§ Order for the consideration of the Bill, as amended (by the Standing Committee), read.
§ New Clause—(Application of Act to foreign ships,)—(Mr. Gainsford Bruce,)—brought up and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this Clause be read a second time."
§ * THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Sir M. HICKS BEACH)
I have had a good deal of correspondence 921 on the subject of this clause. I accept it in principle, but, if I had seen my hon. and learned Friend five minutes sooner, I would have suggested its adoption in another form, namely——
§ * SIR M. HICKS BEACH
Then I ask my hon. and learned Friend to withdraw his clause, and I will move an amendment in another place.
§ * MR. GAINSFORD BRUCE (Finsbury, Holborn)
I am quite willing to adopt that course. I understand the right hon. Gentleman to accept the principle of the clause, I have moved, and I can see that any matter affecting the relations of the Government to foreign ships must be left in the hands of the Government, and that it would be unwise in any private member to force a particular form of words upon the Government in so delicate a matter.
§ Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
I beg to move the clause which stands in my name, and I think I shall easily show that the insertion of this clause is necessary in order to secure what I take to be the main purpose of the Bill. The President of the Board of Trade will agree with me when I say that this Bill arose out of the representations made to him by the Harbour and Dock Authorities of the country that in consequence of flaws in the Acts of 1854 and 1867, a certain class' of steamship owners—a small clans' I am happy to say—have so contrived to alter their ships so as to evade various harbour customs of the country and defeat the true intentions of the law. I move that—Under the 23rd Section (b) of The Merchant Shipping Act, 1854, the deduction shall not exceed 50 per cent of the gross tonnage of any ship.The section quoted in my Amendment is that which provides for the deduction of gross tonnage by measurement, and the provision is—Whenever such measurement is so required the deduction shall consist of the tonnage of the space actually occupied by or required to be enclosed for the proper working of the boilers and machinery, with the addition in the case of ships propelled by paddle wheels of one-half, and in the case of ships propelled by 922 screws of three-fourths of the tonnage of such space.That clause of the Merchant Shipping Act has been so worked that many steamships sailing under the British flag, instead of paying on two-thirds or one-half, or even one-third of their gross tonnage to the Local Dues, pay only upon a minute fraction. The President of the Board of Trade is well aware of the case of the Anglesea, a passenger-carrying boat, trading between Holyhead and Dublin, a ship which has a gross tonnage of 877, and yet only pays dues on 45 tons, about one-twentieth of her gross tonnage. The Royal Commission of 1881 reported—The existing allowances (for propelling power space) are neither equal in their operation, nor based on any sound principle … under the present condition of steam navigation.That is the first authority which I cite in favour of my Amendment. My Amendment would be reasonable and just, even if the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman remained as originally introduced, because if it cannot be denied that the deduction proposed is a fair one, I conceive the right hon. Gentleman must admit that it is desirable that there should be security for the establishment of what I may call general equity between shipowners on the one hand and the Harbour and Dock Authorities on the other. The Bill, as introduced, provides that in the measurement of a ship for the purpose of ascertaining the registered tonnage no deduction should be allowed in respect of any space which has not been first included in the measurement of her tonnage, and this carries out what the right bon. Gentleman in his memorandum declares to be the main object of his Bill. So that if the Bill had remained as it originally stood, and as we were led to believe the right hon. Baronet would persevere with it, there would have been no complaint to make. The operation of the law with respect to propelling power space was this. The over-deck light and air space could not be used for cargo, stores, passengers or crew, and could not have been included in the gross tonnage, and, therefore, could not have been excluded from the nett tonnage with 75 per cent added. The first clause would have prevented those invasions of the 923 law which became possible under the Isabella decision, and shipowners would have had no inducement to build or alter their ships so as to bring them in the same category as the Isabella. But the right hoc. Baronet in the Grand Committee allowed himself to be coerced by a group of shipowners into inserting the second clause in the Bill. I should have argued against that clause and have taken a Division against it, only as the right hon. Baronet knows, at the moment of the introduction of that clause the Grand Committee was so constituted that it would have been hopeless to oppose him. The second clause enacts that in the case of any ship measured after the passing of the Act the owners of that ship may deduct the light and air space over-deck from the gross tonnage, and take advantage of that deduction to deduct it from the nett tonnage, provided that the arrangement has the approval of a Board of Trade Surveyor as reasonable in extent. Well, the House does not know what the Surveyor of the Board of Trade may consider to be reasonable in extent. It is by means of her peculiar construction of over-deck spaces that the Anglesea has been able to plunder the Harbour Authorities of Dublin, and unless the Bill is amended so as to prevent this it will be worthless in regard to every ship built after the passing of the Act, because shipowners will take care to provide themselves with such lighting and air structures over-deck, that the question so far as future ships are concerned will remain where it stood after the Isabella decision, and before the introduction of the Bill. I regard such a thing with apprehension, because the Dublin Harbour Authorities have been plundered of £11,000 a year by means of the peculiar construction of the Anglesea, and they have, in consequence, been compelled to suspend important works, and to dismiss a number of officials. My Amendment, which would have been just even if the second clause had not been introduced, with that clause in the Bill is rendered absolutely necessary, because ft is obvious that we shall have no security but the opinion of a Surveyor of the Board of Trade against the multiplication of Isabellas and Angleseas. There is nothing novel in the Amendment; its 924 principle is already in the Bill. I have not heard anyone say that 50 per cent; is an unfair limitation of deduction for propelling power, and light and airspace. I do not remember that in the Committee anyone had the courage to say anything of the kind. I would submit to the shipowners that it is to their interest to favour the Amendment, because there are at the present moment 9,000 steamers sailing under the flag of the British Mercantile Marine, the greater number of which pay not on half their gross tonnage, which would be the maximum they would pay on under my Amendment, but on two-thirds. I am assured on the best authority that if the Amendment were carried it would apply to only 350 steamers out of the 9,000. I see opposite an hon. Member who spoke in the Grand Committee, and who is certainly the ablest representative of the shipowning interest in the House, and I put it to him whether it is not discreditable for a large body owning as I say 9,000 vessels, to resist an Amendment of this kind, to shelter the owners of 350 ships who have taken advantage of the law, and have either built or altered their ships so as to enable them within the influence of the-decision in the Isabella case to evade the payment of just tonnage dues. I would point out that the proposal on this subject of the Royal Commission, which sat eight years ago (paragraph 43) (g) was accompanied by the following proviso:—Provided always that the deduction for propelling space shall not exceed 33 per cent of the gross tonnage of screw and 50 per cent of the gross tonnage of paddle steamers.I do not propose to deal with screw steamers differently than with paddle steamers. This recommendation was signed by several hon. Members opposite and others, including Mr. Norwood, Sir John Stokes, Sir Edward Reed, Sir J. P. Corry (Member for Mid Armagh), and the late Sir William Pearce. They signed this proviso; and now when I propose to give the shipowners an allowance, not of 33 per cent for propelling spate, but of 50 per cent, I trust they will see the equity not only of abstaining from opposing the Amendment, but of supporting it. Then, as to the practice of foreign countries, the almost universal practice is to allow 50 per cent 925 for light and air space. In France it is 40 per cent. The United States is the only maritime country where there is no deduction on account of propelling apace, but that is due to the fact that the system of deduction from the gross tonnage has not yet been introduced in that country. If my Amendment is adopted, it will be an indication to shipowners that they must not begin to built or alter ships in the style of the Isabella or the Anglesea. Unless the right hon. Baronet assents to the introduction of the Amendment, I shall be obliged to divide the House against Clause 2, which practically means the repeal of Clause 1. I will only further say that the Bill does not carry out the pledge which the right hon. Baronet gave to the Harbour and Dock Authorities; that it will not remove the grievance; and that the question of this unredressed grievance, which will be all the more galling as an opportunity for redress has arrived and has not been availed of, will continue to press itself embarrassingly and continually on the time of this House. I beg to move the Amendment on the Paper.
§ New Clause (Maximum deduction for gross tonnage,)—(Mr. Sexton,)—brought up and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time."
§ * SIR M. HICKS BEACH
The grievance which the Harbour and Dock Authorities brought under my notice now some months ago, and which I endeavoured to remedy by the introduction of this Bill, is that in calculating the nett tonnage of a ship for dock or light dues, deductions are allowed for crew and light and air spaces which have not been previously reckoned in calculating the gross tonnage of the ship. That grievance, I venture to say is effectually removed by the provisions of the Bill. The first clause provides that in the measurement of a ship for the purpose of ascertaining her registered tonnage no deduction shall be allowed in respect to any space that has not been first included in the measure- 926 ment of her gross tonnage. The Bill originally consisted exclusively of the first clause, and in that shape it was referred to the Standing Committee, the great question at issue then being whether that clause should be retrospective or not. After very careful, painstaking, and patient discussion of the point at issue, the Standing Committee agreed, by a large majority, to limit the retrospective effect of the clause in the manner now provided by the Bill—namely, that the section shall not apply until after the expiration of five years from the date of the passing of the Act to existing ships. I should have been very well content if the Bill passed by the Standing Committee had contained nothing more than that first clause; but the Standing Committee thought fit to insert the remaining clauses now included in the measure, those clauses being placed on the Paper by hon. Gentlemen possessing a great knowledge of this subject. They were framed on the recommendation of the Royal Commission, and contain propositions to the fairness of which I could take no exception. I doubted the wisdom of adding to the Bill, but the Committee overruled my objection and inserted these fresh clauses. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Belfast will admit, I think, that what I have stated is correct, but he complains that the second clause which was inserted in the Bill on the Motion of the hon. Member for Armagh will in future give to ships built or measured after the passing of this Act such allowances as will reduce their net tonnage almost as low as it has been possible to reduce it hitherto, owing to what is known as the Isabella decision. But let me point out that there is nothing unfair in the clause itself. The light and air spaces to which it refers under the law as it at present stands have been allowed, I think, very unfortunately, to be deducted in calculating the net tonnage of a ship, but not to be first included in calculating its gross tonnage.
§ * SIR M. HICKS BEACH
Yes. Now, the clause provides that, if the owner of a ship so requires, those light and air spaces may be included in calculating the net tonnage, provided that they 927 Lave been first included in the measurement of the gross tonnage. That is obviously fair.
§ * SIR M. HICKS BEACH
That is the law. But what are these light and air spaces? I venture to say they are of the greatest importance to the safety of the ship and the health of the crew; and it certainly should be the desire of Parliament, as everyone practically acquainted with the subject will admit, to encourage in every fair way the proper provision of light and air spaces as proposed by the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that shipbuilders in future will make these spaces so large that they will obtain deductions for propelling power sufficient to render the tonnage liable to dues almost nil, as has been the case with a certain class of ships under the Isabella decision. Let me remind the right hon. Gentleman of what I stated before the Committee as to this clause, and the Amendment that was inserted in it at my instance—thatSuch spaces cannot be so included in the measurement of a ship, or deducted unless the Surveyor appointed by the Board of Trade certifies that the portion so framed in is reasonable in extent.I can assure the hon. Gentleman, if it is any consolation to him, or to those on whose behalf he is speaking, that I will take care to provide that such rules shall be framed by the Board of Trade for the guidance of its surveyors as will effectually prohibit any such evasion of the clause as the right hon. Gentleman fears is likely to occur. I think that is all I have to say with reference to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think his Amendment would be fair to a certain class of steam ships looking at the large amount of light and air space that is necessary for the working of their machinery. It would result in a large increase not only in dues charged to such ships as come under the Isabella decision, but in dues charged to such ships as were measured 928 under the law as it stood before the Isabella decision. I do not think it is an alteration that Parliament ought to make, and I resisted it when the right hon. Gentleman proposed it in the standing Committee.
§ * SIR M. HICKS BEACH
Well, when a proposal was made by another hon. Member, and a suggestion was offered for the limitation of that proposal by the right hon. Gentleman. This Bill, which relates to a very technical and difficult subject, has been a matter of most careful consideration by the Standing Committee, and I hope that the House will adhere to the decision at which the Standing Committee, by a large majority, arrived, and will pass the Bill in its main provisions as it stands.
§ * MR. NORRIS (Tower Hamlets, Limehouse)
I rise to support the Amendment of the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for West Belfast, though in so doing I am sorry to place myself in conflict with some of my warmest Friends on this side of the House. In this matter I represent the whole of the Docks on the north side of the Thames; therefore, the House will admit that I have a right to speak on this occasion. I represent some £20,000,000 whose shareholders are languishing for want of dividends, whilst my hon. Friends, the shipowners around me, represent capital that has been returning handsome dividends for some time. I am not hostile to the shipping interest, but I think this Bill does not provide for a safe, fair, and proper equilibrium between the interests-of dock companies and those of the shipowners. This subject is somewhat complicated and technical, as the clause in the original Act dealing with tonnage measurement amply testifies. I have only found myself, after days and weeks of careful study, able to master the technicalities of the present Bill, and one hon. Member, a large shipowner, has informed me that he took four and a half hours to read the Bill, and in the end was completely mystified. Still, we must look at the merits of the question. It is owing to the extremely bad drafting of existing Acts on that subject that the present difficulty in connection with this matter has arisen. 929 What we now require is a clear and consistent measure. So far as I understand it, the Bill does not interfere with the great shipping interests of the country. It will not interfere with hon. Members of this House, but only with those people who are endeavouring to take advantage of a clause in an Act of Parliament to evade payment of dues which it was never intended that they should evade. The second clause, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belfast has pointed out, is opposed to the first, as it will enable the Board of Trade surveyor to vary that provision. It will be seen, as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sexton) has stated, that this will affect but a small and almost infinitesimal part of the great shipping interest, only some 350 ships out of 9,000 registered in the United Kingdom. The Anglesea, with 877 tons gross measurement, was registered at only 160 tons; the Duchess of Sutherland, 446 tons, was actually registered at 101. Therefore advantage is taken somehow of Dock Companies, Harbour and Pier Trusts. It is monstrous that ships carrying cargoes of 500 or 600 tons should pay only on 45 or 50 tons. With regard to the suggestion that the Bill as first drawn was retrospective, I venture to say that, in the first instance, it was only a prospective Bill. I venture to think that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer became aware of a man returning his income at £3,000, and that his income was actually £5,000, he would not consider it a retrospective policy if he were required to pay on the higher amount at once. Take another illustration. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggested, with some ground of fairness, that the domestic department of a house should be exempt from Property Tax, I do not think that he would admit that a man paying Property Tax should deduct from the value of that Property Tax, not having first added that proportion. But shipowners would deduct from the tonnage of their ships what, in the first instance, they did not add. I. was surprised, I must say, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham should have suggested in Committee that they should have five years of 930 grace before coming under the provisions of the Bill; and, for my own part, if it had not been proposed by so high an authority, I should have put an Amendment on the Paper that three years would be a sufficient allowance to make to shipowners. I think, on any ground, there is just cause for moving the Amendment. I believe myself that if the House looks at it in a common-sense way, hon. Members will agree that 50 per cent for propelling power is amply sufficient allowance. All other countries allow a deduction of only 50 per cent, and in France only 40 per cent is allowed. It will not affect the great ship-owning firms of the country; it will not affect those which are reasonable and fair; it will only affect those who wish to evade the law; and I would therefore appeal to all hon. Gentlemen who represent the outports of the Kingdom, and those who represent constituencies like those in the East End of London, interested in docks and shipping industries, to support the Amendment, for it is certainly only just towards dock property, and I think the House will feel it meets the justice of the case.
§ SIR HORACE DAVEY (Stockton)
I approach this subject with a great deal of diffidence, because of the extremely technical character of the subject. The hon. Member who has just spoken has demonstrated in a highly picturesque manner the extreme difficulty any man who is not a Senior Wrangler must experience in understanding how the measurement of the tonnage of a ship is arrived at. But there are certain things that even ant inexperienced person like myself can understand. I must say, the way in which this Bill came out of the Standing Committee was disappointing to many of those at whose instance the Bill was introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. Experienced persons say that the second clause, framed as it is at the present time, will not have the effect of preventing evasions of the law in such cases as that known as the Anglesea case, though, to a certain extent, it will prevent cases like the Isabella case, which was a question of crew space. It will, to a certain extent, prevent a recurrence of cases like that of the 931 Isabella, so far as that related to crew I space; but it will not prevent any future case like the Isabella as regards light and air, so experienced persons tell me. It seems to me that the Amendment the Lord Mayor of Dublin has proposed is one consistent with the provisions of the Bill as it has come out of the Standing Committee, and at the same time it is consistent with the practice of other countries. In a country like this surely it is of great importance that the law in relation to the measurement of the tonnage of vessels for the purpose of dock and harbour dues should be brought into harmony with that of other maritime countries. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sexton) does not propose a proviso to the second clause. He proposes a subsequent and general clause. His proposal is, in substance, that in no case shall a greater reduction be allowed for propelling power than 50 per cent of the gross tonnage—though I may not be absolutely correct, that is the general effect. We find when the exceptions were introduced in the first clause in the Standing Committee that it is provided that these exemptions shall not extend to any ship in cases where the propelling power space exceeds 50 per cent of the gross tonnage of the ship. So that, by their amendment of the first clause, the Standing Committee recognized and gave effect to the principle that the propelling power space should not exceed 50 per cent of the gross tonage.
§ * SIR MICHAEL HICKS BEACH
If the hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me, that is not quite so. The effect of the Amendment is this—it leaves to ships which would have more than 60 per cent, allowance for propelling power that allowance for propelling power, under the law as it stood before the Isabella case, so long as they choose to claim it, but it forbids them the advantage of five years' exemption from the first part of the first clause. That is the meaning of the Amendment.
§ SIR HORACE DAVEY
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his explanation; it is a matter not easy to understand; but I am not sure that I differ at all from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade when I say that in the first clause this general principle is laid down— 932 that in the measurement of a ship for the purpose of ascertaining her tonnage nothing is to be deducted from the gross tonnage that has not, in the first instance, been included. But then follow certain exemptions, among others that vessels which have been measured under the Isabella decision are to retain the advantage they obtained by that measurement for five years, but then there come words providing that this exemption—that is, the Isabella exemption, to put it shortly—shall not extend to any ship in a case in which the allowance for propelling power space exceeds 50 per cent, of the gross tonnage of the vessel. I may be wrong; I dare say I am; but if I am, I am quite willing to be corrected. But I take it the meaning is that in the Isabella case the period of five years' exemption if the propelling space exceeds 50 per cent, of the gross tonnage attaches. That is how I understand it. Well, I say that in the first clause as it stands in the Bill the principle that the propelling power space should not exceed a certain per centage, in this case 50 per cent, of the gross tonnage, has been admitted, and now I understand the object of the Amendment of the Lord Mayor of Dublin is to make this principle, admitted into the first clause, so far as the exemptions are concerned, applicable to the whole of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has good authority for that. He has quoted from the Report of the Royal Commission the plain words used by Members of that Commission who are still Members of this House, and whose support, therefore, he ought to have, recommending that the reduction for propelling space should not exceed 33 per cent, in the case of screw steamers, and 50 per cent, in the case of paddle steamers. There is authority, too, in the practice followed by other countries. In every other country in the world except the United States, whose system of measurement is based upon a different principle to that adopted in this country—I believe every Continental maritime country fixes the maximum of propelling space which shall be deducted from the gross tonnage to ascertain the registered tonnage. The Amendment before us follows that principle. It proposes to place—I do know whether the right 933 hon. Gentleman would be attached to 50 per cent—but, at any rate, he proposes to adopt the principle of limiting the maximum deduction to be made from the gross tonnage in respect to propelling power space which has been adopted in foreign countries. I will not go into further details. It is a curious arithmetical problem to arrive at the registered tonnage of a ship. It is a complicated proceeding; but I think the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sexton) is well justified in bringing this Amendment to the attention of the House, because it only carries into effect the recommendation of the Royal Commission.; it is in accordance with the practice of other maritime countries, with the exception of the United States; and it is in harmony with, and in furtherance of, the remedy of the grievances which were the main cause of the Board of Trade bringing this measure before the House.
§ * MR. C. H. WILSON (Hull, W.)
I think the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade would act wisely to accept the Amendment. Shipowners generally would not be affected by it, so I may speak with impartiality—only some 320 steamers out of 9,000 would be affected. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sexton) has in mind, I think, principally the passenger steamers running between this country and Ireland, and these do not concern the general shipping interest, they principally belong to the Railway Companies. It is a question for our Irish friends to consider how far the proposal may affect the rate of carriage for goods and passenger traffic across the Channel; but shipowners generally have no objection to it. I know that now, under the peculiar system of the Board of Trade, there are small steamers that almost arrive at a point where they would pay no dues at all. Indeed, I know myself a case of a steamer bought for towing purposes that under the Board of Trade rules would work at a measurement of half-a-ton less than nothing. This shows the utter absurdity of the system. If the Amendment were accepted it would, so far as I am able to judge, make the task of surveying more simple and effective, avoiding all complications. The only point I would raise is that there ought 934 to be an exemption of steamers used solely for towing or river purposes. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would be prepared to accept that addition to his Amendment.
§ * MR. C. H. WILSON
I really do not see why the Amendment should not be accepted; and, as a shipowner, I would advise the Government not to divide against it.
§ MR. CRAIG (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
I beg to be allowed to make the following addition to the Amendment:—Unless such ship be used exclusively either for towing purposes or as a river steamer.
§ MR. SEXTON
Perhaps I may be allowed to say, for the sake of clearness, that I shall be prepared to accept such an Amendment.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 67; Noes 104.—(Div. List, No. 232.)
§ * MR. C. H. WILSON (Hull, W.)
The Amendment I have to move deals with the question of those ships measured under the Isabella decision, and retaining their advantage for five years. When I raised the question in Committee there was a certain amount of confusion at the moment, and I do not think hon. Members quite understood the point, and the Chairman ruled that the point where it would come was passed. I therefore venture to repeat the Amendment now, which is to make the exemptions under the Isabella rule applicable to ships that are re-measured before the passing of this Act. If we read a little further we find that ships building come under the exemption, or if re-measured before March 10, 1889; and I propose to leave out this reference to that date, and make the exemptions applicable to ships building and to be registered before December 10.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, lines 22 and 23, to leave out the words "tenth day of March one thousand eight hundred and eighty-nine," in order to insert the words "passing of this Act."—(Mr. Charles Wilson.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."935
§ * SIR MICHAEL HICKS BEACH
This question has been carefully considered, and it was felt by the Standing Committee that the exemptions ought not to be wider than would be covered by a fair notice of the proposal. This Bill was introduced on the 10th of March, 1889, and the introduction of the Bill was considered as a fair notice to all shipowners that it was proposed to alter the law, and therefore the Committee held by a very large majority that the latest date for the exemption of ships already built or measured ought to be the 10th March, 1889.
§ * SIR D. CURRIE (Perth, W.)
I shall support this Amendment, as it seems only fair that shipbuilders who have commenced building before the passing of the Act should have the benefit of the exemption.
§ * SIR A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
I trust the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade will accept this Amendment, and it seems to me that all retrospective legislation is objectionable, and it would not be equitable under the circumstances to add any further term of disqualification to the five years, as the Bill does. The President of the Board of Trade said that the introduction of the Bill was a sufficient notice; but it was not to be assumed that the Bill would pass.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 118; Noes 55.—(Div. List, No. 233.)
*SIR M. H. BEACH moved: Clause 1, page 1, line 27, after "eighty-nine," insert—
Unless in either case the ship is, before the expiration of the said five years, measured or re-measured in accordance with the provisions of this Act, and any such ship may be measured or re-measured at the request of the owner.
§ Question proposed, "That these words be there inserted."
§ MR. SEXTON
This is intended to be a very simple remedy of one or two obvious defects of the law; but the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman is one which will increase certain difficulties which I have observed in the Bill already. The Bill will make the law more complicated, very little less unjust, and a good deal more un- 936 certain than it was before. That is a curious effect of a Bill professing to reform. Observe the working of this clause, provided the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman be added. In the first place the principle is laid down with regard to ships measured by the 10th March that no deduction shall be allowed in respect of any space not first included in the measurement of the tonnage. The third paragraph of the same clause says that the same class of ships measured by the 10th March shall be exempted from the operation of the Act in five years. It is very hard to discover why. Then a further provision is that the exemption just decided shall not be applied to any ship where the allowance exceeds the gross tonnage of the ship. The principle is practically defeated by the exemption, then the exemption is overridden by the proviso; and, now, the right hon. Gentleman wishes further to complicate the clause by providing that the exemption for five years shall not apply in the case where the shipowner wishes his ship to be measured.
§ * SIR M. H. BEACH
The object of the Amendment is to prevent owners from obtaining re-measurement under the advantageous provisions of the Bill, and at the same time retaining the exemption from the first clause. It would certainly be unfair to allow that, in the interests of the very parties for whom the right hon. Gentleman has addressed the House. This Amendment is really in their interests, and I can assure him that if it is not passed it will seriously injure the Harbour Authority.
§ MR. SEXTON
I can only say that may be so, but it only proves my argument that the complication is such that the Bill is unintelligible.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
*SIR M. H. BEACH moved: Clause 1, page 2, line 3, after "made," add—
And the particulars relating to the ship's tonnage in the register book, and in her certificate of registry, shall be corrected accordingly.
§ Question, "That those words be there added," put, and agreed to.937
§ *SIR M. H. BEACH moved: Clause 2, page 2, lines 5 and 6, leave out from "and" to "hereof," both inclusive.
§ * SIR M. H. BEACH
It is consequential to the Amendment the House has already agreed to in the first clause.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause," put, and rejected.
§ MR. SEXTON
I have already said the second clause of this Bill repeats the first. It is the most peculiar Bill that ever came under my observation. I will explain how the second clause repeats the first. If such a ship as the Isabella by reason of deduction from propelling space and overhead light and air space has an allowance of 50½ or a fraction above 50 per cent, that ship is shut out from exemption. It would not be possible for the owner of that ship under the first clause to make any deduction from the gross tonnage in respect of overdeck light and air space, for the simple reason that the first paragraph of the clause prevents him from including that overhead light and air space in the gross tonnage, and, therefore, he can make no deduction in respect of it. What is the position of the owner of the ship? Under the second clause—there is not a shred of consistency in principle—he goes to the Board of Trade, and, upon petitioning, he can deduct first the over, deck light and air space from the groe8 tonnage, and then he can deduct 75 per cent from the nett. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that by manipulation of the over-deck light and air space such ships as the Anglesea will be able to cheat the harbour authorities. I should have thought that the owners of existing ships would not have claimed to have separate treatment. One will not be allowed to make any deduction of light and airspace, whilst the other class of ships will be able to make a considerable gain by the operation of this clause. I cannot discern the shadow of a season why the two clauses should be 938 differently treated. There is no defence for such a proposal as this. I ask that the second clause shall not apply, when the deduction for propelling power space would exceed 50 per cent of the gross tonnage.
Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 20, at the end of Clause 2, to insert the words
And shall not be included in any case in which, by reason of its being included, the deduction for propelling power space would exceed 60 per cent. of the gross tonnage of the ship, or in which the propelling power space below the crown of the engine room would, without such addition, qualify for a deduction of 60 per cent. of the gross tonnage.—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ * SIR M. HICKS BEACH
I can only assure the right hon. Gentleman that he exaggerates the possible effect of this clause for two reasons. In the first place, the light and air space before it is deducted, must be added to the gross tonnage; and in the second place, the light and air space must be reasonable in extent, and by the rule of the Board of Trade it will be rendered impossible that these exaggerated deductions can be obtained as they have been obtained. I think that the right hon. Gentleman if he adheres to his view should object to the clause as a whole.
§ * SIR M. HICKS BEACH
It would be useless to oppose the clause, and then to prevent its application by such an Amendment as that which he has moved.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 72; Noes 142.—(Div. List, No. 234.)
§ Further Amendment proposed, Clause 3, page 3, line 21, after "measuring" insert "or be measuring."
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 5.
§ * MR. C. H. WILSON
On this clause I have an Amendment to propose. I desire to have the words "partial or entire" inserted. I think it is a question in the minds of Surveyors of the 939 Board of Trade as to how far they can go in taking the measurement of ships which have an entire level bottom or a partial level bottom. I think the words I suggest will clearly define their duties in this respect, and I therefore hope that the President of the Board of Trade will accept them.
§ Amendment proposed, Clause 5, page 3, line 18, after the words "with a" to insert the words "partial or entire."—(Mr. Charles Wilson.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ * SIR M. HICKS BEACH
I can assure the hon. Member we have no doubt as to the proper interpretation of this clause, and that it covers cases such as those to which I understand he has referred. The Board of Trade surveyors will be instructed accordingly, and I am advised not to allow the insertion of these words for technical reasons. I therefore hope the Amendment will be withdrawn.
§ * MR. C. H. WILSON
I fear I must press the Amendment. It is purely a mechanical question, and there ought to be no doubt as to the intention of the clause in this matter.
§ MR. CRAIG SELLAR (Lanarkshire, Partick)
I took considerable interest in this matter before the Standing Committee, and the clause was introduced into the Bill very much on my suggestion. I would urge the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade to accept these words. They can do no harm, and they will certainly not add to the complexity of the measure.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
May I point out to the hon. Member that the words of Clause 3 probably secure the end he has in view.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a third time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.