HC Deb 24 June 1874 vol 220 cc344-84

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, he wished the families of the poor shipwrecked crews who perished at sea by the negligence of others had a better advocate than he was, but he would now do, as he had always done, the best he could in their behalf. There could be no doubt whatever that a very bad state of things prevailed among a large portion of our Mercantile Marine, and that vessels were continually being sent to sea, either so overloaded that, in case of bad weather, the men had no chance of saving their lives; or so unseaworthy that they stood no chance of contending with the elements, should rough weather arise, but must inevitably go to the bottom, carrying all on board along with them. Many such ships were lost last year; but on the present occasion he should adduce in support of that allegation only one or two pieces of evidence, which, however, he thought would be amply sufficient to prove the truth of his assertion to the satisfaction of the House. Among other evidence which had been laid before the Royal Commission on Unseaworthy Ships which sat last year, was a Report from a Court of Inquiry, which was held in the North of England, in regard to a vessel, in which the Court, after reporting that 23 men were drowned, stated that they could not dismiss the painful case without urging upon the Government the necessity of causing an inspection of all ships, to prevent that overloading which had become so notorious; and another Court of Inquiry, after considering all the circumstances in reference to the loss of a steamer from Aberdeen, stated that overloading had become prevalent in the North of England ports; and against that system they expressed their unqualified condemnation. The Board of Trade Draught of Water Records had been furnished to him from day to day since the middle of last year, and during that period, he had reported to the Board of Trade in hundreds of cases, in which vessels had gone to sea with less than an inch of freeboard per foot of depth of hold. In one instance, a ship which had a depth of hold 19 feet 9 inches was only 1 foot 6 inches above the water line, and he believed that there were even worse cases to be found. He understood that the Royal Commissioners had reported that the Board of Trade, under the powers conferred by the Act, found 198 vessels unseaworthy during the coarse of three or four months last year, and therefore he thought that that was ample evidence of that fact; but there was further evidence before the House, for the President of the Board of Trade, in his speech on the 5th of May, stated that under the powers conferred upon them by the same Act, his Department had seized 264 vessels for alleged unseaworthiness; that the respective cases of 17 of them were under consideration; and that of the remaining 247 only 13 had been found fit to go to sea. He rested his case upon such facts, for he thought they showed a state of things which urgently called for stringent action on the part of Parliament. Had he thought it necessary, he could have given the House the details of many startling cases where ships had been sent to sea in an unseaworthy state and had never been heard of again. The Bill he now asked the House to read a second time was similar in its principles to that which was passed last Session at the instance of the Board of Trade, only it proposed to authorize the Board of Trade to direct the survey of all unclassed ships, instead of their having to wait, as they had to do under the present Act, until an allegation of unseaworthiness was made against a particular ship, and to relieve the Department from having to pay damages, to which they were liable under that Act, for the detention of any ship which was found fit to proceed to sea. It was notorious that the service of our Mercantile Marine had rapidly deteriorated during the last few years. Vessels were sent to sea so deeply laden that their companions, hatchways, and sky-lights were, in the event of bad weather, exposed to the whole fury of the sea, the consequence being that those structures were frequently washed away, the ship filled and sank, and she was posted up as "Missing." In many other cases the decks were a-wash during the whole voyage, and a vast number of seamen were washed overboard and drowned, the number of men lost last year from causes other than shipwreck being 1,032. During the first half of last year, before the Bill of last Session came into operation, no fewer than 128 vessels were posted at Lloyd's as "Missing"—that was to say, they had disappeared and every soul on board of them, averaging 14 for each ship, had been drowned, being a large increase over the number so posted during the previous year, and as he considered, going from bad to worse. In the last six months of last year, when the Act had come into operation, only 36 were so posted. Another startling fact was, that up to the 31st of May, 1873, 109 were so posted, whereas during the corresponding period of the present year, when the Act was in operation, the number was only 47. These facts were of an amazing and startling character, and they imperatively called for, as they no doubt would receive, the anxious and thoughtful consideration of the House. But whatever advantages might have been derived from the Act of last Session, they could not any longer look for like results, for that Act was similar to a spent ball—it had done its work; and he did not think that anybody would expect much more beneficial operation of the Act. It therefore became necessary that additional powers should be conferred upon the Board of Trade, so as to enable them to take independent action in ordering the survey of unclassed ships. It might be objected that that would entail an enormous amount of work upon the Department; but he found that Lloyd's had 58 surveyors, and 15 more partially employed at home, and 25 partially employed abroad—making a total of 98; and on the books at Lloyd's there were 16,000 vessels which had to be kept in order—one-half being from Liverpool, and of these were the steamers for carrying passengers and mails, and belonging to the Cunard and the Peninsular and Oriental Companies, and to Mr. Thompson of Aberdeen—all vessels that were perfectly well-kept, it being known that those firms had had no losses, or very few for many years; whereas the Board of Trade, with their 150 surveyors, would have only 6,000 unclassed ships to look after in the year. It was not necessary, he might mention, to survey vessels which carried Her Majesty's mails, such as Inman's, Cunard's, or the large companies like the Peninsular and Oriental; but it was different with the general Mercantile Marine, and if the survey of these unclassed ships were made general, the present invidious system of individual surveys would be done away with and the liability of the Board of Trade to pay damages for the detention of seaworthy ships might be fairly abolished. By the second provision of his Bill it was proposed to prohibit deck loading between the 1st of September and the 31st of March in each year—a restriction which was generally enforced by marine insurance societies. If that were done a vast number of lives would be saved from drowning. He knew of one case in which not long since a vessel left an eastern port for the Baltic with 100 barrels of petroleum on deck not secured in any way, and where one of the officers was entreated not to go, as he was told he was sure to be drowned. He determined to go, but went home and put off a new suit of clothes and put on an old one, that his wife might have the benefit of the new suit if he were lost. The vessel was never heard of again. Another vessel had six threshing machines and two locomotives on deck, and another, had eight threshing machines and 70 tons of coal, likewise all on deck; and he had no need to tell the House how difficult it would be—he might almost say impossible—to work the ships in these cases in bad weather. In fact, there were many cases of the same description with which he would not trouble the House. The third proposal in his Bill was to require a broad white streak, showing the proper load line, for the protection of the crew, to be painted on the side of a vessel, by which a moral influence would be brought to bear on shipowners, who would thus be shamed into not overloading their ships, for it was perfectly obvious that ships being only a foot, and sometimes not more than an inch, above the waterline, must in bad weather, inevitably go to the bottom. Not long since several vessels had gone to sea overladen. He did not find it out till the day after they had sailed; the consequence was, that many valuable lives had been sacrificed, and when he read the account of the disasters, he felt as if he could have severed a limb to be the means of preventing them. In this case, he wrote letters to the Board of Trade, but he found that his letters were sent on to the owners of the vessels, although the Board might, from availing themselves of the same information, have made the same complaints to the owners. If the Board had made those complaints, the shipowners would not have dared to send their ships to sea overladen. Now, no doubt, moral agencies had been able to do much, though he would be glad to have something much more stringent than moral agencies. He proposed that in all cases of this kind the Board of Trade should have power to interfere and prevent these ships going to sea. In that case many causes of disasters would be prevented. According to the information he received, ships overloaded in this manner had been lost with crews numbering 1,780 in the first part of last year, and 508 in the second. He wished that the survey of ships should be extended to all ports, and that the records which were now kept could be made more generally useful by being equally extended, thus having so far as it would be possible, a record of every ship leaving those ports. By Clause 19 it was provided that the Board of Trade might, from time to time, make, vary, and rescind regulations as to the maximum depth to which ships might be loaded. As, however, he was informed that the Board of Trade was only the President for the time being, and as he was advised by the head of the Marine Department, who had no knowledge of shipping except as an amateur, he (Mr. Plimsoll) did not expect much from this provision. If the House entertained any doubt whatever as to the advantages which might be expected to arise to our trade from the measures he recommended, he would refer to the benefits actually derived from the careful superintendence of the ships employed by the Government between India and England. More than 200 ships had been so sent to India during 22 years; there had been only two instances of disaster, and one of these was due to fire. The ships were carefully surveyed; there were restrictions as to the amount of dead weight to be carried, and as to deck cargoes; the rule as to freeboard was enforced; the stores were not insured, and the freight did not amount to more than that for ordinary merchandize. These facts showed that voyages to India could be performed with perfect safety under these conditions, and why should not such conditions be made imperative on all ships? It had been urged that the proposed legislation would diminish the responsibility of shipowners; but he could not see how, for although it was a misdemeanour to send an unseaworthy ship to sea, never until last year was any prosecution attempted; last year two shipowners were sent to gaol and fined for sending manifestly unseaworthy vessels to sea; but he did not think the Department would have had the courage to proceed against the offenders, if they had been large shipowners instead of being poor men at Belfast. Courts of Inquiry had investigated cases of wreck over and over again; and in the cases of the Druid and another vessel, prosecution was urged, but was not undertaken. As to the fear of foreign competition, he did not think the nation would lose from the attainment of greater security, because the nation was impoverished by the value of every ship lost, no matter how the loss might be distributed by insurance; and. we might require all foreign vessels coming to our ports to comply with the regulations to which our own ships were subjected, It was stated that the re- quirement of a load line would encourage the building of slight vessels, since of two vessels of similar dimensions that with half as much material in her as the other would take more cargo with a corresponding draught. No doubt, that was so; but this danger lay in the future, whereas the dangers we had to contend with were present. A possible future danger might be met by the survey of ships, which it was one of the objects of his Bill to secure. Ships were not like envelopes, to be used once and destroyed; and all that were built and were building would be reached by the Bill, because it was impossible to take out of them a portion of their weight in order to evade the law. He did not think there was any fear of our shipowners being driven to register their ships under foreign flags, and he had heard of a case in which an application to do so was refused on the report of a Consul that the application was only made to evade the English law. If there were found to be any reality in this danger it could be easily guarded against by such communication with Foreign Governments as already secured their co-operation in other matters affecting ships, such as lights and signals. He had shown that the objections made were groundless, and that the result of recent, legislation had been a great saving of life at sea, so that there was every encouragement for the House to proceed with caution, and make those regulations which would diminish the present large loss of life. It was appalling to think what that loss of life might have been but for the measures which had been adopted. Altogether last year 3,554 men were lost, as against 2,700, the average for many years previously. He hoped that the House would not go back, but he feared that it would unless they passed that Bill, because the Act of last year had done its work. In conclusion he asked the House to consider the sort of men on whose behalf it was asked to interfere. He had recently presided at a meeting of seamen at the East End of London, and he could tell the House that they had a long list of grievances, amongst which were included the quantity and quality of their food, particularly on return voyages, the miserable accommodation provided for them on board ship, the present system of advance-notes which were cashed at a ruinous discount, and—this struck him most of all—the absence of any provisions under which they could sign away two-thirds of their earnings for the benefit of their wives and families. It was infinitely to the credit of British seamen that they should wish to assign so large a portion of their earnings to their families. On Saturday he went to a port 100 miles from London in reference to a case of shipwreck. He called upon the widow of the captain, who was left with five little children. She said he was strongly urged not to go to sea, because he was satisfied in his own mind that the ship was unseaworthy; but he said—"What can I do? I must support you and the children, and I cannot do it if I stop ashore. I must take this ship or none; and if I do not go I shall be pointed at as the man who dare not go to sea." So from that mistaken feeling, he went to sea in a ship he knew to be unseaworthy. He afterwards wrote home that the ship was making five inches of water an hour; and writing from Port-land he remarked that they would not call at Plymouth, because the ship had been very nearly condemned there before. The mate, who had left a widow and two children, went to sea in the vessel, remarking—" If the captain is not afraid, I am not." A seaman in the vessel had left a widow and three children. There was another lost seaman who had maintained his mother and two brothers, who were now left destitute, and no doubt most of those who were bereaved would sooner or later find their way into the workhouse. Bad as was the case of these poor women the case of those whose husbands went down without their knowing it was still worse, as they still hoped on for their return, and every day brought with it an increased amount of anguish and misery. He earnestly implored the Government and the House to put a stop to a system which led to such wholesale loss of life and property, and which was going on at the rate of 14 men per ship and 128 ships in six months. If hon. Members knew of some of the cases that came before him, they would allow nothing to obstruct their action in this matter, and for that reason he entreated the President of the Board of Trade not to oppose the measure. The minds of the working people of this country were earnestly directed to the subject, and they were in the attitude of hopeful en- treaty to the Government. A great opportunity was afforded to the Government, and if they listened to the entreaties addressed to them, they would earn the lasting gratitude of the working classes especially, and they might be the means of saving hundreds of valuable lives, and of saving multitudes of sorrowing widows and helpless children from the greatest of human losses. He entreated hon. Members to have pity on these poor people, and to stop that prodigality of woe by adopting decisive legislation on the subject. The hon. Member concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.

Motion made and Question proposed "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Plimsoll.)


, in supporting the Motion for the second reading of the Bill, said, that a debt of gratitude was due to the hon. Member for Derby for the efforts he had made on behalf of British seamen, and which had already resulted in saving a great amount of human life. He had roused attention to the existence of a state of things of which before the public had not any suspicion, and he (Mr. Forsyth) hoped he would continue his efforts until they succeeded in preventing those whose business it was to go down to the great waters in ships being sacrificed as they had hitherto been. He might have been importunate and troublesome, and he might even have been guilty of some indiscretion; but he had been zealous in a good cause, and we must not allow any slight indiscretion to diminish our appreciation of his efforts to promote the safety and preserve the lives of our seamen. It required no knowledge of ships and seamanship to understand that the overloading of a vessel was to run a risk of danger, and that to send an unseaworthy vessel to sea was to doom those on board to destruction. Notwithstanding the Act of last year, there was an amount of overloading which was frightful, resulting in a loss of life which was appalling. We must not be misled by the idea that because large ships were classed at Lloyd's, and belonged to large shipowners and mercantile firms, they were not overloaded, and beyond that there was also an immense amount of overloading in coasting vessels, which were not classed at Lloyd's at all. From the ports of this country every month a large number of vessels went to sea in a most dangerous state. It was an extraordinary circumstance that before the Act of last year the word "overloading" did not occur, so far as his search had gone, in any of our Mercantile Marine Acts, which in themselves were a perfect chaos, and therefore one searched in vain for any provision against it. The first Consolidation Act was passed in 1854, and since then there had been several Acts repealing, modifying, and re-enacting isolated sections of preceding Acts, so that it was almost impossible to ascertain what the law really was. It was, however, generally admitted that there should be a certain ratio between the portion of the vessel immersed and the freeboard or the height of the vessel above the plane of flotation, and accordingly the Act of 1873 was the very first that gave a definition of freeboard. The Act said that for every foot of the depth of the hold there should be three inches of freeboard, so that with an immersed depth of 12 feet there should be 3 feet of freeboard. In the case of iron vessels one-fifth instead of one-fourth was considered sufficient; but one-fifth and one-fourth were respectively the minimum of safety, the object being the recovery of equilibrium when a vessel rolled, and an insurance company of South Shields refused to insure vessels if they did not allow 3 ¼ inches of freeboard per foot of depth in the hold. Taking, however, an analysis of the ships which left port during the month of March, there were very few which fulfilled those conditions, for a Return to the Board of Trade for that month showed that during the last 20 days of that month 55 ships were reported to have been overloaded; instead of having a freeboard of 3 inches per foot, most of them had between 2 inches and 3 inches; and in December, 1873, an iron ship called the Volga, of 671 tons—laden with that most dangerous cargo, railroad iron, left Cardiff for Frederica immersed to the extent of 14 feet, and with only one inch of freeboard. He did not know whether or not that vessel had gone to the bottom; but if she had, he hold that those who sent her to sea were guilty of an offence little short of murder. He would ask whether a vessel so loaded ought to have been allowed to go to sea; and whether that state of affairs did not call for the interference of the House, with a view to its repression? He mentioned the name because it was given in the Return of the Board of Trade; but besides that, he could mention dozens and dozens of cases in which the rule had been disregarded. Was it to be said that sailors were free to contract, and that they need not go on board vessels of this sort unless they liked? The sailor was compelled by law to go to sea, and imprisoned if he did not, unless he showed that a ship was unseaworthy. In 1871, 281 sailors were imprisoned, and in 1872, 420; and though it must be assumed that the magistrates administered justice, and that the ships were deemed seaworthy, there was too much reason to fear that some of these sailors were not properly convicted. The question, however, which the House had to consider was, whether or not something should be done to remedy the present disastrous state of things, which was attended by the loss of thousands of valuable lives, and with that view, the object of the Bill of the hon. Member was to secure the survey of all vessels—not only those classed at Lloyd's, but also those miserable coasting vessels, so many of which were so utterly unfit to proceed to sea. It would also introduce much more stringent provisions as to overloading, and it would require the load-line of a ship to be conspicuously painted on its side. No shipowner would dare to send a vessel to sea with that line immersed in the water; if he did, public opinion would charge him with endangering the lives of the crew. What it was desirable to do was to prevent risk and danger, rather than to punish shipowners for incurring it. He certainly considered his hon. Friend the Member for Derby had made out a strong case for the consideration of the House, and if the President of the Board of Trade did not see his way to accepting the measure, he hoped that right hon. Gentleman would be able to give overwhelming reasons why such a measure ought not to be passed, or else satisfy them that Government intended to take some action which would more effectively carry out the object which the hon. Gentleman had in view. For the last few days they had been engaged in legislating for the protection of persons employed in factories and shortening the hours of work; but the House was not in this case asked to abridge the power of contract in favour of the sailor; all that was asked was that he should have accorded to him the same amount of protection which was given to dumb animals, in protecting them from cruelty and oppression. By passing the Bill, Parliament would enable our sailors to go with safety to sea, they would save many thousands of valuable lives, and relieve the shipping interest from the standing reproach and scandal of being considered so base as to be regardless of human life for the sake of filthy lucre.


said, he did not wish to say anything which could by implication reflect upon the hon. Member for Derby, to whom the country in general, and the Board of Trade in particular, owed a deep debt of gratitude for having roused public attention to the subject. He must be credited with having aroused the Department itself, for he would freely admit that in times past there was a feeling of antagonism between the hon. Member and the Board of Trade, though he might say for his late Chief and himself, and those who succeeded them, that it had long ceased, and that they were only anxious to co-operate with the hon. Member in saving life and property at sea. He must, however, confess to feeling some surprise that the hon. Gentleman had chosen that particular time to bring forward the Bill, for they would, he hoped, soon have before them the final Report of the Royal Commissioners. Their preliminary Report—cautious, moderate, and prudential as it was—furnished a strong warning to the House to exercise great caution in dealing with a matter which was surrounded with great difficulties. The Bill consisted of three parts, all of which were very imperfect in detail; and beyond that it was too minute in its legislation, and such legislation always did more harm than good. It first dealt with the question of survey, recommending practically that all ships should be surveyed. He could not but think it was a strong thing to ask the House to give to a public Department the duty of surveying all the ships on the British Register. But when he looked to the means by which his hon. Friend proposed to carry out the provision, he was somewhat startled by the consequences which were presented to his mind. As if aware that no public Department could survey all the ships on the Register, his hon. Friend provided that the Board of Trade might accept the certificate of Lloyd's, the Liverpool Underwriters' Association, or any other British or foreign corporation for the time being which they approved. In other words, the Board of Trade were empowered to receive and act upon the certificate of a foreign corporation over which they had no control, and to be guided by information derived at second hand. There was this further fact—that upon any such certificates, the Board could certify that the ship was not fit to proceed to proceeding which he thought very strong and unjust. For that reason he did not think the House could approve such a provision. Then, again, his hon. Friend, troubled with none of the doubts which had evidently agitated the minds of the Royal Commissioners, laid down rules for fixing the load-line, by enacting that a mark six inches deep was to be drawn, and that all above it should be 25 per cent of flotation; but the principle of making a mark which should be the test of overloading was one of the very points which the Commissioners asked for further time to consider. Next, the Bill prohibited the taking a deck-load of a certain description on board any vessel during certain periods of the year. He fully admitted that the Government of Canada had forbidden the taking of such loads during dangerous months of the year, and he hoped that by arrangements with other countries some rule might be arrived at by which vessels would be prohibited carrying cargo on deck, and thus endangering the lives of the sailors on board. We must, however, draw a distinction between minute regulations and broad rules, by which they could intervene directly, and. give effect to the prohibition. His hon. Friend had a strong case to refer to as regarded the Indian vessels; but it should be remembered that those vessels went out subject to restrictions, and returned without being so subject; a comparison therefore between inspected and uninspected vessels, upon which the whole case rested, they had—as the Commissioners pointed out—no means of instituting. His hon. Friend said he hoped they would not be tempted to take a backward step in this matter. He joined Ms hon. Friend in entertaining that hope; but he would remind the House that in legislating in reference to Board of Trade subjects they had frequently gone back. They had more than once taken a step in advance, and been compelled, not only by public opinion, but by the palpable and practical inconvenience arising from their interference, to take a backward step. What they ought to do in the present case was, he thought, not to refuse to go with the hon. Member for Derby, but to take care that the step they took was a sure one, so that two or three years hence they might not be obliged to retrace it. A vacillating policy had marked the Department of the Board of Trade many times within the last 20 years. Four instances of the kind were mentioned in the Report. Tight bulkheads had been the subject of legislation, and vessels had been actually endangered by complying with the Act of Parliament. Then, as to the number of boats to be carried, and where they were to be carried, there had been a great deal of legislation, and the regulations framed were, in practice, found to be unworkable. Chain cables, too, had been dealt with by Act of Parliament, but into that subject he would not go, as it was now under investigation; and again, safety-valves were another glaring instance of the danger incurred by interfering with small matters, and exercising more than paternal interest in everything that concerned ships and shipping. He hoped he should not be supposed to set himself in antagonism to his hon. Friend or the cause he so ably advocated; but his hon. Friend ought not to think that he had a monopoly of caring for the widows and orphans whose sufferings he had so touchingly depicted. Others were animated by like feelings of humanity, and he believed they were all willing on both sides of the House to cooperate in promoting the safety of their seamen. They should first, however, see what remedies were really required, and what were likely to be the consequences of the action they might take. There were many remedies which might be adopted besides those of minute inspection, and the Commissioners, in their valuable Report, pointed to the Amendment of the Master and Servants Act, to the importance of giving full publicity to everything connected with the outfit and condition of the vessel when it left port, to an improvement of the Courts of Inquiry and their procedure; and, further, to the appointment of a Public Prosecutor, part of whose duty it should be to take part in Board of Trade inquiries. He believed that, by such means, they would do more to prevent the glaring evils which had been spoken of, than if they relied solely upon Government inspection and minute rules, which would certainly be evaded. If they adopted the remedies now advocated, they would, he believed, have to retrace their steps; but if, upon full consideration, they adopted those to which he had referred, they would put themselves in a position to put an end to the evils which they all wished to prevent.


admired the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) for the philanthropic feeling which animated him, yet could not agree with him that affairs were so bad as he imagined. Having had some experience of sailing ships and steamers, he was rather surprised at the picture which the hon. Member had drawn of our Mercantile Marine, because, judging from his own experience, he did not think it had deteriorated to the extent the hon. Gentleman would have the House believe, and he was quite sure the shipowners did not deserve the condemnation which they had received at his hands, since he commenced his crusade against them. The practices complained of by the hon. Gentleman were condemned by the shipowners themselves; but they could not support the hon. Gentleman, because his zeal and philanthropy had overstepped the bounds of reason at times. This House ought not to legislate as philanthropists, but as practical men While he thought the debate might do good in ventilating the subject, he considered the wisest course would have been for his hon. Friend to have rested satisfied with the working of the Act of 1873 until the Report of the Commission on Unseaworthy Ships had been laid upon the Table of the House. That Act was working most effectively in putting a stop to the practices of which the hon. Gentleman complained. He thought also that there would be great difficulty in carrying out the provisions in the Bill as to surveys; and in many cases under the Act of 1873, he believed that the best tiling would be to have a second surveyor, so as to insure a proper result. As to deck loads, he thought the provisions in the Bill were practical, and should be carried out. In his opinion, deck loads should be abolished in sailing ships, except in the Baltic timber trade, and in certain cases where small quantities of acids might be carried on deck, and in those cases, a special licence might be granted to carry a specified amount. As to overloading, the hon. Member for Marylebone (Mr. Forsyth), said that a certain ship had gone to sea with only one inch of free-board; but such a thing could not possibly be, and there must be some mistake about the case. Overloading, however, was a question of great difficulty, and there could be no strict rule as to the quantity of freeboard laid down, because two inches per foot would be safer in some cases than would three inches in other cases. In fact, everyone acquainted with shipping knew that it often happened that up to a certain point, the deeper a vessel was laden the better she was in trim. It was altogether absurd to suppose that shipowners sent their vessels to sea for the purpose of cheating the underwriters and drowning the seamen. He did not think that our shipping had of late deteriorated; but he was afraid that our seamen had, and that many ships were lost, it was supposed from being ill-found or overloaded, when the real cause was that there were not good sailors on board. He thought that it would be most wise not now to press the measure further; but if it were pressed, he could not vote against it, because he thought that there was some good in it, and because he further thought that it might possibly be fashioned into a better shape in Committee. At the same time, he thought it would be better not to press it for the present, but allow the Act of last Session to have a further trial, at all events, until they had before them the final Report of the Commissioners. With that, to strengthen their hands, the Government might next Session deal with the question in a large and comprehensive Shipping Bill.


said, that as one of the Royal Commissioners to whom reference had been made, he had given the subject before the House his careful and attentive consideration, and he therefore wished to say a few words upon it. He gave the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) full credit for the motives which actuated him; but he could not but think that the Bill he had introduced was not calculated to fulfil the purpose its framers had in view. Any person of intelligence reading the Bill, and being unacquainted with the agitation which had produced it, could only come to one conclusion—namely, that it was a measure expressly and designedly framed, and ingeniously worded, to relieve shipowners from responsibility, and to place such responsibility upon the shoulders of the Board of Trade. If the shipowner, however, could not properly carry out what he was responsible for, it could hardly be expected that the Board of Trade could do it for him. To his mind that was not the best mode for securing protection to life and property at sea. The fact was, that the framers of the Bill started with a good purpose, but soon became aware of the difficulties by which they were surrounded. The Board of Trade, to whom the responsibility of the shipowner was to be transferred, were provided with loopholes by which they might escape that responsibility. As had been pointed out, they might act upon survey certificates even of foreign corporations; and, again, they might add to the Schedule of exemptions any class of ships they liked—even the entire Mercantile Marine—the best thing, perhaps, they could do under the Bill. He regarded the Bill as an unjustifiable and dangerous interference with the responsibility of those on whoso shoulders responsibility should rest, and would like to know what evidence there was in favour of it. It was brought in, too, because of the doings of the few; but who were the many? The bulk of the shipowners were experienced, trustworthy, high-minded men, thoroughly conversant with their work and thoroughly competent to transact it. They were to be so hampered with restrictions that many of them would be driven out of the trade, while the few—the very few, he believed—whose proceedings were complained of would be only too glad to shift responsibility from themselves to the Board of Trade. The hon. Gentleman had said that a large proportion of the Mercantile Marine were mixed up with the discreditable transactions of which he spoke, and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Marylebone (Mr. Forsyth) who supported him endorsed that statement. To that allegation he altogether demurred. He did not believe it could be proved that a bad state of things prevailed in any large proportion of the Mercantile Marine of this country. That Bill proposed three things—first, a compulsory survey of all ships; next, the fixing of a load line; and, last, that deck loads should only be permitted to be carried under a special certificate obtained from the Board of Trade. The proposed system of compulsory survey was objectionable, and by the shipowners of the country would be looked upon as an insult; and as to fixing a load-line, in all his experience he had hardly ever found any two authorities, however eminent, who agreed as to where such a load-line should be drawn—a matter which must depend upon the varying circumstances of particular cases. The Bill would require a stereotyped load line to be drawn, and if a ship complied with it, it would be allowed to go to sea. How would that work? The Bill was reticent on the question of who was to fix the line. Mr. Barnaby, a very competent and impartial witness on that point said, he would allow a certain portion of the bulk of the ship to be out of the water, and that a line drawn to designate that amount of surplus buoyancy would, in his opinion, be the nearest approach to a perfect plan that had ever yet been suggested. But Mr. Barnaby was asked who should fix the load-line—a very knotty question—and he said that if the Government officers were called upon to do so, more harm than good would be done by that arrangement, and that it would be a mischievous interference to select any person but the builder or the owner, or the two acting in concert, to draw the line designating the surplus buoyancy. Now, the builder acted under the instructions of the owner; and—speaking of the reckless and negligent owner—he would probably instruct the builder to build a vessel of the lightest possible description for the purpose of carrying the greatest possible amount of cargo. The builder must obey his orders, and the line would be marked for the ship in concert with the owner. Would that conduce to safety at sea? There was always a competition among builders to build a ship of light scantling to carry a great amount of cargo; and under that Bill such a ship would have an advantage over a ship of strong scantling and right construction. The; reckless owner would say—"I claim to clear my ship; I have acted according to law." That was the man who would wish to be relieved from responsibility; and that Bill would relieve him. He repeated that such a provision certainly would not secure protection to life and property at sea. Then, with regard to deck-loads, the Bill proposed that ships should not go to sea with them unless they were specially authorized by the Board of Trade. "Well, the subject of deck-loads occupied the attention of the Royal Commission, and as one of them, he hoped the House would have a little patience and wait till it saw from their Report how their recommendations, as a whole, were likely to operate on that and other points. He did not deny that deck-loads on long voyages in the stormy season were a fertile source of danger, and he should be glad to see the carrying of them over sea at such periods prohibited. But he supposed nobody would prohibit deck-loading in the coasting trade. The hon. Member for Derby-had talked of a cargo of petroleum. Now, petroleum was an article which supplied the poorer classes with the oil they consumed, but it must be brought over sea somehow, and if it was unsafe on deck, would it be safer in the hold? Again, it could hardly be intended to prohibit the exportation of machinery; but if it was not to be put on the deck, how was it to be carried at all? Again, in regard to cattle, were they to be stifled in the hold? In fact they could not prohibit deck-loading in the coasting trade without well nigh destroying that trade altogether. If he complained of the contents of that Bill he complained still more of its omissions. It entirely gave the go-by to all other causes of loss at sea, such as the character of our seamen, the status of the masters of merchant ships, the mode of conducting inquiries into disasters at sea, and that vast group of kindred subjects. That showed how completely the authors of the measure had failed to grasp the question in its broad aspect. The Bill, too, began entirely at the wrong end. It had been already declared by Act of Parliament to be an offence to send a ship to sea in an un-seaworthy state, and the power of detaining such a ship was now conferred on the Board of Trade, and in fact, the hon. Member himself had shown that 264 vessels which were about to go to sea in that condition had been detained by the Board of Trade, in the exercise of that power. That was a striking proof of the adequacy of existing legislation. Again, if they wished to provide better guarantees for the safety of life and property at sea they might follow up existing legislation by inquiring most rigidly into the truth of the representations of ship insurers as to the state of the ships, and by making improvements in the method of ascertaining the causes of shipwrecks. It was also the duty of the House to take immediate steps for improving the character and condition of their merchant seamen and raising the status of the masters of merchant ships. It was impossible to say how many disasters were due to the want of discipline on board ship, and the hands of the masters ought to be strengthened for improving that discipline. In the Royal Navy they had most efficient seamen, who had been trained from boyhood to habits of obedience and discipline, and similar endeavours ought to be made to secure trained seamen for the Merchant Navy. By that means they could feel sure—which they could not do now—that when a man represented himself as an able seaman, he really was something like one. Those were practical proposals to make, whereas those contained in the Bill were objectionable because they would enable the negligent shipowner to shield himself under a certificate obtained from the Government that his ship was fit to go to sea, when such a certificate was only a fancied security for life and property; while it would harass the careful and respectable shipowner, who was, or ought to be most competent to conduct his own business, and thus cripple one of the vast industries of the country. The hon. Member had implored the Government to earn the gratitude of the working classes; but that gratitude would not be deserved by passing a bad and ill-considered measure like that. As to the assertion that seamen were helpless men, he denied that they were so. It was the worst thing they could do in the seamen's interest to teach them that they were helpless, and encourage them to go to that House for protection. They ought, on the contrary, to make them more self-reliant, and induce them to depend on their own observation. It was now quite competent for a seaman, if he thought his vessel unfit to go to sea, to require a survey of her to be made before he sailed in her; and when he reached a foreign port, he might also claim through a Consul to have her surveyed before he ventured again to go to sea in her. That Bill, he believed, would be unworkable, or, if operative at all, it would prove absolutely mischievous, in which case it would soon fall into abeyance. On the other hand, the Report of the Commission would shortly be made public, when he hoped the House and the country would carefully study its recommendations, in which case he thought that legislation based upon them would be found to be both valuable and practicable.


said, few subjects possessed greater and deeper interest than that which the House was now considering, and he begged to make his acknowledgment to his noble Friend who had just spoken for the interesting speech he had delivered in relation to it, and for the valuable communications which he had made to the House on the subject. Although much that his noble Friend had put before them must obtain the concurrence of all thinking men, yet he (Mr. Samuda) took a different view of some points, and he certainly thought that the House would do well to read that Bill the second time. He did not agree that the measure would be found unworkable, although he would admit that its practical working might be beset with many of the difficulties indicated by his noble Friend, but the House had to deal with a state of facts which had been brought prominently before it for two or three Sessions; and it could not be denied that there had for years past been an increase of losses at sea enormously disproportionate to the increase of our shipping. The total losses which had not been accidental but the consequences of neglect, had gone on in an increasing ratio year by year for a considerable period. Abstracts from The Wreck Register showed that in the four quinquennial periods of the last 20 years the losses on the average had been for the first period 970; the second, 1,118; the third, 1,488; and the fourth, 1,741. These were absolutely total losses. During the same period the number of ships had only increased from 27,000 to 29,000. So that, while the increase in the number of our mercantile ships during that period had only been 8 per cent. the increase in the number of total losses had been about 50 per cent. During a period of 10 years the average total losses of vessels from all causes, were 2,700 per annum, while the average total loss of vessels during that period from carelessness and neglect was 1,100 per annum. Consequently, half the total number of losses arose from preventable causes, and legislation might improve that state of things. But he admitted that, in his opinion, many clauses of the Bill did not provide proper means of curing the evil. The proposal for a load-line, for instance, was ill-judged, for with regard to it, he thought the responsibility of shipowners should be increased, and that Parliament took a step in the right direction in 1872, by making it a misdemeanour to overload a vessel or to send a vessel to sea in an unseaworthy state. He thought the Legislature should go further in that direction, and be most careful not to substitute official direction and responsibility for that which naturally belonged to the owner. Though there were parts of the Bill which he did not approve, yet he thought it would be wrong for the House not to allow the Bill to be read a second time. The course which appeared to him would be most beneficial with regard to shipowners he had before stated to the House. One important matter would be this, that whilst it was of the utmost importance that the shipowner should have the responsibility thrown on his own shoulders, he could not see how that could be satisfactorily done without an improvement in the present law of insurance. It was only a small part of the shipowners that the House had to deal with, but it was a part against which the public ought to have protection. At the present moment an unscrupulous shipowner had only to go and insure at Lloyd's or some other large marine insurance office, and then he could put into his ship an amount of cargo which an honest shipowner would not put into it, because such overloading would endanger the lives of the sailors or endanger the cargo. If the vessel arrived safe the unscrupulous owner received a larger amount in respect of freight than he would have done if the vessel had not been overloaded; and, on the other hand, if the vessel sunk he escaped damage by being paid the amount for which the vessel was insured. The law of insurance should be so altered as to compel every shipowner to be to a large degree his own insurer, by permitting only two-thirds or three-fourths of the value of the ship that was lost to be recovered from an insurance office, and, as in the case of a house, by requiring that a ship should not be insured to a greater amount than it was worth. It would then be to the interest of a shipowner not to overload his vessels or send them to sea in an unseaworthy state. Another matter which must militate against proceeding with the Bill as at present framed was the fact that though a Royal Commission had sat upon the subject the House was not yet in possession of the Report. He wanted also to hear some suggestion for the passing of a measure which would deal comprehensively in the way of codification with the whole Mercantile Marine. He submitted that the best way to proceed in the meantime was to read the Bill a second time, and let it remain in abeyance until the Report of the Royal Commission could be considered, and in view of obtaining a measure for dealing with the whole subject in a comprehensive manner.


said, he could assure the hon. Member for Derby that no one sympathized more cordially than himself with the object he had in view, and with the perseverance he had evinced in endeavouring to carry out those objects. But the hon. Gentleman had undertaken to deal with a very great and complicated question, and the House ought to be careful not to take any step which might drive commercial enterprise from the British to a foreign flag. They had heard a good deal of the difficulties of treating the questions of freeboard and overloading; but it appeared to him that it would be premature and possibly injurious to legislate on these matters, until they were in possession of the Report of the Royal Commission. The tendency of our present legislation was to vex and hamper the interests of the Mercantile Marine of this country, and to encourage crime and relax discipline. The want of proper discipline on mercantile ships was daily becoming greater, and there was an organized system of fraud amongst a large body of merchant seamen, with which the local magistrates were never disposed to deal as they ought to be dealt with. The interests of neither the shipowner nor the master were sufficiently attended to by existing legislation, and there were aggrieved shipowners as well as aggrieved seamen who needed an improvement of the present law. He thought, therefore, that they ought not to confine themselves merely to questions brought forward by the hon. Member for Derby, but should also protect the shipowner and master against wrong-doing on the part of seamen. With regard to the present Bill, he trusted that whether read a second time or not, it would not be further advanced during the present Session, and that ample opportunity would be given to the House to consider what should be done with regard to other matters affecting the Mercantile Marine than those embraced in that measure.


said, he could not support the second reading, although he fully appreciated the great services which the hon. Member for Derby had rendered to the Mercantile Marine of this country. He would admit that they had borne good fruit, but he was opposed to legislating on the subject too hastily. In the preliminary Report of the Royal Commissioners, facts were stated which sufficiently showed that increased vigour had been displayed by the Board of Trade in recent years with reference to the question of unseaworthy ships. Before 1872, the average number of inquiries in a year was 37; whereas, in 1872, there were 50, and in 1873, 193, an increase in number, which showed how greatly the energies of the Department had been stimulated by the earnest zeal of Mr. Plimsoll in the endeavour to lessen the loss of life at sea. Since 1871 the Board of Trade had acquired additional powers in relation to the taking of the evidence of seamen, to the detention of ships suspected of being in an unseaworthy state, and to overloading. These powers had been vigorously exercised, and had had a beneficial effect. In a few months after the Act of 1873 was passed, 245 ships suspected of being unseaworthy were surveyed, and 190 were proved to be in such a condition that the Board of Trade was justified in detaining and preventing them from going to sea. The great thing wanted, in order to give the Board of Trade all the power which the most humanitarian sympathies would desire they should possess, was an addition to the personnel of the Department, in the person of a public prosecutor, whose duty it should be to prevent any unseaworthy ship from proceeding to sea. Supposing the House were to adopt the Bill, and its provisions became law, the complaints which would be evoked would come not from rich men sitting in their counting-houses and making large sums of money by recklessly ex-posing their crews at sea, but from the poor shipowners, who went to sea themselves, whose capital was exceedingly limited, and who were engaged in a class of business in which there was great competition. A great deal of the danger of going to sea in unseaworthy ships might be avoided by care and special local experience; but it was impossible, by legislation, to provide against all evils which might be incurred at sea in cases where vessels were overladen. Moreover, it was scarcely expedient for that House to impose conditions of seaworthiness which the owners of that class of vessel would not be in a position to fulfil. A great deal had been said about the danger of sending ships to sea too heavily laden, but there might be almost as much danger from sending them to sea with too little ballast, and there was nothing in the Bill to provide against that. An Act was passed in 1840, prohibiting the carrying of deck-loads of timber between the 1st of September and the 1st of May. The Act remained in force until 1862, when, in consequence of the differential duties on foreign timber having been repealed, the Board of Trade thought it impossible to enforce the law, and by a clause in the Act passed in 1862, removed that restriction upon loads of timber carried on deck. But the danger arising from carrying excessive deck-loads of timber had been so conspicuously illustrated within the last year or two, that he sincerely hoped the Legislature might at an early date take steps for prohibiting this most dangerous class of ships from navigating the Atlantic during the winter months. With regard to inspection, he was certain that, unless it was frequently renewed, it would be absolutely ineffective; and the number of surveyors required to keep up a constant survey of the ships of our vast Mercantile Marine would be so great, that it was hardly possible to conceive that the Board of Trade could provide themselves with a sufficiently competent and numerous staff. For that reason, he felt confident that it was absolutely impossible to attempt to survey the entire shipping of this country at sufficiently frequent intervals, and, as a Member of the Royal Commission, he could not recommend the House to impose any such duty upon the Board of Trade. All must deeply regret the great loss of life in British vessels, but a great proportion of it was attributable to collisions arising from the increase in the number of steam vessels, and he thought it was most desirable, by stricter punishment, to secure the necessary care on the part of officers in charge of ships, and on the part of the seamen serving under their command. One of the most vital points, however, in dealing with the Mercantile Marine was the state of the law in regard to insurance. If there were no facilities for insurance, and the whole burden of the loss arising from maritime disasters fell upon the shipowners, greater caution would be exercised. The law, however, in regard to insurance, was most complicated, and the Commission, of which he was a Member, had not felt authorized to offer any specific recommendations for its amendment. The subject required the attentive consideration of the Government; and he was not without hope that a Royal Commission would be appointed to inquire into it. In conclusion, he thought the powers already delegated to the Board of Trade were sufficient, provided that the staff was sufficiently strengthened. Whilst desiring to see a proper system of inspection carried out, he was quite sure the duty of the Government, with regard to the preservation of life at sea, would be more effectually discharged by closely watching the conduct of the great marine business of this country rather than by undertaking the impossible task of managing that business on behalf of shipowners. He should be sorry, indeed, to see the Government take up a position which would absolve shipowners from all responsibility for the proper discharge of their duty, and which must inevitably impose a check on that maritime enterprise which was the great strength and glory of our country.


, in referring to the contradictory complaints made against the Bill, said that, although he did not approve of all its details, he was of opinion that its character had not been fairly represented. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Eslington) had asserted that the framers of the measure had shown themselves incapable of dealing with that great question because they proposed, in the Schedule of exemptions, to exempt from the operation of the Bill, as regarded the Board of Trade Survey, all vessels which were classed at Lloyd's or in the Liverpool Book. Now, in his (Mr. Reed's) opinion, that very exemption was, on the contrary, a proof of the good sense of the framers of the measure, whoso object was not to get ships which had been already surveyed again, but to secure that ships which had never been surveyed should come under the surveillance of the Board of Trade. Another alleged evidence of weakness on the part of the framers of the measure was, that the Bill provided for the Board of Trade extending the list of exemptions; but that, in his judgment, was another proof of the prudence and moderation displayed by the framers of the measure. Another objection was, that the Bill provided that the captain of a vessel should have power to re-arrange the cargo on the voyage; but surely that was evidence of a desire on the part of the framers of the Bill not to interfere improperly with the trade of the shipowners. Those who opposed the Bill said it would not operate at all against the large owners, who did not overload their ships; and yet, in spite of that, the same objectors maintained that the measure would induce those very owners to withdraw their capital from the maritime enterprise of the country. He was at a loss to understand what answer that was to the hon. Member for Derby, or why he was to be told that the object he aimed at could be sufficiently accomplished by waiting for the Report of the Royal Commission. They had, indeed, already received an intimation of what might be expected from that Commission, which was composed of men of eminence, though not of that particular kind of eminence which was desirable in men who had to control the Mercantile Marine of England. It was therefore idle to talk of deferring legislation on the subject, in order to wait for a document, which, when received, would probably be no guide at all. It had also been said that it would not be desirable to pass this Bill until the marine laws of the country had been codified; but if such a code were ever seen, it would probably have been preceded by a reform which ought to be obvious to every hon. Member. There ought to be a Minister in that House wholly devoted to the interests of the Mercantile Marine, and that important and onerous task should not be delegated to a Board burdened with the railway and other interests of the country. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. Peel) had informed the House that the Board of Trade embodied the science of the times. Now, though he should be sorry to say anything against the general capabilities of the Board of Trade, he would ask what it had done to recognize, much less to promote, naval science in this country. Had they not that very day been truly told that it rather dabbled with safety-valves and other details, and dabbled with them in an unsatisfactory manner? In his opinion, the Bill could not pass in its present shape; but, as it possessed many merits, it ought to be read a second time. The House had been told of a ship which went to sea with only one inch of free-board; but he on one occasion saw in the Thames a vessel about to start for China, whose uppermost deck was several inches amidships below the water. In fact, anybody walking from the fore to the after-part of the vessel would have had to pass through 12 feet—in length—of water. Surely it was not creditable to the country that such a state of things should be allowed? The House had been told it was rather a matter of detail to draw the load-line of a ship and fix her free-board. Well, he admitted that the definition of "freeboard" contained in the Bill was unsatisfactory; but even supposing the Bill passed in its present shape, it would in no way interfere with the great ships in our Mercantile Marine. But whether the proposed plan were the best that could be devised or not, he maintained that it was an honest, and, on the whole, a sensible attempt to improve the existing state of things. For his own part, he had no particular passion for excessive free-board, for he was well aware that other conditions of safety were necessary. They might load a ship badly, and yet leave her with a high free-board, or they might load her with less free-board and send her to sea in a good condition, for, after all, it was very much a question of stowage. No doubt, it was both desirable and safe at the same time that vessels should sometimes carry a portion of their cargoes on deck, and the framers of the measure had not been blind to that consideration, for they provided that the Board of Trade might grant a certificate authorizing a vessel to carry a deck cargo. That was a matter of vast importance, and it would be better to deal with it in the manner proposed by the Bill, than to leave it wholly undealt with. In conclusion, he sincerely hoped the Government would assent to the second reading of the Bill, and assist the promoters to put it into a practical form in Committee, so that the good it purposed to effect might not be any longer delayed.


said, the attitude of the shipowners in regard to the matter, as shown by the Petitions which had been presented on their behalf, was not to oppose legislation altogether, but to ask that legislation should, at any rate, be deferred until the House was in possession of the Report of the Royal Commissioners, and in a more favourable position for dealing with the subject than it was at present. The hon. Member for Derby had last Session made statements with reference to the condition of the Mercantile Marine, and to the conduct of shipowners, which were declared to be greatly exaggerated, and, in some cases, without foundation in fact; while it was asserted that the measures he proposed were calculated to increase rather than diminish the alleged evils. Under these circumstances, the House thought it desirable to institute an inquiry into the matter, and had appointed an impartial and satisfactory tribunal with full powers to investigate the whole question, and that Commission was about to make its Report, which he trusted would receive that consideration which its importance would deserve. The question at issue with regard to legislation for the Mercantile Marine was broad and simple. It must be either on the principle of the legislation of 1871 and 1873, or on that of the hon. Member for Derby. For his own part, he (Mr. Norwood) was satisfied that the wise course was to interfere as little as possible with details, but to fix direct personal responsibility on all having the management of shipping. That was in accordance with the principle of the legislation of 1871 and 1873; but it was not that of the hon. Member for Derby, whose Bill would tend to greatly hamper the trade, whilst it would not really increase, but rather diminish the respon- sibilities of the shipowners, by throwing them on the Board of Trade, which was quite incompetent to discharge all the duties which it would be asked to undertake. He protested against exceptional cases being adduced as samples of ordinary management of British ships. Probably the vessel mentioned by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) as affording an ordinary instance of overloading, had a high forecastle and quarter-deck, like the ships of the reign of Henry VIII.


said, he referred to it not as an ordinary, but as an extraordinary ease. ["Name."] He could not just then remember the name of the ship, but he would undertake to give it to his hon. Friend.


said, he did not for a moment doubt the accuracy of the statement made by the hon. Member, but must say that in the course of 35 years' experience it was never his lot to see a foreign-going ship with her upper deck washed by the water. The Bill vested in the Board of Trade, which in the hon. Member's opinion was incompetent, the whole control of the Mercantile Marine, which amounted to something like 30,000 vessels.


explained that he had not accused the Board of Trade of in-competency. He had merely said it required considerable improvement.


proceeded to remark that the House would treat the Royal Commission with much disrespect and be doing great injustice to an important interest if, without having the information which would so soon be in its possession, it undertook to legislate on the lines of the present Bill. He denied that the hon. Member for Derby had the knowledge requisite to legislate on the subject, and he warned the House not to accept a measure which would act prejudicially, and which he felt certain, would not, if carried, achieve the object of its promoters. It would, in his belief, cause more loss of life than ever, for owners would feel satisfied if they kept within the hard-and-fast line laid down, and would do things which they would not dare or presume to do at present. For that reason he trusted it would not be read a second time.


, while sympathizing with the object the hon. Member for Derby had in view, thought the Bill had boon introduced at a very inoppor- tune time, inasmuch as the Report of the Royal Commissioners had been signed that very day, and was not yet in the hands of hon. Members. It was, therefore, impossible that any satisfactory measure could be framed till the Government had had the opportunity of fully considering that Report. Another reason for not going on with the present Bill at this time was that yesterday there was referred to a Select Committee a Bill relating to the measurement of tonnage, which might to a great extent regulate one of the main provisions of the Bill of the hon. Member for Derby. He agreed with the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets and the hon. Member for Hastings, that what Parliament should aim at was to make the shipowners responsible. If they were to throw the responsibility on the Board of Trade, it would only aggravate the evil. On the other hand, looking at the great and avoidable loss of life, there was no other way by which protection of life at sea could be secured than by limiting insurance to two-thirds or three-fourths of the value of the ship and cargo. By restricting insurance he thought the interests of the seamen might be protected, for they, not being represented in Parliament, had some difficulty in laying their case before the public, and might be considered as having a special claim upon the Legislature. It had been said that the character of our seamen had deteriorated. Now, it was in the interest of the shipowners that they should endeavour to improve their character; but they had neglected to do so by agitating for the repeal of the navigation laws. With respect to deck-loads, he was of opinion that they ought to be covered over by a spar deck, so as to afford greater facilities for working the ship. But, after all, the stowage of a ship had much to do with her safety. He knew a case of a new ship arriving at Gibraltar where the stowage had been so bad that she was completely torn to pieces on her passage out from England. He must repeat that he sympathized heartily with the object of the hon. Member for Derby, but looking at the fact that the Bill had been brought forward at the very time that the Royal Commission had signed its Report, he could not support the Motion for the second reading.


said, he was glad to see that the additional experience which the hon. Member for Derby had gained during the last few years had enabled him to bring forward a much less objectionable Bill than those which he had formerly introduced. Still, the measure had received but small commendation even from those who supported it, seeing that everyone of its details had been pulled to pieces, and that the House had been urged to improve it in Committee. He asked, would it not be an injurious precedent to give a second reading to a Bill to every detail of which objection had thus been taken? His first objection to the measure was that it would throw everything on the Board of Trade; and yet no one had been so out-spoken in denunciation of the Board of Trade as the hon. Member for Derby. And even now, the hon. Member said he was willing to strike out Clause 19—which would throw the framing of the rules on the Board of Trade—because there was no one in the Department who was capable of framing them. He believed that the measure would tend rather to increase than to decrease the loss of life at sea, and if the House wanted to save life, they ought to keep the responsibility of the shipowner intact. At present it was a misdemeanour for a shipowner to send a vessel on a voyage in an unseaworthy state. The responsibility should be kept there, and the shipowner should not be released from it by getting a certificate from the Board of Trade.


said, he was glad that that important subject had been so fully discussed. A number of very interesting facts had been laid before the House; but even admitting all the facts to be correct that had been urged in favour of the Bill by its supporters, there remained to be decided the question, whether the Bill would abate or aggravate the evils complained of. That was a most material question, and if the latter, and not the former, was likely to be the result, it would certainly be a serious mischief if Parliament were misled to adopt a remedy worse than the disease. It seemed to him that the advocates of the Bill assumed to themselves a monopoly of philanthropy, which he, for one, could not concede. No doubt they were actuated by humane motives, and by a desire to abate human suffering and protect human life. But every right-minded man, whatever were his opinions, and upon whichever side of the House he might sit, was equally interested in that matter. The only point they had to deal with was the real merits of the Bill apart from any abstract sentiment. It was distinctly on the ground taken up by the promoters of the Bill that he opposed it. The Bill was read a second time at St. George's Hall yesterday. The ladies there assembled, together with some hon. Members of the House, came to the unanimous conclusion that the fact being admitted that there were great disasters at sea, they would give their full confidence to the hon. Member for Derby, and vote that his measure was the right one to meet the emergency. They also unanimously condemned the Board of Trade, on the ground that it had not done its duty in this matter. In arguments of that kind it was thought quite enough to approve the intention of the measure, no matter what its probable effects. But the House would consider not only the intention, but the provisions by which that intention was proposed to be carried into effect. It was often said that to carry a great measure required not only a heart, but a head. The hon. Member for Derby no doubt had a heart, but the head was wanted to carry a measure to effect the object he had in view. There could be no doubt that the hon. Member had done great service in calling public attention to the subject; but no Bill had yet been introduced by him, or by any of his supporters, which would meet the difficulties of the case. The Government were as desirous as anybody to do what was possible to reduce the casualties at sea. But with every desire to promote that great object, he felt bound to oppose the Bill. He did so for several reasons. It was both an impracticable thing, and false in theory, that the Board of Trade should be called upon to assume an indefinite control over the Mercantile Marine of this country. Strange, that the Board of Trade which, it was said, had shown itself unequal to its present task, was called upon so largely to increase the task imposed upon it. It was said that for the last two years calamities at sea had been increasing in spite of the Acts for Government survey of 1871 and 1873, and yet it was on the basis of these Acts, the House was asked to proceed much more extensively. The hon. Member had stated that 278 ships had been stopped by the Board of Trade under the Acts of 1871 and 1873, of which 240 had been condemned, only 13 had escaped, and the rest were still sub judice; and on that ground the hon. Gentleman contended he was justified in bringing forward this Bill. The facts adduced only proved that the Board had been careful only to deal with really suspicious cases. But the proposed measure was not in sequence with the caution of the Acts of 1871 and 1873, but a wild assumption on the part of Government of all responsibility on the subject. What did the Bill propose? Simply this, that no ship should be allowed to clear from any port of this Kingdom until it had received a certificate from the Board of Trade of the safety of its construction, its hull, its equipment, and all its details, down to the stowage of its cargo, and that not only upon its first starting, but upon every voyage it made. The second part of the Bill dealt with the much-vexed question upon which Parliament had to reverse its policy more than once—namely, that a Government Department should certify whether a ship should be allowed a deck-load in the case of every voyage in which it was required. Thirdly it was proposed that a load-line should be ascertained, which in the opinion of most nautical authorities was impossible. It would be quite sufficient to induce the House to reject the second reading to be reminded that the subject was before a Royal Commission, which had only concluded its Report today. The House had asked the Crown to issue a Royal Commission to consider this very important matter; that Commission had taken evidence very extensively, and that very day had signed the manuscript of its Report; and yet the hon. Gentleman asked the House to consent to the second reading of this Bill, which dealt with one of the main subjects of that Report. But not only had the Commission offered a very elaborate Report not yet presented, but they had already given the House an indication of their mind by a preliminary Report, from which, though cautiously worded, some intimation was afforded of what were likely to be their final recommendations on three of the main topics referred to them. On the question of survey, the preliminary Report said that if a Government survey was to be of any use it must be very elaborate, and it added that the surveys as hitherto conducted had not prevented or diminished disasters at sea. It further said that if any Government Department were to attempt to regulate all the details of shipbuilding by law such enactment would be mischievous, and would tend to restrict improvement and increase disaster, removing all private enterprise and responsibility. As to deck-loads, the preliminary Report said that, while deck-loads were prohibited by law, as they were up to 1862, the loss of life was just the same on the average. It suggested that, by friendly communications with foreign Powers, useful regulations might be made on the subject, but not by law. Upon the third point, the opinion of the Commission on their evidence was unfavourable to the attempt of fixing any load-line, and pointed to the conclusion that it would inevitably lead to the building of light and weak ships, and enhance the perils of seafaring life. He did not think, under these circumstances, the Government were likely to take any steps towards a general survey and certificate of all the Mercantile Marine, or would assume that all shipowners were guilty in the first instance, and only exculpate those who proved themselves trustworthy; but they would rather prosecute those of whom they had well-founded suspicion. The legislation of last year had worked so well, that if any further legislation was required, it should be in the same direction. It was now proposed to assume that all ships were unseaworthy, and leave the contrary to be proved, instead of when any suspicion occurred, having an inquiry into the case. At the same time, he was bound to say that it was not an unsound proposition in itself that all ships should be surveyed; but the survey of ships by a voluntary association like Lloyd's, was a totally different thing from a compulsory Government survey by the Board of Trade. The former was most useful, but the effect of the latter would be to establish one rigid rule in which no two practical authorities would agree, and which would put an end to all improvement in shipbuilding. The hon. Member proposed that ships which had been surveyed by Lloyd's or the Liverpool Association need not be surveyed by the Board of Trade; but if ships were surveyed by different bodies, they would come to be surveyed on different principles, and a diversity of judgment would create infinitely greater mischief. Either it would increase the evil, by setting up an uncertain standard, or else, as was most likely, the Board of Trade Survey would swallow up all others, and a fixed and rigid rule, impossible in effect, and most mischievous in the attempt, would be established. Further, it would be absolutely impracticable for a Government Department to undertake such a duty as the hon. Gentleman proposed to cast upon it. Even if by the appointment of a large number of additional Inspectors, they were able to carry out some sort of universal survey in appearance, the question was, whether it would not act only as a drag on the commercial enterprise of the country, and as a bar to every improvement in the Mercantile Service. In his opinion, a Government survey would not be found to work well, even if by an army of surveyors it could be properly carried out. The system had been tried in France, and had signally failed, nor had any country thriven like England in the absence of statutory restrictions. He believed that the enactments recently made, by which the Board of Trade were empowered, on sufficient evidence, to inquire and determine as to the seaworthiness of vessels reported to them, were the wisest for the purpose. He had shown that those who advocated this Bill did so simply on the ground of humane and good intentions. But, while all were agreed as to the good intention, there was a wide difference of opinion as to the probable effect of the Bill; and, in his view, nothing could be more disastrous to the interests of the Merchant Service and of seafaring life than its proposals. He chiefly objected to the Bill because the Royal Commission had just signed a Report upon its subject. The last and the present Government had given every assistance to that Commission, and had shown that they fully appreciated the primary importance of the subject. He therefore thought it would be self-stultification to give a decision upon a principle which was dealt with in the Report of their own requiring. He did not mean to imply that the Government were opposed to legislation on the subject. On the contrary, they were waiting for the forthcoming Report and evidence, anxious to do all they could to promote judicious reforms; but those would have to be based upon the required evidence, and would be influenced by the authority, and careful consideration of the Commission. For that reason, he would ask the hon. Member for Derby not to divide the House on the second reading of a Bill which they could not proceed with without stultifying themselves, and which would gravely, if not hopelessly, impede the very important legislation they wished for.


said, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade seemed to have forgotten that they were asked to vote for the principle of the Bill on the second reading, for nearly all the objections the right hon. Gentleman had urged were objections that ought to be considered in Committee. In fact, all the speeches against the Bill, whether of Royal Commissioners, shipowners, or officials of the Board of Trade past and present, were speeches that avoided the principle of the Bill and dealt only with details. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Eslington) pointed out certain loopholes in the Bill; the hon. Member for Derby would be glad to have them stopped up in Committee. The noble Lord said the proposed legislation was for the minority of shipowners; well, was not nearly ail legislation for the minority? "Was it not so in the case of the Factories Bill and the Intoxicating Liquors Bill? Was the House to refrain from legislating for a minority of shipowners because the majority was highly respectable? He attached the greatest weight to the Report of the Commissioners; but the second reading of this Bill would not clash with that Report. They were in this position—on a subject on which the public felt great interest, and on which the hon. Member for Derby had deservedly and meritoriously carried public sympathy with him, they were asked, by the second reading of the Bill, merely to affirm a principle, knowing that at that period of the Session the Bill could go no further. Was it too much to ask, when every objection to the Bill was an objection to its details, and when not one Member would say he did not affirm the principle, that they should vote for the second reading of a Bill to regulate and control improper loading? If they rejected the Bill, the public out-of-doors would put an erroneous construction upon their conduct, by inferring that the Government was opposed to the hon. Member for Derby, and that the shipowners had beaten the seamen. He did not, at any rate, wish to give room for such a construction, and maintained that by affirming the principle of the Bill they would carry public sympathy and approval with them, and avoid the misconstruction which must follow the rejection of the Bill. For those reasons he hoped the Bill would be read a second time, and the question left in the hands of the Government.


rose to reply, when—


said, he must remind the hon. Gentleman that he could only speak if he wished to make any explanation to the House as to the course he proposed to take with respect to his Motion.


said, in that case, he would not make another remark. All he wanted was a division on the question.


said, that so far from the debate having turned upon details, it had in reality hinged upon principle, and it was to that principle that the Government very properly objected. That principle was, that the Board of Trade should be held to be responsible for the seaworthiness of all ships that went to sea. He contended that the Board of Trade should not be called upon to take the responsibility of a general and compulsory inspection, especially as the Minister at the head of that Department had declined to accept the responsibility.


moved the adjournment of the debate.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Mr. kay-Shuttleworth,)—put, and negatived.


said, he wished to protect himself against a misconception which might arise out-of-doors if they refused to pass the second reading. The people of this country were so well informed of what passed in that House, that he personally had no fear of being misunderstood when he voted against the second reading of the Bill before the Report of the Royal Commission was presented.

Original Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 170; Noes 173: Majority 3.

Anderson, Cr. Hill, T. R.
Anstruther, Sir W. Hodgson, K. D.
Antrobus, Sir E. Holt, J. M.
Archdale, W. H. Hopwood, C. H.
Ashtray, J. L. Horsman, rt. hon. E.
Ashley, hon. E. M. Ingram, W. J.
Balfour, Sir G. James, Sir H.
Barclay, A. C. Jenkins, D. J.
Bass, A. Johnston, W.
Bass, M. T. Kensington, Lord
Beaumont, Major F. Kinnaird, hon. A. F.
Beresford, Colonel M. Knightley, Sir R.
Biddulph, M. Lawrence, Sir J. C.
Biggar, J. G. Lawson, Sir W.
Birley, H. Leatham, E. A.
Boord, T. W. Legard, Sir C.
Brady, J. Leigh, Lt.-Col. E.
Briggs, W. E. Leith, J. F.
Brise, Colonel R. Lewis, C. E.
Brooks, W. C. Lewis, O.
Burrell, Sir P. Lloyd, M.
Burt, T. Locke, J.
Callender, W. R. Macartney, J. W. E.
Cameron, C. Macdonald, A.
Chambers, Sir T. Macgregor, D.
Cholmeley, Sir H. Mackintosh, C. F.
Clarke, J. C. M'Combie, W.
Clifford, C. C. M'Lagan, P.
Clive, G. M'Laren, D.
Collins, E. Martin, J.
Conyngham, Lord F. Martin, P. W.
Corbett, J. Mellor, T. W.
Cordes, T. Melly, G.
Cotes, C. C. Milles, hon. G. W.
Cowan, J. Monk, C. J.
Cowen, J. Morgan, G. O.
Crawford, J. S. Morley, S.
Cross, J. K. Mure, Colonel
Crossley, J. Noel, E.
Dick, F. Nolan, Captain
Douglas, Sir G. O'Clery, K.
Downing, M'C. O'Conor, D. M.
Duff, R. W. O' Gorman, P.
Dunbar, J. O'Loghlen, rt. hon. Sir C. M.
Earp, T.
Edwards, H. O'Shaughnessy, R.
Egerton, Adm. hon. F. O'Sullivan, W. H.
Ellice, E. Palmer, C. M.
Evans, T. W. Pennington, F.
Fletcher, T. Perkins, Sir F.
Foljambe, F. J. S. Polhill-Turner, Capt.
Fordyce, W. D. Potter, T. B.
Forster, Sir C. Powell, W.
French, hon. C. Power, J. O'C.
Gardner, R. Richard-son- Power, R.
Praed, H. B.
Goddard, A. L. Price, W. E.
Gore, J. R. O. Ramsay, J.
Gray, Sir, T. Rashleigh, Sir C.
Greenall, G. Redmond, W. A.
Halsey, T. F. Reed, E. J.
Hamilton, Lord C. J. Reid, R.
Hankey, T. Richard, H.
Hardcastle, E. Ripley, H. W.
Harrison, J. F. Robertson, H.
Hay, rt. hn. Sir J. C. D. Ronayne, J. P.
Hayter, A. D. St. Aubyn, Sir J.
Herbert, H. A. Samuda, J. D'A.
Hervey, Lord F. Scott, M. D.
Hick, J. Shaw, R.
Shaw, W. Tracy, hon. C. R. D Hanbury-
Sheil, E.
Sheridan, H. B. Villiers, rt. hon. O. P.
Sherlock, Mr. Serjeant Vivian, H. H.
Sherriff, A. C. Waddy, S. D.
Sidebottom, T. H. Wait, W. K.
Simon, Mr. Serjeant Watkin, Sir E. W.
Sinclair, Sir, T. G. T. Whalley, G. H.
Stafford, Marquis of Wheelhouse, W. S. J.
Stanhope, W. T. W. S. Whitelaw, A.
Stanton, A. J. Whitwell, J.
Starkey, L. R. Wilson, Sir M.
Stewart, M. J. Yeaman, J.
Sullivan, A. M. Yorke, hon. E.
Swanston, A. Young, A. W.
Taylor, P. A.
Temple, rt. hon. W. Cowper- TELLERS.
Forsyth, W.
Tennant, R. Plimsoll, S.
Adderley, rt. hn. Sir C. Dalway, M. R.
Agnew, R. V. Denison, C. B.
Alexander, Colonel Duff, M. E. G.
Allsopp, S. C. Dundas, J. C.
Arkwright, F. Edmonstone, Adm. Sir W.
Arkwright, R.
Assheton, R. Egerton, hon. A. F.
Baggallay, Sir R. Elliot, Admiral
Bailey, Sir J. R. Eslington, Lord
Ball, rt. hon. J. T. Estcourt, G. B.
Barclay, J. W. Feilden, H. M.
Barttelot, Colonel Fellowes, E.
Bates, E. Ferguson, R.
Baxter, rt. hon. W. E. Fitzwilliam, hon. C. W. W.
Beach, rt. hn. Sir M. H.
Beach, W. W. B. Folkestone, Viscount
Bective, Earl of Forester, rt. hon. Gen.
Bentinck, G. C. Freshfield, C. K.
Bolckow, H. W. F. Gallwey, Sir W P.
Booth, Sir R. G. Galway, Viscount
Bourke, hon. R. Gardner, J. T. Agg-
Bourne, Colonel Garnier, J. C.
Bowyer, Sir G. Gore, W. R. O.
Brassey, T. Gourley, E. T.
Bright, R. Gregory, G. B.
Broadley, W. H. H. Grieve, J. J.
Brown, A. H. Hamilton, hon. R. B.
Brymer, W. E. Hamond, C. F.
Buxton, Sir E. J. Hanbury, R. W.
Campbell, C. Henley, rt. hon. J. W.
Camphell-Bannerman, H. Herschell, F.
Hervey, Lord A. H.
Cave, rt. hon. S. Holford, J. P. G.
Cawley, C. E. Holker, J.
Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G. Holland, S.
Chaine, J. Holmesdale, Viscount
Chapman, J. Hood, Captain hon. A. W. A. N.
Clifton, T. H.
Close, M. C. Hope, A. J. B. B.
Clowes, S. W. Hubbard, E.
Cochrane, A. D. W. R. B. Huddleston, J. W.
Cole, hon. Col. H. A. Hunt, rt. hon. G. W.
Corbett, Colonel Johnstone, H.
Corry, hon. H. W. L. Jolliffe, hon. Captain
Corry, J. P. Jones, J.
Crichton, Viscount Kay-Shuttleworth, U. J.
Cross, rt. hon. R. A.
Cubitt, G. Knight, F. W.
Cust, H. C. Lacon, Sir E. H. K.
Dalkeith, Earl of Laing, S.
Dalrymple, C. Learmonth, A.
Lee, Major V. Rathbone, W.
Leeman, G. Read, C. S.
Lefevre, G. J. S. Rendlesham, Lord
Legh, W. J. Repton, G. W.
Leslie, J. Ridley, M. W.
Lloyd, S. Round, J.
Lloyd, T. E. Salt, T.
Lopes, H. C. Sandon, Viscount
Lopes, Sir M. Sclater-Booth, rt. hn. G.
Lorne, Marquis of Scourfield, J. H.
Lowther, J. Selwin-Ibbetson, Sir H. J.
Mahon, Viscount
Majendie, L. A. Smith, E.
Makins, Colonel Smith, S. G.
Manners, rt. hn. Lord J. Smith, W. H.
Marten, A. G. Smollett, P. B.
Matheson, A. Somerset, Lord H. R. C.
Maxwell, Sir W. S. Stanley, hon. F.
Mills, Sir C. H. Stevenson, J. C.
Monck, Sir A. E. Sykes, C.
Montgomerie, R. Talbot, C. R. M.
Montgomery, Sir G. G. Talbot, J. G.
Mowbray, rt. hn. J. R. Taylor, rt. hon. Col.
Naghten, A. R. Tollemache, W. F.
Newport, Viscount Tremayne, J.
Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H. Trevor, Lord A. E. Hill-
Turner, C.
Norwood, C. M. Turnor, E.
O'Neill, hon. E. Vance, J.
Onslow, D. Wallace, Sir R.
Paget, R. H. Walsh, hon. A.
Palk, Sir L. Waterhouse, S.
Parker, Lt. Col. W. Welby, W. E.
Pateshall, E. Williams, W.
Peel, A. W. Wilmot, Sir H.
Pell, A. Wilson, C.
Pender, J. Yorke, J. R.
Peploe, Major
Percy, Earl TELLERS.
Pim, Captain B. Dyke, W. H.
Price, Captain Winn, R.