HC Deb 14 February 1870 vol 199 cc286-316

Acts considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)


said, he rose 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 Laws relating to Merchant Shipping. It had been the intention of his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to introduce the two Bills of which he had given notice; but, unfortunately for their interest and for other considerations, indisposition had made it necessary for him to abstain from work for a short time; and as in the press of other work it was undesirable there should be delay he must ask the House to accept him as a substitute. The Bill which he should introduce would be substantially the same as that which he had introduced at the close of last Session. The interval, however, had not been wasted; much labour had been bestowed upon its clauses; they had had the advantage of numerous suggestions, some of which had been adopted, and he had himself made personal inquiries upon the subject at many of the most important seaports. No effort had been spared to make the measure as complete and satisfactory as possible; and when he added that Mr. Thring and Mr. Farrer, who had had the preparation of the Bill, were also concerned in the great measure of 1854, and that they had brought to bear upon it all their subsequent experience, the House would understand that they had the best advisers. The Bill itself would be somewhat altered in form; instead of being one continuous measure, it would be divided into fourteen separate parts, each of which would be a complete Act in itself, but they would all form portions of one statute, and would be bound together; but it would be possible to obtain each separately for purpose of use and reference. These fourteen chapters would deal with all the questions affecting shipping from their first registration, the provisions as to masters, seamen, pilotage, lights, buoys, and the provisions as to wrecks. For these matters it would be a complete code of all the existing statute law affecting ships, with one exception,—namely, the regulations affecting passenger vessels. There were now pending negotiations with the United States for a common system of rules for emigrants, and in the meantime the Emigration Commissioners were unwilling to include their provisions in this measure. On introducing the Bill last Session, he made some statements to the House, and pro- mised additional statistics, showing the progress of our shipping. These had been prepared, and would shortly be in the hands of Members. They were, for the most part, continuations of Returns which were prepared for Mr. Lindsay's Committee of 1860, at a time when it was thought that our shipping was in a very depressed and unhealthy condition. These figures would show that he was justified in saying that at no time in the history of this country had our Merchant Marine been so pre-eminent. Not only had the increase since 1861 been actually very great, but relatively to other countries it had been still greater. In America a Committee of Congress had recently been inquiring into the decline of their commerce. The evidence taken before it showed that this decline had been rapid and progressive, even more so since the war than during its continuance, and what remained to them of ships were in a poor condition and unequal to competition. It would be easy to find an explanation for this in their tariff. In France, again, there had recently been a debate on the state of their merchant service, and a great complaint had been made of the effect of the recent law which opened the indirect trade to foreign ships. It was shown, however, that the stationary state of their commerce was due to other causes—the high duties still levied, and especially to the endless restrictions imposed by administrative regulations, which had impeded individual enterprise and compelled their adherence to obsolete systems. On our part, our shipping had increased during the last few years more than at any other period; the increase had been 50 per cent. in the last fourteen years; but as this increase had been far greater for steamers, the proportion of work obtained had been even greater. The entrances and clearances of British tonnage in foreign trade had increased over 120 per cent., while that of foreign ships had increased 30 per cent. Our seamen in the same time had increased 27 per cent only, and the proportion of the seamen to tonnage had decreased, for steamers 2½ and for sailing vessels 1 man per 100 tons, showing a progressive economy of great importance. He might also say that the types of ships and steamers were vastly improved in size and quality. In view of these facts, and comparing our system of law and administration with that of the French, it was wiser not to interfere too minutely with the building of ships, or with the methods by which they were to be loaded, manned, or sailed; the better course seemed to be to leave shipowners to build and sail their vessels as they pleased, but subject to this—that if in so doing they caused injury or wrong to others they should be held responsible for it. It was on this principle that in the amendments of this Bill, so far as concerned ships, they had not multiplied regulations; they had simplified and made more general some of the existing regulations, and had in some cases made more clear the liability of shipowners. They had, for instance, defined it as a misdemeanour to send a vessel to sea in an unseaworthy state, so as to endanger life. Again, in the not unfrequent cases where seamen refused to proceed, alleging that the vessel was unseaworthy, or, where having put to sea, vessels put back, or where seamen were summoned as offenders, it was provided that they should have the right to call in a Board of Trade surveyor to report upon the condition of the vessel; and as the issue was, in fact, one arising out of breach of civil contract, they thought the evidence of the men themselves should be taken. They also proposed to improve the courts of inquiry into losses of vessels, so as better to elicit the cause of loss. They took power to note the draught of water of vessels leaving our ports, an this would be attempted at the instance of the underwriters. With respect to master and seamen, the case was somewhat different; they had already a most minute and lengthy code of regulations, affecting almost every possible point connected with them—their relations to their shipowners, their contracts, engagements, and discharge, their discipline and status abroad. As a whole, these regulations had done good, though it was a question whether they were not too minute. They proposed in many respects to improve and amend them. He would not, however, on the present occasion, describe the changes effected in this and other parts of the Bill. He did so at some length last Session, and the amendments then described for the most part remained unchanged. There were, however, a few points on which changes had been made in the proposal of last year, on which it might be desirable to make a few explanations. First, then, as to inquiries into losses of vessels and misconduct of officers. At present, those inquiries were generally held at the same time. If a vessel was lost under circumstances which justified inquiry, the conduct of the officer was at once called in question. The result was that the inquiry took the form of a criminal proceeding, and was subject to all the technical rules incident to such a case; the mouth of the officer was shut, and in many ways the inquiry was limited. Complaint was also made by officers of vessels that they were treated in a manner in which no other professional class was treated—that they were called upon to prove their innocence, and that they were liable to have their certificates suspended and their means of living taken from them for mere errors of judgment. When he was at Liverpool in the winter the case of the master mariners was very earnestly brought before him, and supported, he thought, by two hon. Members for that city. He was free to admit after the experience of the last few months at the Board of Trade that there was some ground for this complaint. He would, illustrate it by two cases which had recently occurred, and which came before him on the same day. In the one case a vessel from Liverpool went out overladen, and as soon as she got out of dock she began to leak. She encountered a heavy sea, and in the neighbourhood of Holyhead the captain tried to gain the port, but did not succeed. The men wished to abandon the vessel; the captain endoavoured to dissuade them, but they persisted, and the captain and mate had to leave with them. Afterwards the vessel was picked up and saved. There was no reason to doubt that the captain had done his best, but a court of inquiry suspended his certificate, because he had not shown sufficient firmness and moral courage with his men. In another case a vessel was proceeding from Rangoon to London, and a few days after leaving port she leaked very much. The crew went to the captain and begged that he would put back into some other port, but the captain said that he thought he could get the vessel as far as the Mauritius. In a few days, however, she leaked so badly that they were obliged to abandon her. The court of inquiry found that the captain had acted in perfect good faith, and had done his utmost to save his vessel, but that he was not justified in risking the lives of himself and his crew, and they suspended his certificate for six months, which was a very heavy slur upon a captain. In one case, therefore, the certificate was suspended because the officer had not shown sufficient moral courage, and in the other because he had shown too much; so that captains were placed in an exceedingly disagreeable dilemma. He (Mr. Lefevre) was not of opinion, looking to the statute, that in either case the decision was wrong in point of law. The Board of Trade, however had thought proper in both cases to return these officers their certificates, on the ground that they ought not to have been suspended for errors of judgment; but he had felt that such cases ought not to have occurred, and would not occur if the law was more explicit on the subject. What they proposed, then, was this—that the inquiry into the loss of the vessel should be kept quite separate from that into the conduct of the officers. The inquiry into the loss of the vessel would be in the nature of an inquest, and although the Court would have no power to suspend the master's certificate, it would have power to express an opinion as to the cause of loss. Subsequently, or, indeed, at any time, proceedings might be taken against the master or other certificated officers for the suspension of their certificates, if it appeared to the Board of Trade that the officers had been guilty of misconduct; but it would be proposed that there should be a strict definition of the powers of such court, and that suspension should be limited to those cases where incompetency, gross negligence, tyranny, or drunkenness were proved against the officer. He believed this proposal would give sufficient security for the public interest, and remove a cause of complaint on the part of a most meritorious class of persons. With respect to seamen there were various changes made in addition to those pointed out last year. The evil effects of advance notes, particularly abroad, where they were often offered as inducements to desertion had often been brought to the notice of the Board of Trade. An advance note was not a legal note; it was not a bill of exchange; but if the holder proved that the seaman had consideration for it he could claim upon the shipowner. The Bill did not propose to legalize advance notes, but rather to limit their operation. It proposed to enact that in the settlement of wages no advance for more than a month should be set off. In the interest of seamen it was impossible to do away with advances altogether, but this limitation might, he thought, be desirable. Great complaints had been made that seamen's wages were not paid on the arrival of the vessel. The law was that the owner was bound to pay one-fourth of the wages on the discharge of the men from the vessel, and the remainder in five days, after which double wages were to run. It was proposed that in future wages should run till paid, or rather till discharge at the shipping office; but every facility would be given for a settlement of the amount at the shipping offices, and the subsequent remittance to the seamen through the office, so as to meet cases where the master was not in funds. He attached the very greatest importance to the early payment of wages. The mischief done by retaining men in the large seaports, and particularly London, four or five days after the arrival of their vessel was incalculable. He reckoned that 20,000 or 30,000 seamen were paid off in London every year who belonged to the northern ports, and who were detained in this way, to the advantage only of crimps and low places of all kinds. It was of the greatest importance these men should be able to return to their families as soon as possible, but now they often pledged their wages and more besides and never got home at all. Some alteration would be made in the provisions as to leaving seamen abroad. He did not propose to insist on the master in all cases leaving money in the hands of the consul to pay expenses of men discharged in foreign ports, because the numbers were so large; they amounted to 6,000 in New York, and it would be impossible to call upon the shipowners or masters to deposit money for them all. The liability of the shipowner, however, would be retained, and where it was expedient he would be called upon to pay. There were, further, more stringent provisions against crimping and wrecking, and the discipline clauses of the Bill had been carefully revised. Another subject was the great demoralization to which seamen were exposed in foreign ports. It was no use making provisions on this subject while the seamen were exposed to these demoralizing influences. This being so, they were negotiating with the American and other Governments upon the subject, and hoped that the representations made would have effect. He need not advert to the concessions made by his right hon. Friend at the Admiralty as to volunteering into the Navy and naval salvage. He hoped they would remove the long-standing complaint of shipowners. He now came to a very important question, which, he feared, would detain him at some length—namely, pilotage. The House would perhaps recollect that last year, after describing the effect of the present law of compulsory pilotage and the injustice arising from it, he proposed a remedy—that the payment of pilotage rates should be compulsory, but the employment of pilots voluntary. This system would be very similar to that in force in New York, and in some Continental countries. Like other half measures, however, it neither pleased one party nor the other. The pilots were alarmed by it; the north-eastern shipowners were not appeased by it. In the vacation further inquiries were made into the subject, and particularly at those places where pilotage was now voluntary. The result was that the Government were now in a position to say that in their opinion the time was come when compulsion to employ pilots might be dispensed with. Inasmuch, however, as the question was of great importance, and affected a large number of deserving persons, it had been thought scarcely right or fair to those persons that discussion upon it should be confined to one clause out of nearly 800; it was proposed, therefore, to make it the subject of a separate Bill, which would include clauses of a temporary character in favour of existing pilots, so that the House would have every opportunity afforded by its rules of discussing this matter apart from the larger Bill. In the meantime the larger Bill would remain in the state it was drawn last year, and at a future stage might be brought into harmony with the decision of the House on the other. Compulsory pilotage was by no means universal round our coasts; on the contrary, there were many ports in which it had never been established. In our most important ports or estuaries, however, such as the Thames, the Mersey, and the Humber, it had been in existence from an early time, got up probably in the interest of guilds of pilots established in those districts. For some years past the tendency of legislation had been to limit it where-ever possible; exceptions had been made in favour of the coasting trade, and, since 1854, of vessels carrying masters with certificates of competency in the pilotage of the district; and in the case of the Thames a complex system of exemptions had grown up, so that probably not more than half the vessels entering the port were compelled to carry pilots. The most important legal consequence of compulsory pilotage was this—By the 388th clause of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1869 shipowners were relieved from any liability for any loss or damage caused by the fault or incapacity of a pilot when their vessels were within any district where the employment of such, pilot is compulsory. This principle was matter of general law; the liability of a shipowner for the default or negligence of his captain, crew, and pilot, when the pilot is of his own option, depends on the general law of principal and agent; but if the law steps in and compels a person to employ another for a particular purpose there is no longer such relation, and the one is not responsible for the acts of the other. The result of this principle when applied to the system of compulsory pilotage, coupled as it was with very numerous exemptions, led to endless complications, and was fraught with great injustice. It was not too much to say that whole classes of shipowners were deprived of a remedy for losses occasioned by the fault of others when they came into collision with vessels under compulsory charge of pilots. If two vessels came into collision at the mouth of the Thames, both under charge of pilots, the one, however, coining from the west under compulsory charge of a pilot, the other coming from the North of Europe under voluntary charge of a pilot, if the first were in fault, the other had no remedy; but if the latter were in fault the owner must pay the damage. He would take the British Channel as a further illustration. At Bristol pilotage was compulsory, but it was voluntary at Gloucester. If two vessels came into collision the one going to Gloucester and the other to Bristol, and the Gloucester vessel was in fault, the owner would be bound to pay compensation, but if the Bristol vessel was in fault the Gloucester owner had no remedy. If two vessels in the coasting trade came into collision—the one carrying passengers and the other not—the one with passengers was bound to carry a pilot, the other not; there was a remedy against the one but not against the other. To the one bound to carry a pilot, to use a vulgar phrase, it was "Heads, I win; tails, you lose." It would be possible to give many cases of injustice arising from this rule. The courts of law had frequently pointed it out. In a recent case the Judge of the Admiralty Court, Sir Robert Phillimore, said— I will frankly say that it appears to me difficult to reconcile the claims of natural justice to the law which exempts the owner who has a licensed pilot on board from all liabilities for the injuries done by the bad navigation of the ship to the property of an innocent owner. No one acquainted with the working of this law, which exempts the wrong-doing vessels from liability in this court, can be ignorant that it is fruitful of injustice. The courts of law had done their best to cut down the limits of this injustice. If it could be shown that the master or any of his crew in any way contributed to the accident, as, for example, when there was a bad look-out kept, they held the shipowner liable. The shipowner was not exempted from liability unless he could show that the casualty resulted from the act of the pilot alone, or that, no act, default, or negligence of the master or crew contributed to the casualty. Notwithstanding these laudable efforts cases of hardship were constantly occurring. Another consequence of compulsory pilotage was this—responsibility was shifted from the shipowner and thrown upon the pilot, who had no interest in the ship, and who had no means of bearing the loss caused by his default; again, as the courts had been very strict in holding that any interference of the captain would involve the shipowner in responsibility for accidents, it was positively the interest of the owner that the captain and officers should abandon all control over the vessel, and give up command absolutely to the pilot, and thus the relations of captain and pilot were completely altered; the practice had grown up in many places that as the pilot came on board the captain went below, and ceased to take any interest in the navigation of the vessel. It was the opinion of most nautical men that great evil resulted from this. In most vessels, and particularly in the modern class of steamers, the captain was the person who best knew the quality of Iris vessel, who knew when and how to stop her, and what amount of way she would carry, which were all important in cases of collision. By leaving everything to the pilot one of the securities against accident was removed. This practice, no doubt, was one of the causes which led to the loss of the Spindrift, for the captain appeared to have considered that he was justified in leaving everything to the pilot. The only argument in favour of compulsory pilotage of any weight was this—that it provided a staff of competent pilots, and that without it these would be wanting. If experience or facts were in favour of such an argument, it would be a very cogent one, but fortunately they were not; experience was in the opposite direction; there was abundant evidence to show that, where pilotage was voluntary, pilots were as numerous and efficient in proportion to the requirements of trade as where it was compulsory. In the year 1860, Mr. Lindsay's Committee went carefully into this point, and the Committee—on which were the Members for Liverpool, London, and Bristol, reported unanimously in favour of adopting a voluntary system of pilotage, adding, on this point— Your Committee have had the most convincing evidence that where the system of voluntary pilotage prevails the supply of pilots is more abundant, their efficiency is no way inferior, and the rates generally are lower than at any ports where compulsory pilotage is still in force. The arguments, therefore, which have been used in favour of the existing system, and the fears which have been expressed in regard to obtaining at all times or under all circumstances a sufficient supply of pilots, must give way to facts which have been adduced in evidence. They further said that— All experience proves that masters will avail themselves of the services of pilots in any navigation which is in the slightest degree dangerous. Like many other valuable Reports, this had slumbered till now, when he much wished we could have had the help and experience of Mr. Lindsay. The case of the Bristol Channel was, however, a conclusive answer to the argument. Up to 1861 pilotage was compulsory on all ships proceeding up the Channel to Bristol, Gloucester, Cardiff, and Newport, and ships were all compelled to employ Bristol pilots. In 1861, however, the other towns revolted, and, by Act of Parliament, pilotage to all these ports, except Bristol, was made voluntary. The result had been that Cardiff, Gloucester, and Newport were now supplied with a competent staff of pilots, who were better paid than those of Bristol, and the total amount paid for pilotage in the Channel was larger than it was before 1860. The fact was, a voluntary system was even more likely to produce an efficient corps of pilots than a compulsory system, because, to obtain employment the former must prove their efficiency and be reasonable in their charges; while, under compulsion, this stimulus to exertion was wanting. For these reasons the Government were of opinion that compulsion to employ pilots might be removed, and that shipowners might be left to employ pilots or not, as they thought fit. It was not, however, proposed to sweep away all existing regulations of pilotage authorities in order to permit any and every one to pilot any vessel for any charge; great confusion and evil might result from this. It was proposed to leave a licensed corps of pilots, with regulated charges; to leave the right of licensed pilots to supersede unlicensed pilots; and to leave to pilotage authorities whatever power they now have to limit or increase the number of pilots. The question therefore remained—What will be the position of the existing pilots under this new system? How far will they be affected pecuniarily by the absence of compulsion? He had already shown that, in the case of the Bristol Channel, pilots were well employed at remunerative prices where pilotage was voluntary. The same would be the case in places where it was in future established, provided only the number of pilots was not too large. This opinion was entertained by Sir Frederick Arrow—an experienced master. What now kept up the income of pilots was the practical limitation of their number by pilotage authorities, who were in the habit of licensing only so many pilots as appeared to be necessary for the trade. If they were to license all comers, their incomes would not be maintained. It was not proposed to interfere with this practice; it would be open, therefore to pilotage authorities to proportion the number of pilots to the requirements of trade, or to reduce their numbers. It was strongly believed that the demand for pilots under a voluntary system would be maintained, and that we might safely leave the matter to the ordinary law of supply and demand. If, after one year from the time when the change was made, it should appear that the number of pilots was too large for the new requirements, and that they were not making their former incomes, although they used due diligence, the Board of Trade would, upon this being proved to them, retire from any pilotage district a sufficient number of pilots, by superanuating them out of the public funds, as would bring up the income of those who remained to their former level, the pension to be not more than two-thirds of their incomes, calculated at five years' average previous to the change. In the Humber there were about 100 pilots, whose earnings went into a common fund, which was divided among them at the end of the year. If, after one year from the change, it should appear that the pilots had made only two-thirds of their previous year's income the Board of Trade would retire one-third of them. The effect of this would be to restore the relation between the number of pilots and the amount of work and money earned. Looking to the general state of the pilotage superannuation fund, it would be considered that this proposition was a fair and generous one, and that it would relieve the pilots from fears for their future. For his part, however, he did not believe there would be much call upon the State for such pensions; the employment of pilots would continue, and we should have at work a motive power for exertion on their part far more efficient than any force which pilotage authorities could bring to bear—namely, the self-interest of pilots, who, to obtain employment, must prove their efficiency and honesty. He admitted that the effect of the measure upon the interests of the existing pilots was, to some extent, matter of opinion. There were persons who thought that the employment of pilots would be seriously interfered with, and it was certain that the change would be received with considerable alarm by the existing pilots— a class of persons who were entitled to every consideration. The number of pilots in districts where their employment was compulsory was 1,828, and their average net incomes about £100 per annum, the incomes of the London pilots being considerably higher. The number of licensed pilots in districts where their employment was voluntary was 1,060. It was proposed, therefore, to accompany the change with clauses calculated to assist the pilotage authorities in reducing the number of pilots, should it turn out that their employment would be seriously interfered with. These clauses would not recognize any vested interests, or compensate pilots on such a principle, but would be calculated to alleviate their fears for the future. What was proposed was, that if after a certain time after the change—two years—it was proved to the satisfaction of the Treasury that the employment of pilots in a particular district had been seriously diminished, they should have power, out of funds to be voted for that purpose, to assist the pilotage authorities in superannuating a certain number of pilots, so as to reduce the number of those remaining, and to restore the balance between their avocation and the employment which was offered. In the meantime the vacancies among the pilots would not be filled up, and of course, as time passed, the number would be reduced by natural causes. Most, if not all, of the pilotage authorities had superannuation funds; and it would be by assisting these funds, either by a small grant or by annual payments, should there be necessity, that the clauses would operate. He himself believed that there would be little or no call upon the public for any such purpose; but, it seemed reasonable that when they were proposing a change which was for the public benefit, we should show consideration for the interests of those concerned, and especially for those who, like the pilots, had done their duty honourably and well. He trusted the House would excuse him for the length at which he had spoken on this point. Looking around, and seeing so many Members representing important shipowning communities, he felt that he should have to claim their indulgence and their aid on many occasions. If, however, the time of the House were to be occupied by discussion on all the points which could be raised on this many-claused Bill, neither this nor any other measure could pass in the present Session. When the Bill of 1854 was before the House, his right hon. Friend (Mr. Cardwell), with rare tact and ability, settled all its clauses with the various interests out of the House, and passed its 500 clauses through Committee in one night. He could hardly hope to do that with the present Bill, but he would venture to suggest to hon. Members that, to some extent, the same course should be tried on this occasion. He had no wish to check discussion, here or elsewhere; but he could assure them that they would find at the Board of Trade every disposition to discuss with them any part of this Bill, and a most earnest desire to co-operate with all, irrespective of party, in making it a satisfactory measure—one which would be of advantage to our seamen, and would strengthen and maintain our shipping in its present proud position. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Resolution.


There are few questions of greater importance that can be brought before this House, although, certainly, when I look round upon the Benches I should say that, from their appearance at the present moment, this is not the general feeling amongst hon. Members. However, although we have not on the present occasion quantity in attendance, yet I feel sure, when I remember the importance of the constituencies, which most of the hon. Members now within the House represent, I may state that we have both quality, and, I should add, knowledge, brought to bear upon the subject. Now, Sir, there is certainly very considerable inconvenience in discussing a question of this kind without having the Bill before us, and I should have been better pleased if my hon. Friend had delayed the explanation of his Bill until the second reading, when we might have had some opportunity of seeing the various clauses it will contain. At the same time, I must say that none of us can regret having heard the extremely interesting and clear explanation which my hon. Friend has given us. I was very glad to hear the account he gave us of the Mercantile Marine. He alluded to the debate that was going on in the French Corps Legislatif the other day—one which I read with considerable care, and one which recalled to my mind those days when I first had the honour of a seat in this House, and when a similar debate took place in this House, on the Motion of the then Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay). At that time we heard almost the same expression of opinion as to the future of the Mercantile Marine of this country, and the same prognostications as we heard the other day in the French Assembly. I fully believe that what my hon. Friend has stated is perfectly true, that the evils which threaten the French Mercantile Marine arise not from freedom of trade, but simply from the onerous regulations of the French Government, and this seems to be the opinion of the great part of the French speakers themselves. Now, although my hon. Friend has said something about the evils to which the seamen are exposed in foreign countries, and to restrain which I am glad to find he is making every exertion in his power, yet I am inclined to hope that what we hear about the deterioration of the Mercantile Marine exists more in fancy than in fact. However this may be, I feel certain that the efforts now being made in this country to give both officers and men of the Mercantile Marine a good technical training before they go to sea cannot fail to have the best possible effect. We have to-night, two or three times, heard measures described as not being party measures. Well, I may say that, if there ever was a measure brought forward in this House which could not by any means be a party measure, it is one such as my hon. Friend has now introduced, because the foundation of this measure was laid by the Government which preceded the one of which I was a Member. For two or three years we occupied ourselves in building a certain superstructure, and it has now fallen to the lot of my hon. Friend to crown the edifice. The late Government, although not able to bring in the very comprehensive measure which we shall soon have before us, yet did occupy themselves with what were considered the most pressing points laid before them by various deputations which I had the honour to receive on the subject. The House will recollect that we brought forward a measure for the purpose of checking scurvy, which was said to be increasing to so great an extent that it seemed almost threatening the existence of our sailors. We also introduced measures which enforced the carrying of limejuice, which hardly existed in a genuine unadulterated state in the country, the provision of medical stores, and of proper food and water, and the enforcement of better accommodation and medical inspection of seamen; and there were certain other provisions which we made for the hearing of offences committed by seamen on board British and Foreign ships, so as to enable the offenders to be brought quickly to trial. These were some of the measures we passed, and several points my hon. Friend has raised to-night seemed to me rather like old friends. I remember perfectly well the trouble we took to prevent ships being sent to sea in an unseaworthy condition, and to obtain a regulation by which Custom House officers might know the draught of water when a vessel was going out of port, which we thought would be a very valuable regulation, and I am glad that this is to be introduced into the Bill of my hon. Friend. I am not sure that I did not bring into one of the Bills we introduced the power of seamen to give evidence in cases where ships were unseaworthy—a point which is also being introduced by my hon. Friend. This provision is exceedingly necessary, because, although it is quite true that in many instances seamen refuse to go to sea on the most frivolous and vexatious pleas, yet in other instances, where refusal is really based on justifiable grounds, it is impossible for the men to give evidence, and in fact no man has a right to go on board and receive the evidence however unseaworthy the ship may be. With regard to the courts of inquiry, I think that the separation of the inquiry into the cause of the loss of a ship from the inquiry into the conduct of the captain will also prove a very useful regulation. Whether it is proper to go as far as my hon. Friend appears inclined to go, and not to take away or suspend the license of the master of a ship in any case except that of misconduct, I have some slight doubts, because I think that for a gross error of judgment, which, in many cases, is the source of more danger than misconduct, the suspension of the certificate might well follow. I did not quite catch my hon. Friend's intention with reference to advance notes. There is no doubt there are few greater abuses in the whole Mercantile Marine than that of advance notes; but, at the same time. I do not think it possible to do away with them altogether. In many cases a seaman goes on board a ship with hardly any clothes to his back, and it is quite clear that it is absolutely necessary for him to get an advance to enable him to procure clothing. I think that no interference ought to take place with regard to the system for providing for the family, under which half his wages may be paid to his family during the time in which the sailor is away upon a voyage. With regard to the arrangements enabling a man to make payments in foreign ports, and to send over his wages from the different principal ports of Europe, and other parts of the world, I think that that is a most desirable and excellent arrangement. I shall, therefore, be glad to hear that my hon. Friend has been able to extend that practice. I am glad the original intention is not going to be carried out as to the discharge of seamen, as the case is now very different to what it was some time ago. Formerly it was only reasonable the vessels should bring back their crews, but now it is very common that a vessel should go on a sort of seeking voyage all round the world, from one port to another, calling, perhaps, at four or five different ports, and should in the end return with hardly a man of her original crew on board. That is a practice which is very common and ordinary, and I think it should not be interfered with. I think the principle which my hon. Friend has gone upon, of throwing the responsibility upon the owners and masters of ships, and, as it were, judging by results, is the true principle to go upon, and will tend to get rid as much as possible of all minute regulations and interference with details. One would hardly imagine that that would be the effect of a Bill containing 800 clauses, but I have no doubt that it is so. Then there is the question of pilotage, which is a question of much greater difficulty. In the last year in which I was in Office a Motion was made by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish) on this question, and the observations which I made then showed the extreme doubt and difficulty that I felt on the subject. There is no doubt that a considerable alteration might be wisely made in the present law, especially in the port of London, where regulations exist which have been already referred to, and where a vessel coming from one part of the world is compelled to take a pilot, while a vessel from another port, but traversing the same water, is to be allowed not to take a pilot. Sometimes there is a question raised as to what is the cargo of the vessel, and whether she takes passengers or not. These regulations certainly ought to be swept away, and, no doubt, in the port of London especially, in many instances pilots are simply taken as a sort of buffer or guarantee against having to pay the expenses of any damage that may be done by the passage of the vessel up or down the river. The questions which arose as to whether the pilot or the captain was in fault led to very conflicting decisions as to what was the law upon the subject, and altogether that law at present is most unsatisfactory. At the same time I think that in the case of the port of London there ought to be some regulations or some powers given to the Conservancy to deal with these matters in certain cases. The owners of barges complain to me frequently that they have been run down by a large steamer, running at great speed up or down the river, and the pilot has no means of paying. On the other hand, anyone who sees the long string of barges, which frequently lie half across the stream, must know how extremely difficult it is to navigate the Thames, and if the barges had the power of coming upon the owner of the vessel instead of upon the pilot, the men in them would, in all probability, be still more careless than they are now. I, therefore, think that there ought to be some measure of power given to the Thames Conservancy to deal with these vessels. It has struck me that the case of the pilotage laws varies very much in different ports, and it is very difficult to judge of the case of one port from the case of another. Indeed, a doubt seemed to exist even in the mind of my hon. Friend when he talked at one moment of the profits of the pilots being greater than they used to be, and at another of the power which the pilotage authorities possessed to limit the number of the pilots if they found that the profits fell off. The doubt which occurs to most people when they examine the subject closely seems to exist even in his own mind. Take the case of the Bristol Channel. Though what my hon. Friend has told us is true in fact, still I doubt the inference which he has drawn from it. I think this a case of post hoc ergo propter. In regard to the Bristol Channel, my hon. Friend says that since the pilotage has been free the pilots have done better than they did under the old compulsory system. I have no doubt I that that is true, but it should be remembered that within the last few years there has been an enormous increase in the ports of the Bristol Channel. Cardiff has quadrupled, or even quintupled, as a port; and Newport and Swansea hare largely increased, although Bristol itself is almost stationary. The pilots, therefore, have necessarily had their business immensely increased, and yet that increase may not have been owing to the compulsory system having been done away with. Then let us turn to Liverpool. We are told that the question there is very different from what it is in other places—that the navigation is so dangerous that there must be pilots always ready at certain places, and that it would be impossible to keep them there if it were optional with the masters of vessels to take pilots or not. I do not know whether it would not have been better to have abolished it altogether in a place like the port of London, and have left it only in those places where these anomalies are not complained of, and where the authorities seem to think that pilots are still necessary, and compulsory pilotage. Then there are other questions which will have to be dealt with when the Bill is in Committee; as to pilotage funds, which are difficult and delicate questions when you throw over the present system altogether, I am glad to find that, at any rate, the masters of ships are not to have to bargain with the pilots we are not to have the master of a ship, in a gale of wind, and on a coast which he hardly knows, bargaining with a pilot, with whom he would have about as much chance as an old woman bargaining with a cabman under the new regulations of which we have heard so much. Of course, the underwriters would protect themselves in most cases, and insist upon pilots being employed; but still we know that there is much competition among the underwriters, while the rashness of the masters of small craft is proverbial. I mention these points just as they occur to me, for, of course, I have not yet seen the Bill, and I can only say that I shall approach all these questions with the greatest desire to ren- der what assistance I can to the Government in carrying them. At the same time, I must necessarily reserve my opinion upon the details until I see the measure. I quite agree with my hon. Friend, in the opinion that it would be impossible to discuss a Bill of this magnitude in the House itself, and that it would be necessary to come to an agreement on the greater part of it out of the House; and, of course, it would be necessary to give some time in order to enable the different parties who are interested in the matter to express their opinion upon a measure which involves such large interests. I pity my hon. Friend for having had to go through these 800 clauses, but I pity still more the unfortunate shipowners and masters who will have to master them; and I hope that, if this Bill does pass, it will render all further legislation on these points unnecessary for a great many years to come.


said, he was glad to find that the hon. Member who had introduced the Bill had made such good use of the Recess in amending and improving it. He agreed with many of the principles laid down by his hon. Friend, and thought he was right in interfering as little as possible with the details of the business of the shipowner. He was of opinion that much might be left to the common law responsibility which attached itself to the owners of ships. With regard to courts of inquiry, their improvement was a matter of great importance, for as at present constituted they were very unsatisfactory, and that opinion was much strengthened by the incidents connected with the investigation into the loss of the Spindrift. He thought there ought to be as little interference as possible between the shipowner and seaman, and did not see why a shipowner should be prevented by law from making certain advances to the seaman, if both parties so agreed. As to the important question of pilotage, he considered the present measure a very great improvement on that of last Session, which he regarded as an unfortunate one. Compulsory pilotage had produced effects which were highly prejudicial in many respects. He was glad to find that his hon. Friend intended to give vested interests a fair consideration, but he would suggest that attention should be directed to the proposal for limiting the number of properly qua- lified pilots. He believed the true principle was to grant licenses to all who were able to prove their competency, and willing to accept the prescribed remuneration. He would wish to see the element of competition introduced into pilotage. He felt disappointed that an opportunity like the present had not been seized by his hon. Friend to effect some radical reform in the law of lights, the management of lights, and the collection of light dues, so as to meet the just demands of the mercantile community. He dare not presume to think that any advice of his at that late period would be adopted, but it would be more satisfactory if the chapter relating to lights were struck out of the Bill, and the whole subject were carefully reconsidered by the Government.


joined in the appeal made by the last speaker to his hon. Friend (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre) to consider whether it would not be better to pursue, on the subject of lights, the same course as had been adopted in regard to pilotage, and eliminate it from that Bill. He was lately at Bordeaux, when the question of the French Treaty with this country excited considerable interest among the commercial community of that port, and it was urged against the Treaty that England did not treat French vessels in respect to lights as France treated ours. He thought that objection so fair and reasonable that it made an impression on his mind, and therefore he hoped the question of lights would form a separate subject of discussion and receive the most serious consideration from Parliament and the Government. He would express his satisfaction at hearing for the first time that the Board of Trade intended to retrace its steps by giving up that system of over-legislation in respect to our Mercantile Marine which it had so long pursued, and by throwing the responsibility on the proper shoulders—he meant those of the shipowners themselves. If that principle had been followed, not only with the shipowners but with the seamen, he believed both would be better able to take care of themselves. With reference to courts of inquiry into casualties, he thought the suggestions thrown out by his hon. Friend were great improvements. It was important in the interest of the public that those inquiries should be as searching as it was possible to make them, that they should be conducted in accordance with constitutional law, and that the evidence taken at them should be of the character of that ordinarily taken in the constituted courts of this country. Again, it was felt in the interest of the officers of the Mercantile Marine that legislation on this point had been most exceptional. Those officers were singled out and their means of livelihood was taken from them upon errors of judgment—a penalty to which no other class of the community was subject. The result was that the greatest feeling of irritation existed among them against the Board of Trade particularly, and they had regarded those acts and laws as little short of oppression. He was sure that a change to the courts on which the jurisdiction of the Admiralty had been conferred would be received as a great boon by the officers of the Mercantile Marine. However, in framing the various heads of offences, care ought to be taken that incompetency was not treated as error of judgment under another form. Again, men ought not to be criminated by their own admissions to the Receivers of Wrecks. The Receivers of Wrecks all round the kingdom had the power of putting a series of questions to the officers of ships to which casualties occurred, and of using afterwards at courts of inquiry the evidence thus obtained to criminate the men who had given it. In the changes about to be made that should be carefully guarded against. Another point in connection with those courts was, that he hoped the Board of Trade would keep the appeal in its own hands. Let that Board initiate the proceedings, and be the prosecutor to put in force the machinery of the law, and there leave it. It was most important that a good feeling should exist on the part of the Mercantile Marine towards the Board of Trade, which watched over it, and that the feeling of antagonism so long entertained in regard to it should entirely cease. If, however, that Department still kept the appeal in its own hands, that feeling of animosity would not be allayed. If the High Court of Admiralty itself reviewed the proceedings of the courts below, it would be looked upon as a much more satisfactory court of appeal than the Board of Trade. His hon. Friend had referred to the views of the Committee of 1860 on com- pulsory pilotage. That Committee expressed a strong belief that the voluntary system might be applied to most parts of the kingdom; and when a Motion was afterwards brought forward—he thought, by the Chairman himself—for the abolition of compulsory pilotage in all ports, only one Member of the Committee was found supporting him, thus showing pretty clearly what the feeling of the Committee of 1860 was on the subject. He was not aware that any further evidence had been placed before the House on the question from that hour to this; and before they were called upon to make a great and serious change in regard to it he thought they ought to have some additional evidence. He most freely admitted the anomalies of the present system, which produced great injustice and inequalities; and he went entirely with his hon. Friend in desiring to place the liability on a clear and intelligible basis. It was not so now. His hon. Friend said he would put the responsibility on the shipowner by doing away with all compulsory pilotage. Now, he would say, let the responsibility rest on the shipowner, and leave the local authorities to act as they thought proper, and, in accordance with the specialities and requirements of their ports, to adopt the system that would secure the most efficient pilot service. Let the pilot be treated as he ought to be—as a mere local guide; let him be the adviser of the captain to point out where are the shoals and the channels, what are the sets of the tide and the currents, and the depth of the water. If the duty of the pilot were confined to these things, they would get rid of the idea that when the pilot stepped on board he was to have the entire control of the ship. The captain should never give up the control of his ship. He knew her specialities, and, under all circumstances, he should be made responsible for her navigation. He knew it would be said that there would be a great difficulty in making the captain so responsible, and at the same time preserving a compulsory system of pilotage; but, in his opinion, the two things were quite compatible with one another. He held that for the protection of life and property, and even in the interest of the shipowner himself the captain should be responsible. Shipowners knew that when they carried troops or emigrants conditions were placed on them in respect of extra boats and extra fittings of various kinds; but the compulsion to furnish all those articles was quite compatible with the liability falling on the shipowner under all circumstances. In the State of New York pilotage was compulsory. For the owner of a steam-tug to enter or leave the port of New York without a pilot was a misdemeanour, but only last year the Supreme Court decided that the owner was liable, even though there was a licensed pilot on board the ship. In our own Navy, when a pilot went on board a ship he never took the command. He stood by the side of the commander and assisted him as a speaking chart. In his Bill of last year his hon. Friend the Secretary of the Board of Trade admitted the difficulty of abandoning the system of compulsory pilotage. He then feared that if he interfered with the incomes of the pilots he might diminish their efficiency, and he required that payment should be made even in those cases in which there was no pilot on board. He (Mr. Graves) hoped hon. Members would not be led away with the idea that because free pilotage had been found to answer in some places it would answer everywhere. Allusion had been made to the east ports, but they were quite contiguous to the sea. There was nothing but a simple bar to be crossed, and the invariable practice in those ports was to use a steam-tug. So slight was the necessity for a pilot that the charge for pilotage was only from 1s. to 1s. 3d. a foot. He now came to the Bristol Channel, on which there was a larger number of pilots now than there was ten or twenty years ago; but it must be remembered that at Cardiff the shipping had tripled itself within the last twenty or thirty years, and that half of the whole of the pilotage was derived from piloting vessels in and out of dock through a straight passage a mile or two in length for that port. Queenstown had also been mentioned in illustration of the success of the free system of pilotage; but at Queenstown the pilot boats earned more money by carrying letters for houses of business than they did by pilotage. He did not think that the remuneration received by the Queenstown pilots would satisfy men in this country who had served their seven years to learn the business of a pilot; and, what was more, he did not think that they could live on such a scale of remuneration if they confined themselves to their business as pilots. He wished to say something as to the port of Liverpool, which had been generally regarded as one in respect of which there should be an exception. That port was a cul de sac, and vessels going in during bad weather were, for nine months out of the twelve, on a lee shore. Ships going into Liverpool met their pilots at one out of four stations, and the captains knew as well where to meet their pilots as he did where to get a cab when he was leaving that House. Even during the gale in which the Royal Charter went down, her pilot waited for her off Point Lynas throughout the night. The Liverpool pilots served eleven years before they got their license. During that time they passed five examinations, Their earnings when they became pilots averaged £195 a-year, and they had over £100,000 embarked in their business. They had an annuity fund of about £10,000 or £11,000, and they paid annuities amounting to about £2,000 a-year to some sixty annuitants. He held that these men had a vested interest which should not be overlooked by the House of Commons. The plan of his hon. Friend to increase the superannuation by reducing the number of pilots was not one, he thought, which would recommend itself to Parliament. In 1858 the Board of Trade approved the pilots of Liverpool being placed under the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. On that Board were some of the leading merchants of Liverpool, and it included four direct representatives of Her Majesty's Government. The Committee of 1860 reported that the witnesses from Liverpool were in favour of the present system of compulsory pilotage, and that the pilotage of that port was conducted in a satisfactory manner. It continued to be conducted in the same manner. There were no complaints against it. Liverpool paid half, or nearly half, of the whole pilotage of this country, excluding the pilotage of London. Last year no fewer than 11,000 ships passed in and out of Liverpool, and of these only two were lost. There were two sides to this pilotage question, and he hoped the House would come to no hasty decision in the matter. In order to enable them to come to a deliberate and well-matured judgment, ought they not to have further evidence, bringing down the experience of competent persons to the present day? He asked his hon. Friend to refer the whole question of pilotage to a Select Committee. He trusted that in any case due consideration would be given to vested interests. If the interests of the country required that the compulsory pilotage system should be abolished, of course it would have to be done away with; but if, on the other hand, it could be shown that there were certain ports in this country which preserved an efficient system of pilotage, which would be injured in the event of the compulsory system being abolished, then he trusted, in the interests of life and the security of property, that his hon. Friend would not ask the House to adopt a course that would lead to such a disastrous result.


said, the experience of the north-eastern districts was wholly in favour of the conclusion that an efficient, adequate, and economical system of pilotage might be maintained without the element of compulsion. He thought that in every case of wreck or disaster to ships, whether accompanied with loss of life or not, an inquiry should be instituted into the cause of the disaster, and, if necessary, subsequently as to the culpability of the officers on board, the two questions being kept separate. Such a course, would in his opinion, do much to prevent the loss of ships, by putting a check upon neglect by the owners or the officers in charge of them. It had been urged upon him as a means of preventing the disasters caused by overloading that no vessel should be allowed to sail loaded beyond the deepest safe load line marked round her hull; but there would be many difficulties in carrying such a proposal into effect, as the line of safety would vary with the season and with the nature of the cargo. Such a line, however, though not obligatory as the limit of immersion, would be a ready and always patent means of noting the depth to which a vessel was actually immersed, and more useful than the proposal that the Custom House officers should be directed to take a note of the draught of every vessel before she sailed. He must join in the regret expressed by the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Norwood) that the Bill did not contemplate dealing with the lights round the coast, the control and cost of which should be undertaken by the Government of the country as an Imperial duty. In the event, however, of the Bill not going so far as that, it should endeavour to remedy many of the anomalies that at present existed in the lighting-house system now in force—for instance, vessels carrying small cargoes only should be placed on the same footing as those carrying ballast, and not be forced to pay the full lighthouse toll as at present, a system which strangled in their infancy openings of trade with other countries.


said, that as representative of a seaport (Falmouth) he concurred with the hon. Member for Liverpool on the question of compulsory pilotage. He spoke from his own experience in his own constituency, but he believed other hon. Members, who represented ports, could confirm what he said. The pilots were a respectable and intelligent body of men, who had spent their earlier years in educating themselves for the position they held, and had invested a large amount of capital in their business. Under these circumstances, it was most desirable that favourable consideration should be shown them. Looking at the fact that the question under discussion had not been considered by any Committee in the House since 1860, and looking to the fact that the House, as a body, was hardly a fitting tribunal to decide the matter without the assistance of a Committee, he hoped that the hon. Member Mr. Shaw-Lefevre) and the Government would accede to the request of his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, and would refer the question of the abolition of compulsory pilotage to a Select Committee.


said, he hoped the Government would not agree to the proposal to refer the Bill to a Select Committee. He thought the House was quite competent to deal with the question. The large majority of shipowners were of opinion the time had arrived when compulsory pilotage ought to be abolished. The hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves) had made out as favourable a case as he could. But in reality the navigation of the Mersey was not more difficult than the navigation of the Thames. The thanks of the owners of vessels were due to the hon. Member (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre) for having brought this Bill forward. He regretted, how- ever, that the measure did not propose to alter the existing lighthouse system, which pressed very hardly on shipowners. He knew a case where the lighthouse dues swallowed up 20 or 30 per cent of the not earnings of the ship. There were many points in the Bill which would require to be discussed, such as the liabilities to which shipowners were subjected where collisions had occurred, and where passengers and seamen were injured. But he could not avoid remarking that a Bill of 833 clauses included an enormous amount of legislation. He thought the great evil of the shipping trade of the country was that it was subject to so much legislation, and it ought to be the object of the hon. Gentleman to reduce it to a minimum.


said, he was glad to hear that it was proposed to abolish the compulsory employment of pilots and also the compulsory paypent of dues, but on the other hand he regretted to hear that it was proposed as well to supersede unlicensed pilots. Unlicensed pilots were just as good as licensed; and it appeared to him somewhat inconsistent to give discretion to owners whether they should have a pilot or not, and yet at the same time oblige them to take a licensed pilot if any. He thought it very unjust that an owner or captain should be held liable for damage for running down another vessel when he had on board a pilot, in whom perhaps the captain had no confidence, but whom he was compelled to take in preference to another in whom he had great confidence.


said, he desired to congratulate his hon. Friend upon the character of the Bills he proposed to introduce. To the larger Bill he had evidently devoted much attention, but the smaller Bill deserved to be considered by a Select Committee, as so much could be said upon the subject of compulsory pilotage on both sides. The subject was an important one, and even the Trinity House, the authority by which the diplomas were to be given to those persons who were entitled to act as pilots, were divided upon the subject. He thought that until it was decided that medical men might dispense with diplomas pilots should be obliged to carry certificates.


, in reply, said he had to thank hon. Members for the manner in which they had spoken of the measures he proposed to submit to them. To correct some misapprehension on the subject of advance notes, he wished to explain that he proposed, not that advance notes should be illegal, but that they should be legal only for one month's pay. Under the Shipping Act, as he proposed to carry it out, in some cases the one month's advance note would be legal, while in other cases it would be illegal. It was not a legal document in the sense of a bill of exchange. The question of light dues, which had been touched upon, was exceedingly wide, and as it involved a very large amount of revenue it came rather within the province of the Chancellor of the Exchequer than of the Board of Trade. At the same time he might mention that, in accordance with a promise held out by the President of the Board upon the discussion which arose on the light dues last Session, very careful inquiry had been made into the incidence of light dues, and it was hoped that anomalies would be got rid of, and considerable reduction made in respect of some of those dues. He could not at present state the nature of the reductions, but hoped to do so on the Motion for the second reading. With regard to the Compulsory Pilotage Bill, his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves) had stated that that port was exceptional as regarded this question of pilotage, and that the pilots there were distinguished by high ability. He quite agreed with his hon. Friend as to the conduct of the pilots at Liverpool; at the same time he could not agree with him that Liverpool was exceptional. Gloucester seemed to be of very much the same character, and yet there was an abundant supply there of pilots fully competent for their duties. On this point of fitness for the duties he might say that if any pilot, under the proposed new system, should be found to be inefficient at his post, it would be in the power of the pilotage authority to remove him. With respect to other observations of hon. Members, the number of pilots would be limited according as the pilotage authority might think fit; and there would be no lack of fully competent pilots, for the most careful investigation would be instituted into the nature of their duties and their fitness to perform them. The Bill would probably be in the hands of hon. Members in less than a week.

Motion agreed to. Resolved, That the Chairman be directed to move the House, that leave be given to bring in a Bill to consolidate and amend the Laws relating to Merchant Shipping. Resolution reported:—Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. BRIGHT, Mr. SHAW-LEFEVRE, and Mr. STANSFELD. Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 24.]