§ Order for Consideration, as amended, read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill, as amended, be now condered."—(Sir Charles Forster.)
§ COLONEL MALCOLM (Argyllshire)
I rise to move that the Bill be considered on this day six months. I am aware that it is somewhat unusual, although perfectly competent, for an hon. Member to make such a Motion; but inasmuch as I believe that several facts which I propose to mention were not brought under the notice of the Committee which inquired into the merits of the Bill, and that the Bill as it stands will only lead to confusion and not afford to the public the protection which is intended—as I believe, further, that it will improperly extend the powers of the Clyde Pilot Board—I believe that I am only doing my duty in making this Motion. No one would be more glad than myself to see that the navigation of the Clyde is properly regulated, but I do not think that this Bill will effect that object, and I will, as briefly as I can, state my reasons for taking the course I have considered it my duty to take. In the first place the Preamble of the Bill sets forth that it is—Expedient that the Clyde Pilot Board, constituted under the powers contained in the Act of 1858, should be authorized to make provision, as hereinafter mentioned, for the erection, maintenance and working of signalling apparatus, for regulating the pilotage and approach of steam vessels calling at or using the harbours, piers, quays and wharfs in the Firth of Clyde, and to levy dues in respect thereof.To that I have no objection whatever, but I have an objection to the manner in which the Pilot Board proposes that this provision shall be carried out by 1553 Clauses 10, 11, and 12. Clause 10 empowers the Pilot Board to—require the proprietors (whether in their own right, or as Trustees, Commissioners, or Conservators) or the lessees of any of the said harbours, piers, quays or wharfs to erect or fit up, at their own cost, on or near to such harbours, piers, quays or wharfs, such signalling apparatus as shall be mutually approved of by the Pilot Board and the said proprietors or lessees, or as, in case of difference of opinion between the parties, may be sanctioned and approved of by the Board of Trade, upon an application made to the said Board, either by the Pilot Board or by the said proprietors or lessees.Clause 11 empowers the Pilot Board to erect or fit up such signalling apparatus, in the event of the pier proprietors or lessees refusing or delaying to do so for a longer period than one month, after being requested by the Pilot Board so to do. To those provisions, so far as the erection and maintenance of the signalling apparatus go, the pier owners have no objection, and for the moment I will pass over the Schedule, and the exception of Greenock from it, in order to go through some other objections. By Clause 12, the signals are to be worked by some person appointed by the pier proprietors or lessees, who thus become liable not only as at present, for any accident that may arise in connection with the particular pier of which they are the proprietors or lessees, but also for the speed and the pilotage under which steam vessels using the pier are made to approach it. By Clause 13, the Pilot Board may levy in respect of steam vessels—carrying passengers, calling at or using any such harbour, pier, quay or wharf as aforesaid, on or near to which such signalling apparatus may be erected, any sum not exceeding One shilling per day for every such steam vessel.The dues are to be collected by the pier master on behalf of the Pilot Board, making the pier master, so far, a servant of the Pilot Board, although, as far as regards the signals, he is still the servant of the pier owner. Then again, by Clause 14, the dues so collected by the pier master are to be paid over by him monthly to the Pilot Board, and are to form a fund, which will be divided by the Pilot Board, or so much of it as they shall think fit, amongst the pier masters or persons working the signals in such proportions as the Board may think proper. The Clause goes on to say—And all payments to be made to such Pier-masters or other persons as aforesaid shall, in so 1554 far as affecting the Pilot Board, be accepted by such persons as in full satisfaction of all remuneration due to them in respect of the duties and obligations imposed upon them under the provisions of this Act: Provided always, that any portion of such fund which shall not have been divided as aforesaid in any year shall be carried forward to the credit of such fund for the following year, and not be otherwise appropriated.Now, Sir, although the Pilot Board are not to appoint the pier masters, they are to pay the signalmen as much as they think fit; and I should imagine that, under such circumstances, the pier owners would have a very small chance of getting proper and efficient servants when the remuneration for duties, which I confess to be of an anxious and pressing nature, is to depend entirely on what the Pilot Board may choose to give. By Clauses 15 and 16 the Pilot Board have power to reduce the dues and compound them; and, in point of fact, they can reduce the fund to be collected by these parties to a minimum. And, then, after all this, the pier owners, who are to be responsible for the signalling, have no power of enforcing attention to the signals. Under Clause 18 the Pilot Board are empowered from time to time to make—bye-laws, rules, and regulations as they may think fit for regulating the working and management of the signal apparatus, and for the observance thereof by masters of steam vessels approaching, calling at, or using any harbour, pier, quay or wharf as aforesaid, and alter or repeal any such bye-laws, rules and regulations, as well as all or any of the bye-laws, rules and regulations now in force; and may also impose and recover such reasonable penalties for the breach or non-observance of such bye-laws, rules and regulations as they shall think fit, not exceeding Five pounds for each breach or non-observance thereof.The Pilot Board, at present, have control of the navigation of the Firth of Clyde, and they have power to make the owners and masters of steam vessels conform to their regulations. They have ample powers, at the present moment, to carry out all regulations of that nature; yet they now propose to make the pier owners, through their signals, really the controllers of the speed, pilotage, and approach to the different piers, although they give them no power whatever to enforce obedience to their signals. If a man chooses to set the signal at defiance the pier master or the pier owner has no remedy whatever against him, except through the Pilot Board; and, 1555 moreover, when some of the pier owners were before the Private Committee the other day upstairs, and wanted to produce some new rule, which would have been of some importance to the safety of the public—namely, that the pier owners, or someone, should regulate the anchorage of ships, so that it should not interfere with the free approach to the piers, which are constantly blocked up and crowded with shipping, it was found that such provision could not be introduced into the Bill, because it was assumed to be outside the scope of the measure. If that is outside the scope of the Bill, I think it is desirable that another Bill should be introduced, in which that power should be inserted. There is no doubt whatever that the question is surrounded with great difficulties. I attended the proceedings before the Committee in this House, and I have seen the Reports which have been published of the evidence, and I find that the Committee first found that the signalling apparatus should not be worked by the servants of the pier proprietors, and that a penalty should not be recoverable from the proprietors. Later on, I find that the Committee agreed to reverse that decision, and to provide only that the owners or lessees of the pier should not be liable to penalties. Eventually they reversed that decision also; and now as the Bill stands the pier owners are liable for anything that may happen in consequence of this section. Under these circumstances, it is quite evident that for the efficient working of the signals, and for the carrying out of the bye-laws, rules and regulations, the Pilot Board have the power of making—it is quite evident that the signalmen should be the servants of the Pilot Board for the purposes of signalling. They are to be the servants of the Pilot Board as far as the collection of dues goes, and why should they not be the servants of the Pilot Board as far as the signalling goes? A provision to that effect was originally contemplated in the Bill, because, as it was deposited, the Bill contained the following provision:—The pier-master and such other person or persona by whomsoever appointed shall be deemed to be the officers of the Pilot Board as regards signals.If that were so, it would leave the liability of the pier owners exactly as it is now, and also of the owners of steam 1556 vessels. The real truth of the matter is that no system of signalling, although it may exist at the piers, will put an end to the racing, which is what my hon. Friend the Member for the St. Rollox Division of Glasgow (Mr. Caldwell), and every other witness complained of. Now that racing takes place not at the piers, but in approaching the piers, and at the present moment the Pilot Board can stop it if they choose. They have ample power to do so now. At the present moment, instead of imposing small fines on the masters and pilots of steam vessels, who are frequently part and in some instances entire owners of the vessels they command, instead of imposing small fines on them, as has been the case in the past, let the Board suspend, say for six months, or take away altogether the licences these men hold. If it were known that the master of a steam vessel on the Clyde dared not race without risking the loss of his licence, depend upon it an end would be put to racing much more quickly than by any other scheme that can be proposed. Moreover, it would place the risk and the penalty on the shoulders of the men who create the danger to the public; and that in my humble opinion is what should be done. The advantage of these signals, so far as the benefit of the public is concerned, can only extend to a distance of from 100 or 200 yards on each side of the pier. The signals cannot be seen at any greater distance, no matter what system of signalling you may adopt; and, therefore, it is only in approaching the quays that the signals would be of any service. The racing up to that point may go on harder than ever, and the pier master will have no power to interrupt it. A good deal was stated befere the Committee about the present system of signalling, and I think the Committee were very much misled upon the point. There is practically no real system of signalling at all. The only places in which it is carried out is at the large piers, where several vessels can be berthed, and there, when the pier master wishes a vessel to take up a position in a particular part of the quay he signals by waving his handkerchief, or at night by waving a lamp. But he in no way interferes with a vessel up to that point, nor does he attempt to regulate the speed or the pilotage of such vessel. That is left, as it always should be, to the responsibility of the master or 1557 pilot of the vessel, and, therefore, the pier master can be in no way said to regulate the speed or pilotage, although he does to a certain extent regulate the approach of the vessels using the pier. I will only say further one or two words with regard to the Schedule. The Schedule attached to the Bill is a very remarkable concoction. Certainly—and I say it with great humility—it has not given me a a very high opinion of the care, at all events, which has been exercised by the officials of the Clyde Harbour Board, because if the rules and regulations in regard to signalling are to be for the general good of the public, which is what they purport to be intended for, how is it that only the smaller piers are dealt with, and the larger piers, to which a great number of vessels are conveying passengers and goods daily, are entirely omitted? How is it that the two piers at Greenock—the Custom House Quay and the Prince's Pier—are omitted; and why also are the Craigendoran Pier on the opposite side of the Clyde and the Rothesay Pier omitted? Those four piers have a larger traffic than any other six piers in the whole of the district of the Clyde; yet they are entirely omitted from the Bill, and instead of them a vast number of piers are put in which extend far up in the County of Argyll, where never more than one or two steamers call daily, where we have never had any complaint of jostling or racing, and where these signals will be entirely out of place. There is another point in this Schedule which is equally curious, and which does not, any more than the omissions I have pointed out, reflect credit on the authorities of the Clyde Pilot Board. I find places entered in the Schedule as piers at which no piers have ever been erected. For instance, at Ardentinny at the mouth of Loch Long; being, as it is, close to the home of the Pilot Board, I should have thought that, at all events, they knew something about that place, and that they must have known that there has never been a pier there at which a steamer could call. I should not have been so much surprised if they had made a mistake in regard to the head of Loch Fyne, but they have put a pier at Minard, where, to my certain knowledge, no pier ever existed; and they have omitted another pier—and a very good pier—at which steamers do 1558 call. I think this Schedule shows an amount, I will not say of carelessness, but an amount of ignorance that ought to go far to condemn the Bill altogether. I do not know under what pretence the Clyde Pilot Board seek to extend their powers up to the head waters of Loch Fyne. Those waters are 70 miles away from the Clyde, and the Pilot Board at present have no power of making rules or regulations in regard to them; and as far as I know, there is no anxiety on the part of anyone that they should have such powers conferred upon them. No pilot is required to take a Clyde licence for going up Loch Fyne, and I think it is altogether wrong that by a side wind this Board should attempt to extend its powers, especially when they propose to exercise them in this very careless manner. Then again the piers of Fairlie, Wemyss Bay, and Gourock, where there will be a large amount of traffic when it is completed, are exempted by Clause 21 from the operation of the Bill, and are put under the Board of Trade for the erection of signalling apparatus. Now, why should these piers be put on a different footing from other piers? Why should the penalty in Clause 21 for the non-erection of signalling apparatus be only £5, whereas the penalty imposed in connection with smaller piers by Clause 12 is £10? Why should there be these differences? They may seem trivial, but they add to the general confusion of the whole subject, and I really think that if the entire circumstances had been, fairly brought before the Committee, their decision would have been that the Bill, as regards signalling and the powers conferred upon the Clyde Pilot Board, had better be reconsidered with a view of making the measure more practicable and workable, and of confining the Board to their proper and legitimate jurisdiction. If the first part of the Bill is necessary as regards the Clyde Trustees, I should be the last to oppose the passing of the measure; and if the promoters choose to have the Bill re-committed with a view of dropping all the later parts of the measure in order to bring them up in a better and more matured form next year, I, for one, should not oppose that course. I thought at one time it would be sufficient merely to include the piers which have been left out; but of course I see that that could not be done because there would be no op- 1559 portunity of enabling the owners of such piers to appear before the Committee if they should object to the Bill. Therefore I think it would be better, unless, as I say, it is absolutely necessary that the first part of the Bill should be passed for the benefit of the Clyde navigation—it would be better to drop the latter part altogether, and have it brought up again in a more thoroughly prepared and well - considered form. There is one thing I ought to point out—namely, that the Clyde Trustees, who are parties to the Bill, have carefully omitted to put in any of the piers above Greenock, although they are all in the narrow part of the river where the danger is the greatest. It will be seen that all piers, from Greenock to Glasgow, including Glasgow itself, are carefully omitted. I do think that if this signalling system is to be required at all it should be universal, and certainly that it should be made applicable to those piers which are chiefly used by the public. I must apologize to the House for the time I have taken up in making these remarks; but I feel very strongly on the subject, and therefore I have ventured to express myself at length. I beg to move, as an Amendment, that the Bill be considered on this day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," in order to add the words "this day six months,"—(Colonel Malcolm,)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
I think the course which has been taken by the hon. and gallant Member for Argyllshire (Colonel Malcolm) is a most extraordinary one. We have here a Bill promoted by a public authority in Scotland, elected by the ratepayers, and acting entirely in the interests of the safety of the public. They have come to Parliament with a Bill containing a variety of provisions for the purpose of improving the navigation of the Clyde and securing the protection of the public. That Bill has passed through a Committee of the House of Lords, and also through a Committee of the House of Commons, and now an attempt is made at the last moment to throw it out; the only reason assigned being that the Bill has not been properly considered, and the objections to it were 1560 not properly laid before the Committee. Now I should like to ask whose fault it was if the case for the promoters was not properly stated before the Committee? The pier owners were represented by counsel who fought the measure inch by inch. The hon. and gallant Member for Argyllshire has stated that he was in attendance on the Committee himself, and if any point was neglected which ought to have been brought forward he was on the spot for the purpose of assisting counsel, and giving them advice. Therefore, for the hon. and gallant Member to come down to the House, now and complain of the provisions of the Bill, and suggest that another opportunity ought to be afforded for restating the case of the opponents is, I think, one of the most extraordinary propositions which has ever been submitted in this or any other Legislative Assembly. I do not propose to follow the hon. and gallant Member into all the merits of this question. I will simply take up the case on this footing—that the Bill is promoted by the Clyde Trustees, who are an official public body appointed to look after the interests of the navigation and the public safety. I may, however, point out to the House that the Bill deals with many questions besides those which have been referred to by the hon. and gallant Member. It extends the period for the compulsory purchase of lands; it extends the period for the completion of railways; it makes regulations for the collection of rates and the licensing of weighers and others; it gives power to levy dues, and it provides for the administration of such dues. It also gives power to make bye-laws; and, yet, if the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member be accepted, a Bill containing all these valuable provisions is to be thrown to the winds, simply because upon one comparatively minor point the hon. and gallant Member regards it as defective, and based upon conclusions to which the hon. and gallant Member objects. The hon. and gallant Member seems to think that some of these questions were not sufficiently argued before the Committee, especially those which relate to the signal apparatus in regard to steam vessels approaching the piers from different directions. There can be no doubt that great danger is entailed in that way, and the hon. and gallant Member himself admits that 1561 there is an absolute necessity for regulating the matter. All that this Bill proposes is that the pier owners, who are the persons in receipt of the emoluments of the pier, should regulate the approach to the pier and the speed at which vessels should run. Now, I venture to say that the approach of steam vessels to a pier can only be properly regulated by signals from the shore. The pier owners are the parties who appoint the pier master, and the pier master is the man who is to work the signals. As regards the means by which these provisions shall be carried out, it is provided that the Clyde Trustees shall have the power to levy certain dues which are to be handed over to the pier master as his remuneration for working the signals; but it is also provided that the Clyde Trustees shall simply act as the agents of the pier master in collecting the money, which money is simply handed over and divided among the men appointed by the proprietors of the different piers. Then what is the object of the opposition to the Bill? Is it desired that the responsibility of the men who are appointed by the pier owners should be reduced to nothing? The pier owners receive the dues of the pier. They are not only the owners of the pier, but the owners of the land round about the pier, and, in consequence of the existence of the pier, the value of that land is considerably increased. They now desire to be relieved of the responsibility of working a signalling apparatus which Parliament considers to be necessary in the interest of the public. The Clyde Trustees are not seeking in this case to alter the existing law of Scotland in any one particular. They are simply endeavouring to secure the appointment of signalmen by the pier owners, and they leave the responsibility to be determined according to the ordinary principles of Scottish law. Objection has been raised to the Schedule attached to the Bill that certain piers, such as Craigendoran and others, are not included in the Schedule. The reason is obvious. Those piers are at present maintained under special Acts of Parliament, and the persons in charge of them have the power of making bye-laws for the management of those piers. This Bill simply provides that other piers, which are the property of private individuals, and in regard to which no Act of Parliament exists, shall also have 1562 the power of making bye-laws. It has been stated by the hon. and gallant Member for Argyllshire that a certain clause which was contained in the Bill, as it was originally projected, has since been omitted. Now, no such clause as that which the hon. and gallant Member has referred to was originally in the Bill. I have noticed that the same point was raised by the learned counsel who appeared in opposition to the Bill before the Committee; but the learned counsel stated that he had no means of proving that such a clause was originally included in the measure. The hon. and gallant Member says that the Clyde Trustees might withdraw the latter part of the Bill, and have the Bill re-committed. But I would point out to the House the extreme inconvenience of raising questions of this kind where the parties promoting the Bill are not at this moment represented. All the parties interested in the measure were represented before the Committees of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. They were fully heard there, and to renew the discussion here when the parties are not able to be represented by counsel would certainly be to take the promoters at a disadvantage. If you are now to reopen the merits of the question, as the hon. and gallant Member proposes, you might just as well go every year into the merits of every Private Bill which has been passed through a Committee of this House. On these grounds, I maintain that the Amendment ought to be rejected, and particularly so because the Bill has already been carefully inquired into by Select Committees of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, before whom the parties were heard by counsel. They had then every opportunity of fully stating their case, and if they neglected to state it properly, the entire fault must rest with themselves.
MR. J.A.BLAKE (Carlow)
Perhaps I may be allowed to say a word on this subject, and to state the line which actuated the Committee on arriving at their decision, as I happened to have been a Member of the Committee. I propose to be very brief in doing so, because as the Bill is one which is of very great importance to the part of Scotland to which it refers, I have no doubt that some of the Scotch Members will be able more specifically to lay their views on the 1563 matter before the House. So far as the facts of the case are concerned, I think they have been tolerably well stated by the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Caldwell), who has just sat down. I was astonished to hear the hon. and gallant Member for Argyllshire (Colonel Malcolm) state that if the opposition to the Bill had been better brought forward before the Committee, he had very little doubt that a different conclusion would have been, arrived at. Now, I may say that that is casting a very unjust imputation on the learned and able counsel who represented the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and other persons who are pier owners. There could not possibly have been a case more ably and clearly stated than the case of the Petitioners against the Bill was stated by the learned counsel who represented them. Every fact that could be adduced on their behalf was brought forward, and I think that the objections of the hon. and gallant Gentleman have narrowed themselves down to two. He has expressed surprise that certain important piers in the Clyde have not been brought within the operation of the Bill. Now, I should like to point out to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that that was never stated in the Petition of the opponents, and not having been stated in their Petition it is only fair to assume that it was not considered a grievance that these very important piers were not included. His only other objection that is worth dealing with is that under the Bill, as it has now passed Committees of the Houses of Lords and Commons, responsibilities are imposed on himself and other pier owners to which they are not now liable, so far as rendering them liable for any damage that may occur by reason of any fault on the part of the signalmen. That is the ground upon which the hon. and gallant Member asks for the re-committal of the Bill, with the object of having the pier owners relieved from any responsibility of that kind. Now, I must altogether deny, and I do so quite respectfully, the statement of the hon. and gallant Gentleman in that respect. What is the present system of signalling? It consists altogether of the employment on the pier of men for the purpose of signalling with a handkerchief or a lamp. The signalman stands on the pier, and as the boats approach he displays the signals, if there 1564 happen to be two steamboats approaching. It was never denied, from the beginning to the end of the evidence adduced before the Committee, or in the contention of the learned counsel employed on behalf of the pier owners, that that was not a most defective system of signalling; and yet, if any accident should happen to occur to life or property through this defective signalling, the owners of the pier are exempt from damages. As far as my recollection serves me, I think—and I think that the other Members of the Committee will bear me out—the liability, as far as the pier owners are concerned, was fully admitted throughout the inquiry. The bodies who have been specially charged with the navigation of the Clyde are the promoters of the Bill—namely, the Clyde Navigation Trustees; and their contention is that the present system of signalling is so exceedingly defective, that there ought to be substituted for hand signalling the use of a semaphore, by which vessels at a greater distance would be warned of any danger that might occur. The Committee came to the conclusion that semaphore signalling, in contradistinction from hand signalling, would afford more protection to the public; and that, so far from increasing the risk of the pier owners, it would diminish that risk considerably, as signals could be put out so as to reach vessels in the waterway in a much better form than at present. I happened to be Chairman of the Committee which considered the Bill in this House, and I maintain that the measure, as it passed both the Committee of the House of Lords and the Committee of the House of Commons, not only left the pier owner in the position he now occupies in regard to liability in the event of any accident, but that the establishment of a system of semaphore signalling would decrease the possibility of accident very considerably by enabling the signalman to apprise vessels in the waterway of possible danger at a much greater distance than at present. The hon. and gallant Gentleman says that the responsibility ought not to be placed on private owners; but he must be well aware that it would be utterly useless to put it on the Pilot Board, because the Pilot Board have no funds whatever from which the damage could be paid, whereas the pier owners are in the position of receiving all the 1565 profits which arise from the calling of vessels at the different piers, and they have the power of appointing fit and proper persons to make the signals. If, owing to any fault or incapacity on the part of the signalman, an accident should occur, the person who should be responsible for any damage done ought naturally to be the person who derives the profits. In what other way, I would like to ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and those who agree with him—in what other way does he propose, if an accident to life or property occurs, that compensation is to be paid, if it is not to come from the source which derives the whole of the profits? What I contend is, that it is only the same liability which now exists at present which is imposed on the pier owners, and that they will have the advantage of diminishing the chances of accident. As far as my recollection, serves me, I do not think there was anything further of importance in the objections of the hon. and gallant Gentleman to which I need advert. I will only say that the decision of the Committee upstairs was altogether confirmatory of the view taken by the Committee of the House of Lords. I may add that out of 38 pier owners, the Petition against the Bill was only rejected by eight, so that I take it that the remaining 30 who make no objection have acquiesced in the necessity for the Bill. The Duke of Argyll did not sign the Petition against the Bill which was presented to the House of Commons, although I believe that he did subscribe to some of the allegations contained in it. At any rate, there was no Petition from his Grace sent down to the House of Commons. I may say that I have not the smallest feeling in the world as to whether the Bill is accepted or rejected by the House, but I believe there never was an occasion when the provisions of a Bill were more strongly fought out, and in which the decision of a Committee of the House of Lords was more completely confirmed by that of a Committee of the House of Commons. After hearing arguments on both sides, supported by the powerful advocacy of learned counsel, I think it would be highly regrettable if the House were now, at the last moment, to accept the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and throw out the Bill.
§ MR. H. S. WRIGHT (Nottingham, S.)
Having sat upon the Committee, if I am not out of Order, I should like to inform the House, in answer to an inquiry I heard made on the opposite Benches, that the Committee were by no means unanimous in passing the Bill. There were two Members, of whom I was one, who strongly objected to the injustice inflicted by the Bill in endeavouring to impose an entirely new liability, and one that was never before imposed on the owners of piers in the Clyde—in fact, a sea risk in place of a landing stage, or pier risk. We considered that they ought not to be held more liable for any mistakes on the part of signalmen than they are at present, and that, under the circumstances, the provisions of the Bill were unfair, and we tried our best to get these provisions altered; but I and an hon. Colleague who acted with me were in a minority (owing to the Chairman's casting vote), and we failed to get the clause passed which we submitted, and which we thought would be sufficient for the protection of the public. The clause we desired to add was that the pier owners should not be responsible for any error on the part of their signalmen, provided that the signalman held a certificate of competency sanctioned by the Board of Trade. We considered that they would then have done their duty towards the public in seeing that competent men were appointed to that important position, and having done so, we were of opinion that they ought to be relieved of any further liability which might arise from the racing of the steamboats. It seems to me that instead of decreasing collisions, the Bill as it stands, will have the effect of increasing them, by removing the liability from the steamboat which causes a collision, to the pier owner who has nothing to do with it. I think all that it was necessary to provide was that the signalman should be a competent officer approved of by the Board of Trade, such signalman being liable under the Bill to a penalty for misconduct or negligence, and also to the forfeiture of his certificate in the same way as a pilot would be. Therefore I hope the House will, in this instance, see fit to depart from its ordinary rules, and as has been suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Argyllshire, will throw out this Bill in order that it may be 1567 brought in again in some form next year, by which so much injustice will not be inflicted as is likely to be perpetrated by the present clauses of the Bill.
§ SIR ARCHIBALD ORR-EWING (Dumbarton)
Although a large number of piers in Dumbartonshire are brought under this Bill, I may say that I have not received a letter of objection from any single individual in the county I represent; and therefore I think the persons who are most interested are convinced of the necessity of having these signals placed upon the piers. Of late years we have had a great number of rapid sailing vessels frequenting the Clyde. All of them are anxious to get first to the pier, and frequent accidents have happened in consequence. Nobody is liable for them, and I think it is a most essential provision in the Bill to place these piers in a position which may render accidents in the future less frequent. Considering the stage to which the Bill has arrived, I trust that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Argyllshire will not persevere in his opposition. I know that the Bill is regarded as being of considerable importance by the City of Glasgow.
§ THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Mr. COURTNEY) (Cornwall, Bodmin)
I have listened with attention to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Argyllshire (Colonel Malcolm), and also to that of the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. H. S. Wright), who spoke of the view entertained by a minority of the Committee to which the Bill was referred. I think the House would be very ill advised in not supporting the Bill which has now passed not only through a Committee of this House, but also through a Committee of the House of Lords, even if there might be some technical errors which ought to have required the consideration of the Committee upstairs. I find, however, from the speech of the hon. Member for Nottingham, that the substantial question was fully argued and considered; that substantial question being whether the pier owners of the Clyde are in future to be put under an obligation to provide some system of signalling, which would be practically under the sanction of the Board of Trade; because I find that the Board of Trade are the referees in the event of the Clyde Pilot Board and the Clyde 1568 pier owners not being able to agree. The simple question is this—when a pier master, appointed by the pier owner, makes a mistake or is guilty of carelessness or negligence in the system of signalling he has to conduct, who is to assume the responsibility of the error? The ordinary principle of law is that the person who appoints a servant is liable for any accident occasioned through the fault or negligence of such servant. That is the principle contained in the Bill. The hon. and gallant Member for Argyllshire and the hon. Member for Nottingham want to oust that general principle of law and to throw the responsibility on the signalman himself. Now, on general principle, I believe it is dangerous to interfere with settled principles of law, and as a master is made liable for the acts of his servants, I think the Committees of the House of Lords and Commons have rightly decided in including a provision to that effect in the present Bill.
§ MR. A. SUTHERLAND (Sutherland)
I also was a Member of the Committee, and I will only detain the House for a few moments while I call attention to one or two matters which have been mentioned in the course of the discussion. The hon. and gallant Member for Argyllshire prefaced his remarks with an apology for not observing the general rule in regard to questions of this kind. Now, although my Parliamentary experience is not so varied or so extensive as his,—and therefore I cannot assume to be a judge—I think it is somewhat unusual to oppose a Private Bill in this stage. The hon. and gallant Gentleman states that he is in a position to lay before the House some facts that were not laid before the Committee. It has, however, been stated already, that it was quite open for the hon. and gallant Gentleman to have laid those facts before the Committee at the time, and I think it would have been far more conducive to the convenience of the House if he had done so. I do not know whether it is in accordance with the etiquette of this House that the decision of a Committee should be discussed in this House in the manner it has been this evening, and I have no wish to follow the example which has been set in the matter. The circumstances out of which the necessity for the Bill has arisen is the fact that a great majority of the 1569 inhabitants of Glasgow resort during the summer months to watering places along the Firth of Clyde. Hundreds and thousands of people pass down the Clyde late in the evening returning to business at Glasgow in the morning, and the danger which has arisen from racing to the different piers has rendered it necessary that some regulation should be made in order to secure the safety of the passengers going up and down the river. The necessity for the Bill arises from the fact that several persons have complained and written letters to the newspapers pointing out the danger of collision through the captains of the steamers racing for priority at the landing stages. As no action was taken by the Clyde Pilot Board, the parties who felt aggrieved applied to the Board of Trade, and the Board of Trade have brought pressure to bear upon the Pilot Board, which has resulted in the promotion of the present Bill. As to the objections which have been raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Argyllshire, I only wish to say that it is an attempt on the part of the pier owners to get both a direct and an indirect advantage from it. They get a direct advantage from the dues derived from the piers they have erected, and an indirect advantage from the increased value of the land in the neighbourhood of the piers; yet they are now attempting to evade the duties and responsibilities which are imposed on all who employ servants. It is necessary to lay the liability somewhere, and, under the circumstances, I think there cannot be two opinions that it ought to be laid upon those who employ the pier masters and receive the profits derived from the use of the piers. The Pilot Board have no income whatever, and it would be absurd to place the responsibility upon them. I hope that the House will not accept the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Argyllshire, or countenance this dog-in-the-manger policy of the pier owners to derive large revenues from the piers and throw all the responsibility upon the Clyde Pilot Board.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
rose, amid cries of "Agreed." The hon. Member said: I shall be glad to sit down if the hon. and gallant Member for Argyllshire will withdraw his Motion; but if the matter is to go to a Vote, I trust 1570 that we shall arrive at an intelligent Vote in regard to the points which have been raised. The Bill is promoted for the purpose of giving additional powers to the Clyde Trustees, who have spent millions of money in making the Clyde what it now is—a large artificial canal for the navigation of the biggest ships. They have also conferred large powers on the Pilot Board. I was astonished at the theory advanced by the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. H. S. Wright), that power ought not to be placed in the hands of the Clyde Pilot Board to compel the owners of piers to pay a maximum toll to the Pilot Board of 1s. per day, when we read of some of the dividends paid by the pier owners for the privileges they possess. I will take a case where the owner is also the lessee. It is a case with which I am very well acquainted, and the pier is one which I visit at least a dozen times a year. I refer to the pier at Dunoon, which is put down on the valuation roll of the County of Argyll at £1,293. These piers are very lucrative; and to complain because 1s. a day is to be levied for the putting up of a semaphore signal seems to me most absurd. There was one point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Argyllshire which has my entire sympathy—namely, the fact that the whole of the piers on the Clyde have not been scheduled. In my humble opinion, they ought all of them to have been scheduled; but when I look at the provisions of the Bill, I find that, under them, the Pilot Board have the right to take in, not only the piers scheduled, but all the other piers on the Clyde; so that all the hon. and gallant Gentleman asks for is included in the Bill. [Colonel MALCOLM dissented.] I see that the hon. and gallant Member shakes his head; but the clause excepts Greenock only, and there is power, by a special Act, to compel the same thing in regard to that port. I think the House has a right to complain that what ought to have been a second reading discussion—seeing that the objections which have been raised are not to the details, but to the principle of the Bill—has been deferred until this stage of the measure, and that it should now be attempted, on inaccurate information, to throw out the measure, especially after all the heavy charges which have been incurred by the Clyde Trustees and the Pilot 1571 Board in promoting the Bill. [Cries of "Divide!"] I have no desire to take up more of the time of the House than is necessary, because I know that the prolongation of the debate may have the effect of blocking the Crofters' Bill, which is of much more importance to Scotland than this measure; but, on behalf of the important interests concerned, I feel compelled to say that it is quite as necessary this signalling power should be given to the pier-masters as that you should provide signalling power at the railway stations. We have a number of Companies and steamers competing with each other, all trying to get first to the pier; and the pier-masters ought to have some measure to indicate which is to reach the pier first, and be berthed. Of course this is of importance to the vessels themselves, because the first in usually gets the passengers; but hence arises the necessity of taking precautions to prevent the destruction of life and property.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 200; Noes 100: Majority 100.—(Div. List, No. 46.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill to be read the third time.