered under the pressure of distress. He believed the causes of that distress had been clearly explained by the hon. Member for the City (Mr. Crawford). But that distress had not been peculiar to the shipping trade of England alone. Look at America. He believed the fluctuations in the employment of shipping in America, and the consequent distress, had been much greater than in England. He found from an official American document, showing the number of vessels built in the ports of the United States during the last three years, that in 1856 the number of ships built was 1,703, the aggregate tonnage being 469,000 odd; in 1857 the number was 1,434, and the tonnage 378,000; and in 1858 the number decreased to 1,225, and the tonnage to 242,000. Those facts spoke for themselves. They plainly showed what ruin there must have been in the value of that kind of property in the United States. It had been said that hopes had been held out, at the time of the repeal of the Navigation Laws, of reciprocity on the part of other countries, which had not been fulfilled. His own impression was that it had not then been argued that other nations would immediately follow our example. The main argument relied on in favour of the principle of Free Trade in shipping was that it was for the interest of England to repeal the Navigation Laws, and that if other countries would not follow our example, it would be so much the worse for them. After all, it was not quite correct to say that our example had not been followed, for all the great commercial countries, with the exception of France, Spain, and Holland, had to a certain extent 1092 acted on the system of reciprocity. He did not quite agree with the hon. Member for London in thinking that it was the duty of the Government always to be calling on other nations to alter their Navigation Laws. He knew that when this country altered its tariff, and that when it urged on other Governments to alter theirs, the more they urged the closer they clung to it, under the impression that we were pressing them for an alteration for our own benefit. We were far more likely to be successful by letting them see by our own example, and by its effects, the beneficial character of the policy we had adopted. The exception of the Californian trade had always been brought forward, and had been made the most of. He was still of opinion that it was a shabby proceeding of the United States, when throwing open their coasting trade, to make an exception of the trade to California, under the pretence that it was a coasting trade; as if a trade from the ports of any of their States across the Gulf, round Cape Horn to California could be, except nominally, a coasting trade. It must be remembered, however, that there was a strong Protectionist party in the States who resisted any change. The trade itself, too, was not so valuable as was sometimes supposed, amounting even in the most favourable year to only 180,000 tons, and when the Isthmus passage was opened it would be still less valuable. He was ready to admit that it was the duty of the Government, after the Navigation Laws had been repealed, to consider every just complaint on the part of the shipping interest. He had endeavoured to do so, and had brought forward several measures calculated to improve the condition of the mercantile service. The right hon. Gentleman who had succeeded him (Mr. Cardwell) had reduced not only the Light Dues, but had abolished the great grievance that resulted from the operation of the Merchant Seamen's Fund. By an Act of almost unexampled liberality Parliament sacrified about £800,000 in order to put an end to what they believed to be a great scandal and danger to the interests of the merchant seamen. By the measure referred to, they prevented the bankruptcy of that fund, which had been supplied by the hard-earned savings of a most deserving class of the community. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Henley) had also given his attention to the subject; and though he did not say that there were not 1093 still questions which required consideration, he could not admit that the mercantile marine had been a neglected interest by the Governments of this country. He thought the inquiry asked for much too wide, but if the Committee were granted, he was quite sure that both the Government and Parliament would show themselves most happy in co-operating with it in the adoption of any measure calculated to remedy the evils of which the shipping interest justly complained, The hon. Member for London had particularly adverted to the Passengers' Act, and it was asserted that it tended to drive the passenger trade into foreign vessels. When he (Mr. Labouchere) held the office of Secretary for the Colonies, his attention was called to the occurrence of the most dreadful events even on board British vessels in the transportation of coolies to some of our foreign colonies. Now, as a Christian nation we were bound to take care that we did not enact cruel and horrible things ourselves, without reference to what other nations might do. The horrors of the middle passage were as nothing compared to those scenes. And though he was willing to remove all unnecessary restrictions on our shipping, he could not consent to abolish any restrictions that were necessary for the feeble and defenceless. He hoped the Committee, if appointed, would make some progress this Session; and no one would rejoice more than he would if their labours should be productive of any advantage to the interest in question.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, it must be admitted that when hon. Gentlemen on different sides of the House, representing various political opinions, but all connected with one great interest, and that so important as the one in question, came forward and told them that the shipping interest was suffering under considerable depression, called their attention to some of the causes alleged to have produced that condition, and applied to the House for permission to lay their grievances before a Select Committee, that they established a prima facie case fol. such Committee; and more especially that was so when they found that those Gentlemen, though differing in many respects from each other, yet agreed upon those points which might be considered settled in regard to the Imperial policy of the country. He found, although different opinions had been expressed by hon. Members in the course of this debate in regard to the extent of the depression 1094 now complained of in the shipping interest of the country, and as to the effects of our recent legislation, especially the repeal of the Navigation Laws, yet, on the whole, that they all united in saying that they did not come to ask for any reversal of that commercial legislation which had now been ten years in operation, The hon. Members who moved and seconded the proposition, as well as the hon. Member for London, who moved an Amendment, all united in saying that they did not ask for any alteration of the policy of the country in regard to the Navigation Laws, That fact, of course, materially relieved the Government from any difficulty in dealing with this request. Had any application been made with the view of obtaining a change in those laws, a case of great difficulty would have been presented to the Government, and it would then have been necessary for them to consider seriously how far the proposal, in reference to the state of feeling in this country and the success of our recent legislation should be acceded to—whether, in fact, they could sanction the appointment of a Committee which would imply that such a subject was open for their consideration. He thought there could be no doubt, whilst on the one hand it might be reasonable for the shipping interest to ask for this Committee, and for the House to assent to it, yet, upon the other hand, it was undesirable and a thing to be deprecated if they were to grant a Committee to inquire into certain matters and thus raise hopes which the Government felt would be disappointed. Happily, however, that was not the demand with which Her Majesty's Ministers had on the present occasion to deal, and it was perhaps, therefore, unnecessary that he should enter into the question of the effect which the repeal of the Navigation Laws had produced on the merchant shipping of the country. He would rather refrain from doing so, too, because, although the matter was one with which he had been long familiar, it did not belong to the Department of the Government with which he was specially connected, and it was only within a few hours that he had become aware that it would be his duty to take part in this debate. He had not, therefore, had an opportunity of refreshing his memory; and although a considerable mass of interesting statistical information had been placed in his hands by the Board of Trade, yet he felt it was both undesirable and dangerous to deal with it unless he had 1095 first thoroughly studied and mastered the figures; for however valuable statistics were in their proper place, and used by skilful hands, if used unskilfully they were likely to be productive of much mischief. At the same time he could not avoid saying that from the general view he had taken of the progress of shipping since the repeal of the Navigation Laws, and of the facts embodied in the statement that had been laid before the Government, it certainly appeared, notwithstanding there was at present undoubtedly a depression in the shipping interest, yet, taking the whole period which had elapsed since the repeal of the Navigation Laws, that the progress of the shipping interest had been very remarkable. It had increased in every way, in the employment and in the build of ships, and the rate of that increase had been greater since the repeal than before. He believed, also, that it had been greater in the foreign than in the home trade. It was said that of course there had been a considerable increase in the quantity of British shipping employed in our trade; but that that increase had wit been in proportion to the increase either of our trade or of the foreign shipping. With regard to this point, he thought the answer which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) had given was tolerably conclusive—that the effect of the repeal of the Navigation Laws would necessarily be to stimulate our trade and the consequent employment of foreign vessels to a greater extent than the employment of British shipping. As to the dangers which were apprehended to the British shipping from that measure, no doubt its object was to encourage our trade, and consequently of all shipping whatsoever. But there was a great fallacy in the way in which his hon. Friend (Mr. Liddell) had compared the increase of British with the increase of foreign shipping. His hon. Friend said that whilst British shipping had doubled itself, foreign shipping had quadrupled itself, and he argued that at that rate of increase we should soon be overtaken by the foreigner. But, supposing a man of fifty Lad a son one year old, and at the end of twelve months somebody said, "the father has increased in age only two per cent, but the son 100 per cent," would his hon. Friend declare that at that rate the son would soon overtake the father? Now, there was a Return from the statistical department of the Board of Trade, which had been delivered that day, and which 1096 showed the exact increase of British and of foreign shipping in certain trades. In one of those trades—it was the last in the paper—the result was stated thus:—"Actual per centage of increase of tonnage in 1858 over 1849;" and it appeared that British shipping had increased 139 per cent, and foreign shipping 137 per cent. So that, in this particular trade it might be inferred that British and foreign shipping had increased about the same. But what was the actual increase? Whilst British shipping had actually increased 1,021,000 tons, foreign shipping had only increased 207,000 tons. Therefore British shipping had increased 800,000 tons, or thereabouts, more than the foreign. It always raised a little suspicion in his mind when he saw people of opposite views agreeing to make friends for a certain purpose. When the ancients quarrelled and wished to make up their differences, they would meet together in the Temple of Concord and offer a sacrifice of some kind; and, so on the present occasion, when he saw people of different opinions come together to make friends, he suspected that a sacrifice was contemplated somewhere. It was his duty to consider where that sacrifice was likely to be found, and he had certainly found that hon. Members opposite, and hon. Members on that side of the House, whilst waiving their difficulties, disputes, and differences on many points, agreed together in falling upon that which it was the place of the Government to look particularly after, the Consolidated Fund. Now, although there might be burdens upon the shipping interest from which it was right they should be relieved, and boons that they might fairly claim from the Consolidated Fund; yet, in granting a Committee of this sort it was undesirable to encourage false expectations. Therefore, if it were intended to lay a case before the Committee for obtaining large grants from the Consolidated Fund, it was his duty to warn them that Government would probably have something to say on the other side, and that it would be necessary to watch carefully what burdens they proposed to relieve themselves of. It had been suggested by one hon. Member that Government should take upon itself the maintenance of the light dues. Well, that would be to make the light dues, which amounted to £300,000 a year, a charge upon the Consolidated Fund. Then something was said about the stamps on marine insurances, amounting to £180,000 a 1097 year; and the timber duties, about £600,000 a year. Here, then, was a sum of £1,200,000 or £1,300,000 a year that might possibly be asked from the Consolidated Fund; and if the Committee were granted simply in the terms of the Motion of the hon. Member for Tynemouth—if it were understood that the burdens and restrictions were not so much the burdens and restrictions imposed or created by the Navigation Laws, it would then appear that the particular burdens and restrictions were such as were to be got rid of by grants out of the Consolidated Fund. It must be admitted that an important interest like the shipping interest had great claims upon the country, both pecuniary and otherwise; but, on the other hand, it should be remembered that the country had given them considerable advantages. For instance, it paid £50,000 a year for pensions connected with the Merchant Seamen's Fund, which had become bankrupt, and which the Government took upon itself, at the cost of at least half a million. Then the Government paid through the Board of Trade £20,000 a year for sending home distressed seamen. Such a proceeding was very desirable on grounds of humanity; but it should be remembered that these men went from this country not for Imperial purposes, but in the mercantile navy. The Government did not grudge the money, but its payment must be regarded as a boon to the shipping interest. Then a considerable charge was incurred by the nation in respect to differential dues, which were paid to foreign nations under various reciprocity treaties. That charge was not less than £50,000 a year, though he admitted that only about £30,000 went to the shipping interest. All these points had to be considered, and he did hope that hon. Members, however anxious they might be to press the claims of the shipping interest on the attention of the Government, would bear in mind that there was a per contra account. But not only were these sums paid out of the Consolidated Fund; there were also certain exemptions that were given to shipowners. One enormous advantage they enjoyed was referred to the other night by the hon. and learned Solicitor General—the title by which they held their property and the facility and cheapness with which they could transfer their immensely valuable property from hand to hand. That title was made perfect by a special Act of Parliament, and the expense of transferring such a ship as 1098 the Great Eastern was, he believed, something like a shilling. It had been stated that the light dues were a heavy charge upon the shipping interest. No doubt they were; and it had been proposed to transfer them to the Consolidated Fund. That was a very easy thing to do; but the Government had to remind the shipping interest that a good deal had already been done, and was still doing, to lighten the pressure of the light dues as much as possible. These dues were some years ago managed by the Trinity House and other corporate bodies. They were then taken together and consolidated, and having been so consolidated and equalized, a considerable improvement and a gradual reduction of them had since taken place. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cardwell), when President of the Board of Trade, had reduced them by £100,000 a year. The noble Lord who succeeded him in office (Lord Stanley of Alderley) reduced them by £70,000 a year, and his right hon. Friend (Mr. Henley) had further reduced them by £35,000 a year, which reduction took place that very day. The total of these reductions was something like £205,000 a year since they had been managed by the Government. Besides this, a considerable number of new lighthouses had been erected, and a large surplus accumulated, which was sufficient to build all the lighthouses that were now required. Therefore it might be said that the Government administration of the lights had been exceedingly beneficial to the shipping interest. No doubt, in the United States the light dues were paid out of the general funds of the State, and that was said to be the case in France also; but in this latter case there was a heavy tonnage duty charged—not for local purposes—which went into the French Exchequer; so that it was only a different mode of doing the same thing. Still, it would be a fair subject for inquiry whether some such system might not be adopted in this country. If the Motion of the hon. Member for Tynemouth had stood alone it might not have been quite so clear what course the Government ought to pursue in the matter; but the Amendment of the hon. Member for the City made it much clearer. There could be no doubt that the statute relating to compensations to the families of persons killed by accidents, the two Merchant Shipping Acts, the Passengers' Act, and the Chinese Passengers' Act, were very fit subjects to be referred to a Select Committee. The first was a 1099 subject of some delicacy, as it was closely connected with the general law of the country, and there might be some difficulty in considering it in relation to the shipping interest only without affecting the law as it regarded other matters, particularly railway matters. In consenting to submit the two Merchant shipping Acts to a Select Committee, it was unnecessary to say that the Government had not the slightest doubt as to the great benefit which they had conferred on the shipping interest; but it was impossible not to be struck with the fact that the first of those Acts, consisting of 548 clauses, passed through Committee in a single night. If certain points in that Act did not work quite smoothly, it was fair to the shipping interest that they should be inquired into, and there could be no better tribunal than a Select Committee. On the whole, as a tribunal to consider the best means of providing "practical remedies for obvious and ascertained grievances," the Government had no objection to the appointment of this Committee. Indeed, he would only say that he wished it God speed.
§ MR. FENWICK
said, he believed the depressed state of the shipping interest had arisen from natural causes, and not from bad legislation; that it was due not to want of protection, but to want of trade. He hoped the Government would not consent to the substitution of the word "all" for "certain grievances" in the Motion of the hon. Member for Tynemouth, otherwise a duty would be imposed upon the Committee that they could not possibly perform. What were the restrictions and burdens into which the Committee would have to inquire? There were passing tolls, local dues, light dues, compulsory pilotage, stamps on marine insurances; in point of fact such a number of burdens and grievances as he ventured to say the Committee would never be able to get through in the longest Session. Thus, an impression would be created that Parliament was only trifling with the subject. Into many of these grievances further inquiry was unnecessary. For instance, so far as passing tolls were concerned, there had been sufficient discussions upon them already in this House. They had been inquired into by two Committees One right hon. Gentleman, now on the Treasury bench, had declared his opinion that they ought to be abolished, and the Government of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerton), had brought in a Bill for the 1100 purpose of abolishing them. Further inquiry was needless, and the next step they should take was to legislate and get rid of them without referring them to a Committee. The hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall), had referred to a letter written by the Earl of Malmesbury, and recently published in the newspapers, in which the writer spoke of the disadvantages that had arisen from the repeal of the Navigation Laws. That letter also contained this remarkable expression—that Her Majesty's Government would not cease to press upon foreign Governments the duty of reciprocity with this country. Now, this pressing of reciprocity upon foreign Governments was no recent thing; it had been going on for thirty years. What was the result? In 1826, a treaty was concluded between this country and France to promote, by reciprocity, the direct trade between France and England. That treaty had not been in existence many months when the Government of France made a direct complaint to the Government of England, that the latter was evading the treaty. They said, "In a great number of your ports there exist certain local exemptions and local privileges in favour of particular persons. If a French ship goes to one of these ports, it has to pay charges which ships belonging to those ports do not pay; therefore you are evading, if not the letter, the spirit of the treaty." Again, in 1849, after the repeal of the Navigation Laws, the Government attempted to make a new and improved treaty with France, and they were met again by the same objections. He wished to refer to a portion of the remarks made by Mr. Edgar Bowring of the Board of Trade, bearing upon this subject. He stated in his evidence that the local exemptions objected to by the French Government, were alleged to exist in 103 ports in this country, and that the French Government considered that that amounted to a violation of the spirit of the treaty, because if in almost every port they found the inhabitants in possession of privileges, they might be regarded in the light of differential duties over almost the whole of England. Thus, in 1826, and again in 1849, the French Government alleged the existence of these local exemptions as the cause of non-reciprocity between the two countries. It appeared upon inquiry that, although the statement of the French Government was exaggerated, there were eighty one ports in this country in which such local exemp- 1101 tions existed; and Mr. Bowring observed, that owing to these causes no fresh treaty had been concluded, and that while these local exemptions had been for twenty-five years the cause of great irritation, which had exercised tin unfortunate influence on local interests, this had been the main instrument in precluding the conclusion of a treaty. He wished to impress upon the House that this also caused considerable injury to British shipping in French ports. This showed that if the Government were serious in seeking reciprocity of trade with France, they should put an end to these local exemptions and privileges which so seriously affected the prosperity of the shipping interest. As to the distinction sought to be drawn between local dues and passing tolls, he might observe that, if local dues were defensible by long prescriptive right, passing tolls we leviable by authority of an Act of Parliament. He hoped the Government would take into consideration the advisability of getting rid of those obstacles to complete reciprocity,1 for if they were not removed, there would be little chance of obtaining reciprocity fur the shipping interest.
§ MR. CLAY
said, he hoped it would not be understood that the shipping interest wished to make such a frightful inroad upon the Consolidated Fund as the Secretary to the Treasury seemed to suppose that they contemplated. The hon. Gentleman for instance seemed to imagine that the shipping interest wished, among other items, to charge upon the Consolidated Fund £600,000 a year for timber duties; but they merely asked for the remission of the duty upon timber used for shipbuilding purposes, and they considered themselves entitled to such a remission now that foreign ships were placed upon an equal footing in our ports with English vessels. He believed that if a Committee were granted it would be shown that the shipping interest was still subjected to heavy burdens, although a promise of their removal had been given at the time the navigation laws were repealed. With regard to the depression under which the shipping interest at present Laboured, he believed the causes of that depression were so self evident, and of so merely temporary a character, that it was quite unnecessary for a Committee to waste its time in inquiring into the subject.
§ MR. INGHAM
observed, that some years ago the shipping interest was led by the then Government to suppose that they 1102 would be relieved from those obnoxious imposts, passing tolls and harbour dues, and he hoped that, if a Committee were granted, it would be unnecessary again to go through the humiliating task of adducing evidence on that subject. The whole question had been fully explained by deputations to successive Boards of Trade; those burdens had been condemned by several Parliamentary Committees and by a Royal Commission; and he hoped that the promise of their abolition held out in 1852 would be fulfilled without any further investigation. The Secretary to the Treasury had objected to the proposal to throw a charge upon the Consolidated Fund, hut as the object of such a charge was to mitigate the pressure to which certain producers of the country were subjected by the adoption of free-trade principles, and as the consumers who benefited by that change were the contributors to the Consolidated Fund, he could not see that there was any injustice in such a demand. He agreed, however; with the hon. Member for Sunderland that the inquires of the Committee were of too extensive a nature to be very effective for any timely relief. The shipowner was not in so favourable a position as the manufactuer to compete with the foreigner; because the amount which he paid for wages bore a much larger proportion to his whole expenditure than the manufacturers, and therefore it was more difficult for him to compete with the low wages of foreign countries.
said, he must remind the House that many anomalies arose under the present state of things. He would give the House an instance—if a ship came home in ballast no light dues were charged; but supposing she carried a small supply of provision, any portion of which remained over on her arrival, beyond what Customhouse authorities may think proper, she might be called on to pay a "full light" dues. He held that certainly the duties on timber employed for shipbuilding purposes ought to be remitted; and if a precedent were wanted, he would mention the remission that was made of the duty on timber used for church-building. It had been said that local dues were a burden on shipowners; but he was informed that they fell on the consignor or the commission agent. As to local exemptions, by a clause in the Municipal Corporations Act provision was made for their gradual extinction, and the sum collected was not of any great amount. The truth was that the French nation was 1103 not prepared to grant free trade in ships or anything else. A very liberal tariff was once proposed by the French Government, but the working and other classes in France showed so much opposition that the Emperor gave up the attempt.
§ MR. CARDWELL
was anxious, before the debate closed, to express his opinion on the proposal to refer this question to a Select Committee. Whenever any interest in this country was suffering, from whatever cause, it seldom happened that anything but advantage resulted from an inquiry by Parliament; for if those grievances were in any way connected with legislation, then by the examination of witnesses, and the inquiry of those hon. Members who devoted their attention to the subject, a remedy was discovered. If, on the other hand, that happened which frequently, did happen—namely, that men were inclined to attribute to Parliament—to legislation, or the want of it—the grievances and vicissitudes which were inseparable from the variety of human affairs, then they themselves became convinced of the truth, and their imaginary grievances disappeared by the wholesome process of investigation. He thought this inquiry ought not to be too closely limited by any narrowness in the terms of reference; for it would be a circumstance to be regretted if, when the case was closed, the shipowners should be left with any reason to complain that any part of their interests had been shut out from consideration. Nor did he think that the Committee would thereby be rendered too discursive, for he was sure that many of the shipowners' grievances would vanish into thin air the moment they examined them. It was said in the autumn that the Government ought to inflict retaliatory restrictions upon the shipping of other countries; but did any advocate of the British shipping interest now say that that should be done? That question would not stand the test of a single evening's discussion in that House. The representatives of the shipping interest on both sides of the House agreed in deprecating any reference to that topic. They had, therefore, demolished that which was the greatest question to be discussed. Then, let the House consider some of the other questions connected with the Navigation Laws. His right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. Labouchere) had ably vindicated his policy. He had not stated in too strong terms that he laid the firm foun- 1104 dation of the great improvements in the whole of the merchant service of this country by his Navigation Act, since the passing of which further steps had been taken in the same direction, to the great advantage of the shipping interest, the maritime power of this country, and the moral character of the British seaman. He had the honour of being a fellow-labourer with his right hon. Friend. He submitted to the House the Bill for admitting foreigners to the coasting trade of this country. He had not learnt that any question had ever been raised upon that which was so doubtful and so much apprehended at one time—the opening of that trade. He agreed with his right hon. Friend that we had better rely upon the daily increasing prosperity and greatness which we derived from our free-trade principles, and let other countries learn from that example what was their own interest, than go to them with our hats in our hand suing in formâ pauperis, and begging them to accommodate their policy to our wishes. But if we were to go with these supplications to America, let those who went tell her that our coasting trade had been entirely thrown open, and that this debate had closed without one single word being heard in favour of putting restrictions upon that portion of our commerce. The repeal of the manning clauses had been followed by none of those evils which had been so much feared when the subject was under discussion. Immediately after their repeal there was a most extraordinary demand for seamen. While we had a fleet in the Black Sea and a fleet in the Baltic we had a most extraordinary development of our merchant shipping. Did the repeal of the manning clauses put the mercantile navy of this country into the hands of foreigners? Inquiries showed that the proportion of foreigners never had been, and was not now, anything at all compared with what it might have been if those manning clauses had not been repealed. Great apprehensions were felt about the removal of the compulsion to employ apprentices, but what was the result? Not only had the number of apprentices increased, but their character had also increased in similar proportion. And why? Because when apprentices were required by an Act of Parliament to be employed, boys were picked up from the streets to serve as apprentices. The interests of the shipowner now led him to select those who would be serviceable to him in after years. What was the number 1105 of our merchant seamen who had sought employment under foreign flags? A Committee of the House of Lords assembled to consider the repeal of the Navigation Laws, and he believed it was stated before them that 60,000 British seamen were serving under the American flag. He had an opportunity the other day of ascertaining from the first authority in Liverpool what was the case now in that respect. The case now was, that as a rule our boys and seamen remained under the flag of their own country, elements of our prosperity in peace and our safety and glory in war, and it was no longer the rule but the exception with them to serve under the flag of another country. But all these changes were deprecated a short time ago. An hon. Friend of his, sitting on the opposite side, had said that the shipping interest had been overburdened with legislation. He hoped the inquiry would not be too narrow, and that the Committee would ascertain what had really been done. The Committee word find that nearly fifty Acts of Parliament, passed from the time of Elizabeth, containing more than 1,000 clauses, had been repealed and consolidated in a single and intelligible statute. That surely was not overburdening the merchant service with legislation. The light dues were complained of, and no doubt there were those who would like to throw the expense of them on the Consolidated Fund. That was always an agreeable proposal, except at the particular period of the year when the Chancellor of the Exchequer invited them to consider how the Consolidated Fund itself was to be supplied. Adam Smith quoted this very tax as the model of a just tax, which was levied only in the proportion of the benefit derived from its imposition, and the expenditure of which was under due control. In a short space of time not less than £200,000 had been remitted from these dues by retrenching everything from the outlay which was not strictly required for the lights. Then as to compulsory pilotage; the meaning of that was that if they did not employ the pilot in fine weather he could not get a living, and would not be forthcoming in had weather, when his services were needed to save life and property from shipwrecks. The system was therefore solely intended for the protection and advantage of the shipping interest. It was surprising that this particular objection should have come from the hon. Member for South Northumberland, 1106 Mr. Liddell,) because a celebrated Committee, which sat nearly forty years ago on foreign trade, inquired into an institution existing in that part of the kingdom, called the Trinity House of Newcastle, which they declared deserved the especial attention of that House. That attention it had hitherto escaped; and if, while considering the question of compulsory pilotage, the Committee now proposed should extend their investigation into the various branches of jurisdiction intrusted to this venerable body, some valuable improvements might result from their labours. With regard to the liability cast by statute upon shipowners, one would fancy, from the statements made on that point, that that liability was of the most onerous and oppressive character. At the time the Merchant Shipping Act was passed the feelings of the community were harrowed by the constant reports of dreadful shipwrecks on our coasts occurring to emigrant vessels. It so happened that a large portion of those emigrants belonged to the sister island, and the late Mr. John O'Connell moved for a Select Committee to ascertain whether something could not be done to diminish the frequency of such deplorable calamities. The House of Commons, most wisely, and in a spirit from which it was to be hoped it would not now depart, then stepped in to limit the liability of the shipowner, but not so as to encourage the sending of these poor Irish emigrants to sea on board of illfound and untrustworthy vessels; and it furnished an adequate remedy for the relatives of the unfortunate sufferers who were too indigent to recover damages for themselves by legal process. The Board of Trade was therefore armed with power to obtain for them the damages which the statute prescribed by a cheap and easy proceeding. What had been the consequence? He did not know whether it was the result of that Act, but these distressing disasters did not now occur, and much human misery had been happily put an end to. As to the tribunals before which inquiries into shipwrecks took place, there existed previous to the statutory power a discretionary authority on the part of the Board of Trade to institute investigations into the loss of life from this cause. But Parliament, thinking it better that the tribunal should not be constituted by the will of the head of an executive department, left the matter to the ordinary judicial functionaries of the Kingdom. Such were the effects of the statute against which re- 1107 monstrance was now made, and a nautical assessor was usually appointed to assist the Judges who heard the case with his professional knowledge and experience. The Act put the shipmaster under the protection of the law and the recognized tribunals of the country; removing him from the individual jurisdiction and authority before vested in the President of the Board of Trade. Complaints had likewise been made of the stamp duty payable on marine insurance. No doubt the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be glad to remit this burden if it were in his power to do so, and also to accompany it with the repeal of the not less onerous tax upon fire insurance leviable upon land. The learned Solicitor General alluded the other night to the facilities enjoyed by shipowners in the transfer and disposal of their property, and wished to extend the same boon to the proprietors of real estate. He did not mention that the transfer, or mortgage, of a ship—unlike that of House or Land—was effected without any liability to the stamp duties. The terms of the reference to this Committee should be wide enough to include all the complicated bearings of this question, and should not be confined to the liability of one particular interest while other interests laboured under a similar burden. With respect to the causes of the present distress of the shipowners, we had had an European war, involving an enormous outlay of public money, no small proportion of which was expended in the taking up or purchase of transports for the Government. There was at the same time an unusual development of our export trade. Shipping and shipbuilding never were so brisk as while that expenditure lasted. However, a reaction naturally and almost inevitably occurred in trade, accompanied by a corresponding pressure upon the shipping interest, felt not in this country alone, but in many other parts of the world. It was to be hoped, when this Committee was appointed, that it would industriously inquire into all the circumstances of the shipping interest, with the sincerest desire to remove every real grievance to which it was subject, so as to secure for it the utmost possible advantage in the free race of competition. And he trusted that if the peace of Europe were preserved an expansion of trade towards the East would, before the Committee closed its labours, bring about that return of prosperity to the shipping interest, which must be looked for far more to the operation 1108 of natural laws than to the most carefully devised measures which the Legislature could adopt.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, he also hoped that the labours of the Committee would meet the expectations of the persons interested, for no one could doubt that the shipping interest had great reason for complaint. The right hon. Member for Taunton had told them with great glee that what had taken place was exactly what he had anticipated, namely, that the British vessels in every port were now jostled by the stars and stripes and eagles of other nations. That right hon. Member also gave the British shipowner a very curious kind of consolation; for having had his prophecy fulfilled, be turned round upon the complaining British shipowner, and charged him with his unreasonableness, seeing that, if the Yankee and the French ship had not come into our ports, he would have owned three ships instead of one, and his present amount of suffering would have been multiplied threefold. That argument of the right hon. Gentleman amounted to this, that it would be very unwise to develop our trade, lost at a future time a check might come which would in that case affect a proportionably larger interest. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford evidently thought that no good could come of the inquiry. The Passenger Act had been touched on somewhat oddly; for it was said that its effect had been that the larger portion of the emigrants from Liverpool to the United States went out in foreign vessels, rejecting all the advantages they got under the Emigration Act. He did not know the reason of this, whether it was on account of what they thought was a troublesome interference, but such was the effect of the measure. He sincerely hoped that this committee would direct its attention to the burdens under which the shipping interest laboured, and not enter into too wide a question, which would be like trailing a red herring across the track of the bounds, and would only tend to put them off the scent. Therefore they ought to eschew the consideration of such questions as passing tolls, which of itself would probably occupy the whole Session, and if care were not taken they would have gentlemen coming before them who would speak pamphlets for their edification, but with no very appreciable advantage to the shipping trade. With respect to the lighting tolls, he would remind the House that one third of that imposition was paid by 1109 foreigners, and therefore if they placed it upon the Consolidated Fund, for every £2 they obtained the foreigner would get £1; the same thing might be said with respect to the passing tolls. He hoped that the Committee would direct its attention to the establishment of some better tribunal for the settlement of disputes in which masters of vessels were concerned; for there could be no doubt that great dissatisfaction existed at present in regard to that question. He was very glad, indeed, that the Committee was to be granted, because he believed the result would be most beneficial.
§ MR. ADAMS
said, he could not concur in the statement of the right hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell), in relation to the coasting trade. The admission of foreigners to that trade was loudly complained of, and had occasioned much dissatisfaction, more especially on the north-east coasts, who in their petition to the House had stated that the shipping trade were greatly injured by the introduction of foreign vessels. Formerly, when an order was given for the Baltic or Black Sea, it was usual to send a vessel for the reception of the cargo; now the foreign merchant generally bargained that he should deliver the order in his own ship, and the consequence was that he landed his cargo on the north-eastern coast and then went down to the north and took in a cargo of coal as freight, with which the British shipowner could not at all compete. He did not expect, nor did his constituents, a return to the old Navigation Laws, but their grievance was one which required consideration; and in public meeting they expressed a hope that the Government would do all in their power to persuade other Governments to reciprocate the advantages they had obtained by repealing their Navigation Laws. He trusted the Committee would do justice to all parties, and not sacrifice the interests of the coasting trade to the interests of the sea-going vessels.
said, he had watched the debate with much interest, but he should have taken no part in it, had it not been for an observation of the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down. He would, however, first remark that during the whole debate not one hon. Member had spoken in favour of the old Navigation Laws. The hon. and learned Member for Boston (Mr. Adams) had challenged the 1110 observation of the right hon. Member for Oxford as to the condition of the coasting trade. He knew that a great deal might be said on the subject of the coasting trade, and that we had not secured to the British shipowner a corresponding privilege in America and other countries; but he wished to call the attention of the House to the greatest extent to which that complaint could possibly exist, and to the amount of the concession which we were said to have made without meeting with any reciprocal return. From the Trade and Navigation Returns, made up to December last, it appeared that the coasting trade of the United Kingdom for the past year represented something more than 15,000,000 tons entered inwards, and something more than 15,000,000 tons cleared outwards, or a total of 31,570,000 tons—one-third more than it was in 1849, under the old Navigation Laws. What proportion of this tonnage consisted of foreign vessels? Of coasting vessels entered outwards, 52,000 tons were foreign; entered inwards, 50,000 tons—or about 100,000 tons out of a total of 31,000,000. The hon. Gentleman might console himself; the coasting trade could not have suffered much from this cause. As to the special burdens on the shipping interest, they were told the duty on the portion of timber used for ship-building might be remitted. In principle this was just; there were few duties involved so many false principles as the present timber duties. They all acted as protective duties, either on foreign or colonial timber. On another ground they were equally absurd. Years ago, the House had laid it down as a principle that raw materials should be imported duty free. No raw material was more important than timber; and no stronger case could be made out than that against the timber duties. But, while he admitted that, he thought that nothing could be attended with more evils than to make an exemption of timber for shipbuilding or any other particular purpose. There was an exemption of timber used for mines, but Sir Robert Peel stated that it led to so much fraud that his first object in reducing the timber duties was to get rid of that exemption. This was not the time to make any exemptions, but he hoped at no distant period the whole duty would be repealed. He did not deny that there had been great distress in the shipping trade during the last twelve months, 1111 but the reasons which had been alleged were sufficient to explain it, without reference to the repeal of the Navigation Laws. They had now and then great depression in the cotton trade. There was never any particularly good trade in any line of business, but it was invariably followed by a reaction, which was aggravated by the very success which had attended it. Let the House look at the great increase of ship-building which had taken place in this country since the repeal of the Navigation Laws, and they would easily understand how it was that a sudden check in that tide of successful industry had been productive of considerable mischief and inconvenience. The amount of shipping built in 1849 was 227,000 tons; in 1850, 245,000 tons; in 1851, 262,000 tons; and it had averaged 250,000 tons a year. But in 1855, under the excitement of the war, it was no less than 389,000 tons; in 1856, 492,000 tons; in 1857, 423,000 tons, and in 1858 even still greater. It seemed to be assumed in all the arguments out of doors that the Navigation Laws were repealed for the express purpose of increasing the amount of British shipping; and because British shipping had not increased in an equal ratio with foreign shipping, it was alleged that the repeal of those laws had not been successful. He thought it a distinct proof of the necessity of the measure. Commerce had increased 90 per cent since 1844, and if there had not been a large increase of foreign shipping the increased commerce could not have been conveyed. So far from the repeal of the Navigation Laws not having succeeded, its success was proved by the fact that, although the amount of British shipping had been of late years double what it was before, they had been able to call in aid the services of even a larger increased amount of foreign shipping. It was not because the amount of homegrown corn or the amount of colonial sugar had not increased in the same ratio as the amount of foreign-grown corn and sugar that the repeal of the Corn Laws or of the duties on sugar had failed. He could not admit that the repeal of the Navigation Laws was for any other purpose than for the benefit of the whole community, or that any argument had been adduced which proved that it had not been equally successful as in every other case in which the principles of Free Trade had been applied, He re- 1112 gretted the depression of the shipping interest, but he believed that it was only temporary, and that it would die away as trade resumed its natural course.
§ MR. SPAIGHT
said, that under the operation of the Passengers' Act, emigrants from the western coast of Ireland to America were led to obtain their passage in foreign ships, in which they were subjected to the most infamous treatment; and the measure had in that way been productive of the most disastrous consequences. It was at present almost impossible for a British shipowner to carry on his business except at a loss; and he (Mr. Spaight) hoped that the Committee would devise some remedy for that evil.
§ MR. LINDSAY
replied. He had no objection to the substitution of the word "all" for the word "certain" in the Motion. He did not, however, propose that the Committee should enter into the details of the question of Lights, Passing Tolls, and Local Dues. Those subjects had already been amply dealt with by Committees of that House; and he only regretted that the recommendations of those Committees had not been carried into operation. The hon. Gentleman who spoke in two capacities, one as Secretary to the Treasury and the other as Secretary to the Board of Trade, said that, whatever were the recommendations of the Committee, he hoped that they would not come to the Treasury for assistance. With regard to that question, he thought that if it was shown that the burdens to which the shipping interest was subjected were unjust, and such as the shipping interest ought not to be called upon to bear, the country would have no objection to relieve them of it, even though the expense should fall on itself.
§ Question "That those words be there added," put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
Select Committee appointed,
To inquire into the operation of all burdens and restrictions especially affecting Merchant Shipping, and of the following Statutes: 9 & 10 Vict. c. 93, An Act for compensating the Families of Persons killed by Accidents; the Merchant Shipping Act, 1854; the Merchant Shipping Act Amendment Act, 1855; the Passengers' Act, 1855; and the Chinese Passengers' Act, 1855.