HC Deb 07 August 1894 vol 28 cc363-6

COMMITTEE. [Progress, 30th July.]

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1.

Question proposed, "That Clause 1 stand part of the Bill."


said, he thought it should be known that this Bill contained 748 Clauses and 22 Schedules, and that it was embodied in 368 pages. It was true it had been considered by a Joint Committee of the two Houses, but that body only sat six times, and one-and-a-half hours on each occasion—giving nine hours in all. It not only consolidated but it considerably altered the law affecting our Merchant Navy. It dealt also with the arrangements concerning lighthouses, the wages and health of our seamen, wrecks, salvage, and pilotage, and with other matters. Surely, then, it was a strong order to ask the House to consider such a Bill at a quarter past 12 at night, especially as the 368 pages could only have been scampered through by the Committee. The Government were willing to devote days to such Bills as the Welsh Church Disestablishment and the Registration, but here was a Bill which concerned property worth scores of millions and an enormous number of people, and they proposed only to give a few minutes to the consideration of it. Ho did not want to stop the Bill, but he did wish the country to understand how these things were done, and how measures affecting that great national interest, the Mercantile Marino, were dealt with.

SIR M. HICKS-BEACH (Bristol, W.)

said, he was glad his hon. Friend did not wish to prevent the Bill passing, and he would express his own sincere hope that it would he passed. He would like to give the House a brief history of the measure. When he was at the Board of Trade he gave directions to the drafts man to draw up a Bill to consolidate the Merchant Shipping Laws, which every body who had at all studied the subject knew to be most urgently required. Some progress was made with the Bill, and it was completed when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield came into power. It was duly introduced, and copies were circulated among the Local Marine Boards and various Chambers of Shipping. Then it was considered last Session by a Committee of the House of Lords, and certain Amendments were found to be necessary. He did not believe that it contained any alteration of the law of the slightest importance; it was a pure consolidation Bill; it had been considered by a Joint Committee of both Houses—a very competent body to deal with it——


I did not say it was not. I only said the Committee sat but for nine hours.


said, the Committee did its work completely and thoroughly, and he was convinced that the House might safely accept its decision.

MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)

said, he would like to minimise as far as possible the effect of the speech of the hon. Member for Islington. It would be nearer the mark to say that the Committee sat for nine months than nine hours. The Bill was considered for some time last Session, and the shipowners themselves had spent very large sums of money in employing draftsmen and lawyers to check every line of it, and to take care that it did not change the law. It was neither more nor less than a Consolidation Bill, and when passed it would really constitute a Merchant Shipping Code. An enormous amount of money, time, and labour had been expended on it, and he hoped it would now be allowed to pass.

MR. RICHARDSON (Durham, S. E.),

on behalf of the General Shipowners' Society, expressed approval of the Bill.

MR. BUCKNILL (Surrey, Epsom)

said, he knew something of the history and objects of the Bill. He had no desire to prevent its being proceeded with. While he was anxious to see the law codified, he did not desire to see it changed in the way in which this measure altered it. The first Bill introduced—he cared not by whom—contained 106 notes pointing out the alterations of the law contemplated in the Bill, and the present one contained some of those alterations. For instance, Section 101 of the Act of 1854 laid it down that the alteration of certain documents should be deemed to be a forgery.

MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

Is it in Order to go into these matters?


said, he only wished to show that the Bill did alter the law; because the 67th clause added the builders' certificate to the list of the documents contained in Section 101 of the 1854 Act. He did not say that this alteration was not a proper one to make. He was not complaining of it, but he must not be taken as assenting to the statement that the Bill did not alter the law. If, however, the House chose to pass the Bill he would make no further objection.


thought it was not reasonable to ask them to pass a Bill of that magnitude after midnight. The mere mechanical work would occupy till after 1 o'clock. Seeing that the Government had ruthlessly taken all the time of private Members, ho would suggest that the Bill should be put down as the first Order on Wednesday. He must now move to report Progress.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. T. W. Russell.)


said, that in the days when the Irish Party were most bitterly opposed to the Government they never objected to Consolidation or Statute Law Revision Bills. This was the first time he had known a Consolidation Bill objected to.

SIR E. CLARKE (Plymouth)

said, he would make a strong appeal that the Motion should not be pressed. This was not a question of considering a Bill containing 748 clauses, but it was a ques- tion of maintaining the system established by the Conservative Party with regard to Bills of this class. It had been the custom of the House to accept these Consolidation Bills on the authority of the Committee, and it was perfectly hopeless to think of passing such Bills if the House were to attempt to discuss the clauses. It was of extreme importance that the Merchant Shipping Acts should be consolidated, and inasmuch as this Bill had been examined with the greatest care, he hoped the House would accept it on the authority of the Committee.


All this is quite true, but the Bill could just as easily be taken to-morrow at 12 o'clock.


said, he, too, would appeal to the hon. Member not to press his Motion as there was a general desire that the Bill should go through. He was sure the hon. Member would not wish the interests of seamen and shipowners to suffer by any further delay.

MR. FORWOOD (Lancashire, S.E., Ormskirk)

said, he, too, would appeal to the hon. Member on behalf of the shipowners. The matter was of considerable moment to a very great industry.

MR. PARKER SMITH () Lanark, Partick

also hoped the hon. Gentleman would be good enough to allow the Bill to go through.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment; read the third time, and passed.