HC Deb 17 June 1875 vol 225 cc100-38

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That MR. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Sir Charles Adderley.)


, in moving the Amendment of which he had given Notice, namely— That, in the opinion of this House, no measure affecting Merchant Shipping can he deemed satisfactory which does not as far as practicable guard against ships sailing under foreign flags being at an advantage as compared with those under the British flag. said, that when he had looked into the Bill he came to the conclusion that it was a very weak measure. Clauses had been introduced which would place our merchant shipping at a great disadvantage, yet it would not do much to promote the views that some persons had at heart. He thought the shipowners of this country had a right to be considered. When the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade sacrificed his Easter vacation, and went about the country endeavouring to obtain all the information he could, it showed his earnestness in the work, and it was hoped from what he said, both in public and a private, that something would be proposed in the present Bill to alleviate the unpleasant and vexatious position in which the ship- owners found themselves placed. In his opinion, it would have been far better if the right hon. Gentleman had at the commencement of the Session moved for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the matter. By this time their investigation would have been concluded, and the House would have had a much more practicable Bill to consider. The measure now before the House would do very little good and very little harm. It would not materially affect either the sailors, the shipowners, or the merchants. An extraordinary change in connection with British shipping had taken place of late years. The passage to India had been much shortened by the construction of the Suez Canal, trade had been revolutionized by the introduction of steam, and the English Mercantile Marine had attained a pre-eminence over that of other countries such as it had never had before. Therefore, we ought to be specially careful lest by any legislative interference we should give a check to this progress. The shipowners did not desire a return to Protection—on the contrary, every ship coming into a British port, whether under a British or foreign flag, should be under the same rules and regulations. But, as the case at present stood, a foreign ship in one of our ports might be overladen or unseaworthy, and we gave no protection to the crew, while the English shipowner was placed under burdensome restrictions and regulations. In fact, the foreign shipowner trading in English ports had advantages in every way which the British shipowner did not possess. This was not the way to encourage the growth of a vast commerce. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman himself seemed to be afraid that his legislation would have an injurious effect by driving ships into the foreign trade, for he had introduced clauses to impede the transfer of British ships into foreign hands. He (MR. T. E. Smith) would like to know why the right hon. Gentleman had introduced clauses which would impede a British shipowner in selling his ship to a foreigner if he chose to do so? He feared that the Bill would interfere very much with the shipbuilding trade in this country. A great many foreign ships were built here, and when the shipbuilder wished to have a vessel registered as a foreign ship, why should he be required to get evidence on the subject—it might be from China or San Francisco? Such clauses as these would require very great consideration in Committee. He came now to what he believed to be the best part of the Bill, and that was the clauses which dealt with the "advance notes." The general opinion of those who took a warm, practical interest in the welfare of the sailor was that nothing better could be done than to abolish the advance note, which simply enabled him to lead a life of debauchery for a few days, after which he went on board in a totally unfit state. We had heard much about unseaworthy ships, but had not so fully understood the question of unseaworthy crews. He himself had lately had a large ship going to sea, and every man of the crew had to be carried on board, and had to be looked after for 24 hours, until he had become sufficiently sober to undertake his duty. But here arose an important consideration—what was to become of the wives and families of the men? There were large numbers of sailors who were sober and respectable, and many of them had wives and families whom they were as anxious to support as Members of this House could be to support theirs. If the present law were to remain as it was with the additions this Bill proposed, they would have no means of providing for their families. At present there were two ways of doing so—the advance note, which was to be abolished, and the allotment note, by which the seaman's wife or relatives were able to got month by month payments not exceeding half the wages which the man had earned. But at present allotment notes were given only to the superior classes of seamen, such as the boatswain, carpenter, and so on. Unless the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to deal with this question of the allotment note, it would be the greatest injustice to allow sailors to go to sea while no provision was made for their wives and families. The Bill also gave an inducement to the "crimps" to ship sailors under foreign flags, because they need not to be taken before shipping masters and could have advance notes. In this way foreign ships would be placed in a better position than British ships. Them the Bill was bristling with penalties for breaches of discipline, and he doubted the wis- dom of that. As a matter of fact, penalties were very seldom enforced; but we should not promote the security of our ships or the good feeling which should prevail between the officers and crew if we loaded the Bill with penalties. If, instead of heavy penalties, there were more moderate ones which could be easily enforced, we should, he believed, go a long way to insure better discipline on board our ships. It was also most desirable, in his opinion, that any plan for the improvement of the look-out on board should be adopted with the view of preventing collisions. As to the clauses which came under the important head of safety, he had already expressed it to be his opinion that the right hon. Gentleman had pursued the right line with respect to the question of loading ships; but, representing as he did a constituency which was composed almost entirely of shipowners and seamen, he was continually receiving letters pointing out the hardship in the case of ships which had been going to sea for years, carrying the same cargo and with the same draught of water, of the vessels themselves being stopped and the reputation of their owners impugned because some one chose to report that the ships were overloaded. There should, he maintained, be some way of ascertaining the views of the. Board of Trade with regard to the depth to which a ship might be immersed. Ships were now very often improperly stopped, and then the character of the Government officer was saved by the shipowner being called upon to make some small and unimportant alteration in the loading. Shipowners ought not to be subjected to this vexatious interference. Among these safety clauses was a very extraordinary one, Clause 37, which indeed appeared to be a complete Bill in itself. It dealt with a question which was not connected with safety—he meant the question of the measurement of tonnage, and was based on views directly contrary to the recommendations of the Committee of the House before which the subject was fully discussed. The Committee were strongly of opinion that it was undesirable to interfere with the shelters which were placed on the decks of ships to protect passengers as well as cattle and the cargo, and that it would be well they should be made more substantial and permanent. Now, he objected to the clause as an attempt to carry out by a sidewind a view opposed to that which that Committee had so decidedly expressed, and because it would have a retrospective action in defeating the decisions which had been already pronounced by two Scotch Courts, as well as by the House of Lords, on appeal as to the proper mode of measuring ships. It would, he thought, be a gross injustice on a shipowner who had expended thousands of pounds in making certain useful erections on board his ships, that he should be brought under the action of a clause which did not appear in the Bill on the second reading, and he hoped, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman would either withdraw or modify it very materially. As to the question of tonnage, he had no hesitation in saying that if the clause were to pass in its present shape, the whole Continental trade of the country would be carried on under foreign flags, because of the large quantity of fruit and other things which would require to be protected by deckhouses, which, if they were to be included in the tonnage measurement, would add 60 or 70 per cent to the tonnage of some vessels, so that it would be impossible for the British shipowner to compete with the foreigner. There was a time when the American Mercantile Marine was our greatest rival; but their marine had been so hampered and harassed by restrictions and regulations, that it had almost vanished from the seas: while the British, on the contrary, comparatively free, had continually and greatly increased. He might be told it was impossible for Government to interfere with foreign ships; but he could not adopt that view. Foreign countries interfered with the freedom of British shipping, and we interfered in the case of foreign ships carrying steerage passengers. He contended that the protection secured to passengers should be given to British seamen in foreign ships. In other countries a good deal more than this was done. In the United States and Canada—especially in New York and Montreal—very strict supervision was exercised in the loading of ships and everything connected with their seaworthiness. They were not allowed to sail if they were overloaded. He hoped, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman during the progress of this measure would do something to guard against the possibility of British shipowners being placed at such a disadvantage as compared with the foreigner as would tempt them to put their ships under a foreign flag.


, in seconding the Amendment, said, the proposal contained in the Resolution of the hon. Member for Tynemouth was not the re-introduction of Protection, or to give to British shipowners a superiority over foreigners, but by extending the provisions of the Bill, which now applied to British shipping only, to foreigners, in order thereby to place both on an equality, and so give an additional guarantee to free trade. The leading Governments of Europe virtually provided their merchant shipping with a supply of seamen by making sea service compulsory. They were compelled compulsorily to serve the State up to a certain age, and if they deserted from their ships in foreign ports they became outlaws, the consequence being that a German or a Frenchman scarcely ever deserted from his ship. The British Government not only did not assist the British shipowner in that respect; but in time of war they allowed his seamen to be pressed, and in time of peace to serve on board of Her Majesty's ships when required to fill up the requisite number of hands. Another ground of disadvantage was that British ships trading to foreign countries were made amenable both to the municipal and Imperial laws of those countries. In Russia, English seamen in the midst of winter were deprived of the use of fire after a certain hour if within a given distance of the quays, and they were compelled to send their food ashore to be cooked. A third ground on which British shipping was at a disadvantage was that the coasting trade of nearly all foreign countries was confined to vessels sailing under their own flag. The only way by which England could keep her position was to cause foreign and English shipping to be treated alike. It had been said that the maritime tonnage of foreign countries was so small that it was not worth being taken into account. Now, the real tonnage of British ships belonging to the United Kingdom, not taking into account the tonnage of colonial ships, was only 5,500,000 tons, and the tonnage of all European countries was no less than 7,000,000. We had from 180,000 to 200,000 seamen. Half a century ago Germany had scarcely any ships, but now she had over 1,000,000 tons, and from 40,000 to 50,000 seamen. France had now over 1,000,000 tons of shipping, with 50,000 seamen. Italy had over 1,000,000, Turkey 1,000,000, and Sweden and Norway together over 1,000,000. So that this country had to contend with over 7,000,000 tons of shipping, and it was now proposed to place British shipping at a further disadvantage by imposing regulations that would not apply to foreign shipping. The ostensible object of the Bill was to obtain infallibility in point of sea-worthiness, but that would be impossible as long as there were winds and waves. With regard to seaworthiness, he believed the existing laws would be sufficient if properly carried out; and he held that what the Government should have done was to bring in a Bill to codify and simplify those laws. As the law now stood, it was impossible for anyone to understand it. Of the 474 ships detained under the existing Act of 1873 all were not detained because they were really unseaworthy. 32 were detained because they were alleged to be overloaded; but in several cases where the shipowner had the courage to resist the Board of Trade the surveyors of that Board turned out to be wrong; and nearly the whole of the remainder of the ships were detained in consequence of what was called technical deficiencies. For example, in reference to lights, the surveyors in different ports disagreed. Such regulations should be laid down by the Bill as should make such disagreements impossible. As to the load-line, there ought to be two load-lines, one for salt and the other for fresh water; and every ship should be certified before she was permitted to proceed to sea. With regard to advance notes, he believed them to be necessary—he thought it impossible to abolish them; but if they were forbidden, the "crimps" would charge sailors extortionate prices for cashing allotment notes, which would become more extensively used if advance notes were abolished. He wished to know why, if the right hon. Gentleman wished to deal thoroughly with this question, he had not taken measures to bring about an international Consular Convention. In the port of New York alone as many as 20,000 seamen annually deserted from the British merchant sea service, and took engagements in the ships of other nations, where they received better pay, and neither the captains nor the British Consul had power to arrest them and send them back to their own ships. In consequence of this, shipowners were put to an immense loss, while the sailors were not in the least benefited, as they were beset by a number of crimps who fleeced them of their money. Again, if a seaman broke a contract, even when owing to causes which were beyond his own control, and was brought before a magistrate for it, the magistrate had no alternative but must send him to prison. He thought that law ought to have been repealed before the introduction of a Bill of pains and penalties like that which they were now discussing. The Government ought, when introducing a Bill amending the law relating to British shipping, to have repealed the law under which seamen were liable to be criminally punished for breaking a purely civil contract. The only offences which ought to be regarded as criminal were theft, a bad look-out, and the endangering of the safety of property. The clause which he had stated would have the effect of finding a shipowner a millionaire one day and a beggar the next had been removed, but the clause which had been substituted for it was very little better, and would bring about the ruin of the trade by making the shipowner responsible for matters over which he had no control.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, no measure affecting Merchant Shipping can he deemed satisfactory which does not as far as practicable guard against ships sailing under foreign flags being at an advantage as compared with those under the British flag,"—(MR. Eustace Smith,)

—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


believed the Bill afforded a favourable opportunity for settling an important question. If it was not perfect in every particular, it was at least correct in its principle. The question was one in which a large class of the people of the country took a strong interest, and it was no longer confined to the Board of Trade on the one hand and the shipowners on the other. There were some matters of detail which he thought could be amended in Committee; but there were others in which he could not at all agree. One of these last was the proposal to abolish advance notes. Much misapprehension prevailed on that subject. An advance note, instead of being a bill of exchange or promissory note, was simply an ordinary contract between the master or owner of the ship and the seaman, that the former would, after the latter had sailed in the ship, pay to his order a certain sum of money. It was a promise which only the seaman himself could sue upon, but a promise in respect of which, if the shipowner fulfilled it, he had a right to deduct the amount so paid from the seaman's wages when they became due. The advance notes, however, passed from hand to hand among the shipping community, almost as if they were bank notes. It seemed to him a most extraordinary thing that the Board of Trade, which had so long resisted the attempt by legislation to make ships seaworthy, should be so ready to attempt to do the far more difficult thing of making sailors provident. The system might be open to abuse, but he agreed with the hon. Member for Tynemouth (MR. T. E. Smith), that the greatest obstacle would, by this part of the Bill, be thrown in the way of the honest and steady seaman making provision for his wife and family whom he left behind him. It was no doubt a bad practice for anybody to take an advance on his wages, but the thing was done in principle by hon. Members of that House when they took advances in one form or another upon their incomes. Why then, he asked, should they subject the seaman against his will to this paternal legislation and try to correct his idiosyncraises by Act of Parliament? He, for one, could not understand the reason. Another difficulty was that if they put a stop to the advance-note system it would lead to the introduction of the truck system in its worst form, because, as many seamen shipped themselves when they were quite destitute of clothes, it would be necessary to enact that the master or owner might supply him with the necessaries for the voyage, and so command a monopoly for supply- ing an outfit with which he would otherwise supply himself by the money obtained on his advance note. As to the load-line, he thought it was a defect in the Bill that it did not define what was called "the ship's ordinary load water line;" and yet the shipowner was required by one of the clauses to paint certain lines on the side of the ship, which were to be at a particular distance from the imaginary ordinary load water line. The load-line ought not to be left to imagination, but ought to be actually painted on the ship's side. With regard to the proposed alteration in the law relating to measurement of tonnage, modifications might be found necessary in Committee, but he could not see what objection could be made to the principle of that particular part of the measure. By a recent decision of the House of Lords it was held that the space under the awning deck was not to be included in the measurement for tonnage on the ground that such a deck was not watertight. Now, he (MR. Gorst) objected to any change of the law which would encourage shipowners to build their ships with unseaworthy decks. As to the compulsory survey of unclassed ships, shipowners and the Board of Trade held it would be impossible to carry out that survey. For his part, he was unable to see the impossibility of it. The larger proportion of ships being classed in Lloyd's, or some other register, those remaining were only some 3,000 or 4,000, and if a compulsory survey were carried out some of those vessels would be driven into some class or other, while others would probably be broken up; so that the residuum would be a very manageable number for the Government to survey. He would suggest that ships should be surveyed before, and not after, they were loaded and ready for sea, with a view of saving unnecessary expense to the shipowner. Vessels employed in the transport and Indian service were subjected to a most rigorous survey. He thought there was no ground for fear that the restrictions imposed by the Bill would interfere with the trade of the country; while as regarded the seamen its effect would be of the best possible character. Our seamen had never shrunk from peril at sea, and it was most unfair to make reflections upon them because they objected to go to sea in these vessels, which had been called "traps" and "coffins;" and when all cause of fear in that respect was remedied a better class of men would enter the merchant service.


said, he thought the kind of unseaworthiness in question was very limited in extent, and that it might be remedied by legislation without infringing on the rights of any shipowner who endeavoured to send his ships to sea in a seaworthy condition. With reference to the penal clauses of the Bill he would remind the House that besides the causes of disasters owing to the unseaworthiness of crews, many losses could be clearly traced to the reckless and slovenly manner in which many of our merchant ships were navigated by their officers. He thought our shipowners were much to blame for their neglect in encouraging and fostering voluntary apprenticeship—had they done that there would have been no want of skilled seamen. The result of suspending an officer's certificate often was that he passed the period of his suspension in idleness, and returned much more unfitted to command a ship than he was when the accident occurred. Therefore, in the more flagrant cases it would be desirable to disqualify an officer altogether, while in other cases an officer ought to be compelled to serve a further apprenticeship and to pass a re-examination before being again entrusted with a command. He did not object to the employment of foreign seamen, many of whom would be naturalized and be useful in time of war. He hoped, too, our Government would give encouragement to training ships at our various outports—seamen could not be made like soldiers by a few months service—it took many years to make a sailor. The Acts on this subject were passed as tentative measures at a time of panic, and were never intended to remain permanently on the Statute Book. The greater number of the shipowners were men desirous of carrying on their business honestly, and they were opposed to overloading—he denied that as a class they were reckless of the lives of their seamen. The Bill would be, however, unsatisfactory unless it provided, first, for the periodical survey of unclassed ships, and, next, a more efficient remedy for the growing evil of overloading. With regard to unclassed ships there were first of all the vessels of a few great companies and firms, whose affairs were conducted in a manner which must he satisfactory even to the hon. Member for Derby. Nothing could be more perfect than their crews and equipment; and as they usually carried passengers their ships came under the officers of the Board of Trade, whose survey was more stringent than that of Lloyd's. The next type of unclassed ships was those owned by small private shipowners. They carried cargoes of small value, and as they were kept up to a fair standard of efficiency the owners would not suffer from a periodical survey. The unclassed tonnage which really required periodical survey was that described in the Appendices to the final Report of the Unseaworthy Ships Commission—ships that had seen their best days, but which could be kept in a seaworthy state for many years if they underwent a periodical and careful survey. Not one shipowner or captain in 20 was competent to survey these ships for seaworthiness. It might, indeed, be said of a large proportion of this unclassed tonnage that neither the owners, the captains, nor the crews knew whether the ships were seaworthy or not, and the first intimation they had of their unseaworthiness was by their springing a leak at sea. This unseaworthiness could, however, have been readily discovered by a competent surveyor in time to prevent disaster. Among the casualties which caused the loss of ships, cases of stranding figured very largely. No doubt the best ships were sometimes stranded; but this casualty was more likely to happen to badly found and ill-manned ships. A large proportion of the vessels reported as lost, foundered, or abandoned at sea were either not classed, or classed in some Foreign Association, of which no trustworthy information could be obtained. A number of casualties could be traced to defective spars, canvas, and rigging, especially in the coasting trade. It was said that if the ships at present unclassed were obliged to submit to a periodical survey the responsibility of the shipowners would be to some extent removed. This might be true, but only in the same sense that the responsibility of a shipowner whose vessel was classed Al at Lloyd's was removed. The President of the Board of Trade thought that an army of surveyors would be required to survey these unclassed ships; but he (MR. Jenkins) saw no necessity for a Government survey for this class of vessels. What objection could there be to a survey by the Local Marine Board of each district, whose report should be forwarded to the Board of Trade? It might be said that if local surveyors were appointed they might be exposed to undue influence or collusion with the shipowners of the port. If so, there was the Act of 1871 to fall back upon. He believed, however, that these surveyors would do their work honestly and give satisfaction, and the Government would be relieved of its responsibility. He believed that if this compulsory survey clause were put into the Bill very few ships after a brief period would be left to be dealt with under the Act:—the rotten and useless ships would disappear, while those that stood the survey would be enhanced in value from 20 to 25 per cent—there would be much less loss of life and property, and the country would be better satisfied. It should be recollected that the survey required for these unclassed ships would not be such as was expected in the case of first-class ships at Lloyd's. They did not usually take perishable goods, but they would be surveyed to see if they were tight, stanch, and strong, and able to stand a sea voyage. "With regard to overloading, some sensational stories had been told as to the depth or want of depth of freeboard. Having had some experience, both at sea and on shore, he confessed he could not understand those cases. No doubt there was dangerous overloading in some trades, and screw steamers were sometimes loaded as if they were canal boats, and many of these vessels, when they met with exceptionally bad weather at sea, must founder. What he would suggest was, that the maximum draught of water to which a ship might be loaded should be submitted to the Board of Trade; that it should not be changed under any circumstances, and that it should be entered on the ship register. The danger at present was that ships were sometimes loaded to a line that no owner would dare to submit to the Board of Trade, and thus many disasters occurred which would not happen had the load-line been on the ships register. There were other clauses of the Bill to which he took some exception, but to which he would not allude further on that occasion. He was anxious to see a measure passed which should be practical in its working, while at the same time it would prevent the unnecessary sacrifice of life and property so far as it was in the power of the Legislature to effect that object.


thought the hon. Members for Tynemouth (MR. T. E. Smith) and Sunderland (MR. Gourley), were somewhat unreasonably afraid of foreign competition. It had fallen to him (MR. MacIver) inpast years to have had some experience of competition with foreign vessels in the passenger trade, and that experience had led him to the conclusion that there would be no difficulty in obtaining their compliance with reasonable regulations in regard to cargo as well as in regard to passengers. There was already, he said, sufficient precedent in the operation of the Passengers' Act, and at the present moment foreign vessels could not embark steerage passengers in British ports except under compliance with British regulations. That which was already done in regard to steerage passengers, he (MR. MacIver) thought could equally be done in the case of foreign vessels competing with British vessels for ordinary trade. In expressing a hope that the Bill might be referred to a Select Committee, he said that a real necessity existed for much more complete revision of the laws relating to Merchant Shipping than anything which was contemplated by the present measure; and he thought that the number and importance of the Amendments placed upon the Notice Paper abundantly justified him in holding that opinion. On the second reading of the Bill, they were all agreed as regarded broad general principles; but it was now evident they were not equally agreed in regard to the means of giving practical effect to those principles. Thirty-four pages of Amendments, by 44 different people, having reference for the most part to technical details of shipping management, must, if gone into carefully as they deserved to be, occupy the attention of the House for a very considerable time. Such Amendments as sought to repeal existing laws, and suggested new clauses to take their place, were of very considerable importance, and there were many such; but there were others still more numerous, which, if considered in a Committee of the Whole House, could only result in prolonged discussion, and, perhaps, in the end, frustrate the great object which they all had at heart. The objection might be urged that reference of the Bill to a Select Committee was now unnecessary, inasmuch as there had already been an exhaustive inquiry into the subject by a Royal Commission. It was true that a Royal Commission, composed of very eminent men, having very extensive powers, did investigate the subject; but theirs was, he (MR. MacIver) maintained, by no means an exhaustive inquiry, and they did not exercise their powers. Liverpool was second to no port in the world as regarded steam tonnage; not even second to London itself, yet only two Liverpool steamship owners were examined by the Royal Commissioners; and one of those witnesses was his (MR. MacIver's) father. There was no steamship owner in the world whose experience was greater than his father's, or whose views in regard to the essential conditions of safe navigation were entitled to more respect. Quoting his father's evidence from the official digest of the proceedings of the Royal Commissioners, he (MR. MacIver) pointed out that nothing could be more emphatically at variance with the views which his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (MR. Rathbone), and those who were working with him, persistently urged with so much ability. His (MR. MacIver's) father told the Royal Commissioners in the plainest terms that overloading of steamers was of frequent occurrence, and could only be prevented by legislative interference; and in equally plain terms he told the Commissioners that such interference ought, in his judgment, to take the form of Government survey, coupled with the general adoption of a compulsory load-line. His (MR. MacIver's) father told the Commissioners that there was no practical difficulty whatever in either branch of the subject, and that "he could not see that insisting on proper strength should hamper enterprise or improvement." These were his father's words to the Royal Commissioners, and he (MR. MacIver) entirely agreed with him. Could anything be more entirely in harmony with the views of the hon. Member for Derby (MR. Plimsoll) in regard to the direction in which alone legislation could be made effectual for the prevention of those disasters which they all deplored? He (MR. MacIver) maintained, therefore, that a real necessity existed for immediate legislation as regarded this branch of the subject, and that the hon. Member for Derby (MR. Plimsoll) had done good service in keeping the question before the country. He (MR. MacIver) desired again to impress upon the House that, unless in the rarest instances, it was an entire mistake to suppose that vessels were purposely lost. Take, for example, the steamers which had foundered during the past winter. The owners of these vessels, as he (MR. MacIver) believed, never intended any of them to be lost. The ordinary law of the land would be able to reach them if they did. What was really required was a proper system of periodical survey in regard to vessels not bad enough to be stopped under the Act of 1873. Until there was such a survey, the owners of second-rate property would always remain only too ready to believe their vessels to be in better condition than they were: and similarly in regard to load-line. It was not necessary to assume intention to overload. On the contrary, he believed such intention rarely or never existed; but he maintained that those who were pecuniarly interested in a venture were not always the persons best qualified to judge. They might wish to form unbiassed opinions; but it did not follow that they could do so. Nor would the opinions of some shipowners in regard to depth of loading or other conditions of seaworthiness be practically worth much even if they could. The Board of Trade already attempted too much surveying, but there was no reason why such work should not to some extent more than at present be entrusted to the registry societies. If a Select Committee were now appointed it would have the advantage of being able to consider not merely the Report of the Royal Commissioners, and the evidence upon which such Report was based; but it would have the further advantage of being able to consider the still more valuable evidence furnished by the Amendments which had been placed upon the Notice Paper. It might be taken that the views held at every seaport in the Kingdom had been carefully expressed with something like legal precision in those Amendments. He (MR. MacIver) believed that if the whole subject were now referred to a Select Committee the remedies proposed by the hon. Member for Derby (MR. Plimsoll) would easily be reconciled by such Committee with the principle of the Government Bill. There was, he said, considerable misconception on the subject, even amongst hon. Members who had taken a prominent part in these discussions. Referring to the arguments made use of by his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (MR. Rathbone), upon the occasion of the second reading of the Bill, he (MR. MacIver) pointed out that such argument was based on premisses which were entirely mistaken. The Cunard Company had been successful not under the conditions described by his hon. Friend (MR. Rathbone), but precisely under the conditions which his hon. Friend said would have made success impossible. In earlier days the Cunard steamers were to all practical intents and purposes paddle-wheel frigates, and, until recent years, their postal service had been conducted under a supervision from the Admiralty far more stringent than anything which even the hon. Member for Derby (MR. Plimsoll) had ever dreamt of. He (MR. MacIver) was not one of those who "call out loudly" as suggested by his hon. Friend (MR. Rathbone) for Government direction and control; but he did earnestly believe that in some respects the recommendations of the Royal Commissioners were utterly mistaken. The principles of survey and of responsibility were in his (MR. MacIver's) view perfectly reconcilable. They inspected passenger steamers, railways, mines, and factories, and in all cases with good results; and it was clear therefore that the proposals of the hon. Member for Derby (MR. Plimsoll) could not successfully be resisted by such reasoning as that of the hon. Member for Liverpool (MR. Rathbone) and those who were working with him. He was very glad to be able to pass on to a matter in which he could very heartily and cordially agree with his good Friend the hon. Member for Liverpool (MR. Rathbone). His hon. Friend presented some time ago two Petitions from the Liverpool Steamship Owners' Association, which had been published and widely circulated, and which he (MR. MacIver) thought were of considerable importance, and entitled to very great respect. It was true that they had been adopted at a very small meeting attended principally by representatives of limited liability companies; but the Petitions, nevertheless, might be taken as fairly representing views which were largely held. Shipowners had nothing to gain by a Government supervision of their ships; very few shipowners desired it; and, as it would be more or less troublesome to them, they would rather be without it; but he thought it was necessary. He (MR. MacIver) was no believer in the idea of preventing disasters by intensifying the responsibility of shipowners; but, at the same time, he did not desire to oppose such legislation if it could be made a reality. He thought, however, that personal responsibilities were at present somewhat undefined; but, having regard to the prayer of the Petitions from the Liverpool Steamship Owners' Association he had placed Amendments upon the Notice Paper providing that, in the case of limited liability companies, two at least of the directors should be compelled to place themselves within the position of responsibility asked for by the Association. Responsibility, he said, should be fairly and equally applied, but having done all that was possible to be done in that direction, it would still be necessary to fall back upon the principle of survey combined with that of load-line. The necessity of legislation in regard to load-line which the hon. Member for Derby (MR. Plimsoll) had urged so long, having now been admitted, in some form or other, not merely by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, but by almost every shipowner in the House of Commons, it was idle to fight against such legislation. But he (MR. MacIver) did most earnestly urge that the principles of load-line and of survey ought to be considered together. He desired to point out that depth of loading was only one of several conditions on which seaworthiness depended. He considered that inferior vessels of insufficient strength contained less weight of material in themselves than heavier vessels of better construction. It was therefore, in his view, absolutely necessary—if legislating in regard to load-line—to legislate also in regard to the inspection of vessels not already sufficiently surveyed by registry societies. Seaworthiness was not a mere question of freeboard. He (MR. MacIver) had only recently returned from ship-building ports where he had seen models of vessels ordered with a view to legislation based on the principle of load-line. If such legislation were adopted it would lead to the construction of vessels built—not merely of insufficient material—but with higher sides than they ought to have with a view to comply with such conditions. He ventured to impress upon the House that, however desirable it was to legislate with respect to load-line, as he believed it was, it was an entire mistake to suppose that the seaworthiness of vessels depended entirely on the question of load-line. Load-line ought not to be lost sight of; but it should only be considered in connection with the quality of the ship, with her general arrangements, and with the sufficiency of the material of which she was constructed. He concluded by saying that he had no desire to press his Motion for a Select Committee. Those who had greater Parliamentary experience than he would be better able to judge whether the present measure could be brought into a satisfactory form without such reference; but, if a Select Committee were appointed, he (MR. MacIver) earnestly hoped they would report speedily in regard to the questions of load-line and survey, in order that legislation might take place this Session. And he thought that the consideration of the other questions might stand over until next year.


thought the Bill introduced by the Government sufficiently comprehensive to enable the House to make a very useful measure of it, and he could bear testimony that the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of the measure had devoted much time and consideration to it, and had undertaken some arduous journeys in order to ascertain the opinion of the most experienced persons in our large shipping ports on the subject with which it dealt; and he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would not be deterred from attempting to carry it through Committee by the very large number of Notices of Amendments which had been placed on the Paper. The subject, in its leading aspects, had already been discussed at such length that he did not intend to detain the House. He was glad that a serious effort was to be made to improve the existing law—for it must be remem- bered that the legislation of 1873 had been undertaken at a time when the public mind had been much excited by the hon. Member for Derby and others, and since that time an agitation had been kept up which had caused great anxiety to the shipping interest as to the future. The shipping of Great Britain, it ought not to be forgotten, had in modern times undergone a very great and important change. The old sailing ship, which carried few hands and comparatively little cargo, had given way to the great steamers, which carried many persons, crew, and passengers, and much cargo; and any accident to one of those steamers caused a sensational feeling to spread all the country over, and caused a loud outcry for immediate legislation. It was beyond doubt the duty of the House and the country to do all in their power to reduce, as far as possible, the number of those accidents. Accidents to steamships were not in proportion to their number more numerous than to sailing vessels; but, however that might be, what the shipowners desired was to see the law so amended that they might distinctly know the conditions they were required to fulfil in carrying on their business. He knew that as a body they were as desirous as the hon. Member for Derby, or anybody else, to reduce the number of accidents and the loss of life and property at sea. There were some details which would require careful consideration. For instance, was the proposed load-line to be applied to the coasting trade as well as to the general trade? If it was, the whole of the coasting trade in the North of England would be put under very serious embarrassment—indeed, it would be almost impossible under such new conditions to carry it on. He was glad, however, that the Board of Trade had decided to have a load-line of some character, as he believed that a load-line could be fixed for all ships under all circumstances. At the same time, he entirely approved of a general survey by an independent and efficient staff of surveyors on the Board of Trade without the assistance of any other institution. Each ship should be separately surveyed in order to fix the load-line, and that once done it need not be altered for many years, unless some great change took place in the vessel itself. He did not wish to make any distinction in these cases between summer and winter. If a ship could not be navigated under all circumstances, she should not be navigated at all. He knew there was some excitement in the House on the subject of advance notes, but he hoped the President of the Board of Trade would persevere and not withdraw this clause—it was the only way of keeping the seamen out of the hands of crimps; and it enabled the men to make arrangements by which their wives and families were maintained while they were on a voyage. He believed when the advance note system was done away with it would find its own cure—seamen would rely upon their character instead of being carried away by the wretched persons who lived upon them. In giving up advance notes, however, he must express a decided objection to reverting to the truck system, the revival of which would be a great evil. As to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Pembroke (MR. Reed) with reference to the testing of iron, he believed if that passed it would deal a most serious blow to shipbuilding, for it would make it impossible for the English iron shipbuilder to compete with foreigners. He hoped the measurement clause would be expunged, for he thought if the question of measurement was to be undertaken it ought to be undertaken in connection with foreign Governments, and the Bill dealing with it ought to be a separate piece of legislation. They could never reach a high scale of perfection until they had better seamen, and he thought more ought to be done through training-ships to supply the merchant service with properly-educated and well-conducted seamen.


, who had given Notice of a Motion—namely— That no legislation on this subject can be considered satisfactory which does not propose to amend Schedule (C) of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1862, 'The Rule of the Road at Sea,' said, that most of the subjects referred to in the discussion were very fit to be dealt with in Committee, and therefore he would not refer to them; but there was one cause of loss of life at sea—and a very fertile cause—which had been alluded to by the hon. Member for Sunderland (MR. Gourley) to which he particularly desired to draw the attention of the House—he meant collisions. Not only was loss of life from that cause much greater than it ought to be, but it was continuously increasing. He held in his hand a communication made to him by a well-known officer of Lloyd's, from which it appeared that while in 1866 the loss of life from collisions was 1,958, it was 2,843 in 1873—the last year for which we had a Return. The increase of collisions had been gradual, and he was assured—though on that point he had not verified his information—that it was larger than the increase in our merchant shipping. Therefore the present regulations for the prevention of collisions had not had the good effect which they ought to have had. The number of collisions in 1866 was, as he had stated, 1,958; in 1870 it was 2,290; in 1871, 2,561; in 1872, 2,627; and in 1873, 2,843. He thought this evidently proved that some change was necessary in the "Rule of the Road at Sea." The Board of Trade, or, rather, the Foreign Office, had had their attention called to the lamentable loss of life at sea by no less than three of the foreign Governments of Europe. He held in his hand a Return, dated August, 1874, which was a copy of a report on steering and sailing rules—"the Rule of the Road at Sea." In this correspondence, which had been laid on the Table by his right hon. Friend, there were communications from the Government of the Netherlands, the Government of France, and also from Denmark, calling attention to the unsatisfactory condition of what was known as the "Rule of the Road at Sea;" and praying that such changes should be made as seemed to be necessary. Among the Notices of Amendment on this Bill he had ventured, at the desire of the Board of Trade, to places his opinion as to an amended Rule of the Road at Sea in a consolidated form; but the Amendments were not so considerable as they looked on the Notice Paper. In the Return which had been placed on the Table would be found a communication from the French Government containing an account of the deliberations of the French Legislative Assembly which our Representative at Paris had thought sufficiently important to communicate to the Foreign Office. It appeared that a most important Committee had been appointed by the French Legislative Assembly upon this subject, a considerable number of changes were recommended, and it was thought necessary that immediate action should be taken. The Board of Trade had always rightly said that what was called "the Rule of the Road at Sea "had been adopted by 33 Governments, and it was most difficult to make changes without the consent of all those Governments. Until this year there was no information before the House that the Board of Trade had been called on by foreign Governments to make the changes which persons who had considered the subject thought desirable. But they were now called on by the French Government as soon as might be to consider the changes which were necessary in "the Rule of the Road at Sea." If the subject was of such importance in the eyes of foreign Governments, he might be excused if he again urged on our own Government the necessity of amending that rule for the safety of life and property. The Paper to which he referred gave in three columns the existing regulations, the Board of Trade suggestions, and the French suggestions. He could not say that the French suggestions were totidem verbis the same he had placed on the Notice Paper; but the particular clauses in which the French Government suggested changes were those which he also desired to modify. He had ventured on a former occasion to suggest that his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade should appoint a Royal Commission to take into consideration not only the proposals he ventured to make, but other suggestions, and to communicate with the Governments of France, the Netherlands, and Denmark on the subject; and he hoped that his right hon Friend, if not able to appoint a Commission, would nominate a Committee to investigate and report what changes were necessary, so that Schedule C should be amended to give more confidence both to foreign Powers and ourselves. He hoped his right hon. Friend would be able to assure the House that steps had been taken which would be satisfactory, not only to this country, but to foreign countries, to save our shipping from the scandal arising from the loss of life and property which to a large extent was attributable to errors connected with the present "Rule of the Road at Sea,"


said, he had no desire to delay the House getting into Committee on this Bill; but, referring particularly to Clause 9, having reference to the issue of advance notes, he must appeal to the right hon. Gentleman whether it was worth while to annoy the shipping interest by insisting on it? Why, in the name of common sense, of charity, of justice, pass such a law as this? It was arbitrary and tyrannical. Why should not shipowners and sailors be allowed to make contracts like anybody else? The shipping trade of this country was very important, and it ought not to be supposed that those who were engaged in it were all children or knaves, and that that House only knew everything about it. He knew that there was bad conduct on the part of some sailors; but it was a principle of law, as of charity, to let ten bad men escape rather than run the risk of punishing one innocent one. As to the effect of the present measure upon the carrying trade—he might state that our timber-carrying trade had entirely gone into the hands of foreigners, and, unless we were careful with our legislation, other branches of our trade would be lost also. It was not by placing our shipping interest in leading-strings that we could hope to maintain our position as a great maritime nation. Was it a proper thing for a free country like this that the Government should take the whole management of our Mercantile Marine entirely under their charge, and that shipowners should not be able to do a single thing without an officer of the Board coming down to the docks to examine and tell them what they were to do? He knew the Government was a good deal forced into action of that kind by the cry on the part of the public for legislation; but he hoped the House would not insist on the Government undertaking the management of everything and telling everybody what they were to do in the way of business. If they did, then the responsibility would be thrown on the Government, and they might also bid good-by to our great trade and to our supremacy at sea.


said, he fully sympathized with the desire of the last speaker that the Government should interfere as little as possible with the Mercantile Marine of this country, and also with his wish that they might speedily go into Committee. But the House was now asked, instead of going into Committee, to pass an abstract Resolution declaring that they should guard as far as possible against ships sailing under foreign flags being put at an advantage as compared with British ships. If there was any pleasure in passing abstract Resolutions, they might pass one more abstract still, omitting the reference to shipping, and saying that they should guard against foreigners under any circumstances being placed at an advantage over Englishmen. But such vague and general declarations were useless and unmeaning. The debate on the second reading was characterized by everybody as "a Committee debate," every speech having been directed, not to the principle of the Bill—on which the House was generally agreed—but to the applicability of each clause to the carrying out of that principle in detail. He now appealed to the common sense of the House whether the same thing might not be said of the lengthy speeches which they had heard that night, and whether there was any practical advantage in prolonging that discussion out of Committee. The hon. Member who moved the Resolution (MR. T. E. Smith) said he was disappointed with the Bill, because he thought it would have saved the shipowners from more interference by the Board of Trade; but he (Sir Charles Adderley) could show that the clauses of the measure would have that effect, and would introduce a self-acting system which would relieve the Government of their most unwelcome, dangerous, and difficult task of interference. For instance, it was said that the Government surveyors should not arbitrarily stop ships which they considered to be improperly loaded: what the Government wished and what the Bill proposed was that the shipowners themselves should state their load line for every voyage, record it, and not load beyond it. Then the hon. Member said they most unnecessarily interfered with the transference of British ships to foreign flags. That was not the case;—they only proposed to interfere with fraudulent transfers made with a view to evade liability. The discussion had turned much on the 9th clause, which he hoped would be debated that night in Committee. He agreed in the description given by the Mover of the Resolution of the advance note, which it was proposed to prohibit, and which he denounced in the same strong terms, or stronger, as the Royal Commissioners, on whose Report the Bill was mainly founded. The hon. Member for Birkenhead (MR. MacIver) suggested that they should not abolish the advance note in England, but call upon foreign Powers by a Convention to put an end to it abroad. But surely they ought not to ask others to do what they would not begin by doing themselves, and setting an example. He would not reply to all the speeches that had been delivered by hon. Members, but he must demur to the proposal of the hon. Member for Birkenhead, who asked them to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, and thus commence a prolonged inquiry de novo. Now, he (the hon. Member) had not long been a Member of that House, and perhaps had not had time to study two folio Blue Books containing the Report of the Royal Commission, or he would have known that there was hardly any subject which had been so thoroughly sifted as that now before the House. It had been investigated by most able men, presided over by the Duke of Somerset, whose impartiality and judicial tone of mind pre-eminently qualified him for the inquiry. The Commission drew evidence from all parts of the Kingdom and from all classes of men acquainted with the subject. The hon. Gentleman said Liverpool was not duly represented among the witnesses; but if he looked through the list of those examined he would find that that most important port made its full contribution to the body of evidence taken. The right hon. and gallant Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay) had brought forward another important subject—namely, "the Rule of the Road at Sea"—which, though connected with the subject of merchant shipping generally, was scarcely relevant to the Bill itself. It was enough to say, with regard to this matter, that it was at present before a well-constituted Departmental Committee. He would hardly be justified in anticipating the report of that Committee by expressing any decided opinion of his own upon the subject. The Rules of the Road at Sea ought not to be hastily changed. Even bad rules which were universally known were better than good rules which were not generally known. Changes must be made in concert with other nations. The existing rules had been framed under the Act of 1862 in concert with France, and had since been adopted by all the other maritime nations in the world. Under that Act Her Majesty had power to alter the rules, but it had not been thought fit to make any change in them. After the Departmental Committee had reported, and foreign Governments had been consulted, the Board of Trade would put itself in communication with the Admiralty, and under the powers of the Act of 1862, any amended rules would be brought into force. He hoped, under these circumstances, that there would be no further discussion on this subject, and that the House would now go into Committee on the Bill.


said, his right hon. Friend (Sir Charles Adderley) seemed to have discovered that discussion of this subject was extremely inconvenient, but he (MR. Bentinck) was unable to assent to the wish of his right hon. Friend, and he trusted that before the House went into Committee on the Bill every hon. Member who felt interest in the matter would express his opinions upon it. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that the question had been thoroughly sifted. Now he would tell the right hon. Gentleman that, however much it had, in his opinion, been sifted, they had very little grain and a great deal of chaff. As to the proposition of the hon. Member for Tynemouth (MR. T. E. Smith), he declared that the first serious blow which had been struck at the Mercantile Marine of this country had been the repeal of the Navigation Laws, and that until a large part of these laws had been re-enacted, the Mercantile Marine would not be placed upon a proper footing. The right hon. Gentleman had passed over all the most important parts of this great question. The great fault of the Bill was in the omission in not dealing with those important parts of the question with which it was expected to deal. As regarded the question raised by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Stamford with respect to the Rule of the Road at Sea, there had been so much blundering in determining it, and so much loss of life had ensued in consequence, that the sailors spoke of it as "Going to—the infernal regions—by Act of Parliament." What he most objected to, however, was the modification of the discipline clauses. Even now they were not sufficiently stringent. If a man broke into the spirit-room with a light in search of spirits and fired the vessel, he escaped without any punishment at all. Again, as another instance of the present discipline laws not being sufficiently stringent, the man who kept a bad look-out, and thereby endangered the safety of the ship and crew, could be only punished by a month's imprisonment, which was no punishment at all; and unless the House was prepared to require much more stringent discipline on board our merchant ships than we now had, they would entirely fail in the main object they had in view—that of preventing the loss of life and property at sea. He would, however, support the Motion for going into Committee, and have all those matters dealt with there.


said, he was as anxious as anyone to go into Committee on the Bill, but it was only right to call the attention of the House and of the President of the Board of Trade to the fact that after a lengthened disappearance this Bill had re-appeared almost as a new Bill, and really contained provisions which they had not previously heard of. He especially complained of the 37th clause relating to measurement. The Preamble of the Bill declared that there were doubts existing as to the law of the land in various matters, and it contained a series of gross misstatements. In whose mind, he asked, had these doubts arisen? There was certainly no doubt as to the law of the land, for on the 15th March, 1854, the House of Lords came to a decision as to the legal responsibility of owners in reference to the measurement of their ships. A Special Committee of the House had also arrived at a decision upon the point, which was totally adverse to the proposition brought forward in this Bill. He should be very glad if the Government would re-consider the clause dealing with this subject, and if possible withdraw it before going into Committee; first on account of the promise which they made to the hon. Member for North Durham (MR. Palmer) not to legislate upon the point this year; and next, because after the decision of the House of Lords facts were misstated in the Preamble. He believed, taking all things into consideration, it would be better to send the Bill to a Special Committee, notwithstanding the sneers with which the President of the Board of Trade greeted the proposal of the hon. Member for Birkenhead, whose name, though he was one of the youngest Members of the House, was sufficient to guarantee that he must know something of shipping, and who 11 years ago had been chairman of a committee of shipowners in the largest port in the world. He believed by passing the clause they would be encouraging the construction of a very bad class of ships. He did not wish to occupy time, but simply to call attention to the propriety of the clause being removed from the Bill, because if a Measurement and Tonnage Bill were required it had better be referred to a Select Committee, which would be the course the House adopted last year. After the many weeks' labour and the careful attention which the Committee of last year paid to the subject, the course which had been adopted could not be regarded as a compliment to them, notwithstanding the fact that the President of the Board of Trade had from time to time spoken very highly of the services they had rendered. It was said at the time that the Bill as it had been amended would be adopted by every maritime nation in the world; and yet when it came down again to the House it was postponed for a year, on the ground that it would be well to study the Report of the Royal Commission, and they now saw the result. He thought the 37th clause should be expunged from the Bill—first, because it was a breach of promise; secondly, because it was totally opposed to the judgment and opinion of the House of Lords; thirdly, because there was no doubt existing in the minds of anyone as to the state of the law except the officials of the Board of Trade; lastly, he thought, in deference to the Report of the Select Committee, the clause should be left put, because the House, as they had lately seen, was always chary of reversing the judgments of the Committee.


said, the House would not be surprised to hear that he had a good deal to say on the subject under discussion. As, however, he could say what he had to say much better in Committee than he could then, and as he was anxious the House should proceed to consider the provisions of the Bill, he would await the opportunity to which he had referred.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn,

Main Question, "That MR. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clauses 1 to 3, inclusive, agreed to.

Registry (Part II. of Merchant Shipping Act, 1854).

Clause 4 (Power for foreign state to object to transfer of foreign ship to British Register).

On Motion of MR. RATHBONE, Amendment made, in page 2, line 14, leave out from "if objection" to "on the ground," in line 17, and insert— if on representation of a consular officer it is proved to the satisfaction, where the sale takes place in the United Kingdom, of the Board of Trade, when in a British possession abroad of the person administering the government of that possession, and when in a foreign port of Her Majesty's consular officer there.


wished to know whether there was to be any reciprocity with foreign countries in this matter? Foreign shipowners were to be allowed to transfer themselves to the register of this country, and it was said there was a possibility that British shipowners, in order to evade their responsibility, might transfer their vessels to the register of foreign countries.


suggested that the discussion on this subject might be most conveniently taken on the next clause.


said, that with regard to reciprocity, Parliament could not pass a law that would bind foreign countries; but he could state with very great satisfaction that other countries were preparing to act in concert with Her Majesty's Government. We were thus in the way of getting reciprocity, and it would be advanced by the passing of this clause.


moved to omit the clause altogether.


approved the omission, and said that Clauses 4, 5, and 6 were really new clauses, interfering with the freedom of trade. The Bill contained altogether 10 new clauses, and was, in fact, a new measure. He was much afraid that by over-legislation the House would stop the channels of business. He hoped the hon. Member for Newcastle would press his Amendment to a division.


also objected to the retention of the clause, on the ground that it had nothing to do with reference to the seaworthiness of a ship.


agreed that the new clauses went beyond the scope of the original Bill, and said that they were not properly understood out-of-doors.

After some conversation,


said, that, although he could not assent to take that course, he should be prepared to give due consideration to the point raised by the hon. Member for Hull (MR. Norwood) with respect to the word "mortgagee" before the Report.

Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 111; Noes 96: Majority 15.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 5 (Registry of British ship not to be closed without consent of owners and mortgagees).


said, that the object of the clause was to prevent a ship geting money on mortgage wherever she went. That was a novel proposition—that a mortgagee with full powers was not to be able to realize his mortgage and transfer the ship unless he obtained the written consent of every other mortgagee. The clause was drawn up by a theorist, and the only way of meeting the objections to it was to insert among the exceptions a competent power of sale by a mortgagee.


said, he desired to move an earlier Amendment. The effect of the clause as it stood was to leave our Government without the power of objecting to the colourable transfer of a ship in a bad condition to the flag of a foreign Power, and he, therefore, proposed, by inserting the words, to declare that such a transfer should not be made "without the consent of the Board of Trade."


said, that the Amendments suggested by the hon. Member for Hull would be a valuable addition to the clause as it would prevent the sale of a ship to a foreigner without the consent of all the owners.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 23, after the word "closed," to insert the words "without the consent of the Board of Trade, nor,"—(MR. Plimsoll.)

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 39; Noes 187: Majority 148.


proposed, after the word "owners," to insert "if the sale he by owners," in order to meet the objection which had been raised by the hon. Member for Hull (MR. Norwood).


asked why the law should be altered at all? He had had a great deal of experience in shiping, and never found any flaw in the Act. The result of the alteration would be to land the law in utter confusion, and he thought the best way would be to expunge the clause altogether. He should like to know who had suggested such a clause as this to the right hon. Gentleman. Their object should be to legislate for seamen, and not for mortgagees.


said, it was the duty of the Minister in charge of the Bill to explain its nature; but in this case nine more clauses containing new matter had been introduced since the "Bill was brought in, and such a proceeding was most unusual, and fraught with such immense inconvenience that he must protest against it. If the Bill were in danger it would be in consequence of the adoption of the course he had referred to, and therefore he thought the right hon. Baronet would do well to withdraw all these clauses.


said, that this clause, in the case of a sale of a ship or the part of one, was to prevent the closing of the register without the consent of all the owners for the time being in the ship.


said, it would be better if the right hon. Gentleman would withdraw the clause. The owners of 63–64ths of a ship could not bind the owner of the remaining 64th. The clause was quite unnecessary.


opposed the clause.


said, the clause would lead to no end of trouble and leave everybody in confusion.


reminded his noble Friend (Lord Eslington) that he had avowedly had the Bill committed pro formâ with a view not only to add two new clauses to the Bill, but also such of the Amendments on the Paper as he could accept; his object being to render the Bill so comprehensive of all additions generally called for to existing statutes that further legislation on the subject would not be required for some years to come. There seemed to him to be a very great omission in the principal Act on the point under discussion, which required to be supplied; but in the present state of the discussion he proposed to postpone this and the 6th clause with the view of bringing up on the Report a redraft which would meet the objections that had been made.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question put, that Clause 5 be postponed?


I protest against the disgraceful scene which is now going on. ["Order."]


I have to point out to the hon. and gallant Member that the expression which he has just used is one never employed by Members in this House.


Then I withdraw it. But I say it is a most extraordinary circumstance to find a Minister of the Crown incapable of expressing himself. ["Order."] The right hon. Baronet has not attempted to reply to the strictures which have been passed on the clause, but he turns round to the Attorney General and asks him for his advice. Such a state of things was never known before. The oldest Member in this House cannot remember anything of the sort. The right hon. Baronet does not answer arguments; he relies on his majority, and I want to know whether that is a proper course to pursue? I think the Prime Minister ought to have officers under him who can reply to strictures.


I have to point out to the hon. and gallant Member that the question before the Committee is whether Clause 5 should be postponed.


Well, I will go on. It now appears that the right hon. Gentleman withdraws his clause altogether. We do not know what we are doing at all. I ask whether this House has been treated properly on this important subject by the Ministers of the Crown to-night? I say they have not.

Question agreed to; Clause postponed.

Clause 6 postponed.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 (Rule as to names of British sea-fishing boats).


moved, in page 3, line 17, to insert— A vessel employed in the coasting trade of less than eighty tons registered tonnage not registered as a British sea-fishing boat shall be exempt from the provisions of this Act, save and except as it refers to her lights and boats.


thought it a monstrous proposition that those vessels should be exempted from all the provisions with respect to seaworthiness.


counselled the withdrawal of the Amendment now, but said he should be quite prepared to give, at the proper time, excellent reasons why these small coasting vessels ought not to be placed in the same category as larger vessels.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 9 (Advance notes illegal).


moved the omission from the clause of all the words from line 20 to 29, both inclusive, contending that they would injuriously interfere with the law of contract in shipping matters by the abolition of advance notes, and tend to introduce the abominable system of truck.


said, that the clause was founded upon one of the strongest recommendations of the Royal Commissioners, who said in their Report that— Unless this mischievous mode of prepayment was abolished the sailor could never be raised from a state of servile dependence on crimps, and taught to rely on his own industry and intelligence. There was a general concurrence of opinion throughout the country in favour of abolishing advance notes, which enabled seamen to spend all their money and then to embark without any outfit at all. As to a seaman providing for his family, that he could do by means of allotment notes.


admitted that advance notes tended to degrade the sailor, but he did not see how they could be altogether dispensed with.


said, that many shipowners thought that advance notes could not be altogether done away with, and the sailors were of the same opi- nion. Would it, under these circumstances, be wise to abolish them? To provide slops on board would create great evil in the case of small owners, who would force sailors to take many things which they did not really want. He hoped that the clause would be reconsidered.


was very glad that this Amendment had been proposed. He did not see why they should interfere between master and man in this matter. If the master would make the advance, and the man wanted it, what right was there to say that this should not be done? It would act cruelly on the side of the seaman. He naturally stayed with his wife and family till all the money was gone. He went to sea again when his pockets were empty, and then but for the advance note the wife would be left without a farthing, and the husband would be able to buy nothing for himself. It was said she would receive her monthly money; but until she could get her monthly note she must go on "tick;" and so on, month after month, until the end of the chapter. The owners who did not like to give advance notes might refuse to do so, but let those who liked to give them do so. He should heartily support the Amendment.


felt great difficulty in the face of conflicting opinions in deciding upon this Amendment—the question really was, whether advance notes on the truck system was the worse of the two? This was the first time he had heard the system of advance notes defended as a means of support to the wife. He would venture to say that not a penny of the advance went to the man's wife and family or was spent otherwise than in riot and debauchery, and that the system weakened the character of the seamen and prevented the shipowner from getting good and trustworthy men. Twenty years ago MR. Lindsay stated that advance notes tended to induce desertion. He should certainly vote for the proposition of the Government.


thought that if advance notes were made legal—which they were not at present, for they could not be sued on till the end of the voyage—the seaman would be able to get full value for them, and would be comparatively secure from crimps. If the shipowner was willing to advance to the sailor what he required, there was no reason why he should not do so.


unhesitatingly said, that the abolition of advance notes was the first and indispensable step to render the sailor respectable, and improve the morale of our Mercantile Marine. The evidence before the Royal Commission had shown that the system of advance notes was full of evil both to the seaman and the shipowner. No witness before the Commission had spoken in favour of the system.


said, that the House had interfered between employer and employed in many Acts of Parliament, and had done so very beneficially. They had been told that one of the great causes of the demoralized condition of our seamen was their improvidence. Well, the Government had wisely taken a step in the right direction to put an end to that improvidence as far as they could, and he trusted that the right hon. Gentlemen would keep strongly to that point. He believed that most of the Petitions got up against this proposition were the concoction of the crimps.


said, that as one of the Royal Commissioners, he could assure the Committee that the Royal Commissioners went fully into the question, and formed their judgment after hearing all the evidence. If one branch of the subject was exhausted more than another it was the question of advance notes. There was an accumulation of evidence in favour of their abolition, and all the shipowners who were examined condemned the practice. Most of them agreed that great inconvenience would no doubt at first arise on their abolition, but none of them defended the system. If the system of advance notes was continued they ought to be made payable at a longer date than at present. He should certainly stand by the Report of the Commission, and vote for the clause. If the masters did not object to it and the seamen asked for it, both parties were agreed. The men, no doubt, had been so long accustomed to the system that its abolition would be felt at first as an inconvenience; but if it was found to be injurious it ought to be abolished.


said, there was a great conflict of opinion on the question. He fully admitted that in many cases advance notes were abused, but, all things considered, he did not think the House would be justified in taking so forcible a step as abolishing them merely at the beck of the Government. If the custom were to be modified, it ought to be modified by degrees, and he had placed an Amendment on the Paper that an advance note should not be granted for more than a fortnight's wages.


observed that for the present he could not see how advance notes could be abolished.


said, that when in 1870 he prepared the Merchant Shipping Bill he made inquiries at almost every important port, and the evidence showed that the advance note was the parent of many evils; but, at the same time, it was a great convenience to the sailor. Not all sailors made a bad use of it. He thought it would be desirable to case this question down by slow degrees, and to limit the advance note to one fortnight at home and one month abroad.


said, that almost all the speeches made had been in favour of the clause. ["No!"] The principal speeches certainly had been, and even those hon. Members who opposed it confessed that they did not see their way to its amendment. He admitted that some hon. Gentlemen had considered it impossible to do away with the advance note; but it seemed to him that the reasons given were altogether unsatisfactory. He thought the argument of the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire was not characterized by his usual sagacity. When it was said that this clause was an interference with the freedom of contract, he wished to remind hon. Members that there was no such thing as abstract freedom of contract in a country governed by law. Parliament had legislated against the truck system, and the advance note itself was a species of truck system. The seaman had no legal right to his wages until the conclusion of his voyage, and the advance note was not recognized in any Act of Parliament, but was a vicious custom. The advance note was, in fact, a deduction from the sailor's means of providing by allotment notes for a wife and family, and was generally applied during the three days before going on board in drinking and debauchery. The result was the seamen too often went on board in a state in which they were quite unfit to perform their duties. It was, in fact, one of the chief causes for ships going in unseaworthy condition to sea. The advance note was recognized in the Act of 1850, but after four years' experience Parliament deliberately repealed all provisions relating to it; it could not now be sued upon. The custom had deteriorated the character of our seamen, and in short voyages it placed the master at the mercy of his crew, who by anticipation had got possession of their wages for the whole voyage. The clause was based upon the Report of the Royal Commission, the language of which was very strong; but, as many hon. Members wished the abolition of advance notes to be gradual, he should be prepared at the proper time to adopt the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hull (MR. Norwood) to insert in Clause 9, page 3, line 21, after "money," the words "exceeding 20s."


opposed the clause, because it would be cruel tos the sailors and inconvenient to the shipowner, and because it would give a great advantage to foreign shipowners. It was a clause "meddling and muddling" with a trade which its trainers evidently knew nothing about. Nothing but a sense of duty would have induced him to oppose the Government on this subject. The clause was opposed by all the largest sailing shipowners in all the principal ports. [The hon. Member here produced a tile of letters from individual owners and firms, all protesting against the abolition of advance notes, and read a protest signed by 12 underwriters at Lloyd's, who expressed the belief that the discontinuance of advances would drive the best seamen into the hands of foreign shipowners.] He had received letters from unemployed officers and seamen declaring that advance notes were indispensable to their re-engagement, and recommending, instead of the abolition of notes, the licensing of lodging-house keepers. The Royal Commission, he said, knew nothing of the subject practically, and not one-half of them knew anything of the management or requirements of a ship.


said, the labours of the Royal Commission were before the House. Amongst the recommendations of the Commission was one as to the abolition of the advance notes, and his right hon. Friend had embodied in the Bill a clause to give effect to it. It was obvious that the question was one beset with enormous difficulties; but he thought it was a question with which they ought to grapple. The Government were, therefore, of opinion that it might be desirable to deal with it by way of compromise, and they thought the best course would be to divide on the principle of the abolition of advance notes that evening, and then to take the various suggestions made into consideration with a view to see which of them it would be advisable to adopt.


thought this discussion was somewhat opposed to ordinary practice. The ordinary rule was for a Committee to endeavour to amend a clause, and then it had an opportunity of voting upon its retention or rejection; but here the Amendment of the hon. Member for Newcastle (MR. Hamond) would have the effect of rejecting the clause altogether. He thought the Committee would do +well not to reject the clause at once, but to agree to the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who held out the hope that it might be amended at a future stage of the Bill somewhat in the direction which had been very generally indicated by hon. Members conversant with the subject.

After some further discussion,

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.


moved that the Chairman report Progress.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Sir Joseph M'Kenna.)

The Committee divided:—Ayes 161; Noes 93; Majority 68.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.