HC Deb 12 August 1876 vol 231 cc1162-84

Order for Consideration of Lords' Amendments read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Amendments made by the Lords to the Merchant Shipping Bill be now taken into consideration."


in moving— "That this House will, upon this day month, take the said Amendments into consideration," said, he felt that he owed an apology to the House for taking the very unusual course of rising at the eleventh hour to move the rejection of an important measure which had been long and carefully considered by the House, and had met with considerable approval. He had done his best hitherto to discuss the Merchant Shipping Bill in the most favourable manner, feeling that that course would be in accordance with the wishes of his constituents, and that it was also his duty, as far as possible, to support the measures of the Government. Merchant shipping legislation, however, was not in any way a Party question; and though, with all its faults, he believed the measure to be greatly better than any proposals that would have come from the other side of the House on the subject, he felt bound to oppose it on grounds far wider than anything relating to merchant shipping. He did not mean to say that he had. not individual objections to certain clauses, and to some of the changes made by the House of Lords— and there was one clause in particular that would have a most serious effect in handicapping British steamers in the competition with foreign vessels to a greater extent than had been the case in previous years— but rather than ask the House to divide upon a technical question, he asked them to consider the measure with reference to their own privileges. Was it right, he asked, that at the end of the Session the House of Lords should make very large and material alterations in a Bill which had previously been fully considered in the Commons, and which was a Bill relating entirely to trade and commerce? He should endeavour to show three things— first, that the changes made in the Bill since it was considered so carefully in that House were really important; secondly, that there were a great many of them; and, thirdly, that the subject would not suffer anything, but would rather be benefited, by postponement till next year. He was far from objecting in toto to the Lords' Amendments. Those Amendments were mostly improvements, and they were improvements which were not likely to be lost by another year's consideration; but, on the other hand, the Lords had made some changes which were not improvements, which it was now impossible sufficiently to debate, which had not been before the country, and which further consideration would reverse. He strongly objected to Clause A, added by the Lords, the real meaning of which was to repeal so much of the Passengers Acts of 1855 and 1863 as applied to foreign shipping in British ports; and he also strongly objected to the alteration on the subject of costs. The practical working of that alteration, if it became law, would be, that nobody whose ship was improperly detained need ever seek compensation from the Board of Trade with any reasonable hope of obtaining the money otherwise than by an expensive lawsuit. These two provisions, added by the Lords, prompted him to move the rejection of the Bill; and he thought they sufficiently established his first point —namely, that the Lords' Amendments were important. To show that the Lords' Amendments were numerous, it was only necessary to ask the House to refer to the reprint of the Bill. The Bill left the Commons' with 40 clauses, and returned not merely with 5 entirely new clauses, but with 23 of the old ones altered; nor were these mere verbal alterations. One of these Amendments certainly was of very great importance, and it was one in which he heartily concurred. He need hardly remind the House that he had objected to the "misdemeanour clause "from the first, and that he had protested against it at every turn, and had been backed up by the respectable ship-owning opinion of the great sea-ports. At last those protests had been heeded, and Clause 4 now returned from the House of Lords— still a bad clause— but certainly in a much less mischievous form. Nothing could have been worse than "the misdemeanour clause" as it left the House of Commons. It sought to prevent shipping disasters not merely by means which every practical man knew had already been "tried and found wanting," but by means which— besides being utterly futile as regarded the end in view— might any day result in the grossest injustice. The endeavour to prevent disaster by intensifying the re sponsibilities of shipowners would ever result in total failure, and could only end in placing private shipowners at greater disadvantage in the competition with limited liability companies; and as Clause 4 left the Commons a special responsibility was imposed upon "managing owners," which placed every such person in a quasi-criminal position that, in the vast majority of instances, was utterly undeserved. Fortunately for this country the Lords had struck out this provision, and done something to remedy the mistaken Board of Trade legislation inaugurated by the Merchant Shipping Act of 1871, and made worse by the "Herschell" Clause in the temporary measure of last Session. It might be interesting to the House to know how that Clause had worked. The utter uselessness of Clause 11 in the Act of 1871 he (Mr. Mac Iver) had repeatedly pointed out, and he would therefore only now refer to the Act of last Session. It was not for him to vouch for the accuracy of Board of Trade Returns, the more so that he was well aware the particular Re turn to which he was about to allude was by no means a reliable one. Ac cording to the Board of Trade figures, however, there had been about 800 un-seaworthy vessels detained during the last three years. Assuming that Return were even half true, he asked where were the prosecutions? The House having heard so much from Board of Trade statesmen on both sides of the House of the great value of these misdemeanour clauses in the Act of last Session would probably expect to hear that there had been a considerable number of prosecutions; but there had only been two, and they were both unsuccessful. Of the second ease he knew little further than that the Board of Trade did all they could to get a conviction, and failed. It was only reported in the newspapers a few days ago, and, for anything he knew to the contrary, that prosecution might or might not have been justifiable; but he had no hesitation whatever in saying that the only other prosecution which had yet been instituted under these clauses never ought to have been brought. The hon. Gentleman then described the case of Mr. Septimus Howell, managing owner of the schooner Leader, and said that he had obtained the facts from sources be yond any kind of suspicion. Referring as his authority to the Town Clerk of Chester, and to members of the Grand Jury in Liverpool, who had had Mr. Howell's case before them, he (Mr. Mac Iver) pointed out that Mr. Septimus Howell was a respectable man in a small way of business. The Leader was his first and only venture in shipowning, and in consequence of the death of a brother he became— in compliance with the Act of last Session— registered as the "managing owner." The vessel was an old one, and probably neither better nor worse than many other little coasting vessels that were reasonably fit for their work; but she had the misfortune to be seized upon by the Board of Trade, or rather they seized upon Mr. Howell, having allowed him to send his vessel to sea. He was arrested under a warrant, without any previous notice, and taken before the magistrates at Runcorn, who— after a patient hearing — dismissed the case; but the Board of Trade waited a month or two, and then attacked this unfortunate man again. No doubt the officers of the Board of Trade were desirous only of doing their duty; but under such circumstances it was natural that there should be a certain amount of esprit de corps, and that the Department should have "moved heaven and earth" to obtain a conviction, so that he did not think the officers were to be blamed. He blamed the law, and the system. The officers were expected to show some successful result from the "Herschell" Clause in the Act of last Session, and it was not their fault that they could not. But look at the hardship to Mr. Howell. He was taken from his home a second time under a warrant, and again locked up; and this time was tried before ths magistrates at Liverpool, who, considering the ease important, committed him for trial. They thought, no doubt, that the Board of Trade would never follow up Mr. Howell in this way, unless there were reasonable and probable grounds for supposing that he deserved punishment. In the end he was tried before Mr. Justice Brett, and acquitted without a stain on his character, the prosecution having utterly broken down. In view of facts like these it was a mockery to regard the provision that "no prosecution for misdemeanour can be instituted except by or with the consent of the Board of Trade" as in any sense a protection to respectable shipowners. What had happened to Mr. Howell might happen to any body, although less likely to happen to a man better able to take care of him- self. The case of Mr. Howell, whose whole interest in shipping had consisted of a few hundred pounds, was a striking commentary upon the views so often expressed by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House responsible for the policy of the Board of Trade. They spoke of their desire to protect the "costermongers of the sea," and to avoid needless interference with trade— and they persuaded the House of Commons to accept the legislation under which these things became possible. Of course these hon. and right hon. Gentlemen spoke in entire good faith, but the plain truth was that they did not under stand the practical effects of their own legislation. He was glad to see the hon. Member for Beading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) in his place, for he (Mr. Mac Iver) did not know anybody who was more to blame for leading his former Department on in the lines of the legislation of 1871. That legislation, and the Act of 1873, and part of that of last Session, had not worked well; but, on the contrary, meant interference with shipping in a form destructive to our trade, and the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) was at the present moment, at some of the seaports, the most unpopular man in England, for reasons which were properly attributable to that meddlesome and harassing Board of Trade legislation, with which the hon. Member for Derby had had very little to do, and to much of which he was opposed. He (Mr. Mac Iver) hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade would consider the objections which he took to the clause inserted by the Lords with reference to foreign shipping, and would also restore the clause relating to compensation for wrongful detention to the form in which it left the Commons; but, indeed, it would be much better to leave the whole subject of shipping legislation over until next Session, when it might reasonably be hoped that there could be some final settlement. The matter was now becoming better understood, and he (Mr. Mac Iver) maintained, and had always maintained, that the causes of preventable disaster at sea were few in number and might be easily dealt with in a much less cumbrous measure than that which was now before the House. Overloading and grossly improper loading were, no doubt, already practically stopped, although at the cost of needless annoyances and uncertainties; but with out a better system of survey than was provided by this Bill unsafe ships would still go to sea, while, on the other hand, respectable shipowners would continue to have seaworthy property liable to un reasonable interference, with but small hope of obtaining compensation from the Board of Trade. The whole tendency of these survey clauses as they stood in the Bill was to undermine the legitimate authority of the shipmaster by placing him in the power of his crew whenever a fourth of them chose to be refractory. This was, he (Mr. Mac Iver) considered, a grave mistake, when it was remembered so many preventable disasters arose from faults of the crew rather than of the ship, and for these and other reasons he moved the rejection of the Bill, believing that it would be better to reconsider the whole subject next Session than to pass an unsatisfactory mea sure now. The hon. Gentleman concluded by formally moving the rejection of the Bill.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day month."— [Mr. Mac Iver.)

Question proposed, "That the word ' now' stand part of the Question."


said, he did not think the hon. Member had adopted a wise course in again raising the question of the principle involved in the Bill. He had in season and out of season, at all stages of the Bill, treated the House to the self-same observations which he had that day repeated. He did not think that the course taken by the Upper House with respect to the Bill had been either wise or convenient. The Bill had been discussed in the House of Commons at great length for nearly 13 days, and the Government themselves acknowledged the great advantages which had been derived from the full discussion that took place; but in the other House, in the course of a very few minutes, some very large and important Amendments had been introduced, and, indeed, it had been a matter of boast at a recent City banquet, that a measure which took up many days in the House of Commons had been disposed of in less than half an hour in "another place." No doubt great advantages were to be derived from the revision in "another place" of the work of that House; but in the present instance the Government appeared to have taken advantage of their enormous majority in the House of Lords to register the preconceived opinions of the Board of Trade, and over ride the decision of the Commons. Nor was that all. The Bill was returned to them with these important Amendments almost on the last day of the Session, when nothing could be done to alter them. He did not think the hon. Member for Birkenhead had any chance of carrying his Amendment; but he joined with him in protesting against the course which had been pursued by the Government. He believed that such a course was not in the interests of the other House, or at all calculated to maintain its dignity and reputation, and must tend unfairly to prejudice an important question.


expressed his approval that the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Mac Iver) had brought for ward his Motion, because it enabled the House to deal with the whole principle of the Bill and not merely with the Lords' Amendments. A grave responsibility attached to the Government for having deferred this important measure to so late a period; and the Bill was so full of anomalies and objections that he thought it would be best to postpone the further consideration of the subject until another Session. The portion of the measure relating to deck-loads was so imperfect that it was impossible it could be worked. Deck-loads were altogether wrong in principle, but the only deck-loads prohibited by the Bill were those of timber, which constituted the safest deck-load a vessel could carry, and the effect of the clause would only be to increase the number of such loads. The greatest failure in the Bill was its vain attempt to deal with the loss of life at sea, which was the main object for which the measure was introduced. While proposing to deal with unseaworthy ships, all the principal causes of the loss of life at sea were left untouched by this Bill. The loss of life from unseaworthy ships was infinitesimal. A much larger number of fatalities arose from bad seamen and bad seamanship than from bad ships. Another cause of losses at sea was want of discipline, and yet the whole tendency of our legislation for years past had been to tamper with and decrease the discipline of our Mercantile Marine. Many ships were lost not from over-loading, but from being under-ballasted; and if the over-loading of ships was dealt with by legislation, cases of under-ballasting ought also to be dealt with. Collisions were the chief cause of loss of life at sea, and they were attributable to the con fusion and complications in the wording of what was termed the Rule of the Road; and yet the Bill of the Government had no reference to this important subject. Fire, frequently caused or assisted by want of discipline or control of the crew, was not dealt with by the Bill. Numerous cases of losses of vessels were attributable to the form in which they were built, and the Bill was silent also upon this subject. His conviction was that the Bill was so vexatious in its character, and so injurious to the interests of the Mercantile Marine, that its provisions would never be acquiesced in, and the shipping interest would be driven to force upon the Government further legislation. He acknowledged the ability displayed by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade in conducting this Bill; but the fact was that he had been placed in a false position, because the Board of Trade, as at present constituted, was not a tribunal competent to deal with this subject. He trusted that Parliament would see the necessity of constituting a competent tribunal, composed of sailors and other persons conversant with the interests of the Mercantile Marine, to deal with this matter, which was the most important question of the day.


thought that the House would prefer proceeding to the consideration of the Lords' Amendments instead of entering afresh upon a discussion involving the whole merits of the Bill. The hon. Member for Birkenhead, who wished them to throw over this Bill which had occupied so much of the Session, did not seem to be aware that the effect of his proposal would be to allow the temporary Act now in existence to expire, and leave the country for 12 months without any law on this particular subject. This was a most unreasonable proposal, and he did not think the House would be willing to try such an experiment. The hon. Member did not encourage them with any idea that he had any better measure to substitute for the Act of last Session, or for the Bill before the House, of which, indeed, he said he generally approved. As to the remarks of the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), they were somewhat disrespectful to the House of Lords, who had very amply discussed the Bill on its second reading, and had had the benefit of the discussions in this House before they dealt with the measure in Committee. After ample time for reflection they produced a certain number of Amendments, which, though numerous in appearance, were chiefly verbal Amendments, except only on three points. As this was the first subject brought before the House in the present Session, the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) had no just cause for complaint, and by discussing the whole measure over again he had now made it the Alpha and Omega of the Session. In referring to various subjects not within the scope of the Bill the hon. Member had given himself so much latitude and licence that if his example were followed by the rest of the House, they might occupy the remainder of the year in this discussion. He must, however, at this period decline to enter into the general merits of the Bill, and trusted the House would proceed at once to consider the Lords' Amendments.


felt bound to express a strong opinion as to the inconvenient and almost improper conduct of the Government with reference to this measure. When it left that House there was an understanding that a compromise had been effected which would not be disturbed. Yet, in "another place," Amendments covering six pages had, with one exception, been introduced by the Government and accepted en bloc without discussion, the utmost time given to the consideration of the Bill being 45 minutes. The measure having been suddenly changed in this manner was brought back at the fag-end of the Session. This was neither a proper mode of dealing with the large interests involved, nor a respectful manner of treating the House. If it was to form a precedent it would be of no use for hon. Members to expend time and trouble in the minute discussion of measures in that House, when the Government could, by a simple manœuvre, get their own provisions inserted in "another place," and by deferring their consideration to the last day of the Session set at nought the de liberate conclusions of the House of Commons.


joined in the protest of the hon. Member against the position in which the House had been placed at this period of the Session with reference to this Bill. The Amendments in question had not been made by the House of Lords properly speaking, or even by the Government, but by the officials of the Board of Trade. The conclusion come to by that House had been submitted to the permanent officials in that Department, and they had chosen to reverse in many respects the opinion of that House, and the Government had asked the House of Lords to register those decisions. He would not incur the responsibility of wrecking the whole Bill because he disapproved of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in submitting these Amendments at the end of the Session. He thought it would be better to let the Bill pass under protest; but he desired that it should be understood that it was not the Bill of the House of Commons but of Her Majesty's Government, and that it should be considered to remain open for Parliament to re-consider the question next Session. He should not vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Birkenhead, but would accept these Amendments in silence, throwing the responsibility of this mercantile legislation upon the Government.


expressed a hope that unless it was the intention of the House to reject the Bill they would proceed with the discussion of the Amendments. The hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) complained that the House had not been treated properly, but that was an erroneous view of the matter. He did not say that many of these Amendments were not made in the House of Lords; but that might fairly be considered a matter of convenience. Three important Amendments had been made— those with regard to deck-loading, costs, and foreign shipping. The last-named was introduced by a private Member of the House of Lords. The deck-loading Amendment was not in the original Bill as introduced by the Go- vernment, and it had been brought for ward in the Upper House in consequence of representations made in the colonial interest by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who had been in communication with Canada on the subject. The question of costs was one upon which the House of Lords was well qualified to form an opinion, and he had himself stated in the House of Commons that it would probably be a question which their Lordships would have to deal with. It was not the case that the Amendments were those of the permanent officials of the Board of Trade. There had been no disrespect to the House of Commons, and he trusted that hon. Members would proceed at once with the discussion.


said, the shipowning interest had not been treated in either a very considerate or courteous manner in reference to these Amendments. He protested against the doctrine that it would be no serious evil if the Bill did not pass this Session. He hoped that this was merely a formal Motion, and that it would not be carried to a division. One important Amendment had not been alluded to, and that was that the whole of the coasting tradeof the country was exempted from the load-line.


asked why, if these Amendments were necessary, they had not been made earlier. Hon. Members had sat there night after night to discuss this Bill on the profession of the Government that it was necessary to obtain a settlement of this great question; but the Bill went to the House of Lords, and in a few minutes the decision of the Lower House was set aside. The question was whether it was worth while for that House to discuss the question when their decisions were set aside in such fashion?


said, that the practical effect of the Bill would be to place the jurisdiction over shipping in the hands of the Board of Trade. He held it to be most unfair to throw the discussion of this question into the last hours of the Session.


concurred in the observations of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst). The Amendments in the House of Lords were received from the hands of the Duke of Richmond and Gordon en bloc, and it was stated that in 25 minutes these pro- posals were disposed of upon a mere fragmentary discussion. In the Act which previously existed the vessels in the coasting trade, and those trading to the Elbe and Brest, were rendered subject to the load-line, excepting in the case of such small coasting vessels as were navigated chiefly by the owners and their families. This was altered in the House of Lords, probably at the instance of the Board of Trade. In a House of Commons of 400 Members, after full discussion as to deck-loading, and after its being resisted by the Government, the Committee decided that deck-loading should be abolished, and it was decided to go back to the state of the law which existed before 1862. But that was altered by the House of Lords. If the opinion of Canada had such weight with Her Majesty's Government, why did they overrule it in the matter of grain cargoes? The Board of Trade, anxious to retain authority over a subject they did not understand, pulled with Canada when she was for laxity, but not when she asked for good legislation. He objected to a Government admonition to be brief and come to business after that business had been purposely postponed to the last monent to prevent any discussion on these Amendments in the House of Commons. He asked the House to imagine his feelings when last night, one after another, Members came to him and said— "Good bye, Plimsoll, we should have been glad to have helped you, but it is too late now; there is nothing for it but to take what the Government will give you;" and yet the House of Commons at its last sitting had been wasting hour after hour in discussing whether persons who were to operate upon frogs should secure the certificate of the Secretary of State. He thought the conduct of the Government in this matter had been disgraceful, and nothing less. He believed it was with design that this Bill had been altered and kept back from the consideration of the House until it would be rendered impossible to reverse the decisions of the Government. He did not even think that it was the Government; he believed it was simply the brother-in-law of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Farrer, of the Board of Trade, who was responsible for the Amendments. The Bill the House was asked to pass was his Bill and nothing else. He thought they should put away feeling, and pass the Bill simply because they could not help themselves. He was of opinion that they had better not go through the farce of discussing the matter in a House in which the Government and the shipowners could do what they liked. He ought hardly to have classed the shipowners with the Government, for he had a thousand times rather trust a committee of shipowners, if ample powers were given to them, than the Board of Trade. The only thing seemed to be to allow the Bill to pass, and to let the whole matter stand over for discussion till next year.


expressed his readiness to withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Lords Amendments considered.

Amendments, as far as the Amendment in page 5, line 27, agreed to.


who had given Notice of a Motion to disagree to the Lords' Amendment in page 2, line 6, which inserts the words "or of the Governor of the British Possession in which such prosecution takes place," said, he would not press it, but content himself with the protest already made against the alterations effected in the measure by the other House.

Page 5, line 27, leave out from "that," to the second "the," in line 28, and insert there was not reasonable and probable cause by reason of the condition of the ship or the act or default of the owner for the provisional detention of the ship, the next Amendment, read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."— (Sir Charles Adderley.)


said, this was one of the three important Amendments which the Lords had made in the Bill; and he was surprised, after the discussion the matter had undergone in this House, that the Government had thought proper to make so serious an alteration in the clause in the summary manner they had done in "another place." It might be said that alteration was due to the great legal attainments of Members of the other House; but he maintained that that was not a legal question nor a question of mere detail, or of machinery, but one of substance— namely, whether certain heavy penalties should fall on a particular class of Her Majesty's subjects or no. The existing principle of the law was that costs should, follow the verdict; but the Government now proposed to depart from that principle— he could not understand why. It was hard on the shipowner that he should be subject to have his ship detained for survey, involving considerable expense, without due cause, and that he should be left to bear all the loss and responsibility him self, as would be the practical effect of adopting that Amendment. When a ship had, in fact, been improperly detained it would be easy for a Government Department to find some insignificant blemish or defect in the vessel, not really detracting from her seaworthiness, which might be held to have been "a reasonable or probable cause "for detaining her. The shipowner maintained that if the Board of Trade made a mistake by detaining a ship which was not unsafe within the meaning of the Act he should be entitled to compensation at the hands of the country for a detention not arising from his fault, but from motives of public policy. And not only was the Board of Trade not to be liable in such a case, but other persons who made rash and unfounded affidavits leading the Board to detain a vessel without good cause were also to be exempt from responsibility. He hoped the Government would therefore re-consider that matter and not accede to the Lords' Amendment. It was hopeless now to obtain a full consideration of the question, and he trusted that the Government would meet the shipowners in a conciliatory spirit, and not carry these Amendments by the tyranny of a majority with which private Members were unable to cope. He moved that the House do not agree to the Lords' Amendment on Clause 10.


said, the Question was that the House do agree with the Lords' Amendment. The hon. Member could not move an Amendment, but might negative the Motion when the Question was put.


could assure the hon. Member that he should not ask the House to agree to the Lords' Amendments if they were contrary to his own convictions. When this particular clause left the House there was a general expectation that it would be dealt with by the House of Lords. It was so expressly left to be dealt with, a previous Amendment having left the Bill inconsistent, and by the highest legal authority it had been reduced to consistency, and, as he thought, with the best results. Although he had defended the principle of costs following conviction when the Bill was before this House, he regarded the Lords' Amendment as more correctly adjusting that principle to all possible cases. If the House accepted the Amendment, the law would then be that the Board of Trade would have to show a reasonable cause for detaining a vessel. If it was shown that the Board of Trade had proceeded without reason able cause, then the Government would have to pay, and if the proceedings were taken on a frivolous complaint the Board of Trade could recover from the complainants. In the third possible contingency, of reasonable cause for detention having been shown and of the ship being, notwithstanding, acquitted, then the costs would be divided. Regarding the clause as it now stood as preferable to the clause as it left this House, he trusted the House would agree to the Lords' Amendment.


must remind the President of the Board of Trade that the clause as it left that House was moved by the right hon. Gentleman himself, and with that clause the shipowners were perfectly content. It was true something was said about leaving the question for the other House; but he (Mr. Norwood) had thereupon protested against the matter being left to be decided by the House of Lords. The House divided, and the clause was carried by a majority of 54. The other House had, however, rejected a provision carried,after discussion, by a large majority in that House and proposed by the President of the Board, of Trade himself. The Legislature was asked to give these enormous powers to the Board of Trade to be carried into effect not by their direct action, but by appointing officers all over the Kingdom to detain vessels. An ignorant man might say that a vessel should not go to sea until he had communicated with the Board of Trade. That intelligence would no doubt be telegraphed to Lloyd's, the under writers would take fright, and an injury would be done to the character of the ship and the credit of the shipowner which it would take years to remove. If this clause were passed as now amended, there would be no redress for any ship owners whose vessel might be detained, and he appealed with confidence to the House to alter the clause.


said, he hoped this discussion would show the impolicy of allowing any ships to be stopped by the Board of Trade on their own motion. The difficulty would have been avoided if the Government had insisted upon all unclassed vessels being periodically surveyed.


complained of the manner in which surveys were made.


protested against the manner in which the clause had been altered at a period of the Session when it was impossible properly to consider the Lords' Amendment.


hoped that the Government would re-consider this clause, as it would in its present shape work with hardship to shipowners.


pointed out that the Government had changed their minds between this House and the House of Lords. They had proposed the clause in one form in this House, and had in the other introduced very material alterations into it. He agreed that if the clause passed as amended the shipowner would be practically without remedy.


sympathized with the shipowners as much as any one, but he looked upon the adoption of the words "reasonable and proper cause" as the only way out of the difficulty. He thought the House of Lords were right. Indeed, they were often right, and that House was wrong.


doubted whether, under the clause as it now stood, the shipowner would ever be able to recover at all.


observed, that a jury would find no difficulty in coming to a conclusion whether there was reasonable or probable cause for the detention of a ship, and the disposition of a jury would be in favour of a shipowner whose ship had been detained, and was, as it turned out, not an unsafe ship. The great object of the Bill was the prevention of sending un-seaworthy ships to sea, and it would throw a great obstacle in the way of the Board of Trade in their efforts to carry out that object if they were to be saddled, in such cases as those referred to, with costs.


thought the Amendment would probably cause the Act to become a dead letter, and that there would be an enormous amount of litigation under it. He thought it would be far better to leave the clause as it formerly was.


hoped the Government would withdraw the Lords' Amendment, which would never work satisfactorily.


was in favour of the clause as it had been settled, after full discussion in the House of Commons, and trusted the Lords' Amendment would not be pressed.


pointed out that with out the Lords' Amendment the Bill would practically be a dead letter, as no one could be expected to incur the risk he would run by detaining a ship which he had reasonable cause to believe was unseaworthy, and which might prove to be seaworthy. In the case which had been alluded, to, of an action of false imprisonment, if the defendant succeeded in showing reasonable and probable cause for his proceedings, the plaintiff failed altogether, and had to pay not only his own costs, but the costs of the defendant also. The shipowner who failed in his proceedings against the Board of Trade would not be in so unfavourable a position, as he would only have to pay his own costs. To make the Board pay the costs of both sides, when there was reasonable and probable cause for the detention of the ship, would be most unjust. It would be to mulct them in costs for having acted as reasonable men, to the same extent as if they had acted without any reason at all. He should support the Amendments which had been made by the other House.


said, unless some protection was given to the Government as it was by the Amendment of the Lords', the Government officers would hardly be justified in taking proceedings against any ship. The Amendment was a fair and reasonable compromise.

Question put.

The House divided:— Ayes 68; Noes 37: Majority 31.

Amendments, as far as the Amendment in page 8, line 37, agreed to.

Page 8, line 37, leave out the last paragraph of Clause 13, and insert Where the survey of a ship is made for the purpose of a declaration or certificate under the above recited enactments, the person appointed to make the survey shall, if so required by the owner, be accompanied on the survey by some person appointed by the owner, and in such case, if the said two persons agree, there shall be no appeal to the court of survey in pursuance of this section, the next Amendment, read a second time.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "owner," in line 5, to the end of the Lords Amendment, in order to insert the words "and by a third person, to be named in such manner and on such conditions as the Board of Trade from time to time prescribe (whether by general regulations or in the particular case); and, if such two last-mentioned persons agree, their report shall have the same effect as if it were a report made on appeal by a court of survey under this section," — Mr. Norwood,) — instead thereof.


objected to the Amendment of the hon. Member, which would place the shipowner in a worse position than that in which he would stand under the provisions of the Bill.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Lords Amendment," put, and agreed to.

Lords Amendment agreed to.

Amendments as far as the Amendment "after Clause 17 insert Clause (A)," agreed to.


moved that the House agree with a new clause inserted by the House of Lords, after Clause 17, in order to provide that, as far as the question of survey was concerned, foreign passenger ships calling at English ports should be placed under the conditions which applied to English ships calling at foreign ports. The only desire on the part of the Board of Trade was that perfect reciprocity should be established.

"After Clause 17, insert Clause (A) "Provision as to survey of foreign passenger steamer or emigrant ship), read a second time, and amended.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment, as amended."— (Sir Charles Adderley.)


moved that the House disagree with the clause.


pointed out that this proviso had been agreed to by the right hon. Gentleman at the instance of one man in all England, the agent of foreign boats, and he would recommend that for the present the whole clause should be left out of the Bill.


feared that the effect of the clause would be to throw the passenger trade into the hands of foreigners.


pointed out that various clauses relating to foreign ships having been introduced into the Bill, it had been thought reasonable to concede this demand on their part.

Question put.

The House divided:— Ayes 49; Noes 36: Majority 13.

Amendments, as far as the Amendment "Pages 11 and 12, leave out Clause 21 and insert Clause (C)," agreed to, with an Amendment to the Lords Amendment in page 11, line 3.


in moving that the House agree to Clause C, which allowed, deals, battens, or other light wood to be carried on deck to a height not exceeding three feet, stated that the Government had decided to introduce this modification into the Bill in order that the legislation of this country might harmonize with that of Canada, and also because remonstrances had been received from foreign Powers against the absolute prohibition of all deck-loads. He believed that deck-loads of the kind allowed in the Bill would not be dangerous, and that there was no sufficient reason for prohibiting them.

''Pages 11 and 12, leave out Clause 21, and insert Clause (C) (Penalty for carrying deck loads of timber in winter)," read a second time.

On the Motion of Mr. PLIMSOLL, the clause was amended so as to come into operation in November, instead of January next.


moved to leave out the words, "to a height exceeding three feet above the deck," in order to prevent any deck cargoes being carried on deck at all. The hon. Member said, he intended next Session to ask for an inquiry into the circumstances under which in 1862, the Board of Trade repealed the previous legislation on this subject. He understood the provision had been introduced in the interest of about 100 Canadian ships which had been specially built for the carrying of deck cargoes. This deck-loading had caused horrors of a most dreadful description, which, were, indeed, going on now. A committee of Lloyd's had investigated the circumstances attending the voyage of deck-laden timber ships during the time when it was prohibited. Between 1850 and 1859 the committee found that 3,774 ships sailed from Quebec to this country, and in the 10 years following there were 3,068 ships sailed. The particulars of all these voyages had been examined, and it had been found that the deck-loading period — that was, from 1863 to 1872 inclusive — was marked by a loss of life nearly four times as great as the period during which no deck-loads were allowed. He thought it greatly to the honour of Canada, as showing the humanity of her people, that before we moved decisively in the matter, she had legislated so thoroughly to prevent shipping losses.

Amendment proposed, in sub-section (c) of the Clause, to leave out the words "to a height exceeding three feet above the deck."— [Mr. Plimsoll.)

Question put, "That the words pro posed to be left out stand part of the Lords Amendment."

The House divided:— Ayes 55; Noes 29: Majority 26.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment, as amended."— (Sir Charles Adderley.)


protested strongly against the clause, because it sanctioned the loading of 3 feet of deals and battens on the deck of a ship in winter, thereby directly recognizing deck loading, which was without precedent in our legislation. He thought British shipowners were en titled to complain of the tyrannical pro visions of the Bill. The wise plan would have been not to legislate with such precision on deck cargoes at all, leaving a margin for the exercise of discretion by surveyors on each individual case. It was absurd to apply the same regulation in the case of a six weeks' voyage from Canada as in the case of a six days' voyage from Norway. He moved that the House disagree with the Lords Amendment.


also protested against the clause, which, he trusted, would be rescinded next Session. Deck-loading in winter ought to be wholly abolished as dangerous. A hard-and-fast line of 3 feet was absurd, because every seaman knew that some ships were much safer with 4 feet than others were with 2 feet of deck-load.


hoped the Government would retrace steps which they had so recently taken on this question.

Question put.

The House divided:— Ayes 49; Noes 26: Majority 23.

"Page 12, line 24, leave out 'under eighty tons register,"' read a second time."

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."— (Sir Charles Adderley.)


had given Notice of a Motion to disagree from the Lords' Amendment in Clause 22, excluding vessels in the coasting trade from the operation of the clause as to load-line; but he refrained from proposing it be cause the Government had not shown any desire to meet the views of those who differed from them, and they had obtained their majorities by the votes of their Supporters, who had not heard the arguments used on both sides.


said, he had the same Amendment on the Paper as the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. T. E. Smith), and he intended to take a division upon it. He, therefore, moved that the House disagree from the Lords' Amendment in page 12, line 24, and lines 38 and 39 in Clause 22. It was agreed by the Government that it was desirable to bring vessels above a certain tonnage in the coasting trade under the same regulations as those in the foreign trade. He should like to have a load-line fixed by independent authorities. He regarded this as an Amendment not so much of the House of Lords as of the Board of Trade.


said, that the load-line originally adopted was for foreign-going ships, but on the Motion of the hon. Member for Derby the regulation was made applicable to coasting vessels above 80 tons. He agreed that part of the coasting trade ought to be under some regulation of the kind proposed; but the clause was now drawn so as to be applicable only to foreign-going ships, and if the experiment should turn out well he would take steps for its extension.


was willing to consider the matter as relating to the coasting trade, but it would be difficult, if not impossible, to arrange it now.


moved the adjournment of the Debate.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."

(Mr. Edward Jenkins.')


said, he would consent to disagree from the Lords in the Amendment so far as it related to the coasting trade. Some consequential Amendment must be made, or the clause as it stood would be unintelligible.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question put, and negatived.

"Page 12, line 26, leave out 'all,' ' the next Amendment, agreed to.

"Page 12, lines 38 and 39, leave out ' under eighty tons register,' "the next Amendment, disagreed to.

Subsequent Amendments agreed to.

Committee appointed, " to draw up Reasona to be assigned to The Lords for disagreeing to the Amendments to which this House hath disagreed: "— Sir CHARLES ADDERLEY, Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Mr. BATES, Mr. PLIMSOLL, Mr. EUSTACE SMITH, and Sir WILLIAM EDMON-STONE:— To withdraw immediately; Three to be the quorum.