§ (Mr. King, Sir Edward Birkbeck, Mr. Lacaita, Mr. White, Mr. Puleston, Lord Claud Hamilton, Admiral Field, Mr. Bond.)
§ COMMITTEE. [Progress 5th April.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 (Short title).
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 6, to leave out the word "pilots."—(Mr. King.)
§ Question proposed, ''That the word 'pilots' stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. C. T. D. ACLAND (Cornwall, Launceston)
I do hope the Government will not sanction this Bill. I cannot describe the Bill in any other terms than that it is a pure piece of Protection. The object of the measure is to prevent foreign masters and mates from dispensing with the service of English pilots. I do not intend to take up much of the time of the Committee in discussing the matter; but I desire to say that the object of our Pilotage Laws is simply the preservation of ships, and not the employment of pilots; and the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade (Baron Henry De Worms) must be well aware that the sole effect of this Bill will be not to strengthen these laws, but to do away with the privilege that owners of ships have of allowing such masters and mates as they employ, though they may happen to be foreigners, who have certificates of competence as pilots in our waters, to navigate their vessels without their being compelled to employ English pilots. The hon. Gentleman is probably aware that he answered a Question to that effect a few days ago, and stated that the total number of foreigners who possess certificates for navigating the waters of the United Kingdom is 35, of which I think only five are now in operation. I am not quite sure as to the particular number in operation; but I know that 35 is the total number of certificates of the description I have described which have been issued to foreigners. Of course, the argument used against my contention is that by granting certificates to foreigners we are enabling those foreigners, or we may enable them, to come to our shores and 1715 become familiar with our waters, and thus secure knowledge which may be extremely prejudicial to us in times of war or emergency. But I should like to know bow much knowledge is given to a pilot by granting him a certificate of competency. The knowledge of these men may be just the same whether they receive a certificate or not, and a knowledge of our waters could be used by foreign seamen in the event of lamentable occurrences, such as the outbreak of war. In such an event, you may depend upon it, foreign countries are not going to trouble themselves about such matters as our laws relating to pilots. The object of this Bill is to prevent, as far as it goes, the employment of foreign pilots on any ships entering British ports, and the extent to which we have suffered up till now by the present entirely open system is, as I say, that only 35 certificates have been granted in all our ports. The only country in which we have reciprocal privileges is Sweden; but even that reciprocity cannot be carried on if this Bill passes, because this measure will finally shut the door to every foreign country, even those which may be willing to concede to us the privilege we at present concede to them. It seems to me there is no other description for this Bill than that it is a piece of Protection in the teeth of the policy of this country for the past 40 years. The Board of Trade in itself cannot be willing that this Bill should be passed in the face of the policy they have maintained up till now. I cannot believe the Government are going to accede to it. I certainly shall divide the Committee against the Bill, and I beg, Sir, to move that you do now leave the Chair.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. G. T. D. Acland.)
§ MR. KING (Hull, Central)
I will not trouble the Committee with more than a few remarks. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken appears to think that he settles the question by giving the Bill a bad name. It is a custom hon. Members have on the other side of the House. But I venture to put this measure forward on an entirely different basis. I may say I am one of the most earnest Free Traders in the House, and I submit this Bill involves no principle 1716 of Protection. Protection has nothing whatever to do with the matter. This is simply an attempt on my part, and on the part of those who are acting with me in this matter, to secure, so far as the Government are concerned, that they will not allow a state of things to continue prejudicial to British labour, and in favour of foreign labour. The hon. Member states that there are only five licences to foreigners in existence at the present moment. [Mr. C. T. D. ACLAND: NO; 35.] Well, that is a very small matter, and I would point out that it is proposed to amend the clauses of the Bill so as to provide that those 35 holders of licences shall not be interfered with, and that the clauses in regard to the granting of certificates to foreigners shall only apply to the future. The Bill will affect fresh licences, and not those already granted. It will not affect those who hold licences at the present time; and I venture to say that it is a very proper measure for the Committee to pass.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. King) seems hardly to understand the provisions of his own Bill; because, so far as I understand it, all the licences given to foreigners, as ordinary licences, do expire at the end of the year, and these licences that are particularly in question will not be renewed even if the Amendment of the hon. Baronet (Sir Edward Birkbeck) is accepted. I confess that the Amendments placed on the Paper to the Bill by the hon. Baronet will very much mitigate the original severity of the measure; but even after those Amendments, the Bill will stand, in my mind, exactly in its hideous nakedness as regards principle. There are certain ports that are well known where compulsory pilots are employed. This Bill lays down the principle of the protection of the English pilot against the foreign pilot being employed. It is entirely a matter of Protection for the English pilot, providing that the foreign pilot shall not be introduced against him. The same question has been raised in America. The question at stake on this occasion is exactly that discussed in America, with reference to Chinese labour. It is the question we have frequently heard raised in this country with regard to Irish labour. The object of the Bill is simply to pro- 1717 tect an already privileged interest, and to make compulsory pilotage still more compulsory, and to prevent in free ports pilots being employed being citizens of foreign countries. What is the state of the case at this moment? Why, one of the most important steamship lines visiting this country is the Zealand Company. That Company already has four steamers to provide for the three running, and they have three crews. They are about to have seven vessels, so as to keep up a night and day service, and they will have six crews. In every one of these crews there is a Dutch pilot who is acquainted with the difficult navigation of the Thames, and by this Bill you are going to compel this Company to dispense with those Dutch pilots, and to take in their place English pilots. As was said by a high authority on one occasion, pilots exist for the sake of ships, and not ships for the sake of pilots. These Dutch ships are of Clyde build, and it is obviously to our interest to encourage trade with these foreign countries, and to encourage trade with their ports as well as our own shipbuilding. If they choose to employ their own pilots who know our waters rather than to carry English pilots, surely it is to the interest of the trade of this country that the greatest possible facilities should be given to them for carrying on their trade in the mode most convenient to themselves. This Bill seems to be an utterly retrograde movement. As to the question of accepting this Bill as a protection to the country in time of war, I would point out that, either with or without the Bill, it would be impossible for foreign pilots to take undue advantage of any knowledge they might possess. So far as the Thames is concerned—and the conditions of other ports and waters are very similar—English pilots, when the weather was at all hazy and the buoys were up, would be unable to navigate it. Hon. Members opposite must bear in mind that we are not going to depend upon foreign pilots. And then, again, with regard to the question of protecting the country against emergency, it must be remembered that a great number of foreign seamen know our waters as well as we do ourselves. The effect of passing this Bill will be to put up a bar to Free Trade, and, therefore, I hope the Government will not allow it to pass. Even with the Amend- 1718 ments which the hon. Member for East Norfolk (Sir Edward Birkbeck) proposes, it would deprive all foreigners who have got licences of the power of acting as pilots at the end of the current year. If the Committee chooses to go on with the consideration of this Bill—and I do not think it will—I shall suggest, when the proper time comes, an Amendment to enable foreigners at present holders of certificates of competency to continue to hold their licences.
§ MR. PULESTON (Devonport)
What is the position of pilots in this country? Let us consider what it really is. Hon. Members talk about doing away with Chinese cheap labour in America, and so forth; but I would point out that America is on an entirely different footing to us, and, apart from the question of cheap labour, I advocate the Bill on the higher ground of protection of life at sea.
§ MR. PULESTON
Yes; but you cannot have as efficient a body of men for the navigation of English waters as English pilots. Why should you allow foreign pilots to come and interfere with English pilots? Why should you allow foreigners to come from ports which your own pilots are not allowed to navigate? It is for the strongest of all reasons—namely, the protection of life at sea—that I advocate this Bill. If you allow that the pilots of this country are, as a rule, capable of navigating vessels, and of doing what we see they are doing—and I suppose a better class of men never existed in this country or any other than our British pilots—I think you should confine yourselves to the service of these men. It is all very well to say that foreign pilots have passed examinations; but there will be no English pilots to be examined in a short time, if we curtail their business and make it useless for them to fit themselves for the work of piloting. I think the present system bears very hardly upon these men. I do not think the hon. Baronet (Sir Joseph Pease) intended any slur upon our pilots when he said there was not one of them who could navigate the Thames.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE
What I said was that the navigation of the Thames was so difficult that even our own pilots cannot bring a vessel up the river in 1719 hazy weather when the buoys are up.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE
No. My argument was this—that in time of war, when you pull up the buoys, you would be perfectly safe against foreign pilots acquainted with the navigation of the river, simply because they would not be able to navigate any more than your own pilots.
§ MR. CRAIG (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
It is a surprising thing that not one of the Gentlemen who have spoken in favour of the Bill has ventured to explain its meaning. I will tell the House what its meaning is. In the year 1854 the Merchant Shipping Act was passed, a clause of which provided that every master or mate who should apply to the pilotage authority of any district in the Kingdom might, by passing an examination, obtain a certificate of competency, which, for the short space of 12 months, would allow him to pilot a particular ship or ships for the same owners in British waters. That privilege has been conferred since the year 1854. Well, by this Bill, which the hon. Member for Central Hull (Mr. King) tells us is not a Protectionist measure, it is sought to go back on the policy which this country has deliberately adopted for the last 30 or 40 years—to reverse that policy in the most extraordinary manner. I will tell the Committee why this Bill was not blocked. On the 28th of January a Bill was introduced into the House bearing a title almost identical with that of this Bill except as to one feature. It was called the "Merchant Shipping Act (1854) Amendment Bill." That, I say, was introduced on the 28th January. It was put down for second reading on the 15th of June. On the 28th of February a second Bill was introduced, with the heading "To be substituted for the Bill already delivered," and it was intituled the "Merchant Shipping Act (1854) Amendment (No. 2) Bill."
§ MR. CRAIG
I accept the explanation of the hon. Member; but I was only stating the reason why the "Merchant 1720 Shipping Act (1854) Amendment (No. 2) Bill" was not blocked. The reason was that it was thought to be the same Bill as that which was brought forward a month earlier. I have said that not one Gentleman who is responsible for this Bill—that is to say, whose name is on the back of it—has ventured to explain its provisions. When we come to the question of policy, we shall find that we shall reverse the Free Trade principles that this country and both sides of the House have adopted for the last 30 or 40 years. By this Bill we shall go back upon that policy, because we shall declare that no foreigners shall have the privileges continued which they have enjoyed for the last 30 or 40 years. I maintain that it was due to this Committee that those who bring forward such a Bill as this, and those on the Front Ministerial Bench who justify, or attempt to justify, the measure, and who have connived at its introduction, should say something in support of its principle.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (Baron HENRY DE WORMS) (Liverpool, East Toxteth)
The word the hon. Member has used is not a complimentary one. I appeal to the Chairman.
§ MR. CRAIG
I would say sympathize with the Bill, if the hon. Gentleman objects to the word "connive." That the Government sympathize with the Bill, I take it from the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith), who said that the Government made a practice of blocking all measures with which they did not agree. The fact that they did not block this one shows that they did not disagree with it. Can that be taken as an indication or not? I think it is due to the Committee that in connection with an important measure of this kind, which involves a reversal of that which has been our national policy for the last 30 or 40 years, and a policy under which we have invited and welcomed to our shores foreign brains, energy, intellect, and industry—I think it is due to us that this Bill should have been explained. It has never been explained to the Committee why this great privilege, which has been granted to foreign shipowners for 32 years, of making their masters 1721 and mates responsible pilots of their ships if they prove their competence to navigate in our waters, should be withdrawn. The effect of a Bill like this, if passed, will be to stir up Protectionist reactionaries on the Continent, and put a weapon in their hands which will be used with fatal force against the interests of this country. Your compensation will be that you will have the sorry satisfaction of preventing 35 competent masters and mates from piloting their ships as they have done hitherto in our waters. That is only a small portion of the question. [Cries of " Oh, oh!"] "Oh!" you say. I go further. I do not think you know what the Bill means. [ Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Well, I do not want to convince you all. I want to convince those hon. Gentlemen who say they do not wish to return to the practice of Protection. The first point I would put before them is this—that the certificates of these masters and mates are only valid for one year, and they are limited strictly for use in the ship or ships of the owner who employs them. What harm can there be in these certificates being used under such conditions by foreigners? I spoke to a gentleman the other day about this Bill. He said—"My father in 1805 would often pilot his own vessel when coming out of the Baltic, and on one occasion he met a British Fleet after the buoys and beacons had been taken up, who asked him to pilot them down to a certain place. He said he could do so, and he did so." He was a foreigner there. There are three clauses of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1854 which will be affected by this Bill. Clause 342 gives powers to the Board of Trade. It says that if any pilotage authority whose duty it is to examine any master or mate—the word "foreign" does not occur in the original Act—who applies under that Act for examination, refuses to grant an examination, he shall have an appeal to the Board of Trade, and the Board of Trade shall examine him and give him a certificate if he be competent. I understood the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade to tell us the other night that out of 35 certificates which had been granted under Section 340 of the Act of 1854, 30 were at this moment in abeyance—I think he used the word "suspended"—were suspended until he saw, or the Board of 1722 Trade saw, what the House would do with this Bill. I want to know where the Board of Trade obtained that suspensory power? It may have suspensory power, but it is not in the Act of 1854, which imposed upon them the duty of doing that which any Pilotage Board might neglect to do. It is not only in connection with pilots that we have this outcry about foreigners. We have had it already in our large ports with reference to the employment of foreign seamen; and I declare to the Committee, with perfect knowledge of what I am stating, that in the years 1873–4–5, if we had not been able to employ foreign seamen, many of our ships would not have been able to go to sea. It is well known that wages at our ironworks and at our collieries, and in other branches of labour, were so high and remunerative that a great many English seamen preferred to stop on shore to going to sea, and it is also well known that their places could not have been filled up unless we had had recourse to those excellent sailors whom we obtained from Scandinavia. Then, when the coal and iron trade is dull again, we have an outcry against the employment of foreign seamen. "Send them back, and do not employ them," they say.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
I understand, Sir, that the Motion before the Committee is that you do leave the Chair, which is the same as a Motion that you do report Progress and ask leave to sit again. I understand that it is out of Order to discuss the substance of a Bill upon such a Motion. I wish to ask, therefore, whether the hon. Member is not out of Order in the observations he is making?
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The Motion to report Progress refers to subsequent proceedings; but the Motion for the Chairman to leave the Chair is one directed at the Bill itself, and is one which, if passed, would kill the measure altogether.
§ MR. CRAIG
I was about to say that under the Act of 1854 not only could masters and mates apply to be pilots of their own ships, but foreign seamen and masters could go further, and apply to be licensed as masters; and many foreigners have availed themselves of the privilege with great advantage to our shipping. I know the truth of what 1723 I am saying. I have known foreigners who commanded British vessels, and who performed their duties admirably, and were selected for the posts because they knew certain waters betters than British sailors. There is a cry that foreign seamen should be withdrawn from English ships. What will be the result if you pass this Bill? It will be but the beginning of an insidious attempt to turn back the tide of progress and furnish reactionaries in this country with a weapon by which the cry of Reciprocity and Retaliation will be intensified and increased. I am astonished at this Bill being brought forward, when I remember what a large amount of foreign immigration there is in this country. I am astonished at this Bill being introduced when I look at these Benches and at the Benches opposite, and when I remember the great support we have received on both sides from hon. Gentlemen whose families were foreigners a generation ago. I am delighted to see foreigners, or the descendants of foreigners, in this House. I welcome them here, and delight to see them come here, and give us the benefit of their intelligence and of their great industry. I delight to see their children take part in our affairs like ourselves; and I am astonished that on the Benches opposite should be found men to give this Bill support. I submit that before a measure of this kind is passed it requires fuller and freer discussion; and I trust that in the words of the Motion you, Sir, will leave the Chair.
§ SIR EDWARD BIRKBECK (Norfolk, E.)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. Craig) who has just sat down has appealed to hon. Members whose names are on the back of the Bill to explain its provisions. I feel that the hon. Gentleman has not looked at the Notices on the Paper with reference to the Bill—I mean the Amendments. There are several that stand in my own name, and if they are accepted the Bill will be reduced to a very short measure, particularly under the fourth Amendment. I would wish to represent to the Committee that, if these Amendments are adopted, this Bill will not be in conflict necessarily with existing Treaties with Foreign Powers. I believe I am right in saying that these Amendments have met with the approval of the Law 1724 Officers of the Government, as well as of the Foreign Office; and I think those hon. Members who have already spoken have entirely forgotten the fact that England is the first Maritime Nation in the world, having 5,000 pilots around her coasts, every one of them engaged in protecting oar shipping trade, and doing much on behalf of the preservation of life. I think hon. Members have ignored that fact—those hon. Members who wish to place the shipping of the country in the hands of less capable men than our own pilots. [Cries of ''No, no!"] Yes; much less capable men than our own pilots, of whom the nation has always been proud, and of whom I hope we shall always continue to be proud. I think that hon. Members have forgotten that at the present time that any sailing vessel or steamer plying from a British port is compelled, on entering a foreign port, with the exception of those of Sweden, to take a foreign pilot. I quote simply the case of the Great Eastern Railway Company's steamers which go over to Holland. They have to employ permanently Dutch pilots to take their steamers into the Dutch ports. And why should not the Dutch Government, or the owners of Dutch steamers trading with England, do what we do, and on entering English ports, and in bringing vessels out of English ports, employ English pilots? It is simply nothing but reciprocity and fair play as between nation and nation. I have mentioned that there is only Sweden that permits English masters to take English vessels into its ports; and Sweden, as a matter of fact, is the only country in the world which grants us fair reciprocity. With regard to the question of life saving, the Committee will agree with me that, as Chairman of the Lifeboat Institute, no one can wish to do more in the interests of saving life at sea as the head of that Institution. It has been proved, beyond doubt, that British pilots are the most capable pilots in the whole world, and best able to take charge of vessels bound to our ports; and I do not see why hon. Members opposite should wish to discourage these brave men when there are thousands of them who have done their utmost for the whole trade of the world; and I do not see why hon. Members should wish to hand over to foreign masters and mates, who are less 1725 capable than our own these great shipping interests, instead of insisting on keeping them in the hands of our people. As I have already said, if these Amendments are carried out, the Bill will be a very short one indeed; and I think it is only fair play, as between nation and nation, that the principle of the measure should be adopted. We do not wish—I myself, and I am sure my hon. Friend in charge of the Bill does not wish—to raise any foreign complication, or to be unjust to any foreign nation. We simply seek for common justice as between nation and nation.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (Baron HENRY DE WORMS) (Liverpool, East Toxteth)
I rise for the purpose of correcting an error into which the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has fallen. I understood him to say that it was compulsory on the Board of Trade, under the clause he quoted, to grant certificates. If he will refer to the clause, he will see that the Board of Trade may grant certificates.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
This discussion is somewhat unfortunate at the present time. I certainly am disposed to give fair consideration to the proposal that is made to extend legitimate protection to British pilots. I have been in communication with a good many of the Irish pilots on this question, and they have requested me to support a proposal to inquire into their case. I understand that a proposal has been submitted to the Government to appoint a Select Committee on the subject—to refer the matter to the consideration of a Select Committee. In face of that request—which I myself signed—we are called upon to consider this Bill, and it is undoubtedly the fact that the case for the measure has not been submitted to the Committee. I would not, at the present moment, undertake to say whether the Bill is a good or a bad one. It is one of those measures which, I think, even in this Committee, would give rise to considerable discussion, and which, after consideration, should be reasonably amended. But, so far as we have gone, we are in this position—we are asked right off to pass a Bill which the Committee practically knows very little 1726 about—which no Member of the Committee who is not connected with the Mercantile Marine, or who is not intimately acquainted with maritime subjects, can be expected to understand. It is a very small and short measure, and that fact may be advanced in favour of its being pushed rapidly through the House. But, as a matter of fact, these small Bills are always the most dangerous. Some of them contain most pernicious principles, and, on account of their very smallness, are sometimes adopted without due precautions being taken as to their real meaning. It would be a most inconvenient thing for the Committee to pass the Bill through hurriedly, and then to be asked, in a Session or two, to repeal its provisions. The present Government, as I understand, is a Government of examination and inquiry. I am surprised that they have been able to make up their minds so rapidly with regard to this Bill. On the part of hon. Gentlemen who sit around me, I would say we are quite prepared to enter into the consideration of this question, so far as it affects some of the Irish pilots; but we think it only reasonable that the wishes of hon. Gentlemen on this side, representing English public opinion, should be consulted. The reason I said that the discussion was unfortunate at the present time is this. According to your ruling, Sir, if the Motion that you do leave the Chair is carried, the Bill is killed, and it will not be possible to have an inquiry into its proposal pending the final vote; whereas if, at an earlier stage, it had been decided, to refer the subject to a Select Committee, we should have had an opportunity of inquiring into the matter, the Committee might have reported in favour of the main lines of the Bill, and we should have had it carried through and passed this Session. Owing to the course the supporters of the Bill have taken, if we go on with it now the probability is that the House will be led to reject it in toto. [Cries of "No, no!"] Well, may be the House will not reject it; but, speaking for myself, I must say that if the supporters of the measure insist upon its being carried right off, I shall vote in favour of its rejection—that is to say, I shall vote for the Motion now before the Committee. At the same time, if it had been proposed to refer the matter to a Select 1727 Committee I should have voted in favour of it.
§ MR. WHITE (Gravesend)
I should not have risen in this debate if it had not been that I represent a pilot constituency, and take a great interest in their welfare. I believe most heartily in their grievance, remembering that they have had to serve their apprenticeship to piloting, and that, to a certain extent, their living is taken away from them by the provisions of the Act of 1854, which enables foreign pilots to pilot vessels in English waters. A great deal has been said by hon. Members opposite about this proposal being a return to Protection. Hon. Gentlemen opposite look upon Protection as a crime. If it is, the fiscal policy of other nations is criminal. I deny that it is a crime; but I am as real a Free Trader as anyone in this House, and on the principles of Free Trade I support this Bill. Whilst we are Free Traders, we cannot hide from ourselves that every other nation in the world is exactly the reverse; and it seems to me to be an anomaly that the captain of a foreign ship should be able to obtain a certificate to pilot his ship in British waters, and that yet, at the same time, the country from which he hails should not permit him to take his ship back again into his native waters, compelling him to take a pilot on board the moment he enters them. The cry of Protection that is raised about this Bill is absurd. One would think that some enormous imposts were about to be levied upon imports by the simple act of compelling every foreign ship to take an English pilot on board in English pilotage waters. Why, Sir, the fact is that the expense of doing so only amounts to a few pounds per ship. The ship, or rather its owner, has to pay so much, acccording to the draught of water—some £18 or £20, which, when distributed over valuable cargoes, amounts to a mere trifle. It is hard, I say, that English pilots who have served their time should be put in needless competition with men who have not done so. For these reasons I beg to support the Bill.
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
The opposition of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle - upon - Tyne (Mr. Craig) to this Bill has been based upon the allegation that it infringes the principles of Free Trade. I oppose 1728 this Bill not merely because it infringes the principles of Free Trade, but because it does more—it proposes to inflict a great injustice upon certain owners and masters of foreign ships by taking away from them a right which they have enjoyed since 1854. By the law of this country certain ports have this peculiarity—that no ship can enter them except under the charge of a pilot. The law is one the policy of which has long been recognized as exceptionable. It is objectionable on many grounds, and its principle is one which is likely to receive reconsideration before long at the hands of the Legislature. Recognizing its injustice and hardship, Mr. Cardwell introduced a Bill, I think in 1853, which became law the next year, and which is now known as the Merchant Shipping Act, 1854. That Act got rid of the anomaly under which certain ports were in the position that ships could not enter them except under the charge of pilots. That Act enabled masters and mates of any ship, whether British or foreign, to get rid of the gross hardship of having to take a pilot on board in cases where it was wholly unnecessary, by permitting them to obtain certificates of their competency to pilot the ship themselves. They were thus enabled to avoid the expense of taking a pilot on board. It is, I think, Section 340 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1854, which relieves masters and mates of certain ships from tins hardship which the law imposed upon them. The relief was granted, to masters and mates of all ships, whether British or foreign. Now, one of the objects of the present Bill is to repeal that section which relieves foreign masters and mates from that gross hardship, and to confine the exemption to the case of British masters and men. I think that this is a proposition which does something more than infringe the principles of Free Trade. It really contemplates an act of great injustice, and an act which would not be tolerated if it were considered and understood in all its fulness throughout the country. Now, it is suggested that the Amendments which are proposed to be made in Committee on this Bill make the matter different. I do not see they do in the slightest degree. Instead of amending certain specific sections, they propose to make a wholesale alteration on the whole 1729 law—to exempt from that beneficial principle which I have mentioned in Mr. Cardwell's Act foreign masters and mates only. Believing this Bill to contemplate a very great injustice, believing it to contemplate not only such an injustice, but to depart from what has been the uniform practice of the Board of Trade for 30 years, and adhering strictly and rigidly to the principles of Free Trade, I shall do all I can to prevent the passing of this measure.
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)
I should like to know from the Government whether or not it is their intention to allow a Bill to pass through this House which only affects 35 persons? We hear a great deal about obstruction; but really, if the British Parliament is to countenance the bringing in of Bills which only affect every 35 of the population of these Kingdoms, we shall require, not one Parliament, but a very vast number of Parliaments, to transact our Business. What has taken place in regard to this Bill is certainly a justification for the wholesale blocking of Bills. This Bill was not blocked simply because hon. Gentlemen did not understand what its real purport was; but now, when the Bill is explained, we find it is of an exceedingly mischievous nature. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Tyrone (Mr. M. J. Kenny) has suggested that the Bill should be sent to a Select Committee If the supporters of the Bill agree to the adoption of that suggestion, I do not think the Committee would do well to waste any more time over it; but if, on the other hand, the supporters of the Bill refuse to send it to a Select Committee, I think the only course open to the opponents of the Bill is to use every power they possess to prevent any further progress being made with it tonight. I appeal to whoever represents the Government on the present occasion to accept the suggestion of my hon. Friend. If the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) were here, I would appeal to him whether or not he, as Leader of the Government and of the House, would allow the time of the Committee to be occupied by a squabble over a trumpery thing of this sort, which, if not mischievous, certainly cannot have any substantial beneficial effect?
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
I confess to a feeling of some surprise that no 1730 Member of the Government has given us an opinion on this Bill. I hoped that when the hon. Gentleman the (Secretary to the Board of Trade (Baron Henry Do Worms) rose, he would, as representing the Department which is most seriously affected, give us the opinion of the Government in regard to the Bill; but he did nothing of the kind. What we have heard of the Bill is not calculated to increase our confidence in it. Two arguments have been advanced in its favour. One of these is that it will lead to the protection of life and property at sea. Now, there is not the slightest allegation that these 35 persons to whom certificates have been given are less competent to take ships up rivers than the British masters and mates; therefore, there is no ground for supposing that life and property will be any safer if the Bill passes than if it is rejected. I must remind the Committee that if it be true that British pilots are any better than the persons who have obtained these certificates from the Board of Trade, the owners of foreign vessels will have every possible incentive to employ British pilots. It is to the interest of the owners of foreign vessels that their vessels should be taken safely into port, and therefore it is natural they will only employ competent pilots. That part of the case breaks down completely, and there is nothing whatever in the remarks of the hon. Member for Devon-port (Mr. Puleston) which, to my mind, goes to support the Bill. The other argument advanced in favour of the Bill is that used by the hon. Baronet the Member for East Norfolk (Sir Edward Birkbeck), and he spoke much more to the real merits of the Bill; in fact, he let the cat out of the bag. The hon. Baronet admitted that this is a measure for Reciprocity—that it is a mask intended to conceal the hateful features of Protection. He really avowed that this is a measure of Protection. He said the object of the Bill is to compel foreign countries to do for our pilots what we have hitherto done for theirs—to do for British masters of vessels entering foreign ports what the English law hag hitherto allowed to be done for foreign masters and mates of foreign vessels. In other words, this is a sort of declaration of war against foreign masters and mates, in order to induce their countries to do the same thing as we have hitherto 1731 done. Does the hon. Baronet really suppose that petty retaliations of this kind, applying to 35 persona only, will have the slightest affect on any foreign country? Does he think it worth while, for the sake of so small a number of persons, to alter the law, to depart from the policy which this country has followed for years, to supply a precedent for future movements in the same direction, and to show what I must call a petty and trivial spirit on the part of a great country like this, a spirit which has been a stranger to all our recent legislation? I cannot help thinking, Sir, that although this is a very small matter in itself—it only affects 35 persons—the principle involved is not a small one. The principle does deserve the attention of the Committee, and unless we hear some better reasons from the Government in favour of this Bill I hope the Committee will reject it. I say nothing about the legal question which my hon. Friend the Member for Haddington (Mr. Haldane) has discussed; but I am bound to say I am not satisfied, on the ground of Commercial Treaties, that the Bill is not objectionable. I had hoped we should have hoard something upon the point from some of the Members of the Government who have considered the question. The hon. Baronet (Sir Edward Birkbeck) seems to have entertained some apprehension, because he said this is not seriously in conflict with existing Treaties. It ought not to be adopted if it is in even the smallest conflict with existing Treaties. I speak not without some hesitation, because we have not heard the views of the Government. I hope they will not only tell us what the legal question is, but also give us their views as to the policy of the change, and explain whether, if they do press the Bill, they think a change should be made in our commercial relations with other countries.
§ THE ATTOENEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
Hon. Gentlemen opposite attach a great deal of importance to this Bill, and therefore they will, no doubt, hear a few words from me. I will deal, in the first place, with the last point raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce)—namely, the effect of the Bill upon Treaties. As I understand the matter, it stands in this way. We do not propose that the 1732 owners of foreign vessels shall in any way lose the privilege of having their vessels piloted in ports by a master or mate who is a British subject. I think the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. Craig) will, if he looks carefully through the Bill, acknowledge that all that is now proposed is that in future no pilot certificate should be granted to any person other than a British subject. There is not one word about the master or mate of a foreign ship. The person certificated may be a master or mate of a foreign ship; the question is whether he is a British subject. Some time ago an Amendment to this Bill was put on the Paper extending the Bill so as to exclude British subjects who are masters or mates of foreign ships. Now, with regard to the question of Treaty rights, the only provision which could in any way have infringed such rights would have been a provision excluding from certificates masters or mates of foreign ships. As regards the 35 men who have had certificates granted to them, I think there aught to be no objection to their continuing to hold them. If a man has at present the privilege of an English pilot certificate, he should be allowed to continue to use it. I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen has been in communication with those who had to consider this matter when the last Government was in Office; but I think it will be found, on inquiry, that the opinion was very strongly held by the late Law Officers that it was not competent, as the existing law stands, to grant certificates to foreign subjects. When the hon. Member for Haddington (Mr. Haldane) says that it is intended by this Bill to withhold this privilege from foreigners as distinguished from British subjects, and to revert to an old state of affairs, I think he cannot have had his attention called to the circumstances which led to the passing of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1854. At the time of the passing of that Act it was considered a hardship that in the case of a ship, particularly a British vessel, constantly trading with a particular port—say a vessel belonging to Hull, and constantly running in and out of that port—the master of such a vessel should be obliged to take a pilot on board, when the master might know the port almost as well as the pilot. 1733 Now it does seem to me, and those who have considered this matter, that there may be serious objections to the authorities being compelled, or to there being a practice, to grant pilotage certificates to those who are not British subjects. If the master or mate of a ship trading constantly—say, between Hull and Sweden—is competent to pilot the ship, and is a British subject, let him receive a certificate; but to say that certificates are to be granted to persons who are not British subjects is going beyond the question. It is not a question of protecting British pilots. As a matter of fact, we get under Treaties no reciprocity in this matter. Foreign nations—with the exception, possibly, of Sweden—give to us no similar privileges. This is not, as has been said, a question of Protection. It is simply a question whether, in dealing with the pilotage in our own country, it is not a reasonable and proper thing not to grant pilot certificates to foreigners.
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
I wish that the explanation of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General (Sir Richard Webster) had been more satisfactory. He tells us that he is not quite certain. I do not profess to know much about such matters; but I presume that if Sweden will not be interfered with by this Bill other nations may demand the same treatment. We are now actually legislating in the dark, because we do not know whether the Bill will run counter to one foreign Treaty, which would necessarily involve other foreign nations. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General has said that there is no question of Protection involved in this Bill; but I maintain that the principle of Free Trade is that every in this country has a right to employ in his business whomever he chooses. Here are certain men who are guaranteed by our own authority to be competent pilots; but this Bill says—"You shall not employ these men; or, if you do, you must do so at your peril." Is this not Protection? It is Protection of one kind of commodity against another. Skilled labour is, after all, in some sense, a commodity, and you wish to compel the shipowners of this country to employ one kind of commodity and not another. Why are hon. Gentlemen opposite so anxious about this little Bill, affecting only 35 persons alto- 1734 gether? They wish to insert the thin edge of the wedge, and are anxious to go back to the constituencies and say—"We have, at least, done something." Once adopt this principle, and I do not see why they should not carry it any length. According to one hon. Gentleman opposite, this is intended to secure the employment of natives instead of foreigners. Why not bring in Bills to prevent the employment in this country of foreign, carpenters and masons? This is the old principle of Protection; and I do most earnestly protest against the adoption of this Bill at this hour of the night (2.45), when the larger portion of the Committee cannot possibly be aware of the serious question that is involved.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY
I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade whether the issue of these certificates has been suspended by the Board of Trade?
§ MR. M. J. KENNY
Then what necessity is there for this Bill, if the Board of Trade has power to refuse the issue of these certificates?
§ BARON HENEY DE WORMS
I believe the Board of Trade has perfect power; but, in view of conflicting opinions on the part of high legal authorities, it was thought better to have the matter thoroughly cleared up; and, therefore, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Hull (Mr. King) produced this Bill.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
I hope the House will not go on with the Bill further. I can easily understand that hon. Members are not aware of the full significance of the measure; and the fact that we have reached the Committee stage without discussion of its principles is an additional and overwhelming reason, it seems to me, why there should be no attempt to force it on to-night. At the outset I did not understand the bearings of the Bill, but thought that the proposal was a small and innocent one. I have great respect for the opinion of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General on legal matters; but, when we come to a proposal for the reversal of a well-settled national principle, I am not prepared to accept him as an infallible guide. The hon. Gentleman opposite asserted that the object of this Bill is to insure Reciprocity, or, rather, he ar- 1735 gued in its support that because foreign countries do not give certain privileges to British captains and mates, we are entitled to say that these privileges shall not be given by us to foreigners. As I understand the argument of those who support the Bill, they say its object is really to enforce the principle of Reciprocity on this pilotage question; but I think it is rather the principle of retaliation that it seeks to enforce. The principle of Reciprocity will not really apply, because there is only one foreign country which treats British pilots in the same fair and liberal manner as we treat foreign pilots. If that is so, it is clear that, practically speaking, all foreign ships under foreign captains and mates are to be deprived of the privilege which, up to the present, they have been granted by this country; and when the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General says to us that foreign ships may still come here, but must have British captains and mates on board, qualified for the work of piloting, we understand that that makes a small distinction; but we do not see that it seriously affects the principle we are discussing. That is a subterfuge on his part. I see no limit to the arguments of those who support this Bill. I see no limit to the operation of the principle they desire us to support in passing this Bill. The number of pilots who will be affected by the measure is a mere bagatelle; but the principle the Bill assails is an important one. We are amazed that the Government should support the Bill—that they should give countenance to Protection in the veiled fashion they have done to-night; and we are surprised to hear the Secretary to the Board of Trade represent that the Department, on behalf of which he speaks, has an initiatory power in regard to the issue of licences to foreign pilots, and that they have power to act compulsorily, as he has told us to-night that they have acted.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
The Law Officers of the late Government held exactly the views of the present Board of Trade. I feel obliged to tell the hon. Gentleman that, as it is within my own knowledge.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
The hon. Gentleman is not going to take his whole guidance on this question from the Law Officers of the late Government, when 1736 he has the Attorney General of the present Government on his own side. I insist that it would be an unwise and undesirable thing for us, at this time of night, to take up a Bill of this character, about which the country knows nothing, and will know nothing. I would point out to the promoters of this Bill that they will lose nothing by putting off the consideration of the measure. The Session is not far advanced. The Attorney General says the interests of the men who will be affected by this Bill will be protected; but the interests of these 35 foreign pilots, who hold certificates for navigating in English waters, is a mere bagatelle compared with the great principle involved in this question. If we pass this Bill foreign nations will be entitled to say—"Here is a palpable proof that the British nation are abandoning their principles of Free Trade." ["No, no!"] I am astonished at that interruption. If hon. Gentlemen had listened to the speeches of hon. Gentlemen whose names are on the back of the Bill, they would have heard them tell us that this is "retaliation." I say that is Protection, and I therefore say—How can hon. Members deny that I am stating what is strictly accurate when I declare that foreign countries will use those words? How can the Representatives of the Government hold themselves justified in allowing a Bill of this immense importance—a Bill which may have an international operation—to go forward at 2 o'clock in the morning. I think we may well ask, Sir, that you do now leave the Chair.
§ MR. H. S. WRIGHT (Nottingham, S.)
The argument that seems to be principally used by hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House is this—that because we have been acting wrongly towards British seamen for the last 32 years, therefore we are to continue doing so. We ought to be able to appeal to Irish Members and to Scotch Members, as well as to English Members, not to continue a system which is eminently unfair to British seamen. There is no doubt whatever that the more chance we give foreigners to go up and down our rivers, and to enter our harbours, the better they will be able to act against us in time of war. But, apart from this question of danger in time of war, I maintain that we should be incurring less risk of collisions in our 1737 crowded harbours and rivers if served by pilots who have lived in or about British ports all their lives than by foreign mates or captains, who may have obtained pilots' certificates for British waters.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
I think there are one or two points on which we ought to press for a distinct answer from the Government. The hon. Gentleman who represents the Board of Trade in this House (Baron Henry De Worms) stated that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Hull (Mr. King), who introduced this Bill, was acting practically under the instructions of the late Law Officers of the Crown. Now, I want to know whether or not we are to take it as a charge against the late Government, that they intended to bring in, or, at any rate, to support, a Protectionist Bill of this kind? ["No, no!"] That is the charge made against the late Government—
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is travelling from the Question before the Committee in entering into that matter.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I did not intend to pursue the point, Mr. Courtney, but merely to state that that was the charge distinctly made by a Member of the present Government against the late Government. ["No, no!"] Well, we will wait for further information on the subject. The same Member of the Government who brought this charge against Her Majesty's late Advisers seems to admit his share in a distinct piece of illegality. He tells us that 30, out of 35, pilots have been suspended—that is to say, that their certificates have not been renewed. He has been challenged as to whether the Board of Trade has power, under the existing law, to refuse to renew a certificate, and he frankly tells us that it is a moot point.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
Nothing of the sort. That does not convey what I expressed. If the hon. Member will take the trouble to read the 342nd clause of the Act of 1852, he will find that the granting or renewing of certificates to foreign masters and mates is purely optional.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
The hon. Gentleman went on to say that the legality of refusing to renew certificates is a moot point.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
He said that the Legal Authorities are in conflict on an important point, and that it was in consequence of that conflict that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Hull had brought in this Bill to settle the matter.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
Certainly you did, and hon. Gentlemen near me corroborate my recollection. I do not wonder that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not recollect what they say—it is, perhaps, convenient for them not to; for we have had the most amusing theories from them as to what is Protection and what is not. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Hull started by declaring that no one was a stronger Free Trader than he was himself, and in order to give us a clear insight into what he meant by Free Trade he said he was averse to allowing foreign labour to interfere with British labour, and that the object of the Bill was to prevent that interference. Well, what in the world is that but Protection, pure and unadulterated? Every other hon. Member who has spoken in favour of the Bill has used the words "fair play," "justice," "unfair to Englishmen," and a variety of similar expressions. "Fair play" is the constant cry of the Protectionist Party, and in permitting that little expression to escape them hon. Members have let the cat out of the bag. The hon. and learned Attorney General has also made a candid confession. He has admitted, in answer to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Launceston (Mr. C. T. D. Acland), that he is not perfectly certain yet whether the state of International Law with respect to Sweden is as has been stated on his side of the House. If the Members of the Government—if the Law Officers of the Crown who ought to know these things—on an important question like this, affecting international right, tell us that they do not know what the state of the law is, we have a right to ask them to find out the law, and declare it to us, before they take this leap in the dark. It is a monstrous thing for us to legislate on a matter like this, the Law Officers of the Crown not knowing whether or not they 1739 are right in the view of the law on which the Government are acting.
§ SIR EICHAED WEBSTER
I object to those words being attributed to me. What I said was that I was not certain whether treaty rights with Sweden on this subject existed. I have since ascertained that, as there are no compulsory rights as to Sweden, this question does not arise. Therefore, what I said as to treaty rights is correct.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
His words were he was "not certain" as to the point raised by my hon. Friend. I am glad he has been able to satisfy himself on the point now, and, of course, I accept his assurance in perfect good faith. Another argument the same hon. and learned Gentleman used was to the effect, as I understood him, that the law, as it exists, is not intended to give a privilege to foreigners. He argued, therefore, or I understood him to argue, that this Bill will not be a return to Protection. But if the law does not actually give privileges to foreigners, or if it does not intend to give privileges to foreigners, it does not refuse those privileges to foreigners; but I understand it is now proposed to take away privileges enjoyed by foreigners without giving them any compensation whatever. It appears to me that these arguments of the hon. and learned Attorney General do not hold water any more than the others. The hon. Baronet the Member for East Norfolk (Sir Edward Birkbeck) said that if his Amendments are accepted the Bill will become a simple matter—it will be reduced to one clause. He seemed to think that a good reason why there should be an end of our discussion, and why the Bill should be allowed to pass. My view is that his one clause will be worse than the whole three he eliminates from the Bill. He said we should not want to place our shipping in the hands of less capable men than our own pilots. I want to know how the foreigners, to whom we have granted certificates of competency, are less capable men than our own pilots, seeing that they have passed the same examination, and received the same certificates, that are granted to our own seamen? This is an attempt to throw dust in our eyes. The hon. Baronet knows that the same argument would apply in other cases. On this side of the House it has been said that if this Bill is passed its prin- 1740 ciple will be extended—that it will be introducing the thin end of the wedge of Protection, and that we do not know where it will end. If you once begin to eliminate foreigners, you will have to eliminate them from this House. There is more than one foreigner on the Conservative side. They will all have to go. ["Oh, oh!" and cries of "Order!"] Well, I am not making a charge—I do not wish to be personal. I will not refer to Members of the Government, or to the Tory Party; but I would say that if you introduce the principle of the elimination of foreigners, we shall have the right to apply it in an extended form. We shall have a right to get rid of the numerous brood of pauper Princes who emigrate over here from Germany. ["Oh, oh!"] Yes. I was down at Sheerness the other day, and I found there, commanding as Admiral of the Dockyard, the Prince of Leiningen; and we have in Dublin, as Commander of the Army in Ireland, Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
I must remind the hon. Gentleman that he is not adhering strictly to the principle of this Bill.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
The Bill, Sir, affects a principle of such vast magnitude that we do not know how far it will go. I was only pointing out to hon. Gentlemen opposite, how substantially this principle they are laying down may apply to them. I did not see that my observation was so much out of Order.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
I rise to Order. Has the hon. Gentleman the right to make these observations?
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I have already submitted to the Chairman, and was only adding an observation on the matter. It appears to me that the observations that have been advanced on this side of the House are, at any rate, of sufficient weight to render it absolutely impossible that we can proceed with the consideration of the Bill at this hour. As has been already pointed out, if the character of this measure had been known earlier it would have been blocked. We are not satisfied with the explanation given by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Hull, as to this being a No. 2 Bill substituted for a Bill previously delivered. If this is the original Bill with a clerical alteration in it—
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I must say, hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House have a singular facility for saying things in such a way that no one can under-stand them. If this is not the same Bill as that originally delivered, it is a pity it was not put down for the same day as the original Bill.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I am satisfied with the hon. Gentleman's explanation; but I did not understand the matter correctly before. No doubt the misunderstanding was owing to my own obtuseness.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY
Hon. Members opposite, as I understand, contend that the Board of Trade have the power to grant or withhold these certificates. In that opinion they are supported both by the present and the late Law Officers of the Crown; and it is said that this Bill is brought forward to make clear the law on the point. Do I understand that to be the case? [Mr. KING: Yes.] It is to make the position of the Board of Trade absolutely plain. I would point out, therefore, to the Secretary to the Board of Trade and the hon. and learned Attorney General that the Bill does nothing of the kind. The Board of Trade now claim to enjoy an option; but if we pass this Bill we shall deprive them of that option. It limits and contracts their power, and prevents them from giving certificates of competency to these foreign pilots, even though they may be willing to do so.
§ MR. JOICEY (Durham, Chester-le-Street)
I regret I was not in my place when the Bill came on. I have a very strong objection to it. The practice has been to create a certain number of certificates of efficiency, and I understand the object of the Bill is to prevent that practice being continued. In my opinion, this is simply the thin end of the wedge. In all our ports there has been an agitation amongst sailors to prevent, if possible, the employment of foreign seamen on board our ships; and I think that, if once we give way on this question, it will certainly encourage that agitation amongst the sailors. I cannot think that the shipowners of 1742 this country are yet prepared, at all events, to say that no foreign sailors shall be employed on board their ships. I cannot see how we can carry on our merchant service at the present moment without foreign seamen. I am not, therefore, prepared to support this measure. Many of the arguments used by hon. Gentlemen opposite in support of this measure might, with equal force, be used against the system of employing foreign sailors in our ships. If we passed this measure, we should certainly have retaliation on the part of foreign Governments, which would go a great deal further than this Bill. I am anxious to further the employment of Britons, in place of foreigners, where they can be employed; but if we introduce the principle contained in this Bill, where will it end? Are we to say that Englishmen are to be employed in every position in which we, at present, employ foreigners? Are you to say that no foreign clerks are to be employed in commercial offices? ["Oh, oh!"] Well, the principle is exactly the same. It is simply one of Protection; and if you give protection to English pilots, I cannot see how you can justly withhold it from English clerks. On these grounds I oppose the Bill. It is a step in the direction of compelling our shipowners to employ only English sailors, and our commercial men to employ English clerks.
§ SIR JOHN SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
I think that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite Benches can hardly be aware that at this moment we are building nearly all the steamers that are being used all over the world, and that the passing of this Bill would have a most irritating effect upon foreigners, particularly upon those for whom we build the ships. It would irritate them on a point on which they are most sensitive. We should immediately have new shipbuilding yards started, probably with Government subsidies, in the Scheldt at Antwerp, at Rotterdam, and at Hamburg. We should have competition subsidized by foreign Governments in retaliation for the shutting out of foreigners. I do not think any Bill so insignificant could be j introduced which would lead to such disastrous results to our building yards. Once we begin to prevent the employ- 1743 merit of foreigners in any capacity whatever—either as pilots or as seamen, or as officers in our ships—it will stop not only the use of British ships and the employment of British captains, but the building of foreign ships in British ports. If I understand this Bill aright—and I have no doubt the Law Officers of the Crown will inform us whether it is the case or not—if it passes, the mate or any other officer of an English ship, if he happens to be an alien or a foreigner, will be unable to obtain a certificate to bring that ship into an English port. Very likely the foreign officer of an English ship may know the English port he desires to go into a great deal better than he knows any port in his own country. I do not think any Bill could be introduced which would be more mischievous or of greater detriment to our shipbuilding interests on the Clyde, at Belfast, in the Tyne, in the Mersey, or at any of our large building ports than this measure. A more short-sighted measure could scarcely be drafted, and I sincerely hope Her Majesty's Government will reconsider their decision in the matter. I do not think the effect of the Bill has been carefully considered. If it had been, I cannot believe that the measure would have been pressed forward in this way.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir JAMES FERGUSSON) (Manchester, N.E.)
I desire to say just a word or two with the view of removing some misapprehension which seems to exist on this matter. I expect foreigners will continue to get ships built in our yards, as they will be able to get them better and cheaper here than anywhere else. I do not think they would come to us now if they could get ships built as well and as cheap elsewhere. When hon. Gentlemen talk about interfering with the employment of foreign sailors, I would reply that that is not a case in point at all. I should like to tell the House why there is a difficulty in regard to this question of pilots, and why the certificates of these foreigners are suspended. It was because the Law Officers of the late Government advised that, in their opinion, it was not competent to grant certificates to masters and mates of foreign ships because they were not masters and mates within the meaning of the Act of 1854. Why? Because the Merchant 1744 Shipping Act has about 180 clauses imposing the most strict conditions on the masters and mates of British ships in point of discipline and education, and laying down all sorts of regulations to which the masters and mates of foreign ships are not subjected. Therefore, the late Law Officers held that masters and mates of foreign ships were not masters and mates within the meaning of the Act of 1854. It is intended by the Bill that certificates should not be issued to such masters and mates in future; but it would be an apparent injustice to deprive of their certificates those masters and mates who have enjoyed them for so many years; therefore, I understand the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill intends to introduce in it words which will save the privileges of foreign masters and mates who hold British certificates. I may say, from my knowledge of where the shoe pinches with foreign countries, that that will remove the objections that have been entertained by more than one country in respect of this Bill—for instance, the steamers that come up from Flushing to the Thames. They have hitherto been piloted by their own masters, and by the words my hon. Friend proposes to introduce into the Bill that privilege will continue, and will altogether remove the objection of the Netherlands Company, and will save that Company, as I have heard, £12,000 a-year in pilotage dues.
§ SIR JOHN SWINBURNE
When the present masters who hold the certificates die, will the new masters receive them?
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
Certainly not, unless they are British subjects. With very few exceptions the Reciprocity Clauses given in the provisions dealing with foreign pilots give this country nothing at all. Sweden does not insist on pilotage dues; but Norway does not allow a ship to enter her ports without a Norwegian pilot. With the exception of Sweden, Denmark, and Italy, where there are open ports, Marseilles in France, and certain open ports in Australia, there are no foreign ports British ships can enter without paying pilotage dues; whilst we, on the contrary, have thrown our ports open to the Navies of the world. It is proposed that the same obligation shall rest on foreign ships as rests on British ships, and that they 1745 shall have either to take a local pilot or to have among their officers a British subject holding a certificate of privilege to pilot them. It is quite evident that there is considerable misconception in respect of the reasons why the certificates of foreign pilots in England have been suspended, and I think it is an important consideration for the Committee. There is no proposal to limit the employment of foreign seamen on board of our vessels. But it is felt, not unnaturally, that foreign mercantile officers do not stand on the same footing as our own before the law, because we impose on our own severe tests and qualifications.
§ MR. MURPHY (Dublin, St. Patrick's)
Mr. Courtney, I have listened with considerable interest to the whole of this debate, and I must say that the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergus-son) has, by his speech, left my mind more confused upon the subject than it was before he spoke. That may, of course, probably be owing to my dulness of comprehension. I was always under the impression that this was a disabling Bill, curtailing some rights that had already existed or were supposed to exist; but, according to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, it is a Bill intended to extend certain privileges. I beg to remind hon. Gentlemen of the reply given by the Secretary to the Board of Trade (Baron Henry De Worms) to the question put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Tyrone (Mr. M. J. Kenny). My hon. Friend asked whether, at present, there is power to withhold these certificates; and. whether, as a matter of fact, they are not withheld; and the hon. Gentleman (Baron Henry De Worms) answered in the affirmative, and added that there was some doubt on the subject, and it was proposed to clear the point up, which object would be attained by this Bill. He says that this opinion was given in the time of the Law Officers of the late Government; but I did not understand him to say whether the Board of Trade acted upon that opinion while the late Government was in Office. If the Government consider that they should support the decision come to by the Department, I wonder they have not brought in a Bill themselves. I wonder 1746 they have allowed a private Member to bring in a Bill to support the action of a Government Department. I have no doubt that the Government imagine there is a certain amount of odium attached to anything tainted with Protection, and that, therefore, they did not care to take such a Bill as this into their own hands. Disguise this question as you will, no matter what sophistry you use, this is Protection pure and simple—it is Protection as Protection is understood, and cannot by any possibility be disguised. You have only to extend the principle underlying this Bill to prevent the employment of foreign sailors or to prevent the employment of foreign clerks in this country. I shall vote against this Bill, because I believe it will be fraught with the utmost danger to the interests of this country, and to the principles upon which the trade of this country is founded.
§ MR. C. T. D. ACLAND
Mr. Courtney, I think I am entitled to a definite answer from the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade, as to whether he really does support the policy embodied in this Bill? I do not think it has been made at all clear that it is only in consequence of the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown given last year that the Board of Trade are now prepared to support a Bill really narrowing instead of enlarging their power.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
I think I made my views upon this Bill perfectly clear. The reason why the late Law Officers did not carry out the suggestion was that their Government went out of Office.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
It is perfectly clear now why the Government abstained, as long as they possibly could, from taking part in the discussion upon this Bill. We have just listened to a remarkable speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson). What did he say? Drawing a distinction between the action and the policy of England and that of other nations, he said—"We have thrown our ports open to the Navies of the world." Are we to be told that the people of England are now going to turn their backs on that policy? Because that is what the statement of the right hon. Baronet amounted 1747 to. He said—"We have thrown our ports open to the Navies of the world;" and the inevitable conclusion to be arrived at is, that now restrictions are to be placed upon the freedom of the ports of England because foreign nations have not imitated the example of England. Why has England thrown her portsopen? Because she thought it would pay. And I should like to know whether we are to be told to-day that the experiences of free and open ports is a bad thing? The proposition is manifestly absurd. It is quite evident to me that this Bill has been introduced in the interest of some extremely narrow clique, and that it is a measure which would inevitably lead to bad feeling between England and foreign nations, and would unquestionably, if it were passed at this hour of the night (2.25), be repealed in the course of a year or two.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
(who was met by cries of "Divide!") said: I wish to give both the Government and hon. Gentlemen who cry "Divide!" clear notice that some of us are determined to oppose this Bill far beyond the present Motion. I shall use the Forms of the House to postpone the consideration of this measure until the House is full, and the Press and the country can thoroughly understand the provisions of the Bill. Nothing has made me so strong against this Bill as the speeches delivered from the Treasury Bench. One very remarkable argument was advanced by an hon. Gentleman opposite.' He said that—Foreign pilots are allowed to gain a knowledge of our ports and our rivers which would he most perilous to us in time of war.Does the hon. Gentleman seriously put before an Assembly of reasonable men an argument like that in favour of a Bill of this kind? The hon. Gentleman had better go to school and learn something about the art of war; because if the hon. Gentleman knew anything about the art of war, he would know very well that in the pigeon-holes of all the War and Naval Offices of any Power which might come into any conflict with us there are perfectly clear and accurate maps of every single river and port in this country. Do hon. Gentlemen seriously think that foreign countries would be prevented from making war on this country because of the want of knowledge? 1748 I never heard a more grotesque or childish argument. What is the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson)? The right hon. Gentleman was under the impression that his speech would have the effect of facilitating the progress of the Bill by removing misapprehension. I can only assure the right hon. Gentleman that his removal of any misapprehension with regard to the Bill will seriously impede the progress of the Bill, because the right hon. Gentleman made a confession with almost infantine frankness. He mentioned the Flushing Company, the masters of which would continue to have power of piloting their own vessels, and he said if they exercised the power they would be saved £12,000 a-year. Well, but the right hon. Gentleman has just established our whole case. That means that this Bill will fine the Flushing Company £12,000 a-year. What did the right hon. Gentleman say? He said that the present holders of these certificates would have their rights respected; but when the question was interjected, from this side of the House, whether their successors would have the same rights, the right hon. Gentleman answered in the negative, and the consequence is that the escape of the Flushing Company from a fine of £12,000 a-year depends on the longevity of the existing masters.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to explain what I meant to say. Of course, under the Bill, masters who have not previously held certificates will not secure them; but a Dutch steamer may be free of pilotage up the Thames, if it has a British officer holding a certificate on board.
MR. T. P. O'CONNOE
I wonder for what purpose the right hon. Gentleman got up to correct my statement, because his explanation, instead of being a contradiction, is a confirmation of my statement. Of course, a Flushing steamer would have the right to employ a British pilot. If the Dutch Company would oblige us by not employing a master of its own nationality, but of our nationality, it would escape the fine you desire to put upon it. That is to say, while we, on the one hand, are putting a penal enactment against the Dutch masters, the Dutch masters are obliging us in 1749 return by adopting the penal enactment against themselves, and employing a British master. A more grotesque proposition I never heard. We are fighting for a principle in this matter. I do not care what exceptions the Government may make. I do not care what vested rights they may respect. We mean to fight this matter, whether it refers to one man or to 10 men, or whether it refers to one class of men or to another class of men. We mean to fight it as a question of principle, and as a most dangerous interference with the best and beneficent traditions of the commercial policy of this country. I imagine hon. Gentlemen opposite have never read the history of the Navigation Laws of this country. Under the old Navigation Laws, the principle which is small in this Bill was represented in every part of our commerce. It was impossible under those laws to have any but English sailors and any but English masters, and the great and gigantic increase of our commerce dates from the abolition of those laws, and the abolition of all the miserable, narrow, bigoted, and reactionary principles embodied in those laws. Why, the country would be up in arms if they knew the principles of this Bill. What did the Government say in regard to this Bill? The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade (Baron Henry De Worms) is a Liverpool Representative. At the last Election in Liverpool the cry was raised, not by me, but by some persons against the present Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen), because of the action of the Government in regard to the mails. What was his defence? He said the Government had a right, on the principles of Free Trade, to get their work done by anybody, provided it was done with economy and efficiency, and in that the right hon. Gentleman was quite right. Although I was a bitter opponent of the right hon. Gentleman, I entirely sympathized with the doctrine he laid down in this matter. He said it was a degradation of politics to be raising the question of foreign and native labour on a question of that kind. Now, another Member of the Government, also a Member for Liverpool (Baron Henry De Worms) gets up and reverses this process, and now adopts that doctrine of favour shown 1750 to native over foreign labour, which his superior and his Colleague repudiated as the degradation of politics. I quite agree with an hon. Friend of mine, who has said that if you start this principle you cannot stop at pilots. Why do you give native pilots advantages over foreign pilots, and refuse to give native clerks advantages over German clerks? Thousands of clerks in London complain, and I sympathize with them to a very great extent, that their wages are reduced by the incursion into the country of German clerks, who are able to work for smaller wages, because they are able to live on more frugal diet. Will not the English clerks, if this Bill passes, have a perfectly unanswerable case in favour of giving them preference over German clerks? Unquestionably, the same principle which gives a preference to native pilots should give a preference to native clerks. Does anyone in his senses suppose that other nations will not retaliate upon us for conduct like this? There are no men in the world who have more to fear from the system of Protection to native over foreign labour than Englishmen. There is scarcely a country in the world where English capital is not employed, where Englishmen are not employed, where Englishmen do not superintend great commercial enterprizes. Under this Bill you prevent a German master piloting his own vessel. Suppose Germans say they will no longer have gasworks which are kept up by Englishmen. Suppose the Spanish people were to refuse to allow the mines of Spain to be entirely worked by English capital. I say that this is a monstrous principle, a principle not only reactionary in regard to England, but in regard to the whole world. I do not know what the idea of hon. Gentlemen opposite may be in regard to the future; but my idea of the future is that nations should be joined together in the bonds of sympathy and open to all. ["Oh!"] I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not care for bonds of sympathy, and I ought to apologize for mentioning them before Gentlemen of the Party opposite; but, unfortunately, the Party opposite plays a large part in the world's history. My idea of the future is evidently not such as that of some other hon. Gentlemen. Let every nation devote its labour to that which is 1751 best able to produce good results, and let the labour of all nations go to the commonwealth.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
Before we go to a Division I should like some further explanations from Her Majesty's Government, I see my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) in his place. Now I have a great deal of faith in his advice and in his sound common sense, and I appeal to him to use his good offices with his Colleagues to induce them to agree to this Motion, in order that the consideration of the measure may be postponed to a more opportune occasion. I confess I am alarmed by the last speech delivered from the Treasury Bench. Why, the heresy is spreading. In the first place, we had it from the Secretary to the Board of Trade that this would be retaliation. Now it has cropped up in a more dangerous form. The Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson) has put, in the most naked form, the adoption of this principle of retaliation. He points to the fact that we do not receive the same consideration from other nations which we show to them. I hope that there is a determination on this side of the House, however, to stand by the decision taken up. It is impossible that this Bill can be allowed to go forth. It is a reversal, in most important respects, of the well-established principles of the country. The Bill has not been discussed as to its principle; and I hope, at any rate, we shall receive an assurance that some time will be allowed for the consideration of the principle involved in the Bill.
§ MR. DILLWYN (Swansea, Town)
I certainly support the appeal of my hon. Friend (Mr. Illingworth), and hope the Government will listen to us, and allow us to report Progress. When this Bill was brought on by the Member for Central Hull (Mr. King) it appeared a very small and insignificant matter. We certainly did not expect to find that it embodied such an important principle as we now find it to contain. Not very long before the consideration of the Bill came on, the hon. Member for Hull himself moved that the House be counted, and at that time the Benches opposite were absolutely empty. My hon. Friend the Member for the Launceston Division of Cornwall (Mr. C. T. D. Acland) called 1752 attention to the nature of the Bill, pointing out that what was really involved was not a small question, but the very large question of Protection, and the progress of the debate has clearly shown he was justified in that assumption. I appeal to Her Majesty's Government whether it is a reasonable request that so large and important a question as Protection should be discussed at 20 minutes to 3 o'clock in the morning, after there has been an attempt made by the hon. Member in charge of the Bill to count the House, and when there is not a Cabinet Minister present? I hardly know who to appeal to. Certainly, this is a question which ought not to be discussed in the absence of the Leader of the House, or, at all events, of some Member of the Cabinet. I trust we shall now be allowed to report Progress.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Sir JOHN GORST) (Chatham)
That is exactly what lion. Gentlemen on these Benches wish to do. If the hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Acland's) Motion is defeated we will allow Progress to be reported.
§ SIR JOHN SWINBURNE
I understand that, when the captains of the Flushing Company die, that Company will be fined £12,000 a-year. Will the Government say whether I understand the position correctly?
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I do not think that hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to put us to the trouble of a Division. [Sir ROBERT FOWLER: Yes.] I was not speaking to the hon. Gentleman the late Lord Mayor of London, but to the Under Secretary of State for India (Sir John Gorst), who made an offer just now which, as I understand it, is that the Government will agree to report Progress. What is the advantage of putting us to the trouble of a Division when, immediately afterwards, the Government will agree to the alternative method of postponement? I would suggest that the Motion "That the Chairman leave the Chair," which, of course, if carried, would be fatal to the Bill, be withdrawn.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
I think there is very little difference between us. We are agreed that the present Motion is to be defeated. If that is done, the Government will agree to the Motion to report Progress.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
There is some objection to the course suggested. We consider that this Bill must be debated, and debated before a full House. We hope to extract still more information from the Government. We hope to get definite answers upon points which they have not yet cleared up, and which we do not care to go into now. I think it is reasonable that my hon. Friend (Mr. Acland) should be allowed to withdraw his Motion that you, Sir, leave the Chair. [Cries of "No, no!"] If hon. Gentlemen will be kind enough to hear me out, they can express their dissent afterwards. I think it is reasonable that my hon. Friend should be allowed to withdraw his Motion, and that Progress should then be reported. The adoption of such a course will not prejudice the case at all.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE
Hon. Gentlemen opposite seem anxious to go to a Division in order to prove their majority. Some of us do not doubt their majority. We have discussed this question in a very quiet and amicable spirit—the Bill has its merits and its demerits—and I do not see much use in going to a Division upon a Motion which can be withdrawn.
§ MR. JOICEY
Many Members of the House who are shipowners are away. Surely this is a Bill which ought not to be discussed in their absence. This is a very important matter—it concerns the whole shipping interest; and I feel sure there are many shipowners absent from the opposite Benches who will go against the Bill. Although hon. Gentlemen opposite have a majority to-night, it is improbable they will have a majority when the Bill comes on again.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
We know what the object of the Government is; but I do not believe that their defeating the Motion before the Committee will have the smallest effect on the future vote which will be given on this Bill. I suppose a Division is to be forced on simply to gratify hon. Members who have sat here for all these hours in order to pass the Bill. That does not seem to me a fair way of carrying on a battle of this kind. ["Oh!"] No; it does not. There is not the smallest doubt that not one Member in 10 in 1754 this House had the slightest notion that this Bill was coming on to-night. It is not usual, when it is discovered that there is a strong opposition to a Bill, to insist on forcing on a Division, with a view of getting what looks like an advantage in a declaration in favour of the principle of that Bill. If hon. Members had been in a more reasonable spirit—["Oh, oh!"] Well, it is preposterous to think that we are going to allow this Bill to pass, when we know that, by taking the proper means to secure its being discussed in a full House, we shall be able to test its principle fully, and probably be able to defeat it. Hon. Members, if they had been reasonable, would have got home, and would have enabled us to get home, two hours ago. They should have known, from experience, that it is legitimate and usual for the opponents of a Bill to take this well-known method of preventing a Bill of this kind, which comes on unexpectedly, from being pressed on in a thin and almost deserted House. Everyone expected that the House would be counted out to-night; consequently, a great many Members of influence left. No doubt they would have remained had they dreamed of the possibility of this measure coming on.
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)
I should like to say one word to hon. Gentlemen opposite, who seem anxious to have a very late Sitting, and to inconvenience the great body of hon. Members present. I would point out that the course they are taking always tells more against the majority than the minority. If 40 Members on this side, and 80 on the opposite side, have been put to inconvenience, the inconvenience has been greater there than here. I always like to have a few points in my favour, and if I were hon. Gentlemen opposite I should not like to gamble when the points are two to one against me. I would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to reflect that they will be inconvenienced a great deal more, and still in the same proportion, by wasting further time on this precious Bill. So far as I am personally concerned, I have not suffered much inconvenience. I had rather a long sleep on the Benches, and am quite prepared to go into the Division Lobby. I think, however, that as the matter is in our favour, so far as the point of inconvenience is concerned, hon. Members 1755 opposite would do well to allow the Committee stage of the Bill to be postponed.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
I hope hon. Gentlemen opposite will think me reasonable and earnest in my desire to get the House out of a difficulty. It must be obvious to them that this Motion, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair" cannot be withdrawn. ["Why?"] Because there are a considerable number of Members on this side who will not allow it to be withdrawn. Hon. Members are perfectly aware that one single Member can prevent a Motion being withdrawn. I am appealing to the reason of hon. Members opposite. It must be quite obvious to them that there is more than one person on this side who will not permit the withdrawal of the Motion. It must, therefore, be disposed of by a Division. If hon. Gentlemen wish to avoid a Division, they can do so by not challenging the Chairman's decision, if he says "The Noes have it." If they do not challenge him, then the "Noes" will have it, and the Motion will fall to the ground, and Progress can then be reported.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
If the Chairman should say, "The Ayes have it," are we to take it that his decision will not be challenged? [Cries of "Divide!"] If you are so anxious to have a Division, do not forget that we have good memories on this side of the House, and that it is just possible that, on another occasion, we may have more than one Division.
§ MR. MURPHY
The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir John Gorst) pointed out to hon. Members on this side of the House that if only one Member on the other side challenges a Division, a Division will have to be taken. I would suggest to him that he should use his influence with the supporters of the Government to get them to assent unanimously to the withdrawal of the Motion.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 35; Noes 60.
§ The Tellers reported the Numbers as Ayes 35; Noes 60:—
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I rise to a point of Order before the Tellers leave the Table. I wish to ask if the return they have made includes the vote of the 1756 hon. Gentleman representing the South-Eastern Division of Lancashire (Mr. Maclure), who was in the Lobby, and was not allowed to pass through? I see the hon. Gentleman now entering the House from behind the Chair.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
, rising: [An hon. MEMBER: Sit with your hat on.] I understand I must address you, Mr. Courtney, seated, with my hat on. I desire to inform you that the hon. Member to whom I have referred entered the "Aye" Lobby; that, as he was about to pass through, one of the Gentlemen connected with the Party opposite prevented him from doing so in the ordinary way, and compelled him to go back, and now I see he has entered the House from behind the Chair. I wish to ask you, Sir, whether he should not be required to pass through the-Lobby in the ordinary way, and then ask to have his vote removed from the "Ayes," on the ground that he has voted in the wrong Lobby? I ask the Tellers if the statement I have made is not correct?
§ An hon. MEMBER: Yes.
§ The ASSISTANT CLERK made a communication to the Chairman.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
I am told my declaration is wrong. The hon. Gentleman was in the Lobby, and not in the House, and did not hear the Question put.
§ The Numbers were then declared from the Chair, as reported by the Tellers, viz.:—Aye3 35; Noes 60: Majority 25.—(Div. List, No. 94.)
§ The following is the Entry in the Votes:—
§ The Tellers reported the Numbers as Ayes 35, Noes 60;—
§ Notice taken that Mr. Maclure, Member for the N. E. Division of Lancashire, had been in the Division Lobby with the Ayes, but had not Voted:—
§ Whereupon the Chairman directed the honourable Member to come to the Table:—
§ Mr. Maclure, having come to the Table, stated that he had been in the Lobby, and had not heard the Question put:—
§ The Chairman thereupon informed the honourable Member that he was not entitled to vote:—
§ And declared the Numbers as reported by the Tellers, viz., Ayes 35, Noes 60.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREA-SURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
I beg to move, Sir, that you do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again,"—(Mr. Jackson,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday next.