HC Deb 10 March 1876 vol 227 cc1812-37

, in rising to call attention to the present condition of our Merchant Seamen, and to the Report of the Royal Commission on Pensions to Seamen, and to the regulations in force in Foreign Countries for providing Pensions to Seamen; and to move a Resolution thereon, said: Sir, in order to justify the Motion which I desire to submit to the approval of the House, I shall not consider it necessary to allege that our seamen have deteriorated. I believe that there are in our Merchant Service many ill-conducted and inefficient men, while there are happily a still larger number, who are the best seamen in the world. I would rather insist on the miseries and hardships inseparable from a sailor's life. It is on this ground, and because our national security and greatness are mainly dependent on the loyal attachment of our seamen to their native land, that I would especially urge the re-establishment of the Seamen's Pension Fund. The subject has been frequently investigated by Royal Commissions and by Parliamentary Committees, and they have invariably recorded a strong opinion in favour of the establishment of a Seamen's Pension Fund. The fact that no practical legislation has resulted is a, convincing proof that the special interests of seamen have been too long neglected. That negligence has arisen, not so much from lack of sympathy, as from ignorance of the condition and necessities of a class whose calling keeps them apart from the great mass of their fellow-countrymen. The efforts of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) have of late aroused the deepest interest in seamen, and my hope is that I may be able to obtain for the proposal I now submit to the House a support which, under ordinary circumstances, I could scarcely hope to command. The example of foreign nations supplies me with an important argument. A plan for securing pensions to seamen was established in Prance by the great Minister, Colbert. The fund of the Invalides de la Marines is supported by contributions of 3 per cent, deducted from the pay of all persons in the National or the merchant service. In 1844, the fund had an invested capital of £4,000,000 sterling, and an income of £300,000 a-year. Mariners became entitled to pensions after their names had been borne for 25 years on a ship's articles, and they had attained the age of 50. The pension varies from 600f. to 96f. a-year, according to the grade of the pensioner. Widows receive half the pension, to which their husbands were entitled, and an allowance is made to children. In the United States there is a benefit fund, supported by a compulsory deduction of 20 cents per month from the seamen's wages. Every worn-out or disabled seaman is entitled to maintenance in one of the asylums established by the State on the American seaboard. In Norway, by the Royal rescript of 1834, an independent charitable institution for seamen has been founded in the principal seaports; and at the time when seamen sign their articles of agreement for a foreign voyage, it is usual to agree upon a pro rata contribution to the institution established in the port from which he sails. The Scuola di San Marco, at Venice, is an institution very similar to that of the Invalides de la Marines in Paris. In Holland, there is an institution called the Seamen's Hope, on a somewhat similar plan to those established in Norway and Sweden. In our own country a Seamen's Pension Fund formerly existed. It was established by Act of Parliament in 1747, in compliance with a Petition from merchant seamen. Its object was to give to the merchant service the same advantages which the Navy enjoyed at Greenwich. It was supported by a contribution of 1s. a-month, which was stopped from each man's wages; and the Fund received liberal contributions from great merchants and shipowners. It worked extremely well until the year 1820, when our great merchants unfortunately withdrew from the shipping trade. From that period their voluntary contributions rapidly fell off. In the meanwhile, a fatal laxity had crept into the management, the results of which were described by Admiral Denman in his evidence before the Manning Commission of 1859. While the State was responsible for the management of the Fund, its administration was entrusted to a local committee at each port. There was no general system, and no effectual audit was provided. Hence arose jobbery, confusion, and eventual bankruptcy. At one port pensions of £13 were paid; at others the amount was £2 or £3; and again at others it was as low as 10s. A widow at Sunderland, aged 84, received 2s. a-month; while a widow at Liverpool, aged 24, received 14s. for herself, and 12s. each for her children. Such inequality justly created discontent; and the Fund being bankrupt, a Winding-Up Act was passed in 1851. The process has already cost £1,000,000, and will probably cost £500,000 more. But no objection has ever been taken to the principle of a compulsory self-supporting Pension Fund by those who are best acquainted with the condition of our seamen. The Select Committee on Lighthouses, in 1845, strongly insisted on the necessity for such a Fund. The Royal Commission on Pensions, appointed in 1848, made a Report, which is still the best authority on this subject, and which was entirely in favour of continuing the Pension Fund, under improved regulations. In 1853 the Prince Consort, as Master of the Trinity House, addressed a letter to Lord Cardwell, then President of the Board of Trade, in which he urged, on behalf of the Elder Brethren, the importance of substituting for the Corporation's charities a more comprehensive scheme, such as should do honour to the great maritime and commercial character of the United Kingdom. The Manning Commission of 1859 gave great prominence to this subject in their Report. They said that, among the many suggestions, which had been offered to them, none had been so ably advocated as the re-establishment of the Merchant Seaman's Pension Fund; and that such a provision would be a great inducement to youths to join, and to seamen to remain in, our Merchant Service. The Committee on Merchant Shipping of 1860 concurred in this view, and pointed out the great facilities, afforded for the administration of the Fund through the shipping offices, which had recently been established. Passing over an interval of several years, I may quote as the latest authority on this subject the Report of the Liverpool Committee of shipowners on the condition of our merchant seamen. They were strongly of opinion that, both in the general interests of commerce and the nation, as well as of our merchant seamen, a Compulsory Benefit Fund should be established, there being at present no provision for old or disabled seamen, except the workhouse. The existence of such a fund would serve to bind the sailor both to his ship and his country by the consideration, now almost unknown to him, of having something to lose by deserting his ship when abroad. Lastly, the Royal Commission on Un-seaworthy Ships expressed their opinion that a self-supporting Pension Fund for seamen might prove of great value, in creating a tie to bind the British seaman to the Merchant Service of his own country. The subject, they said, well deserved the attention of the Government. The concurrence of these eminent authorities supplies a conclusive argument in favour of a Seamen's Pension Fund; and a calm consideration of the proposal on its merits cannot fail to satisfy the House that it is both reasonable and necessary. Seamen are a scattered body. Their lives are spent far away from home, and when they return, it may often happen that they are not paid off at the port, at which they originally shipped. They cannot, therefore, organize a machinery for collecting contributions or administering the funds required to provide sufficient pensions. The task, in short, is so extensive in its scope, and important in a national point of view, that it can only be carried out by the Government, and this is the conclusion at which every Commission and Committee, during the last 30 years, has arrived. The necessity of making the contributions compulsory is the only point on which doubt has been felt. The majority of the Manning Commissioners proposed that the Pension Fund should be self-supporting but voluntary. The contribution for the Naval Reserve was to be paid by the State; but they wished to admit to the benefit of the Fund every seaman, whether in the Navy or the Merchant Service, who might think proper to contribute. Mr. Lindsay differed from the other Commissioners; and his opinion, which is of the greatest value, was that any Pension Fund on the voluntary principle would be a failure. These views were shared by all the professional officers of the Board of Trade. The late Mr. Graves told the Merchant Shipping Committee of 1860 that, although he did not like compulsory measures, yet he thought in the case of the Seamen's Pension Fund compulsion would be a necessity. The same opinion was expressed by Captain Ballantyne, who was specially appointed to represent the views of the Mercantile Marine Association of Liverpool before the Royal Commission on Unseaworthy Ships. The view of those, who are in favour of compulsory contributions, were very ably summed up in the memorandum, prepared for the Manning Commission by Captain Peirce, Superintendent of the Sailors' Home, in London. "Seamen," he said, "were an exceptional class." What other description of men required their agreements for labour and service, the correction of their accounts, and the payment of their wages, to be watched over by a public officer? This arose from their habits, and their peculiar duties. From youth to manhood they were exposed to temptations and dangers, by sea and land, which surrounded no other class; and they therefore required more than others the protecting arm of a kind and beneficent Government to do for them what they could not and would not do for themselves. Why is it that the seaman does not calculate? It is because the universal feeling among seaman is that they will not live to be old. They see so many die around them, they so seldom meet with an old sailor at sea, that they consider it quite unnecessary to prepare, as other people do, for the contingency of old age. But, it may be asked, what are the views entertained by the seamen themselves? Enquiries were made in 1845, on behalf of the Board of Trade, by Captain Brown, who reported, as the result of conversations with many hundreds of seamen, that there was scarcely any objection to contribute, provided a substantial pension were guaranteed by Parliament. Again, when the Winding-Up Act was passed, a Petition was presented to this House, signed by 400 masters and mates, and 700 seamen, stating that any attempt to raise a Pension Fund on a voluntary principle would be precarious and inefficient. I have recently made an effort to ascertain the feelings of the seamen by personal inquiry. I addressed a meeting at the Liverpool Sailors' Home in December last on this subject, when a resolution was unanimously passed in favour of the plan. I have subsequently been in correspondence with the Secretary of the Seamen's Protective Society, of Liverpool, which numbers several thousand members, all able seamen; and I am informed that since the date of the meeting the subject has been repeatedly considered by the society, and that the general principle of compulsion has been invariably approved. Ten days ago I attended a meeting of seamen at the Shipping Office in the East India Road, when the plan was also received with the warmest approval. But the main point we have to consider is whether the thing proposed is right in itself; for if the House be satisfied that a particular measure is calculated to do good, they will probably be prepared to exert, in case of need, a gentle pressure on prejudiced or improvident men, whom it might be necessary to train up in habits of prudence. Any objection, which might be raised on the part of the seamen to a forced contribution, would be removed if the shipowners were prepared to take a share of the burden. Lord Ellenborough suggested a tonnage contribution of 1s. a-ton, arguing that it was but just that the shipowner should relieve those, who would otherwise become chargeable with the maintenance of the seamen by whose labour the shipowner himself had specially benefited. Mr. Young, the chairman of the London Shipowners' Society, proposed that the necessary sum should be raised in three equal amounts—by contributions from the State, the seaman, and the shipowner. With these views Mr. Green and Mr. Dunbar concurred. More recently the Committee of Liverpool shipowners have proposed that a benevolent due of one farthing a-ton should be levied upon all shipping entering our ports, by which means a considerable amount would be raised. It has been calculated by an officer of the Cunard service that the Liverpool proposal for a tonnage contribution would produce £60,000 a-year. Coasters would pay an annual contribution, in lieu of dues for every voyage. Mr. Lindsay expressed an opinion that even though the payment required from the seamen should, in point of fact, fall absolutely on the shipowners, they would be gainers thereby; for the seaman would by this means be bound to the English flag, and less easily tempted to desertion by the higher wages in America. Wages from Liverpool, for a voyage to Callao and back, in a sailing ship, average 60s. a month. The wages at Callao and the Colonial ports are almost double that amount. The result is, that the seaman, having nothing to lose by desertion, is easily tempted to leave his ship, and the shipowner must engage a substitute for the voyage home, at double the amount originally agreed upon. Two months' wages must be paid—the proceeds of the advance note passing, as a matter of course, into the hands of the crimp. The administration of the fund must be in the hands of the State, and, with proper regulations, there should be no deficiency. But even if there were an occasional small deficit, it is to be remembered that under the Winding-Up Act the State took possession of £200,000, and that the Government now receives an unclaimed surplus of £9,000 a-year from the wages and effects of deceased seamen, which are administered by the Board of Trade. With the aid of these supplementary resources we have next to consider what amount of pension it will be possible to guarantee to the seamen without loss to the State. The calculations made by Mr. Finlayson for Mr. Labouchere in 1850 and for the Manning Commission in 1859 were based upon the Northampton tables, which gave a more unfavourable view of the expectations of human life than almost any other published experience, and which, it was ascertained by communication with the seamen's benefit societies, accurately represent the duration of the lives of mariners. Mr. Finlayson was asked by the Manning Commission to state what amount of pension commencing at the age of 50, would be secured by an annual payment of £1 from the age of 14. The amount, according to the Northampton tables, payable at the age of 50 would be £8, and at 55 £12 a-year. In this calculation, however, no allowance was made for the secession of some of those who had been contributors to the Fund. When, however, allowance was made for the probable number of seceders, which, in order to make a safe calculation, was taken at 3 per cent per annum, it appeared that the pension commencing at 50, would be increased to £11 5s., and that it would be £18, commencing at 55. The number of seceders was taken at the most moderate amount. In the Royal Navy desertion took place to the extent of 8 per cent per annum of the whole number of men employed; and in the merchant service there were fewer obstacles in the way of desertion. Had Mr. Finlayson calculated upon a secession to the extent of 8 per cent, the amount of pension at the age of 50 would have been raised to at least £17 a-year. It will be observed with regret that no proposal has been made with respect to widows. The Commission on Pensions were of opinion that it would be impossible to require the payment of a contribution sufficient to provide for this object. They therefore proposed a voluntary benefit society for seamen's widows, to which the State should contribute £5,000 a-year. I opened my-statement by asserting the importance of a Seaman's Pension Fund on national grounds. I conclude by pointing out that it has always been associated by its warmest advocates with the organization of the Naval Reserve. Mr. Lindsay was of opinion that, in lieu of the annual retainer, it would be far wiser to pass men for a year through the Navy, and, instead of giving the yearly fee and an imperfect training, as at present, to offer to the men enrolled in the Reserve the prospect of a pension of £20 a-year, to commence at the age of 50, provided they had in the meantime always followed the sea and held themselves in readiness to serve in the Navy. He calculated that, supposing a Reserve of 60,000 men were obtained, not more than 7,000 would live through their precarious and hazardous career to claim their pension. Thus, for £140,000 a-year we should have, as he believed, a far more effective Reserve than we could command by a payment of £720,000 a-year under our present system. I appeal once more to the example of every maritime State, and to the repeated recommendations of the highest authorities in the country, as furnishing a conclusive argument in favour of the proposal I now make. Why should we longer hesitate to adopt a course which wise statesmanship and enlightened charity alike recommend? I beg, Sir, to move— That, in the opinion of the House, it is expedient to establish a compulsory, self-supporting Pension Fund for Seamen.


said, that the original Question affirmed by the House was, "that I do now leave the Chair," and on that Question it was not competent to the hon. Member to move his Resolution.


, who had given Notice of an Amendment to add to the Motion the words— And further it is expedient to establish a system of combined training for the Royal Navy and the Merchant Service in commercial ports in pursuance of the recommendations of the Manning Commission of 1859, said, that in doing so he had a two-fold object; first, to raise the tone and character of the merchant seamen of the country, and, secondly, by so doing, to increase its naval power. Higher objects than those no man could aspire to attain. He would premise that on the outbreak of war merchant seamen were absolutely necessary for national defences and other State purposes; and therefore the State ought to contribute in a fair and moderate degree in the training of seamen. But there was another reason why there should be State aid given in this matter. The House voted annually £28,000—last year it was £30,000—under the head of "Relief to distressed seamen abroad." If they substituted the word "diseased" for "distressed" it would more accurately describe the condition of a great portion of those men. The seeds of disease were sown here, they became unfit for duty on the voyage, were discharged at the first convenient port, and brought home at the national expense, that expense being practically a fine on us for neglecting our seamen. He thought he was therefore justified in using the words of the Amendment, which, had he been in Order, he should have moved, and more especially in connection with the phrase, "Combined training," upon which he laid special stress. It was admitted on all hands that the condition of our seamen was not so satisfactory as it ought to be, or as it might be made by proper training. There were two great causes which led to the deterioration of our seamen. The first was their lodging-houses ashore, which ought to be licensed and placed under proper inspection. The other the "advance note," and the power it gave to crimps over the seamen. Both these evils could be remedied; and he was glad to say that most of the best men earnestly desired some remedial measures. A committee had been sitting for the last three years at Liverpool to inquire into the condition of their seamen, and it had collected a mass of most useful and trustworthy information. The House would probably like to know what the real number of our able seamen was, and in connection with the point he would lay some figures before them which would probably startle them. The committee stated that the seamen available at all our British ports at the present time were 202,239 in the gross. Out of these 130,877 were on board sailing ships, and deducting stewards, cooks, &c., the number was reduced to 117,790. In steamers there were 71,362 sailors employed, but of these 50 per cent were engineers, stokers, &c., leaving only 35,681 British sailors. Deducting the foreigners in sailing vessels also, the total amount of British seamen was reduced to 134,496. But from the most careful inquiry made amongst the captains and shipowners of Liverpool it was found that only one quarter of the fo'k'slle men were fit to be rated A.B., and therefore, according to this calculation, there were only 33,600 A.B. sailors in this country, or he would call it 40,000 in round numbers. These were instructive figures, and, if as they stated, we had not got more than 40,000 able seamen in this country, surely it had become a great national object and an earnest duty to try and increase that number. He arrived then at this point. If we wanted able seamen it needed no argument to show that we must train them. If a system of training were necessary—and he thought the House had come to that conclusion—how were they to set about it. In order to answer that question he should refer to the evidence taken before the Manning Commission which sat in 1859. That Commission was one of the strongest ever appointed by the House, and its Report was drawn by Mr. Cardwell, a statesman trained in the most rigid school of economy, and against whom the holding of exaggerated or extravagant views could not be charged. That Report had ever since been regarded as a text book on the subject. Mr. Cardwell presided at one of the sittings of the Commission, and he drew from Commander Hoskyns Brown, a seaman of vast experience, who had been for 25 years registrar of seamen in this country, and who had devoted his life to the study of the question, strong evidence to the effect that the training of boys for the Merchant Service would raise its character, and that if boys were taken from a better class than these found in industrial training ships the Merchant Service would be raised, and desertions would be fewer. He had always advocated the adoption of such a system, and his object was to draw from a better stock, both from the Royal Navy and the Merchant Service, by a combined system of education for both services. There could, he thought, be no doubt that if the class of seamen in the Reserve, under a system which did not commence the training of sailors until they had reached manhood, was superior to that of former times, a higher state of excellence would be attained by the adoption of a system which should commence with the training at an early age, and should also include instruction calculated to fit boys either for the Royal Navy or the Merchant Service. The training of seamen was a self-evident proposition, and in proof of it he had only to refer to the Royal Navy, where boys had been trained with the greatest advantage to the public service. The two gentlemen from the Board of Trade who were sent out to inquire into the condition of our seamen, in their Report spoke in favour of a system of training. Mr. John Burns, who was connected with the Industrial School ship near Glasgow, said that the in-put and out-put of boys was inexhaustible; that there was no difficulty in getting boys, and after they had been trained getting them into the Merchant Service. The Manning Commission proposed that 12 training ships should be placed in as many of the principal commercial ports of the country, but he (Lord Eslington) suggested that only half that number should be at first established, and that if it were done that one should be sent to Ireland—each ship should contain 300 boys, 100 of which number should be trained for and at the expense of the Admiralty; that the Admiralty should provide two guns for each ship, small arms, and cutlasses for the purposes of drill; that there should be a gunnery instructor on board of each ship; and that a tender for sea-going purposes should be also attached to each ship in order that the boys could be occasionally taken well out to sea for the purpose of obtaining additional experience and getting rid of the objection sometimes raised to what were called "port-trained" boys. He did not at all wish to interfere with existing training ships, which were doing excellent work; but the material from which they drew was not that which he desired to see join the Merchant Service. It was calculated that they would produce 3,500 boys a-year, but the Mercantile Marine did not, so far as he could ascertain, get from them more than 1,000. The drain of men in the Merchant Service was 16,000 annually. The annual number of apprentices turned out was, he might add, only 3,500, and taking the extreme view that the Reformatory and Industrial School ships produced a similar number, we should then have only 7,000 to supply an annual drain of 16,000; and it was, as far as possible, to meet that drain that he desired to see training ships established. It would be preposterous for any one to propose that these ships should be maintained entirely by the State, but the shipowners who complained of the in-efficiency of the sailors, and who would benefit by their improvement, if their complaint was well grounded—and he had no reason to doubt it—should contribute their fair share of the expense. The Royal Commissioners proposed the imposition of a rate of 6d. per ton on all ships except those which took apprentices, and the Liverpool Committee recommended that all ships below 100 tons should be exempted because they were chiefly coasters employing boys, and they were practically one of the best nurseries of seamen. He must candidly admit that at present there were objections raised by a large number of shipowners to the proposed tax. One reason, which he trusted would prove a passing one, was the present depressed state of the shipping trade; but he apprehended the principal reason for their objection was the idea, that if anything were done to elevate the able seamen it would have the effect of raising wages. Even if that were so, the shipowners would have no reason to complain, because they would get good and efficient men, and there would ultimately be an improvement in the tone of the Merchant Navy that would be of the greatest possible service to the shipowners and to the community at large. A great many shipowners advocated the imposition of a tax, and Mr. Burns suggested 4d. a ton. The British tonnage was estimated at 6,000,000, but, taking it at half that amount, a 6d. rate or tax would produce £75,000 a-year, but taking it at only £60,000 it would go a considerable way towards the maintenance of training ships. Taking the cost of a boy at £25 per annum, it would only give 3,000 boys to be added to the 7,000 already referred to with which to meet our annual drain of 16,000 men. That was a moderate proposition, and if it should be tried and proved successful it was capable of unlimited expansion, and would be a great boon to the mercantile community of this country. The proposal had already obtained public support to this extent. The First Lord of the Admiralty, in distributing the prizes in June last on board the Conway training ship, advocated the training of boys, and expressed a hope that before he left office he should see training ships started in all the large ports of the country, and therefore he claimed the right hon. Gentleman as a powerful ally in support of this Amendment. Then there was the Report of the Royal Commission in support of the view for which he contended, as well as that of the Liverpool Committee of Inquiry. At a great meeting, too, of shipowners which had been held in the early part of the year in the City of London a resolution was unanimously passed to the effect that a large proportion of the annual casualties at sea were caused by "the inefficiency, intemperance, and negligence of seamen," to his mind clearly pointing out the necessity for some remedy; while at a meeting of the representatives of the Associated Chambers of Commerce held at the Westminster Palace Hotel a few days after, a proposal in favour of a system of training boys for the Merchant Service was adopted. We had, moreover, the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce suggesting that the Government should establish and assist in maintaining such ships, while the Liverpool Underwriters' Association had declared it to be their opinion that the present inefficiency of seamen had a very material bearing on the rate of premiums on insurance. The Liverpool Seamen's Protection Society had also passed a resolution in favour of training ships for the Navy. These opinions were not confined to the Merchant Service, but had been favourably received in the United Service Institution, at discussions in which naval officers had taken a part. The Secretary of State for War had proposed schemes of mobilization, the formation of camps, and the increase of the Army, which had received the assent of the House, all incurring a large increase of expenditure for the Army, but, after all, the Army was a secondary consideration to the Navy. If their first line of defence was broken, a great amount of the expenditure which they had devoted to military improvement would be thrown away. If once the soil of England was trodden by the foot of an invader, the honour of this country would receive a terrible blow, and it was in order to strengthen the naval power of this country that he had brought this subject before the House. He would conclude by reading to the House a maxim which was as true now as when it was first expressed—"Trade and navigation form the foundations of naval power; and the nation possessing these elements in the highest degree must always command supremacy at sea."


said, he could not agree with the noble Lord in his Motion respecting training ships, because he believed that seamen would never submit to be compulsorily taxed for the purpose of providing a pension fund, more especially because the management of former pension funds had resulted so disastrously. The Motion, however, brought forward by the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey) was one of an entirely different character. He (Mr. Gourley) held that it was the duty of the State, in order to secure for itself a proper supply of seamen, to provide in some form a pension fund for our Mercantile Marine; because they were, in the first place, liable to be impressed in time of war to fight the naval battles of the country, and formed at all times a nucleus for the equipment of the Royal Navy. During the Great War ending in 1815, it was computed that 100,000 merchant seamen were drawn from their regular employment to serve their country, and it was to them that we must look on any sudden emergency. There were several sources from which a seamen's pension fund might be provided. One was the surplus light dues. Those dues, levied from the merchant ships of this and other countries by the Trinity Board, brought in £340,000 a-year, and the surplus of £40,000 a-year might be well appropriated to a pension fund for seamen. The receipts of the Mercantile Marine offices were derived partly from seamen and partly from shipowners, and the surplus might be appropriated to the same object. Then the fines levied in police courts in connection with seafaring offences might, as in Prance, go towards such a fund, together with the proceeds of unclaimed wrecks and wages, and a certain portion of the Greenwich Hospital fund. By these sources of revenue about £100,000 per annum might be secured towards a seamen's pension fund. At the same time, he agreed in the necessity of establishing training ships at the various ports. That was one of the recommendations of the Manning Commission of 1859, and if it had been carried out not only would there be at the present moment a better supply, and especially a better description, of seamen, but also a more efficient Naval Reserve. There was an abundance of seamen—more, indeed, than were wanted—but, although there were many good seamen, there was a large supply of indifferent seamen. The other elements of our Mercantile Marine were Norwegians, Swedes, Prussians, Italians, Greeks, and Lascars; and the Peninsular and Oriental Company now navigated some of their ships by Indian seamen, who were not to be compared as seamen with the able seamen of this country, but who were sober men, and therefore navigated ships more safely. They were, however, not to be relied upon in case of emergency, and a captain had recently told him that in case of bad weather or collision, they would run below and make no effort to save either themselves or the ship. It was the character of our seamen that was of more importance than the number, and training ships and other means of providing them would be of little avail until we got rid of our drinking customs. In the ports of Liverpool and Portsmouth there were more public-houses by the side of the docks than in any other part of the Kingdom. The public-house was brought, as it were, to the very decks of the vessels, and until we got rid of this evil, and of its associations and consequences, we should never make our seamen what they ought to be. He would urge the serious consideration of the question of training ships, and while he agreed that a pension fund was necessary, he thought it ought not to be raised from the sailor by compulsion.


said, he would leave the President of the Board of Trade to deal with the question of pensions for seamen, but he might say that if shipowners were to adopt the system of the Navy and enter men for continuous public service, he thought the question of pensions might be settled. In the case of the great steamship companies there would be no difficulty in adopting such a system, and even by combination smaller shipowners might engage men for continuous service and make pensions part of the engagement. He rose, however, to make some observations on the subject of training ships for boys for the Mercantile Marine, and with regard to it, he would repeat the sentiments he had expressed on board the Conway at Liverpool, and state that he took the deepest interest in the establishment of training ships for the Mercantile Marine in the different ports; and to a deputation of shipowners he had expressed the willingness of the Government to promote the movement, and had stated what the Government might fairly be called upon to do. The question was one of Imperial interest as well as of interest to shipowners, for the Government naturally looked to the men of the Mercantile Marine as their Reserve in case of war, and it was therefore perfectly fair that the Imperial Treasury should bear a proportion of the cost of training boys for the Mercantile Marine. Those who were anxious to see the establishment of training ships were of opinion that the Government should bear a large portion of the expense, and he admitted that the Government ought to bear its due share; but he could not admit that a due share would be anything like the larger part of the cost. He could not endorse the opinion that the Government ought to maintain 100 boys in each ship, unless, indeed, they could get from each ship 100 boys for the Navy; but he was willing to adopt the principle of payment by results, and he had conveyed to the shipowners the willingness of the Admiralty to pay £25 for each boy who actually joined the Navy, that being the sum mentioned in the Report of the Manning Commission as the cost of the maintenance of each boy, and £3 a-head for those who joined the Naval Reserve. He thought also the Admiralty might be called upon to provide ships, but instead of beginning with 12 or six, he should be glad to make a beginning with three in the first year, and to go on increasing them year by year till they had a sufficient number of ships for the different parts of the country. These were all the charges that he thought Imperial funds ought to bear. He was surprised that shipowners did not see that their interests were involved in promoting the movement. It could not be started and maintained unless they would put their hands into their pockets, either voluntarily or by the payment of a tax to be imposed by Act of Parliament. He could not but think they would find it to their advantage to incur the necessary outlay, because they would diminish their losses by providing a better class of men to navigate their ships. He felt sure the investment would be a paying one, and that they would reap the advantage. Concurring in the view of the noble Lord the Member for South Northumberland (Lord Eslington) that boys should be trained while young for the Naval Reserve, he had established a third class of boys, and he had intimated to the different training ships that the Admiralty were prepared to receive boys in that class, making a payment of £3 a-head, and entering them as soon as they joined a mercantile ship on leaving the training ship. In addition to the payment to the ship the Admiralty had undertaken to find each boy a suit of clothes. He thought this would be the means of increasing the Naval Reserve, which was in a more flourishing condition now than it had been for some time.


said, that the true solution of the Plimsoll difficulty was to take means for manning their ships by men of character, and he believed that public opinion both in Liverpool and Manchester were in favour of the movement. He thought that voluntary training ships were admirable institutions, there being a great advantage in their being supported by men who took an active interest in the welfare of the sailor, and he was glad that the Government were so ready to lend assistance in this work. The great thing that was wanted was, that the sailor should feel that he had a home to return to, and that he should have the confidence that there were men in his own land who were untiring for his good. If they had sailors properly trained in the manner he desired, each of these men would be a sort of "moral torpedo," and would be likely to keep those who were inclined to be wrongful doers on the watch. He thought it would be better that Government should give substantial assistance in the undertaking, rather than that the work should be taken wholly in hand by them.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present.


, in resuming his observations, expressed a hope that the chief management of such undertakings might remain under voluntary direction.


thought it would be satisfactory to the House and to the country that the subject had assumed so prominent a position, and that such opportunity had been given for full discussion. He thought the pension fund seemed to point to an additional tax upon seamen, but the wages of our seamen were already more than duly taxed as compared with those of foreign seamen. While he believed that the establishment of the good-service pension fund would tend to improve the character and increase the efficiency of the merchant seamen, he did not think it advisable that Parliament should establish such a fund. There were certain public funds which at present stood to the credit of the Mercantile Marine, and he should be in favour of applying a portion of those funds to the formation of a good-service fund, out of which pensions might be given to deserving and well-conducted men. The shipping trade was, at present, in a state of depression, and the attempts which had been made during the past two or three years to interfere with it by almost incessant agitation had greatly discouraged those who invested capital in this important branch of industry, by making them feel that, with increasing liabilities, it was becoming a hazardous, if not an unprofitable enter-prize. One of the evil effects of the agitation to which he had referred was that foreign steamers were increasing in a greater ratio than English ones. He was favourable to pension funds formed among the seamen themselves, as friendly societies were established by working men. In the port of Hull there had been formed a society called the "Plimsoll British Seamen and Firemen's Defence Association." In justice to the hon. Member for Derby, he ought to say that the hon. Gentleman had retired from the presidency of that association, though it still retained his name in its title. The members of it each contributed 10d. a-month, which was 10s. a-year; and there were from 400 to 500 belonging to the association. It surely followed if seamen could combine together for that purpose they could also combine to establish a pension fund, without the interference of Parliament. The question of training ships should be dealt with on the voluntary principle. If shipowners found that there was a deficiency of seamen it was their duty and their interest to establish these training ships in order to provide themselves with what they required. He doubted, however, that there was so great a deficiency in the supply of seamen as had been represented. As to demoralization among seamen, in his opinion it was caused mostly by drunkenness and intemperance; and, so far as his experience in Hull went, he deplored the extension of the opening hours of public-houses granted by the House under the Bill of the Home Secretary, because it had produced a great amount of evil among the seamen of the port as well as among the inhabitants of the town. Why did English merchant captains ask to be allowed to employ Lascars? Because Lascars could be relied upon as sober men and as honest men. He did not understand why the shipping interest should be legislated for at every turn, so that even the men could not be engaged without being taken to the shipping office; and he deprecated a feeling which seemed to be not content with the Government interference which now prevailed, but wished to carry this interference still further. With the Mercantile Marine of the whole world to compete with British shipowners had to study every item of expense; and legislation concerning them must take a very different turn from what it had done lately, if England was to maintain the supremacy of her Mercantile Marine.


said, that the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had stated that English captains preferred to employ Lascars because they were honest and sober, apparently intimating that British sailors were neither the one nor the other. For his own part, he did not think that was a character which the British sailor deserved; but if it was so, he was afraid the hon. Gentleman's evidence must be taken as showing that the condition of the British seamen was not what the House would desire it should be, and that it deserved inquiry. With regard to a pension fund, his own impression was that it would be of the greatest advantage to seamen, but that until the shipowners approved of its formation, it would be impolitic to insist upon the proposal being carried out. He had a suggestion to offer for the consideration of the Vice President of the Council. It was, that at seaports a school-ship should be substituted for an ordinary board school on shore, and that the education to be given there be under the control of the Education Department. In that way the proposal which had been made by the First Lord of the Admiralty would be assisted by the ratepayers of the locality near which the ship would be situated, while the First Lord might obtain from such a school a certain number of educated boys for the service of the State, and the Merchant Service also might obtain seamen who would be found superior to those Lascars of whom the hon. Gentleman thought so highly.


wished to know why it was that hon. Gentlemen selected the shipping interest for experimenting upon, and shipowners for receiving instructions as to how they should carry on their business. Why should a tax be placed on seamen and not on cotton-spinners, miners, and engineers, who earned such large sums of money? We did not like compulsion in this country. The President of the Board of Trade was a man of great discretion and prudence, and he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would not interfere with the shipping trade where it could be avoided. At present, as compared with that of other nations, it was heavily handicapped and tied down by the trammels which Parliament was continually imposing upon it. He did not think training ships had been quite so successful as they were sometimes represented. Boys might be trained, and after all refuse to go to sea; and who could compel them? He objected to their throwing any charge on shipowners on that account. He hoped the Government would discourage this kind of experimental meddling which never ended in any good. The only true remedy for the deficiency of seamen was an easy and a simple one—namely, the offer of higher wages, and if that course were taken, improvement would soon manifest itself.


wished to say a few words with respect to the two very important subjects which had been brought under the consideration of the House. One of them was for the revival of the Merchant Seamen's Fund, and the other for the increase of training ships; but neither the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey) nor the noble Lord the Member for South Northumberland (Lord Eslington) had pointed out any practical scheme for carrying out their proposals or leading to any change in the policy which Government were pursuing on both those subjects. The hon. Member for Hastings said nobody disputed the value of a pension fund to seamen. Undoubtedly that was so. A pension fund on a sound basis would be the greatest inducement to seamen of the best description to join the sea service; secondly, it would be the greatest inducement for them to continue in the service; and, in the third place, it would prevent that most painful degradation of the service, that seamen, on arriving at the age of 60, if they did reach that age, generally fell on the poor rate. That being so, the hon. Member said it was most desirable to revive the Merchant Seamen's Fund; but he did not even indicate the mode in which he proposed to do it. The Merchant Seamen's Fund was a failure. Could the hon. Member propose a fund on another principle which would not be liable to failure like the first? Mr. Labouchere brought in a Bill in order to carry out the views of the Royal Commission; but it could only be carried out by a tax on shipowners, and the shipowners objected. So far there was no encouragement to revive the fund. In 1851 the Winding-Up Act was passed. That Act had cost this country £1,000,000, and it would cost at least £600,000 more, and Mr. Hamilton, of the Board of Trade, a gentleman of great experience, told him it was within possibility that it should take 100 years from now to extinguish the ultimate liabilities on the fund. So far, at all events, there was very little encouragement to carry out the hon. Gentleman's proposition. Since 1851, nothing had happened on the subject but the Report of the Manning of the Navy Commission. That Commission reported in favour of voluntary funds. He need not go into the details of their proposition; nobody thought of recommending the adoption of it. And what had occurred before? A distinct condemnation by experience of the principle of their proposition. As to a compulsory self-supporting system to provide pensions for the Mercantile Marine, the difficulty was that nobody knew how to carry it out, and it had been found by experience impossible to work it. He maintained, therefore, that the hon. Member for Hastings ought, in support of his proposition, to have shown how it was practicable to re-establish a Merchant Seamen's fund upon principles different from those which were fatal to the experiment formerly tried. The first difficulty connected with a re-establishment of the Merchant Seamen's Fund upon principles different from those which were fatal to the experiment already tried was the actuarial difficulty. Actuaries failed to find the average life of seamen, or to make safe calculations on their wandering and precarious employment; and he believed it to be an unsolvable problem. [Mr. T. BRASSEY: I adopted Mr. Finlayson's figures.] But they had signally proved treacherous. The shipowners had positively refused to tax themselves to provide a fund for pensions to seamen. He recollected the utter failure of an attempt made some years age to raise a schoolmasters' pension fund, and it failed on this simple ground, that schoolmasters as a body were so differently circumstanced, and so many of the best had insured themselves, that it was impossible to reduce to any uniform system for that class of men, either a rate for their contributions or the benefits they were to receive. The most provident schoolmasters had themselves secured pensions for their old age, and the only men left to subscribe would have been the least inclined or suited part of the schoolmasters. He believed the case of seamen would be much the same. The most provident of them—and that class, he believed, had increased—had already provided for themselves by large deposits in the savings banks. That, he thought, was the best way for a seaman to provide for himself in old age, or for his widow and children after he had gone. He fully admitted that the country was indebted to the hon. Gentleman for having-brought forward the subject. No man was more competent to deal with it, and no man could have dealt with it in a more philanthropic spirit; but he must say he thought the hon. Gentleman had failed in showing an efficient plan for the avoidance of former failure in the establishment of a seamen's pension fund. With respect to the proposal of the noble Lord the Member for South Northumberland (Lord Eslington), it was a well-known fact that a great many more casualties arose from the unseaworthiness of crews than from the unseaworthiness of ships, and if we could get a better disciplined class of seamen, who from youth had been brought up in steady, moral habits, self-respect, and intelligence, more than one-half of the casualties at sea would cease. All were agreed that we must rely upon the education of boys more than upon any influence on men to introduce improvement in that respect. To train up a nursery for seamen was of the utmost importance. The question was very much a question of money. Who was to supply the funds? The State had to a certain extent done its part. He was not sure whether it had done all its part. Perhaps it might do more in the same direction, but he thought on the point of principle the State had adopted all that it ought to do. It had established and maintained training ships under the Reformatory Acts, Poor Law, and under the Industrial Schools Act. The duty of the State was to look after the waifs and strays of the country and see that they were put out of the way of mischief, and in the way of useful service, and that the State had undertaken. With respect to the children of independent parents, we must leave to the principles of supply and demand their special training for any kind of industry. If we would only bear that principle in mind we should see that the public money ought not to subsidize the natural obligations of parents in bringing up their children for this or any other line of livelihood. The result would be fatal to the independence of the people, and the practice would be open to almost unlimited abuse. Charitable and voluntary societies might most usefully assist poor parents to train their children for this or any other service, but to ask the State to come forward in loco parentis and undertake the industrial training of the children of this country would be a fatal error. The right hon. and gallant Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay) thought that the Educational Department of the Privy Council might make such grants, but he appeared to forget that the Privy Council grants were never given for the board and lodging of any children, but only for the tuition of poor and young day scholars in school. The highest use of wealth was to enable the poor to get advantages which they could not themselves get. There were all sorts of institutions in the country in which the training for various branches of industry was carried on. And that was exactly what the shipowners ought to do for the sea service. So far as the national service was to be benefited by training seamen for the Naval Reserve, so far public money might fairly contribute. Training-ships for the children of respectable poor parents should be supported partly by charitable and voluntary contributions, partly by the State, and partly by the parents themselves. Nothing could be more unfortunate than the present state of things; the dependent class being necessarily aided, but the independent, well-conducted, industrious class receiving no assistance. While the reformatory boys, paupers, and vagrant boys were trained at the public expense, the respectable class of children were handicapped in the race of this kind of industry and alone obtained no help. The result was that, while taking strong measures to improve the Mercantile Marine, we were doing our best to draw sailors from the worst class, and were throwing away the natural supply of the better class to improve the service. The problem to be solved, therefore, was how we could promote on sound principles the establishment of training ships in which the better classes of boys could be brought up as sailors. He was glad to say that many such ships were already established on the Thames and on the other principal rivers, and that he had received offers to establish others. He heard with satisfaction the offer that had been made by the First Lord of the Admiralty, which he thought would be the right sort of contribution on the part of the State. By a clause in the Merchant Shipping Bill it was proposed that grants should be made to such training ships from the Mercantile Marine Fund, and he thought there could not be a more legitimate application of a particular portion of that fund than to that purpose. It might not be possible to make large grants from any present balances in that account, but it would be a good beginning, and if found useful, might lead the shipowners to consent to increase the fund.


said, he wished to say a few words, as his figures had been challenged. The Mercantile Marine consisted of 25,000 ships and 200,000 men, of whom 70,000 were seamen. The waste in the Mercantile Marine amounted to 16,000 per annum. Last year to supply that deficiency there were only about 4,000 apprentices and 1,000 boys from training ships, so that on account of waste there was a deficiency of no fewer than 10,000 men. Besides that, it should be remembered that great difficulty and inconvenience arose from the introduction of a large number of unqualified foreigners into the service. He had known ships that had passed Gravesend whose entire crews from the captain downwards were foreigners. From a Petition presented to that House by the London Seamen's Mutual Protection Society it appeared that the proportion of foreigners to British seamen on British merchant ships reached more than three-fourths of the whole; and from a Return which he had moved for and obtained last Session it appeared that no less than 968 foreigners were masters of British merchant ships, while at this moment nearly 700 were mates and 77 were engineers. Surely that was a state of affairs which required the earnest attention of the Government.


believed they were in the wrong, as regarded their training ships. He looked upon training ships as very valuable reformatories, but did not think they were the best places to train up sailors. There was only one way of making a boy a seaman, and that was to send him to sea. With that in view, it would be better if the money were spent in giving the boys six months' real training at sea than in keeping them two years on board a training ship in a harbour.


suggested that if shipowners felt themselves at a disadvantage owing to the deficiency in the supply of seamen they could remedy the matter for themselves by carrying and training a large number of boys on board their ships.