§ Acts read; considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE, in rising to move that the Chairman be directed to move the House, that leave be given to bring in a Bill to consolidate and amend the Acts relating to Merchant Shipping and Navigation, said, that on an early day in the present Session his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade gave a pledge that before the close of it he would lay on the table of the House the long promised Merchant Shipping Bill. When the present Government came into Office they found that very little advance had been made with it; in the interval incessant work had been applied to it at the Board of Trade, and the result was that they were now able to redeem that pledge, and the Bill, the size of which, he feared, 1500 would alarm many Members, would shortly be in circulation. At the same time his right hon. Friend had thought that it would not be right to the great interests concerned that they should present such a Bill to the House without some explanation of the changes proposed in it; it would be waste of labour for anyone without some guide to travel through the 800 clauses of the Bill, and, by comparison with the existing law, to ascertain those changes; he had, therefore, permitted him (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) to make a statement with reference to them, which he promised should be as short as possible. Before doing so, however, he should wish to say a few words upon the present condition of our merchant shipping compared with what it was when last this great subject was before the House in 1854. In 1854 the registered tonnage of this country and her possessions was 5,155,000. It was now 7,232,000 tons, of which 5,700,000 belonged to the United Kingdom, showing an increase of 41 per cent. The real increase, however, had been even greater, for in 1854 the Register was in a very bad state, and was encumbered by a very large number of vessels which did not exist; great pains had since been taken to clear that Register of these non-existing vessels, and it now represented within a few thousand tons the actual number and tonnage of vessels. Another return of the vessels belonging to and actually employed in the United Kingdom showed the increase since 1854 to be over 50 per cent. He believed, therefore, he might take the increase of British shipping at 50 per cent. His right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade took occasion recently to state in public that he believed that at the present time the sea-going shipping under the British flag was equal, if not superior, to that of all the rest of the world. Exception was taken to this statement in the papers, but he believed it to have been substantially correct. The aggregate tonnage of all other countries as given in their most recent returns was 9,794,000 tons; but from this very great reductions had to be made in order to compare it with our own. The United States return included her river and lake tonnage, amounting to considerably over 2,000,000 tons. The registers of most of the Continental States included many thousands of fish- 1501 ing boats and small craft of all kinds down to canal boats. Making these and other deductions which seemed proper for the purpose of comparing with our own figures, he could not take the aggregate of sea-going foreign tonnage to be more than 7,150,000, against 7,230,000 of this country and her possessions. When they looked at the materials of which it was composed the difference was still greater. He did not hesitate to affirm that the tonnage of our sea-going steamers was more than double that of all other countries put together. These proportions were more favourable to us than at any previous period. While our tonnage had increased 50 per cent in the last fourteen years, the tonnage of France had remained nearly stationary, and had actually diminished the last ten years by 3 per cent. Dutch tonnage had decreased 13 per cent. The seagoing vessels of the United States had diminished 50 per cent in the last ten years. Much of this last was, doubtless, due to the destruction of their commerce during their great war; but it was also due in great part to the commercial policy since the war. A very large number of vessels were during the war transferred under simulated papers to our flag; but at the close of the war Congress passed an Act prohibiting the re-registration of these vessels as American, on the ground that having fled the flag during the time of danger, they were not entitled to share in its advantages in time of peace. They had also adopted a tariff which had almost put an end to their shipbuilding trade. He would take again the shipbuilding trade as a test of progress. The tonnage built in this country had increased from 196,000 tons in 1854 to 379,000 tons in 1868, a year of much depression, as compared with two or three previous years. During the same period the tonnage built in France had diminished from 94,000 tons to 81,000 tons; in Holland from 55,000 to 25,000. In the United States the building of sea-going vessels had almost been extinguished. In Norway alone was there any increase — namely, from 29,000 to 43,000. One further illustration he might give. In 1854, of an aggregate of 18,669,000 tons entering and clearing our ports for foreign trade, 10,744,000 tons were British, 7,924,000 under foreign flags—a proportion of 57 per cent British to 43 1502 per cent foreign. In 1868, out of 33,680,000 tons, 22,660,000 were British, and 11,020,000 foreign, showing an increase of 120 per cent for British against 37 per cent foreign, the new proportion being 67 per cent British to 33 per cent foreign. Having described the progress of shipping, he must say a few words of their crews. While the tonnage of the United Kingdom had increased 50 per cent, the number of seamen had increased since 1854 from 162,400 to 197,500, or 21 per cent. Of these 8 per cent were foreigners in 1854, and 12 per cent in 1868, showing an increased proportion of foreigners, although by no means an alarming one. The proportion of men to tonnage in our coasting trade had remained about the same; but in our sailing vessels employed in the foreign trade the proportion of men had fallen from 3.97 per 100 tons in 1854 to 2.90 in 1868, and for steamers from 7.69 to 5 men per 100 tons. Taking the whole force of merchant vessels there had been a reduction of one man for every 100 tons. In other words, if the same number of men were now required to man these vessels as in 1854 we should want 55,000 more sailors. This reduction had been due, in some respects, to the increased average size of our vessels; but it was also due to greater economy of all kinds in working them, to the use of machinery, and to the adoption of double topsails, patent block, steam windlass, and other means of economizing labour in our sailing vessels. As an illustration of this economy, he had been able to procure the actual number of men employed on twenty-two large sailing vessels at three different periods. In 1849, the crews of these vessels numbered 463, of whom 227 were able seamen. In 1859, their crews were 417, of whom 188 wore able seamen; and, in 1869, the crews of the same vessels, making very much the same voyages, were 348, of whom 153 were able seamen; showing a reduction of 25 per cent since 1849. Had this economy of labour tended to increased risk? He found it difficult to answer the question. Accurate information on the relative proportion of casualties was not to be had; till lately the wreck returns were badly kept. From the information, however, he had received from Lloyds, he believed it was safe to say that there had been a reduction in the premiums for insurance on 1503 the principal voyages of vessels engaged in the long sea trade; but it was also stated that much of this reduction was due to increased competition among underwriters. It would, however, be satisfactory if the ratio of losses remained the same; because that would shew that the economy effected in the number of the crew had not increased risks, and had not, therefore, been effected without reason. He had quoted these figures in no spirit of boasting, but with the view of showing how vast were the interests affected by the Bill he proposed. They showed how idle were the fears of those who dreaded the repeal of the Navigation Laws, and they were also, on the whole, testimony to the general well working of modern legislation affecting shipping. That legislation might be said to have commenced in 1850, when the late Lord Taunton, then Mr. Labouchere, first provided for the examination of masters and mates of foreign-going vessels, established shipping offices for the protection of seamen, and provided for inquiries into wrecks. The next great change was in 1853–4, when his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, then at the Board of Trade, placed the Trinity House under the control of the Board of Trade, and threw open our coasting trade to foreign vessels, and, lastly, consolidated all previous legislation in the great Act of 1854, which had since been the groundwork of our shipping laws. In the course of this he provided for a complete revision of the ship registry, for a new system of measuring tonnage, and for a limitation of the liability of owners in cases of collision. Since that time not a year had passed without additions or amendments to that Act. In 1856 seamen's savings-banks and money orders were established. In 1862 Mr. Milner Gibson extended examinations to engineers, laid down rules as to lights, and provided summary proceedings in salvage cases. In 1864, the Anchors and Chain Cables Act was passed. In 1868, Admiralty jurisdiction was given to County Courts, and this year an important Act was passed with reference to colonial merchant shipping. In the same time shipping had been relieved from a variety of local charges, passing dues and charitable charges; exemptions in favour of particular vessels and differential dues against foreign vessels had been disposed of. He had men- 1504 tioned but a few of the changes, but, in fact, seventeen or eighteen Acts had been passed since 1854 regulating the business of shipowners, and interlacing one with the other in such a manner that on a subject in which, above all others, it was important there should be clearness and certainty, so that he who sailed might read, there was so much complexity and uncertainty that only experts could say what was the law. Consolidation, in fact, was almost as much needed now as it was in 1854, and although there was not so much field for improvement, there was still much to be done in detail. It was proposed, then, in the Bill which he should ask leave to introduce, to consolidate all these Acts, and include one great branch which was omitted in 1854 — namely, the Acts relating to harbours and the protection of navigation, the working of which had since been placed under the Board of Trade, and to take this opportunity of introducing a number of Amendments which the experience of the last few years had shown to be desirable. In doing this they had the advantage of the aid of Mr. Farrer, the Permanent Secretary of the Board of Trade, who assisted in the preparation of the Act of 1854, and all subsequent Acts, and who had been concerned in their good administration. In describing the proposed changes, he thought it would be most convenient to the House that he should advert to them in the order in which they appeared in the Bill. He should be able to do little more than indicate them, without going at length into the reasons which had induced them to adopt them. The first item related to the registry and measurement of ships. It was proposed in future to make more stringent rules against the change of the name of a ship. A clause in the Act of 1854 was aimed at this, but as it only affected British ships, and did not prevent the registration of foreign ships under any name coming into the hands of British owners, advantage was taken of this and vessels had not unfrequently been sold under simulated bills of sale to foreigners, and resold for registration under new names, and thus vessels had been able to get rid of a character and underwriters and the public had been taken in. This would be prohibited in the future. It was also proposed to give greater facilities for the 1505 registration of ships in foreign ports. A fine would be substituted for confiscation in the case of vessels improperly sailing under the British flag. With respect to the measurement of tonnage, on which the important question of port dues and other charges depended, there was no intention to alter the system under which the gross tonnage of vessels was ascertained by measuring their actual cubical contents. It had given great satisfaction, and had been adopted by nearly all other countries. The deductions, however, allowed to steamers in respect of their engine rooms and coal bunkers had been calculated on a system of percentages, which had given rise to inequalities, and vessels were sometimes built to avail themselves of the greatest amount of deduction. He believed that in some few cases steamers had been proved to be of a minus quantity of tonnage. It was proposed therefore to measure these deductions in the future on the same principle by which the gross tonnage was ascertained. Another point dealt with under this head arose out of the question of deck cargoes. Complaints had been made, and particularly in the Baltic trade, that vessels had been overloaded with deck cargoes; and the Board of Trade had been pressed from time to time to prohibit the carrying of deck cargoes. They had, however, objected to this on the ground that for certain trades and for certain seasons it was not unreasonable or improper to carry deck cargoes, and that to prohibit them altogether would unnecessarily interfere with trade; but it had seemed to them that if such cargoes were carried, port and other dues ought to be paid in respect of it, and, accordingly, they had provided that vessels might be registered to carry deck cargo, a proportionate tonnage being added for that purpose; but if when not so registered they carried deck cargo, they would have to pay double tonnage dues. The next part of the Bill had relation to masters and seamen. It was proposed that in future the examiners of masters and other officers should be placed directly under the Board of Trade, instead of as now under the Local Marine Boards; it was believed that greater uniformity or a higher average standard of qualification would be maintained by the adoption of this course. Already great good had resulted from these examinations, but 1506 there was room for improvement among the masters of the smaller class of foreign-going vessels. As to seamen, coasters were to be exempted altogether in future from the obligation to have written agreements. Foreign-going ships were to be allowed to have running agreements, so that they did not extend over more than a year. And during that time they might engage men and discharge men at any port at homo or abroad on complying with the other provisions of the Act. Another change had in view the protection of seamen from crimps. He found that one of the greatest evils the seamen suffered from was that, on the termination of the voyage at our great seaports, they were generally discharged or left their ship immediately on arrival, but they were seldom paid their wages till four or five days afterwards. In the meantime they had to hang about the port without money. They fell into the hands of the crimps and other bad characters who haunted the purlieus of the docks, who advanced them money and tempted them into debauchery. The seamen often did not get out of the hands of these persons till they had lost everything, and had pledged their future wages by advance notes, going on board again ill-clothed and often suffering from disease and the effects of drink. He believed that few things would do more good than some provision which would enable the seamen at once to proceed to their homes after arrival in dock. It was provided in the Act of 1854 that the seamen should be paid one-fourth of the wages due to them on discharge from the vessel. This, however, was rarely carried out. It was proposed that the discharge at the shipping office should be not later than one day after the arrival of the vessel or the termination of the agreement, or, if not, that the wages should run on until such discharge. This would give a great inducements to owners to pay the men at once. Facilities would, at the same time, be given to seamen to authorize the shipping officers to receive and remit their wages for them, so that they might leave the neighbourhood on arrival. Other minor provisions were directed against the crimps, with whom the Board of Trade had waged a constant warfare. The next point he had to deal with was that of distressed seamen abroad. The House would recollect that the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. 1507 Graves), a few nights since, raised a question on this point on the Vote for distressed seamen, on the ground that the Vote was yearly increasing; he complained also on behalf of the owners of steam vessels who were compelled to bring home these distressed seamen at considerable expense. The question was one of considerable difficulty. A large proportion of the seamen relieved and sent home in this way were the crews of vessels wrecked abroad, in respect of whom no one could raise a complaint. Others were colonial seamen, for whom they thought the colonies in future should pay; but others were men who had been discharged from their ships, or had deserted in foreign ports, and who had afterwards been found destitute and unable to find a berth in a ship. The obligation to return these men to their homes was one which they owed to the country in which they were found. It was like the case of the removal of paupers to the parish bound to support them, and the question was at whose expense ought this to be carried out. In old times any voyage was presumed to be out and home, and no voyages were terminated in a foreign port. Now, however, it was different; voyages were often seeking voyages; many vessels were sent out for sale. The Bill they proposed would give facilities for the engagement and discharge of men in any part of the world. But they still thought, on the whole, that the principle of the Act of 1854 should not be departed from, and that the ship taking men out to a foreign port and there discharging them should be liable to the expense of bringing them home again if they were unable to find other employment, or if they were destitute there. The clauses of the Act, however, were ambiguous, and they only applied to foreign ports, and not to colonial ports. It was proposed to simplify them, to extend them to colonial ports, and to provide that no seaman should be left abroad without a discharge from some functionary, with whom the wages or a sum sufficient to bring the man home should be deposited. As between the Government and the shipowner, the ship was to be liable for expenses incurred on behalf of the man, except in cases of proved desertion. As between the seaman and the ship, the ship was only to be liable when the man was discharged 1508 without fault on his part, but not otherwise. Another change to be noted here was one due to his right hon. Friend at the head of the Admiralty. Under the present law any seaman might leave his ship for the purpose of entering the Royal Navy, and for that purpose might demand his clothes and wages without regard to the convenience of the owner or master of the ship he left. This privilege had at times been abused, and had caused great complaints from shipowners. Though the practice had been much less frequent of late years, the practice of hanging out the red shirt in presence of a ship of war was still occasionally resorted to. But his right hon. Friend had consented to forego this privilege of the Navy except in time of war. The next part of the Act had relation to safety and provision against accidents at sea. The present law contained numerous minute regulations as to the number of boats, the use of lifebelts, the safety valves of engines, compasses, and other such like matters. It was proposed to simplify these and to leave it to the Board of Trade to decide what in the case of passenger ships should be the actual requirements. A provision would be inserted empowering the master to throw overboard dangerous goods if they had been sent on board without his consent. At present the master might refuse to receive such goods, but once on board he was bound to carry them. Another change had reference to the inquiries into wrecks and the misconduct of officers. It would be admitted by everyone that there was no more legitimate and proper function of Government than to inquire into these cases of loss. He believed they had done much good in bringing home responsibility to owners and masters. As at present constituted, the courts of inquiry combined two functions—-the one to inquire into the cause of the loss of the vessel, the other to determine the innocence or neglect of the master and officers; and, as the latter was followed, by most serious consequences — namely, the loss of their certificates and ruin in their profession —the inquiries were too apt to be eon-ducted as if they were penal proceedings against the officers, instead of being inquests before which everything should be brought out bearing upon the loss of the vessel. It was proposed, therefore, 1509 in the new Bill to separate these two inquiries, and to hold an inquiry or inquest on the loss of the vessel, on which there should be a general report of the Board of Trade; and, if there were sufficient cause, to hold a separate inquiry into the conduct of the officers. A complaint was made that in such cases the Board of Trade were at once prosecutors and judges, appointing the assessors; it was proposed that in future the assessors should be appointed by the Admiralty Court. With respect to wrecks which happened on our coasts, they had carefully revised the Bill with a view of strengthening the law against the robberies which too often occurred. He need hardly remind the House of the scandalous cases which had been reported to it within the last three or four years arising out of the wrecks of the North, the Kit Karson and the Olivia. These and some other cases which had occurred to foreign vessels had given us a very bad reputation abroad, and no efforts should be spared to prevent a recurrence of them. They proposed that where wrecks had occurred, and property was found in possession of persons in the neighbourhood presumedly taken from them, the onus should be thrown upon, the holders of showing that they came honestly by it. He trusted that, with some other amendments, and with a more careful administration of existing laws, which the Board of Trade had lately arranged, they would be able to put a check upon these scandalous cases. He might here mention another change clue to his right hon. Friend at the Admiralty with reference to naval salvage. At present salvage in respect of merchant vessels might be claimed by officers and men in the Royal Navy, and proceedings might be taken by them against the ship in any Admiralty Court. Before final adjudication, however, the consent of the Admiralty must be given. His right hon. Friend proposed that in future such claims should only be made by the Admiralty itself; and the owner would be relieved from having his vessel taken into port and detained by the local Admiralty Court pending proceedings. The number of claims of this kind was already very small, and it was believed that this proposal would further reduce them, and prevent any claim being set up except in cases where there was substantial cause for some recompense for 1510 services rendered. He now came to the last subject which he had to mention— the vexed question of pilotage. There were, no doubt, very strong arguments against the compulsory pilotage. It was alleged, with truth, he believed, that where pilotage was not compulsory, pilots were as numerous and as experienced. On the other hand, there was a very strong desire to maintain it in some parts of the country with a view to insure the supply of competent men. The Government thought that even if it were desirable to put an end to compulsion it would not be well to raise the question on a Consolidation Bill. There were, however, anomalies in the existing law which the Government thought ought to be amended. Great injustice and absurdity had arisen from the law which exempted a ship from liability for damage when in charge of a compulsory pilot. The chief question in many, if not most, recent cases had been not which ship was to blame, but was either of the ships in charge of a compulsory pilot. The consequent refinements, absurdities, and injustice was very remarkable. To meet this it was proposed that where ships were not otherwise exempted from compulsory pilotage they should pay for a pilot, but should not be bound to employ him or to be placed under his charge. The money would be paid, where a pilot offered and was not employed, to the pilotage authorities, to be devoted to the pilot fund, as they might determine. The Government proposed, also, that the exemptions from pilotage which now existed in the Thames and the outports should be extended to other pilotage districts; and further that the recovery of pilotage rates should be by civil process, and not, as at present, by criminal proceedings. They proposed also to give the Trinity House power to license pilots for the seas surrounding Great Britain outside the present pilotage districts, but not in any way to make their employment compulsory. It was also intended to take more stringent powers to compel local authorities to keep their lights in a satisfactory condition, and, if they failed in doing so, to enable the general lighthouse authorities to take them in hand. Power would be given to the Board of Trade to prevent injury to navigation by throwing ballast into navigable waters or by taking shingle from 1511 the shores. Power also would be given to local authorities to remove wrecks which were an obstruction to navigation, and to charge the expense on the property. The Government also proposed to give the Board of Trade power to prepare provisional orders dealing with those cases of local charges upon shipping or passing dues which still existed, and which only survived because of the expense of applying for local Acts. He had now gone through the details on which the Government proposed changes. There were numerous other amendments, having for their object greater simplicity or more perfect remedies, which it was unnecessary to notice. The House would perceive that the tendency of the amendments proposed was not in the direction of more minute regulations or further inspection. The experience of the Board of Trade was not favourable to such legislation. It tended to shift the responsibility from the shipbuilder or shipowner to some inspecting officer, and in some cases had certainly retarded, improvements. The Bill he asked leave to introduce had been prepared by the Board of Trade out of the materials and experience at its hand; but he by no means wished to exclude the possibility of further amendments. The object of presenting it at this period of the Session was to give full time to those who were interested in this great subject to examine it during the Recess, and the Government would gladly receive from them their criticism and suggestions. He hoped they would recollect, however, that it was the duty of the Board of Trade, in considering these suggestions, to hold the balance between the various conflicting interests, and to regard them from the point of view of the public interest. In conclusion, he could not express a better hope than that the Bill, when it passed into law, might be succeeded by a period in which the extension of British shipping would be as great in proportion as in the period which had preceded it. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution.
§ MR. CANDLISH
said, he desired to express his satisfaction with the general purposes of the Board of Trade in the introduction of this measure, it being manifestly for the advantage of shipping that the law affecting so large a section of the trading community should be em- 1512 braced within the four corners of one statute, instead of being spread over numberless Acts of Parliament. The Act of 1854 did much in the way of consolidation; but since then one or two Acts had been passed every year, so that at the present moment the Mercantile Marine was under seventeen or eighteen different Acts of Parliament. It was better for a Department to wait its opportunity and delay legislation for two or even for five years than to pass immature legislation in an inconvenient form. The great consolidating Poor Law Act passed in 1834; but it still left on the statute book 100 Acts affecting the administration of poor relief. Since 1834, at least three Acts a year had been passed affecting this subject, directly or indirectly, so that there were about 200 statutes governing and constituting the Poor Law system. The result was that there was no single man in the country—neither the President, the Secretary, nor any of the able officials of that Department—who was able to speak with confidence as to his knowledge of the whole of the Poor Law. He regretted very much to hear the statement of his hon. Friend as to compulsory pilotage being retained. No system would be permanent and final which did not establish perfect free trade in pilotage. His hon. Friend was perfectly aware of the pinch that was felt as the law now stood. A ship, value £50,000, navigating the same waters as a ship value £1,000, or value £50, might be free to take a pilot or not, as she thought proper, while the ship of smaller value was bound to take and to pay for a pilot. What his hon. Friend proposed to do would not much improve matters. Was it to be seriously propounded to the House of Commons at this time of day that the trade of this country was to be compelled to pay for services which it did not require and would not accept? No trade should be subjected by Act of Parliament to anything so unfair; and he hoped, therefore, that this provision would disappear from the Bill next year. There was another matter also which he thought very objectionable, and that was that the Board of Trade should supersede the local management of harbour lights; because it was proposed that when the Board of Trade were not satisfied with the way in which the lights were kept, they might make provisions of their own 1513 for their maintenance. In his opinion, the tendency of legislation should be in an entirely opposite direction. He hoped his hon. Friend would put all the legislation that would be operative for the government of our shipping trade into the statute, and not make the Board of Trade a legislative Department. The House of Commons ought not to delegate any of its authority to an executive body. There was very much legislation at present in the hands of the Board of Trade, and it would be a great advantage to the public at large if it were denuded of that power. Another thing which he hoped would be aimed at was to minimize legislation. Let them not intrude by legislation whore it was possible to avoid such intrusion. The more that was left to the free action of man and man, and to open bargain in the open market, the better for all parties. As to the measuring of steamers, the greatest absurdities prevailed at present. The mode of allowing for engine space and other things was such that in some cases the deductions had amounted to more than the whole gross tonnage of the ships themselves, which, therefore, were not charged tonnage rates at all. While he was not prepared to support the prohibition of deck cargoes altogether, he agreed in the necessity of discouraging them as much as possible.
SIR JOHN HAY
said, that the question of deck loads and the stowage of cargo deserved the attention of the Board of Trade. The latter subject had been investigated with great care and advantage by the Institution of Naval Architects, and if the Board of Trade should put itself into communication with that body they would receive some exceedingly valuable information. It was well known that from carelessness or a desire to carry large cargoes, great weights were often put at the extremities or in other parts of the ship where it could not be safely carried, the consequence of which was that the ships became strained and; unmanageable, and frequent losses occurred. It should be made legally binding that in each section of the ship only a given maximum weight should be carried, a matter also of great interest to underwriters and insurance offices. With respect to the payment of merchant seamen's wages, he was not quite sure what course was indicated by his hon. Friend; but it had been found in the Navy that 1514 great advantage both to discipline and morality had arisen from the fact that payment was made through the Post Office at the place to which the man be longed, so that his family got the benefit of his wages rather than crimps and such persons. If some such measure were adopted by the Board of Trade in the case of the merchant seamen, the greatest benefit would be found to result. With reference to the total abrogation of the powers of naval officers to avail themselves of the services of men volunteering from the merchant service, he did not think it would be advantageous. War vessels on foreign stations often lost numbers of men through the bad climate. To deprive a merchant ship entirely of the means of navigation would be unfair; but in many parts of the world Lascars, Malays, and Chinese and other foreigners might be found who would be able to do all that was necessary for the safe navigation of the merchantman. As our Navy was sent to different parts of the world for the purpose of protecting our trade, he hoped his hon. Friend would not make imperative the total abrogation of the powers of naval officers to accept the services of volunteers from the merchant service. Notwithstanding that some hardships had occasionally arisen in consequence of salvage being claimed by the officers and crews of Her Majesty's ships, he thought the power should be left to the Admiralty to decide whether any and what compensation should be awarded to Her Majesty's seamen for services rendered to vessels in distress. He was glad to hear that compulsory pilotage was not to be abolished; but he could not agree with the Board of Trade upon the subject of the rule of the road at sea, and he could only hope that the number of accidents that would occur during the ensuing autumn, in consequence of Regulation No. 14, might not be such as to open the eyes of the hon. Member to the danger of the present system.
§ MR. WATKIN WILLIAMS
said, he differed from the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish) with respect to compulsory pilotage, but the law on, that subject was in considerable confusion. Compulsory pilotage was derived from the laws of Oleron, and was first established in this country by Richard I., in 1195, with the view of keeping our 1515 home navigation secret from foreigners. The chief argument in its favour in these days was that it secured an efficient staff of pilots; and he thought that a shipowner should not be at liberty, from a false notion of economy, to refuse to avail himself of the services of skilled navigators. At the same time, the owner's responsibility in the case of his ship running down another ought not to be superseded by the pilot, and he entirely concurred in the provisions of the Bill upon this point.
said, he hoped that next Session a continuous Return would be published showing the proportion of wrecks to voyages during the last three or four years, that they might see whether their lodging the management of shipping to so large an extent in the hands of the Government had resulted in more or fewer wrecks.
§ MR. STEVENSON
said, they had never had compulsory pilotage on the North-eastern coast, yet they had never experienced any want of properly qualified pilots. He regretted that the measure did not propose to go to the root of the evil at once, and abolish compulsory pilotage altogether. He also thought that light dues should be put an end to. At all events, he hoped the extraordinary anomalies in the mode of charging them would be remedied. He was glad to understand that an inquiry would be instituted by the Government into the cause of every wreck that occurred— whether culpability on the part of the master or mate was or was not alleged.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he had been asked a question by his hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Sir John Hay), who had left the House, with respect to the power of merchant seamen to volunteer into the Navy in spite of their engagements. It was not intended wholly to repeal that power, but only to abandon its exercise in time of peace. The effect of the Bill would be that during such times and for such places as Her Majesty, by proclamation, might appoint, this power, in circumstances of urgency, might be enforced. With regard to compulsory pilotage the Government had arrived at no decision. The Bill did not alter the law on that subject; but it was the intention of the Board of Trade to consider the subject during the Recess, and it would depend upon the result of that inquiry whether they would abolish it or not.
§ MR. GOURLEY
said, he was strongly of opinion that if shipowners were to be compelled to pay for pilotage, pilots should be made responsible for damage done to ships when under their charge. There were many anomalies in our pilotage system. It should either be done away with altogether, or the scale of charges should be so arranged as to make them less burdensome to the London shipowners. He objected to the examination of masters and mates by the Board of Trade, considering that the local Marine Boards had done their work well, and better than it could have been done by the Board of Trade.
§ MR. MACFIE
said, he thought that the action of the Board of Trade in this subject entitled it to the thanks of the shipping interest. There would be no harm in preventing vessels from going to sea until they had undergone some kind of inspection, as a means of protecting the lives of the seamen. It was worthy of consideration whether there should not be some limit to the number of foreign seamen on board. There should be uniformity in the various ports, both as to the charges and the number of times the vessels were to be charged port dues, according to the number of voyages.
§ MR. BOWRING
said, he thought it a serious objection to the Bill that it consisted of 800 clauses. If the suggestions now made were adopted it might easily be extended to 1,000 clauses. It was already about six times as long as the Bankruptcy Bill, which was the longest measure of the Session. Many of the clauses might be made rules of court, in which case they might be struck out, and the Board of Trade left to make the necessary regulations.
§ MR. BENTALL
said, he hoped that the Board of Trade would give some consideration to the present practice of charging the whole of the light dues upon a ship whether she possessed a full cargo or not—a practice which was a great hindrance to trade. He lived in a port in the South of England, to which coals were brought, and the merchants there were constantly requiring to send back small quantities of cargo; but they could only send them upon the condition of being subject to very heavy dues, which was a great grievance.
MR. SHAW LEFEVEE
said, the question of local dues would be considered and re-adjusted. He wished to explain that there was no imputation cast upon the local Marine Boards; but it was desired to have greater uniformity in the examination. The statistics alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) should be laid upon the table of the House at the commencement of next Session, together with a great quantity of other statistical matter. He thanked the House for the manner in which the Bill had been received.
§ Resolved, That the Chairman be directed to move the House, that leave he given to bring in a Bill to consolidate and amend the Acts relating to Merchant Shipping and Navigation.
§ House resumed.
§ Resolution reported:—Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. DODSON, Mr. SHAW LEFEVRE, and Mr. JOHN BRIGHT.
§ Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 267.]