in rising to move the [Resolution of which he had given notice, said, that the subject he had to bring forward was one which deeply concerned a class which was designated the shipping interest, and which comprised as well all those who had invested their money in the construction of our mercantile marine, as those who in the language of the Psalmist—"Go down to the sea in ships and ply their business in deep waters." The grievance of which they complained was, that, whereas this country more or less effectually discharged the duty common to all civilized nations—namely, the duty of lighting the promontories and dangerous rocks upon our coasts, of sounding the shoals and placing beacons and buoys upon them, and thus marking out the pathway of the ocean, yet—not following the example of other great maritime nations—it imposed the whole cost of the performance of this great duty to mankind partly upon foreign ships and partly upon the ships of our own country. His complaint was two-fold. In the first place, without questioning the merits or demerits of the Trinity House, the shipping interest had good reason to complain—that this great national duty was not undertaken by the Executive, but intrusted to a private body, subject to no control, and upon whom little responsibility was cast—and, in the second place, they had a right to complain that this great duly was not in this country discharged by 150 the country at large, but imposed upon one particular interest. What he asked for was that the Government should, on its own responsibility, undertake this duty; and, secondly, that the cost of the Lights upon the shores of the country—contradistinguished from the lights in particular harbours—should be defrayed out of the general revenue of the country. It was impossible to exaggerate the value to the country of the sums expended by the shipping interest in lighting the coast and sounding the ocean along the shores. Prom the earliest times all the expense of making lighthouses—many of them very costly—all the expense of sounding the ocean had been wholly imposed upon and defrayed by this great interest. But the matter did not rest there. Through the carelessness of the country, the legitimate costs had been increased four-fold. The particular body to whom this trust had been confided had spent sums almost beyond calculation, which had not been invested in the regular discharge of this duty. Moreover, the Government itself had been a party to the most lavish expenditure. He would give a few illustrations of the infinite value of the investments made by the shipping interest for the benefit of the community at large. Let them go back to the past and consider what would have been the navigation round our coasts had it not been for the sums thus invested. Now, a summer voyage round the coast was as easy and pleasant a thing as could be imagined—it was in reality an adventure for any luxurious gentleman in his own yacht, without danger and without difficulty. The coast was made clear for him by night and by day; and were it not for this modern institution—for in some respects it was modem—it would be impossible to conceive the difficulty incident to a voyage of this nature. There was a description, and a most graphic one, given by the greatest of ancient historians, Tacitus, of a voyage made by Agricola round the shores of this island, which showed what it was in those days, when they had to grope out their way in darkness, and how great were the horrors and difficulties of the navigation. Suppose that any hon. Member of that House were to come in his yacht across the Atlantic and were to enter the English Channel he would find that, partly by lights on his left 151 hand and partly by lights on his right, everything was made clear: by knowing a little of the art of navigation he would be able to distinguish exactly where he was, and might by the aid of a good chart, almost know how many fathoms of water he had beneath him: let him turn to the right or to the left and enter any harbour on either side, no charge would be imposed upon him for this great benefit, because the vessel in which he was sailing was constructed for pleasure and not for profit. Or suppose he made his voyage in a vessel of war—a kind of bird of prey, constructed at infinite expense merely for doing mischief to mankind.—whether again he entered into any harbour on the right or the left, no charge whatever would be made. But suppose he came in a merchant vessel, or in one of those great ocean steamers which unite the ends of the earth, and which bring kindness and good-will wherever they go, if he turned to the right and entered the French ports no charge would be made; if he passed further on to any of the shores of Europe the case was the same; but if the vessel turned to the left and entered the Thames or any other of the ports of this country, as soon as the cargo was cleared a bill of cost for the lights would be sent in. How did this state of things grow up? The history of the lighthouses was eminently characteristic of the country. It showed no forethought on the part of the Executive. The Government did nothing to contribute to it. They commenced by granting the privilege of erecting lights along the coasts to the Lord High Admiral. On its surrender by Lord Howard of Effingham means were taken to vest it in one of the great City companies—the Trinity House. They had the power of putting up lights along the coast, and no doubt they did some valuable service, and they spent their money like gentlemen: but they charged the shipping infinitely more than the cost; the surplus they employed partly in badly-administered charity, and partly in very magnificent hospitality. They were subject to no control; no account was taken of their funds, and they acted in the spirit of the times in which they lived. The Government never controlled or investigated the expenditure; but from time to time they made special charters to friends of their own for the 152 erection of private lighthouses along the coast, with powers of indefinite taxation over the ships that passed them. This custom having sprung up, the next question came to be how these proprietors of private lighthouses were to be got rid of, and Government, which had made such improvident grants, considered them as vested rights which ought to be bought up; and the unfortunate shipping interest had to pay not only for the bonâ fide work done, but for all the charities of the Trinity House, for all the improvident leases, and for all the hospitality of the Board. Such was the state of things down to 1834, when the subject was taken up by the late Mr. Hume, who well deserved a tribute of admiration for the sincerity, earnestness, and perseverance of his exertions in relation to the lighthouses of this country and the charges on the shipping interest. Mr. Hume grappled most successfully with the subject. He obtained the appointment of a Committee in 1884, which did eminently good service. Then first commenced the improvement of the system. They made a Report well worthy of perusal, from which it appeared, among other things, that certain lights in parts of the United Kingdom were conducted on a different principle to others. There was a division between the public general lights and the local and harbour lights. He followed the distinction made by that Committee; and it was with the public lights alone that he proposed to deal, and with respect to which he asked the decision of the House. The expenses of these lights were paid for by British and foreign shipping, whereas harbour lights were paid for by local bodies. The Committee recommended that the improvident leases should be bought up, and that, power should be given to the Trinity House to buy up the private lights. This state of things continued from 1836 to 1845. During the interval the Trinity House had bought up many of the private lights, and brought things into a better state. The recommendations of that Committee were embodied in the Act of 1846, which gave ample powers to the Trinity House. Mr. Hume, not satisfied with the great been which had been conferred on the trading portion of the community by the exertions he had made, returned to the subject in 1845, and got a most important Committee appointed to investigate the subject. The 153 first Resolution to which it came was this—that the charges paid for light dues pressed very heavily on the commercial shipping of the country, especially on the coasting trade, and sound policy required that every practicable relief should be given. The next Resolution was still more important—that all expenses for the erection and maintenance of lighthouses, floating lights, buoys, and beacons on the coasts of the United Kingdom should henceforth be defrayed out of the revenue of the United Kingdom. The authority of the Committee of 1845 was, therefore, in favour of the proposition he was about to submit to the House. The recommendations of that Committee were not carried into effect, and another Committee on the same subject sat in 1860. This last Committee affirmed the Resolutions of; the previous Committee, and expressed an opinion that the lighting of the shores of this country was an Imperial duty, and recommended that the nation generally should take on itself the payment of the light charges, assuming at the same time the management of the lighthouses. They stated that the value of the Act of 1836 was shown by the fact; that £1,250,000 had been paid by the; shipping interest in buying up the improvident grants made by the different Governments of this country; and they also observed that the mere interest of the money paid by the shipping interest on account of lights would be sufficient to keep up all the lighthouses, It did not seem to him unreasonable that the House should act upon the recommendation of these Committees. He begged the House to consider the position which this country assumed in the; eyes of foreign nations in consequence of the practice now pursued. Other great maritime nations did not adopt the same course as England in respect to this matter. They performed the duty of lighting the shores of their territories for the benefit of their own people, and for the benefit of mankind in general; and yet this country, the greatest commercial nation in the world—lagged behind other maritime countries, which adopted a more liberal policy on this subject. He knew by experience how the existing system of dealing with lighthouses worked against this country. The question had been brought under the consideration of Lord Palmerston 154 by Mr. Abbot Lawrence, the American Minister, two years after the repeal of the Navigation Laws. France had acted in a manner similar to America, and had taken all the charges off their shipping. His friends in Newcastle, the other day, took advantage of the presence of the American Minister amongst them, to ask him to do all he could to promote Free Trade in America. The Minister, however, in reply, took advantage of the manner in which we treated foreign ships in this country by our light dues, as a reason for not extending to us the benefits of Free Trade. He (Mr. Headlam) thereupon said he would undertake to do his utmost to place our lighthouses on a better system, and he hoped that his Excellency would do his best in favour of Free Trade in the United States. It was not easy to get at the precise amount of the charge thus levied upon shipping. There was such an absence of system, and we trusted so implicitly to the Trinity House, that we had no very accurate accounts; and the present income and expenditure of the light funds were not given with minuteness, but merely as an item in the general accounts of the mercantile marine fund. In 1867, the amount actually received in England, Scotland, and Ireland, in respect of this impost, was £326,000; the expenditure was £301,000, and there were works in that year which absorbed the sum of £50,000. He did not wish to lead the House to suppose that he stated this with perfect accuracy, but the precise amount was not material to his case. Many lighthouses, of which the receipts were included in this Return, would, in reality, come under the head of harbour-lights, so that the amount would not be quite so much as he had stated; but it might be taken at somewhat above £300,000, with the same general tendency to increase as belonged to all such imposts. Let them now consider what was likely to be our position if the produce of this tax were transferred as a charge on the Consolidated Fund. Upon whom did the tax fall at the present moment? According to the Returns of the Trinity House, 28 per cent was paid by foreign ships. Some persons might say it was a good thing to have the cost of our lighthouses defrayed by foreigners. It seemed to him to be about as wise a tiling as if a shopkeeper were to impose 155 a tax on the customers who came to his shop in order that they might pay for facility of access to his door. The immediate effect of the tax thus imposed on foreign ships necessarily was to drive them away from our harbours. We should know beforehand that it would be so; but he was in a position to prove, by instances within his own knowledge, that it had that effect, and was constantly producing it. He held in his hand a complaint made to a foreign consul at Newcastle under these circumstances. A vessel had gone from France to Antwerp, where she discharged her cargo, and not having facilities for getting a return cargo at Antwerp she came to the Tyne for that purpose. She had two or three boxes on board, which she was going to take to her ultimate destination; and the fact that she had these two or three boxes on board—though they were not to be evened—was held to take her out of the category of vessels in ballast, so that even when she was taking in her cargo, she was charged the full amount of light dues. The shipmaster very naturally made a complaint to the consul of having to pay a heavy-sum, which quite did away with all the profits of the transaction. We got our money—the light dues were paid—but we might depend upon one thing, that we should not have that ship back again. The Trinity House took such a case as in reality an argument in its favour. A vessel came to Havre, and would, in the natural course of things, conic to this country for a return cargo; but, frightened by the light dues, she stayed in Havre, and got a certain amount of goods sent to her from this country. This, which in fact kept a vessel from resorting to our harbours, was quoted by the Trinity House as an argument on its side, and we might be certain that if this took place with one ship, it took place with many. As to the incidence of this tax, it was paid partly by the people of this country, and partly by the shipping interest; undoubtedly, in the first instance, by the shipping interest, and was therefore a great hardship to them, though they might get a portion of it back. He would not quarrel with his right lion. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, or with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on this subject, but he found that the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself declared that "part 156 of it undoubtedly fell on the shipping interest, and part on the consumers." What he wished to impress on the House was, that if these charges were placed on the Consolidated Fund, there would be no additional burden upon the people of this country, and for tin's reason—At The present moment the price to the consumer of every article imported by a ship must necessarily cover the whole of the charges upon it—not only the original cost of the article, but freight and light dues, as well as the dealer's profits. If his right hon. Friend were to raise his imposts slightly, so as to meet all the charges now placed on the consumer, it would not increase the price, since the consumer already paid them in a roundabout way, and if the amount of £.300,000 were taken on to general revenue of the country, the change would, in reality, be beneficial to all parties. The House would be surprised at the inequality and injustice of the distribution of this tax. It came chiefly upon the poorer class of shipping—the coasting trade—and it was charged by the tonnage, which had little reference to the value of the cargo; consequently, a vessel of considerable tonnage, but laden with a cargo of small value, paid an amount which increased its freight immensely. Upon bulky articles, such as coal and corn, the tax operated most oppressively, though on valuable cargoes from foreign countries it was little felt. Again, it was very heavy on steam vessels as compared with sailing' vessels. Harbour dues were only paid six times in a year, but light dues were paid on every voyage, and in respect of lights which were of little use to the steamer. The Trinity House said that all these things might be rectified, but such a body had really no power to rectify them. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in bringing forward his Budget, spoke convincingly of the advantage of making this country the general entrepôt for the trade of the world, and asked them for that purpose to take off, not the comparatively small amount of £300,000, but the much larger sum of £900,000, produced by the registration or 1s. dues on corn. The right hon. Gentleman had pointed out very truly the magnificent geographical position we occupied for a trade of this description, and said that if corn were entirely free, England would probably be the centre from which 157 corn would be distributed. He (Mr. Headlam) supported that proposition; but, at the same time, he would tell the right hon. Gentleman that those petty light dues were infinitely of greater consequence than the registration duty on corn, inasmuch as the effect of the former was to drive away ten foreign vessels from our shores for the one driven away by the registration com duty. If, therefore, he voted with the Chancellor of the Exchequer—as he hoped to do—for remitting £900,000 a year on corn, he asked the right hon. Gentleman to support him in placing this £300,000 on the Consolidated Fund.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it is the opinion of this House, that the practice of charging upon the shipping of this Country and the shipping of Foreign Nations the cost of maintaining the Lights, Buoys, and Ben-cons which light and protect the shores of the United Kingdom should cease, as being a practice unworthy of a great maritime nation whose ships are afforded the use of the Lights of other Countries free of all expense."—(Mr. Headlam.)
§ MR. EASTWICK
said, that he represented a constituency which was greatly interested in this question. He need not tell the House, that few ports, if any, wore more resorted to by merchant shiping than Falmouth, and extreme dissatisfaction was expressed there with regard to lighthouse dues and the mode in which they were levied. The Trinity House had, in his opinion, laid themselves open to animadversion, because they had failed to publish intelligible accounts, which, as trustees of public money, they ought to have done, and because they had for a long period allowed the surplus accruing from those dues to be paid over in charity. He thought that a very objectionable and anomalous course. Had the money been funded we should now be in a position to pay a considerable portion of the expenses of our lighthouses out of the interest which would be derived from that source. For several reasons the lighthouses ought, he contended to be maintained out of the Consolidated Fund. The funds, if administered by the Government, would, he thought, be likely to be administered more economically, and in the next place, he did not see how it was possible that unfairness could be avoided under the present system, under the operation of which vessels of the Royal Navy paid no dues, while 158 steamers and sailing vessels paid at the same rate. The charge could not be apportioned fairly, too, on merely coasting vessels and those which took long voyages. He understood the right hon. Gentleman, who introduced this question, to say that Lord Palmerston had been opposed to exempting vessels from the payment of light dues; but, if he remembered right, that noble Lord had, on one occasion at least, expressed himself as favouring such a proposal. Lord Palmerston said, in fact, that so far as the keeping up of lighthouses was concerned, the country ought to be looked upon as one great parish, and ought, in his opinion, to pay for their maintenance. He quite agreed in this view of the matter, and he felt bound, therefore, to support the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. SAMUDA
said, the question really brought before the House by his right hon. Friend was who should pay for the maintenance of those lights. He did not gather from him that he thought it possible to do away with the lights themselves. Maintained they must be, and the only question was the source from which the expenses of maintaining them were to be gathered. His right hon. Friend contended that they were paid for from the wrong source, and that the right source was the Consolidated Fluid of the country. It appeared to him, however, that if such an alteration were made, instead of obtaining Free Trade they would actually obtain its reverse, and that every foreign country which brought ships to our shore would, be excluded from paying those charges, which were admitted to be necessary charges, whilst the ships of this country itself would be the only ones which, would have to contribute to that sum. That, he thought, would be Free Trade run mad; and he felt that it would be much better to leave matters as they now stood than to have such a change as his right hon. Friend proposed. The Trinity House had no power whatever of obtaining any advantage by those dues, for all surplus was now paid over to the public fluids.
differed altogether from the observation of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. He had said that if those light dues were charged to the Consolidated Fund the British shipowner would have to pay his quota 159 of those light dues and the foreigner would have the advantage of the light without paying. The hon. Gentleman scorned to forget, however, that when the British shipowner went abroad and used the lights of other countries he obtained the very advantage which the foreigner would have on coming to our shores, under the system proposed by the right hon. Member for Newcastle. The argument of Free Trade run mad which was used by the hon. Gentleman was not maintainable; and even if he did object to those expenses being paid from the Consolidated Fund, he had placed his argument entirely upon the wrong footing. For his own part he (Viscount Bury) agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, who had brought forward the Motion, that it was unworthy of a great nation to collect by dribblets in that manner the funds required for the lighting of its coast; he thought so because England ought to be the foremost and not the hindmost in all questions like that, and because there was hardly a civilized nation in Europe which did not charge the expenses of its lights upon its general Budget; and there was no single nation which raised a tax of the kind upon shipping instead of relying upon funds raised within its own dominions. He also thought the way in which our lights were at present administered was radically wrong. He did not wish to run a tilt against the Trinity House. He believed that that body discharged its duty as well as any body similarly constituted could do, but the position in which that body stood was anomalous, and he did not think the House would continue to leave matters as they were. The Trinity House, ought he thought, to become a Department of the Government, and more specially responsible to the Government than it was. The management of the lights of the United Kingdom was vested in three different bodies—the Trinity House, the Commissioners of Northern Lights, and the Ballast Board of Ireland. Every one of these bodies proceeded on an entirely different system, the result being such a muddle and division of responsibility that very little was done, and even that little was only done at a very great cost. It would be seen from the Report of the Royal Commission on this subject, that every maritime country except ours charged the expense of its lighthouses on 160 funds raised every year from its internal resources. In the United States the lights of the country were managed by a board specially constituted for the purpose at an expense which might cause Englishmen to stand aghast as they contrasted it with the expenditure at home. In Norway they were governed by an inspector under a Government Department, and the cost borne by the common fund of the country. In Sweden, Hamburgh, Spain, France, Russia, America, Austria, Denmark, and Holland, the lights, buoys, and beacons were under the superintendence of Boards, consisting of naval and scientific men, and the cost was defrayed out of the general budget of the country. It could not be denied that it was most essential, when a public object of such importance was to be attained, that such a tax should be levied with the widest possible incidence, and with the least possible interference with the due course of trade. The second point he wished to advert to was this—He did not think the Trinity Board was the proper body to administer the funds and manage the lights, buoys, and beacons of this country. Other great bodies their congeners had disappeared, and the last surviving charter was that of the Hudson Bay Company, which was approaching its extinction, and he could not see why the Trinity Board could be maintained simply on account of its antiquity. On the whole, however, the Trinity Board, barring its wasteful expenditure of public money, for which he could not forgive it, had done its work very well, though not on any system, and of late years without jobbery, though there was a time when the funds were administered with considerable malversation. He only now imputed to it incapacity to carry out that for which it had no machinery. He should like to see the Trinity Board converted into a great office of State, under the control either of the Board of Trade or First Commissioner of the Navy; because from its constitution it was not a proper tribunal to which matters of this kind ought to be referred. Of the long list of members of the Trinity Board the greater portions of them were commanders of the mercantile navy. There were a few members of the Royal Navy, and during the lifetime of Professor Faraday, who was paid a small salary, he was the only scientific man connected with the Board; 161 whereas, to effectually light our coasts, a large preponderance of the Board ought to be men conversant with science. The Commissioners of Northern Lights in Scotland consisted of the Lord Advocate, the Solicitor General for Scotland, and the Lord Provosts of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen, and a number of provosts and baillies, whose nautical knowledge did not probably extend beyond a visit to the sea-side during a summer vacation. And, again, the administrators of the Ballast. Board of Ireland consisted almost exclusively of the members of the Corporation of the City of Dublin, and he was unable to say if there was anyone connected with science on the Board. Having shown that the three great bodies of the country were not the proper persons who ought to be entrusted with the administration of our lights, he had next to call attention to the local authorities. These were the Harbour Conservancy Boards on various parts of the coast, and each of those bodies did exactly what seemed right in its own eyes, not acting on any regular or uniform system, but making, between them, the whole tiling one mass of confusion. In some instances, unless they happened to have a book with the sailing regulations of a particular harbour, it was impossible to toll when it would be safe to enter it. With all that uncertainty and confusion, the clearness and simplicity of the French plan contrasted most favourably. On approaching the entrance of a French harbour they saw a mast, with a yard and two or three balls upon it, which by their position indicated at once the depth of water on the bar, and informed seamen whether it was safe to enter the harbour; but when they contrasted the simplicity of that system with the one adopted in this country they at once saw its inferiority. Again, with regard to the buoys and beacons, they found on entering a French harbour that a red buoy was invariably placed on the starboard side and a black buoy on the port side, and that, consequently, they could always enter with safety. In this country, however, they had sometimes a red and a black buoy on the right hand, and a checkered buoy on the left. In Scotland it was black and red, exactly the reverse of that of England, and the Ballast Board of Ireland reversed that of Scotland. The Admiralty plan also differed in every 162 part in which they had jurisdiction; and he was much struck with the recent observation of one of the Cowes steamboat men, who said the Admiralty were continually changing the buoys—that he had gone by them for the last thirty-five years, but that he should give them up for the future because the Admiralty were continually muddling them. It was high time that some system worthy of the country should be inaugurated. His third point was that that most imperfect system, as at present administered, was extremely wasteful. A few figures would prove this beyond all doubt. The total annual expenditure of the Trinity House was £172,000; of the Commissioners of Northern Lights, £59.000; of the Ballast Board, £46,000; total. £278,000, to which had to be added the expense of maintaining steamers. £26,000. or in all about £304,000. Then there were salaries of the home establishment, law charges, salaries and wages of the district establishment, and also salaries and expenses connected with the three central offices. These amounted to £04,807, or nearly one-fourth of the whole expenditure on lights. When that was contrasted with the expenditure of the American Headquarter Office, which only amounted to £2,000 a year, instead of £64,807, they could not but stand aghast at the wasteful expenditure of Trinity House Office. He thought everybody would agree that that expenditure would be enormously reduced if, instead of three distinct Boards—the Trinity Board here, the Ballast Board in Ireland, and the Commission of Northern Lights in Scotland—we had one compact Board, consisting; of naval officers and scientific men, and sitting in London. What he wished! particularly to impress on the House was this—that there ought to be one great central authority, that that central authority ought to be the First Lord of the Admiralty, or else the President of the Board of Trade, with a re-constituted Trinity Board under him, to which all those points relating to the buoyage and the lightage of our shores ought to be referred; and that the whole system ought to be conducted upon one great plan, worthy of our position as one of the first maritime nations of the world.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, that when he read the Notice which his right hon. Friend laid on the table he thought 163 he had exercised a very wise discretion in founding it mainly on the international part of the subject, instead of resting it on the rather unsound basis of the grievances of British shipping. But his right hon. Friend had not confined himself to the terms of his Motion, and had referred at length to the hardship inflicted on British shipping. He would point out first what was the nature of the charge in respect of the light dues, and then discuss the real nature of the hardship complained of. The whole amount paid by the ships of this and other countries was £350,000 a year, of which not more than £55,000 was paid by the coasting trade in respect of 28,000,000 of tonnage. But that sum might be considered as a charge which, like many other charges of the kind, such as insurance, fell upon the consumers. Take, for instance, the case of the coal conveyed from the Tyne to the Thames. There was something like 3,000,000 tons of coal carried from the North of England to the Thames, and it paid about £12,000 a year in light dues. Now, he ventured to ask whether that money was paid by the owners of the colliers or by the consumers in London. As it was manifestly paid by the consumers, the only other argument which could possibly be used was that this £12,000 was a weight upon the colliers in competition with the railways; but if a comparison was made between the local or other burdens imposed upon the owners of ships and the railway companies, he ventured to say that the balance would be found to be in favour of the shipowners. The whole amount paid by the foreign-going vessels was £271,000, of which £86,000 was paid by foreign vessels. Of this £271,000 £124,000 was paid by vessels importing into this country, £08,000 by vessels importing into other countries, and £48,000 by vessels which brought merchandize to this country, and afterwards exported it. This last paid twice over, both when coming in and going out. His right hon. Friend drew a comparison between this burden and that of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer was about to relieve the corn trade; but it would 1MS found that it bore but a very small ratio to the latter. And by whom was this amount paid? By the consumers of the country. With respect to that portion which was paid by the export trade it would be more 164 difficult to trace its ultimate incidence. It operated probably as a very small export tax; but he ventured to say, with great confidence, that it was not paid by the shipowners. He now came to the more important argument of his right hon. Friend, in regard to the international question. His right hon. Friend had stated that all other countries paid for these lights directly, or, in other words, they did not raise any special tax from ships for this purpose. Up to very recent times, however, France did raise tonnage duties. But, in 1867, they reduced those dues from upwards of 3 francs to 75 centimes per ton, and he believed they would be lowered still more in 1871. But he believed the tonnage dues levied by the French Government were still not far different from our light dues. A case had been laid before the Trinity House by the North German Lloyd's, in which they stated that they paid£2,373for light dues; but that if they sent their vessels to Havre instead of to Southampton they would have to pay only £162 instead of £185 for a vessel like the Hansa. The House would see that the difference was very small. In 1871 the dues at Havre would be still further reduced, and then no doubt it would be a very serious consideration for vessels like those of the North German Lloyd's whether they should not make Havre their port of call rather than Southampton. But when the tonnage dues of France were lowered to a point which made the difference serious, then an important question for our consideration would arise; but at present the difference was hardly worth speaking of. There was another point which had been mentioned—namely, that vessels which merely called at Cork or at Falmouth on their way up Channel had to pay dues, and it was said they might hereafter call at foreign ports for orders; but at present we had no reason to believe that vessels were driven from our coast by these dues. His right hon. Friend had mentioned the case of a vessel that came to Newcastle which was charged in consequence of having two boxes on board, and he thought the vessel would never come again. But he (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre) ventured to draw a different inference—namely, that it would not come with two boxes, but either with a good cargo or without any cargo at all. Further, it appeared from the statement of the 165 Minister of Marine of France that when France reduced her tonnage dues she did so not with reference to any international duty, but from regard to her own interests; and, therefore, when it was proved to its that it would be our interest to throw the light duos on the Consolidated Fund, the argument would be a very strong one. He would now deal with another branch of the subject to which his right hon. Friend had called attention, though not strictly relevant—namely, the management and expenditure of the Trinity House. His right hon. Friend in his very able statement had entirely passed over the legislation of 1854. But in that year the Trinity House, as far as expenditure was concerned, was placed under the Board of Trade, and from that day to this not one single sixpence could be or had been spent by the Trinity House without the authority of the Board of Trade. Therefore, for any wasteful or injudicious expenditure it was not the Trinity House, but the Board of Trade, that was to blame. The position of the Trinity House, however, in other respects remained the same. For example, it could appoint and dismiss its own officers; but as the conscience of such Boards was said to reside very much in their purse, and the Board of Trade had complete control of that, it had also full control over the conduct and actions of the Trinity House. In fact, the Trinity House had become a sort of department of the Board of Trade, though in some respects, perhaps, the connection was not so close as might be desired. In the Report of 1861, which had been alluded to, he believed that more complaint was made of the economy of the Board of Trade in respect of light houses than of anything else. Since 1861, however, large sums had been expended in building new lighthouses and improving those which already existed. The hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves) was a member of the Royal Commission, and he believed, that hon. Gentlemen would allow that the Trinity House had brought up the lighting of this country to an equality with that of any other country in the world, Great credit was due to the present management of the Trinity House, and more especially to the Deputy Master; but he must admit, that in some respects, his opinion coincided with that of his noble Friend (Viscount Bury) as 166 to the present organization and relation, of Trinity House and the other Boards of management. As he had stated, there were four bodies that had to do with lighthouses. The Scotch and the Irish Boards were independent bodies, but they were subject in some respects to Trinity House, because they had no nautical men upon them; and if there were any difference between them and the Trinity House the Board of Trade acted as arbitrator; and, as the Board of Trade had complete control over the purse of Trinity House, it decided any financial question. It had always seemed to him that there was great perplexity in the present arrangements, and that it would, be better if there could be an amalgamation of these bodies, and that one Board should have authority over the lighthouses of the country. This had been the opinion of successive Governments, and attempts had been made at different times to remedy the evil; but it had been found difficult to do so, mainly on account of the jealousy displayed by the Scotch and Irish Boards when it was proposed to amalgamate them with Trinity House. The constitution of the Trinity House Board must be admitted to be unsatisfactory. It was too numerous, consisting of twenty members, who received £300 a year each; and it could not be doubted that it would be far better that there should be fewer members, who should devote themselves wholly to the business of the Board, and that they should be better paid. The Board of Trade was now in correspondence with the Deputy Master of Trinity House, and it was hoped that arrangements would be made which would to some extent remedy the existing evil. He had himself already pointed out that the accounts of the Trinity House were not sufficiently explicit, nor rendered in an intelligible form; but he hoped the next accounts presented by the Board of Trade would be more satisfactory. At present dues were paid into the Mercantile Marine Fund, out of which, the expenses of the lighthouses were paid; but it was a question whether it would not be better that the dues should be paid directly into the Exchequer, and that the estimates submitted yearly by the Trinity House and the Scotch and Irish Boards should be submitted to the House and votes taken i upon them. In that way the expendi- 167 ture on the lighthouses would be subject to the direct control of the House. Whatever might be the opinion of the House as to the policy of raising the means to maintain the lighthouses by light dues?, and however desirable they might think it to throw the cost of the lighthouses on the country, he hoped they would not assent to the terms of the Motion. When other nations did not treat us generously; when almost every other nation put protective duties on the import of our manufactures; when the United States charged 45 per cent upon them, and thereby levied millions; while American shipowners did not pay more than £10,000 of our light dues, he thought the House would not express the opinion that the practice of levying light duos was unworthy of us as a maritime nation. When other nations dealt with our manufactures as we dealt with theirs, then it would be time to put on record such a Motion as this; but other countries were not in a position to accuse us of want of generosity, and therefore it was not right that we should commit ourselves to the declaration proposed.
§ MR. STEPHEN CAVE
said, it would not be right if he did not to some extent corroborate what his hon. Friend had said with regard to the Trinity House. Considering all things, the Board discharged their duties as well as could be expected. The constitution of the Board might be changed with advantage; but, at the same time, those who had the administration of its funds, and who were engaged in the active Performance of its duties, had acted admirably during the last two or three years. At the Paris Exhibition of 1867 he heard both the Americans and the French agree that, however much they had advanced since preceding exhibitions, we had taken far greater strides as to lighthouses, the vividness of lights, and fog signals of various kinds than they had done: and any one who knew the works constructed by the Douglasses, the well-known engineers of Trinity House, at Wolf Rock and at Bishop's Rock, could not doubt that we maintained a proud pre-eminence' in the lighting of our coast, so as to make its navigation safe. No one could say that we had made slight advance in the excellence of our lights. He recollected the time when the lights of Dungeness and Cape Gris Nez were compared to our disadvantage; but any 168 one who had seen them then would now have reason to change his opinion. He concurred with his hon. Friend that it was one thing to say what ought to be done in regulating such matters, and another tiling to do it. More than once when he was at the Board of Trade suggestions were made for bringing together these different authorities, and introducing something like order and regularity into their proceedings; but there was the greatest jealousy of the slightest interference; and whoever undertook to bring order out of this chaos, to introduce a uniform system, and to establish one Board, would have an unenviable task. In this particular instance, this incidence of taxation was certainly upon the consumer, and he had no doubt that the shipping interest was able to recoup itself for what was paid under the head of these duties. But, as the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had often stated, in bringing in measures for the reduction of taxation, a tax, although not actually burdensome, and not actually borne in the long run by the person from whom it was at first collected, might yet be a hindrance to trade, by leading persons to employ means to escape that taxation. It was, no doubt, a great disadvantage and a great waste for ships to go in ballast, which they would hardly ever do if it were not to avoid charges of this sort. It would be a national gain if they were able to carry any quantity they could get, without extra charges—even the two boxes mentioned by his right hon. Friend opposite. There could be no doubt that, by the operation of these duties, foreign ships and steamers were frequently prevented from calling at our ports. It might be a short-sighted policy upon their part, but still their refusal was based upon what they considered to be opposition to an unjust impost. When in Paris, two years ago, in relation to the Fishery Commission, he found it a frequent subject of conversation, that, although we spoke so much of Free Trade, and asked foreign nations to relieve us from various duties, we, at the same time, were imposing charges upon them. No doubt, those allegations could be satisfactorily answered, but still they prejudiced us in our negotiations with foreign countries; and we should be doing a good thing if we could get rid 169 of the impost and the objections. That, however, was more a question for the Chancellor of the Exchequer than anybody else. He certainly thought it would have been better to remove these burdens from shipping than to deal with the corn duty in the manner proposed, for he did not believe that we should ever make this country an entrepótfor foreign corn. Ships might call for orders, but it was hardly to be supposed that they would tranship their cargoes here. The question was not one which he should recommend his right hon. Friend (Mr. Headlam) to press upon the Government. The had accomplished a great deal by merely raising this discussion; for a debate of a similar character had not arisen in the House of Commons for several Years, and he was certain that its effect must be to turn the attention of the country to this subject, and thereby to facilitate the reduction and eventual abolition of this tax upon shipping.
§ MR. STEVENSON
said, the pressure of light dues often operated very prejudicially in cases where small beginnings of trade were attempted, for the bringing of a single bale of goods to a particular port exposed the vessel to light dues just as much as if it carried a whole cargo. The reply of the Trinity House to the memorial addressed to the Board of Trade upon the subject, admitted that some modification was necessary. And the Trinity House, acting under the Board of Trade, did not seem altogether to approve the way in which the surplus dues were dealt with, for they preferred to relieve those ports where a surplus had accrued, the Board of Trade, on the oilier hand, adopting what he considered the more Imperial view of the question—that of applying the surplus equally to all parts of the coast. It would seem that increased perplexity in working out these difficult questions was imminent, for there had been communications between the two bodies which held the destinies of the shipping interest in their hand, as to establishing differential rates between steamers and sailing vessels, in regard to lighthouse dues. The Elder Brethren alleged that this course would, to a great extent, moot the objections which had been urged; he, on the contrary, maintained that it would double the existing objections and vender the anomalies complained of more unequal and unjust than 170 ever. An arbitrary rule, for instance, was adopted, tinder which vessels sailing from the Tyne to Norway were subjected to a differential tax of £5 a voyage, as compared with vessels sailing to the same ports, but starting a few miles south of the Tyne—the assumption, which was a mere assumption, being that in one case vessels had the benefit of the costly lights on the East coast of Scotland, and that in the other case they did not require them. Again, vessels carrying coals to France from English coal ports were at a disadvantage equal to 2 per rent on the freight as compared with vessels from Belgian ports which paid no light dues. Since 1854 the whole of the light dues collected in the different parts of the United Kingdom had been thrown into one single fund, called the Merchant Seamen's Fund; and he asked the House to consider whether the distribution of the burdens was equitable under that arrangement? If Scotland and Ireland were out of the question, there would be a surplus revenue from the English lighthouses of £82,000. Upon the Scotch lighthouses by themselves, however, there was a deficiency of £8,200: and upon the Irish lighthouses of £47.400, so that England suffered by the partnership to the extent of close upon £56,000 a year. The Trinity Brethren took credit for the promptitude that was shown in placing buoys over wrecks, and quoted one case where a vessel was wrecked off the port of Hartlepool, and a buoy was sent, by a special steamer, all the way from Yarmouth to mark the spot. But, in his opinion, this only helped to explain the enormous cost at which the system was carried on. The Trinity Board complained that those who found fault with them did not understand them, or give them credit for their good intentions. But this was always the case with a close corporation, and it never could be otherwise. The complaint was that the Trinity House, although levying large taxes, was not a public Board. They said they were a very independent body, but that was always the excuse for bodies which were not representative. In advocating the change that light houses should be made a national charge, he would say that it was the only course to make them stand well with foreign nations. In other countries where communications were mostly by land, the 171 lighthouses were made the subject of Imperial cost and care; but here, where our insular position led to all our intercourse with foreign countries being by sea, it was discreditable that the lighthouses should be left in the hands of an irresponsible body. The change proposed was the only remedy for the anomalies of the present system, and the only states man like mode of settling the question, and if it were not adopted the Government must address itself to meet the difficulties and remedy the anomalies complained of.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
No one who has listened to the speeches delivered upon this question can doubt that it relates to a subject of very great complexity, and I fear it J is impossible to adjust these matters so as to avoid anomalies. That is a fault which this subject shares with many others when you levy money on the public. I cannot recognize it as anything peculiar to the subject of light dues. I am quite of opinion that it is exceedingly desirable that the whole business of these light dues should be placed in one hand—in the hand of a responsible Minister, and that these different Boards should be constituted under one head. But when the hon. Member talks of the Trinity House being an independent body he can hardly have considered the great change in its organization. It was an independent body once. It is now really nothing more, than a Department of the Government, perhaps not very well organized—as I fear may be said of many other Departments—a Department for whose action the Board of Trade are responsible, and it is very right to hold that Board responsible for the manner in which these duties are performed. But that is really not the subject of debate—the whole question is one which belongs to my own Department—whether or not we ought to accept this burden—to transfer this £32.5,000, now levied in the shape of dues on shipping, to the Consolidated Fund. In dealing with that question I need not repeat the arguments of my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Board of Trade. I will, however, state how the matter strikes me. I shall avoid details. The question depends on large principles, and must be dealt with in a large way. It cannot be influenced by either classes 172 or anomalies the first question is, what is the nature of this payment? It is called a tax. It is not really a tax. It is a payment received for service conferred. The money that is spent on these lighthouses is spent for the benefit of the shipping interest—to save the property and the lives of seamen. It has been spent not to make dearer, but cheaper the commodities brought by the ships. Therefore, these dues are not a tax levied for the benefit of the Government, or for purposes of protection, but one which is directly for the benefit of the parties who pay it. In fact it is a toll paid by the ships of the country without the inconvenience of their being compelled to pull up to pay it. That being so, the next question is, upon whom does the burden fall? Of course, in the first instance, the dues are paid by the shipowner. This being an indirect tax, ultimately paid by the consumer, the money must be advanced by some one, and the person advancing it is the shipowner. There is nothing harsh or unfair in that. The shipowner does derive a benefit above all other classes, because it is mainly for the protection of his property and servants that the lighthouses are maintained; but he must know that he does not ultimately pay this tax, because these dues form part of the freight, and the freight forms part of the price of She commodities, and they must, therefore, necessarily be paid by the consumer. The shipowner advances them, but he is sure to get them back. These dues are not collected from persons whose ships are in ballast only. They do not apply to freight unless freight is earned, and therefore the shipowner will have them restored to him in the freight. No doubt it has been represented—as by the deputation headed by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Headlam) which waited on me—as an iniquitous tiling that shipping should be taxed for the benefit of the whole community. That was the ground taken by the deputation. I pointed out to them that it was not a tax wholly paid by the shipowner, but by the consumer, and that ground has now been abandoned; for the Motion before the House is not that the shipowner is unduly or unfairly taxed, but that such conduct is unworthy of a great nation. So that my right hon. Friend has now left the ground of justice and taken up that of chivalry. 173 Well, then, is there any hardship in levying such a duty as this? People talk of taking money out of the Consolidated Fund as if it found its way there of itself. But if you take £325,000 out of the revenue you must get it from: some other quarter; and it would be; exceedingly difficult to get that sum collected in a way that would operate more justly. Of course, you cannot get £325,000 without a great deal of difficulty and suffering, and without doing a great deal of mischief to industry one May or another; but, practically, it would be exceedingly difficult to point out any tax that could be imposed with less inequality or injustice. There is this practical advantage in this tax, it forms a test of its own experience. If this tax were to be imposed and paid out of the general revenue, the Government would be urged by all manner of representations to put up lighthouses in all available plates. No doubt great influence would be brought to bear upon them, and they would often be induced, perhaps, to put up lights in wrong places. But now what is done? Shipowners apply for lights. The Government are willing to put them up if the shipowners are willing to pay the dues, and in this way the Government have every security that the lights are needed. "Whereas if the money came out of the general revenue, it would be nobody's interest to find fault with anything that was done, and we might have a most unprofitable expenditure, and the grossest political jobbery. Let us test this impost by the ordinary criterion of taxation. Adam Smith says that a tax should be equal. Now, could anything be fairer than this tax? It is advanced in the first instance by the persons who are immediately benefited by its application, and it is recouped from the persons consuming the commodities brought by the vessels. A tax should be certain. "Well, nothing could be so certain as tin's tax. Its amount is perfectly well known, and is taken in1o account by the shipowner in the freight. Then, as for the collection of the tax nothing could be cheaper or more convenient; for it is collected at the end of the voyage when there is the general settlement of accounts. It therefore appears to me that this tax fully realizes all the elements of a sound tax; and it is wholly expended for the benefit of those who are wholly or more imme- 174 diately interested in its expenditure. There is another point worthy of consideration. This tax may be divided into two parts. It amounts to £325,000. Of that sum £179,000 are dues paid by ships importing' goods into this country, and £146,000 are paid by ships exporting goods to countries abroad. As the consumer pays the tax at last, nearly one-half is paid, not by the natives of this country, but by the inhabitants of other countries, and I am unchivalrie enough to consider that a considerable advantage. I do not see why we should desire to pay £146,000 now paid by other countries, and place the charge on the people in this country. Against this argument nothing is urged that I know of, except that it is unworthy of a great nation not to reciprocate the treatment we receive from foreigners. This is not a question of removing obstacles from commerce; but it is really a question of bribing commerce to come to our shores by paving out of the taxation of the country those persons who ought to come to us for their own advantage. If you relieve foreign shipping from the light dues, you hold out a greater inducement for it to come here, just, in the same way as you would, if you relieved it from dock dues. The same argument would apply for opening the docks free as for removing the light dues. I know of no limit to such an argument. Such a course of proceeding might, induce foreign captains to come to this country, but it really would be a system of benefits to foreign commerce. In like manner a tradesman might try to induce customers to go to him by saying—"If you come, to my shop I will pay the turnpike for you;" but who would be so simple as not to know that he would take it out in the first pound of tea? We take the best means of bringing shipping to our ports when we throw our trade open, imposing no protective duties, but making it pay for lighthouses. Foreign countries acted in a reverse way. They are liberal in respect to their bights, paying for them out of the general revenue, but indemnifying themselves by putting on enormous protective duties. Take the case of America. She does not make any charge for lights; but she racks her ingenuity in every way to prevent the commodities which our ships carry there from finding their way into the country. These are the grounds on which 175 I entirely object to placing this sum' on the Consolidated Fund. It appears to me that the tax is just and fairly imposed; and I only wish other countries would deal with us in the same spirit in which we deal with them, and, taxing us for their lights, would for bear taxing us for our commodities. I shall feel it my duty to resist the Motion of my right hon. Friend, but I trust it will not be pressed.
§ MR. GRAVES, having been on the Commission which had been alluded to in the course of the discussion, said it-was satisfactory to him to find that all the recommendations of that Commission had been adopted except one, which related to the maintenance of the lights. With regard to the system of management, he thought that a more cumbrous and unsuitable machinery could not be devised. It created constant irritation between the Boards, and the greatest care was required to prevent things from coming to a dead-lock. It was, therefore, most desirable that some change should be made in the system. He was bound, however, to say that, since 1861, there had been a. great improvement in the executive, of the different Boards, and the Trinity House deserved credit for the attention it had paid to the recommendations of the Commission, for the security of its lightships, and for the rapidity with which displaced buoys were re-set in the proper situation. As the system of lights now extended all round the shores of the country, and would shortly be completed, it would now be requisite to direct attention to the augmentation of the illuminating power of the lights rather than to the increase of the number of the lights. He would leave the President of the Board of Trade to reply to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because he thought that so ardent a Free Trader could not share the opinions expressed by the right hon. Gentleman. Anything more fallacious than to say that, an impost should not be remitted because the foreigner would share in it he could not conceive. The Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) was not far wrong when he said that possibly in a short time this subject might become a serious question for consideration; because, by the tax which we laid on foreign shipping visiting our ports, we were preventing other countries from extending to us the free- 176 dom which we have been so long seeking. In France a great change had taken place this very year, and a vessel in Havre which last year paid £225 for dues, now only paid £36. The question as to the proportion borne by the outward tonnage of the country was not a question for the English consumer—it was an export tax on the consumers of our produce in other countries, and to that extent was prejudicial to our manufactures. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said the tax was an equal and a just one, and was fairly distributed. Now, in Liverpool, the shipping interest paid last year £92,000 as their contribution to lighthouse duos. One-third of that sum would represent the value which the shipping entering the port derived from the lights on the North and South Channel, and, taking every light which could by any possibility be used by shipping frequenting Liverpool, the fact was that the shipping at Liverpool paid some £40,000 a year to maintain lights on the East coast or the North coast of Scotland, where, in passing along the coast, he had seen more lights than vessels, and which were of no service to Liverpool vessels. He denied that this was a fair or proper distribution of the tax. But the question had been argued as if it were something new, while every year the identical principle was affirmed by Parliament. In this year's Estimates there was an item of £38,000 for the erection and maintenance of lights around our colonial coast: last year it was £40,000, and the year before £42,000. That was an admission of the principle. The question would, probably, have to be again opened when the Civil Service Estimates came to be considered. What the toll is to traffic on the turnpike or the bridge the light dues are to our foreign trade—the former are fast disappearing, and I hope the latter will soon follow. Then there was the question of local lights. Why were these not embraced in the general lighthouse system of the country? Because the State said to the local authorities—"It is your duty to light your own ports;" and, surely, what the State said to the local authorities other nations might with equal justice say to us with regard to the lighthouse dues. To show how much the whole question bore upon our trade with other countries, he might mention that when America was asked to admit us to a share in their valuable coast trade, the 177 answer if the Chamber of Commerce of! New York was that when we abolished' these lighthouse charges America might consider the question of the coast trade. He know of no reduction of taxation which would be so generally useful as the remission of this £300,000. He admitted that the Resolution ought not to be forced that night. It was a question for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to: consider when he had an available surplus, and he did hope that when another year came round the right hon. Gentleman would have such a surplus, and would be inclined to deal with this question more largely and more generously than he now seemed inclined to deal with it.
I am rather surprised that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Headlam) has placed this Resolution on the table of the House; because, even if I agreed with him as to the general question in regard to the light dues. I think the wording of the Resolution and the reasons given for proposing it, ought not to have been offered to the House as the motive for the change which my right, hon. Friend desires. He invites us to say—That it is the opinion of this House, that the practice of charging upon the shipping of this Country and the shipping of Foreign Nations the cost of maintaining the Lights, Buoys, and Beacons which light and protect the shores of the United Kingdom should cease, as being a practice unworthy of a great maritime nation whose ships are afforded the use of the Lights of other Countries free of all expense.That I hold not to be a reason upon which the House of Commons should act in the removal of a considerable charge, find in transferring from a special portion of the population a tax of this magnitude and laying it upon the Consolidated Fund. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke of the chivalrous nature of the Resolution. I rather think it is one which is not put forward quite honestly. I do not believe that the shipowners of the Tyne really ask the House to make this change on the ground that set forth in this Resolution. Therefore, whenever the House chooses to come to any decision affirming: that this change should be made. I hope it will do so for reasons and on principles more consistent with its character and with the interests of those whom we represent. After what has been said, I should feel a difficulty 178 in defending any tax. The Chancellor of the Exchequer boldly acknowledges that all taxes are burdensome, irritating, and unpleasant: therefore he does not feel it necessary to defend any particular tax having given, generally, a bad character to all taxes. In this case we are asked to remove to the general taxation of the country a special tax, levied on a special class for special purposes. There can be no doubt that every argument as to the general question of the removal of the tax would be just as good and unswerable if the Resolution applied to port or dock dues as to lighthouse dues. That. I think, will be acknowledged. Therefore, the House must take care what it is doing in this matter; because it is quite possible that, if this tax were got rid of this year, our friends from the shipping ports would, in another year, put in a plea that some other tax, levied for a special purpose upon a special class, should be removed from that class and be placed upon the Consolidated Fund. But, although this Resolution refers to one question, quite as many speeches have been made upon another question as upon that, and the noble Lord (Viscount Bury has made an animated speech on the management of the light dues. Now, the first and the main question is a Treasury question, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given—I will not say a final and unanswerable answer, but he has done this—he has given a complete answer to any one who asks the House to say that this year, or at present, this tax shall be removed. My own impression is, that the real difficulty of the tax arises from its irregularity and its inequality. But, then, that itself arises from an attempt to make the tax bear more easily upon a portion of our shipping. The coasting trade pays much less than the foreign trade. If we wore to attempt to equalize these two classes, and raise the light dues upon the coasting trade, the persons interested in that trade would be at the Trinity House, or the Board of Trade, or the House of Commons, to prevent such an infliction. If, on the other hand, the dues on foreign-going ships were reduced, the revenue of the Trinity House would be reduced to so low a point that, in all probability, it would be impossible to maintain the present lighthouses, and certainly there would be no chance of extending the 179 system of lights. The equalization of the burden of those dues us between coasting and foreign vessels does not, therefore, appear to mo to be practicable. Another question has been raised by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Stevenson) who has referred to the great inequality of the tax as levied upon sailing vessels and steamers. He says that to alter it would be to reduce the tax upon steamers, and would be only to make the difficulty of the ease greater than at present. That, I presume, is true; because steamers are constantly gaining on sailing vessels, and to increase the burden, comparatively speaking, on the latter, would be a very undesirable mode of proceeding. I admit that—I admit all that needs to be admitted. I agree in the general proposition that the tax itself on shipping is not, open to complaint; but then I admit that there are just complaints to be made as to the irregularity with which it falls on different kinds of shipping, and on ships which go long and short voyages. Entertaining that view, I, as representing the Board of Trade, have been in communication with the most intelligent, member of the Trinity House, Sir F. Arrow, for the purpose of ascertaining whether some considerable mitigation of that which is a real grievance could not be effected; and, although I do not anticipate that the grievance can be remedied within a short period, yet I hope that considerable relief may be given to some portion of the shipping-interest by certain changes made in reference to this point. As to the Trinity House itself, an ancient corporation, which the noble Lord the Member for Berwick (Viscount Bury) seems anxious to send after the East India and the Hudson's Bay Companies, I would remark that it does not, I am glad to say, deserve to be classed, at all events, with the former. The Trinity House has, within the last few years, undergone great reforms, and many of the charges now brought forward against it were charges that were partially true in past times, but are only to a small extent true now. To show the extravagant nature of some of these charges I would only refer to one statement which was made by the noble Lord the Member for Berwick. He said, quoting from a Return, i hat the cost of its management amounted to £65,000, and what that sum includes, 180 I am not, without the Return, able to tell; but surely the noble Lord does not mean that it includes simply the expenses of the twenty-one Elder Brethren, who are members of the corporation. He told us, moreover, that in the United States six or eight naval and engineer officers discharged the similar duties, and that the expenses of management in their case were only £2,000 a year. Now, it appears to me that, if the noble Lord were as anxious to ascertain accurately what is true in this matter as to make accusations, he would have seen that it was not possible that the work of which he speaks could be done in the United States for the sum of £2,000, and that there, is no such discrepancy between the rates of expense in the two countries as he has mentioned. The noble Lord is, perhaps, not aware that in the United States, where the Government bears the whole cost of lighting the coast, that cost is £50,000 a year more than the charge for lighting the? coast of the United Kingdom. I do not know what the difference between the number of lighthouses is, or between the mileage; of the coast in the two cases; but it is impossible to argue from what the noble Lord has told us that the management of the Lighthouses in the United States is placed on a more economical footing than it is in this country. I have said that the Trinity House was an ancient corporation, and that it had been greatly reformed of late. I may add, although it may be a very foolish thing for me to say, that its composition is the best possible at the present moment. My experience, since I have been at the Board of Trade—and in that view I think I shall be corroborated by my predecessors in Office—leads me to believe that it very satisfactorily performs the duties with whose performance it is entrusted. No one can, of course, deny that it would be a good thing to bring the Irish, Scotch, and English management under one head. Many inconveniences would by that means be avoided—though not to as great an extent, I think, as has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves)—and the whole business of that department would no doubt be carried out at somewhat less expense. As things at present stand, the influence of the Board of Trade with the Trinity House is considerable; it is of that nature which a 181 person holding the purse-strings can always exercise, and so far as I can see the Trinity House is anxious to adopt any suggestion or take any reasonable course which the Board of Trade should propose. I have already said that the question of equalizing in some degree the rates of the dues levied was under consideration. Beyond that, the question of a further change in the constitution of the Trinity House has also recently been the subject of constant discussion. It seems to me that it may be possible to maintain the Trinity House as it is with a smaller number of members, better paid, and. as a consequence, I should hope in some respects better qualified, for the performance of the work which they have to do than the average of the twenty-one Elder Brethren. It is, however, very difficult to make that change and to preserve the ancient constitution of the body: but, before very long in all probability, it will be the duty of Government and Parliament to consider whether any attempt should be made at any further half-way reform, whether we should stay where we now are, or whether the whole question should be thoroughly dealt with and an alteration effected by which the three departments for England, Ireland, and Scotland should be brought, by means of a well-organized system, under the Board of Trade. The House will, I am sure, excuse me if I do not give a confident opinion on that point. I have been at the Board of Trade only a short time, and I do not think I am so well-qualified as some men to form an opinion on a question of this nature. I shall have to consult the opinion of others, and I shall be, very happy if in that decision on a matter of such great importance—and I consider it so—I shall have the benefit of the advice of some one more competent than I am to go upon. I state this to show that, at the present moment, the whole of the question is being considered most anxiously, with a view to some good result, if that be so—if ware endeavouring to relieve in some degree the unequal pressure on shipowners—to levy the light dues in a more equal and a more just manner, the House will agree with mo there is no wisdom at this moment in adopting a Resolution which must embarrass the Government, especially with regard to a proposition in which there is involved a change in taxation. I will 182 put it to my right hon. Friend, after the explanation I have made—and which I have made in all sincerity—whether he does not think the discussion has sufficiently advanced the views of all Gentlemen concerned without bringing the House to a division, and making the discussion and consideration of the question by the Government more difficult than the thing would have otherwise been?
said, that after the speech of the noble Lord the Member fur Berwick (Viscount Bury), who seemed to think it desirable that the Trinity House, like the East India Company and the Hudson's Bay Company, should be done away with, he felt considerably relieved by what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken. The reply of the Secretary to the Board of Trade, he might add, gave him the notion—but that he knew such a tiling was impossible—that the House was being engaged in something like a "put up" debate, because the discussion ran away altogether from the Motion of the right hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Headlam), and turned upon questions quite as large, if not more important; but everyone who had listened to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade must, he thought, feel satisfied that the whole subject would receive at his hands the most careful consideration. As to the question immediately before the House, he would remark that everybody considered it a very undignified proceeding to pay anything. The owners of ships had always thought they would rather not pay these light duties; but, in his opinion, those who derived an advantage ought not, as a general rule, to be above paying for it. He did not agree with the statement of the noble Lord that the lights would necessarily be better managed if they were paid for by the public; still loss did he think they would be more economically managed by a Board consisting of naval officers and scientific men under the superintendence of the Admiralty. Their experience of dockyard management was rather against the success of such an experiment.
§ MR. CANDLISH
, as a representative of a large maritime constituency, desired to say a few words on this subject. If this were merely a question of management the statement of the President of the Board of Trade would be eminently satisfactory; 183 but the real point at issue was whether the owners of vessels should be called on to pay the dues for sustaining the lights around our coasts. He would give an illustration of the manner in which the levying of these dues on the shipping operated, on the trade, of the country. There was a Liverpool firm who traded between Antwerp and South America, and during the last fifteen months their vessels had been in the habit of calling at Southampton. Since January, 1868, seven voyages had been made; the gross amount of freight earned was £1,029; and the amount paid for lights in consequence of calling at Southampton was £80 18s. 5d., or 8 per cent on the gross amount of freight earned. Another firm trading between Baltimore and Bremen, during 1868, had nine ships which called at Southampton with passengers. The amount received for carrying the passengers was £1,736, while the amount of light duties payable, by reason of their putting into Southampton, was £313 12s. 3d., or 18 per cent of the gross freight carried. It was clear that these dues were a serious hindrance to trade, and, indeed, he knew of two, if not three, companies who, in order to avoid them, now called at Havre, instead of Southampton. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had maintained that the tax ought to be retained because its incidence was equal; but the President of the Board of Trade had shown conclusively that this was not the case. He (Mr. Candlish) maintained that the incidence of the dues was very unequal, and pressed more heavily upon some parties than upon others. If the right hon. Member for Newcastle pressed the Motion to a division he should certainly vote in favour of it.
§ SIR HEDWORHT WILLIAMSON
said, he had been of opinion that this question was not likely to be considered by the Government in a proper manner; but since the President of the Board of had acknowledged the inequality of the mode in which the dues were levied, he should not have the slightest hesitation in voting against the Motion of his right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle.
assured the President of the Board of Trade that he fully appreciated the spirit in which he was about to grapple with the question, and sincerely hoped that his right hon. 184 Friend would be successful in his endeavours to reduce the inequalities of the tax, and to bring the different bodies into something like harmony. The manner in which the proposal had been met by the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave him no hope, and as the shipping interest had, however, requested him to bring the, subject forward on a broad and general principle, he must ask his Friends to support him, as it was his intention to press his Motion to a division.
regretted that after the speech of his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, in which he referred to his recent accession to Office and his desire to make himself master of this question, his right hon. Friend (Mr. Headlam) asked them to go a division, in which the House was to commit itself to the opinion—That the practice of charging upon the shipping of this country and the shipping of Foreign Nations the cost of maintaining the Lights, Buoys, and Beacons which light and protect the shores of the United Kingdom should cease, as being a practice unworthy of a great maritime nation whose ships are afforded the use of the Lights of other Countries free of all expense.Now, if the House wanted to offer their opinion on the subject, these were not the terms which it ought to adopt; and there were many Gentlemen who, agreed with the opinions of his right hon. Friend, who would yet hesitate before they went into a Lobby in favour of this proposition. His right hon. Friend stated that the Chancellor of the Exchequer said this was a good tax. What, then? The negative of the Motion committed the House to no opinion, and left the Government quite free to propose what might be necessary when his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade should have time to deal with it. But if the right hon. Gentleman could induce the House to vote with him it would be foreclosing the question, while those who voted with the Government would remain unpledged.
§ MR. NORWOOD
said, he was not altogether satisfied with the attitude taken by the Treasury Bench. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had laid down the dictum that England was not to relieve her trade of certain duties until certain other countries had relieved us from paying import duties on our goods. This was totally at variance with the principles of Free Trade.
§ Motion, by leave, Withdrawn.