§ 17. "That a sum, not exceeding £8,107, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1899, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Offices of the House of Lords."
§ MR. LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
About three months ago, when this subject was discussed, it was shown that there was considerable disproportion between the salaries of the House of Lords and those of the House of Commons, and it was also shown that the conditions of payment in the two Houses are different from those which prevail in any other branches of the Civil Service. On that occasion we had an undertaking on, the part of the Government that the whole question should be inquired into. My object in rising now is to ask of the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury what progress has been made with the inquiry, and whether at the beginning of next Session the House will be put into possession of all the information that can reasonably be obtained upon the subject?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The Committee has not yet completed its investigations, but it will be re-appointed at the beginning of next Session, and will proceed with the inquiry.
§ MR. GEDGE (Walsall)
I wish to call attention to the conduct of some of the officers of the Lord High Chamberlain's Department in the matter of the arrangements for showing visitors over the House. A fortnight ago on Saturday I took some ladies on to the Terrace, and wanted to show them the Library of this House, but was unable to do so, because some order had been issued by some new officer of the Lord High Chamberlain that the Library was no longer open to Members and their friends on Saturdays. No public notice was given of this, and it was exceedingly
|Ambrose, William (Mid'sex)||Folkestone, Viscount||Macartney, W. G. Ellison|
|Arnold, Alfred||Forwood, Rt. Hon. Sir A. B.||Maclure, Sir John William|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Garfit, William||McArthur, C. (Liverpool)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manc'r)||Gedge, Sydney||McKillop, James|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Gilliat, John Saunders||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Godson, Sir Augustus F.||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Gordon, Hon. John Edward||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur|
|Bemrose, Sir Henry Howe||Goschen, Rt. Hn. G.J. (St. G'rg's)||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Bethell, Commander||Goschen, G. J. (Sussex)||Purvis, Robert|
|Bond, Edward||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Greville, Captain||Robinson, Brooke|
|Bucknill, Thomas Townsend||Gull, Sir Cameron||Scoble, Sir Andrew Richard|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord G.||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs)||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. R. W.||Smith, Hn. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Cavendish, V.C.W. (Derbysh.)||Heath, James||Stanley, Lord (Lancs)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, E.)||Henderson, Alexander||Strauss, Arthur|
|Chaloner, Captain R. G. W.||Hoare, E. B. (Hampstead)||Sturt, Hon. Humphry N.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J.(Birm.)||Hornby, William Henry||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r)||Hozier, Hon. James Henry C.||Tomlinson, W. E. Murray|
|Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E.||Hubbard, Hon. Evelyn||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. H.|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Jenkins, Sir John Jones||Webster, R. G. (St. Pancras)|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Lafone, Alfred||Webster, Sir R. E. (I. of W.)|
|Cook, F. Lucas (Lambeth)||Lawrence, Sir E. D. (Corn.)||Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.|
|Curzon, Viscount (Bucks)||Lawrence, W. F. (Liverpool)||Williams, J. Powell (Birm.)|
|Doughty, George||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks)||Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||Lea, Sir T. (Londonderry)||Young, Comm. (Berks, E.)|
|Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||Llewellyn, E. H. (Somerset)|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn E.||Llewelyn, Sir D. (Swansea)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES— Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Liverp'l)|
|Flannery, Fortescue||Lowles, John|
|Allen, W. (Newc.-und.-Lyme)||Macaleese, Daniel||Strachey, Edward|
|Barlow, John Emmott||M'Ghee, Richard||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Maddison, Fred.||Williams, John C. (Notts)|
|Caldwell, James||Molloy, Bernard Charles||Wills, Sir William Henry|
|Colville, John||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.)||Provand, Andrew Dryburgh|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Roberts, John B. (Eifion)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES— Mr. Herbert Lewis and Dr. Clark.|
|Doogan, P. C.||Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarsh.)|
|Jameson, Major J. Eustace||Spicer, Albert|
|Jones, W. (Carnarvonshire)||Steadman, William Charles|
§ annoying that we should be met by a policeman and told we could not enter the Library, that the door, in fact, was barred. I only got to the Terrace by the back way, and I think no Peer should have the right to interfere in this way, and say what Members of the House of Commons should do in their own House.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolutions.
§ The House divided: —Ayes 88; Noes 25.—(Division List No. 306.)725
§ 18. "That a sum, not exceeding £17,005, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1899, for the Salaries and Expenses in the Offices of the House of Commons."
§ MR. LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
I wish to raise a question on this Vote which I was unable to do on a previous occasion, and which will be rather important to some Members. There are many Members who would be very glad to have the opportunity of knowing what is going on in the House, and the request I have to make is that the telegraph should be extended to the Library of the House of Commons, in order to enable them to do their work, and at the same time to let them know what is going on in the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! I think the honourable Member is hardly in order in referring to the telegraph on this Vote. I have an impression that the honourable Gentleman was prevented from alluding to the subject in Committee.
§ DR. CLARK
I know it was raised in Committee, and on the salary of the Commissioner of Works; and the honourable Member was ruled out of order, and the Debate ceased by the decision of the Chairman. He moved once on the salary of the Commissioner of Works, on a question of administration, and again on a question of buildings. I think it would be desirable to have such an instrument in the Library.
§ Question put.
§ Vote agreed to.726
§ 19. "That a sum, not exceeding £59,440, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1899, for the Salaries and Expenses in the Department of Her Majesty's Treasury and Subordinate Departments."
§ DR. CLARK
One point I should like to raise is in respect to the administrative function—that is, of determining the salaries to be paid to sheriffs in Scotland. Some of those officers have very important functions to discharge, but they have very inadequate salaries. The scale was fixed in 1863; and circumstances have changed very much since then; and I hope in the case of future appointments the Treasury will begin by paying a higher rate than these officers get at the present time. I may say that the functions performed by the sheriffs substitutes in Scotland are very important. They do all that part of the criminal work which in England is done in quarter sessions or petty sessions. They do all the civil work which in England is done by the county courts and by revising barristers, and they also do the work which in England is done by coroners, as well as a great deal of administrative work, some of them having as many as four or five different areas under their charge. Yet all the salary they receive is some £400 or £500 a year. Several memorials have been addressed to the Treasury with a view to a re-adjustment of these salaries, and I trust, as a result, that the Treasury will see its way to give a minimum to these gentlemen of £700 a year, because it is utterly impossible to get capable men to do the work properly for £500 a year. They are often compelled to live out of the shrievalty where they carry on their work, which, I need hardly say, does not add to the value of their emoluments. They are a very deserving class of men, who devote their entire time to the work of the districts to which they are allotted. I hope the Treasury will take the matter up between now and next Session, when I hope to hear that the Treasury will have seen its way to behave more handsomely.
§ MR. HANBURY
I have not had an opportunity of going into this matter thoroughly. The memorial, as far as I have been able to gather, referred only to the sheriff substitute. I agree with the honourable Member opposite that it is better to have a few good men well paid, and the shrievalty, therefore, well served, than to have a great number of men employed with small salaries and with fewer qualifications for their posts; but of course it must follow that, if we are going to give higher salaries to the sheriffs' substitutes, it will be necessary to give them larger areas of labour, in order that their time will be fully occupied. The building of more court-houses would also follow on such a change, which would enable these officials to better deal with their work. In that way possibly a considerable expense might be saved. Speaking generally, I think that a great deal may be done in the direction indicated by the honourable Member.
§ MR. LOWLES (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
I wish to call the attention of the Secretary to the Treasury to the position of the abstractor class of clerks. In doing so, I desire to acknowledge the courtesy with which, the right honourable Gentleman has met the requests made by myself and several colleagues on this side of the House and the concessions he has already made for improving their position. There are, however, many men who have seen some 20 or 30 years' service, who are only getting an increment of £2 10s. a year. All they ask is that they should be allowed a yearly increment of £5 upon their initial salary. The total cost to Her Majesty's Treasury would only be something like £1,500 a year, and that is a small sum to adequately recognise the services of a most useful body of men.
§ MR. HANBURY
I cannot see how we can make any further change in their position. These men were originally copyists. Some time ago an inquiry was held on the subject, and we recommended that the class of copyists should be swept away. I think these men, considering the work they do, are adequately paid at the present moment. But there is one undoubted grievance which we have tried to remedy. Some of these men are superior to their class, and are 728 well fitted to belong to the rank of the second division. They are not men who have passed the examination, but still they are more or less qualified, and in certain oases the heads of the Department have thought it well to promote them to the second division. Under the old Treasury regulations, although these men may have received a salary of £100, if they are promoted to a higher division they have to go back to the smaller salary of £75. I think they ought to continue at their old salaries when they are promoted, and this grievance has now been swept away.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON (Middlesbrough)
I beg to call attention to what I consider an offence under the Merchant Shipping Act on the part of the P. and O. Company. That Act requires 72 cubic feet of space to be set apart for the accommodation of the crew. I put a question to the President of the Board of Trade in reference to this matter, and the right honourable Gentleman admitted that the P. and 0. Company was not complying with the Act. It has been stated that the Lascars, having been engaged in India, 729 come under the Indian Act, which only requires the provision of 36 cubic feet. Sir, I am prepared to contend to-night that these men do not come under the Indian Act. I can well understand why the Indian Act differs from the Imperial Act. When vessels are trading on the coast of India it is not necessary for men to be so much in the forecastle; they sleep on deck. The only time they really require shelter is in wet weather. It is all right when they are trading on the Indian coast, but the vessels I complain of are those trading from India to the United Kingdom. I am told by those who have some knowledge of the subject that when these seamen arrive in port in London they are packed like sardines in a tin. I consider that that is a state of affairs which ought not to exist; and when we are told, as I was yesterday, that the P. and 0. Company are receiving £353,794 a year from the Government for the carriage of mails, I do think it is disgraceful that they should be allowed to break the Act of Parliament in the way they do at the present time. Sir, there is another thing to look at in connection with this matter. The P. and O. Company not only carry passengers, they carry cargo. They have a large number of cargo steamers trading to and from the United Kingdom, and trading on the Indian coast. These vessels enter into competition with the ordinary steamers, and, as a result of receiving this subsidy from the Government, they have been able to drive out of this particular trade a large number of steamers providing employment for seamen. Now, I do not think it is right on the part of the Government to shelter this company in the manner they do. I have put no fewer than eight or nine questions to the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade upon the subject, and up to the present time I have had no satisfactory answer; in fact, from the answers given I can almost imagine that the Board of Trade have had no legal advisers whatever. I do notice, however, that we have had to pay a salary to these gentlemen. Whether it is that they are away on their holidays, and that the Board of Trade is unable to get proper legal advice or not I do not know, but the 730 answers I have had are very foolish ones, evidently given by those who do not understand the Merchant Shipping Act, or some persons who want to mislead the House with regard to this matter. Now, Sir, the right honourable Gentleman said very truly in answering a question the other day that it was not possible to give an explanation of the matter in answering a question. Well, I have brought it forward tonight so that he may have an opportunity of making a speech. I think the point is very clear, that the P. and O. Company's ships, being registered in London, come under the Imperial Act, and that every man on board those ships conies under the Imperial, and not the Marine, Act. The Indian Act was passed by the Indian Council and only applies to vessels registered in India and trading on the coast of India; but even allowing for the moment that the P. and O. vessels come under the Indian Act, I find that under another section of the Act that the Imperial Act applies to all seamen, no matter where they are engaged. I believe that was one of the points of the right honourable Gentleman in reply to my question the other day, that as these men were engaged in India, although they were engaged on a British registered vessel, they came under the Indian Act; but if you refer to the Merchant Shipping Act you will find that it does not matter whether the seaman is engaged on a vessel registered in the United Kingdom or not, the Imperial Act applies to all seamen, regardless of the port they may be engaged in. Now, Sir, I think the case is very clear. The Company must comply with the Act of Parliament. They are liable to a penalty of £20 if they offend. The Government know that the company are in the wrong, because they have admitted it. Every British ship is entitled to have deducted from tonnage so much space for accommodation provided for passengers and crew, and because the P. and O. Company have not complied with the section with regard to the accommodation of the crew, the Board of Trade have refused to allow any deductions for the crew's space. That proves that the Board of Trade have taken some action in the matter; but while they refuse to 731 allow them any deduction because the P. and O. Company are breaking the Act they won't go a step further, they are afraid to take out a summons and prosecute the Company for a breach of the Act. Now, I want to know if the right honourable Gentleman is prepared tonight to make some promise that the Act shall be enforced. Hitherto we have been told, "We are inquiring into the matter," or "There is some doubt as to whether the Indian. Act applies." Then we are informed that the Department have dug up some old Act of George IV., which is brought to the rescue as a kind of excuse. Well, I have gone all through that Act this afternoon, and I do not think it applies at all. I do hope the Government will do justice in this matter, because it is a serious injury to the seamen employed in this country. The Royal Commission on Labour recommended that the accommodation for crews on board ship should be increased from 72 cubic feet to 120. Well, that has not been done, but I believe the majority of shipowners in this country are giving over 72 feet. They have to compete with a wealthy company like the P. and O., who receive £1,000 every day from the Government for carrying the mails. That is not the consideration they get from the Admiralty; I believe that also is a very considerable amount. Altogether I think the amount the company receive cannot be less than £100,000 a year. They are driving other small shipowners out of the Indian trade, and they are being assisted by the authorities. Now, I want some explanation as to why the company are allowed to do this. There can be no excuse, and I intend to press the question until I get a satisfactory answer.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE
I can only answer the honourable Gentleman upon the information I have gathered since I have been able to answer questions on behalf of my right honourable Friend the President of the Board of Trade during his absence from the House on account of indisposition. If, however, the honourable Member had given me notice that he intended to raise the subject, I would have done my best to put myself in possession of the general facts of the 732 case, in order to give him a fuller answer than I am able to do under the existing circumstances.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE
The honourable Gentleman has asked questions which have been answered. With regard to this particular case I am convinced, from the information I have received from the Board of Trade, and from the conversation which I have had with the representatives of the Board of Trade, that they are entirely at one with the honourable Gentleman, and, I imagine, with the majority of the people of this country, in desiring that such provision as is considered necessary under the Merchant Shipping Act for seamen shall be made in all cases. But, as I have told him, the answer to the question he has asked is that we are advised that, under the Act of George IV., sailors engaged in Indian ports shall be exempt from these regulations as to space. The officials of the Board of Trade have given me leave to say that the desire of the Board of Trade is that proper accommodation shall be provided, and recommendations to this effect have been urged on the Indian Government, which has not, however, seen its way to carry them out. The Board of Trade is still considering the matter, and it is impossible for me to drive the Department beyond that. The Department are advised that the construction of this Act of Parliament is as they put it, and not as the honourable Member puts it. It may be the case that the legal advisers of the Board of Trade are not of any value——
THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE
But I think the majority of the people of this country are more likely to believe that the Board of Trade are competent to deal with the matter. The questions affecting the Board of Trade have been answered fully and candidly. The Department are anxious to do what they can in this matter, in order that the Acts of Parliament may be carried out.
§ On the return of Mr. Speaker, after the usual interval,
§ MR. MADDISON (Sheffield)
I quite admit the difficulties on this most important matter which the right honourable Gentleman has to encounter. But I would like to remind the right honourable Gentleman that a few nights ago my honourable Friend raised this question and attempted to bring it before the Committee. There was no time, and the First Lord of the Treasury told my honourable Friend that there would' be some means of raising it. Therefore the right honourable Gentleman will see that this is not quite a question of springing this upon the House, because the President of the Board of Trade knew that my honourable Friend was going to bring it forward. I must say that I cannot regard the reply of the right honourable Gentleman as satisfactory. I do not pose as a lawyer; I know nothing about law; but it does appear plain on the 210th clause of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894, that any British ship occupied by seamen or apprentices, and appropriated to their use, shall have to give them not less than 72 cubic feet. The Act goes on to say that this shall apply to all seagoing British ships registered out of the United Kingdom. That seems to show that not only does the Act provide for ships registered in the United Kingdom, but that it very wisely applies to ships registered anywhere out of the United Kingdom. I take it that the P. and O. are British ships registered in the United Kingdom. Then I find that Lascars, who, after all, are British subjects, have only half the accommodation allowed them which the Act stipulates that any seaman in a British ship shall have. Now, Sir, I can quite understand, from what my honourable Friend says, that in the Indian coasting trade a very small space may be sufficient. Therefore I am willing to believe that there is some excuse for it, but I am totally at a loss to understand how Her Majesty's Government can for one moment defend the giving of half the space to a British subject because ha happens to be coloured. Many of these Lascars, I am informed, are brought from India, and are re-engaged in the port of London. If that is so, I cannot 734 conceive that any person who heard the right honourable Gentleman's reply can be satisfied. I desire to join my honourable Friend in this appeal and protest. I think it is absolutely necessary that we should have convincing proof from Her Majesty's Government that they will at least encourage the employment of British seamen, for I regard these Lascars as British subjects.
§ MR. MADDISON
They do. However, it may be as the right honourable Gentleman supposes, that the Lascars do not complain; but we in this House must maintain sanitary conditions for British subjects even if they offered no complaint.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE
I am sorry to interrupt the honourable Gentleman, but I understand him to say that unless the conditions were altered Lascars would not be obtained.
§ MR. MADDISON
I have no doubt in my mind as to the obtaining of Lascar seamen. There are too many of them. They are on the whole unacquainted with the standard rate of pay and the standard of their education is very low. I am quite sure that the right honourable Gentleman and his colleagues in the Ministry would not for one moment contend that there should be less cubic space for Lascars because the Lascars do not complain, or because we can get a large number of Lascars. In this House we have had to pass legislation directly in opposition to the wishes of the victims of bad sanitation. I am surprised that Her Majesty's Government do not put the Lascar on an equality with the British seaman. I regret this exceedingly, because it lends weight to the agitation against the Lascar seamen, and because it acts against anyone who may not happen to be born in the United Kingdom. The Government in this instance give us no satisfaction; they tell British seamen that they are content to allow this state of things to go on for an indefinite period—that the Lascar is to be berthed in 36 cubic feet of space, while the British seaman is to 735 have just double the amount. I cannot think for one moment that the right honourable Gentleman's statement about the difficulty in getting definite information will satisfy the seamen of the United Kingdom at all. I, for my part, must join the protest against the lack of attention on the part of the Board of Trade to a matter which has been before the country for a long time. I want to raise one or two points about another matter, namely, the Labour Department of the Board of Trade. Now, Mr. Speaker, the Labour Department of the Board of Trade has been justly called the Intelligence Department of Labour, and I think I am expressing the feelings of workmen generally when I say that this was a very great step in advance when, the late Mr. Mundella formed this Labour Department and endeavoured to give to the workmen of the country accurate end ready information about matters vitally affecting them. I, for my part, am quite prepared to admit that, on the whole, the experiment has been a success. With regard to the Labour Gazette I have only one request to make, and I am sure the right honourable Gentleman will convey it to the proper quarter. The Labour Gazette gives a large amount of information, but there is one little item which we have not been successful in getting the Department to publish from month to month. It is a small matter, but it has been too much up to the present to secure. It is this: each month there should be a list of all Government and other accessible publications dealing with trade and labour, together with the title and the price. The right honourable Gentleman probably knows that this is done for the commercial classes. I think it is an admirable thing, and I think that the same thing ought to be done in the Labour Gazette. I am sure the right honourable Gentleman will admit that this is not an extravagant demand, and I hope he will regard it as a reasonable one. The objection would be that the Labour Gazette is already crowded, and that this would mean an enlargement of the paper. I hope this argument will not stand in the way of a journal which already costs the country a little. The extra cost 736 would be a mere bagatelle. There is one other question, and that is with respect to the local correspondents of the Board of Trade. Some of us hold very definite opinions that the correspondents of the Board of Trade ought to be increased and that there ought to be a more systematic and official method of collecting information. I won't go into the larger question, but merely call the attention of the right honourable Gentleman to- the local correspondents who are now employed. These, Mr. Speaker, are invariably prominent workmen in the various localities. Well, now, the remuneration given to these men ranges from £15 to £25 per annum. They get postage, and they get a scale of expenses, not high, but low. What I complain of is that the payment of these local correspondents has in the past been shabby in the extreme. I am concerned not simply about the men, but about the office they hold. It is utterly impossible under the present conditions to expect these men to work for a living and then give up the necessary time to gain the requisite information. The Labour1 Department is constantly making a demand upon their time, and the treatment of these men is not calculated to attain the end in view. I hope the right honourable Gentleman will represent this to the Department, so that we may have a better system of outposts throughout the country, with the result that we may have fuller and more prompt information than we now obtain. I will not weary the House any further, Mr. Speaker, though I am bound to say that of late doubts have come into my mind—and they are shared by many others—whether the distinctive labour character of the Department has been quite maintained; and I would like to offer one word of warning. If the Department is strengthened or increased no greater mistake could be made than doing so in the direction of the ordinary Civil Service. The Labour Department is of no value except as containing men who have intimate technical knowledge of the labour movement.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I very much regret the answers we have got from the Board of Trade. This is a, question we had up last year, and twice this year, 737 and for several years it has been before the House. The, First Lord of the Treasury some days ago gave a pledge that the legal position, of the P. and O. Company should be defined. It is only fair to that Company to say that they generally give 60 cubic feet to the Lascars. There may be some doubt as to their ships trading to India, but there can be no element of doubt as to their ships sailing from London to Australian ports. What I protest against is that you should permit the company which you charter, and to which you pay a high bounty for carrying the mails, to transgress for years an important section of the Merchant Shipping Act by allowing only 60 cubic feet instead of 72 to the Lascars. We have had no decent reasons why that should be allowed. The First Lord of the Treasury said the question would be inquired into, but now we are at the end of the Session, and nothing Las been done. I look upon this question from the public health standpoint, and it is a shame that the Board of Trade has taken no action in this matter. It is a matter of vital importance that these men should live on the ships under decent sanitary conditions, and not bring plague to this country. I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by £100.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The honourable Member cannot do that. I have already put the question that the House do agree with the Resolution.
§ Mr. BROADHURST (Leicester)
I understand that there is no dispute as to the law about 72 cubic feet being required in British vessels. The whole history of the dispute centres round the point as to whether the P. and O. boats come under the definition of Indian vessels or British vessels? Are the P. and O. boats to be considered as coming under the Indian Shipping Act, or under the British Shipping Act? We have been told that this is a matter of law, and that the Board of Trade have been considering it, for 12 months, but that their legal advisers are not yet in a position to say whether these vessels come under the Indian Act or the British Act. The P. and O. boats are registered in the port of London; they are subsidised by the British Government, and it was unfair 738 that they should have all the advantages of the Indian Merchant Shipping Act, and all the advantages of the subsidy from the British Treasury. The honourable Member for Middlesbrough has just informed me that the Indian Government itself wanted to impose this 72 cubic feel limit on the P. and O. boats. I do not want to make any complaint about the right honourable Gentleman not being in a position to make any pledges or promises, but I think he might have said that the position of the P. and O. company was unreasonable on the face of it. Why should one vessel have only 32 or 36 cubic feet, and another be compelled to have 72? It is not a question of whether the Lascar is a British subject or not; he is a human being, and he needs breathing space. In our own interests, and in the interests of public health, in the interests of sanitation, and in the interests of every British-bred sailor, we ought to insist that there should be ample, complete, full, and necessary accommodation for all the persons working on those ships, especially when we consider the climate through which they have to pass in their journeys to Bombay. We enforce, in our vessels going from Liverpool to New York, certain regulations, where, perhaps, one could live in half the space. Now, we do not expect anything unreasonable from the right honourable Gentleman, but we do expect that strong representations will be made in his usual manner, when he determines that question of importance, and that he will bring to bear upon the Board of Trade those qualities with which we are so intimately acquainted and I am sure that good will follow. I regret that through an oversight, or perhaps from modesty, or a desire not to embarrass the Government, my honourable Friend is unable to press for a Division on this point.
§ Sir A. B. FORWOOD (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
I only desire to venture to offer one or two observations upon this subject with regard co the speech of the honourable Member who has just addressed the House. In the first place, I desire to draw a distinction, and an emphatic distinction, as regards this question of subsidy, which should not be mixed up with any question as to the 739 manning of the ships. The subsidy is paid to vessels for performing certain work for Her Majesty's Postmaster General, and there is nothing in the contract as to how those ships are to be manned. That question comes under an entirely different consideration. The P. and O. Company's vessels are paid a certain sum of money for carrying the mails to and from various ports in the East. So far as the company discharges that duty in accordance with the contract this question of manning has nothing to do with it.
§ MR. BROADHURST
I am sure that the honourable Baronet opposite does not wish to misrepresent me. No question of manning has arisen, but it is simply a question of breathing space.
§ SIR A. B. FORWOOD
Any question as to the accommodation given to the crew does not enter into the contract. Well, now, I come to the question which has been raised, whether these vessels, because they happen to have a subsidy, should be treated any different to other vessels that carry the same crews. Now, the bulk of the vessels that proceed from this country through the Suez Canal to the East carry Lascar crews, and carry them under the same conditions as the P. and O. Company carry their crews. Now, if there is to be any question raised as to the legal obligations which these vessels are under, it applies, not to the P. and O. Company alone, but to all the vessels proceeding to the East which carry Lascar crews. The whole subject of breathing space to be allowed to the crew turns upon health and sanitation. Now, I have not heard that the health of Lascars on these vessels is in any degree worse than that of British ships proceeding to the East generally, and if the Lascars perform their services and enjoy good health on these voyages, then it is fair proof that the accommodation and treatment of these men on the vessels which carry them, is satisfactory, and does not require the attention of this House. But, Sir, another point comes in. There are two jurisdictions. These men are shipped in the East. They are shipped there under the law of the Government, which understands the nature, character, and habits of the people for whom it legislates. We in this coun- 740 try understand the wants and necessities of the British seaman, and of the Englishman, the Irishman, and the Scotchman, and what he requires on the ships, and our laws for the crews shipped in this country require a certain number of cubic feet, and the Board of Trade very properly see that those laws are carried out. Now, if the crew is shipped in India, surely it is within the competence of the Indian Government to see that their regulations for the carrying of the people, more particularly under their Government, are carried out in. those ships, and I maintain that if the regulations laid down by the Indian Government, after careful inquiry, for the safe housing and accommodation of those Lascars are carried out, it is not for this country, when a ship arrives here, to-inquire or to set up a dual control over those ships. I was present at an inquiry within the last two or three years upon, the question of the manning of British ships, where the question of carrying. Lascars was carefully and closely gone into; and all I can say is that it was the opinion of a large number of that Committee of inquiry that the Lascar is a thoroughly reliable and desirable man to carry on a vessel trading through the Suez Canal and the East, and there was no question raised during the whole of that inquiry as to the regulations of the Indian Government not being sufficient to ensure health and comfort to those people.
§ MR. LOWLES (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
I sympathise with the remarks: which have just been made by the honourable Baronet, and I am bound to say that I think that the Board of Trade have been very unjustly attacked in this matter. I have made frequent voyages; on the P. and 0. Company's boats myself, and I have seen the conditions under which these men live, and I am bound to say that I have never seen a more contented and better cared for lot of sailors than these Lascars. They live on different food to the British sailors, and are more suited to the climate. I would not stand up for the P. and O. Company, if I thought they were in fault, but I am bound to say, from my own close observation of them, that these men are exceedingly well treated. I heard no complaint, 741 and I believe that the accommodation provided for them is adapted to all their requirements.
§ SIR C. DILKE (Forest of Dean)
The last speaker has rather moved away from the ground upon which this question presented itself to me. To me it has always been a purely legal question. Now, I have discussed over and over again for many years past the two clauses of the Merchant Shipping Act, which bear upon the question and the old Act of George IV., and I have never been able to see but that the language of the Acts is quite clear with regard to British ships. I
§ cannot see that any reservation in the old Act comes in at all, and I am perfectly certain that it was not in the minds of the House of Commons when the new law was enacted. With regard to the amount of space required for British seamen, the words of the chief Act seem as clear as an Act of Parliament could possibly be.
That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 101; Noes 33.—(Division List No. 307.)
|Jones, W. (Carnarvonshire)||Roberts, John B. (Eifion)||Woods, Samuel|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Spicer, Albert|
|Macaleese, Daniel||Steadman, William Charles||TELLERS FOR THE NOES— Mr. Havelock Wilson and Mr. Maddison.|
|M'Ghee, Richard||Strachey, Edward|
|O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal)||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Williams, John C. (Notts)|
|Provand, Andrew Dryburgh||Wills, Sir William Henry|
§ Resolution agreed to.
At 10 o'clock Mr. Speaker, in pursuance of the Order of the House of 21st of February last, proceeded to put the questions necessary to complete the proceedings on the Resolution reported from the Committee of Supply.
23. "That a sum, not exceeding £27,525, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge V Inch will come in course of payment daring the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1899, for a Grant in Aid of the Mercantile Marine Fund.
24. "That a sum, not exceeding £7, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1899, for meeting the Deficiency of Income from Fees, etc., for the requirements of the Board of Trade, under the Bankruptcy Acts, 1883 and 1890, and ' The Companies (Winding-up) Act, 1890.
25. "That a sum, not exceeding £9,432, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1899, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Commissioners in Lunacy in England.
26. "That a sum, not exceeding £42, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1899, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Mint, including the Expenses of Coinage.
27. "That a sum, not exceeding £15,372, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1899, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Public Record Office.
28. "That a sum, not exceeding £1,195, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1899, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Establishment under the Public Works Loan Commissioners.
29. "That a sum, not exceeding £3,612, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1899, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Lunacy in Scotland.
30. "That a sum, not exceeding £27,932, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1899, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Offices of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant in Dublin and London, and Subordinate Departments.